Unless you have an overriding passion for a specific topic, choosing a niche for a niche website isn’t easy. Choosing the scope of a niche is also not easy. For example, if you’re into bonsai trees do you tackle “container gardening” or stick with just bonsai tress?
This post sets out some basic guidelines I follow when choosing a niche and scope of niche. Unfortunately there’s no magic formula. Much of niche selection is a gut choice.
Some people choose based on interest. Other people choose based on whether they think they can make a lot of money in the niche (i.e. commercial viability). I’ve chosen niches with both approaches. Both can work if you’re sufficiently motivated to do a great job.
Putting the cart before the horse
Most people choose a niche from a topic perspective. I fall in this camp too. You surf around the web, check out magazines, consider what you’re interested in, read lists of niche suggestions and so on.
However, if you’ve done this and have not settled on a niche, try a different approach which will help you narrow down your niche options.
Instead of exploring topics, consider what type of online business you’d like to operate.
1. Do you wish to focus on email marketing?
2. Do you wish to focus on social media traffic creating a more viral-style of site?
3. Do you wish to focus on SEO?
4. Do you wish to do all of the above?
5. Consider monetization as well because that makes a difference how you approach your niche. Do you like to earn revenue from display ads, affiliate commissions, selling your own products, e-commerce and/or selling direct advertising?
What’s the advantage of choosing a niche by online model?
The advantage is you can cater your niche website around your most effective method of generating revenue.
- If you’re very good at writing engaging headlines and copy, email marketing and/or social media websites may be best for you.
- If you’re more technical and love analyzing numbers and proceeding more methodically, SEO and/or e-commerce may be best for you.
Can you incorporate all of the above business models into a niche website?
Yes, of course you can. Some massive websites succeed with social, SEO, email and e-commerce. Arguably that’s where you want to end up with your website but it’s terribly difficult to succeed and achieve all models at one time.
Moreover, just because you can doesn’t mean you want to. I know I could earn more with email in my niche sites, but I don’t bother. I know I could earn more launching an e-commerce website, but I still haven’t gotten around to that. I also know if I tried, I’d earn more selling direct advertising, but I can’t be bothered to do that. Remember, your niche site needs to be fun most of the time. I choose to focus on what I enjoy and am pretty good at.
Moving along now to the heart of the matter.
Narrow vs. Broad Niche Websites
I currently publish both broad and narrow niche website. Both operate quite differently. I enjoy both, but they are different.
1. Narrow Niche Websites
A narrow niche website focuses on a very specific topic. It’s a sub-sub-sub topic of a larger category.
- “bonsai trees”: a website dedicated to bonsai trees – see a great example at bonsai trees here),
- “Facebook marketing”: Focuses on a very specific marketing topic – Jon Loomer is a terrific example,
- “Florida Keys”: All about the Florida Keys – here’s a good example,
- “Los Angeles Lakers basketball”: All about the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. Here’s a good example.
- “Tattoos”: A website all about tattoo designs. Here’s a good example.
Each of the above narrow niche sites are monetized a little differently. The one thing they have in common is they focus on one specific topic and cover it in-depth.
Narrow Niche Details:
Narrow niches are not governed by traffic volume. This is important. There are narrow niches that have huge traffic volume. For example, “tattoo ideas” gets 201,000 searches per month, “bonsai trees” gets 90,500 monthly searches, “Los Angeles Lakers” gets 201,000 monthly searches “key west” gets 165,000 monthly searches. Those are pretty big search numbers.
Narrow niches aren’t necessarily micro niches but of course micro niches are narrow niches. You don’t have to drill down to the narrowest topic within a topic area to qualify as a narrow niche. For example, you could focus on “Key Largo” or “Deciduous Bonsai Trees” or “Rose Tattoos” which are arguably micro niches, but it’s not necessary. I would seldom consider going that narrow.
Is there a formula defining when a niche is narrow?
Not really. There’s always room for debate whether a particular niche is narrow or not so narrow. There’s also middle ground. Examples of middle ground are as follows:
- one category up from “bonsai trees” is “container gardening”,
- one category up from Facebook marketing is social media marketing;
- one category up from Florida keys is Florida,
- one category up from Los Angeles Lakers can be Los Angeles sports or NBA basketball.
- one category up from tattoos is style.
Interestingly, in many instances, there are more than one category above the niche such as Los Angeles Lakers which could go up to NBA basketball or L.A. sports.
Is the one category up a narrow niche?
For example, is a website about “container gardening” (one up form bonsai trees) a narrow niche? Arguably it is. I actually think it is. It’s certainly not broad. Broad in this instance would be “landscaping” or “gardening”.
Generally, in most verticals there will be obvious narrow niches, not so obvious narrow niches (middle of the vertical) and then the broader categories.
Narrow Niche Pros
- Establish credibility
- Dominate search engines (in the long run)
- Build loyal audience
- Sell piles of very related products
- Scale by creating many narrow niche websites
- Set it and forget it. Once you totally cover a narrow niche and have your revenue funnels in place, you can literally set it and forget it. You might need to update it here and there, but many narrow niche sites can earn on auto-pilot. I have two such sites that earn 4 and 5 figures per month respectively. It’s amazing.
Narrow Niche Cons
- Limited traffic volume
- Can get boring if you’re not super passionate about the topic
- Scaling requires building other websites which is a lot of work to start and grow
- You probably write most of the content. Because narrow niche websites are narrow and in-depth, it’s hard to find writers who can cover the topic as in-depth as it needs to be. I list this as a con, but if you like the topic and enjoy writing in the niche, it’s a pro. If you hate writing, you probably want to pursue something where you can outsource your content.
When should you go with a narrow niche?
In my view there are only 3 instances when you should go narrow. They are:
1. You’re selling/promoting something pertaining only to that niche (i.e. that audience). This bonsai tree website and Jon Loomer (Facebook marketing) are good examples. Both sites sell info products specifically related to those niches (and both probably sell a ton of their products). OR
2. That narrow niche still has a truckload of potential traffic that can generate some decent ad / affiliate revenue and going narrow helps with SEO and credibility. For example, the Los Angeles Lakers audience is massive and so it’s worth focusing exclusively on that team with one website.
3. The niche website is part of a larger network of related websites. I think this is a lot of work, but if you’re ambitious and want to dominate a broader niche you can create a broad niche site that covers many topics and then publish narrow niche sites included in that broader niche site and cross-promote. This can work, but it’s a truckload of work and you better have the resources to pull this off.
Should you go one category up?
For example, would Jon Loomer do better if he covered all of social media? I don’t think so. In his case I think he’s smart restricting his site to Facebook marketing because that alone is a massive topic and it probably takes all of his time to remain an expert with Facebook marketing, updating his courses and blogging about it in such a high quality manner. Sure, he could hire writers and put a team together to tackle all of social media, but that would dilute the quality of his blog for sure (which isn’t necessarily bad either… it’s just that Jon has chosen to remain a smaller organization and offer highly customized information).
Another example is should the person behind Bonsai Empire have done a container gardening website? Again, I think not. The bonsai niche is massive and it’s quite distinct from other container gardening techniques. Bonsai trees is definitely a stand-alone niche. That doesn’t mean a website dedicated to “container gardening” is bad. It’s just that Bonsai Empire is so well done and is so credible as an authority that it works like gangbusters.
All 5 example narrow niche sites set out above are very good websites and I don’t think they’d be improved if they covered topics included in the one-up category. The niches are large and definitely stand-alone topics.
2. Broad Niche Websites
Broad niche sites are websites that cover a broad set of related niche topics… they’re essentially a group of related narrow niche sites.
Examples of broad niche websites include:
“Healthy living”: Health websites that cover weight loss, healthy eating, weight lifting, yoga, etc. A good example is the Greatist.com.
“Car Reviews”: Website that reviews and writes about all types of consumer vehicles such as sports cars, sedans, crossovers, SUVs, etc. The Car Connection is a good example.
Forbes.com: A website that covers wealth and business.
Generally, most mainstream magazines are broad niche websites. They cover a very large category that is comprised of many topics, each topic being a viable niche on its own. That said, some magazines are much more niche… but they’re lesser known magazines.
A few things to note about broad niche websites:
Often the main keyword describing the website doesn’t get all that much search volume. The main keyword explains the overall topic of the site and the big keywords are tackled in individual pages/posts/categories on the site. The site is essentially a series of narrow niche topics.
Broad niche websites can easily become a monster lifetime business. Seriously, if the niche is reasonably lucrative, you can spend years and years building out the site into an authority. This is the most exciting aspect of broader niche sites for me. I love the thought of being able to build something awesome for years that spits out a growing revenue stream month after month after month.
Broad niche sites are dynamic and always-growing. I publish 2 broad-niche sites and I’ve found they evolve over time. I now focus on different topics than I did when I started; however, the new topics are related to the overall site.
Pros of Broad Niche Sites
Expand and grow based on data. When you have flexibility to expand into related topics, you can test different topics and adjust your site according to what performs best. I love this aspect of broad niche sites. I’ve definitely benefited from this.
Avoid boredom. Broad niche sites give you flexibility to write and publish on a variety of topics. This helps stave off boredom.
Unlimited traffic potential. Broad niche sites offer the opportunity to grow into a multi-million page view per month site simply by expanding into related topics. This won’t happen overnight, but the potential is nice. Once you get there, you could be set for life.
Multiple revenue streams. You can sell stuff, earn from display ads, promote products as an affiliate… basically earn from every available option with broad niche sites. Obviously some revenue streams will be better than others, but having diversified revenue streams is really good.
Leverage search engine authority. Once you have some authority in the search engines, launching into new topics is easier to rank than starting a site from scratch. This is a significant benefit of broader niche sites. It’s a lot of work and time to build search engine authority so once you have it, you might as well milk it.
It’s fun. Seriously, I love publishing my large niche sites. I always have a massive bank of article ideas, but some days I come up with something new and can switch gears writing and publishing about something totally unexpected. Watching traffic grow into the millions is awesome. Overall it’s a business I love running.
Outsourcing is more viable. If you like the idea of outsourcing much of your content, it’s easier to do with a large, high volume content, broad niche website. Yes, you can contribute your expertise by writing for the site, but you can add a lot more content by outsourcing some or all of it. I take the hybrid approach – I write for my broad niche sites as well as pay for content.
Cons of Broad Niche Sites
Email marketing not as easy. When you run an email newsletter that’s focused on a specific topic, it’s easy to generate sales. However, the broader you go, the lower your conversion. In fact, you’ll alienate a lot of subscribers. The way around this, if you’re willing to put in the effort, is to run multiple email newsletters catering to each topic on your site. These days, email sign up forms can be set to display on specific posts/categories and so you can create multiple email newsletters so that you can have terrific conversions. The downside here is it’s a lot of work to maintain multiple email newsletters.
Less credible. If you’re selling something, you won’t be as credible as if you focused on the a very specific niche your product serves. Take BonsaiEmpire.com for example. They sell bonsai tree info products. If the site were about container gardening generally, I doubt the course would sell as well as it does.
It’s a lot of work each week. Unless you have piles of profits, running and building broad niche sites is a lot of work. You must publish regularly and feed the social media beast or whatever promotional process you have (it may be link building more so than social media). It’s a merry go-round that doesn’t stop until you sell.
You probably can’t handle more than one site. I know I can’t really handle more than one broad niche site. I’ve tried. It’s almost impossible because there’s so much going on to do a good job. However, with narrow niche sites, once they’re set up and earning on auto-pilot, you can move on to something else.
Can you turn a narrow niche website to a broad niche website?
Is it feasible to take a narrow niche website and grow it into a broader site?
Yes, yes, yes it is okay to expand a narrow niche website into a broader site if it won’t alienate your current audience. The one reason to do this is more traffic and you can leverage existing website search engine authority.
But, when launching a narrow niche site, it’s important when choosing a domain you choose a domain that won’t pigeonhole you UNLESS you are 100% certain you will not expand the website.
For example, Bonsaiempire.com is clearly about bonsai trees. Sure, the site could expand topically into other types of container gardening, but it would be a little odd. That said, many sites have done this regardless of the domain.
The flip side of course is that using a domain name that clearly communicates what the site is about enhances authority. If BonsaiEmpire.com was ContainerGardeningEmpire.com, it wouldn’t be so immediately apparent the website is about bonsai trees.
Again, like so much with choosing a niche, it’s a gut decision.
My approach is to hedge by choosing domains that give wiggle room to expand into new topics unless I know for certain I will not expand a site beyond it’s narrow niche.
What about multi-niche websites?
A multi-niche website is one that covers more than one unrelated categories such as a website covers Fashion, Business, Lifestyle, Design and Health. An example is Huffington Post. These are mega sites that cover pretty much everything.
I’m not going to say much about multi-niche websites. I’ve never published such a site mainly because the resources required to make them successful is enormous. If you’re going to cover multiple broad niches, you need to publish a lot of quality content daily. Most small operations can’t do this. If you’re starting out, I don’t suggest you take this approach. Save this for when you cash out your first niche website for 7 figures and then you can invest big bucks into a multi-niche website.
Personal Brand vs. Corporate Identity?
Should your website’s face be your personality or more a corporate brand?
For example, Fat Stacks Entrepreneur is me. I write the content. My photo is all over the place. It’s a personal website on which I share info about what I do to build up niche websites.
On the other hand, I own sites where my name isn’t on it at all. It’s a corporate brand site… branded with a site name and logo.
What should you do?
You should do what makes sense for the site as a business. For Fat Stacks, it’s makes much more sense to personalize the brand; however, for my other sites, the corporate branding works fine.
I think though, for most narrow niche sites, personal branding is beneficial, but not necessary. If you can do it and/or are comfortable doing it, go for it.
On the flip side, a broader site can easily get away with a corporate branded site. You don’t need to stamp your personality on it unless you want to. In fact, I think going personal on a broader site isn’t always the best idea because most people will realize you couldn’t be an expert on all the topics. Whereas if it’s a corporate branded site, the perception is it’s a large site with multiple experts contributing.
On Final IMPORTANT Point
Regardless of which niche you choose and broad you go into it, it’s imperative you know before launching your site that you can and will be able to publish excellent content on the topic(s).
Jon Dykstra is a six figure niche site creator with 10+ years of experience. His willingness to openly share his wins and losses in the email newsletter he publishes has made him a go-to source of guidance and motivation for many. His popular “Niche site profits” course has helped thousands follow his footsteps in creating simple niche sites that earn big.