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Starting A Professional Blog – Qualifying Your Niche

In the previous blog niche post we created a long list of subjects that you might consider blogging about. Now we need to find the one subject on your list with the best chance of success.

Success Factors

So what do we mean by success in this context?

  1. Revenue – first the obvious one. This is a professional blog we are starting, not a personal blog. Primary concern must be to achieve a steady income either directly or indirectly. We need to investigate each subject area to see how much potential there is for generating cash. There are many bloggers who discovered they could make money by accident, we need to look at things a bit more carefully!
  2. Traffic – secondary but related to the first is traffic. Without a good flow of traffic you will not be able to generate a decent level of income. Low traffic means each visitor needs to produce more revenue individually, with high traffic you can make pennies off each visitor and still be comfortable. For traffic we need to look at how big the potential audience is and what level and type of competition you would face.
  3. Growth – you want a topic that is going to increase in value rather than an area that is in decline or that will build to a peak then disappear. Of course there are subject areas that benefit from monetization of archives, the so called “long tail” searches, but ideally you want to have many fresh new visitors coming in the front door. If there is potential for growth and you are willing to stick at it long term without much income you might decide the eventual upside offsets an initial low audience as you will be able to be one of the first and grow with the sector.
  4. Effort – each niche will differ in how much work is involved for you every day. There will be niches that require a lot of research to produce any reasonable output, others it will be a no-brain-er and it will just spill out from your brain onto your keyboard with zero effort. You might find a topic that involves no work on your part at all, you know just the right people to write your content for you for a share of the profits. If you can reduce your effort you have more chance of starting a second or a third blog, spreading the load and the risk. On the other hand you might decide that you should concentrate your efforts on one big pay day blog. This requires careful consideration.
  5. Leverage – some topics on their own will be small but have “leverage” potential. I dislike this word but I can’t think of a more appropriate one. What I mean is, take for example the subject of “digital photography”, you could then start a “photoshop” blog and take some of your audience with you, then start a “mac tips” blog and take some of that audience, and on and on. Does your niche have overlapping related audiences?
  6. Fringe Benefits – what are the indirect benefits of the niche? This could be any number of things. In the example above the photography blogger could start getting sent review items. If you blog about holidays or a niche with lots of conventions and exhibitions then travel is a legitimate business expense. Your niche might put you in contact with lots of celebrities or take you to loads of parties. Obviously none of these things will be possible right away, but once you have made a name for yourself and got a decent blog going who knows? This shouldn’t be a top priority but might tip the balance for two equally scored ideas.

Qualifying Your Niche

Go through your list with the above points in mind and knock out any obvious losers as you read down. A good way of doing this is to put your list into a spreadsheet and give each a score for each of the six success factors. Doing the list as a spreadsheet allows you to sum the scores and then sort by the total. Your list might not be that long or it might be obvious which is the winner already of course. Before you make your final decision, let’s take a look at how we can investigate the three important areas you need to research.

Audience

Does anyone but you care about the subject you are considering? You can usually bet that if you care someone else does but would there be sufficient audience to make a good income? Will this audience grow? How can you tell?

One way you can tell is by looking for blog community activity around the topic or the topics key words. Search favourite search engines and blog search for phrases and see how many results you get back. Look in particular for “_niche_ forum”, “_niche_ discussion”, “_niche_ blog” (replacing _niche_ with your topic). If people are discussing your subject area then that is a good sign.

Another check you can make is to use keyword tools such as Overture and Wordtracker. These tools tell you how many searches are performed for the phrases you enter. Overture only shows results for the searches across their network whereas Wordtracker estimates for all the popular search engines. By performing a few of these checks you will be able to see if information in your niche is in demand and what aspect of your niche drives the most traffic.

Competition

When you were doing searches above you will no doubt have discovered many sites in your niche. You do want some competition. A certain amount of competition shows there is a market for the information and possibly that there is some money to be made. As a blogger it is good to link out and reference things others are saying too so having good blogs in your niche makes your life a little easier.

What you want to do first is see if the niche is over crowded and see if you can make yourself heard. Is there a way you can create some elbow room and create your own unique space. We covered blog positioning before. Get a feel for how busy your sector is by performing some searches and see how many results come back. You might want to refine the search by using exact phrase matches, maybe also using allinanchor and allintitle if the results come back off-topic. Don’t be too frightened by massive numbers until you have done the next step.

You could find that although there are millions of web pages covering your topic, much of it is rubbish or the info is good but no one blog covers everything. Visit the sites and blogs you discover and take a good long look at them.

  • How easy were they to find in the search engines?
  • How usable are they?
  • Do they look good?
  • What is the writing like?
  • Do they produce original content?
  • Are they well connected? Check their inbound links in the search engines and on del.icio.us etc
  • Are the blogs well subscribed? Check bloglines
  • What is their Alexa rank?

Revenue Potential

As I said above, you need to know how much money potential there is in a niche. Investigate each potential source of revenue, the more revenue opportunities the better.

  • Adsense – take a look at competitors to see the sort of ads that are showing. Use the preview tool, or one of the many online ones. Take a look at the CashKeyWords reports to see how much you could get paid per click.
  • Chitika – again look at competitors but also use the search facility on the site to see what might appear based on your keywords (using their site to search doesn’t artificially inflate your own figures).
  • Amazon – Amazon is obviously a prime choice for book links but the site sells millions of products, there might be some other good products to reference?
  • Advertisers – looking over competitors you might be able to find advertisers to approach directly. Have a think of who would like to target your audience.
  • Sponsors – similar to advertising but more of a close relationship. Would you be able to find a sponsor that could help fund your blogging but without conflict of interest problems?
  • Affiliate – take a look in the popular affiliate networks such as CJ, etc. Find products that are a good match. Also look at the performance of the programs and the creative that is available. The more the merrier as some that look like good performers might not be on your blog so you will want to be able to switch out the duds.
  • Products – does the niche lend itself to products you can create? How easy would it be to write and market an ebook or audio?
  • Consulting – could you sell advice and expertise for the niche Are there already consultants you could sell leads to?
  • Courses – similar to consultancy and products, could you offer or sell leads for training courses?

Summary

I know many people have had a great success at choosing a topic purely by gut instinct or following what they are interested in. If you are getting a small voice saying “build it and they will come” then you might do well to follow the advice. My approach can be a little over-analytical sometimes, thankfully I have Nick who will give me a slap when necessary! I hope though I have given you some thoughts that will help narrow down your options and most of all make you feel confident in your choice so you can get started.. and getting started is the most important thing, right?

How did you approach choosing a niche? Would you take the same approach if you had your time over?

Author: Chris Garrett

Chris Garrett is a content marketing and blogging coach and co-author of the Problogger Book with Darren Rowse.

One thought on “Starting A Professional Blog – Qualifying Your Niche

  1. I’m going out on a limb and state yes! You can look at the Presidental race, black athletes, the justice system, etc. Racism is more organized, it’s not like the 50’s,60’s! Yes, I would say the situation has gotten better with time especially from the desegration of schools but for the most part it still existed. My quote “The Poorest White Man thinks he’s better than the Richest Black Man – has nothing to do with charater only skin color!”

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