One of the most important and often most difficult aspect to building a profitable website is identifying a niche market to fill that is not over-saturated by competitors. Sounds simple enough but think about this just for a second.
Perhaps the most profitable niche to occupy involves credit cards. A search in Google returns almost 69 million websites. To compete in that niche will require an enormous amount of time, energy and resources. Another profitable niche market is web hosting but that market contains over 73 million results in Google and it means putting your new site up against some gigantic competition right out of the gate.
For my strategy involved with Building Profitable Websites, I follow three simple rules for selecting the niche I want my site to occupy.
- Ensure the niche is large enough and passionate about the subject;
- Research what problems, frustrations or issues your market group is experience;
- Present the group with a solution to their problems
For example, one of my most successful websites that I run occupies a very specific niche aimed solely at a group of sports enthusiasts. The site generates approximately 100,000 visitors a month and over 5 million page views throughout the season and during playoffs over 10 million page views per month. My site was one of several that initially occupied this niche but by using the simple strategy outlined it has become dominant and produces a very nice revenue stream for me each and every month.
I have another site that only generates approximately 3500 visitors a month with about 20,000 page views. Its revenue is on par with the sports one detailed in the first example.
The long-tail keywords (more specific keyword phrases not individual keywords) I have optimized the site for in the second example pay at a much higher rate with each conversion. The number of people searching for those keyword phrases is limited so advertisers are willing to pay more for each click. The niche is large enough and passionate about the issue at hand, there are many problems and frustrations taking and I continue to promote new solutions.
For myself, I don’t pick niche markets based solely on profitability. There has to be some interest in the subject matter for me to become motivated at researching and writing content as well as maintaining these sites.
I take a simplified approach that starts with a simple brainstorming exercise. Drawing upon things that I have seen in the news or read about on various websites, I jot down several topics of interest. Thinking of recent news events and stories some topics that quickly come to mind include “H1N1”, “flu vaccine”, “influenza” and “swine flu”. I use these as broad search terms which I will later narrow using long-tail search techniques.
Once I have my topics in mind, I utilize one of the many free tools provided by Google and use Google Trends to determine the world’s interest in the particular topic that I think will make a profitable website.
For example if I look at the search trends for one of my topic areas (H1N1), Google Trends would show the following search trends.
Examining the Google Trends graph it’s easy to determine that up until 2009, there were no searches for the term H1N1 but there was a spike in searches and in news activity. This trend should not be surprising for this particular term as the H1N1 pandemic was declared in 2009 with the outbreak of the swine flu.
If for example we had chosen a topic such as “breast cancer” the Google Trends graph would look much differently.
In this instance, Google Trends shows a fairly consistent pattern of searches over the last 5 years with peaks and valleys in both search and news reference volume. Analyzing these trends may indicate an opportunity to launch a site based on a trending topic in this area, allowing us to capitalize on some trending topic.
Once I have determined if there is potential for the topic that selected (in my case H1N1), using another Google tool, the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, I can get an idea of how much advertiser competition occupies a particular niche and what the average click per click that advertisers are paying to have their ads shown in the Google advertising network.
In the case of H1N1, the Google Adwords Keyword Tool shows the following:
There is very high advertiser competition and large monthly search volumes (over 600,000) for this keyword term. The average cost per click (CPC) is only 8 cents per click, making this niche not overly profitable. This may indicate a saturation in the niche or a lack of interest for the advertisers to attract traffic from websites about H1N1.
What is nice about the Google Adwords Keyword Tool is it also provides a list of additional keywords I may want to consider. For example, using the search term H1N1 we see additional keywords such as those shown below.
We can now see terms such as “influenza virus”, “flu shots”, “bird flu” all have higher CPC rates, high advertiser competition and large search volumes. This clearly indicates that jsing some of the alternate keywords identified and expanding the keyword list that I may want to use will potentially mean higher profitability for the website should I continue.
Once I’ve narrowed the areas of interest, I begin experimenting with some more specific long-tail search terms. Rarely will a user search for an exact term such as H1N1. Generally speaking search habits show that users tend to search for phrases that are more relevant to themselves creating longer search phrases in an attempt to produce more relevant search results.
For example, a person located in New York City may type “H1N1 vaccination New York” which would return 3.4 million results relevant to this search phrase. This is narrower than “H1N1 vaccination” which returns 18.2 million search results. Using long-tail search terms means potentially less traffic but increases the chance to rank better against the competition.
For each of the long-tail search terms that I select, I will examine how many results that will be shown in two of the major search engines – Google and Bing. This will provide me a little insight into how difficult it will be to rank for that particular term.
I find it a good idea to use a template that allows me to keep track of the various components of interest. I use a template similar to the one shown below.
Once I have settled on several long-tail search phrases I use Google Adwords Keyword Tool and experiment with variations. My goal is to develop 15 – 20 sets of keyword phrases with high CPC rates, high advertiser competition and sufficient search volume. This will increase the chances of creating a profitable website and allow me to target more specific searches.
This technique can siphon traffic from the larger sites that dominate for specific keywords. Using content optimization techniques that will be discussed later in this series, ranking for long-tail searches is much easier. It allows smaller sites to rank better for those specific terms. Our goal is to capture this search traffic and have them visit our websites where we have the potential at converting them into a revenue stream.
Brainstorm and develop several topics of interest you want to develop into a profitable website. Using Google Trends and the Google Adwords Keyword Tool develop 15 – 20 long-tail search terms that will be later used to develop content.