Reader Question On Niche Site Research, Keywords and Competitiveness
Reader Justin asked a question on the comments section of this article. I won’t go over the whole conversation because you can read it by following the link. Essentially, Justin is finding that he spends hours on keyword research without finding profitable keywords.
I asked Justin to tell me what his process for keyword research was, because I thought he was overthinking it but couldn’t tell without knowing what he was doing.
Justin then left a further comment which went through his process in detail. I’ll paste it below for the guys who don’t want to click over to the other article, and I’ll give my thoughts as today’s topic of the day.
Wow, thanks Jamie! Those are some great articles that I missed. And they’re all on point for where I’m looking at, so thanks for those.
I’ll further answer your question (“What do you mean by ‘too competitive’?”) with an example.
In your “niche site ideas” article, you provide the example of style for men in their 20s. Using that idea for a niche site, let’s test it using my research methods.
Before we start, though, keep in mind that I’m not ripping on your suggestions WHATSOEVER. The articles truly are helpful in getting me (and I’d assume others) in the proper frame of mind when trying to build a niche site. When we look at this data together and see what works and what doesn’t, we all win. Moreover, I have to admit I haven’t made a dime from a niche site yet, so you’re DEFINITELY more of an authority than I am.
So, when I’m researching for a niche site, I’m looking at two things. First, I throw some searches into Google with the Moz Toolbar active and check the Domain Authority, Page Authority and link numbers for the first couple pages of results. This is to see how strong the competition is — how well we’d be able to rank in Google.
Second, I throw the same keyword searches into Google Adwords Keyword Planner to see how often it’s being searched (and get Google’s simple insight on how competitive the market is).
We’re trying to figure out if “men’s style for guys in their 20s” is going to be a decent niche. The keyword “men’s style 20s” brought up a lot of pages about how men used to dress in the 1920s, so I had to dig a little deeper.
Google’s keyword suggest tool (when you just start typing in Google and they suggest what you should search) started prompting me for “how to dress in your 20s guys”. Cool, let’s roll with that.
Looking at the Moz analysis with that search, this niche could be promising. A lot of the sites on the first page have high Domain Authority (a lot in the 80s, some in the 50s) but there’s one with a DA of 14 and another with 26 on the first page. Nice! The Page Authority and links are also low, which is a great sign.
Now we’ll throw it into Google Adwords Keyword Planner. Ugh, shit. “We can’t display search volume charts because your keywords don’t have any searches.” That’s not a good sign — there isn’t even enough volume for Google to collect data from.
(I’ll keep it more brief from here on out — just wanted to show my method first.)
So, I thought, “Okay, what’s going on in a guy’s life when he’s twenty-something? He probably just got out of university.”
The keyword “men’s style after university” just brought up a bunch of pages about how to dress DURING university, so I dropped the “after” and tried “men’s style university”. The Moz results were promising, but alas, there was no Adwords data whatsoever.
“Style tips for college guys” was suggested by Google. Again, decent Moz results (although a little stronger than before). Google Adwords Keyword Planner finally gave us back some results! But, there’s only an average of 40 searches per month for that keyword.
10 searches per month makes me think that this keyword in particular is probably a waste of time. (Unless I’m mistaken? Again, haven’t made a dime…)
This is essentially my frustration — I spend my whole two hours/day running into these roadblocks.
I’m totally open to the idea that I’m wrong, and that these niches could be somewhat profitable and that I just need to roll with it and build a site.
I’ve just read too much about the importance of keyword planning and how essential it is to building an affiliate site to ignore this. If I feel like I’m wasting time on just two hours per idea, it’d suck to sink a ton of time actually building the site and not having any returns.
Sorry for the length of this comment, but I just wanted to put everything on the table. Hopefully other readers can relate.
Your insight is truly appreciated, Jamie! Keep fighting the good fight.
My Thoughts On This
First things first. The answer that Justin gave was based on a handful of articles, which you can read here:
Anyway, I’ve written a few articles that touch upon finding niches. Here is the main one:
Here’s an article on competitiveness:
These aren’t specifically about niche sites but you can apply them to niche site stuff:
That’s where he got the idea for style for guys in their twenties from.
I’ll run with the example myself in a minute and see where it takes me. However, a few things jump out immediately.
Firstly, you’re looking for two things: Site quality and quantity of searches. Those are good. Don’t complicate that any further. I don’t use Keyword planner or the Moz toolbar, so my approach differs slightly, but we’re looking for the same things. Good. I’d only add that these things are guidelines. For some products I’ve reviewed, I beat out competition in terms of domain age and authority that’s much better than my site. These things are only ever guidelines. Keep that in mind.
Here is the key thing that you’re missing (I think).
We’re not competing on the search term “Style for guys in their twenties.” Sure, that might be a variant on our domain name. If we were creating a branded authority site, we’d care a lot more about this.
What are we trying to do with a niche site though? We’re trying to shift products.
You have “Style for guys in their twenties” as your niche. You’ve done the hard work by thinking about these things:
- Where are they at in their life?
- Are they at college?
- What do they need?
- What style choices do they have?
Those are good ideas for how-to articles on your site, so keep them somewhere for now. But remember, we’re not doing a public service announcement website: We’re selling products.
Style for guys in their twenties means a whole load of things. We’re not targeting the niche itself with a niche site (that’s a bit confusing, so I’ll get to the point.) Think about what a guy in his twenties might want to buy (or at least read a review of.)
- Best aftershaves for clubbing (?)
- Best jeans
- Best suit for first interview (going with your fresh-out-of-college customer)
- Best deodorant to mask weed smoking (Or something.)
- Best shoes for twenties guys
That’s where we start to find the long-tail terms which are relevant to our niche. We don’t necessarily need a guy coming to our site for “best style guide for twenties guys.” We want our reader to arrive on an article for say, aftershave, and do one of two things:
- Leave our site to go buy aftershave (Best case scenario) or
- See our header and think “I’m in my twenties. What else do they write about?”
Those are what we want.
Breaking It Down Further
You have your niche. It’s style for guys in their twenties. You can definitely break that down further. I’m going to tell you what I just did in the last two minutes. I would use screenshots but I actually found an awesome affiliate program and product, so forgive me the vagueness.
With Men’s Style in their Twenties, we’re going to use the power of fashion magazines to be our ally.
Pick a male celebrity in their twenties. Put in on a Google Search “Dress like Billy Celebrity 2016” or “Mr. Celebrity fashion 2016.”
You will get an article from Vogue or the Daily Mail or wherever. It’ll break down what they’re wearing. Now, in that article it might even have a link to the products. Follow the link if there is one. If there isn’t, get the product name, put it into Google and see where it’s on sale.
Find the affiliate program.
Product Name Reviews
So, we have our product name. It might be “Dolce and Gabbana bandana.” (I made that up.) Put that into a Keyword tool, and chances are there’ll be very few people competing with you.
Now, take that one step further… if Dolce and Gabbana have a bandana, then do Armani? What about other luxury brands? What about non-luxury brands? What about the cheap $10 products on Amazon?
Products have a lot less competition than main niche search terms.
In that example, you could build a site around a particular piece of clothing or you could stick with the style for guys’ niche and have a category dedicated to what you find. Either way, you compete on those buying terms and product names.
Not Men’s Style
The celebrity fashion thing is something that won’t apply to every niche in the same way. You’d have trouble finding celebrity endorsements for power drills, but the same sort of process applies. Find the products that people want and review them and sell them and worry about the big picture later.
You’ll find that most product lines have really low competition. The only things I’d say were competitive for product review type keywords are technology-based things and make-money-online niches. Those tend to be pretty competitive all the way down.
Even so, you could probably find niches there where there’s little direct competition, but it’s not a great place to start.
A Little Idea That Might Work
Here’s an idea I haven’t tried, but it came to mind this morning when I was thinking of a reply:
What their sites both have in common is that they’re basically random product reviews. Sam H’s site has no particular theme and James has a theme – products for guys – but it’s a pretty loose one. If you can’t think of particular niches, then an idea you could try is something along those lines. (This is as opposed to a narrow niche; “Best dress shoes for guys.”)
I haven’t done this for reviews in particular, but I’m guessing that James and Sam have picked up some pretty decent data about which products get a lot of views and which products don’t.
I know that outside of reviews, I’ve created “throwaway projects” where I’ll create a quick website about random topics just to see if they get any traffic. In particular, I have one website, which, like the guys above, talks about a wide variety of topics in different ways and in different voices.
You could try this and see where the data takes you, but I haven’t personally tried it exactly this way, so maybe it wouldn’t work.
I hope that this has helped Justin and everyone else who reads it. To go back to Justin’s comment:
“I’ve just read too much about the importance of keyword planning and how essential it is to building an affiliate site to ignore this. If I feel like I’m wasting time on just two hours per idea, it’d suck to sink a ton of time actually building the site and not having any returns.”
I think that people overthink it. Essentially, when you’re thinking of selling a product online, you need two things:
- Do people want it?
- Can I sell it?
Obviously, you need to think about competition. Keyword research is important to an extent. However, it’s really easy to get stuck in a quagmire of thinking every single site is perfect and you can’t compete, and it’s really easy to think that nobody will buy anything. It’s easy to search for hours for perfect keywords to target. I’ve been there… and still get stuck there on occasion. You just have to remember, if there’s a product you can sell and people want it, you’ve got everything you need.
Other than that, the key takeaway from this article is to target the product.
Hopefully, this has been helpful – and remember, once you get started you’ll find your own ways to do stuff. This is just how I approach stuff, and I’m not an expert by any means.
P.S. While this blog is still quite small, I’m pretty happy to answer comments like I’ve done above, and I’m glad people are reading and enjoying. So if you’ve got questions or thoughts or anything else you’d like to add, feel free to leave a comment – especially about the niche site challenge which is a communal-type deal anyway.
P.P.S. If I haven’t answered your question Justin, then let me know!