Here I want to expand on the areas of niche selection, keyword research and competition evaluation. Selecting a niche is an extremely important part of the process so this is where we start…
The problem, you are not sure whether your choice of topic will draw enough interested people to your blog or website. Maybe you have a few ideas but procrastinate because you cannot make that final decision. This is a difficult part of the process that of getting a site online, after all building around the wrong topic or one that is too huge could make or break you.
How do you choose a topic if you have no idea? You do some research that is how. The subject of this post can be useful information for those of you who are not sure whether your subject will draw enough interested people this might help validate your choice of blog topic. Certainly the following procedure is valuable for those of us who would like more ideas and those who would like to venture into the realms of earning some cash through our new website or blog.
Choosing the Topic
Begin with yourself. Start by making a list of what hobbies you have and your interests or concerns with the things that touch your life. Then head over to the places below to find what is popular out there and add your findings to this list. Choose more of those topics that fit within your previously listed items or use it to stimulate new ideas or drill down to find a perfect little niche spot for yourself.
- Magazines: Check out the magazine stand at your local book store or newsagent, note the magazine topics. It there is a magazine for a particular topic you can bet it is in demand because magazines are supported by advertisers and they only do this if they are making money, they are not going to waste money on subjects/markets that have no buyers.
- Forums: Check out the forums for what people are concerned with. This is particularly great for post ideas on your topic later on.
- Ebay pulse: Popular searches and larger stores – most watched items.
- Shopping.com top searches: Search around each topic and see what comes up.
- Google Zeitgeist: This is more about global trends, what people are thinking about in the here and now and it might not suit you, but you could find some gems in there to build a site around.
- Amazon: Head over to Amazon and browse the book and magazine section. Look through the ‘Dummies’ books to see if there is one for any topics you are interested in. Again as with magazines, the Dummies books are popular for a reason… enough people want the information from them. Sort the books by popularity to see what is moving quickly.
With your broad niche list in hand you will now drill down to more manageable sub-niches and validate your choices in the next section through the Google Adwords tool and Google Insights.
What is your objective? What are you trying to do? Build a reputation – product information – entertain – communicate or entertain – revenue, it is important that you get this clear in your mind from the start.
To begin you will use Google Adwords keyword tool for the keyword research. You will be searching for post ideas if you have a blog or site already, or searching for a suitable sub-niche on which to build a site. By suitable I mean one that you think you might enjoy working with, one that has enough searches and is not too competitive so that you can get your site to the first page within a reasonable time.
A few points to keep in mind as you do your research. You have to determine whether the keywords are worthwhile in that is there a demand for the topic. Ensure the keywords are 100% relevant to your niche and that you can write content around them.
It is important to work out if there is a chance you can compete? There is no point in going after a ‘broad’ topic and find yourself trying to compete with huge competitors, for instance insurance and medical; those broad topics will be out of your reach so it is better to niche down.
Focused on a smaller part of a large broad market. Let’s take the Dog Training market it is huge and very competitive so you would want to drill down to a sub-niche of that market which would give you a better chance to rank well. As an example you could choose…
- Dog training equipment
- Dog obedience classes
- House training dogs
Provided these have enough daily searches of at least 100. The higher the search volume the better but this has to be balanced with your ability to rank well with a new site in a competitive world, more on that later.
To start researching your keywords go to https://adwords.google.com/o/KeywordTool
Or you can sign up for a Google Adwords account. It is free to sign up and free to use for general searches.
The advantageous of having a Google adwords account are thus, you will be offered more search results to work with when you are logged into your account and you will have access to the CPC information which is not available to users of the general keyword tool. CPC is valuable to those who are considering Google Adsense as a means to monetize their site.
Go to http://google.com/adwords to sign up for your account.
It is a very straightforward and self explanatory procedure, just follow the instructions by clicking the button which best describes you. If you already use Google services like Gmail then you will click the corresponding radio button, if you don’t then click ‘I do not use these other services’ and you will be prompted to create a Google account to use with Adwords.
Using the Google Keyword Tool – What to Look For
- Customize the Columns for what you want displayed [Columns is on the right just above Search Terms]
- global monthly searches.
- CPC [cost per click].
- Set to All Countries and English – under Advanced Options and Filters.
- Filter your results by exact searches.
We want to generate a number of keywords we can use to get the site up and running.
A word about searches, if you choose a keyword with say 12000 global monthly searches this will result in approximately 400 searches per day. However that number of searches will be distributed among all the sites on the first page of the search results with the #1 ranked website receiving about 42% of the clicks. Positions one two and three take the majority of the searches and it progressively decreases the further down the page you sit. So your site sitting at number one with a keyword of 400 searches each day you will only receive 168 searches.
The 42% is an estimate of the potential of what you will receive if you rank number one, but remember not everyone will click on the first result.
CPC [cost per click] is the value of the keyword. It is what people are willing to pay for the keyword and people are going to spend more for keywords that bring them buyers.
If you are going to monetize through Adsense you should aim for a minimum of 50cents but better still $1 in the CPC column.
You need to filter those keywords; you want enough traffic but don’t want to go for keywords that are over competitive if you want to rank well quickly. If you are prepared to wait and promote the hell out of your site then go for more competitive keywords. I wouldn’t at first, but then I am a cautious person.
A strategy you might want to use comes from Gregory Ciotti of SparringMind and that is to limit your keyword to maximum of 10k exact searches per month to ensure high rankings within a reasonably short time.
More about Google keyword search here. For now let us have a look at competition.
How Crazy is the Competition – Is There a Chance for Me?
Once you have found some keywords to play with you need to check out the competition to see if you actually have a chance to rank for the keywords you are considering. Don’t be put off by competition but ask yourself what is achievable. You will check the sites on the first page because really these are the sites that you are up against.
To help with this install the SEO toolbar from SEOMoz. Go to http://www.seomoz.org/tools
Enter your keyword in Google search to see the ranking strength of sites on the first page. What you will be looking for are pages in the top ten results that have the following metrics… low DA [domain authority] and low PA [page authority].
This is a good indication of the ranking success of sites and according to Rand FishKin of SEOmoz you can use these to make comparisons about how powerful the link metrics are around a page, or to determine how strong or authoritative the page or domain is.
A low DA and PA indicate a low authority site. To learn more about this here is a link to SEOmoz and their video explaining the ins and outs.
Also check out SpyFu.com where you can leverage people who are already working with the topic you are considering and have a look at what keywords they are using. Alexa.com here you can type in a competitors name and get information such as age, keywords and demographics.
To validate Your Findings – Go to Google Insights
Look at Google Insights for search to verify search volume. You put multiple keywords under Search Terms and what it will do is give you a comparison graph. Keep in mind this is an estimate but if you are deliberating between a few keywords this can help tip the balance.
Look for the following…
- Top keywords or those that are climbing or stable.
- Make a comparison between keywords.
- Target countries, states where the keyword is the most popular.
- Also this is a cool tool to gauge interest over time and for post ideas for your blog or site by checking what people are searching for.
Lastly a note about commercial value, this means the value of keywords that people are using when they are leaning towards buying. Here is a link to a free tool onlinecommercialintent.com to check the commercial value of a keyword you are considering.
Market Samurai is also a good tool for determining commercial value.
Here are a few helpful tools that I own myself and have found them to be useful for researching topic and keywords. They cost but you can get a trial run to determine whether or not they are for you. The three listed below are affiliate links.
Market Samurai: This software is worth a look as it automates a lot of the keyword research, commercial value of a keyword and competition analysis. You can download a free trial of Market Samurai. After the trial period you can go on using it for keyword research, but if you want continue with its other functions you will have to upgrade once the trial has ended.
Micro Niche Finder: This is another great tool for niche research it also has a domain avaliability section where you can see at a glance whether you can get a .com, .net or a .org domain.
Traffic Travis: An easy to use tool with a plethora of features pertaining to PPC, page and SEO Analysis as well as keyword and search engine tools.