This is the second part of a six-part series titled “Up and Running with Niche Sites for Beginners“. Check back weekly for the remaining articles in this series on how to build a niche website. You can follow all six articles from my blog start page.
Without a bit of doubt, the research you put into developing your niche website is the most important step in the entire process. This step comes before anything else that you do. You shouldn’t even design your site or pick out a theme until you know what type of niche you will be working in – I’ve made this mistake far too often with my niche sites. Doing the research properly means understanding how keywords work and figuring out the best ways to find the exact key phrases that your future audience will be searching for.
The easiest way to do keyword research for your first niche website is to use tools designed specifically for that purpose. Market Samurai and Micro Niche Finder are two of the most popular products available for this, but there are other methods for finding the perfect niche as well. We’re going to be taking a look at researching keywords with the help of research tools and also how to do the research on your own.
How to Find a General Topic for Your Niche
The first thing to do is just sit and think about topics that you would actually like to work with, without thinking about the potential profit. Ideally, you should start by looking for a niche that interests you. The biggest cause of failure in niche websites is a simple dwindling of interest. Now you may be thinking, “Who could lose interest in money?” but the truth is it could take a few months to start bringing in a solid income.
For this reason, working with a topic you’re interested in can keep you going during the beginning weeks when your traffic is still building up. This is especially important for your first niche website, because I know no matter how many times someone tells you that something will work, sometimes you just need to see it for yourself. One rule of thumb is to think about what you generally read online. From there, you can take it to the next level and look for a niche within that topic. In comes the research.
As I’ve mentioned before, my very first niche website was based on boxing equipment. I never had a real passion for boxing, but at the time I had just purchased a heavy bag and some gloves, and I was doing some boxing in my basement. Other example niche websites I had previously read about focused on sports-related products, so I decided to give boxing equipment a shot… As you progress, creating the sites will come more naturally and you can focus on other niches, whether or not you have an interest or not.
Keyword Tools or Free Research?
The core of keyword research is this: Looking for a keyword that has a high volume of searches every month and low competition. Competition is the number of other websites out there that are using the same keyword or key phrase. The lower this number is the better chance you have of ranking high in the search engines right from the outset. Understanding that principle allows you to perform your research manually if you want, but most people decide to use a keyword research tool.
There are two of these that work well, both of which I own copies of:-
Let’s look at both of them.
The core of Market Samurai is the Keyword Research function. It allows you to enter in any keyword, and it will display all variations of that keyword along with relevant information about the traffic, searches, PPC, and competition. For example, if you input the word “diet,” you’ll receive information for “diet” as well as “diet books,” “diet tips,” “diet that works,” etc. Each of these separate key phrases can then be used as the core keyword to narrow down the searches and find something that works.
The area that Market Samurai really stands out in is the SEO Competition tab. Here you can check an in-depth breakdown of all the competition on Google’s first results page. This includes their backlink info, Page Rank, cache, and domain information.
Additionally, there is a direct Monetization tab that allows you to find affiliate products for the keyword that you choose.
Micro Niche Finder
Now let’s take a look at the other product that marketers use a lot and the first product that I purchased to help me pick some of my first niches: Micro Niche Finder. This tool does essentially everything that Market Samurai does, the interface is not too much different, and the results tend to be about the same. There is a lot of debate about which tool is better, but in reality, they’re both pretty much the same, and they both work well.
One difference in Micro Niche Finder though is the strength of competition analysis, which not only provides the amount of competition you will have for a keyword but crawls their pages to find out how strong their page is for that keyword. This is not a review of either of these products, but they both work well. It is up to you if you want to use either one of them.
The Third Option: Manual Research
This method takes a bit longer than using a keyword tool and doesn’t provide as many analytic values, but I would not be helping you out if I didn’t mention it. Keyword research tools cost money, so if you are looking for a bare-bones starting option for your first niche website, you can make use of this. This entire method hinges on a free tool that is similar to Keyword Samurai: Google Keyword Tool.
It does the same thing, you search for a keyword, it gives you monthly searches and competition for that keyword. To really make it work though, you need to apply a formula. Here are the steps for making your research worthwhile:
- Look for a keyword or key phrase that has at least 5,000 monthly searches.
- Look at the Competition column. Google doesn’t provide an actual number for competition, just a low, medium, high estimate, so what you need to do at this point is open up a blank search in Google and input your keyword using “quotes.”
- The SERP will display the number of results found, and that is your competitor data.
- 1 to 9,999 competing websites is your ideal number and coupled with over 5,000 searches per month, you have a “money” keyword.
This is a rudimentary research system, but if you aren’t willing to pay something up front it can be very useful. Researching is arguably the most time-consuming part of starting your first niche website, but it is easily the most important thing you can do to start earning a high monthly income. If you have a bit of money to spend, I suggest you get one of the above-mentioned tools, as it will save you lots of time in the long run.
How Much Money Do I Need to Invest in My Niche Website?
We already covered one of the possible expenses: keyword research tools. The two mentioned have fairly reasonable prices, $149 for a lifetime use of Market Samurai and $99 for Micro Niche Finder. These are optional, and we’ll talk about creating content another time, which is also optional. The only sure expense will be registering a domain and hosting it. Domains can be bought for around $10 per year, and hosting can be as cheap as $5 or $10 per month. Two of the best cheap domain / hosting sites are:
- 1&1 – Google for a coupon. You will usually always get .com Domain for $0.99 /1st year
- 1&1 – I use this for the majority of my websites. Under $4.99/month for 1st year then $9.99/month a month for unlimited domain names and unlimited storage.
Building your website is easy enough; you can install a WordPress plugin so that you can use pre-existing themes. See my previous post about Why I Love WordPress.
If you choose to use a keyword research tool, your startup price for your niche website is going to be around $250 for the first year, a ridiculously low amount compared to the type of profits you can expect to see in that year. Researching your own keywords will obviously make this expense much lower, and you can usually make the entire site for less than $100.
I recently ran some quick numbers, which I might decide to include in my next income report for comparison purposes… The first year that I started creating niche websites (roughly Feb 2008 – Dec 2008) – I earned just under $5,000 for the year. My total expense between hosting, domain names, Micro Niche Finder, and some other misc software was probably right around $300.
Building a niche website takes some time, but fortunately, it doesn’t require a lot of money. This means that everyone has the opportunity to earn a solid income online. If you can scrounge together a couple hundred dollars to get started, you should have no problems making your money back.