Finding the right niche for your blog or affiliate site is a critical step.
While some bloggers and affiliates opt to jump straight into a niche with little or no research I believe this is an increasingly risky proposition. The online marketplace is becoming ever more competitive, so the smartest idea is do your research well in advance.
In addition, I have repeatedly found that the niche you select can be one of the most important elements for deciding your level of success. If you’ve tried to start a blog or authority website in the past – but failed to generate the results you were hoping for – the reason could very well be that you chose the wrong niche.
A more intelligent approach is therefore to carry out some detailed niche research before deciding on the topic of your site. In doing so, you can select a topic for your website based on solid research rather than guess-work.
What is more, before you even register your domain name you’ll have gathered a huge range of “insider information” that will help you to achieve your goals that much more quickly.
In this section you’ll learn:
- My 3-step plan for choosing a profitable niche
- The 6 elements you should consider before deciding to build a new site
- 8 valuable insights you can learn from existing sites in your niche
By the end of this section you should have an educated and informed opinion of exactly which niche is likely going to be the best for you.
My Proven 3 Step Plan for Choosing a Profitable Website Niche
Choosing the right niche for your site consists of three primary phases We’ll look at each if these in much greater detail in just a minute, but let’s start off by laying these steps out, so you better understand what we’re going to be covering…
When researching potential niches we need a starting point. There are a range of possible options here. One idea is to use the techniques you learned in the last section to find existing authority sites to research further.
Possibly the best option, however, is to consider your own lifestyle, and that of close friends and family members. Invest the time into coming up with a list of topics (“niches”) that you would be interested in creating a website around.
Once you have this initial list gathered the next stage is to consider each potential niche from a more detailed and commercially-aware perspective. This is where things get exciting, and you go from an initial list of potential ideas to gaining a far more detailed and educated understanding about each niche.
This is really the “secret sauce” when it comes to choosing a website niche, as you’ll no longer be relying on guesswork, but will instead gather a wealth of information pertaining to each of the niches you’re considering.
The Final Decision
The final decision in essence involves boiling all your research down to one (or more) final niches. At this point you should have a great idea, that has proven through detailed research to have very real potential. You can therefore start your new site on the best possible footing.
Now that we’ve discussed the basics of my three-stage niche selection process let’s look at each one in more detail.
How to Brainstorm Niche Ideas
The best niches for blogging tend to be based around subjects that attract a passionate following and/or that are highly commercial.
Some examples of passion niches might include:
- Interior design
In general, niches related to hobbies can work well. Wikipedia has a nice list of hobbies if you need some inspiration.
On the other hand, niches in which people are actively spending money can also work well – because your audience will be more likely to click on adverts or buy products that you’re promoting.
Examples of niches where lots of money is spent might include:
- Weight loss
Of course, the ideal niche manages to tick both off both of these elements. Mountain biking, for example, has a passionate community surrounding it, who also spend considerable sums of money on kit each year.
Your first step in choosing a niche is therefore some “blue sky thinking”. Grab the document you set up earlier on and start to carefully think about all your friends, family and work colleagues.
- What are they passionate about?
- What do they willingly spend money on?
- What Facebook pages do they like?
- What magazines do they read?
Also, consider yourself from this perspective too. Take as long as you need – it’s fine to spend some hours on this task if you like. Try to jot down a good list of ideas to start your niche research with, then we can move on to learning a little more about the niche ideas that you’ve had…
6 Things to Consider When Assessing a Website Niche
Once you have an initial list of niches gathered, the next stage is to consider each potential topic from a more detailed and commercially-aware perspective.
During my time as an authority site builder and blogger I have narrowed down my niche selection process to just six reasonably simple questions. Following through these questions you should find enough information to generate a fairly good niche idea, which can become the foundation of your new niche site…
1) Commercial Viability
If you’re looking to make money from your site then the first consideration should be how profitable a niche could be.
In truth, some niches are filled with buyers, looking to spend money. In others, it can be very difficult indeed to encourage people to click adverts or buy products, and so the profit potential is considerably less.
Selecting a niche with cash-in-hand buyers ready therefore helps you to generate more revenue for the same amount of work.
Here are some factors to consider…
1a) The Gut Check
The first check is an obvious one; are people actively spending money in this niche?
To give two examples, golfers require all sorts of equipment, and must regularly purchase new balls etc. We also know that joining a golf course is expensive, yet people willingly pay this money. Therefore, we could summarize that the golf niche may well have a high degree of commercial intent.
On the other hand, crafters often make use of whatever is around their homes. Part of the pleasure of crafting is reusing and recycling, only purchasing small items such as glue or paint when necessary.
Overall, the transaction values are likely to be much lower, while crafters themselves are less likely to spend money. The commercial intent here is therefore likely lower.
A good idea here is to consider your own spending; and if possible that of close friends or relatives. What do they spend plenty of money on, be that a hobby or a career? Are they obsessed with cars? With home automation? With travel?
Try to make a note of the general topics and trends that you notice, as these can make a good start to your list of ideas.
1b) Large Pool of Products
Whilst most authority sites and blogs benefit from a huge pool of articles, each one bringing in visitors daily, you’ll make the most money from commercially-minded content.
The more people who buy a product thanks to a link or an advert on your site, the more money you’ll make.
In addition, the more that each person spends, the higher your commissions are likely to be.
This means that markets with a huge range of products tend to be far more profitable than those with only a limited range.
Sitting here next to me I have my trusty Android phone – a Wiley Fox Swift. It’s a great handset, and one that I’m very proud of. Since buying it, however, all I have bought is a case and a screen protector.
Building a niche website around something very narrow like my Wiley Fox phone therefore offers a very limited range of products to promote or review.
At the other end of the spectrum, consider how much kit is available for fishermen. From rods to reels, nets to bags, there are hundreds of potential products to promote. One person may end up spending hundreds of dollars in one go, purchasing all manner of new fishing equipment, while you as the site owner will have a never-ending range of products to review, compare and discuss.
What’s more, these purchases are unlikely to be a “one time” purchase. Many fishermen will replace, repair or upgrade their kit over time. This means repeat business for you.
A contrasting example might be people getting married or buying a house. Once they’ve accomplished their goal, they probably won’t do it again – at least not for a long time we hope!
1c) Market Complexity
The more complex a product group is, the better for authority site owners. The reason is quite simply that more people will be researching products or services before purchasing.
Consider an article I wrote about the best heatmap tools. This is a highly complex market, with dozens of seemingly identical products all with different pricing structures. Trying to figure out which one is the best is a mammoth task, so unsurprisingly a fair number of people just search for the answer online.
My article is there to help answer these questions, and still gets a surprising amount of traffic each day.
An opposite niche might be one about decorating your home, where in reality most paint rollers are pretty much the same. I can’t imagine too many people lying awake at night trying to decide whether they need the 4″ or the 6″ version; they just buy whatever is at the DIY store and move on with their lives.
The harder it is to decide on which product is best, the better a niche it is from your perspective.
1d) Product Cost
When you promote a product on your authority site you’ll normally earn a percentage-based commission. Let’s say – as an example – that you’re offered 5% of whatever sales your site generates.
In this example, would you rather be blogging about hand lotion or private jets?
Yes, I know it’s a silly and exaggerated example, but clearly you’d earn far more money from the second sale. That does, of course, assume that you’re able to sell equal numbers of both products (which you probably couldn’t in this example).
All the same, consider the types of products that people in a specific niche might be purchasing, and ask yourself what looks like a “good” commission for you.
Many affiliates, for example, focus their attention on markets where the average products cost $100-500, so that their commission on any sales is still a healthy amount of money.
Some products are highly seasonal, with cycles of sales throughout the year. Thus barbeque products sell best in the summer (but not so much when the weather is cold), while toy-related websites do the majority of their trade in the months leading up to Christmas.
Just because a niche is highly seasonal doesn’t necessarily make it is a bad one, but there are some additional considerations.
Firstly, are you willing to spend time building a website that may make you very little money for much of the year? Secondly, when does the season really start? After all, if you start a Christmas-focused website in November then by the time you start getting traffic it’ll all be over. You’ll then have to plug away all year long until the next growth period.
Starting a barbecue cooking website in November, however, gives you a reasonable amount of time to get things going before the main season begins.
1f) Monetization Options
Your website won’t make a penny without you “selling” something.
Perhaps you’ll create your own products, or recommend those of others for a commission. Maybe you’ll allow advertising on your site, where retailers can put their products in front of your readers.
The key thing here is that the more monetization opportunities before you, the better.
There are three reasons to be glad to find multiple monetization opportunities. The first of these is that higher levels of competition generally suggest a profitable market; if lots of companies are making money in a niche, then there are likely to be dollars being spent.
Secondly, this competition applies just as much to the advertising space on your website; more products and services can help to maximize the commission you’re offered by companies clamouring to be seen.
Thirdly, the broader the range of monetization opportunities, the easier you’ll find it to split test the various options on your site, helping you earn as much revenue as possible.
Of course, the obvious question is how you assess these monetization opportunities. Here there are a number of options:
Spy on Your Competition
Possibly the easiest way to assess monetization strategies is to see what other websites and blogs in your niche are doing. Either search Google for broad keyword phrases related to the niches that you’ve found (“pet care blog”) or use AllTop, which lists thousands of quality-checked sites in neat categories.
Alternatively use the tips provided in the previous section to find a list of existing authority sites in the niche that you’re considering.
Make a list of the sites that you find, and take your time investigating them…
- Do they have certain adverts on them?
- Do they mention specific retailers or products, with links to them?
- Do they sell their own products?
Pay particular attention to any part of their design that tries to push you to a specific page, or to click on a specific link. That’s probably very profitable for them – ask yourself “why”?
What you’re looking for here are the consistencies. Are there certain strategies that most of the blogs in a certain niche are using? If so, this may be a good sign.
Investigate Affiliate Networks
One of the most effective ways to make money from a blog is to recommend products or services in exchange for a commission – a process known as “affiliation”.
While some companies run their own affiliate program in-house, many larger companies outsource this to an affiliate network. The network helps them to attract more affiliates, while you as the affiliate can easily find and join a wide range of different programs.
But affiliate networks can also be a great source of information too. My personal favourite of the various networks is ShareASale, though some of the more popular alternatives include Commission Junction and FlexOffers.
What’s nice about these sites is that they not only gather together thousands of affiliate programs, but they also provide statistics on them. They may, for example, give you an overall “network ranking” based on how much money other affiliates are making with them.
Here’s just such an example from ShareASale:
Here I can quite easily see the programs – and indeed the niches – which seem to be performing very strongly. The higher the EPC score, the more money the affiliate program is generating.
In the above example, we can see that check cashing and business incorporation are performing well, so we might want to consider an authority site about setting up a new company.
Wayfair is also there, so perhaps an interior design blog may well prove profitable, carefully monetized with their affiliate program.
Search for Stand-Alone Affiliate Programs
Just because a company doesn’t run an affiliate program through one of the big networks doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be ignored. Many will run their own affiliate programs.
A few simple Google searches are likely to bring up all sorts of opportunities. Use a variety of broad, niche-relevant keyword phrases, and try bolting the words “affiliate program”, “associate program” or “referral program” onto the end.
Examples might include:
- cookery affiliate program
- meal planning referral program
- kitchen associate program
Look for Blog Networks
A blog network is a group of bloggers that gather together to benefit from increased traffic and/or monetization opportunities.
These are often niche-related. For example, there are blog networks for fitness bloggers, food bloggers and pet bloggers.
A strong existing network is a good sign; not only does this suggest that there are lots of other successful site owners in a niche, but this is likely to also represent a strong monetization opportunity.
Join Forums & Groups
While building your own content-based website or blog is still quite an unusual thing to do, there are ever more of us doing it. The end result of this is an ever-growing range of forums and groups for bloggers in specific niches.
Start searching on Facebook (your best bet), on Google Plus and carrying out general Google searches (“your niche + bloggers”) to find these.
Many bloggers produce a “monthly roundup” of what has been going on with their site behind the scenes. These frequently include information such as how many visitors they’ve received, how much money they’ve made and how they did it.
Such posts therefore represent an excellent opportunity to “spy” on a niche. You may quickly find that specific affiliate programs or ad networks seem to appear time and again on these posts, strongly suggesting a huge opportunity.
The easiest way to find these posts is to use Google and/or Pinterest, searching for relevant phrases such as “your niche + monthly income” or “your niche + progress report” or “your niche + income report”.
Utilizing the above tactics should not only give you a good idea as to whether a niche is likely to be profitable, but also “kick-starts” your research, so that if you do decide to enter the niche you’re considering you’ve already got a list of monetization opportunities and marketing avenues before you even register your domain name.
2) Passion (Both You and Readers)
The period between starting an authority site, and it becoming established enough to provide a regular and reliable income can be a long and painful one.
Months can go by with barely a click on any advert. During that difficult initial phase you need something to keep you moving in the right direction, and that thing is passion.
When you love what you’re writing about, it feels as much like play as work.
It’s easy to get motivated, and you can often knock out a whole list of top quality articles in a short space of time.
Try producing a site about something you’re not passionate about and you’ll find it a constant, ongoing battle to muster the motivation you need to keep writing.
I experienced this first hand some years back with a massage-related site. In truth, writing about massage techniques and products soon bored me to tears, and it wasn’t long until I moved on to the next project.
The key here is to write a list of topics that you’re interested in. If they’re also things you’re personally knowledgeable about then all the better – passion plus knowledge is the magic recipe for easy, expansive content creation.
That said, a lack of knowledge shouldn’t put you off, so long as you have enough passion. If you’re willing to dive into a subject you’ve always wanted to learn more about, and “learn as you write” then this is absolutely fine, but you must care enough about a niche to spend a lot of time reading and writing about it for months to come.
Besides your own passion for a subject, it’s also worth considering how passionate the audience for your website might be.
Some groups of people are highly passionate about a subject.
- They buy books about it
- They go to conventions
- They join Facebook groups and actively share articles and videos about it
Consider sci-fi fans or cosplayers, willingly spending hundreds of dollars on materials and equipment.
Other examples might include followers of specific sports or fitness regimes (keto, Lean Gains etc.).
Conversely, many other niches lack this same level of passion. Consider for example a website about broadband providers. Certainly, there is plenty of money to be made with enough traffic. A monetization analysis would reveal many providers paying out hundreds of dollars for every single customer you send their way.
But are people truly passionate about their internet connection? Probably not.
No matter how great your articles are, they’re probably not going to go viral on Facebook. Additionally, once someone has bought their broadband, they probably won’t be coming back to read more of your articles in the future; it’s a one-hit wonder.
Passionate niches tend to be based around hobbies or careers – horseback riding, dog training, skiing, nursing, programming and so on. Less passionate niches tend to be more about normal everyday life such as broadband connections, patio resurfacing and replacement windows.
While niches without a passionate audience aren’t necessarily doomed to failure, they can be harder to get working. People who are passionate are far more likely to share content, to link to your site from theirs if it offers value and to repeatedly visit your site for new content, clicking ads or buying products on a regular basis.
In short, if the final niche you choose is a toss-up between a passionate and a non-passionate niche, I go the passion-route every time.
3) Market Size
One factor that can have a considerable impact on the overall long-term success of your authority site is the size of the market.
This makes sense, of course.
If you ranked at number one in Google for a phrase such as “cheap flights” then it blows my mind to think how much money you could make.
On the other hand, rank number one for “hamster water bottles” and you’ll still be lucky to cover the cost of your web hosting.
What this means is that larger niches can represent greater profit-potential in the future. A nice little idea is to consider the niches that have one or more magazines about them. Fishing, model train hobbyists, soccer. These are all big niches, with enough members that publishing a print magazine is a viable business option.
On the other hand, authority sites can struggle when they try to be everything to everyone. That is to say that it would be very difficult to build a name for yourself with a general site about fishing. There are just so many established names, and you’d need so much content to even start to do it justice, that you’d be in for a long struggle.
What tends to work well is to find a “sub-niche” of one of these major niches.
Let’s explain what I mean a little more with an example.
A general weight loss site might be too broad, but perhaps we can put a slight niche spin on things by deliberately narrowing down our topic slightly.
Here are some ideas we might want to consider:
- The Keto diet
- Weight loss for moms
- Male weight loss
- Losing weight by running
- Weight loss for diabetics
…all of these are sub-niches of a larger, broader topic.
Such sub-niches tend to not only be easier to stand out in, but the people in them are far more passionate.
Imagine someone who makes it their New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. They’ve never done it before, and they don’t really know where to start. So they just start to search Google for general ideas. They look for “how to lose weight” and “easy weight loss tips” and so on. They’re just scratching the surface, looking for general tips and advice.
Given enough reading, they’ll start to narrow down their search. Maybe they discover the wonderful world of the caveman diet, for example. The more they read about it, the better it sounds. They’re really getting into this. So they start lapping up everything they can find.
This is the person we want. The person who has slipped further down the funnel, who has developed a passion.
Suddenly your paleo diet site is the best thing since sliced bread to them.
They joyfully wade through dozens of articles, and end up buying several ebooks courtesy of your links.
You just made a sale.
4) Content Breadth
If you’re going to be starting an authority site then you’re going to be producing a lot of content. You may outsource it, you may write it yourself, but either way you need to have enough to write about to build that site out in the coming months and years.
Another consideration is therefore how many articles you can write on a certain subject (without getting boring/repetitive).
A standard “niche affiliate site” might focus very specifically on just one type of product, like dermarollers. That might seem like a good idea initially, but you’ll likely run out of potential article topics pretty darn quickly.
On the other hand, our paleo website idea discussed previously has an almost unlimited range of potential article topics, including interviews, roundups, recipes and more.
When you’re coming up with blog topics try brainstorming 50-100 articles off the top of your head.
The easier this is, the more enjoyable you’ll probably find it to build out your site.
5) Networking Opportunities
One critical ingredient for authority site success is “networking”.
This can take a variety of forms. For example, it might mean connecting with other bloggers by leaving comments on their site, or offering them guest posts. It might mean joining forums to discuss monetization strategies. It could be encouraging others to share your content on social media. Every connection you can make has the potential to drive your site further.
This might sound obvious, but in many niches the networking opportunities are surprisingly slim. In some niches there are very few similar sites. In others, everyone focuses on themselves, rather than there being a “community” feeling.
So have a look around, and find some other blogs in your niche…
- See how many comments they’re getting, and whether they’re linking out to other sites.
- Use your blogger network research from earlier.
- Look for ways to promote your blog before you even launch it.
The more opportunities there are for networking – from other bloggers in the niche, to niche-specific forums, subreddits and Facebook groups, the easier it’s going to be to connect with potential readers.
6) Competition Level
Lastly we come to one of the biggest points of all – competition level.
Targeting a niche where the competition is too fierce ranks as one of the very biggest causes of failure.
In short, if a niche is controlled by a small number of super-powerful websites then you’re really going to struggle to gain any kind of visibility.
No visibility means minimal visitors and, by extension, next to no revenue.
That’s all well and good, but how do we assess competition levels in any practical manner? That’s what we’ll be discussing in the next section of this guide…
6a) How to Find Dominant Players in a Website Niche
In most niches there’ll be sites at all levels of the playing field.
There’ll be newbies, just starting out. There’ll be more established sites, sitting in the middle.
And then there’ll be the top-end sites; the ones with big followings, tons of traffic and rankings for thousands of keywords.
Spending some time identifying as many sites at all levels can be a very useful exercise.
Using the site list you build, you can then “spy” on what they’re doing, or make sure you’re networking with the right kinds of people.
Here are some handy tips for identifying the authorities in any niche you’re considering…
AllTop is a human-edited list of high quality blogs. While you’ll still find awesome blogs that aren’t featured here, AllTop can be a great place to start.
The reasons are simply that:
(a) each site has gone through a degree of quality-control in the past in order to get accepted, and…
(b) if a site owner has submitted themselves here then they probably have at least some idea of what they’re doing to promote and grow their site.
AllTop is simplicity itself to use. Simply enter a broad keyword phrase (i.e. “pets”) and spend some time going through the results.
Broad Google Searches
A second option is to carry out some reasonably broad keyword research. Simply type some phrases into Google and pay attention to who comes up in the top 20-30 results.
Keep doing this for multiple keywords (I would suggest at least 20) and you’ll probably find that certain sites keep on appearing time and again.
These are the authorities that are dominating the niche from a search engine perspective.
Social Media Influencers
Lastly, consider looking for Facebook pages, groups and Twitter profiles in your niche. Those with tons of followers may well be worth paying attention to. This is especially so if they have a website of their own; if so, note this down too.
It can be a smart idea to create a spreadsheet for this process, recording all the salient points as you go. This can build into an immensely valuable tool for the future growth of your site.
List Expansion: Blogrolls / Link Lists
Bloggers are a pretty sociable bunch. They’re happy to share the love, and as a result many sites maintain a list of others that the owner enjoys reading. Sometimes this list is placed in the main sidebar of the site (a “blogroll”) or sometimes there’s a separate page listing “top reads” or suchlike.
As you’re uncovering sites in your niche using the above strategies, be aware of any blogrolls, and follow these too to further expand your list.
6b) Identifying the Right “Kinds” of Sites
If you spend some time on this exercise you could potentially uncover hundreds of different sites in your niche. While this is a good thing, it’s important to realize that not all sites are appropriate.
Sites that are run by “faceless” corporations, or are largely household names, probably won’t be much use to you.
The reason is that such sites are so well established, and so authoritative in the eyes of the search engines, that they’ll be doing things that you and I can only dream of.
We’re talking about sites such as:
- Huffington Post
…and so on.
The sites we’re looking for are ideally individual bloggers. People who have a name that you can find on their site. People who have a profile picture somewhere. People like you and me. Not only are these people easier to get to know on a personal level, but if something is working well for them then it’s far more likely it’ll work for us too.
So dispense with the giant media corporations and focus instead on the “little guy” – we’ll learn an awful lot more useful information here.
OK, so we’ve got a long list of niche-specific sites, the next question is what we can actually do with them? Below you will find a long list of the types of elements we can discover from each one…
6c) 8 Valuable Things You Can Learn From Spying on Niche Websites
1) Content Types
What types of content are your competitors producing?
- Is it “how to” information?
- Are they interviews?
- Are they text-heavy or image-heavy?
- Are they written for search engines (long, juicy content) or for social media (viral-type posts)?
- How many comments are they getting?
- Are there regular, recurring features such as a weekly “link roundup” or an interview series, or an income report?
You don’t need to specifically relate each content piece to any particular site; instead you’re just trying to get a general “feel” for the content that is being produced in your niche.
At the same time, consider how you might do a better job. Could you make your articles longer, or better formatted, or include more photos or videos? What can you do to make your own content better than what you’re finding?
Additionally, pay attention to those articles that really stand out for you, and ask yourself why.
Take inspiration from what you’re reading, to help you craft your own content later on.
2) Content Gaps/Angles
As you’re gently working your way through the various sites on your list, looking at the types of content that they’re producing, ask yourself if there are any obvious “gaps” in the marketplace? Are there topics that aren’t getting addressed, or that you could do better?
The goal here is to identify opportunities for content that is unique to everything else out there, and fills a gap in the market that nobody else seems to be filling.
3) Backlink Magnets
The number of links that point to a particular page has a major impact on how well it ranks in the search engines. In reality, the vast majority of links that point to a site will link directly to their homepage. The majority, mind you, but not all.
Sometimes you’ll find that a particular article has become a “backlink magnet” – people are linking to it from all over the Internet. Such an article should cause you to prick your ears up. If we’re lucky, you just uncovered a potential goldmine for the future.
But how do you find such articles? Well, for this you’re going to need to invest in a suitable tool. There are a number of companies now who crawl the web, looking at who links to what. Among them are BuzzSumo, Moz and Ahrefs.
However, if you’re serious about building your authority site my own personal recommendation would be SEMRush.
The reason is simple; I think it’s the most useful “all round” tool, and as we carry on this guide you’re going to see just how many different ways we can use this single tool.
To start with, enter each URL in turn into SEMRush…
From here select the “Backlinks” option from the left-hand navigation bar…
This will then bring up a list of pages on the site in question, ranked by the number of links to each page.
If you find there are certain pages on your target sites that are generating a healthy number of links then make a note of these. It may very well be that you could produce a competing article and/or learn about how these sites are building links to their articles.
4) Popular Questions
Take your time when researching individual websites in a niche to scan through the comments that are getting left there.
What questions are people asking?
If commenters are going to the trouble of investing their own personal time into asking pointed questions based on the content of an article then this too might be a perfect source of content ideas that you could address on your website.
5) Domain Strength
One of the major factors that the search engines currently use to decide where to rank a web page is the “strength” of your domain. In simple terms, the more links your site has, the higher its “strength” or “authority” will be.
Furthermore, it’s important to appreciate not all links are equal. Links from sites which themselves are authorities, are worth more than those from lower authority sites. In other words, at it’s most basic, get a load of links from great sites and your authority will go up. When your authority goes up, so you’ll find your rankings move too.
For this reason it is worth looking at the authority of the other sites you’ve uncovered in your search. Not only does this give you quite a neat “helicopter view” of who is probably doing best in the search engines, but it allows you to estimate just how tough it’s likely to be to gain traction in the search engines.
6) Keyword Opportunities
Keywords are the foundation that a successful authority site are built on. However, finding keywords that you stand a reasonable chance of ranking for is far from easy.
Fortunately, using two existing resources, we can make a healthy head-start.
For this part of the exercise you’ll want to grab your copy of SEMRush, as well as the list of sites you’ve gathered.
Pay particular attention to those sites with lower authorities, as if they can rank for a certain keyword phrase, you’ll likely find them much easier targets. Sites with a Domain Authority under 30 are generally going to be your best targets here.
Just enter your target sites into the search box and select “Domain Overview”.
Here you’ll bring up a long list of all the keyword phrases that your competitors rank for…
7) Monetization Strategies
In the last part of our competitor research we looked broadly at the ways in which authority sites and blogs in a particular niche are monetizing their visitors. Now we want to look at the topic in more depth. Rather than a general overview we want to be far more conscious of the products, services and methods being used.
If you find the same products or companies mentioned across multiple sites in a particular niche then make a special note of these.
While we’ll talk more about affiliate marketing in the future, one of the most effective ways to grow your site income is through the creation of one or more “landing pages” that feature prominently on the site, and are designed to drive visitors to a detailed article laden with affiliate links.
A good example here would be all the “how to start a blog” articles found on mommy blogs, many of which you will find linked to repeatedly throughout the site, as well as being included in header navigation or sidebar menu areas.
8) Layout/Site Design
While the first-time blogger tends to choose a theme for their site, and arrange their navigation, based on their own personal tastes, more experienced site owners often take another view point.
As it turns out, visitors frequently judge a site at first glance by its design, while the right navigation and menu structure can help to drive people to pages of particular importance.
Therefore also consciously pay attention to the general appearance and layout of the sites that you find. Make note of any common themes – which may suggest a market preference. Also pay attention to any design elements you particularly like or dislike. Be aware of how many adverts are being placed onto a page, what the sites in question are doing to encourage email optins.
All of this information can be applied later on when site building to give you a “head start” on other new bloggers who haven’t done their research as thoroughly.
Making a Niche Decision
While I will admit that the niche research process is time-intensive – and can feel like you’re not truly accomplishing anything of any worth – nothing could be further from the truth.
You started off by simply brainstorming a list of potential topics for your blog or authority site.
Over progressive exercises you have fleshed out these ideas, looking at the design elements being used, how such sites are making money, attracting email subscribers and so on.
By the time you have completed your niche research you will be fully armed with the “inside track” on which niche is likely going to be best for your purposes. While there is no such thing as a “perfect” niche, the ideal target will be one that offers:
- High levels of commercial intent (lots of competing products or services – ideally with affiliate programs – and evidence of the niche audience spending money regularly).
- Passionate audience (think hobbies, careers and health).
- Large potential audience of visitors.
- Lots of opportunities for content production.
- Other bloggers and authority site owners with whom you can network for mutual gain.
- Modest competition levels.
Aim to select the topic from your initial list which meets as many of these criteria as possible, and carefully keep your list of marketplace observations on design, monetization, content and more ready to kick-start your project.
Assuming you’ve now selected a suitable niche it’s time to move on to the next stage.