For those who are looking to start an income-generating website, one of the first dilemmas you’re faced with is picking the right niche/topic for your site.
In today’s post, I’m going to walk through an example of how to select a niche for your website. For this post, I’m assuming that your goal is to create a site that brings in some passive income with a minimal amount of upkeep and maintenance.
Choosing the right niche is a common concern we hear, and no doubt there are many different opinions about what makes for a “good niche” to be in. Having several high traffic websites in my personal portfolio, including one that’s really starting to take off in 2015, I’m simply going to share the approach that has worked for me and hope that it helps bring clarity for those who are still in the ‘niche selection’ phase. If you’re having a ton of trouble coming up with niches, check out our guide on finding profitable website ideas.
One of the common questions is whether you should look for something that you’re knowledgeable and/or passionate about, or a topic that seems to have the best path to earning income.
A case can be made for both, but I will say that you should have a rough idea of how you’ll monetize a site before you ever start it.
There are many ways to monetize a website, but let’s just focus on 2:
2 of the simplest and most common ways to monetize a niche authority site are Google Adsense and affiliate income, such as Amazon Associates.
One of the reasons these are so common is that they are simple to set up, and they can work in almost any niche.
If you’ve not read it, we highlighted a couple of different sites that are doing very well as Amazon affiliates in a recent blog post. Since Amazon sells just about everything, you can find products to promote that make sense for your topic.
Similarly, Google’s pay-per-click Adsense ads will generally work even if your site is on a “boring” topic without many products to sell.
Chris Lee of RankXL is making over $20,000 per month with Adsense alone. In his free training, Chris said that “Ads are rarely related to your niche these days.”
He goes onto say: “If they spend most of their time looking at mortgage options online, they’re more likely to see an ad from a mortgage broker when they visit your site. This means you can stop worrying about your niche not having enough advertisers to get a high CPC. You might remember in the past, when you put up ads on a site where there weren’t a lot of Adwords advertisers, you would see a lot of blank or miscellaneous ads about Google or Adsense itself. Not anymore. These days, every business is on Adwords. Companies are being introduced to re-targeting. And Google’s ad targeting system has gotten a lot smarter.”
What This Means For You
The fact that popular monetization methods like Amazon affiliates and Google Adsense are so flexible means that you have greater freedom when picking a niche.
If playing the tuba is your thing and that’s going to be the focus of your site, Amazon sells Tubas and Google will take care of delivering ads that are relevant to your visitors – whether they have to do with tubas or not.
You just have to deliver the traffic.
If you don’t have a particular passion like tubas that you want to create a site about, start brainstorming by doing things like:
- Looking at product categories from Amazon
- Thinking about your hobbies and places you spend your time now
- What you do professionally (things you may be able to teach others)
- Search niche forums and look for common problems or discussions
- Check Google Trends or just scour various media outlets to see what is becoming more popular.
How Do I Know If I Can Get Traffic?
This is an important question.
For me, it might be the most important question when deciding if I’m going to go into a niche.
Can I get traffic to the site?
I always say that making money is the easy part. Getting a ton of traffic (preferably free, search engine traffic) is the hard part.
I also like to keep things simple and budget-friendly when I’m starting out a new site – which is why I’m a big fan of long tail keywords. Basically, I’m looking for those low competition keywords in my niche that I can create content for and then start pulling in free Google traffic by ranking well for those search terms.
How Many Keywords Do I Need?
On a recent webinar I was asked how many keywords are needed to build a site around.
It’s virtually impossible to give a one-size-fits-all answer to this, but when I’m creating a niche/authority site I like to be able to find 20 – 30 low competition keywords without breaking a sweat.
This often means that as I build momentum and traffic for the site, I should have no problem finding many more keywords to create content for that fit under my “umbrella.”
Figure Out Your Umbrella
Perhaps you’ve heard the term micro-niche site, which refers to a website that is focused on a very small, specific niche. Some argue that these really small targeted sites are completely dead, and I certainly would suggest that you think about your niche a little more broadly.
The problem is, if you create a site at www.bestdogfoodforpoodles.net that is about “best dog food for poodles” and you’re having trouble getting any traffic from the poodle food community… you’ve got some real issues.
Your site’s niche isn’t broad enough to pivot your focus and talk about much else.
Instead, if you really do love poodles and want to share advice on how to feed them, I’d suggest taking a step back and making your site about something more general like “dog food” or even a site about raising healthy dogs.
Either way, you can still write to your post about “The Best Dog Food For Poodles,” but you’ll also be able to expand into things like tips for keeping your dog healthy, basic nutrition, other recommended products for various dogs, exercise routines for dogs, and on and on.
Start Broad, Finish Narrow
Another way to think about this concept is to start broad, and then (maybe) finish narrow. In the poodle food illustration, I would start more broadly and create my site about dog food – a less specific version of that niche.
However, a few months down the road you may discover a more narrow sub-niche inside of “dog food” that really seems to be providing most of your traffic and interaction with your audience.
For instance, maybe you’ve been reviewing different dog bowls and are making a bunch of affiliate sales by sending people to Amazon to buy the bowls you recommend.
Now you can focus more time on creating dog bowl reviews and lists of dog bowls that are best for different living situations, breeds, etc. since that traffic has been more profitable to you than the other topics you’d been blogging about.
Having the ability to start broad and go narrow later on is yet another reason it makes sense to have an “umbrella” that is big enough to begin with.
Niche Selection Example
Now I’m going to take the principles outlined above and put them into practice.
Hopefully by doing that, you’ll see that this formula can work for you and you can confidently go forward with building a website of your own.
1. Brainstorming Ideas
After going through some of the steps listed above like thinking about the things I do well, common problems, trending topics, etc. I thought of a pretty interesting niche:
My wife watches a lot of HGTV, which means that I end up watching more HGTV than I’d like to admit…
One show that I keep seeing advertised is Tiny House Hunters. The idea is that people want to downsize in a drastic way, and might move from a house that has 2,000 square feet to one that has 200 square feet.
To see what the trend looked like in the eyes of Google, I went over to Google Trends and typed in “tiny hous:”
As you can see, the amount of people looking for tiny houses in 2015 is way up compared to the past few years. Overall, Long Tail Pro tells me that “Tiny House” and “Tiny Houses” alone are searched close to 300,000 times per month which is a great sign:
This is clearly a trending topic, but given the fact that it’s now the focus of popular TV series’ my guess is that it could be a fairly long term trend.
Now the question becomes, can I get traffic to a site on this topic?
2. Content and Traffic
On the content side of things, I already know that “tiny houses” is a broad enough topic to build a site around.
After all, tiny houses are just like their bigger counterparts in that they have bathrooms, lighting, plumbing, interior design, furniture, and all these different sub-topics that could fall under that umbrella.
As a bonus, I’d probably be able to pump out some very shareable content like “9 Tiny Houses That Will Make You Want To Move” with a list of cool houses I’d pull together from around the web.
[su_box title=”Bonus Tip: ” box_color=”#2c57d6″]With a newer site, I love mixing in shareable lists so I can reach out to other bloggers and sites in that niche and hopefully get them to share my content with their (bigger) audience.[/su_box]
Finding Some Keywords
For me, finding 20+ low competition keywords that I can write blog posts about and expect to rank for is really important.
This means I can get traffic from Google without doing paid advertising, and it typically means that as the site grows I can continue to add content and build up to a larger authority site if I’d like to.
Fortunately, I spent 15 minutes doing keyword research for my tiny house site and found just under 30 keywords to target with a keyword competitiveness under 30 in Long Tail Platinum. Here is a sampling of 20 that all have a KC score under 27, which means they are from low to VERY low competition:
[su_note]Ready to start finding keywords? Click Here to take a 10 day free trial of our keyword research tool, Long Tail Pro. [/su_note]
How I Found The Keywords
Let me show you exactly how I found this list of keywords in about 15 minutes.
I used one of my favorite combinations of Long Tail Platinum and Ubersuggest.
I went to Long Tail Platinum and put in 5 seed keywords to start with:
- tiny house
- tiny house ideas
- small house
- tiny layout
- downsize house
I then went to Ubersuggest and did 2 different suggestion searches:
- tiny house for
- tiny house with
Then I pasted those suggestions into the import box of Long Tail Platinum.
I let the software do it’s thing, and then I added in “number of words” as a column so I could sort to see the ideas with the most words first.
From there, I simply clicked on “calculate” for the keyword competitiveness score on any keywords that I thought would be interesting and fit under my “tiny house” umbrella.
Although I didn’t need to this time, I would normally repeat those steps over and over again until I had a list of keywords I felt strongly about.
How I Would Use These Keywords
The nice thing about these keywords is that I should be able to create some “listicle” style posts where I give lists of ideas and explain them with some level of detail. This approach is beneficial because I can create quality posts that will rank in Google, but in many cases are easy to share with others in the tiny house community and hopefully get some free promotion to speed up my growth.
For example, I might create “5 Tips For Surviving in a Tiny House with Cats” and then spend some time emailing tiny house bloggers and even people who blog about cats to let them know about my post. As you can see from the competition analysis, I could probably get to page 1 just by doing proper on-page SEO and creating great content. However, a relevant backlink or two certainly wouldn’t hurt.
[su_box title=”Bonus Tip: ” box_color=”#2c57d6″]Another thing I like to see in my competition analysis is that other niche sites are ranking for these terms. In the screenshot above, 3 of the first 4 results are sites about small houses that aren’t “big brands” which is a good sign for my own site about tiny houses. [/su_box]
3. Monetization Strategy
While this post isn’t really about all the different ways you can monetize your site, I thought it might help to share what my initial thoughts are on how I’d try to make money from my new tiny house site, assuming that my goal was to generate some side income that is as passive as possible.
At first, I wouldn’t try at all.
I’d put all my time into developing attractive, thorough content for the keyword ideas I’ve found. I’d also start doing the email outreach I mentioned to hopefully make some connections and spread the word about my site to others who are most likely to care.
Remember that getting traffic is the hard part.
Once I start to pick up some organic traffic, I’d install the Quick Adsense plug-in for WordPress and put some larger Google Adsense units inside of my content, to begin monetizing traffic.
Then, I’d start thinking about my keyword strategy in a more product focused way so I could begin promoting products on Amazon. For instance, posts about the best furniture for tiny houses, layouts for small spaces, how to build tiny houses, and even living with a cat in a tiny house are ripe for promoting products.
Example: In my cat post, I might say “Make sure to “tiny-size” your cat’s belongings as well. For example, downsizing your litter box is a great way to save some critical space in your home. Here’s one that fits into a small corner.”
Remember to think like your audience and when the opportunity presents itself, simply mention products that might make their life easier.
It’s a fantastic way to “sell” without really coming across like you are tying to sell a product.
I don’t actually plan on starting a blog about tiny houses – so feel free to steal the idea and the keywords I shared above 🙂
Overall, I hope this exercise was helpful to those who are still struggling with niche selection. Honestly, even if you pick a niche and it never gets any traction – what did it really cost you?
A little bit of money and some lost time.
So my suggestion would be if you are sitting on the fence, get out there and try it. “Fail forward” as they say, and you’ll get better as you go.
Here is a quick recap of what we covered:
- At a minimum, Adsense and Amazon affiliates means that you can find ways to make money in almost any niche
- Start broad with your “umbrella” (niche) and you can always get more narrow with time.
- Find 20+ low competition keywords to validate your niche and make sure your umbrella is big enough.
- Plan your content and start creating it. Here are some content ideas to get you started.
- Don’t worry about failing – trust your research and your gut and get started!
Best of luck!