Finding Your Niche

Back To Basics Part 2: Finding Your Niche

The introduction to this series can be found here

A “niche” can be any specific category you aim to market. For example, model cars is one, so is fishing, holidays to tenerife, brain training, the bridges of London, and of course – Internet Marketing.

You can go ahead and start to build a web presence around anything you wish… but you should really take a moment to think about a few key points.

1. Experience and Interest

If the subject you are going to tackle is of no interest to you, why bother starting? You will soon stall due to a lack of interest on your part. It also helps if you have some experience in that subject but that is not necessarily a requirement.

If, for example, you are a plasterer, or a policeman, a traffic warden, or an accountant – you have experience in those and related subjects. If your hobby is fishing, or stamp collecting, or you’re an avid historian, or a big fan of 1960s art decor – then those are other niches you can tackle.

It helps if you have experience or an interest in any niche you decide to tackle, but I repeat – not a necessity. If you happen to discover a hot topic you can learn as you go.

2. Other Peoples Interest

This point is more important. If no-one else is interested in your chosen niche then there is no money to be made. It’s that simple. If you spend a long time researching and developing a site that is TOO niche you’re heading for a dead end. Sometimes you can go more general, and cover your interest as a sub-niche, but otherwise just don’t bother.

For example: If you have a burning desire to create a site about an obscure 1900’s silent-era movie star but most people have forgotten him, why not create a more general site about the silent movie era instead, covering that star on a sub page.

3. Competition

If the niche you chose has a wide interest, but there are hundreds of sites targetting the same niche, you will have a lot more work to do. It’s still possible to succeed by bettering these other sites, or offering something they don’t, but in general it’s worth thinking about first. Some niches are big enough to allow a LOT of competition (think Internet Marketing!).

The ideal niche has a big interest but a low competition. These are hard to come by, so sometimes it’s better to compromise and head for a side niche of some kind. You’re unlikely to make a dent in the Credit Card market – but you could possibly make a go of it in the “how to manage multiple credit cards” or “winning with credit card awards” niches.

4. Profitability

Finally, since you’re in this for the money, you need to think about how profitable the niche you chose could be.

Some niches are obvious. Taking Credit Card’s as an example again, it’s easy to see that affiliate programs and maybe ebooks would be profitable. As for that silent movie era site, then DVD sales, posters, books, etc could work. All these sites could support advertising too.

If you target Golf – another big market – then you know that the average golfer is affluent, likes to spend on their sport, and avidly seek to better their handicap.

It’s worth thinking about these various points before you go ahead with your new niche.

But what if you can’t think of an idea at all?

First, there’s the popular news stories of the day. Sometimes you can quickly get a time sensitive site up to catch a buzz, but the site by it’s very nature would be short lived. For example, here in the UK there’s an election – but by the time it’s over any site covering it is long gone. The same for the recent volcano that stopped flights over much of Europe’s airspace. Hot news at the time, but gone right after.

You can also get ideas by looking at the problems people have. Find a problem, provide an answer, and you’re on to a winner. Perennial human problems include how we look, how we feel, our worries about our families, and debt, and so on. More specific problems include those wannabe gardeners who can’t get anything to grow, that fisherman who can’t get a bite, and (again) that golfer who just can’t improve his score.

Provide an answer to a popular problem and you’re set.

Other good sources of niche ideas can be found in the world around you. If you put your marketer’s hat on you’ll seen tons of ideas in your everyday life. Say you cycle to work, and are sick of avoiding cars. Or you spot a billboard advertising some holiday destination, and you start daydreaming about being there. Or you are talking to a neighbour who’s grumbling about the state of his lawn.

Advertising, in all it’s forms, focuses on various niches by it’s very nature. And magazine articles, or even problem pages, cover very specific interests.

There are millions of niche ideas out there. Just keep an open mind and you’ll find one soon.

Note: I’ve specifically avoided Internet Marketing niches in this article because I didn’t want to dilute the message. But this is a good example of a general niche that quickly becomes ultra focused. People have trouble getting traffic, hence the Search Engine niches, sites about Article Marketing, etc. You might want to create more content, so there’s sites about articles, and creating products, and graphics. Or you may want a bigger subscriber list, so – you guessed it – there’s a proliferation of List Building sites…

The Specifics

The quickest way to research a potential niche is to use Google. Google’s Keyword Tool gives you approximate search counts for various terms.

Simply enter some keywords specific to your niche into the tool and you’ll see a list of keywords and their counts.

You can also use Google to find competition. Simply search for a keyword and see how many results are there. This can be deceiving, but it’s a good indication nonetheless.

Finally, Google’s Search Suggestions that pop up whenever you type a search at Google show some of the terms people have been looking for.

Example:

We are going to look into Disneyland as a potential niche. No particular reason, except I just – in passing – noticed an article about it. As I type it in, I notice search terms such as “Disneyland Paris” and “Disneyland Florida” come up. Also “Disneyland Paris Tickets” and “Disneyland Paris Packages”. I’m in the UK, so obviously these suggestions are location based.

At Google’s Keyword Tool I get these interesting results (chosen from the myriad provided):

Disneyland 9,140,000
Disneyland discount 90,500
Disneyland Package 49,500
Disneyland Information 5,400
About Disneyland 6,600
Disneyland Video 22,200
Disneyland Videos 9,900
Disneyland Jobs 18,100
Disneyland Discounts 22,200

And so on.

These give you some ideas on what people are looking for. Key amongst them are people want packages and holidays, discounts and information.

I also put in one or two other interesting results. People are looking for Disneyland Jobs, for example. And some search results double up – so About Disneyland and Disneyland Information are the same thing, as are the results for “Video” and “Videos”.

These immediately give me ideas for sites. How about a site showing the jobs available, how to get in, etc? I don’t know much about that – but I could research it, and even interview or work with someone who’s been employed there. I could also throw up a site packed with videos of Disneyland culled from Youtube and others.

In Google’s Keyword Tool you can also click on the magnifying glass icon to get a more detailed view of the results that make up that result in Google Insights. So “Disney Discounts” at 22,200 searches shows some interesting keyword terms such as Disneyland Coupons. Again, an instant idea for a site (where to get these coupons, maybe even provide them from an affiliated travel agent, etc). Insights also shows you “rising search terms”, or what’s hot at the moment.

Google’s Keyword Tool is a wealth of information. Use it well.

Now for the competition. As you can expect there will be a lot of competition for this niche. Clicking a result in the Keyword Tool will throw you right into the search results, but clicking a result in Insights will drill deeper through to even more specific terms.

Disneyland Coupons, for example, has 449,000 results. Many of these are sub pages in general travel sites or Disney sites, but there are some specific ones. There is quite a lot of competition here but I don’t see a *specific* Disney Coupons site. These other results can also, incidentally, give you ideas on how to approach your own site – or even information for your own research.

After this exhaustive look at Disneyland I hope you see how you can select a niche and quickly research it. Next time we will look at ideas for how to approach a site, and monetize it.

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All About Keywords

Keywords are at the heart of Internet Marketing. Whether you’re trying to make search engine friendly pages, websites that rely on advertising, or sites that focus on a particular niche you’ve no doubt be told to list your keywords.

Keywords are everything. Essential for getting targeted traffic, ad marketing, optimised pages, and so much more.

A keyword is simply the word or term that people will use to find your site. For example, if you wanted to look up a review about the Dark Knight movie, you’d type “Dark Knight Review” into Google. Or if you wanted advice on cooking a stir fry, you’d type “Stir Fry Recipe” or “Stir Fry Cooking”.

It’s the way people think and interact with the Internet that makes a keyword. You rarely see natural language here, even though search engines such as Ask attempt to serve that market. So you wouldn’t type “How Do I Cook A Stir Fry?”. People are accustomed to using simple, short keywords to look for information.

There are two important statistics about keywords: Search Volume (how many times that keyword is used) and Competition (how many sites are listed for that keyword). And a high rank for a popular keyword is what you seek.

Take another example. Your site could rank #1 for a very specific search term – such as “Watering Can Installation” (or any such random term). But what use would that be? It’s unlikely people would actually be searching for that information.

However, if you ranked #1 for “Garden Furniture” then all sorts of possibilities are open to you – not least becoming the #1 Garden Furniture store on the net :)

So… how do you find these important keywords, should you target them, and what to do once you have them.

Let’s answer the second question first. It’s unlikely that you can sneak into the top rankings for a very competitive keyword. And it’s unlikely you could be a success focusing on just one keyword. You’d be better off seeking to rank high for a larger volume of lesser searched terms. That way, the cumulative effect is the same – or better – than that single keyword, but it is easier to get higher rankings for each term individually.

This is the so-called Long Tail approach to keyword research. A great number of specific niche terms and/or products as opposed to a smaller number of broad, popular ones.

You need to make a list of the keywords you wish to target right from the start. These will then be the focus of your site content.

Luckily, Google has it’s own tool that will help you here. And there are also many third-party tools you could use. These rely on data from millions of searches on the web, so they are pretty accurate!

It’s https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

Another way to find useful keywords is to spy on your competitors. You can see what keywords they use, then use those keywords to see what the ranked sites for those keywords use, and so on.

An excellent online tool is: http://www.spyfu.com

There are a few points you should keep in mind. First, are these keywords going to be profitable? A good indication is run a few searches on Google and see how many ads there are. More advertisers usually mean there’s a good chance the search term is profitable. You should also think about whether or not the keywords relate to a niche where the searcher is likely to spend money. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes not.

It depends on your goal. If you are simply driving traffic to perhaps build a list or an audience, perhaps the monetary value isn’t so important (yet).

Secondly, what are these keywords for? You should really think about keywords before you build your site, but if you have an existing site then perhaps you want to reach out to a wider audience. Keywords are then useful for creating targeted, secondary pages – or perhaps blog posts.

If you aim to build an affiliate or sales site of some kind, then keywords are essential to reach your potential customers. And if you aim to build an advertising supported site of some kind, then keywords are needed to target the kinds of ads that pay well. But that’s another story.

Finally, if you want to purchase ads, perhaps from Google Adwords, then the right kind of keywords are essential here too. You want/need enough views to to keep your ads live and showing in the listings, but you don’t want the wrong people clicking those ads and costing you money. Again, the cheapest way are the long-tail search terms. The ad itself can also be used to discourage idle clickers. A price or a buy notice will dissuade people from clicking, unless they’re willing to purchase.

Keywords used for ad placement are to be used sparingly. You don’t want your credit card site showing up for people who want credit card debt tips, but you do want it showing for people who are searching for a new card. The right keywords can work wonders.

Keyword research and use is an ongoing task, and tweaking is essential. But if you do stumble on a profitable, lesser competed term then milk it for all it’s worth.

Important:

Don’t forget short-use keywords. Is there a big launch for the new Mike Filsaime product? Start generating keywords and ads around that. Is it Christmas? do the same. Are anglepoise lamps suddenly in vogue? Get searching. Jumping on bandwagons and hot trends can also be highly profitable – here’s one final link that can help:

http://www.google.com/trends

Traffic Tip: Pagerank

Having your own blog is a wonderful way to generate traffic. A simple wordpress installation gives you a platform on which to build a content site. Google loves blogs.

Just writing content will over time give you traffic. You can also help this process, by pinging blog directories so they know about this content. You can also write specifically with a view to getting even more traffic – such as writing for popular search-terms, courting controversy, and writing about topical news. You will also find yourself getting traffic for terms you are not even targeting.

However, other factors determine where your content will rank. The major one is “Pagerank” – which is at the heart of Google. This is a way in which it ranks websites. Every link to your site counts as a vote, and links from sites that have a high pagerank themselves will weigh more heavily in your favor.

Note that targeting popular search terms is not always the best solution. You are unlikely to rank high for the term “Credit Card” for example, because of the competition. It is far better to target a large number of less-popular search terms rather than focus on one or two of the most heavily used. So – in this example – a terms such as “Credit Card Interest Rates” or “HSBC Visa Card” would be better options. These are sometimes called “Long Tail” searches, in reference to the shape of the graph plotting these results.

To show up high in the results for “Credit Card Interest Rates” you should write posts with that term in the title, description, and content. WordPress or your blog software will handle the rest – with the actual page address also including that term. You need to enable “Pretty Links” in WordPress to do this, otherwise the page address will have a much less useful name such as www.yourblog.com/?p=100

So you have the content, targeting terms used by your niche – it’s time to get back to Pagerank.

As we discussed Pagerank is counted by links to your site. Therefore it makes sense to get as many links to your site as humanly possible.

Don’t overdo it. If you grow your links too quickly, Google will penalise you. This is because if it happened naturally your links would grow slowly, over time. Here’s some tips on getting linked to:

1. Interesting content will get linked by other blogs. Unfortunately, the other blogs have to be aware of this content in the first place. It’s a circle: the more popular you are, the more you will get linked. One way to kickstart the process is to actively promote your content yourself – at least when starting out. The social networks are ideal for the process.

2. Proactively get these links yourself. You can post comments on other blogs, post in forums, write in guestbooks, create content at other sites such as Squidoo and Hubpages and even build secondary blogs that are remotely hosted – at wordpress.com, blogger.com and typepad.com for example. Some blogs use a special attribute in their links called “nofollow” which means you get no pagerank credit at those sites.

3. Use “Trackbacks”. This is where you link to other blogs, and once those blogs notice you have done so your link gets shown at the original post.

4. Use Linkbait. This is a method where you deliberately write about controversial subjects in the hope that it sparks an interest at other blogs, who then link to you. Gossip and rumours work well, as does news if you are the first in your niche to post that news.

5. Use press releases. Many places monitor press releases for relevant content in their niche and then post and link to that news from their own sites. A new product release, a human-interest story, or simply “news” in the real sense of the word can become a press release. You need to write in a specific style for this.

6. Write articles. This can benefit your pagerank in a number of ways, but you should ensure your link is clickable in the article. Submit that article to the major article directories and you will get a pagerank boost from the directory itself, as well as from any other sites that go on to syndicate that article. Google will penalise duplicate content, so if you use the article at your own site consider rewording it for distribution.

7. Use Anchor Text in your links. This can greatly influence your pagerank: instead of simply linking to netpreneurnow.com for example, have the text “Internet Marketing” linking to netpreneurnow.com – so it would be Internet Marketing and not NetpreneurNow.com even though both lead to the same destination.

8. The age of a site also has weight in regards to pagerank. The older your site, the higher it is valued by Google. This also transfers to links from other sites, so links from older sites to yours are valued more. Age isn’t really something you can influence – but it is possible to buy expired domains that in effect are already aged. Whether or not they retain their pagerank after you reuse or recycle them is another matter.

9. Favour one-way incoming links – this basically means if Site A links to yours, but you don’t link back, it is worth more. The thinking behind this is that for a site to link to you the content must be useful, but if it links to you and you to them it may be a simple link trade, and therefore not as valuable.

It’s worth remembering that Pagerank is just one way to influence your search engine rankings, but it is probably the most important. And all those tips will also generate direct traffic as well from people who click your link, so you get two traffic sources for the price of one :)

A search engines overall goal is to provide a searcher with the content they are seeking. There’s no point trying to cheat the results, but with a little knowledge of how a search engine works you can certainly influence them. All of Googles ranking algorithms are simply an attempt to automate the process of deciding which are quality sites, and which are not. The process isn’t perfect – but it works.

Let The Search Engines Help You!

Traffic can come from many places. Apart from your regular visitors – perhaps fans of your site, visitors from your e-mail promotions, or contributors to your forum – those folk who find you from a search query are among the best.

These are qualified, pre-screened, visitors. They have come to your site expecting to find whatever it is they are looking for. And it’s the search engines job to match these searches with quality content.

The big search engines DO want you in their listings. Honestly – they’re not trying to exclude you, heck… they need you!

To that end they all provide various tools and guidelines to (a) ensure you meet the strict quality control and (b) ensure you are found for the right terms.

Google

Currently, the #1 search engine by almost every ranking method known to man. Google’s help and advice can be found at their Webmaster Central.

This section of their site includes their webmaster tools, their comprehensive Analytics software, their Optimizer to help you rank better, and information on submitting content: such as products, books, rss feeds, local listings and more.

The aforementioned tools are also worth a thorough look. Here you’ll find the all important Sitemap area where you can specify what pages on your site are indexed, and view statistics on the search terms you are found for and more.

Yahoo

Yahoo don’t offer an all in one webmaster area like Google, but you may find these links helpful:

Add Your URL To Yahoo – unless you want a paid submission, it’s usually quicker to get crawled from a link on a already listed URL. There are, however, special areas for submitting media and mobile sites.

Site Explorer – See what pages you have listed.

Other Yahoo Links – Webmaster Guidelines, Marketing Services etc.

MSN

Despite Microsofts efforts MSN Search isn’t as popular as the other two. They do however have a useful section at their latest incarnation, Live.com

Live.Com Webmaster Tools includes validation and authentication tools, guidelines, technical support, and a webmaster forum. Typical of Microsoft this looks rather corporate and the links can be confusing, but dig around and there’s quality information there :)

Cuil – The New Google?

If you keep up with technology news you can’t fail to have noticed that a new Search Engine, set up by former Google employees, has launched.

Called “Cuil” (pronounced “cool”) this aims to use context and relevance, rather than simply counting links and reading page content. Of course, this has been attempted before, so how does Cuil shape up?

This is from a users point of view. It’s probably too early to be talking about a marketing viewpoint. And after all, if this is focused on delivering results better than Google you’ll probably find it more difficult to optimise pages to try and force a high ranking – if Cuil takes off. The basic premise of providing quality content should help, however.

The first thing you notice is the way results are displayed. Although it takes some getting used to for those of us who treat Google’s list view as second nature, the grid view provided by Cuil is rather pleasing to the eye. At a glance you can usually see what each site in the listings are about.

So how do the results rank? I tried a few searches, including “Fly Fishing”, “Motorcycle Mechanics” and “How To Sell Your House” to see how relevant Google and Cuil results are.

The short answer? Google and Cuil provided mostly different results, which is kind of pleasing as it at least shows Cuil is doing things differently. I also liked the way Cuil provides further search examples as you type, and the tabbed results window.

Ultimately, however, though less flashy Google was quicker to load (unsurprising considering the mighty networks running the behemoth) and I was able to find a relevant site quickly.

Mostly, I think this is due to habit: I’m more used to Google’s results page, and I tend to scan a search engine results listing very quickly and usually can see what is an information site, and what is trying to sell me something.

Cuil is definately something to look out for. They have a mammoth task ahead of them to even gain a small percentage of the search engine market. But I can say that it does work, it does deliver relevant results, and if we can all break our habits and try something new, perhaps it will in some way succeed.

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Free Traffic From Hubpages

Want a great way to create “authority” pages on any subject/niche you like?

Try Hubpages !

This is a site originally started by ex-Microsoft employees that aims to provide quality, authoriative webpages. And Google thinks so as well – if you look at the rankings these get.

I know about this site because a great report just came out detailing how to use these Hubpages yourself to drive traffic to any site. The page below is full of traffic and search examples, so you can see how effective this can be:

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This kind of reminds me of Squidoo and other such methods, but by now you’ve probably realised that Squidoo isn’t as easy to rank on as it used to be – so perhaps Hubpages are ripe for the reaping.

Anyway, this great report detailing all you need to know is currently around $3.65 (but rising) and you can earn some great commissions, too. Give it a whirl.

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Seven Top SEO Tips

// SEO is essential for your business if you want to ensure that people who use the search engines, in effect everyone online, can find your site. A top ranking virtually guarantee your site is a success.

Here’s Seven Top Tips on achieving that.

1. First you need to know your Keywords. That means you must brainstorm, and work out what words people will use to find your site. You can also “cheat” and monitor your competitors sites to find out what keywords they use!

2. Keywords should be sprinkled liberally throughout your text, in your TITLE tag, in your DESCRIPTION, and if possible even in your DOMAIN NAME and PATH. You can also put them in the ALT images of any graphics on the page and in the filenames of other elements such as pictures and downloads. Don’t overdo it though as you can get penalised for using too many. And make sure your page is human-readable. All to often people can get over zealous and the resulting prose is a little mind bending :)

3. A good linking strategy means you have a number of other sites linking to yours. If possible, use anchor text so that the link itself uses your keywords: E.G. “Fly Fishing” linking to FlyFishingTips.com – but again don’t overdo it , vary the links.

There are a number of ways to get links. You can swap links with other relevant sites (a two-way link) even though a one-way is considered a higher value by the search engine. You can include your link wherever you can post comments (such as relevant Blogs). You can write Articles that include your link (which will appear in directories and on other sites). You can submit your link to special indexes, and you can even pay for links which is technically frowned upon by the search engines. A link from an authority site carries immense weight to yours.

If you can, also try to get links direct to sub-pages within your site. This is known as Deep Linking and can help your efforts.

4. Don’t forget to include a Site Map. This can be as simple as a HTML page listing all the links at your site, to a full XML map that is submitted directly to Google. There are many free solutions to automatically create these XML Sitemaps.

5. Try to keep the code at your site clean. Software such as Word will create very convoluted HTML code for the webpage, other tools fare better. The cleanest code will always be created if you do things the hard way – by hand!

6. Age is a strong indication of a quality site. If you don’t have the patience to work on your own long-term project there is a shortcut: Buy an existing site or even just buy an expired domain name.

7. Avoid duplicate content at your site. If you use third party articles, try to modify them to fit your site. And if you actually write the articles, keep a different one for your own site to the one you pass on to others.

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