Why Is Finding a Niche the First Step?
Finding a niche (also known as, your subject) is the first step because many, if not most, of your decisions that are coming up, are going to hinge on what it is that you are trying to focus on.
For example, you likely do not want to go out and spend money on a domain name that has nothing to do with your target topic.
Keep in mind that this does not have to be a debilitatingly paralyzing task. Finding a niche isn’t nearly as hard as you might think. Understand this, if you realize that your chosen subject isn’t what you want, you can start over.
Seriously! It really is okay, so breath, relax and let’s get started.
A Totally Different Life is But a Decision Away
Your whole life can change in an instant when you decide to move toward that which you were meant to be doing.
Everyone makes mistakes, even after you choose a direction, you might decide that it’s the wrong direction and that’s okay. Despite what people say, and what you may think, the Internet is more forgetful than you realize.
If you get knee deep into a niche and decide it’s wrong for you, then choose another.
If you think you’ve gone too broad, narrow your focus. You have to constantly inspect and adapt. Figure out what works for you, and do more of that.
Finding out what you don’t want to do is just as important as finding out what you do want to do.
Forget your mistakes and your failures, what matters is what you do now and what you plan to do tomorrow.
Your Time Is Priceless!
You must value your time. It’s not free. The time you spend building your site, getting traffic to it, and supporting it is the time that you will not be spending with your family, or traveling or living and doing any number of other worthwhile pursuits you could be doing.
Time is the most valuable thing we have. You can always get more of just about everything, but not time. Time spent …is never reclaimed.
Therefore, with the understanding that we all have a limited amount of time, you need to understand and establish a value for your time.
Sure, right now you likely have demands on your time that are somewhat out of your control, but as you progress, and as you begin to gain financial and mental freedom, you are going to be more and more in control of your time.
As your time truly becomes your own, you’re going to want to make sure that everything you sacrifice your time for, is what makes sense for you.
Finding Your Niche; No Niche is Too Small If It’s Yours
Discovering what you were meant to do is counterintuitive. It’s not something we’re typically taught.
Sure, your family, teachers, and friends are always telling you that anything is possible, but do you believe it?
The reason I ask is that many cultures give lip service to that concept, but when the chips are down, many of us do exactly the opposite – as if we don’t believe that statement.
We have our reasons; eating is a good one. Keeping the heat on in the winter, and the water off your back when it rains are good reasons too.
Often, we’re brought up being told to believe anything can happen by people that have traded their dreams for survival.
It’s not wrong or ignoble, it’s just what seems to happen.
The goal here, today, is to help you find out what you should be doing. What you want to do. Your niche. Your subject. Your focus!
I’m not necessarily talking about your passion. I’m talking about something that you can have some fun doing that is going to break you out of the rat race. Whether you are looking for a supplement to your current income, or you are trying to bust out of the monotonous rodent powered trap that you’ve been engaged in year after year, it doesn’t matter.
You can do whatever you want. You do not have to be trapped, and you do not have to give up your dreams, no matter how old, or young, you are.
Now that I’ve set your expectations and grounded them in reality, you’re ready for the next step, to find out what you are going to be doing to succeed online!
Everyone is not Your Customer; What is a Niche?
When I’m talking to you about a niche, what I mean is an area of interest, a subject to focus on.
Often when you hear people talking about niches, they tend to imply that a niche has to be small. In fact, one definition of the word niche is, “denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.”
You see, the very definition of the word implies “small”.
However, another definition is, “a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment”. Now see, that is a better definition. Comfortable does not mean small.
I propose what I think is a better definition for the term niche in the context of finding what you should be doing:
“A product, service or interest that can comfortably be narrowly focused, while allowing that comfort to be mildly stressed in order to scale more broadly over time.”
In other words, you have to find something that you’ll be comfortable with both now while your focus is narrow (and small), and later when your focus begins to grow and broaden.
Make sense? Just to make sure, because this is important, I’ll say it in a different way.
Don’t get stuck on size. At the same time, you must have tight focus at first.
One of the biggest mistakes that new online entrepreneurs make is to go too broad too fast or do too much. It seems compulsive that as soon as a newbie starts to make a little headway, they want to start a second, third, or even fourth site.
In most cases, the complexity and work go exponential. It is possible to have more than one site, with experience. Chances are, you lack that experience at this point.
Keeping a narrow focus at first helps your visitors understand exactly what you do, it also allows the almighty search engines to understand the same thing. For search engines to bring you those targeted visitors, they have to be able to start seeing your authority.
Most people envision mammoth sites when they think of “authority sites”. That’s not the case, you can be an authority on a small site. That authority will scale with you and your topic if you keep your focus narrow in the beginning and then broaden to fill your space comfortably, and naturally.
It's also possible that you will find the “perfect size” along the way for you. Not everyone wants an empire. Maybe all you need is a small village.
The most important thing at this point is to act! Don’t get too hung up on analysis because you could end up spending days, weeks or months agonizing over this topic alone.
Let me remove some stress from the equation by restating what I said before.
Even if you decide later that you’ve gone too narrow, a way will present itself to broaden your base focus. If for some reason it doesn’t, then you can always create another site. When you’ve achieved a level of success once, subsequent successes come quicker.
You will make mistakes. Relax, it’s normal, we’ve all made them, and we’re still here.
How Do I Get Started Choosing a Niche (Subject)?
If you already have a good idea about what you want to accomplish online, then you don’t have to keep reading. You can stop right now and start thinking about a domain.
However, if you’re not at least 80% sure then keep reading. It’s important to know a direction before you jump in with both feet because as I’ve said, these early decisions are going to shape everything you do from this point on.
The first thing you are going to do (if you don’t already have one) is create a Trello account. Don’t concern yourself with cost, Trello is free.
Trello is basically a kind of list-based electronic “post it notes” web-based application – on steroids. Today it’s just not cool to write on, or print out, a forest (in case you’ve forgotten, paper comes from trees). There are lots of list-based applications, but I like Trello the best – so far.
Once you’ve got your Trello account set up, create a new board, call it “My Niche Ideas”.
This board is going to be what you use to brainstorm some ideas on your niche and you’ll continue to use this tool (Trello) throughout your new adventure you’re embarking on.
Need some help? Here’s a Trello tutorial video to get you started. There’s more included than you need to know to get started, but it’s a great primer for more advanced topics.
Now you’ve got your board set up, so next, you are going to start filling out your ideas.
All you have to do is create your board by clicking the “Create new board…” and then type a title and hitting enter.
If you’ve set up, or have, more than one collection you’ll get a drop-down list to choose which collection your board is in.
Once on your board, you’ll be able to start creating lists, and we’ll get to that in a minute.
That’s great! But I Don’t Have Any Ideas!
Relax, stressed out people don’t do well online so get this ingrained in your mind right now: Mistakes will happen, that’s normal, you will be able to recover from just about any mistake without too much issue. Well, unless you actually break the law or something …this probably goes without saying but, don’t break the law, okay?
Now we need to get the creative juices flowing. We need to get some ideas on what exactly it is that you are going to be focusing on.
Think About What You Like
See, here’s the thing. There are probably a lot of things you like out there, and if you like these things, then so do 10,000 – 100,000 - 1,000,000, or even more people.
Notice that I did not ask you what you are passionate about.
It’s fine if you want to pursue your passion, but like I outlined in the expectations post, you may not want to pursue your passion. The problem with chasing after your passion is that inevitably whatever you choose is going to become work at some point.
Turning your passion into work is potentially a really quick way to kill your passion!
Now, make sure you sprinkle a lot of common sense on that. For instance, if your passion is writing computer programs, or creating mobile apps, then this stuff is right up your alley.
But if your passion is riding horses there could be a couple of things to be concerned with.
First, how do you make money riding horses? I don’t know, but hey, I’ve seen some pretty clever ways to monetize all kinds of things and I’m sure you could come up with a way, it’s just not overly obvious.
The other thing that is going to likely get in the way if you do manage to monetize your passion is that there is a very real chance that you wake up some day thinking, “I would be okay with never riding a horse again!” Now, THAT would be sad, wouldn’t it?
Because passions can be killed, another reason for not necessarily choosing your passion for your new venture is that passions tend to change over time. What you were passionate 10 years ago, probably is not what you are passionate about today.
So, think about some things you like, maybe do a Google search on a few of those topics as well.
I enjoy writing, I might even be good at it, though I’m highly critical of my own writing. However, I do not have a passion for writing. It’s not something I go on about at cocktail parties. I don’t get all fiery and palm-sweaty about it. I don’t sit dreamily looking out my window thinking about it.
I’ll give you a more concrete example. I like hats! I’m not passionate about them but I really like hats.
I like hats of all kinds, maybe because I’m a little bald. Now make no mistake, it’s not because I’m ashamed of being bald. If you are also bald, you likely already understand. But if you’re not, let me paint you a picture:
You’re about to walk through a door to the outside, and it’s been raining. As you walk under the eaves that are over the door …a single, malicious, ice cold, humungous drop of water targets the center of your bald spot and – SPLAT!
Next that malicious, isolated instance of life-giving hydration drips down the back of your head, unfettered by anything resembling hair, and makes its way to the base of your neck where it cascades in rippling jubilation down the entire length of your spine, creating a stylish wet streak down the middle of your polo-shirt, while sending a shiver through your soul.
That sucks, but not nearly as much as being out in the sun and getting a sunburn on the top of your head, so that as it peels you look like some reptilian dandruff dude from the planet flakenus!
Bottom line, I like hats of all kinds so I could totally see myself writing about, reflecting on, and promoting hats of all kinds. Heck, I might even come out with my own line!
Let’s get back to it. Now what I want you to do is create a list on your new board I had you set up above in Trello titled, “Things I Like”, and then write a list of items that you like under that list.
These list items are called “cards” and you can “Add a card…” by clicking that exact text. Try to keep your cards short and sweet. You can press enter to save the card and begin a new card.
If you think of things that you want to remember, then click on the card that you just created (after you’ve pressed enter), and a window will open where you can add all the comments (and other things) you want.
Create your list and your cards, do this before you continue reading, do it now.
What Are You Good at, or Have a Flair For? What Gets You Excited?
Whatever it is, there is something that you are probably very good at (or maybe just better than many). In fact, there are likely several things that you are good at.
Using myself as an example, I’m very good at developing solutions using technology. I’m what is commonly referred to as a “full stack developer”. Which is a title that simply means I can work well, or at least decently, within all parts of technology to provide a technical solution.
If I were in construction, the equivalent would be someone that could architect and engineer a house, pour the foundation, frame it, wire it, plumb it, hang the sheetrock, tape it, texture it, paint it and probably even decorate it (though I might need a little help with that last part).
With that skillset, I could develop tools, create games, or do virtually anything I set my mind to online so long as I find something that either isn’t being done or something that I could build that is better than anything out there.
Another thing that I’m good at is research. I could create a service allowing people to hire me so that I could help them research a problem.
The point is that there is something that you are good at, something you have a flair for, or maybe something that just gets you excited or comes naturally to you, and I want you to use that.
You will serve yourself far better if you focus on your strengths, instead of your weaknesses (perceived or real). By focusing on your strengths, you increase your natural ability and will almost always be able to move far faster than if you are trying to build up your weaknesses.
So, create another list in Trello and title it, “Things I’m Good At”. Then create new cards for all the things you can think of that you are good at, no matter how silly you think they are.
Do not procrastinate, do this now.
What are Things You Hate, or Problems You Face? What is Your Anti-Passion?
Yep, you read that right. Believe it or not, these topics are the ones that people often do the best with, and with good reason!
In fact, the term anti-passion is fitting because that anti-passion can fuel things as much as an actual passion without any fear of losing your passion over time.
In fact, you may begin to foster a passion for the opposite of the problem which will double down your energy.
If you have a problem that you routinely face, or that causes you pain, then others do as well. If you would be willing to pay money to solve that problem, then …solve it!
Then write about it, go discuss it on social sites, ideally after you have some content that is relevant to the discussion so that you can naturally link to it (where it’s allowed). Where it’s not allowed, you can ask people to PM (private message) you for details.
PMing is often a fantastic approach because then you have a method of direct contact and a potential reason to reach out to them in the future.
I’ll talk to you more about these topics in detail later.
So, brainstorm about the things you don’t like, the things that bring you pain, and the things that you hate.
Create a Trello list called “Things I Do Not Like” and start filling out that list with new cards.
Do this now and remember to continue to fill in your other lists as new thoughts form.
Use Your Friends, Co-Workers, Acquaintances and Family
Also think back to conversations with others you’ve had. What are common things that come up in conversations over and over again? If they are pain-points list them under your “Things I Do Not Like” list, if they seem like they belong on the other lists then add them there.
On the other hand, you might create a “Random Conversations” list and list them out there.
Remember, you can keep the card text (list items) short and then after you’ve added them click on them to add any comments or deeper thoughts.
You need to start really tuning into the conversations you are having with people both online and offline. They are often laced with gold.
Turn to the Oracle to Expand Your Ideas
The Oracle, in this case, is Google.
Create another list in Trello called “Google Ideas”.
I want you to take your three lists and do a search for each item in your list in Google.
Take note as you type in the items in your list of the autocomplete that Google is helping you with. Those words that Google is suggesting, aren’t just random. They are what other people are searching for!
As you type, if an idea comes to you, add it to your new list as a card item.
Next, perform the search and scroll down through the list of results. As you are going through the list of the search results, if an idea sparks write it on your list too.
Also, take note of any phrases that show up at the bottom of the page in the “Searches related to” section. These are often expansions of your topic and also what people are searching for. There may also be a section in the middle of the results usually titled something like, “People also ask” that are hints from Google about related topics.
Any of these are fair game, any may spark an idea in your head. Don’t delay, list out any ideas you can think of in your “Google Ideas” list.
Use the wild card to focus broadly on your topics. Searching for things like “hats for bald *” or “* hats for bald *” (notice the asterisks (*)) with and without quotes will allow you to go through the same process but with different results.
If you want to learn some Google tricks check out my post: 10 Powerful Search Engine Tips, Tricks, and Hacks.
Make sure you take note of some of your potential competitors. See what they are doing and compare it to the vision that you had in your mind on the topic they (and potentially you) are focusing on.
See if you can refine your ideas around the items in the other lists that you’ve been building. In order to keep track of what you find (and your thoughts), you can click on the list item (card) and enter comments and notes.
Advice to Avoid High Competition is Bullshit!
Many will tell you that you should try to focus on a niche that has low competition. I totally disagree with this advice.
One of the biggest reason that people give for avoiding subject matter that has high competition is that you have to come up with higher quality content and that it’s hard to gain any traction in Google because it’s so hard to rank for the keywords due to the high competition.
If this were the year 2000 I might agree, but it’s not, and that’s bullshit, and I’ll tell you why!
Another reason people tend to tell those that are new to stay away from high competition markets is that it might take more time to succeed, and while there may be some truth to that, I’ll say that you are really only limited by how much you are willing to hustle.
Social Media Marketing is the Early Niche Equalizer
You see, with social media marketing, Google’s not the only way to get traffic to your site. In fact, Social media marketing will help you both in the short term and the long term with regard to getting traffic to your site, and it’ll likely be the most targeted traffic.
Long Tail Keywords
Regardless how rich the competition is, you are going to rank for what are called long-tail keywords. All that means is that people often search for long phrases instead of individual keywords. These long phrases are practically infinite in scope.
The point is that there are always longtail keywords to focus on, and so what if one longtail keyword only gets 50 searches a month. If you get 50 high ranking long-tail phrases, each with 50 searches a month or more then you’re at 2,500 searches in no time.
Business, the Internet, and traffic are all numbers games. The more numbers you have visiting, the more clout you carry with everyone, including search engines.
You should be trying to outdo your competition. Anyone using that argument I referenced up above should be slapped and forced to write “I will never attempt to lower the bar again” 1,000,000 times on a chalkboard with a constant supply of chalk that is no longer than 0.5 inches in length!
Do not post the same thing everyone else is! Do the research and use your brain. Here’s a quote for you to ponder: “Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken” – Oscar Wilde
Competitive Collaboration - More Competition Means More Friends
That’s right, just because you are looking at people “in your potential space” as competitors right now, you may not always see them as such.
In fact, these companies and people all have something in common, the niche. That could result in collaboration, cooperation, and even friendship. Even if you don’t become bosom buddies with the people “in your space”, competitors collaborate (and sometimes collude) all the time, especially on the Internet!
In fact, those that do not work together, ideally for the greater good (but not always), are likely doomed to the cyber-bone-pit eventually.
Make friends and influence people, helping your competitor could be helping you. Oh! And remember those that helped you, and forgive slights …definitely make certain your door is open to those that help you!
SMM + LTK+ HQC + CC + Time = Ranking for high competition keywords
See that formula? That’s the key. All those things work together and when you sprinkle some time on the equation, you begin to rank for your high competition and high money keywords, let me be clear:
Social Media Marketing
Collaborating with Competitors
Time in the Form of Months or Years
Ranking for those highly competitive, huge search volume (yet highly targeted, hopefully) keywords that are likely out of your reach today.
Social media marketing will eventually help you land those high value, high competition keywords IF you are creating better content than your competitors instead of just acting like the cybersquatting yes-men (and women) we often see parading around the halls of pixels today.
So please, DO NOT WORRY ABOUT COMPETITION! Did I say that strongly enough? Competition on the Internet is not like competition in a shopping mall. There are always ways to shake things up and drive more traffic to your site.
Being on the Internet and building your assets allow you to almost shape traffic to whatever you need once you know how. It’s not like people are going to stop using the Internet anytime soon or that Internet usage is declining.
In fact, your “competition” likely already understands that competitors can work together and are already building off one another. By doing this they edge out those that are less sociable. It’s classic survival of the fittest!
If you decide you want to be in a niche, then go for it. Do NOT let competition sway your opinion, and make friends with your competitors whenever you can. They’re probably very nice and intelligent people, at the very least worthy of a conversation at some point in the future.
If they turn you away now, don’t hold it against them. There are a lot of people that are wantrepreneurs that waste their time. Until they see you are serious, you might get a cold shoulder or ten.
Dig Deeper into Google and Find More Niches, Topics, and Subjects
It’s time to get a little more serious. Now you need to get a Google account. Since we don’t yet know for sure which direction you are going to take, it’s important to create an account that represents you, personally. Not you, you're soon to be new business.
You may already have one or more Google accounts, and if you don’t mind using your personal account for this next task, that’s fine, but I recommend getting an account that is personalized to you.
This account will be what you personally use regardless of how many sites or businesses you have. Eventually, you’ll use this account to help brand yourself across Google properties.
First, create a new Trello list and call it “Google Keyword Tool Ideas”.
Go to Google and create your personal Google account. This account should use your name. If your name is taken, get creative and choose a name that includes your actual name, but prefix or suffix it with something that has meaning for you.
Once you’ve created your Google account, you need to get set up with the Google Keyword Planner. Click on the link in the previous sentence and click the “Sign In” link.
Use the Oracle of Product Sales (Amazon) to Find Inspiration
Amazon.com is one of the largest consumer product based networks in the world. As of this writing, it is the biggest in the US and many other countries.
It’s also a massive source of information!
With Amazon, you can start with a broad category and get many more targeted categories. You can use the terms and topics that you’ve come up with so far and expand on them here.
Let’s walk through it:
Go to Amazon.com. To the left of the search bar, under the logo, you should see a link called “Departments”, click it.
A Broad Collection of Topic Categories
You’ll see an almost overwhelming list of categories and sub-categories. These are all too broad for you at this point. So, find one that seems to fit with one or more of your list items and click it.
Still Likely Too Broad
Now you are presented with a page of products. But at the top, just under the “Departments” link, you clicked on, you may see a horizontal list of sub-categories. Find one that seems to fit well and click on it.
If you do not see the sub-categories where I indicated, then just continue reading.
The Left Side of the Screen is Your Gold Mine
Now you’ll likely be presented with a more refined list of sub-categories as well as types and other categorical considerations.
This is where you need to focus. Create a new list in Trello and label it “Amazon Ideas”.
At ANY point during the process that I just walked you through you should mark down any ideas you have that you hadn’t yet thought of.
Use this list to create a more focused list of your prior ideas, or if you think of new ideas (which you likely will) list them here.
Don’t forget about the Amazon “Best Sellers” category within the categories that you are looking through. Some products may give you some ideas and you may even want to create another Trello board to list these out for future reference. These products could be great affiliate marketing opportunities. If you’re unclear what I mean about affiliate marketing, you will gain clarity on that soon.
Use Search as Another Approach
Another approach you can use is to take your list items and use them as keywords inside Amazon. The left side of your screen is still a gold mine because it’s going to list out the categories that relate to the products that Amazon finds from your search.
Get creative, there are lots of sites out there similar to Amazon that will help you find ideas.
I’m Stuck, what do I Do? Start Stumbling!
It happens. But often the only thing you need in cases like this is a nude, or perhaps more accurately, in this case, a stumble. One of the best things I’ve found to give me that push is something you may or may not have heard of.
While you are there, create an account. For now, create a personal account and use the same technique I outlined for creating a Google account above.
I mean it! Take the time and create an account! StumbleUpon is a great source when you’re stuck, and it’s an even greater source of semi-random traffic that literally stacks the deck with a little bit of luck in your favor.
I’ll be providing a deep dive into StumbleUpon later, but for now, stay focused. I say that because it’s very easy to get lost while “stumbling”, sometimes for hours.
By clicking on the following link (after you’ve created an account) you’ll get to StumbleUpon interests and you can start using the categories by associating interests (and possibly gaining ideas). By creating an account and setting up your initial interests you’ll get sites associated with those interests.
Hint: Your Trello board lists are your interests.
Once you have an account and have added some interests, every time you click the “Stumble” button it will bring up individual sites fairly randomly based on the interests you’ve entered.
You’ll be able to then use the “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons to refine your interests. It works a little like Tivo does to find shows you like.
These sites will begin to help some ideas blossom in your mind and it’s a great way to constantly get a new influx of ideas because Google changes slowly, so you get a less myopic perspective of your various interests.
Once you’ve established a few ideas, go back up and go through the processes I’ve outlined before to fill out your lists even more.
What If I’m Still Stuck?
Man! You’re a tough nut to crack! First, maybe you need to go for a walk. Sometimes clearing your mind and changing your surroundings are all you need to get the creative juices flowing.
Once you get back from your walk, if you still have no ideas, then consider going to the NicheHacks market ideas page.
It’s not necessarily the greatest place to go for people just getting their start, but all you are trying to do at this point is brainstorm ideas. It’s entirely possible that something will rattle free by going through the ideas on this page.
Once that happens, go back through all the topics that came before and start filling out your lists.
What Are Some Other Sites I can Use for Ideas?
By now you should have a decent list of topics to choose from. Remember, this exercise can expand to fill any amount of time. I’ve known some people to agonize over this step (the first step!) for months!
Don’t do this. Once you’ve got a decent list of topics to choose from, you NEED to start the process of refining them.
However, just to be complete in case you are still struggling, I’ll list out a few more sites that might help you overcome niche-block.
Twitter.com is a great source for seeing what’s trending right now.
You can create an account, but keep it personal. This is going to be your account that will be for you and your business purposes, not something you use to make friends and tweet about your kids.
Basically, use the same criteria I outlined for creating a Google account before. Make certain you always express what you are interested in by following people, brands, and topics that are of interest to you from a business (and even personal) perspective.
Once you’ve logged in you can see the trending information along the left side (or sometimes right side) of your screen. Use this to get your mind working.
Google is always a great source, and you’re going to be using a lot of Google resources as you continue your quest.
Google trends is a great place to explore trending information by using what you have in your lists to come up with other facets, or related topics, that you might not have considered.
Use the “Explore Topics” search box to enter your ideas. You can also use the “All Categories” menu to drill down and find trends to fertilize your thought processes.
This site lists lots of forums and categorizes them. Click on the following link for a list of their forum categories.
By reviewing their categories and drilling down to find the forums themselves you’ll likely get things moving.
Another thing you could, and should, do is go visit the forums. Find out what people are talking about. This will give great ideas for niches and topics of interest.
It will also give you some great ideas about problems, troubles, and pain-points people are experiencing.
One Last Note About Targeting and Focus for Your Niche as You Refine Things
This is important. I’ve given you a lot to think about around niches and how broad or narrow they might be.
Understand, it is imperative that you start out with a narrow focus. This is so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Maybe you think it’s going to be easy right now, and maybe you are in a hurry to get started. Both of those traits are fairly common and normal.
Ignore those urges. Things are going to get very real in a few weeks/months. Things are going to get hard! Don’t reach too broadly all at once because you’re impatient.
With Google and social you want to tightly focus in the beginning.
So, let’s expand upon my “hats” example. I said that I like hats, but I also said I was bald. Maybe I can focus those two thoughts together to better target things around the best hats for bald men.
See, now we’re getting a bit narrower. Perhaps I can take it further? Maybe I start with baseball caps for bald men …who like football.
Maybe it’s spring. Maybe, realistically speaking, I realize it’s going to take me a while to get started so I focus on, “winter style baseball caps for bald men who like football”.
That’s pretty damned narrow. In fact, that might be too narrow because you’re going to have to really poor on the gusto to be ready for winter by summer, then spring by winter, etc.
However, in a year (or sooner), you’ll have targeted all four seasons and then as time continues and opportunities present themselves, you can just keep adding to those four areas of interest broadening naturally from baseball caps to beanies, and maybe fedoras.
The point is that you can laser target a very specific interest and then you can naturally grow from there.
Do NOT target “hats”, even “hats for baldies” might be too much to start with. But, I think you can begin to see the natural progression, right?
What you get out of this is that Google and anyone coming to your site, in the beginning, is going to be able to quickly tell what your site is about. You’ll begin to gain authority in that narrow field of vision, and then as you grow, that authority will expand until Google someday thinks, “this site is about hats, in general”.
That’s when all those big-ticket money words for hats are going to come into play and the difference between then and now? Simple, you’ll be ready for it, and you won’t be disappointing your visitors!
Conversely, if you find that you’ve narrowed yourself too much, it’s much easier to broaden things slightly day by day, and week by week than it is to narrow your topic if you go too broad.
One sign that you’ve narrowed your focus too much is if you are dominating the search results for the main key phrase around the niche you are targeting. Though that’s not a terrible place to begin. Lots of little wins are not only excellent for motivation, they add up to real numbers in time.
Refining Your Ideas
Now comes the part where you need to take all the ideas that you’ve crafted in your lists and refine them to a list of 5 potential niches.
In each of your lists note common topics. Think about your ideas and how you might be able to use them to monetize your content.
Keep in mind that there are many ways to monetize your content. You can use ads, but that will take a lot of traffic to yield decent results.
You can also be an affiliate for others. Amazon.com is a great place to research potential products that you might be able to market on your website.
You can also build a product, later after you have traffic. That product can be a book, a tool, a physical thing, or anything really.
The point is that now you’ve got to start thinking through the end-game a little bit. For example, going back to by ideas about “hats for bald men who like football”. I’d go to Amazon.com and start looking at hats that I could recommend as an affiliate.
Next, I’d go to something like Zazzle. Zazzle is a great fit for my theoretical site.
Zazzle is a place where I can sign up for an account, actually design my own baseball caps (or t-shirts, mugs, and similar items) with prints of original artwork and text of my own creation, or that I could hire someone else to create. The text is simplest, and they have a design tool that will help you.
Then I can list those hats on my site and even link to them on my Zazzle store. The best thing is that I can set my own prices and I never have to ship anything! They just create the products as they are ordered, ship them to the customer, notify you, and pay you your share. Simple!
I can, of course, order them in bulk and sell, or give away, my hats at various offline events.
I do recommend actually ordering at least one yourself so that you can see the quality and how the designs look first hand, especially if you are going to get serious with this line of product.
Just remember, the point is not to sell your customer. It’s to provide valuable information and ideas to your customer.
Think about the process that you are going through right now. I could be selling you on any number of products and services, but instead, I’m helping you to succeed.
The point is to establish trust by providing real value. Once you’ve done that, and people know you are “for real”, they’ll be more likely to consider your recommendations when you make them, and that’s when you start to build some cash flow from the relationships you’re fostering with your visitors.
Really let your creative juices flow through the idea of monetizing. If you can find a way to monetize a niche that nobody else has thought of, then you might just be able to corner that concept and really break out in some explosive ways.
The reverse of that is to really search, even by going many pages deep in the search results, through your potential targets to see how others are monetizing topics.
Create a new list in Trello labeled “Refined Ideas”. Start compiling your list card items based on topics that:
- Are common among your various lists
- You like and think you could write about either from firsthand knowledge or by learning as you go
- You believe you could monetize with ads, other people’s products/services, or your own. Even better is all of the above!
- You believe you could narrowly focus on now, and still broaden in the future
- Have low competition – See above to understand why I crossed this out
- You are passionate about – See above to understand why I crossed this out
- Other people are talking about or that you know are popular
Now that you’ve got your refined list, it’s time to choose your top 5.
Choosing Your Top 5 Ideas
This is an exercise exactly like the last refinement. Create a new Trello list called, “My Top 5”.
Go through the exact same process again but with your refined list. This time, use Google to really focus on the competitors and the topics they are discussing.
Read some of the results that come up, in detail or at least skim them.
If you decide not to go with an idea, just move on to others. If you decide that you really like the idea, then add it to your top 5 list.
Do NOT add 6, or 7, or more. If you find that you’ve added too many, delete some. You want to have no more than five. If you have less than five when you are done, that’s fine.
Choose Your Niche
I’m excited! You’re about to choose what you are going to be doing for the foreseeable future that is going to change your life!
This is going to be your final refinement.
Go back through your list of 5 items. Do the exact same thing you did before. This time, really spend some time looking through and documenting what you find. How?
Simple. This time you are going to create new Trello boards, one per topic (you should have 5), and document the competition, topics, forum conversations, and anything else that will help you come to a final decision.
You don’t have to have to type everything out. You can copy sections off web pages, then create a list item, click on the list item, and paste what you copied into the notes. You can also paste an entire link into the notes and when you have, the link will render showing you the page that is on the other side of that link and you’ll have everything in one place.
This time to really get the gist of what people are talking about, you’re going to need to dive a bit deeper. You need to do the same Google searches you did before, but follow links, read documents, take note of what they are talking about.
Use FindAForum.net to find forums where people are talking about your five proposed niches. Figure out what they are saying, and common topics. Document these too.
Only you will know when you are done, but this too can stretch on forever. It is likely that you are going to naturally start gravitating to one. As you decide that you are not interested in one or more of them, you can hover your mouse over the card item in your list, click on the pencil on the right, and archive it so that it’s gone.
You’ll know you’re done because there will only be one remaining.
If you find yourself stuck, or being indecisive, go for a walk or sleep on it. Don’t delay your decisions for more than a day though, then you’re just procrastinating.
Some advice: Give yourself a finite amount of time to make the decision, 1 day might not be enough, but a week is way too much. My suggestion is 3 days. You ought to be able to get through this exercise completely within 3 days’ time or less.
I would sleep on it for a day though and come back to review and refine the next day before moving on.
Final Thoughts About Your Future and Lateral Thinking
Oh! One last thing to consider for the future. Once you’ve got a good level of saturation on your primary topic, don’t be afraid to start thinking laterally.
What do I mean?
Well, if I started out by targeting “hats for bald men”, then there’s a natural path into the problem of baldness in general. Perhaps I build out my existing site, or perhaps I create a brand new narrowly focused niche site about baldness.
That gray matter between your ears and encased in your skull; that’s the type of thing that’s good for. Natural opportunities will present themselves. Use Trello to document the ideas IMMEDIATELY (there’s an app in case you were wondering) so that you don’t forget!
That point is huge, I can’t tell you the countless things I forgot simply because I told myself, I’ll write that down when I get home, or when I wake up, or simply …later.
Congratulations! You’ve Chosen a Niche!
I bet you feel awesome!
I remember when I finally decided on my first niche. It was an amazing feeling. Knowing that I had done the work, investigated thoroughly, went through my due diligence and made a decision that was based on good, solid, rational thinking.
Give yourself a pat on the back, let’s review what we’ve covered.
I explained to you why a niche is important, that the niche you choose now is going to fuel most every decision you make from this point on.
We discussed how the decision is important, but that nothing is ever etched in stone. You’re allowed to make mistakes and change your mind.
One thing I hope I drove home in spades is that money is not the only consideration, you need to understand how valuable your time is. Once you get to where you need to be, if someone wants your time, you better make sure it’s what you want to be doing whether because of altruism or because you’re being rewarded substantially.
We covered why it’s important to be doing what you want to do and why. We covered how many preach throughout your life that you can do anything, only to fail to practice what they themselves are telling you. Worse, often they try to influence you “for your own good” with their unique flavor of cynicism. Don’t listen! Assume nothing! The only person that can keep you from your desires is you!
I defined what a niche is and established that it’s a focus of interest not necessarily related to size. I even came up with a new definition of the term niche, “A product, service or interest that can comfortably be narrowly focused, while allowing that comfort to be mildly stressed in order to scale more broadly over time.”
I had you create a free Trello account to keep track of the ideas you came up with. Using Trello, I had you list out the things that you like. Not necessarily what you were passionate about, because passions can be killed, and they tend to change over time.
After the things that you like, I had you list out the things that you are good at. Things that you have a natural flair for. These are great things to focus on because these are talents that you’ve likely had all your life and, passion or not, you will always be able to speak to and expand on.
Another source of potential are things you don’t like, or things that cause us discomfort and pain. These anti-passions can often fuel a solution that you are able to get very driven toward. That’s good because if you feel that way, there are likely many others that would like that pain solved, just like you.
Still another source that you can draw from are friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and family. Thinking back on conversations that you’ve had with others can often reveal a treasure trove of potential niches. Of course, really pay attention to future conversations as well.
I taught you some ways to use Google as a muse to gain insight into what others are searching for as well as insight into the industry you are considering entering.
We talked about how competition can be a very good thing and how it should not dissuade you from entering a market. To drive this home I gave you some things to spur you on and a formula that will eventually give you a foothold into just about any topic:
- Social media marketing (SMM)
- Long tail keywords (LTK)
- High-quality content (HQC)
- Competitive Collaboration (CC)
- SMM + LTK + HQC + CC + Time = Ranking for high-competition keywords
I had you get a Google account so that you could dig deeper into Google using one of the many Google tools at your disposal; the Google Keyword Planner.
Using this tool will provide the fertilizer your mind needs with the context of the brainstorming you’ve done to get at some of those topics you might not have thought about.
Another tool I covered with you was Amazon.com. This commercial behemoth is a veritable gold mine not only for ideas, but to understand what people just like you are looking for because nothing they are doing is by accident.
Finally, I took you through some other potential sources just in case you were stuck and discussed ways to eliminate the blocks that often plague us when we are in unfamiliar territory.
I explained to you why it’s so important to start tightly focused and how it’s easier to broaden over time than it is too narrow a focus that’s too broad. We covered how it’s important that your visitors and the search engines understand what your site is about, and that authority is a good thing to have in the eyes of both, and that even small sites can achieve authority status.
I guided you through refining your ideas in the various lists you created down to exactly five ideas that meet specific criteria so that you were left with the best five out of the bunch.
Finally, you chose your niche. The cream of your “idea crop”. I also touched briefly on how you can begin to broaden your niche over time and why it’s important to think laterally.
By now you should have a pretty solid niche that you can start to leverage. This topic is going to become the basis of the next decision that you have to make, choosing your hosting provider/partner.
I’ll walk you through those shortly.
Take the time to ask me any questions you want. I've tried to answer many of the common questions about finding a niche, though I'm sure have more.
I’d also like to know any comments or thoughts you have as well.
You must get used to the idea of being fearless, so don’t be shy, ask!