By Adam Connell
There’s a problem that I see bloggers make all the time.
I’ve had the same problem in the past.
That problem is choosing the wrong niche for your blog.
There are a number of reasons why a particular niche or topic could be the wrong one.
It may be that you’re not passionate enough, you don’t know enough about it or it’s just too difficult to make money in that sector (or you don’t know how).
What usually happens is people spend a lot of money or just invest an insane amount of time blogging in the wrong niche.
Then a year or so later they realise that they have completely wasted their time.
In this post I am going to show you some important questions you need to ask about the niche that you’re blogging in right now (or thinking of blogging in) along with a few ideas to help you pick the perfect niche or topic area for your blog.
What are you passionate about?
This is the most important question to ask yourself and if you’re not passionate about the niche that you’re blogging in then that’s a very bad sign.
I truly believe that passion is a key factor for success.
Passion keeps us motivated, passion stops us from giving up and passion helps us to keep us interested in learning and developing our skillsets within a particular niche.
There is another reason why this is important as well – when you’re not passionate about the topic that you’re blogging about, your readers can pick up on it.
And if you don’t really care all that much…
Can you honestly expect your readers to care that much either?
Is the niche profitable?
We’ve got to be brutally honest here – most of us aren’t into blogging because it’s a hobby (although it sure feels like it).
A lot of us are in it to make a living, put food on the table, pay the bills and look after our families.
Which means that the next question you need to ask is – is the niche profitable?
It’s also worth thinking about not only whether it’s a profitable niche but also how difficult is it to get to the point of profitability?
Without a doubt, there are niches all over the spectrum in terms of profitability and difficulty of creating a profitable blog.
Here are a few factors to think about:
- Your resources
- Ease of attracting advertisers
- Available affiliate programs and CPA offers
- Are other people making money?
- What is the competition like?
When I say “are other people making money?” I’m talking about regular bloggers like me and you rather than big publications that have huge financial backing and huge online presence.
Let’s take video games as an example.
IGN, Metacritic, Game Spot and CVG would all me good examples of big publications.
These would also be good examples of competitors in that niche, especially the ones that will most likely be competing with you in organic search.
On the other hand…
If money isn’t a key motivator then you won’t need to worry about it, but if it is, then you’re going to need to make sure you truly understand whether you can make money in that niche.
You don’t want to spend the next 8-12 months trying to make money, failing only to realise that you can’t make enough money to make it worthwhile.
What are your strengths?
I’ve put this after passion and profitability because I’m a big believer that anyone can do anything that they put their mind to.
If you are passionate about something and you have the profitability factor then there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.
Although, that being said it does help a lot if your strengths and expertise are related to the niche that you’re blogging about.
Is your niche too ‘niche’?
The unfortunate truth is that some niches are just too small and growth will plateaux at a certain point, you’ll struggle to increase your traffic and you’ll run out of content ideas.
SEMrush, Long Tail Pro and Google Keyword Planner all give you some idea of how many people are searching for particular keywords which is a good benchmark.
Although, these figures are only estimates so they should only be used as a guide.
You also need to look at the competition, the fact that competitors exist is usually proof that it’s worth your time.
That being said, if too many of your competitors are extremely popular publications then you’ll run into difficulty because competition may just be too strong.
Another thing to look for is whether there have been books published within your niche/topic area.
If these books have been backed by big publishers like the Penguin Group or Wiley then it’s a safe bet that there is a decent amount of people that want to learn more which can make for a great topic to blog about.
These companies won’t invest if there isn’t a market for the book.
Niche research tools:
SEMrush ($) – this is the first tool I turn to for niche research. I also use it a lot for planning my content too. It allows me to learn more about my competitors, find out what they’re ranking for and which keywords are being searched for.
Long Tail Pro ($) – I invested in Long Tail Pro a few months ago and I’m very impressed with it. Add in as many seed keywords you like and set filters to pull out the best keywords.
You can also see how popular search terms are with data pulled from Google and using the Moz API you can size up the competition for target keywords.
Google Keyword Planner (free) – this is part of Google Adwords which allows you to do keyword research on the fly. It is the replacement for the Keyword External Tool but I’m not a huge fan of the interface.
Google Trends (free) – seeing historic trends for particular keywords is important to get an idea of whether or not your niche is on the decline, or increasing in popularity.
Create a mind map
Choosing your niche is something that you should put a good amount of thought into.
After all, it’s going to be what you’ll be writing about for the next few years at least, maybe a lot longer.
Even if you have a good idea of the niche you want to blog about, create a mind map of all of your options just to be sure – you might be surprised about what you haven’t considered before.
Add everything you can so that you have something like this:
Now make a note of which topics you are passionate about, have expertise and which could be profitable.
The profitable topics are going to be a bit trickier as they will require some research but it’s worth doing.
I find it easiest to write the applicable words next to each topic (e.g. – Passion, Expertise, and Profitability).
That way you have got a clear overview.
Once you have finished putting this together it’s time to pick out a few of your top choices, these will usually be the ones where you have been able to mark off all 3 factors, but if not then ensure that passion is one of them. And if the financial element is a factor for you, then you’ll have to go for profitability too.
When you look at your top choices you need to ask yourself a few more important questions:
“Can I see myself doing this in 3-5 years’ time?”
“Can I see myself writing over 50-200 blog posts on this topic?”
To put it in perspective for you, in the year of 2013 I wrote over 230+ blog posts, most of them for other blogs and a fairly large amount were for clients.
A good number of them were pretty huge posts as well, we’re not just talking 500 word blog posts, some of them in excess of 4,000 words. Most were 1,000-2,000 words.
If you can’t see yourself writing 50+ posts on a subject then there are still options which include:
- Opening your blog to guest posts and waiting for other bloggers to get in touch
- Actively contacting other bloggers to invite them to contribute
- Outsourcing writing to a freelance writer
If you decide to go with any of these 3 options then I’d recommend that you still maintain a presence by writing for your blog as often as you can – that’s if you want to position yourself as an authority within your niche.
Free mind mapping tools:
There are plenty of tools available to help you create mind maps without paying out for any tools, here are a few that I’ve used in the past:
- Mindmeister – online based mind mapping tool with advanced features and premium version
- Bubble.us – basic online based mind mapping tool, no need to sign up for an account
- Free Mind – open source mind mapping software, download for free with no limits
What can you bring to the niche?
This is another good question to ask because it can be another deciding factor.
You may feel like you will just have more to offer certain topics. Which can be a great asset moving forward.
That being said, don’t worry if you don’t think you have anything fresh or new to bring to your niche because that’s not always a prerequisite for success (although it does help).
Copywriters have known this for years and big business seems to be catching up – you don’t have to be unique to create a successful blog, just do what you do better than your competitors.
What’s holding you back?
There are plenty of things that can stop us from moving forward with a project, whether It be a blog, product or anything else.
Usually it’s our fears that immobilise us.
You may fear uncertainty, you may fear doing well (it does happen, more often than you may think) or you may feel that there is a significant amount of risk involved.
Sure, you could take the plunge and fail but you’d feel better knowing that you gave it a shot.
You could also be successful and your decision could change your life forever.
Facing your fears is good for you.
What do people really need?
I want to share another way for you to look at things.
You might remember a psychological theory that you were possibly taught at school called ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’.
What you need to know is that the lower down the pyramid you go, the more we would struggle to live without that particular thing and the more motivated we would be to find solutions to problems involving them.
This theory has received a lot of criticism since Abraham Maslow’s research paper was published back in 1943 but despite that I find that this is still a great framework that can help guide you towards the perfect niche for your blog.
Do you need more niche ideas?
There are plenty of blog posts floating around on the web that you can find easily through Google but there are a number of other resources that you can use to get some great ideas:
Amazon Best Sellers
For some bloggers, Amazon is at the core of their monetization strategy or even the reason why they decided to setup their blog in the first place.
Amazon is one of the most trusted retailers in the world and that fact is why simply recommending a product on Amazon can lead to more people purchasing a product.
The Amazon Best Sellers list covers every category that Amazon currently do, there’s hot new releases, top rated and other sub-sections that you can use.
If people are selling a product within a niche, chances are that the niche is big enough to invest your time in.
It’s also a good source of inspiration.
Another well trusted brand and it goes to show when people consistently purchase products off eBay that are sometimes up to 80% cheaper elsewhere.
The categories section is a great place to go for inspiration.
Looking through lists of magazines on the web or at your local news retailer can be a good way of getting inspiration and highlighting profitable niches.
Although it’s worth being careful here because when there is a lot of magazines in a single niche, it’s big business but it’s also going to be competitive.
Especially from a blogging perspective since most magazines publish content on the web which you would be competing with directly in search (that’s if you’re planning on using search engines as a traffic source).
Choosing the right niche for your blog is important.
Pick the wrong niche and you could just end up wasting an incredible amount of your time, and also a lot of money.
The truth is that building a successful blog takes time and you need to be in it for the long haul.
By thinking about how passionate you are, what your strengths are and which niches are going to be profitable you can cut out a lot of the disappointment and put yourself on the right track from the start.
Do you have any tips to add?
I’d love to hear more about them in the comments below.
Featured image source: Photodune