Updated April 28, 2020.
A. How to choose a niche (text version)
Concept: Go Broad, Dig Deep
Plan for expansion
Name your site and get a domain that gives you WIGGLE room (and lots of it).
Automobiles is broad (GOOD). Domain autobuddy.com (GOOD).
Minivans is narrow (BAD). Domain: minivancentral.com (BAD).
Give yourself options. With Autobuddy.com you can focus on minivans with options to expand. With minivancentral.com you’re stuck with minivans.
Step 1: Choose a Vertical
With this approach, there really aren’t that many niches. Here’s a list:
- Business / Money
- Health / Fitness
- Self Improvement
Exceptions (there are always exceptions)
Hobbies are the exception
I would not do a multi-hobby site.
It hurts credibility. Hobbyists typically pursue one hobby. If you’re writing about multiple hobbies, it might hurt credibility.
That said, if you have multiple writers with hobby experience you could frame the site explaining that – particularly related hobbies like quilting, sewing and knitting.
Revenue potential & strategy consideration
Do you prefer affiliate marketing, display ads or both?
This will narrow down your options.
- History: not good for affiliate marketing at all. Must monetize with ads or perhaps sell Kindle books if you’re authoritative.
- Business niches: Can be very good for affiliate marketing. Ads can be good as well depending on your angle. For example, business news would do best with ads.
Revenue per 1,000 visitors consideration
Revenue is dictated by revenue per ad impression/click and traffic.
Some niches pay very little for ad impressions but potential traffic is ridiculously high.
Some niches are the opposite.
Many fall somewhere in between.
While it’s impossible to know exactly what kind of EPMV to expect, it’s worth looking into unless you know exactly which niche/vertical you want.
Your ability to “knock it out of the park”
Can you cover the vertical well? Better than other sites?
Can you establish credibility and authority?
Example: Health and money sites are particularly sensitive to this. Chances are more niches will be vulnerable to credibility and trust signals.
If you plan on hiring writers, can you hire writers with the ability to knock it out of the park.
For example, I enter topics because I find writers who can knock it out of the park.
Step 2: Plant a few trees, but dig deep
Once you settle on a vertical and have a domain name, it’s time to publish content.
My approach is to “plant a few trees, but dig deep”.
What this means is I choose a few topics within the vertical and publish a cluster/series on those topics.
Moreover, each topic I go after is fairly obscure (as in not very competitive). Likewise, search volume isn’t high. That’s okay – I just want to get SOME traffic arriving ASAP.
Why cover multiple topics out of the gates?
I like hitting multiple topics because I never know what Google will favor. It’s an attempt to see what “sticks”.
What I’ve noticed over the years is that in time, Google will favor one or two topics on your site above others.
This is the data you want.
Once you see a topic outperforming, cover that topic extensively including going after more competitive topics/terms.
Step 3: Plant more trees (topics)
While carpet bombing the winning topics within the vertical, continue publishing small clusters targeting more topics.
Over time, some topics you cover will outperform. Again, those are what you focus on.
Rinse and repeat.
PLEASE NOTE: When you launch a new site, it will take months for Google to start sending you meaningful traffic and that’s with publishing a decent amount of content. You must be patient.
Traffic drives traffic.
Good things happen when you get traffic, even a little bit. When you get traffic, you will attract links.
Links build authority which ranks more topics and keywords.
It’s a self-fueling cycle.
But always focus your efforts on topics that work! Let Google tell you what to publish.
Example: Tech Site
Bad domain: Sheetshq.com (as in Google Sheets)
Good domain: Techtitan.com (broad – can reasonably cover anything tech-related).
Initial cluster topics to try (I’m thinking of moving from Apple ecosystem to Google):
- Google sheets tutorials
- Google Pixel phone How-to’s (plus throw in a review for fun since you own the phone)
- Google Chromebook How-to’s (obscure troubleshooting tutorials)
B. Additional Criteria to Consider
The following are the criteria I set out in the original version published Nov. 3, 2014.
1. Visually-Based Niche
A key element to my niche site’s rapid popularity and growth stems from it being in a visually-based niche.
What this means is that much of the content can be in the form of images and video. This makes it easy to create popular content. In fact, I think it’s easier to create viral content with images and video than it is with the written word.
2. The Niche Has Wide Appeal
It’s a bit of a balancing act between not going too broad and avoiding going too narrow. My main niche site is fairly broad in that it covers a good number of topics. I did this because I wanted to be able to attract millions of visitors. Since a significant part of my monetization strategy involves display ads, more traffic means more revenue.
That said, all of the content on my site makes sense in that it’s all related.
Therefore, when choosing a niche, do your research to ensure there’s a wide enough audience for serious traffic volume, but reign it in topic-wise so that your audience is somewhat interested in most of what you publish.
How do I research the size of a niche?
I do the following:
a. Facebook interests audience size
In the Facebook Ad interface, I select United States and then input the niche in the “Interests” field. This will return a potential reach. If it’s in the millions, it’s okay. I prefer in the tens of millions though.
b. Are there Print Magazines, TV Channels and Massive Websites in the Niche?
In my niche, there’s all 3 (TV networks, print magazines and many other popular websites). That means the niche is big and popular. At the very least, you want it big enough to support at least one popular print magazine (the more the better).
You can also check the search volume in the Google Keyword Planner for the seed keyword. If it’s in the millions per month, it’s a pretty big niche. I prefer the first 2 methods for determining whether a niche is large enough.
3. There is Decent Revenue Potential for Display Ads
Display ad revenue is based on a bidding model. Advertisers bid on how much they’re willing to pay per click for an ad. Obviously, some topics and niches will will attract higher bids than others.
While I don’t advocate going for the highest potential revenue per click niche (mostly because they’re pretty dry niches such as law and insurance that don’t do well with social media and paid traffic is prohibitively expensive); I do suggest you select a niche that will pay out $.50 or more per click for people in the USA.
Note: Expect the cost per click revenue-wise to lower from visitors in other countries. Each country will vary. English speaking countries tend to pay out the most.
4. There are Plenty of Physical and/or Digital Products to Promote as an Affiliate
Another important criterion is the availability of products to promote as an affiliate. While I generate the lion’s share of my revenue from display ads, each month my affiliate commissions increase bit-by-bit. My aim is to earn as much from affiliate commissions as display ads.
The diverse revenue streams is good and smart. It doesn’t matter if it’s digital or physical products. My niche offers much more physical product promotion opportunities, but other qualified niches offer plenty of digital products to promote. Both sell and both can earn decent commission revenue.
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.