This is my first practical or “how to” update since launching the Authority Sit Duel, and rightfully so as I feel many aspiring internet entrepreneurs get stuck in the “find your niche” stage and as a result never get started. Having been doing this for a few years now, I feel the process can be pretty straightforward once you get beyond the two main hurdles.
First of all, it is easy to over analyze at this stage, especially when you are new to internet business and have doubts whether you can make it work for you. There is enough evidence on the web that this stuff works and has been working very well for many entrepreneurs. So if you still have any reservations in your mind, get rid of them or they will never let you move forward and make progress. This is your first BIG WIN.
Providing that you have arrived at the right mind-set, the second hurdle to overcome is the one of over analysis or analysis paralysis. It’s also very easily to fall into this trap because the internet today is saturated with multiple players in every industry or niche. Understand that you can carve out your own market share no matter how saturated a niche is. This understanding is your second BIG WIN.
Just take this blog as an example. I started this blog about two years ago and already have several thousand readers. Similarly, you too will find your voice that your market will resonate with and gravitate toward you.
If your focus is to build a long term business online in an area of your expertise, taking action and letting the market determine your destiny is more important than finding the most ideal niche strictly from a numbers perspective. In other words, when researching keywords, while search demand and your competition are important, they shouldn’t be the only drivers that determine whether you’ve found your niche and move forward with your idea.
First of all, doing business online is very forgiving. You can make all sorts of mistakes and learn along the way. Second, these mistakes don’t have to be costly. This is one of the biggest advantages of doing business online. Your start up costs are minimal at best, and there is very little downside to trying your idea and giving it a shot.
Although this discussion is focused on finding your niche in an online business, these fundamental principles can really be applied to any form of business on any medium or platform in my opinion.
So how do you find your niche? These are the four components I feel your research must hit right on for your niche to have the best chance to succeed:
I will discuss each one of these below and how I went about moving through the list as I was researching my niche.
Notice that keyword research is not one of the main components? I conducted my keyword research and you should too, but as you will see in the breakdown of the process below, it shouldn’t be the ultimate determinant to establish a serious, long term and sustainable business on the internet.
Look within yourself when starting out. Make a list of your hobbies, your expertise, your skills that you may have developed in your profession, your personal interests, etc. List as many of these as possible and work your way through the other components, eliminating those that do not appear viable.
Passion is an over discussed topic online, and I want to chime in my few cents on this topic as well before moving on to the next point.
First, passion is not necessary to do well. Many entrepreneurs have done very well directly addressing a need in the market place. They usually start with extensive research to understand the pain points in various industries, and then contemplate ways to address those needs. These entrepreneurs are industry agnostic. It does not matter what their niche is. Their niche is solving problems.
The challenge with this approach is that if you are not passionate about the process of solving a problem, which can be a long process involving a significant investment of time, energy and resources, your passion may die down, be overcome by boredom or you may keep itching to move on to something else. There are some other hurdles as well but I don’t want to shift the focus on those in this post.
Another point I want to make is that passion for a subject matter can be replaced with passion for the process – the process of creating and building a business from scratch. While also a proven approach, similar challenges apply to this approach as well.
So while there are alternatives to finding a subject matter you are truly passionate about, in my opinion you will have a much better chance at success if your passion is the subject matter of your business. This also makes it a lot easier to get started and continue to create valuable material for your audience, whether that is web content, products, services or anything else.
It’s also possible that you may not immediately realize what you are passionate about, which is fine. There are training programs and tools that you can use if you need that extra guidance in landing the best niche for you. More on that below.
As it applies to my authority site, I picked a subject matter that I am not only very passionate about, but also very knowledgeable about, highly experienced in and have spent years in it. If you can find a niche that you are not only passionate about, but also very knowledgeable about, you may have found a highly viable niche for your your business.
When you have a list of potential topics for your new internet business, you can start digging into each to determine whether there is market to serve. Specifically, do people have dire questions, needs, challenges and pain points that you can help address?
For example, if one of your niche topics is Paintball, are there folks who are constantly looking for the best way to clean and maintain their Paintball equipment to make it last longer and save money over the long run (Paintball is an expensive hobby!)? Do you think you know enough or can learn enough to help your fellow Paint-ballers?
How do you know if your market is searching for the answer?
Visit stores that sell products or offer services in your niche and talk to the sales folks. Find out what the market is asking and needs. Search for blogs and forums online where people are asking specific questions.
To find a blog of forum in your niche, simply type in your niche’s keyword in a search engine search bar with the following extensions: + Blog, + Forum. For example, if your niche is Paintball, you can type the following:
You can also join various online and offline discussion groups, conduct surveys and interviews to determine the issues you can help address. A good resource to consider that is local is MeetUp groups. Take your time and invest in this phase of the process.
For me, I am a part of my niche’s market and constantly in contact with my market, which allows me to find out what people need. I have created my product and service offering plan which I will roll out over time based exactly on what I have learned from my market. This is why it is very important to be a part of your own niche’s market.
This one is very important. You need to be able to relate to your market (audience). You need to be able to talk to them in a way that appeals to them the most. You need to persuade your market that you can help them with their questions. In order to do that, you must understand your market very well.
The best way to do that is to be a part of your market. It’s almost as if you have to be able to become your own customer or client. How else can you understand what your audience really needs?
And while there are some entrepreneurs who have successfully been able to “pretend” to be part of their markets, the best way to accomplish this is to become one if you aren’t yet. If you are not and cannot become one, the next best situation is to have open ended access to your market.
In my case, I was once part of one of the markets I am targeting through my authority website. I have been through what the current market is going through. I was, am, and likely will continue to be a part of the other market I am targeting, which is more about a constant and consistent pursuit. Being exposed to this market during a big chunk of my time helps me get closer to it, understand it and contribute to it.
Finally, is there money to be made in your niche? You maybe able to find your niche, but what if you cannot make money off of it?
The ultimate question here is whether your target market has discretionary income to spend? Some niches readily provide this answer. For example, those interested in Golf and Paintball likely have the spare cash to spend on their hobbies and interests.
But that said, it is best not to rely on instincts, even if the niche appears to obviously answer this question. Always take time to do your due diligence and validate whether there is indeed discretionary income to be spent in your niche. How do you determine this?
You can determine whether your niche is or will be profitable based on the existing competition. Are there other businesses competing in your niche? Why? If they are, then there must be some money to be made correct? At least this is the assumption. You need to take your research a step further to validate this.
Research the number of vendors that are providing products and services in your niche. The higher the number the more likely it is that the niche may be profitable. Some niches will allow you to gather economic data that is tracked and measured.
For example, if you are in the wind energy niche, you can refer to various National, State level and even local institutions to measure the dollars and cents that are flowing through that market or niche. I am pretty sure you can do the same for Golf and Paintball. There are agencies and specialty groups of all sorts that track all sorts of industries.
You can further validate your research by looking at the variety of offerings in your niche. What are the different types of products being sold? Are there physical books? Digital products? Are there training courses? Is money being made through referrals? Are there affiliates who are marketing these offerings? How many? Again, the more you see of this, the more likely it is that your niche is profitable.
In my situation, I saw an abundance of all of the above. I even researched the professional organization that governs the CPA profession to gather statistics around the current number of CPAs, the expected number of CPAs in the pipeline, the anticipated demand, the anticipated supply, existing vendors, products, services and more. I then married this “external” research to what I already knew, and to the information I gathered from the market. I will continue to do this on an ongoing basis.
For this particular initiative, I am not considering keyword research a critical component of the process. But if I was to add a fifth one it would be keyword research. If you don’t know what I am referring to, you can read about keyword research here before moving forward.
I wrote about this a little bit at the beginning of this post. What if there is not enough search demand? What if the competition is too high? Those are important and valid considerations, but I feel that if you are going to work in a niche you know very well, you will find a way to carve your share of it. More important than keyword research is to take action and start making progress consistently over time.
When you have already found your niche, you can engage in keyword research to determine the most searched more terms in your niche. You can then create content targeting those terms but certainly not limiting yourself to only those terms. If you truly intend to enhance the lives of your target market, you want to cover your niche comprehensively, whether or not the keyword research supports it.
This approach is clearly the opposite of the approach I take when establishing smaller niche websites, where keyword research comes first. In this approach, keyword research comes last.
The last point I want to mention on keyword research is that if you have a few topics that you have narrowed down to that you are equally as passionate and knowledgeable about, you can use keyword research data as a tie breaker to determine the final topic of your business.
I truly believe that everyone is capable of following this process, or a variation of it to land on a viable niche for a long term and sustainable internet business. But if you are someone who needs or wants personalized assistance, the best approach in my opinion is to find someone who is successful at what you are trying to do and then engage their assistance to help you replicate the same.
If you know of someone that does something really well that you are interested in, reach out to them and ask whether they will consult you for a fee. This is exactly what some of the largest companies in the world do. This is the foundation on which a mutli-trillion dollar global consulting industry has formed.
There are also training courses online that you can consider. You have read me write before that when I first started doing business online with information based websites, I purchased the SBI site building suite, which comes with a comprehensive brainstorming program that helps you find your niche. You can read more about the program here.
I used the SBI brainstorming function for the first few websites I created, but soon after stopped because I didn’t feel like I needed the step by step guidance anymore. You don’t have to either. Anyone can successfully find their niche without having to pay anyone for consulting or purchasing any sort of training course. But if you want personal guidance and assistance, know that there are solutions you can consider.
Everyone has a different approach to internet business. The discussion above is just my opinion and how I approached finding my niche for my authority website.
No matter how you break it down however, I feel that if you are going to establish a long term business online, you really should consider a niche that you are deeply passionate about and one that you know a lot about. This is how you can carve out your space even within competitive industries.
This is how you can separate your unique voice, resonate with your target audience and compel them to gravitate to you. This is how you can deliver maximum value to your readership and truly enhance the lives of others.
The more lives you impact, the more profit your business will generate.
How about you? How did you find your niche? What were they key criteria? What am I missing that should be considered when brainstorming a niche for an internet based business? Why? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments section below…
Many of us have the tendency to get distracted by the next shinny object that crosses our path. I know I do.
Many entrepreneurs (current and aspiring) share this common challenge, the challenge of being scatter brained at times. Our minds move at warp speed and sometimes there are hundreds and thousands of business ideas that cross it.
But what I want to focus on today is getting back to the basics. This post is focused on building a long term, profitable and sustainable business online within the expertise that we already posses.
This is interesting because many times we chase everything else except what we already have parked right in our backyard the whole time, and when we realize it, we kick ourselves for not having identified it earlier. Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist really drives this point home (highly recommended read).
For a business to be successful, it has to offer value to its constituents. What do people really want to pay for? They want to pay for quality, they want to pay for subject matter expertise, they want to pay for the best product or service of its kind that they can get.
As it relates to the online space, evolution in search engines is also favoring large, authoritative websites. And if you look deep within and honestly self evaluate, it is likely that you too believe that the best value you can provide the world is value derived from your own experience and subject matter expertise. I know I do.
Whereas in the past we may have chased the money (which is also important), it is time we contemplate how to create value in our area of expertise.
All signs seem to point to one thing: Build a long term and sustainable business around your subject matter expertise.
I really feel strong about this subject, and recently have started to feel even stronger after having some of my sites penalized by search engine algorithm changes. Have a read at my article on ProBlogger where I have openly expressed my thoughts on an expertise driven business.
The answer really depends on how you look at it. I can argue that it can be easier because you just have one business to focus on and therefore you are likely to be more calm.
On the other hand, it can also be more difficult depending on your niche niche. If your expertise is in a highly competitive niche, it may take a long time, a lot of effort and patience to see any results.
If your single business doesn’t pan out, you have nothing else to fall back on except valuable experience and lessons that you will hopefully apply to your next venture. When you have multiple businesses, you are diversified in some way from a particular business not panning out the way you hoped.
When you have a single business to focus on, all your time, attention and energy is focused only on that business, improving and expediting its chance to succeed. When you have many, you are spread thin.
When you are developing a business around a subject matter you know very well, it takes less effort to produce very targeted and high quality content. When you are pursuing a business purely based on keyword research or the need in the market place, you may have to put in some additional time, effort and resources creating the type of content that your target market would happily pay for and benefit from.
Similarly, there are several other variables that play into this discussion and both sides can certainly be argued very well. But here is how I am looking at it….
Most people work for a paycheck. There are more employees than there are entrepreneurs. Most wealth is still made in Corporate America (I will prove this to you factually / statistically in a future post).
With that said, you may already be content in your career. You don’t have to love your work, but as long as you don’t hate it you can enjoy a lucrative career in Corporate America as well. Having been exposed to that side of the fence, I know that many successful professionals just want that extra stream of income for that luxury car payment, that extra vacation home or an expensive hobby.
Some want the option to potentially quit and retire early, while others want the option to scale back and enjoy more autonomy. Then you have those that are looking to start a business to reduce their effective tax rate to get ahead financially.
With a successful career that takes up most of their time, most these individuals simply don’t have the bandwidth to play around with multiple business ideas simultaneously all at the same time. One of the most common questions I get from readers is how I am able to manage so many initiatives. Many readers simply cannot imagine themselves in my shoes because they have full time jobs.
The good news is that you don’t have to. For these individuals who may include you as well, who also happen to be the main readers of this blog, you simply cannot split your limited time across various initiatives and expect to succeed and remain calm at all times, at least when you are first starting out.
Don’t lose sight of your priorities. Why is it that you work so hard to begin with? Each of us has obligations and things we like to do outside of “work” such as spending time with our family and friends. Keep that in mind as you decide whether you want to focus on a single business at a time or pursue multiple projects simultaneously.
Having presented this scenario, it seems apparent that establishing an authority site is a simpler approach to both moonlighting and life. It appears more manageable especially as life gets busy. With just one business to focus on, one that you know very well, you can work on your business one day at a time, one task at a time, fully focusing on the task on hand at any given time and still be able to produce a quality product or service.
With only one business to manage, you will be part of a smaller universe of targeted forum, blogs and networks where you want to be in and not spread yourself too thin. You will have a handful of URLs and email IDs in your marketing spreadsheet instead of a mammoth database. The same goes with other mediums such as social media accounts, article marketing directories, etc.
As you can imagine, this trickle effect carries onto many other aspects of both business and life.
I recognize that the discussion above is much easier said than done for many entrepreneurs. If sticking to one project is not your cup of tea, understand that you can also succeed by dipping your feet in multiple ponds at the same time.
The trajectory and timeline of your success may look a bit different, but it is possible. I only recommend this approach for someone with enough time and experience under their belt. Otherwise, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, impatient and quit as a result.
A better way to approach it in my opinion is by picking a type or model of business that you can grow to a point where it is fairly self sustaining, allowing you to move on to your next venture. This is an approach I eventually adopted as I was building my portfolio of niche websites. This cannot be done for all types of business models and therefore has to be a conscious decision upfront if you know what your long term goals are.
Another consideration to take into account is leveraging the power of outsourcing to get things done in and for your business. Outsourcing is beneficial no matter what approach you take, but it is particularly more beneficial for someone who is trying to manage a full time career and multiple businesses on the side.
Many entrepreneurs shy away from outsourcing because of the added cost of doing business. However, if you look at what your true cost of outsourcing is after taking into account the income tax impact (at least for US Citizens), you will realize that the cost becomes a moot point in many cases.
I plan on dissecting this topic in detail in a future post, but for now this is how it boils down to in a nutshell:
If you are a successful professional and you have any bit of discretionary income (savings), outsourcing will likely benefit your bottom line because in most countries, income taxes are based on a progressive income scale. The more you make, the more you pay in taxes.
When you spend or invest in your business, you are allowed to deduct the expenditure as a business expense, therefore reducing your taxable income. When your taxable income is lower, a lower tax percentage bracket may apply to you. The percentage will also be applied on a smaller number due to your business deductions.
You will hear many entrepreneurs ask naysayers “would you rather invest that money in your business, or pay it in taxes?”
But more on this topic in a future post. This point is better demonstrated via an example equation.
Note that this is not professional legal or tax advice by any means. Always consult your professional.
One of the reasons many entrepreneurs pursue multiple businesses is because they want to establish multiple streams of income. I know I did and still do. But this doesn’t mean you cannot establish multiple streams of income within a single business.
In fact, when you already have a foundation, it is easier to feed off of that than to recreate the wheel. For example, when you are already getting hoards of traffic to your website, you can add another product offering and potentially increase your profits instantly.
I agree that it appears that you are less diversified when you have one successful online business as opposed to multiple websites, but you can create multiple streams of income within your business to mitigate the risk of one income stream drying up.
And because you put all your time, effort and resources into this single business, if your business takes off and does really well, then chances are that all your income streams within will become much larger than multiple endeavors may generate combined if you were to go that route. I know this is a hypothetical situation, but the comparison between the two routes you can take is very much realistic.
Another underlying and often underestimated factor is momentum. It is easier to build momentum in your business when you are focused on only one business at a time. When you have momentum, 1+1 starts to feel more than just 2. In other words, a little bit of incremental effort goes far longer than you may think.
If everything we have discussed makes sense so far, here is potentially how your cash flow portfolio can look like as a successful professional with a side business:
Note: You can live a very good life with only this stream of income. Many do.
I am not oblivious to reality and to the fact that not everyone earns a six figure income. I personally know families earning near the average household income who are able to establish some sort of a cash flow portfolio utilizing many of the same components you see above.
This is a big reason why I feel entrepreneurship and personal finance are very much interrelated. If you are not a student of personal finance, I encourage you to invest in your personal development as well.
But honestly, look at the sample cash flow portfolio above. Do you need more than that? You sure may want more, and that’s perfectly fine too. Just know that there is no hurry to get there, and that you can be fine with just income from your employment as well. This mind set will really help put you at ease and calm you down.
You are not racing against anyone. Your career is your bread and butter. Stop chasing shinny objects. Focus on your expertise and build a business around it slowly and steadily over time. Stick to it long enough and you will likely see some results.
And if you are a full time entrepreneur, the principles of this approach apply to you just as much – just take the job income out of the equation. You likely have a much better and faster chance of succeeding if you focus on one business and one business alone at a single time. Do everything you want and can for it until you can no longer do more or start to see diminishing returns before you move to your next project.
So how does this all apply to me? After toying around Ebay and an e-commerce business, when I first got started with an information based business model (informational websites), I used a program called SBI. You have likely read about this program in some of my previous posts.
One of the reasons I am a big advocate of this program is because in addition to just providing the website building and marketing tools, it teaches you how to build a solid, long term and sustainable business online based on your PASSION. This is what attracted me to it the most. Several years and websites later, I find myself having traveled full circle and land back to my roots.
If you have been following the blog for some time, you must have seen my post about establishing an authority site in a subject matter that I feel I am truly an “expert” in and where I can deliver maximum value to my readership. You can read more about this initiative on the Authority Site Duel Portal, where several other bloggers have also joined me in the journey as well.
Although I do own multiple other web properties, as I have written before, I don’t spend much time on any one of them. I also have Virtual Assistants who are helping me maintain those websites.
My new authority site is my primary focus at the moment and for the foreseeable future. If you are relatively new to the internet marketing world, I hope that this initiative will demonstrate that you don’t need multiple web properties to enjoy multiple streams of income. You can focus on one and make it the best of its kind and still enjoy similar success all while staying calm.
So no more getting distracted by shinny objects for the time being. Come join us in the duel if you haven’t yet. Don’t worry if you can’t find that passion or expertise. You will find it in the process. And if you don’t, you can always develop one. You will find your niche and there will be people who you resonate with who will gravitate to you.
If there is one thing I’ve learned it is that planned and sustained action taken over a long course does pay off. The key is to make progress and don’t let other factors overwhelm and paralyze you from moving forward. I hope this duel provides the push, encouragement, inspiration and support for those that need it.
And if you just want to follow each blogger’s progress and learn along the way, that’s fine too. I plan on discussing each part of the process in detail on this blog, including putting the website together from scratch.
If you are curious, no I am not using SBI for this project for three reasons.
But if you are new to all of this and don’t have the time or care to learn the technology part of doing business online, I highly encourage you to check out SBI. Either way, I am positive that this duel will give you plenty of take-aways to work with.
So I think we have finally come full circle here. This is a discussion I can keep going on about. I really didn’t think this post would ever end but here we are. If you are a scatter brained entrepreneur like me with lots of irons in the fire, hopefully I have made a compelling case in this post to focus on just one project at a time. I hope I have given you some things to think about.
What are your thoughts on this subject matter? Do you have any questions, concerns or reservations after reading my two cents on this topic? Do you plan to follow along the duel? Why or why not? Are there particular topics you’d like to see discussed in the duel?
I want to read what you have to say – please share your thoughts in the comments section below…
Over the last few weeks I have written quite a bit about the shift in direction of search engine behavior and how I am shifting my strategy from niche sites to a larger, authority site.
Subsequently I previewed the authority site I have been working on.
And then last week the Authority Site Duel portal was published.
It is important to establish a baseline so we can clearly follow the progress of this site.
Since I will be experimenting with various strategies in growing this new business, I want us all to be able to see what works and how and what doesn’t.
So in the spirit of baselining, I want to reveal what this authority site is and where it currently stands.
I’ve named this new business The CPA Requirements Portal with the following domain / URL: www.cparequirementshq.com
As I wrote about in my preview earlier, I bought the domain of this website earlier this year, but have not had any time to do anything with it until just a couple months or so ago.
Right now the site has roughly 80 pages, with another 70 or so in the works (topic ideas) that I need to write and schedule for release over time the next few weeks.
The site is currently generating all of its visitors from organic search traffic. There are no ads displayed on the site, public or private.
Here is a snapshot of the site’s current traffic:
Few interesting details to note right off the bat:
Needless to say I am happy with the way things have started off.
I chose the domain I did for the least dilution impact to my target keyword. More on this when I discuss keyword research and how I came up with this topic for my new business. You can read more about choosing the best domain for your website here.
This new business meets all the criteria laid out in the rules for the Authority Site Duel – the need for knowledge and expertise, undying passion, the genuine ability to help/enhance someone’s life, etc.
I have done it repeatedly in the offline world, so I am confident that I can do so online as well with much more scaleability. I have some very high aspirations for this business. You can read all about them here.
Here are just some of the subsequent posts I have planned to get you caught up to this point and then move forward together on this journey:
I am looking forward to going through this journey together. I know it will be a lot of fun.
So there you have it; my new online business.
Over to you now…
What do you think I need to do/add to this website to make it the go to resource for aspiring CPAs? What type of content should I focus on? How should I market the business and what avenues should I tap into to get the word out?
Please be specific. I’d really appreciate your input and will try to incorporate it as much as I can.