CHAPTER 1: PICKING A NICHE
This part will explain why you need to decide what you’re truly interested in and work out whether other people are interested in it too. There’s a strategy in this chapter that I promise nobody has ever taught you to do before.
In this chapter you’re going to learn:
- Why it’s not really all about the money.
- How you can make a bucket load of money from building your online business around things you love.
- The number one, worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard people promoting about starting an online business.
- How you can you discover what topics really mean something to you and whether they’re the kind of topics you can make money with.
- Why there’s no such thing as the perfect niche.
- How to quickly test whether there’s money in a niche.
- The final three tests I always give my niche ideas before I commit to them (I’m 100% confident nobody has taught you to do this before).
- Why there’s still hope for you even if you’re hopeless at picking a niche.
So now that we’ve got the head shrink stuff out of the way, let’s get into the guts of the book.
You’ve probably read a lot of advice about choosing a niche and maybe you’re sighing now…
‘Oh no, not that again!’
I mean, seriously. Just get to the good part already… right?!
‘Show me the money!’
Ok. I hear you. But before you skip this chapter, let me just give you one piece of advice – if you follow the plan I’m going to lay out for you in this book, you could have a $10,000 per month affiliate marketing business (I mean, that’s the pitch isn’t it?)… BUT THEN WHAT?!
Is that the end of your ambitions?
Did you read this just to learn to make $10,000, or $100,000 or $1,000,000?
Is it really all about the money?
Sure, a million would be nice, but you know what, it probably won’t last you long. I mean, let’s get real. When you’ve make your first $10K you’re going to go out and celebrate.
Maybe you’ve got some debts to pay off. Maybe there are few things you’d like to go out and buy if you had a fatter bank account. Even if you don’t think there’s anything nagging at you now, as soon as you have the kind of money you haven’t had before you’ll think of things.
Then when your bank account gets a bit fatter, you’ll spend more.
It’s just human nature.
The more you make, the more you spend.
It happens to everyone (just go hit up some young punk affiliate marketer Insta profiles and try to count the number of of them buying Lambos).
Even if you don’t need to overcompensate, you’ll have your own special brand of excess just waiting to surface when you’ve got the kind of money that can support it.
What I’m trying to say is that $10K, $100K or even $1M won’t last you the rest of your life. You’re going to have to keep working at your business for a while before you can retire and let your money work for you.
And you’ll get bored if you don’t have something meaningful to do. Or you’ll get miserable if you have to live with yourself when you’re making money promoting some questionable product that you never believed in (just because it had a good payout).
And then you’ll quit. And when you quit your money will start to dry up. Fast.
That’s what this chapter is about – discovering what it is that makes you leap out of bed in the morning so that you’ll still want to do it in 5, 10 or 25 years.
Where to start
You can make a bucket load of money from doing the things you love and basing your online business around those things. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. And the bonus is that besides the money you’ll make, you’ll also enjoy a bucket load of satisfaction and self-esteem.
You don’t have to have a business about how to make money online or weight loss or relationship niches to make money.
“Yeah, yeah, but you’re got a business about how to make money online.”
And you’re right, I do.
I also had a website about fitness. Talk about cliché!
But those are things I’m really interested in and have been interested in for years.
I’ve also been in niches around organic gardening, meditation, water filtration, quitting smoking and some other cool things I’m interested in.
But I don’t have a site about dog training, Bitcoin or insurance and I don’t promote app installs for online casinos or adult niches because I find those topics boring or questionable.
The point is I’m going to be happy running my business for as long as I want to.
If you think that your dream life is spending every day birdwatching or flying kites – then that’s where you start when picking a niche.
If you love fishing or skiing or knitting or yoga or cooking, then you might consider creating your business around that.
DON’T USE KEYWORD RESEARCH TO FIND AN ‘UNTAPPED’ NICHE TO DECIDE YOUR FUTURE!
This is probably the number one, worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard people promoting about starting an online business.
DO NOT DO THIS. At least not in the beginning. There’s definitely a time and place for determining whether a niche has any kind of money in it (I’ll explain this soon), but don’t do this as the first step. If you do, it will bring you nothing but misery and I know this first hand…
Years ago I created a website about home treadmills because I found a keyword with no competition in Google.
Sure enough, I was able to milk this keyword for all it was worth for a couple of years, but I absolutely hated the grind of creating content for that site and maintaining it. I mean, I spent countless hours comparing different treadmill motors, belts and warranties. It was so hard and I hated it.
Thankfully, Google effectively shut this site down a few years ago with an algorithm update and even though I was pretty devastated at the time, I’m now so glad that it happened because I might still be forcing myself to work on that hideous thing.
To find yourself committed to a thriving online business about something that bores you to tears is an awful situation to find yourself stuck in. It doesn’t matter how much money that business makes you.
Keyword research is an important strategy in building a successful online business, but it’s NEVER THE FIRST STEP.
Discovering what matters most to you is your first step!
I can’t stress this enough.
There’s so much I could say about picking a niche. Seriously.
The thing is, explaining how to pick a niche is something that isn’t hard to explain at all, even though I’ve read many forum posts from people complaining that they can’t do it.
So, in exactly 31 words, here’s all you need to know about how to start the process of picking a niche:
- Make a list of topics that interest you (e.g. solar power, organic gardening)
- Make a list of things you spend money on (e.g. mountain bikes, sunglasses)
- Make a list of things you’ve experienced or achieved or done (lost weight, quit smoking, learnt Japanese)
- NOW PICK ONE!!
(Remember that ‘taking action’ thing we talked about?)
I can’t believe how many people struggle to make such a simple decision.
Pick one. Done. Move on.
Your business will evolve from this starting point, but for now that’s all it is – a starting point. You’re not locked into this for the rest of your life. But if you can’t even get started…
There are a couple more steps to narrow down your list a bit if you want to give yourself the best chance of making a decent income, but that’s just fine tuning, not picking a niche in itself.
The point is, don’t get caught up on picking the ‘perfect’ niche. There’s no such thing. Every niche is different and every niche has some potential. It’ll also evolve over time into exactly what you want it to be. Trust me. People have made money – lots of money – from niches I would never have thought could be monetized. It just takes some imagination.
Consider the ‘gardening’ market…
I know that gardeners are madly passionate about their hobby. I have a 1000sq foot organic orchard on my own land and I spend a lot of time in it. But a mate of mine, who I’ve come to know well since I built my house out here in the country, spends almost every spare minute of his time in his garden (which is the size of a hobby farm). He even opens it up for public exhibitions and private events. And he’s won awards for it.
Some other great hobby/passion type niches include:
But the list goes on and on and on. If you need some help with ideas, check this cool post by Stuart Walker on NicheHacks.com:
Working out if there’s money in the niche
Let’s assume you’ve picked ‘mountain bikes’ from your list for whatever reason.
I think that’s a cool niche actually.
I think common sense would tell you that there’s plenty of money in mountain bikes, particularly if you’ve dropped a couple grand on one like I have. Chances are you also probably have a mountain bike shop within 10 miles of your house.
But if in doubt, here’s an easy way to do it.
Search for ‘mountain bikes’ in Google:
Perfect. The results have a shopping listing and paid ads at the top. Kaching!
If you want to be a bit more data oriented, you could check in Keyword Planner or some other tool that provides a search volume and CPC estimate:
Personally, I don’t think this is a great way to look at the money in the niche.
There’s a tonne of search volume for mountain bikes and related phrases, but the CPC isn’t that high. But that just says what an advertiser is willing to pay for an AdWords ad, not how much someone is willing to pay for a bike.
I make a little money from AdSense ads on my sites, but most of what I make is from affiliate marketing – including Amazon.com for physical products.
For example, if you have a mountain bike site and you have an Amazon affiliate link you’re promoting, and if someone buys one of these bad boys through your affiliate link you’ll pocket a nice $225 commission:
Money in the niche?
You bet your @$$.
You’re happy with ‘mountain bikes’ – there’s plenty of interest and plenty of money. That’s where most people seem to leave it, but I have three more criteria to help me work out how easy it’ll be to do some killer marketing.
Social attention tests
I haven’t heard anyone talk about these before, not in so many words, but I’ve come to rely on them as a final check on a niche I’m thinking of going after.
They don’t have anything to do with money.
They don’t have anything to do with the size of the market.
These final checks are based on my experience in being able to generate traffic and buzz in the least amount of time and with the least amount of effort.
I guess I could call them ‘social attention tests’ or ‘buzz’ tests.
Test 1: Attention grabbing pictures
Test 2: Engaging videos
Test 3: Forums (this isn’t 100% necessary, but very useful)
To pass these tests, the niche has to be saturated with pictures and videos that people will love and want to share and you want to know there are lots of conversations happening on the topic.
For now, let me just run ‘mountain bikes’ through the final tests.
(I actually just found it really hard not to disappear into YouTube land for an hour or two to watch these videos myself. Maybe later…)
Bikeradar.com (1.8 million posts)
Pinkbike.com (1.7 million posts)
Rotorburn.com (over 3 million messages)
Social attention ‘buzz’ tests: check, check and check!
If you need some more inspiration to help you research the social interest in a particular niche try mucking around on BuzzSumo, a tool that lets you search for keywords and see what content is popular and getting shared a lot.
You don’t have to use these last couple of tests to decide on your niche. It’s just that if you happen to love something that has cool pics and vids you can get a lot of traffic from socials.
So there you have it. You’ve chosen a niche. It wasn’t that hard was it? Maybe it was even a bit of fun.
What if you still can’t pick a niche?
Ok. So if you still can’t decide on one particular niche or category of product, there’s still hope for you. Honestly. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, I’ve recently started a site as an experiment that is anything but niche. I’m also using this site as an experiment with Pinterest ads. It’s still early days yet so I don’t have any kind of results to report on, but we’ll see.
My little experiment is modelled to some degree on a site I discovered last year that promotes all kinds of physical products as an affiliate. It’s called BlessThisStuff.com.
I stumbled across this site by accident and signed up to the newsletter because I honestly wanted to keep getting updates from them (they post about some seriously cool gear). It was only after I started checking out the posts and emails that I noticed all the affiliate links.
This kind of site follows the premise that people like to browse a lot of different things, particularly things that are ‘cool’, ‘rare’, or ‘unique’ – i.e. the value model is giving people updates on stuff they could buy online that they might not even know they want (i.e. solving the problem that people want to have ‘cool’ stuff so they get an ego boost by being ‘cooler’ than their peers).
There are a bunch of other sites like this that follow the same sort of model – generate paid and organic traffic and link out as an affiliate to Amazon and other physical product sellers:
Maybe this is your thing…