Building a website starts with finding a niche, which also happens to be the most difficult thing to change once the site has been started on. This makes learning how to find the right niche and the best keywords for it the most important step in the planning phase for any site. Making the right choice involves looking at oneself, finding what people want and understanding keywords.
People and passion first
While it is tempting to first look at high-paying keywords and target niches based on them, it is more important to consider people and your passions before anything else. Building successful websites requires creating the kind of content with insights and solutions to problems that people want. Those who are building websites on topics they do not have a passion for, and without a target demographic in mind, are going to find it very difficult to create the kind of content people are going to come back to.
While it is not necessary to be an expert on the topic, a desire to learn about it is a must. It is also important to remember that search engines are increasingly ranking sites on social signals that link sites back to people. Therefore, the content should be something you are willing to put your name on.
In addition, remember that almost any niche with traffic can be monetized. As long as people come, it is possible to generate revenue. Therefore, look inward before looking outward when deciding on a niche. Start by writing down all your interests and expertise and look for niches in those areas. Your career and educational backgrounds may also be good areas.
Look to the future
By definition, a niche is small part of a market, and it is important to stay very focused in the beginning. However, it is still a good idea not to lock onto too narrow of a niche. For example, unless you are certain the site will remain small, a site on dieting should not focus on one particular diet unless it is a very popular one that offers a lot of possible content, and the domain name should not be so focused it becomes difficult to broaden the site to a wider topic.
In addition, as ranking takes time, make sure the niche has staying power and is not just a fad.
Popularity and potential of the niche
Of course, there are niches that are just too small to be worth targeting. The amount of interest there is in the niche and how much content can be created on it should be taken into consideration. The best niches are those that have problems that people want help on. Look and see how much content there is on the niche and what problems need solutions. Places to look include the number of highly-viewed YouTube videos, if there are popular books on the topic (For Dummies books are a particularly good indicator) as well as how many magazines and major websites there are on the niche.
Other niche potential factors to look at include:
- The cost per click advertisers are paying (see the keyword tools covered later in this article)
- Possible income streams: It is nice to be able to monetize a site in different ways and having a variety of products in the niche shows it has problems and product solutions. In fact, searching for popular products that have been around for a while on top sites that offer affiliate products, to include ClickBank’s marketplace, is one of the best ways to find niche ideas.
Although competition should not be obsessed over as a lot of traffic can come for keyword phrases the site is not optimized for, it cannot be ignored. Look at the top ten websites with a search of the main terms. Obviously, lots of big-name sites and top level domains are going to be hard to beat. Look at the sites as well as the number and quality of backlinks. On the positive side, lots of content and competition indicates the niche generates a lot of interest. If angles that the competition is missing can be spotted, these can be a great way to succeed regardless of how popular a site may be.
The final step in finding a niche and planing a site is keywords, and the number of them found is another good indicator of niche popularity.
Understanding long-tail keywords is most important. These are keyword phrases of three or more words that people use when searching the internet. For example, someone looking for specific information on widgets is likely to use at least a couple of words in their search. This is because they are looking for specific results and simply searching for the word “widgets” will probably not deliver exactly what they are looking for quickly. If they are looking for “red sturdy widgets,” they are likely to use the entire phrase in their search to narrow the results.
Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to get to the top pages in search results for a single, competitive word like widgets. The right long-tail keywords phrases are usually much easier to rank for. Therefore, those building new sites need to find these keywords before they start.
Doing keyword research
To find these keywords, use one of the following keyword research tools. From free to paid tools, there are plenty to choose from. They offer ways to find long-tail keywords and provide useful information about the keywords such as the number of searches they get and what they cost advertisers in paid searches.
However, the most important info they offer is on the strength of competition one will face when trying to rank on the top of the search engine results pages for those keywords. While it is not a perfect indication of how much competition there is for the specified keywords, they do give one a pretty good idea of how difficult or easy it will be to rank for them. Market Samurai, in particular, is a very extensive tool offering more in-depth analysis of keywords to enable users to make the best choices possible as well as various other SEO tools
How to do niche keyword research
Once the theme of the site has been decided, keywords need to be selected on criteria to include following:
- The number of searches: Keywords that have few searches generally have less competition. However, if the keyword phrase does not get at least a few hundred searches a month, it may not be worth optimizing for even if the competition is very low. Use [Phrase] or [Exact] match in the searches as [Broad] will be misleading.
- Competition: This has two major factors. The first is the number of websites that contain the keyword phrase. The second, and usually more important factor, is the number of websites that are optimized for the keyword phrase. Professional keyword tools will give both figures as well as another that will combine them to give a good feel of the competition. It is also can be smart to do a web search of the keyword phrase and look at the sites that come up on top with tools to include those offered by SEOmoz to gain more knowledge of what the competition is like as well as what they are doing.
- How well the long-tail keywords fit the theme of the site: Every site needs to have a theme and the content all should be related to it in some way. The best sites have the main theme divided into small sub-themes or categories (learn more about it in categorize siloing). This will give the site better search engine rankings and make it more popular with visitors.
- Overall goals: While almost every site should start with some easier, long-tail keywords in mind, it is not always advisable to go for the low-hanging fruit. Tho goal needs to be to create good content for the user, and shying away from topics just because they appear hard to rank for will distract from this. Besides, the search engine game is always changing, and it is impossible to know what a site will really rank for. Keyword research is only providing a hint.
A few little secrets about keyword research
While it is important to do research when choosing keywords, it is not a good idea to overdo it for several reasons:
- Spending too much time on keyword research can waste valuable time that could better be used to create content for visitors.
- Keyword research can only give a general idea of how difficult it will be to rank for the keywords. Especially with the search engines changing their algorithms, sometimes those keywords that should have been easy become tough and vice versa.
- Over half of the keyword phrases used in real searches never show up in keyword tools! Therefore, most traffic for any one site will be for combinations of keywords that the site is not even optimized for.
With this is mind, keyword research should be thought of more as a way to find out what people are looking for and as ideas to create content.
There will never be an exact formula for finding just the right niches. However, by looking at oneself and interests first, and then examining competition and keywords, possibilities for everyone can be found.