How I Chose a Niche for My Authority Site

The following is part of an ongoing series, The One Hour Authority Site Project. If you’d like to read more about it then click here!

One Hour Authority Site Project: How I Chose My NicheIt has been just over three weeks since I launched my new authority site.

So far I have chosen my niche, created and optimized my blog for onsite SEO, and written 26 articles. Including setup time, I have probably spent around 20 hours on the site. And as you can no doubt guess from the title of my project, I intend to spend an hour every weekday working on the site for the foreseeable future.

As you will know if you read my first post in this case study series, I plan to document just about everything relating to this project here on Leaving Work Behind. I will reveal my process in its entirety, and share all my successes and failures. I plan for the site to be a long term income stream for my business, and if I can achieve that, I hope that these posts can help you do something very similar.

With all of that said, today I want to focus on an extremely important part of the process — how I chose my niche.

A Recap

But before I get onto that, I want to elaborate on why I am doing what I am doing — the motivation behind this project.

This is an experiment. I do hope that it will become a viable part of my business, but I have not entered into this project with wild expectations. This post series is a case study, rather than a “How To” — I wouldn’t want you to think that I am endorsing my methods as a successful system (because I am not). Only time will tell on that front.

I view this whole project as the equivalent of Google’s 20% time:

Google's 20% Time

…just without the 60 hour workweek.

I typically work around 7 hours per day (not including social media and emailing). Most of that time is spent either on freelance writing, or other income-generating projects such as this blog, or my upcoming freelance blogging guide. I like the idea of taking a 15% (i.e. one hour) chunk out of my day to work on something purely speculative.

It’s a hobby of sorts, in the same vein as my original niche site that I started way back in May 2011. I’m not concerning myself with rankings or income — I’m just following a plan, and observing the results. As I said in the first post, I do have plenty of interesting ideas relating to this site (many of which have nothing to do with Google), but my focus is very much on the present.

So with all of the above said, I would love for you to join me on this journey and try something similar, but only with an understanding of what you’re getting into.

Site Update

There is very little to report since last week’s initial post regarding this project. Market Samurai’s rank tracking feature (which updates once per week) showed some rotation and movement amongst long tail keywords, but nothing exciting:

Authority Site Rankings

Traffic to the site is almost completely non-existent, but I am sure that will change in time. The site is indexed, and Google is seeing my pages and ranking them — that’s all I need for the time being.

The fact is, I don’t think many internet marketers have a great deal of respect for Google’s algorithms. A lot of people get very impatient if their site isn’t ranked after a matter of days or weeks. I used to be one such person.

But the fact is, my site is brand new, and my domain is brand new. I have appeared out of nowhere and started producing content regularly. For all Google knows, I might just as easily disappear tomorrow.

Whilst I would say that the content on my site is of a higher quality and more informative than the majority of what is currently on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for the keywords I am targeting, I don’t think I warrant a spot there (yet). I’m a complete newcomer to the niche.

So that’s all the news I have for you at the moment. With that said, let’s take a few steps back in time and explore how I chose my niche in the first place.

How I Chose My Niche

It is an unfortunate necessity that I must not reveal the identity of my website. There are plenty of people out there who would only be too happy to scrape my content, copy my ideas, and generally be complete assholes. For the 99% of you who wouldn’t do that, I apologize for not being able to reveal more.

So, my mystery niche does put a slight limitation on how I can explain my process — but only slight. It may in fact be beneficial that you are not led by my choice of niche, as I have picked something very personal to me. It probably wouldn’t be a good niche for you at all.

There were basically five things I had in mind whilst I was picking and considering my niche. Let’s go through each in turn.

1. It Had to Be Personal

The niche had to be something I knew about — something I had experience in. It needed to be something that I could write endlessly about, and with relative ease. And it needed to be an information based niche — a niche in which I could write content based upon opinion, rather than research (because research-based content takes an age to create). Think Q&A style content, and you wouldn’t be far off.

You’re probably getting the idea here. I picked a passion — something that I wouldn’t get bored of in a hurry. We all have them — there is not a single person reading this who couldn’t think of something.

2. It Had to Be Broad and Specific

I also wanted to find a niche that is big enough so that I would never run out of inspiration, but tight enough so that the blog would have a clear singular focus. Here are a few examples:

Too Broad
Perfect
Too Specific
SportBaseballHow to Pitch
Health & ExerciseHome Cooking Tips & RecipesVegan Lunch Recipes
The ArtsActing for BeginnersHow to Get Auditions

I found a niche that sits in that middle ground really nicely. It is part of an absolutely enormous market, but it is clearly delineated, and a huge topic in its own right. Perfect.

3. It Had to Be Evergreen

Since my strategy is massively content-driven, I had to find a niche for which I could write content that would stand the test of time.

Say for instance I had started a blog on Hollywood movies. The problem with such a niche is that most people are only interested in new movies. As a general and relative rule, interest in movies wanes massively as they age.

Each article I write has to stand alone as a traffic generating cog in the engine that is my blog. And that means that my niche focus must be on evergreen information.

4. It Had to Be Monetizable

When I was picking my niche, I was rather on the fence about the topic of monetization. Of course, being able to make money out of the site is ultimately my number one priority, but you can make money out of any site if you generate enough traffic.

Having said that, it is a damn sight easier to make money if you pick a niche that is particularly commercial. In adjudging commerciality, I considered simple desire. Had I picked a niche where people had a burning desire?

Consider the example niches above. I think that they are all monetizable, in their own ways, and would rank their “commerciality” (based upon desire) as follows:

  1. Acting for Beginners
  2. Home Cooking Tips & Recipes
  3. Baseball

The problem is that judging commerciality is really tough. For instance, there are no shortage of people out there who really want to make it as actors or actresses, but perhaps those people generally don’t have much of a disposable income, and might be unwilling to part with their money.

On the flipside, whilst few people have a real burning desire to be a good home cook in the same way that someone wants to be an actor, there are perhaps more homemakers out there with the kind of disposable income available to spend on related products.

Ultimately, I think you can second guess commerciality and spend weeks (or months) procrastinating. If you just pick something and get on with it, you may get it wrong, but then at least you’ll spend those weeks and months taking action and learning a lot.

Finally, I considered different methods of monetization, namely:

  1. Advertising
  2. Affiliate marketing
  3. Product creation
  4. Membership site

I decided that my niche could support any or all of those monetization methods, which was certainly encouraging.

5. Competition Didn’t Matter

This may rank as perhaps the most controversial step in my niche selection process — I basically didn’t consider competition. For the purposes of picking my niche, I wasn’t particularly interested in it a factor.

Why? Because my strategy is centered around three things:

  1. Creating an enormous amount of quality content
  2. A focus on highly specific long tail keywords (for which there is less competition)
  3. A longer term strategy that doesn’t just focus on Google

Nearly anyone can make inroads into any niche. Just look at Leaving Work Behind. I had barely even read a blog about 15 months ago, and yet I’ve built up my own little corner of the web in what is an incredibly crowded niche (making money online) in that time.

Competition is overrated (tweet this) — just be consistently better than the competition over an extended period of time.

What Next?

That’s it folks — the process I went through in order to pick my niche! It may sound quite involved, but it was in fact a pretty easy decision for me — it was more confirming that my decision felt right that took the time.

In the next post in this series, I am going to focus on how I created my site, and the onsite optimization methods I employed (and employ) to make sure that there is a clear path between my content and the search engine results pages.

In the meantime, I’d love to get your feedback on the process I have described above. Do you agree with my approach, or do you think I’ve got it all wrong? Let us know in the comments section!

Creative Commons image courtesy of basheertome

Comments

  1. says

    I don’t know. I have issues with “niches”. My life and thoughts are so much more complex than a single subject, and I find it difficult to limit myself to one topic. How do you solve the problem of repetitiveness, especially if you’re focusing on evergreen content? There MUST be a limited amount of things you can write about any single topic.

    Just some thoughts that popped in my mind as I read your otherwise helpful post. Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      Hey Anabelle,

      The idea is you’re not building a site based upon your life and thoughts — that would be a personal blog ;)

      There is of course a limit, but if you pick a suitably broad niche and know enough about it, you should be able to write for a very long time. Steve Pavlina has been blogging about personal development for seven years…

      Cheers,

      Tom

  2. says

    Great process here on finding a great topic to blog about. I do have to disagree with you on one slight thing here – I would NOT consider “baseball” to be a perfect-size niche. I would consider “how to pitch” a perfect size niche instead. Baseball is way too broad in my opinion – are you talking about baseball for players or baseball for fans? Even if you are only concentrating on baseball for players, it’s still a very broad topic. “How to Pitch” on the other hand is a much more concentrated topic but still has a big target market. A lot of young players are primarily pitchers because that position has a lot of action involved. So I’m sure many young players are specifically searching for pitching advice and coaching – and while a general baseball site may have that, it’s not tailored to them as much.

    Just my 2 cents…maybe it’s just a matter of preference.

    Thomas

    • says

      Hi Thomas,

      I agree with you — partially :)

      “Baseball” wasn’t my best example — perhaps “How to Play Baseball” would have been more appropriate. However, “How to Pitch” would be way too narrow, in my opinion. Could you write say 200 articles on how to pitch a baseball? Because that’s the direction we’re heading in here — an extremely content-heavy site.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  3. Charley says

    The process you’ve described above is a product of cleverness and I’m pretty sure you are building a profitable website with regard to your chosen niche. I neither followed the same steps nor accommodated the same considerations while selecting my niche for my latest site. I had predetermined my primary income source, and it was Adsense, so I concentrated on lucrative keywords (CPC-wise) and keywords with decent search volumes. I also considered competition as well and ended up choosing a satisfying keyword which of course is representative of my niche.

    Thanks for sharing and looking forward to more updates.

    • says

      Hi Charley,

      That’s very much the tried-and-tested “traditional” way of building AdSense sites, so you’re in good company there. This is a completely different approach — an experiment — so it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out in comparison!

      Cheers,

      Tom

  4. says

    Thanks for sharing, I am really enjoying seeing this project unfold and so far as I can tell it looks to me like it has great potential to make money. You have obviously put a lot of thought into it. It certainly is a different strategy to most, which may be one reason why I like it. I think you are possibly right that #5 Competition is probably the most controversial, but I can see how it will work in this instance. Not only are you working on the long tail but your passion for the subject will carry you through. Great Stuff, Cheers, Quinn

  5. Charley says

    I guess you are building an authoritative site, or at least a site that will be frequented by concerned information seekers, and a site that will have lots of direct visits, not only search engine referred visits. I’ll try that in the future, but in the meantime, niche sites will be my primary focus.

  6. says

    Selecting an ‘evergreen’ niche was a major factor for me when I recently opted to start a wine authority site over a specific mobile operating system authority site.

    Sure, the mobile O/S will be around for a few years to come, but the constant updates will frequently make my articles obsolete or require updating.

    Wine evolves at a much more leisurely pace :)

    Thanks Tom, and keep up the good work.

  7. says

    I might be the only one, but I think it would better to reveal your blog (that’s not because I want to see it, lol).

    I don’t think anyone could copy it. They might steal your content, but if anyone was in that niche they could do it anyway when they find it. They could take your ideas and I’d bet they would still fail.

    I think a website comes as a whole package. Not just your content and strategies, but the very essence of it. Something that can’t be copied.

    On the other hand you would get a lot of traffic to it. People sharing it, and the ability to add videos and use your reputation to secure good guest posts.

    That’s what I would do if it was only going to be a profitable business. Whereas you also want it to be a case study which is completely different.

    But good luck anyway, you’ve definitely came up with the right niche for you.

    • says

      Hi Jamie,

      You’re not the only one :)

      I am 99% sure that people would copy it. It happened to my first niche site. It happened to Pat Flynn’s Security Guard Training HQ site. It happened to Chris Ducker, and he ended up ending his case study series because of related problems.

      People sharing the site and sending traffic to it would actually be bad (in my opinion). The links would not be relevant to the niche, and the traffic would essentially “fabricated” — misleading, and not relevant to the case study.

      It’s definitely not a black and white argument, but I’ve set my stall out :)

      Cheers,

      Tom

      • says

        Haha, I kinda see what you’re saying now.

        I actually completely forgot about the low hanging fruit. That’s definitely a deal breaker.

        I think I don’t realize because I’m trying not to go with keywords and Google at the moment.

  8. says

    This is the way I’m thinking of this concept (for anyone who’s interested):

    You can think of search traffic as an upside down triangle. The width of the triangle is the amount of traffic you’ll receive for the keyword you’re ranked for. The vertical position on the downward-pointing-triangle is your ranking in Google. So if you’re ranked number one, you’ll be at the widest part (top), and you’ll be getting a lot of traffic. As you move towards the bottom, you get less and less traffic.

    You can think of big niches like “baseball” as being a HUGE triangle, so if you rank at the top you get a TON of traffic. But since it’s highly competitive, you probably won’t make it there. BUT, you can make up for that with a lot of smaller triangles (Tom’s evergreen articles). With enough articles that target smaller keywords, you can make up the same amount of traffic without ranking well for the bigger keyword.

    I apologize if this seems complicated… I’m an engineer, it’s what I do for a living. ;) This is just how I personally visualized this idea… it may or may not work for you.

    • says

      Makes sense Joel, and is certainly a valid way of explaining the process. The total sum of multiple long tail keywords equals the total sum of a far smaller collection of short tail keywords (in theory).

      The kicker is that if things go well, you can ultimately aim to rank for the short tail as well (once you’ve got a big authoritative site with lots of natural backlinks).

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