In this post I want to discuss how I found my niche for my authority website and what I feel should be the four main components of a viable niche for a new internet based business.
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…Previous: Pay Per Click Advertising Alternatives to Google – Amazon Product Ads, Facebook
On the topic of passion, I think there is an important distinction. There is a passion of DOING and a passion of TALKING. If there is one thing on this planet that I am truly passionate about, it is reading, especially light sci-fi/fantasty. But it is a passion of doing; talking about books is incredibly boring to me.
so are you saying in this case that you cannot monetize your passion because you are not passionate about discussing it? I can understand that…
Hey Sunil, great comprehensive stuff as usual :). Yea, I do agree you got to be at least be interested (say on a scale of 5 to 9 on an Interest Level gauge) instead of being absolutely passionate. It wouldn’t help anyway if the passion is not profitable. Finding the pain is also a thing I learnt, – recently saw a series of finding the pain principles by Dane Maxwell when he launched The Foundation program. Great stuff there.
it’s an interesting balance that has to be found Lieu. hope all is well with you
Ah the age old question of how can I turn my passion for World War 2 history into a viable online income has been driving me nuts for two years!
The reason I have yet to ‘have a go’ is because I am so very scared of putting in a lot of time and effort into something which will result in very little income and regretting it, especially when there are other websites I can create that I know will make money.
If I had a nice bit of cash in the savings account then I would just go for it but I cannot afford to fail at this point in my life.
Sorry, just venting there 🙂
you are welcome to vent anytime Ross. we all need to sometimes. but to your point, is WWII your only passion? what else is on the plate when you dig deep in?
Well I have decided to go for it! 🙂
I’m willing to go back to the normal 9-5 in the meantime if it means that will help me succeed in the long term. If I don’t try it then I shall regret it!
I know there are many people out there trying to turn there passion into a solid income and I admire every single one of them for doing so as it takes a lot of guts and hard work. I just hope that I can join that club soon!
consistent effort over a period of time should pay off. a lot of people say the ingredients are quality of work, relationships and luck. we cannot control the last one, but if the first two are done consistently over time I think we can do away with luck. what do you think?
I’m going to write that down and put it by my computer 🙂
Great post Sunil. You’ve shown to those that are stuck in the “ready aim ready aim” phase just how much scope can really be found in a niche if you are diligent enough with your research.
As I’ve said before, choosing a niche you are passionate about and involved in makes the research stage a lot easier too. Though I didn’t go to the lengths to find metrics on money passing through my niche, I know first hand that people (including me) will scrape the barrel to find money to continue to participate in the activity I write about. The ‘research’ is already done because I’m heavily involved in my niche.
Also, I loved this bit:
“you want to cover your niche comprehensively, whether or not the keyword research supports it.”
I was saying to my Dad only the other day that even though the keyword research for the informational topics I cover on my site aren’t great, I feel if I try to cover every possible question or problem in my niche, people will naturally come to me over time because they know they can get the answer or solution they’re looking for from my site, and potentially bypass the search engine completely.
excellent approach Dan. if you cover something so in depth, over time people may just skip the engines and come to you. looking forward to how your site shapes up over time
As a subscriber to your list, I have always enjoyed your blog post.
I believe that “need, want, frustration, concern” is the most important
component for a successful online business.
Ed, those are very motivating factors for readers/visitors to convert into customers, and to attract them to you as a problem solver to begin with.
Excellent post that covers the topic of finding a niche for internet business in a clear and concise way. Passion is a key component of success of the online venture in the virtual world.
Although there are a few barriers to establishing a business through the internet, I think there are a few things that draw a strong parallel with the offline entrepreneurial pursuits. They are the amount of effort, time, funds and business mindset to carve a stable income stream.
true, however the “funds” factor can be significantly different depending on the type of business you want to start online. if you are going to start a Google, you will definitely need just as much funds if not more
Sunil, nice write up. I think the most difficult part for new bloggers is to identify what can be the most profitable segment to target. There are a lot of factors one needs to consider when setting up a blog business.
for those who feel the main driver should be profitability, the research methods in this post will also help get you there
Passion to me is the most important factor. I don’t know about others but I am driven by passion and it is extremely difficult for one to go against passion and settle for things which he does not have interests in. Great post Sunil!
My choice was passion! I was stuck on choosing a niche for well over 3 weeks and couldn’t decide whether or not there was a market for my passion. But then after reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It, I realized that there is a market for every passion. I also later found out through keyword research that the market was quite large LOL!
So I went with my passion, started an authority site, and revealed it on my blog! I love duels!
Awesome post Sunil! Lengthy and informative!
great point Mike. you can carve out your own market share if you stick with it long enough
Wow – Very comprehensive post. For me I think a distinction also needs to be made between blogging and a website.
I think because a blog needs more constant attention it makes it much easier if you are passionate about the topic. I have an authority site on the other hand where I am interested in topic and I think that passion is not required because only a relatively static website is required to engage the market I am seeking to engage.
As you said, “You need to be able to relate to your market (audience).” – I could not agree more. Website or Blog you have to be able to relate. Without a certain level of empathy there is no way you can hope to have content that will engage your visitors in a way that makes money.
Keep up the great work, Quinn
I agree. it’s also helpful to realize that it is ok to be passionate about the process of creating a business as well, or to fill / serve a need. many are passionate about the process and not the topic itself. they too can do well.
Great post. I’ve been earning some sort of passive income from one of my website in energy niche. The highest so far was around $1200 in a single month. Could you tell more viable ways to generate money from it? I know affiliate income is one but I wonder if is could work in this niche?
Just wanted to know, if my site comes under niche site or micro-niche site and what should I do to expand it?
consider lead generation. have a look at my highest earning month post – bulk of the revenues were generated through leads. lots of big players with a lot of $ in your niche
My biggest problem is that my sentences are too complex. I like to blame it on the topic but I know that it is just me. But I continue to work on it
Jeff – I don’t blame you. I don’t think there is an option given you are in such a technical field, correct?
I was told you should choose a niche based purely on your ability to obtain high page ranks, but personally I can’t do that. I’m in ecommerce, not blogging (for now), but even with that, I had to choose a product I cared about.
If you’re generating huge amounts of content about something you don’t care about, your enthusiasm will die out pretty fast.