Step #1: Narrow your Interests
This is the logical place to start because blogging about something you have a natural interest for is personally enriching. What I usually do is to pick a few general topics I’m interested in and put them through a couple of websites and tools.
Recommended Tool: Wikipedia.
You can use search engines to perform niche research but I particularly like using Wikipedia to narrow down my focus in a specific field because articles in Wikipedia are very well interlinked and are generally informative.
For example, see this Wikipedia page on surfing. In the first paragraph itself, there are links to several topics related to surfing, such as surf boards, wind surfing and big wave surfing.
Scroll down to the end of the page and you’ll see even more subsections like surf culture, surf music and surfing competitions.
Wikipedia can also be used as an informational tool which gives you more background on any topic. thereby allowing you to eventually decide if it is something you want to pursue.
You should end up with a short list of niches you want to target, which leads you to the next step.
Step #2: Assess the Traffic Potential for the Niche
To assess the size and potential of a niche involves discovering the number of people who actually search for information on the given topic.
This is important because you don’t want to be pursuing a niche that is inherently limited by its weak organic search traffic.
Now is not the time to target your actual keywords so you don’t need to always go for the high volume search terms. As long as the overall search volume is moderate, that should be fine.
Recommended Tool: SEO Book Keyword Suggestion Tool
I like using this tool because of several reasons: It provides suggested monthly regional search volumes by market for Google, Yahoo!, and MSN and churns out direct links to Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery and Google trends, all of which are other tools you can use.
After typing your keyword (e.g. surfing) into the search box, you should focus on the vertical length of the results instead of the actual search volume for the keyword.
The length of the list determines how deep you can go with this specific topic and also how many keywords you can effectively target for traffic. This is an important point: Never focus exclusively on the main niche keyword but the overall search depth for the niche topic.
Once you have found a suitable niche with a moderate search volume, you’ll need to run a quick check on its monetization and profit potential.
Step #3: Determine the Monetization and Profit potential for your Niche
This step is fairly simple. There are two ways to monetize any new blog: One is advertising networks (e.g. Google Adsense, Auction Ads) and the other method is the use of relevant affiliate programs from websites. Let’s split this section up into two.
Recommended Tools for ad networks:
These are currently two tools which can provide a rough estimate for the profitability of a niche. While the results are limited to Google Adwords/Adsense, I think they are reliable indicators of the niche’s general potential.
Here’s what you’ll see from Google Adwords Traffic Estimator after I did some basic keyword searches:
While other information such as the estimated cost and clicks per day are included, you’ll only need to focus on the figures in the estimated average CPC column.
Generally, the higher the Cost per Click amount, the more the advertiser has to pay and hence its possible that you’ll earn more by creating content which reflects that specific keyword.
On the other hand, the Google Adwords Keyword Tool gives you a lot of keyword suggestions, each with their search volume or average CPC. You’ll just have to type in one main keyword and the tool will generate a list of results.
For example, here is an example of some results when I type in ‘web hosting‘.
This basically gives you an estimate of the monetary value of all the longtail keywords you will be naturally targeting when you are writing in depth on a topic.
A word of caution: Don’t just go for the keywords with the top CPC averages because these are usually targeted by many other webmasters as well. Generally, if your niche has a Adwords CPC average of $2-3, it should be profitable while allowing a low barrier of entry for new websites.
Recommended Tool for affiliate programs: Search engines + Affiliate networks
The easiest way to find affiliate programs for your niche is to do a google search for your niche keyword + “affiliate program“. You’ll usually be able to tell at once if there are adequate programs available.
In any case, there are also a large number of affiliate networks such as Commission Junction, Shareasale and Click Bank so there shouldn’t be any difficulties in finding affiliate programs for most niches.
Seven Day Niche Blog Challenge: Update #2
So far everything is going well. I enjoy setting up new blogs, even though the process can be repetitive. I’ve largely followed the three steps that I’ve mentioned above while picking my niches, although I did perform some alternative research to develop a more rounded social media outlook on the niche.
Here are two additional tips, both of which I personally use in addition to the three steps I’ve listed above.
Additional Tip #1: Use Community Specific Searches for Buzz Value
The method emphasizes on performing site-specific searches on various social websites and forums to assess the overall popularity of the term.
I’m going to focus on quite a bit of social media marketing alongside the usual search optimization so its very helpful for me to know the popularity and traffic value of a specific term within the social community in question.
For example Fan Forum is the largest online celebrity forum on the internet. If I wanted to promote my content on the forum, I need to know if the sub-niche or topic is widely mentioned and hence attractive to the forum users.
Here’s an example of what I would do if I were performing research on the topic of Lindsay Lohan.
Open a new browser window and go to google.com. After which, type in the following command:
site:fanforum.com lindsay lohan
Which would bring me to this search results page with a list of the number of times Lindsay Lohan, or the niche topic is mentioned. According to Google, there are 1,410 results for this term on fanforum.com alone.
On the other hand if you were to do a similar search for Chuck Norris, you’ll only come up with 3 search result terms. This just means that Lindsay is hot in Fan Forum and unfortunately, Chuck is not.
To get the same information on other websites, you’ll just have to replace fanforum.com with the url of the site you want to explore in detail.
Additional Tip #2: Use SearchSpy tools for Out-of-Box Research
If you absolutely can’t think of any interests or are far too lazy to do any research at all, fear not for there is still a solution. Some search engines often have a spy page which allows you to see what people are searching for in real time.
Dogpile’s SearchSpy tool is one tool that I recommend. Basically all you’ll need to do is to sit back and passively view the stream of searches that show up on the screen. When you see one that interests you, middle click on it to open it in a new tab. After you feel that you’ve opened enough tabs. Click off the spy page and then sort through the results.
This is a an excellent way to think out of the box and I’ve come up with some valuable niche topics with this method. It’s also a more relaxing way to go about the process of selecting a blog niche.
I usually run Dogpile for a few minutes at the end of the day to see if I encounter something worth researching in detail.
It is important to note that search spy sites do not offer package solutions, I’ll still recommend that you run some of the niches that you’ve found through the three steps I’ve listed above.