Start with a great niche.
Whether you’re a blogger, an affiliate marketer, an SEO, or an eCommerce guru (or all four) – you need to carve out your own little territory on the digital globe. Finding a profitable niche that you can monetize isn’t something that happens overnight. Amazon, Google Trends, social media, research white papers – there are plenty of places to look. Take advantage of the online marketplace to help guide your digital career.
A niche will make you more profitable and more successful as an online entrepreneur – here’s how you can find yours.
What’s Around You Already?
Before you start doing targeted research and getting influenced by Amazon affiliate courses (people will start selling the niche dream to you very quickly), start with some old-fashioned brainstorming.
Making lists and using your own knowledge (and imagination) may seem ‘old hat,' but it’s a great way to come up with unique ideas.
Think about it like this – if you have a problem or an issue that you wish there was a product or service to solve right now… how many other people are having those exact same thoughts?
- Look at your own life first: your hobbies, interests, and problems. Make a big list of everything you can think of. Don’t stop to edit or question your list at first: capture as many ideas as you can and come and qualify them later.
- Make a list of things that you think might be fun to explore – what are you curious about? Has someone recently mentioned something you wish you knew more about?
- Talk to other people next – what would they sell if they could? Have they got a new pastime that’s taking up all their spare time? Is there a service they wish they could have access to? You can do this face-to-face, or through online forums and social media. Ask open-ended questions, rather than trying to influence people’s answers.
- Sometimes the best ideas come when we aren’t looking too hard for them. Traveling, meetings, changed routines, switching off – these are all great times for ‘AHA’ moments that suddenly give us clarity. (Yes, I should be selling novelty ice scrapers). Learn how to switch off periodically during high-intensity periods to let creativity take over.
- What’s around you in your life – what organizations, buildings, communities, and spaces are in your part of town? What habits or tastes do those places encourage? Look around you and observe what people are spending their time (and money) doing. What compels people to go to certain places and do certain things?
- Think about any trends or patterns you’ve spotted around you lately – whether that be online, in magazines, or in books. Certain words and themes will suddenly become popular and will appear to be everywhere. Think about whether you can cash in on something topical (think wearables, matcha, hygge, etc.)
- Got a passion project you want to get off the ground? Passion is a dirty word for some entrepreneurs and the only word for others. The thing about passion is that it is a great ignitor, but it can blind people and lessen their ability to think strategically. If you play the passion card (which sometimes you absolutely should), make sure that you are being smart about it.
This initial niche brainstorming session may take you a days, weeks, or months. Let the ideas percolate and settle. Don’t just go for the first idea that seems ‘OK’ and be careful with those gut feelings – they can be false alarms! This first stage is a crucial process, but it’s also organic – don’t rush it.
What Makes for a Good Niche? Criteria Checklist
A niche is a way for you to concentrate your online efforts into one place – bringing all your research, content, and promotional efforts under one umbrella.
You might decide that you want to cater to a very specific market like the Amazon seller and sell them online growth courses, or that you want to develop an organic pet shampoo product line.
Selling services, knowledge, or products online all eventually come down to the same question: is it going to be profitable for you?
Whatever your end goal is, whatever your benchmarks are – spend time doing due diligence on your chosen path by validating your niche.
Here is what makes for a good niche:
- Something specific and not too broad – you want it to be targeted
- Evergreen is better than flash-in-the-pan – you want something that will stand the test of time
- Healthy search volumes for your main niche keywords to show that there’s an interest in your offering
- An existing market that’s healthy/on the up (you won’t be able to create one from thin air – though you can facilitate niche market expansion)
- Loyal/vocal customers – niches that have a big online footprint are the best (advocates are better than passive customers)
- Opportunities for easy product variations (think about growth from day one)
- Uniqueness – there are a ton of travel bloggers out there so if you enter a saturated niche like travel, try to offer a different angle
- High demand/need for the product or service right now.
As well as all these, the niche should ignite your passion and determination to succeed in some way.
Keep these criteria in your head as you progress deeper into researching your niche and keep coming back to them.
Word of warning: There’s a TON of advice out there on what makes a good niche – some of it contradictory. The truth is, no one can ever replicate someone else’s experiences, so don’t get too obsessed with obscure niche ‘success stories’.
You’re probably better off NOT replicating someone else’s business plan too closely in order to differentiate yourself. If you want to read level-headed niche advice, check out Nichehacks.com.
Popular Niches Strategies Right Now
Just to give you some context – here are some niche strategies that sellers are doing well out of right now that may be of interest to you.
- Accessories – electronic cables, chargers, headphones – small electronic accessories to go with higher ticket items like HD TVs and laptops can be surprisingly lucrative. People tend to buy these items out of necessity and won’t think twice about paying out for an essential kit. Same for protective accessories and made-to-fit covers for expensive branded items like MacBooks – the options offered by the manufacturer are limited, so sellers can come in with unique designs and products to find an audience. Think carefully about how you can monetize accessories in your niche.
- Advocates – you might have noticed something about niche buyers or hobbyists – they’re often passionate product advocates. Finding success in a niche is often tied to finding your tribe – people who really, really love (and need) what you’re offering. When you’re dealing with advocates, whether that’s cold brew specialists or tomato plant growers, you have to work hard to become the ‘go to’ knowledge hotspot for these people…but once you’ve cracked that nut and become the expert (starting a niche blog is a great place to start), success will follow.
- Mid price range – too cheap and the margins suck, too much and people will think twice before they buy. Try to aim it so that people surfing online on their lunch break would be happy to make a purchase without too much soul-searching.
- Specialist – things that people can’t find in department stores or on every blog will help drive search volume and sales. If someone has decided they want a bespoke or niche service – they will be coming to the internet to find (you). Be weird and different – offer products that people really need and can only get from you.
- Repeat sales – something that people are going to have to replace, or at least top up with is better than something people buy once. This also means that you can go after the highly-lucrative subscription model.
Niche Research Hacks
So now that you’ve exhausted your own niche ideas and had a think about what niche strategies might work for you – where can you go to find new niche ideas?
- Keyword research in your niche is super important – start with Google tools and free SEO ones like keywordtool.io. Need a process? Some niche keyword research tips here to get you started. There is no ‘wrong’ way to do this, but make sure you understand the basics of SEO.
- Amazon is the big one for product research and a great place to start for a lot of things thanks to their dominance of the search market, their nifty subcategories, and their book marketplace. Look at what’s trending on Amazon, what the best sellers are in each category, and what products are being recommended to the user throughout the product discovery process. (Don’t go for any of the niches that have been popularized by Amazon success courses). Other places to do niche research: Clickbank, StumbleUpon, Alibaba, Flippa.
- Social media and reddit are a research goldmine. Start with Twitter trends and hashtags and find the subreddit for your niche for content and product ideas. Instagram is also good for hashtags and influencers – what niches are people engaging with?
- Affiliate marketing groups and forums are a great place to share knowledge and spy on the competition. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify have recently attracted the attention of niche sellers – there are loads of Shopify Facebook groups and forums to join.
- Blogs – often a new niche will emerge from a need identified by bloggers and other online micro-influencers. Forums and blogger groups are a great place to do service-led research.
- Google News and Google Trends might also throw up some interesting niche data.
It can be tempting to get carried away before testing out the feasibility of your niche. If you’ve established that there’s a market (a desire), you now have to figure out whether you can serve that market and profit from it. Here’s what to take into account in your feasibility studies:
- Margins and profitability – make sure this is something that you can monetize well, and that has good margins.
- Logistics – Shipping, and Fulfillment can be eCommerce headaches. Product dimensions can have a big impact on shipping costs – try to keep your products within the ideal dimensions (18 x 14 x 8 inches is the standard size for Amazon for example). Here are some more tips on finding the ideal Amazon product.
- Growth potential – how much can your business grow in the next two years?
- Startup costs – what is it going to take you to get set up? Where will the money come from?
- Timeframe – have you got the hours in the day to spare right now? How long will this realistically take you? Have you got the bandwidth to cope with this right now?
It’s important that you don’t forget to build an audience. You need to find out what makes people tick. Entering a niche with no idea what’s going on and no detailed picture of who you’re selling to is a recipe for disaster.
Product descriptions, landing pages, value propositions, social media ads – all these hinge on accurate audience knowledge and targeting.
- In some niche markets, you are going to have to hack years of niche knowledge and expertise. Interview niche influencers and experts and give them some free PR for awesome pro-level content.
- Your number one online tool is your email list (here are some handy email list building tips). Nurture your list, and even before you launch anything; share content and information with your budding online tribe.
- Validate your ideas with your market by giving out free samples and product taster sessions. Look at what’s coming back as feedback and act on it. Spend time reading online customer reviews of similar products.
- Social media is a cheap way to hear from people – you can ask questions or just observe relevant conversations.
How to Create Awesome Niche Content
One of your biggest success metrics as a niche marketer is going to be how good you are at creating relevant niche content.
Content is absolutely essential for SEO, and it’s one of the core ways that you can start to build an engaged audience.
You will only be known as a niche expert if you can prove yourself by creating relevant content on a regular basis. (If you’re good enough, you can start to monetize off the back of your content pretty quick).
Not sure how to kick off your niche content career?
Here are some niche content production tips:
- Start with your keyword research: make sure that you cover all the core topics unearthed during your discovery phase. FAQs, resource pages, and in-depth articles are a natural way to increase thematic keywords.
- Use the community around you for content: collect content ideas and topics from audience surveys and social media polls. Some of the top performing web content is user-generated and roundup-oriented which is super low maintenance for you (more on using Quora for roundups below).
- Be timely with your content: match it up with what’s going on around you and plan out content with a proper seasonal calendar. You don’t always want to be publishing content on the day of an event – plan a few weeks or months in advance.
- Be consistent with your content. By creating an expectation and a culture around your content, you’ll become part of people’s content consumption habits. A monthly column on a high traffic site is a great way to grow your readership away from your own domain.
- Thorough content is the best for search engines and users too. Go the extra mile and produce lengthy and in-depth guides, punctuated by short and snappy content that people are likely to share. Aim to be better than your competitors and learn from the people who are currently slaying it online.
One of the most important things to remember with content production is that you need to be constantly planning, testing, and refining your content. There’s no point in just throwing something up and hoping for the best – be strategic about content ROI. Here’s Neil Patel’s take on owning a new content niche.
Use Quora to Find Niche Content ideas + Promote Your Content
Quora is like Wikipedia on steroids. It’s is an absolute ideas goldmine for niche marketers and content creators. Founded in 2009, Quora has taken off recently; it’s even being cited as a source by major news sites.
Full of cool, scary, and real stuff, Quora is a brilliant place to do niche content research, and it’s also a fantastic promotional vehicle. Here is what you need to know about Quora:
- Quora is a very high traffic platform. Their frequent mailouts are part of their traffic-driving strategy, and by getting people to create accounts, they’ve been very successful at creating a sense of community (a major source of repeat web traffic).
- Quora is very #nofilter in terms of content – the quacky, the strange, and the disturbing can all be found on there.
How can you use Quora?
- Use Quora as an audience survey and content research tool.
- Create a blog roundup from Quora answers.
- Create a niche account to build credibility and drive traffic back to your site.
- Answer the right questions, and you might get exposure on big sites.
- Repurpose on-site content by answering questions and citing your own site/blog.
Here’s an example of Quora’s home page – it’s tailored, and entirely based on the topics you follow. Follow the right topics to get the most relevant questions and keep checking it on a regular basis to see what’s trending in your niche right now.
If you move fast and you’re the first to answer a question well, you will stand a better chance of being upvoted to the top.
Can’t see that much happening in your niche yet? Start asking and answering questions to get things going. It’s also a good idea to follow parallel niches and topics to find crossover content ideas.
Matcha is a topic that’s become a lot more popular recently – the Quora topic for matcha is a great place to see what’s happening in this new niche.
Especially for someone who is quite experienced in a niche, it’s a great insight into what might be on beginner’s minds (like the potential mix-up between mocha and matcha).
On the other hand, people are also keen to debunk any myths like the “2% matcha infusion”. Use the “Related Topics” to help you broaden the topics you follow – here you can see that both “Green Tea” and “Tea” have way more followers than “Matcha” (but those followers may be less committed).
Getting into the “Most Viewed Writers” for your niche is a fantastic way to set yourself up as an expert and educator. You can see that all the top writers have highlighted matcha in their profile, and most of them are matcha entrepreneurs and business owners.
By inserting a website URL right at the top your Quora profile, you can raise brand awareness instantly, even if people don’t click on your profile.
The niche “Top Questions” are a brilliant starting point for any content strategy. Perhaps they could form the basis of your email campaign?
Could you create an infographic that promises to answer everyone’s top matcha questions?
Your Quora profile is an invaluable place to market your own website. Fill in your profile with care – choose interesting images and words that keep people engaged and that provide an easy at-a-glance insight into what you do.
Link to different parts of your site and try to use a call-to-action that’s likely to excite people (and you can track any Quora click-throughs in Google Analytics).
On Quora, you can collect badges and credentials by answering niche questions – like Jack from TheTravelingProfessionals.com who has collected badges for tourism, backpacking, travel, etc.
Create a Legacy to Outrun Competitors
A faceless store and brand isn’t going to help sell your product or idea to the customer. One of the best ways to succeed is to get yourself out of the mindset of ‘niche marketer’ to ‘brand marketer.' This will give you a more sustainable, long-term digital future.
- It doesn’t take that long to come up with a credible story or backstory to why you’re doing what you’re doing. Share your passions, and dare to bare a little.
- Branding isn’t expensive and complicated – it’s about genuine connections and a commitment to customers.
- By building a brand what may start as a niche side hustle, may quickly become a lucrative gig. Differentiate and put the hours in in order to succeed.
Get down to it and find your niche today! What’s been the key to your online success so far?