A Fat Stacks forum member recently used the term “shoulder niche”.
I love it clever terminology in this biz and there is plenty of it.
I also love the shoulder niche concept.
What is a shoulder niche?
It’s an add-on niche relevant to your existing niche.
It’s a way to build a bigger niche site or blog without it looking odd.
Shoulder niche examples:
- If your niche is baking, adding cooking would be a shoulder niche.
- If your niche is dogs, cats would be a shoulder niche.
- If your niche is piano, guitar would be a shoulder niche.
Examples of what aren’t shoulder niches:
- If your niche is baking, adding cycling to your site is not a shoulder niche. The two are totally unrelated.
- If your niche is dogs, adding the poker niche is not a shoulder niche (except for referencing the dogs playing poker poster).
Over the years I’ve tacked on many shoulder niches to my sites.
I’m at it as I type.
I’m merging my smartwatch site with my fashion site. This is taking way longer than it should but oh well.
Smartwatches are watches. Watches are fashion accessories. IMO, the connection is good enough.
Why am I doing this?
It’s easier to build up authority on one site than two.
It could be a big mistake.
It wouldn’t be my first mistake.
I take chances.
Sometimes I have no idea what the best thing to do is.
But usually, adding tightly related shoulder niches has worked out well for me.
The lines get blurred
The line between a topic, cluster and niche can get blurred.
I don’t have all the answers when it comes to this stuff but one way to distinguish a niche from a topic is by audience interest.
If your audience would likely be interested in the additional articles, there’s a chance that set of topics are in the same niche.
If it’s not likely visitors would be interested in the additional topic, chances are it’s a different niche.
But that’s too simplistic in many ways.
Take dogs for example.
Dogs is a niche IMO. It’s a big niche but a niche nevertheless.
However, German Shepherd dogs is a niche as well. It’s a smaller niche within the dog niche.
Moreover, folks interested in German Shepherd dog content likely aren’t interested in poodle articles.
So on the one hand, both breeds are dogs which is a niche. Yet, arguably both are different niches.
My point is it can be hard to distinguish.
The more important point is don’t overthink this stuff.
SHORT ANSWER: If it’s reasonably related to your current niche, go for it, as in tack it on to your site as a shoulder niche.
Now some of you might be thinking, “hey Jon, what about email marketing… shouldn’t I just stick to topics that my email readers are interested in?”
Yes, if you send out emails it’s best to keep the topics tightly related… in the email.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t branch out on the blog to haul in all that awesome SEO content.
I publish plenty of content on the Fat Stacks blog that doesn’t make the newsletter. I publish that stuff for SEO traffic.
When should you add on a shoulder niche?
I’m an advocate of the spray n’ pray method where I’ll publish articles on a variety of topics and related niches and see what works. When one works, I zero in on that topic and go deep.
So, there is no time like the present UNLESS you have a niche that’s working well for you… stick with it until you’ve exhausted it. Never deviate from something that’s working. It’s not easy finding angles that work in this business so when you do, milk it for all its worth.
How do you add on a shoulder niche?
You could create a new category or tag. There’s no formula for either but I tend to opt for adding tags over categories. I like to minimize the number of categories I put on a site.
If I published a pet site, “Dogs” would be a category. The various breeds would be tags.
If I published just a “Dogs” site, I’d probably create categories such as “Training”, “Food”, “Gear” instead of breeds. Again, the different breeds would be tags. That way if I expanded into cats, the categories would still apply and I could use tags for different cat breeds (you know, for those folks who have pet lions, tigers and panthers).
Should you hire a new writer for a shoulder niche?
It depends on the degree of expertise needed. This week I added on a shoulder niche to a site and had my WriterAccess contet manager seek out someone with expertise in that niche. It took her a day to find someone. I think that shoulder niche is going to do nicely.
Isn’t it better to launch a new site?
This is one of those difficult questions to answer. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. I tend to err on tacking shoulder niches to an existing site instead of starting a new site. I like big, broad sites because I can leverage the authority. As long as there’s a connection to the other topics, I’m good with that. Even if the audience is different.
How do I do “shoulder niche” keyword research?
I approach the same as any niche or topic. I attack it from many angles creating a nice list of articles to add to the site. Sometimes I’ll start with 10 to 20 and see how it goes. If it goes well, I add more.
I set out all my keyword research methods in my course bundle.
How many shoulder niches can you add to a site?
It depends on the general niche your site is about. If it’s pets, you can cobble dozens or more niches together.
If the niche personal finance, that’s more focused.
It also boils down to how you define a niche. Is credit cards a niche within the personal finance niche or part of it.
You see, we can get way too analytical about this stuff which I don’t recommend.
My view is this biz is largely a numbers game. Some stuff will pay off ridiculously well. Some will do okay. And some will be a total failure.
That means my time is better spent producing content than pontificating whether credit cards is a niche unto itself.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.