The most important decision that you will make when setting up a blog or content website is with regards to what subject to cover.
Here are a few useful ways of narrowing down a broad subject area or researching how popular a niche is.
TECHNIQUE #1 – Brainstorm your subject
The first thing to do is grab a pencil and piece of paper and write down all the subjects that you are interested in.
Once you have exhausted all your ideas, go through each heading and think about which ones REALLY grab your interest. Be honest with yourself. There is no point in starting a website that you will lose interest in within a few weeks.
I went through this process with a friend of mine about a year ago.
He came round to my house and asked if I could help him launch a website with the title ‘How to Become a Successful Affiliate Marketer’.
I knew he wasn’t that into the Internet, so I asked him why he had chosen this subject. He told me that it was something that he had recently become really interested in … but a few further questions revealed his interest was pretty superficial.
He had fallen into the trap of trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
He had started by asking himself ‘what is making money on the Internet?’, rather than asking himself ‘what am I passionate about?’
So I asked him “if you built a hugely successful website about affiliate marketing and sold it for $2 million dollars what would you do?”
His eyes lit up and he immediately answered “I would devote my time to developing my photography skills. I love taking digital photos and playing around with them in Photoshop”.
That was his passion!
TECHNIQUE #2 - Google and the Other Search Engines
The first place to start is Google.
Make a list of your top 20 search phrases for the subject you are interested in. For example if your website is about fly fishing in Scotland some searches would include:
• Fly fishing Scotland
• Scottish fishing
• Scottish fly fishing
• Salmon fishing Scotland
• Trout fishing Scotland
Type them into the search engine and have a look at every site on the first two pages of the results. Study their offering. Are they free or premium sites? How do they look? What is the content like?
Can you create a better content site than the first three listing on each search results page because they are the sites you will be competing with?
Keep trying new search terms within your broad subject area to try and identify topics with weaker coverage.
This exercise should give you an idea of:
• where the niche opportunities are
• who your competitors will be
• the quality of the competition
• how other sites are presented and what content they provide
TECHNIQUE #3 - About.com
About.com (www.about.com) is a very good research tool.
Here you’ll find thousands of topics with millions of articles, covering everything from Attention Deficit Disorder to zoology.
This site is free and makes its money from advertising. It’s a wonderful resource.
The articles are mainly written by volunteers and approved by professional editors. The content is usually good, sometimes excellent and just occasionally rubbish.
Look at your proposed subject area.
How many articles are there? Is the information good quality, well written and relevant? How active is the forum? Could you use some of this content to help plan your website’s content?
Also make sure you follow the links in and around the articles to discover other relevant sites.
If your subject is not covered on About.com start to question whether there is the demand.
If it is covered in detail and new articles are frequently added then you can assume there is a healthy online interest
TECHNIQUE #4 – Become a Discussion Forum Detective
Discussion forums are a fantastic resource when researching just about any subject. People go to these forums to ask questions. All you have to do is study the questions, particularly the ones that seem to crop up over and over again, to discover what your potential audience is interested in.
The most frequently asked questions can become the headings for your first articles.
There are several simple ways of finding forums relevant to your subject area.
Go to Google and simply do a search on
o [your subject] discussion forum
o [your subject] bulletin board
o [your subject] discussion group
o [your subject] newsletter
Go to Google and click on the link above the search box that says “Groups”. Then type in words from your subject area. Try several different terms (or keywords) e.g. microlight flying, light aircraft, ultralight plane, etc.
Go to Yahoo’s Groups page (http://groups.yahoo.com) and do the searches as described above
If there are lots of active forums about your subject, it means that there is an internet audience hungry for information.
If there are no forums and few websites about your subject area, you should be wary.
Example of a forum search:
If you’re planning on setting up a website about living in France a series of searches using the search phrase ‘living in France’ reveals about 10-20 relevant discussion forums. Immediately a list of 50 – 100 questions can be built up by looking down the threads:
“What are the inheritance tax implications of owning a house in France?”
“Do I need a French driving license if I live in France?”
“What is the best way to learn French?”
“How do I find a hospital that has English speaking midwives?”
From this search you both have an idea of how active the community is, and what issues your potential audience are trying to resolve.
TECHNIQUE #5 – Researching Ezines, Email Newsletters or Mailing Lists
There are over 250,000 ezines or email newsletters on the Internet.
There is one covering just about every subject you can think of. Most of them are free to the reader. They make their money from either selling advertising space or by driving traffic to the owner’s website where visitors are encouraged to buy products or services.
Looking at what ezines are available for your target market provides a good insight into the demand for your subject area.
To get on an ezine mailing list, a subscriber has got to pro-actively give the ezine owner their email address and click a button that says ‘add me to your mailing list’.
This shows that the subscriber has an active interest in that subject and wants to read a regular email about it. They have stuck their hand up and indicated they are a potential client for you.
As part of your
The first thing you need to do is find them.
[your subject] ezine
[your subject] newsletter
Second try using one of the many free directories. Do a Google search on “ezine newsletter directory”. A good example is:
The Ezine Directory (www.ezine-dir.com )
TECHNIQUE #6 – Look at Clickbank
Clickbank is the leading sales site for eBooks and digital downloads. They list over 10,000 products which are sold by over 100,000 affiliates.
Go to their website – www.clickbank.com – and look to see if there are any eBooks about your subject. The more popular a book is, the higher it’s ranking on the Clickbank site.
Clickbank don’t say how many of each book is sold, but you can be sure if they are ranked in the top hundred the sales volumes are very high.
This again gives you a simple indicator of the demand for an information product related to your chosen subject.
Note: bookmark this site because if you create a digital product this is a good place to sell it
TECHNIQUE #7 – Look at Print Magazine and Newsletter Titles
If a print magazine exists on a subject then you know that there is a big enough audience to support a website. Usually a print magazine needs to have 5,000 paying customers to be profitable. This number of paying customers for a website is a great business.
The easiest way to browse what magazine titles are available is to:
Look at magazine subscription websites. The one I use is Zinio (www.zinio.com). Remember to look at titles in different countries to broaden your thinking
Get access to a directory of magazines used by advertisers. This will give you circulation and readership numbers. On the UK the directory is called BRAD, which is expensive, but can be found at bigger libraries
TECHNIQUE #8 – Look At The Amazon.com Bestseller List
If you go onto Amazon.com there is a tab in the top navigation which says ‘Bestsellers’. If you click this it will give you a list of all the current best sellers. Most of these titles will be completely irrelevant to you.
However you will see a list of categories on the left of the page. You can narrow down the subject area, by finding the appropriate category.
This just gives you the current bestsellers, but the titles may just stimulate some thoughts about your niche subject.
TECHNIQUE #9 – Google Insights
Google Insights (www.google.com/insights) enables you to see if the number of people searching for a word or phrase is increasing or decreasing. Obviously if it is increasing it suggest that the subject is becoming more popular and visa versa.
But Insights offers more.
You can compare the trends of words or phrases, for
You can look at seasonality, for example find out in which months most people search for ‘skiing’. Is it before the ski season, during the ski season or after the ski season has ended?
It also helps you understand which countries most searches are coming from for any particular word or phrase.
All great bits of information.
TECHNIQUE #10 – Talk To Your Target Audience
If you have a broad idea of what you want to do, but need to narrow down the scope, there is no substitute
Go to where they go.
Pick up the phone and call them.
Write to them.
Listen to them.
Find out what they are currently reading to stay abreast of their industry or interest, both online and offline. Ask them what they like and don’t like about this source of information.
Find out what problems they have and what information they would like to get hold of to solve them.
Try to get into as much detail as you can.
Don’t ask “Would you buy or subscribe to this information if I were to launch a website?” It is much easier for them to say ‘yes’ than ‘no’ so the results will be far more positive than the reality.
When listening to prospects make a note of the language, words and phrases that they use. This will be very useful when writing the marketing pages for your website.
Hopefully these ten techniques and resources will help you choose a subjact and define your niche. Take time to get this right it will. The decision you make will play a big part in the enjoyment you get from your website and the money you will make.