However, for a long time I struggled to find niches that were right for me and certainly made more than a few mistakes. After a lot of research and months of trial and error I finally developed a checklist that helps me gauge whether I am likely (or not!) to make money from a given niche.
I’d like to show you exactly how I do this…
If I had to summarize what internet niche marketing is all about in one sentence then I would say the following:
“Internet Niche Marketing is about selling solutions to people who have problems.”
I’ve highlighted the word “problems” because it is this that holds the key to finding hot niches. Let’s see how…
The critical point is that we are not just looking for people with problems but problems of a specific kind. In the first few months of my internet market career I overlooked this vital point and I believe this was a major reason for my lack of success in many niches. I learnt the hard way so now have adopted the following approach.
In particular, I look for niches where:
1. There Are A Large Amount Of People That Have A Strong Emotional Need To Solve Their Problems.
When I first started out I used to get excited and think I’d found my niche when I had identified a problem that I thought I could supply a solution for. For example, one of my earliest niche mini-sites was based around collecting old fashioned metal lunch boxes!
I had discovered from the Google Keyword Tool that around 80-100 people per day were searching online for terms related to this niche and I figured that I could monitize the niche by selling price guides, collectible lunch boxes from Amazon and eBay and generate additional income from advertising by placing Google Adsense on the site.
Although this site did make a few dollars per week for me (and still does) it is hardly going to make me rich! One of the reasons for this is that although some collectors of lunch boxes are passionate about their hobby, they do not have a strong emotional problem that needs solving.
Let’s compare my lunch box adventure to some examples of (purely made up!) people who have a strong emotional need to solve problems:
Dan, 25, Office Worker
Dan is suffering from a bad credit score. Over the last 2 years he has maxed out 4 credit cards and is now finding the repayments impossible. His situation is causing stress with his spouse and he is too embarrassed to discuss his predicament with other family and friends. He is desperate to pull himself out of trouble and back into financial stability.
Pam 36, Stay-At-Home Mother
Pam has just given birth to her second child. Although she is overjoyed at becoming a mother again for the second time she does not feel like she used to. She remembers how she enjoyed going out with her girlfriends and feeling attractive to men. Now, she is older and has gained a few pounds. As a result she is suffering from low self-esteem.
Peter 55, Truck Driver
Peter has worked as a truck driver for 30 years. He loves his job and travelling around the country. Recently he has suffered from a bad back as a result of lifting a heavy box from his truck. He is in pain for most of the day and sitting still while driving his truck seems to make the pain even worse. Peter wonders what the future holds for him. In particular, he is concerned that he will be forced to quit his job which would lead to financial insecurity for himself and his immediate family.
The words highlighted in these three people’s stories all indicate one thing: Dan, Pam and Steve all have a strong emotional need to solve their problems.
Now compare this to the people who collect lunch boxes: Who is more motivated to go online, find a solution to their problems and actually pay money for that solution?
So when you are considering a new niche think carefully about whether your potential customers really do have this strong emotional need. If you suspect the answer is no, then avoid and move on.
2. People Are Actively Searching The Internet For A Solution.
Since we are marketing on the internet we need to make sure that the group of people who we have identified as having a strong emotional need are actually using the internet to find solutions.
My first port-of-call for doing this is the Google Keyword Tool. The great thing about this free service is that it is a quick and dirty method for checking how many people are actually typing certain phrases into Google.
As a minimum criteria, I like to see at least 4,000 searches per month for the given phrase I’m looking at. For example, if I was researching Pam’s niche above then I would take the following steps to get started:
Step 1: Open the Keyword Tool.
Step 2: Type in a seed keyword such as “lose weight after childbirth” and click Search.
Step 3: Set the Locations and Languages to “All Countries” and “English”.
Step 4: Change the Match Types on the left hand side to “Exact”. This makes sure that the results only count the number of people typing the exact search phrases into Google. E.g., the results will count only the searches made for “lose weight after childbirth” and not more general searches like “how can I lose weight after childbirth” or “lose lots of weight straight after childbirth”. Basically, this just tightens up the results for you to reduce the chances of any nasty surprises later on!
Step 5: Look at the results…. 🙂
For this particular search example I can immediately see that only 22 people search for “lose weight after childbirth” per month. Obviously, this is hardly any. So this particular phrase would not be a good choice for the domain name of our niche site.
However, the good news is that there are roughly 4,400 people per month searching for “losing weight after pregnancy”:
Because of this I would be satisfied that enough people in this particular niche are searching online for a solution.
If you have had experience of the Google Keyword Tool for any length of time then you will know that it is not 100% accurate. Actually, it is FAR from 100% accurate! I have been “led up the garden path” by it several times.
I recall one particular situation when the tool indicated that my keyword had around 250 searches per day. I put weeks of work into setting up a site targeted at this keyword and eventually made it to the number 3 spot on Google’s first page.
The result? Only 2-3 visits per day!
If something similar has happened to you then you have my sympathy!
Since this unfortunate incident, I made a conscious decision to perform extra tests to try to double check the results form the Keyword Tool.
My favourite of these is to look for active forums. To do this I use a Google search in the following format:
Obviously replacing <Keyword> with whatever keyword you are examining. For example, “losing weight after pregnancy”.
Notice that I said active forums: Once I’ve found a forum I simply check the dates of the last posts and briefly look at how many threads and follow up comments are being made per day. As a general rule I like to see at least 5 new threads on a daily basis.
Finally, I like to check the trends for the keywords associated with my niche. The last thing you want is to find a niche which is steadily declining in popularity over time.
For this task, there I use none other than the fantastic Google Trends application. Again, this is very easy to use and most importantly of all it is free!
Ideally, you will see a rising trend for your keywords but at the very least I am looking for a stable trend.
3. People Are Willing To Pay For A Solution To The Problem
If we have correctly identified a strong emotional need in the first step of this checklist then the chances are that it is likely people are willing to pay for a solution.
However, to improve the probability of locking-in on a hot niche I like to do some separate checks to verify how easy a niche will be to monetize.
One of the key factors that I like to ascertain for this is to ensure that other marketers are already making money. This was a little counter-intuitive to me as I had previously assumed that I needed to find a brand new niche with low or no competition in order to succeed online.
However, the problem with entering brand new niches is that it requires a lot of work to find out whether people are willing to spend money. Also, if other marketers are not already present and successfully selling in a niche then the chances are that there is little money to be made.
Because of this I always like to check the following:
How many sponsored ads are there in Google? If other marketers are spending money on advertising then this is a good indication that the niche is profitable. I usually like to see at least 5 Adwords ads displayed across the top and the right hand side on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERPs).
How many books and magazines are available on the topic in Amazon? I simply enter my keywords into Amazon and look at the products listed in both the Books and Magazines Subscriptions departments. I consider it a good sign that people are willing to spend money if I see at least 10 books and more than 2-3 magazines.
Side Note: Magazine subscriptions are a particularly useful indicator here. The costs of producing an ongoing magazine focused on a particular topic are not small. So if you see 2-3 monthly (or even quarterly) subscriptions that are available then this is usually a very promising sign that other marketers are making money.
Can you find any related products on Dummies.Com?
I love this test!
Dummies is a fantastic company because they carry out extensive market research before they launch a product. As niche internet marketers is this great for us because it effectively means they have done the work for us!
If you can find a Dummies book that is closely related to your niche then it is highly likely money can be made.
There are far more checks and tests that you can carry out as part of your initial market research to find a hot niche and I actually used to do more. However, I found that it is all too easy to get bogged down in “analysis paralysis” which ultimately leads to an inability to make a decision about anything.
For this reason, the process that I have described above is all that I use. I believe it works well because it includes some very revealing tests and allows me to move quickly (one of the keys to success in any business).
Of course, my process is not perfect – and I am always looking for ways to improve it – but is definitely working well for me as it is.
This post ended up being much longer than I originally intended, but I hope you found it useful?
Please do let me know what you think in the comments section below and whether you have any questions or suggestions on how this process could be improved!