(The Entrepreneur Ridealong) Building A Niche Animal Site From $0 to $500,000: Niche Selection
Can you guide us through the key factors you considered when choosing your niche?
The biggest factor I look for is really just a niche that can be broad. I want to be able to add a thousand articles without too much of a struggle. That doesn’t mean I’m going to take every site to a thousand articles or that I have to, but just being able to see those options and being able to reasonably say we could get there without too much of a struggle tells me that it’s a big enough niche where I have some room to maneuver.
That is not only for me as an operator or builder, but it’s also for buyers. So if I want to exit one of these sites or sell one of these sites, there needs to be a pretty clear path to growth. And while there are lots of different ways to do that with enhanced monetization and that kind of thing, usually the most obvious path to growth with a content site is more content.
I want the niche to be specific enough that I’m creating some topical authority that I’m showing some relevance, and then I can have people that understand the specific topic. But at the same time have a lot of room to grow, so sometimes this does overlap with domains.
The most obvious example would be I wouldn’t want a domain that’s “golfbag.com” or something like that. It would be more broad and brandable so that’s tied into the niche selection.
Do you have any beliefs about choosing niches that are uncommon in the SEO community?
Almost any niche can work, and that depends on what you’re trying to do. I think the important thing is to understand who your competitors are. So if you are going to create a fashion website, you are not trying to compete with Vogue Magazine or something like that.
Your competitors are other sites that are in the same range as you. Now, that range could be the authority of the website in terms of DR, the age of the site, the amount of content, the amount of budget available, or it could also be the topic.
So I think understanding who your actual competition is and who you really would be competing against is important when it comes to selecting a niche because it’s easy to get discouraged.
You don’t want to make a website that’s larger than these guys in a space that is dominated by them.
However, there’s always some space to squeeze in and get some traffic in almost any niche. Now, if it is really saturated, your ceiling might be lower before you run into those really big sites. There could still be room to keep it interesting for most people. Just because I see so many people saying a niche is not good or it’s too saturated doesn’t mean it won’t work. I do think there is a caveat for things like medical advice, that type of thing.
But if you have the resources to get professionals providing medical advice, you might be able to find some topics that aren’t being covered.
What niches or factors about niches do you try to avoid and why?
I’m pretty open to just about anything that has search interest. I think that’s really covered in question two. The only thing I would say about niches that I tried to avoid would be probably complicated monetization methods. I like to keep things simple and have a good foundation for display ads.
If the only way to really make money in that niche or at least get a good base going is with something complicated, I don’t want to start there. But I think the most significant factor is really search interest.
There are some niches or topics that are more shareable on social media, so those aren’t niches I’m going to be in. For example, the stuff that you see shared on Facebook or a lot of the content you see in “YouTube Recommended”. There are a lot of videos there that people are creating that are interesting like Mr. Beast. No one went out and said on YouTube, “Hey, who’s creating a Willy Wonka factory”? That’s something that’s just getting shared. That’s usually not my lane, I like to stay where there’s search traffic.
When you choose a niche, can you share more about how you perform the research to validate the niche? For example, perhaps share what tools you like using the most for certain parts of the process such as audience research, keyword research, etc.
To start with, I like to see some other sites that are doing well. So if we go back to the competition example, basically I want to see a niche site or a content site in the space that has a reasonable level of success.
I could have an expectation of doing much more than they’re doing or doing less, but I just want to see that it can be done. And that’s my starting point. So then, I can say, “What’s their domain authority?”, “What are they doing?”, “ And would I be able to replicate that and do it a little bit better?”
Running AHREFS for checking the DR of sites is a good starting point. I like to take a look at competing domains to see who that particular site is competing with, what their DR is, and how are they doing in terms of their content production. I like to look at LowFruits, which is a keyword tool.
Basically what it does is it takes a look at Google Auto suggest and it will give you a quick competition analysis. Like any tool, it’s not perfect but I have found that it can speed up the process where I can validate ideas quickly, throw in a couple of keyword topics or, some variations of a keyword, and see what LowFruits pulls out.
I don’t have to then dig into every single one that moment, but if I keep being able to sort of find these pockets where there’s low competition, variations there or here that can tell me that it’s at least worth pursuing. But at the end of the day, nothing really substitutes actually looking at the niche, looking at the sites in the niche, just seeing what they’re doing, what pages are, and what sites are showing up for which terms.
The other thing Id like to see is how far down the list of topics are the big sites going. Are big sites going after long-tail topics or is it like the smaller content sites/ niche sites? That’s usually a good sign.
Like I said, I think you can always find space. But if it’s really long-tail topics and you have multiple big sites going for it, I am going to be a little bit less interested just because I know it’s going to be harder to find topics to get off the ground.
In general, I want to try to find at least 50 topics. Those would be specific articles that can be written. And then beyond that, I want to see big-picture topics that could be tapped into. And in that case, I’ll take a quick glance at those. I’m not going to build those out to start with, but an example would be a fitness site.
It’s a big niche so I would want to niche down. So it would be starting with CrossFit or CrossFit for people over 50. With that, there’s obviously plenty of room to go. So you could go into yoga or yoga for people over 50. That’s where I’d want to find those 50 topics. But from there, I’d want to know that when the time is right, or when I need to, I have some stuff to expand into that’s not just for me.
That’s also if you’re interested in selling the site. You want to show buyers that you’ve built this out and then you’ve planted the seeds for this topic.
As I mentioned, competition is important. So when I am taking a look at the search results, I’m looking at the quality of content. I want to know who wrote this article and if they have credentials and experience. I want to know if they pass the skim test, if it’s over-optimized, if they used additional media or if they created custom images and/or custom videos. Sometimes that can be a barrier if there is a video or imagery that a site is using that you’ll never be able to get.
I also consider the domain authority.
To summarize this, I’ll just give the big picture overview of each of these questions:
- When it comes to the key factors considered when choosing a niche, it’s really just having room to grow and keeping it broad. I don’t want to get boxed into something too specific. The uncommon beliefs would be that almost any niche can work and understand who you’re actually competing with. You’re not competing with the biggest site in the space, you’re competing with other niche sites. You should look at that big site, but you should not do it in a way that is discouraging or that you think you have to become “Vogue” if you’re going to write about fashion.
- As for the niches or factors about niches that I try to avoid, I just need search interest. As long as people are searching for questions on that niche, I’m open to it.
- For tools when choosing a niche, I perform research using AHREFS or SEMRush to get competitor analysis as far as the power of the domains. I use LowFruits as a keyword tool to see the difficulty and how many options there are. Then looking at the sites, I want to know how much effort is being put into the content would be the simplest way. And then are the big domains going for super long-tail terms where they’re trying to scoop up everything or are they focused on super broad terms? For example, if we’re doing a golf site, I want to know if the big sites are going for “best golf clubs” or are they going for “best golf clubs for people over 50”? You get the idea, I want to know if they are going for these very specific ones.