Do you want to start an online business but not sure where to start?
The first step when starting an online business is to pick a niche!
It doesn’t matter what type of business you are thinking of, it could be digital publishing (blogging), information products, affiliate marketing, eCommerce (selling physical or digital products), or services like coaching and consulting. Picking the right niche is critical because the right niche can make a business and the wrong one can break it.
Industry vs Niche Market
So what is a niche market?
A niche market is a smaller subset of a larger industry. For example, Sports is not a niche, it is an industry, Badminton is a niche.
Travel is not a niche market, it is an industry. Van Life is a niche. Camping in the UK is a niche. Road Trips USA is a niche.
Pets are an industry. Dog training is a niche. Guinea Pigs are a niche.
In general, niches are smaller and there can be better niches the smaller you go. This is called niching down. Using the Pets example from above. Pets is an industry, dogs maybe a niche but it is a very big niche. You can make this niche smaller by niching down to a type of dog, or a breed or group of dogs. Like Working Dogs, Poodles or Terriers. These would all be better niches than Dogs.
Not all Niches are Created Equally
Just because you have found a niche doesn’t automatically make it profitable. All great niches do one thing and that is they fulfil the wants and needs of the target audience.
What are the needs of your audience? This is not as hard as it sounds. Every human on earth experiences the same set of basic needs.
We know these as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Making an effort to fulfil these needs leads to the creation of problems. A great niche solves these problems.
So what kind of niches can be found on each level on Maslow’s pyramid?
Physiological – think health and wellness. Things like diets, gluten free, paleo, low carb. As well as maladies that affect people, like rheumatoid arthritis, stress, sleep disorders, and erectile disfunction.
Safety niches would include the obvious like survivalism, and personal security but it also includes work related niches like blogging, forex, location independence and online education and SEO. If your topic is in any way related to making money it would be in this category.
The love and belonging level could include dating/relationship advice, family travel, and mentors and life coaches.
Niches that are in the weight loss, and fashion and style industries would be in the Esteem level of the pyramid. As would sewing, music, and exercise gear.
The last and top level of Maslow Hierarchy of Needs is self actualization. Niches in this category would include dog training, yoga, nootropics (brain enhancing supplements), and parenting advice.
When people try to fulfil these needs they will run into problems this is where your niche comes in to help.
How to Pick a Niche
When picking a niche the key to finding a profitable one is evaluating its potential.
Lots of online advice says pick a niche that you are passionate about, I am not sure that is the best advice. Turing a passion into work can back fire, and make no mistake, starting a profitable niche site takes work. Having a passion is double edge sword, early on it can keep you motivated but over time when working the passion is hard you may find that you no longer enjoy the passion.
However, I will say you will have the best chance of success if you pick a niche that you have an interest in or one that you have at least some knowledge.
On the other hand picking a niche that you have no interest in but may be a money maker is also not a great idea. Making money in niches takes time and if you have no interest in the topic you will lose interest just before you start to make decent money.
The best advice I can offer here is when picking a niche look at topics you have an interest in and then follow the steps below to evaluate if it can make you money. You don’t necessarily need a ton of passion but you do need to be interested.
Products or Services
When picking a niche the first step is to determine if there are products or services that exist to sell in that niche. Are there affiliate programs available or can you create a product that solves a problem?
First look at products that you use and enjoy in your niche. Go to their websites and look to see if they have an affiliate program, or just Google “company name affiliate program” see if something comes up.
This is how I find most of my affiliate programs. If I find something I like whether it be a product or service I find out if the company has an affiliate program.
Next take a look at affiliate platforms and search for products that would service your niche. I have found good products on ShareASale, Awin, Impact Radius and a few others. I tried Commission Junction years ago but hated the platform. Clickbank maybe another place to find products to sell.
Or better yet pick a niche that has some affiliate products but also one where you can create info products like e-books, reports, online courses, video courses or webinars. This takes more work but the rewards can be enormous. When you create your own product and have some success selling it you can then start an affiliate program of your own.
You don’t necessarily need to have products or services. You can have a successful niche site by publishing information that people want to read and then sell advertising on your site.
Jon Dykstra from Fat Stacks Blog has built very successful niches sites that primarily rely on advertising as it main source of income. His top niche site earns high 5 figures a month. (The last monthly income report I looked at his top site earned $74000). The biggest hurdle here is having enough topics to write content on, he estimates that he has 5000 articles on this site.
DO NOT look for a niche with no competition. Competition is a good thing because it means that people are spending money in that niche.
The more competition there is, the more affiliate offers there will be to promote. There will be more information on how to promote the offers and more people will be looking for those offers.
Some competition is awesome as it will warm up the niche for you and you should be able to find great affiliate offers or the audience will be ripe for a digital info product.
Do be aware some of the most lucrative niches also have incredible cut throat competition. Surprisingly the mattress niche is extremely competitive.
Quality of the Audience
Every niche has an audience, in general the bigger and more active/passionate the audience, the better the niche.
Facebook Audience Insights is one of the best ways to find information on an audience. Facebook Audience Insights provides detailed results that will be broken down as follows:
- Page Likes
Another great way to evaluate your audience online is through Reddit. For those that are not familiar with Reddit it is a collection of communities divided into subreddits. That means Reddit is already organizing its community for you into subsets of topics, in other words, niches!
The website Subreddit Stats takes all of the data from reddit and organizes it by growth and follower count. You can find a subreddit’s popularity is within its follower count and growth. Find out how passionate the audience is by how many comments in the subreddit.
Keyword Search Volume
This is a very different from the keyword research that you would do for writing an article. Unlike keyword research for your articles you are looking for large numbers.
A keyword for your niche is basically your entire website’s topic. So if you want to start a niche site on Guinea Pigs, you need to find out how popular the keyword is, the keyword being “Guinea Pigs”. According to SemRush, Guinea Pigs gets 550 000 searches per month in the US alone.
This is good, there are a lot of people that are interested in Guinea Pigs. The best niches will have a high volume of monthly searches. If your niche gets very few searches you will have a very hard time driving traffic to your site.
For my keyword research I primarily use SemRush, it is a great website does a lot more than just keyword research. SemRush is an “all in one SEO tool”. They offer a free level that you can use for some limited searches and SEO info and a free 7 day trial for their full suite of tools. Once you get your site up and running you can decide if the higher level plans offer any benefit, for now the free level should work for you.
If all you are looking for is awesome keyword tool check out Long Tail Pro it does not do all the things that SemRush does but it is awesome for keyword research and it much cheaper, you can get a full year for the same price as a couple of months on SemRush.
Does your niche have long term potential?
This is a very important question to ask yourself.
Do not pick a niche that can potentially only last for a short time. Fads come and go but you want your niche site to last a long time.
Think of the people that created sites around fidget spinners. Even if they started their site right at the beginning of the fad they would have been out of business a year later.
Compare this to Guinea Pigs. Nice and steady over the last five years and growing slightly in the last 12 months.
Google Trends can be a good tool to help understand if your niche has evergreen potential.
This is a tricky subject. You want to find sites that are similar to the one you have in mind and look at those. Do not look the huge sites covering the industry. Going back to my guinea pigs example you do not want to look at Petsmart.com or Petco, you want to look at the niched down sites. So for Guinea Pigs you want to look for sites like guineapig101.com and guineapighub.com. This would be your your competitors, not Petsmart.com or Petco.
The way you can find these sites is doing some longtail keyword research. First start on Google search start typing a question (make sure Google is auto-filling in your results.) I started typing “can guinea pigs…” and Google gave me a bunch of auto suggestions like “can guinea pigs eat grapes”. I took a look at the results and found several sites that would be a guinea pig niche site competitor. If “can” doesn’t bring up anything try, “will”, or “what” etc.
After you find a few sites that are similar to the one you you are going to create. Go to SemRush or Longtail Pro and type in the website in the domain analytics area. This will give you all sorts of data about the niche and your competitors.
It will give you the estimated traffic the sites get, other competitors, the keywords they rank for, the top pages and much more.
In April of this year Guineapig101 got 30000 visitors! And it was only started in the last 2 years. That is great! If I had an interest in Guinea Pigs, I might want to start a site on them. A site that is getting 30000 visitors month can make anywhere from $300 to $500 a month in advertising alone. My best guess is that Guineapig101 makes between $500 and $800 a month if you include their affiliate income.
Now it is time to roll up your sleeves and take a few notes. Find 4 or 5 competitor sites and take a look at them, actually go to the website and take notes, and find opportunities to beat them.
Write down what you like and dislike about each site. This should give you ideas for things you can do differently especially if there are some things you don’t like.
Find older outdated posts and make a note of them. This will help in the next step.
Look at the type of content these websites are publishing, is it written content, videos, infographics, webinars, image-based, what is the average content length, does the site lack depth?
What products or services are they selling and promoting, are they affiliates for anyone including Amazon? Do you see anything they aren’t selling? Are they selling advertising? Many niche site owners overlook seemingly obvious products.
Does your competition seem like they treat their site like a business or are they hobby bloggers doing it for fun? Marketing skills can easily beat hobby bloggers.
Are they making obvious marketing mistakes like not building an email list, publishing badly formatted content like big blocks of text and very little in the way of images, is the content filled with spelling or grammatical errors, are they using an outdated theme and style, or not optimizing content for SEO?
Create Better Content
It really is that simple. Using your notes from the above step figure out how you can create better content.
Write longer more in depth content, use images, videos and infographics. Write content that updates any old information that you found during the competitor research step.
Google likes fresh content, so when you find an old piece of content on a competitors site update it and make it fresh and in depth.
You can use SemRush to find content gaps on your competitors sites. Then fill the gaps on your site.
Other ideas could be writing up a case study, or an in depth guide. Make sure your content has images and social media-friendly content. Do a podcast, create videos or webinars!
Create a community around your niche. Start a Facebook Group. Or if your niche is visual start a Pinterest account or IG account. Use all of these accounts to drive traffic back to your site.
Huge List of Niches
The below list of niches is just to give you a starting place. There are thousands of great niches. This is not an exhaustive list, for example German Shepherd is a great niche but this does not mean it is the only dog breed to look at, if you have a favorite breed do some research to see if it is a great niche. The list is meant to help you brainstorm when you are trying to pick a niche.
|Niche||Monthly Volume Oct 2020|
results may vary depending on the tool you use.
|Guinea Pigs||550 000|
|Tropical Fish||45 000|
|German Shepherd||823 000|
|Hairless Cat||246 000|
|Sphynx Cat (a hairless cat)||201 000|
|Dog Training||110 000|
|Bikram Yoga||90 500|
|Nail Art||110 000|
|Extreme Couponing||14 800|
|Smart Phones||33 000|
|Raspberry Pi||246 000|
|Smart Homes||27 000|
|Survivalist Kits||40 000|
|Coloring Books For Adults||90 500|
|Van Life||40 500|
|Virtual Reality||110 000|
|Keto Diet||1 200 000|
|Adult Toys||135 000|
|Bluetooth Speaker||301 100|
|Niche||Monthly Volume Oct 2020|
results may vary depending on the tool you use.
|3D Printing||450 000|
|Laptops||1 000 000|
|3D Puzzles||27 000|
|Acid Reflux||550 000|
|Activities for Kids||60 500|
|Adjustable Beds||74 000|
|Carry On Bag||33 000|
|Kayaks||2 240 000|
|Robot Vacuums||110 000|
|Burning Incense||49 500|
|Comic Books||135 000|
|Cowboy Boots||201 000|
|Mountain Biking||301 000|
|Backyard Chickens||14 800|
|Online Learning||14 800|
|Bird Feeders||110 000|
|Pool Cues||27 000|
|Self Defense||33 100|
|Soap Making||27 100|
|Ping Pong||47 500|
|Urban Farming||22 200|
|Wheat Grass||40 500|
|Wireless Headphones||246 000|
|Jazz Music||42 000|
|Ice Fishing||18 100|
|Gold Panning||14 800|
|Fantasy NFL||165 000|
|Dash Cams||90 500|
|Building Muscle||12 100|
|Meat Smoker||33 100|
|Lava Lamps||135 000|
|Folding Bike||27 100|
|Fish Finder||49 500|
|Disc Golf Courses||40 500|
|Essential Oils||301 000|