NOTE: THE TEXT BELOW IS NOT A TRANSCRIPT OF THE VIDEO. The coaching call and the accompanying blog post are separate resources to teach you how I make money with niche sites. And that’s how the rest of the weekly posts in this series are going to be. In the blog post itself, I’ll be sharing my thoughts to help guide Sanjeev (and our readers), while the video coaching calls will show how he is applying the ideas I’m sharing with him. We share EVERYTHING in the videos (domain name, keywords, etc), so be sure to watch the actual coaching calls and read the blog posts to get as much out of this project as you can.
Niche Site Grind 1 links…
Okay, so our niche site project – Niche Site Grind 1 – is officially underway, and now it’s time for Sanjeev to pick a product on Amazon around which he will build his niche site.
Since this whole project is geared more toward “entry-level” niche site marketers (aka beginners), let’s start out with the most basic questions, and then jump into choosing products on Amazon.
What Exactly Is A Niche?
A niche can be defined in different ways by different marketers, but for our purposes here today, I’m just going to define a niche as a narrowly-defined topic or product. “Camping” is not really a niche (way too broad), but “camp sites in Northern California” would be considered a niche.
In terms of products, for example: “knives” would be too broad to be considered a niche, but “best survival knives” would be a niche.
What Exactly Is A Niche Site?
So then, in a similar way, a niche website is a site that focuses in on a narrowly-defined topic or product. A website about camping is not a niche site, but a website about camping stoves would be.
NOTE: A big, site about camping could start out as a small niche site about camping stoves, and then over time it could expand to cover other camping products and related topics. In time, it could even grow into a very large, authoritative site that covers all aspects of camping. We want to keep that in mind, but for now we are focusing on just one little niche product.
A few years ago, the term niche site usually referred to very small, spammy websites with short, garbage articles that offered little value to the reader. In fact, many niche site marketers INTENTIONALLY dumbed down or watered down their content in order to push readers to click on their ads and affiliate links to go find the REAL answers they were searching for when they came to the site.
But we are not creating sites like that.
Those are basically just spam sites, but the niche sites that we are trying to build offer real value to the reader. We want to go more in-depth and provide tons of information to our readers. They have questions, and we want to provide adequate answers. They have problems, and we want to provide helpful solutions.
So for us, a niche site is a relatively small website that is super-focused on a particular type of product, but we are not building an e-commerce site. We aren’t just putting up short product descriptions and photos and “Buy Now” buttons. We are providing a service to our site visitors. We’re putting in the hours to research these products, to sort out the good products from the junk products, and we are presenting our findings to our visitors to help them make informed purchasing decisions.
In short, we’re trying to help them find what they’re looking for, and we don’t want them to feel ripped off in any way. We want them to come back to our site time and again for more info and hopefully more purchases through our links.
Okay, so now that we’ve covered that, let’s get down to business and choose a product for our niche site.
Choosing Amazon Products For Niche Sites
In the last coaching call with Sanjeev – Coaching Call 1 – I laid out some guidelines to help him focus in on a product to build his site around. Now, there are many, many ways to decide what products to market with niche sites, and I’m not claiming that my way is the best way out there. But my way has enabled me to actually build up a steady little stream of passive income, and Sanjeev has asked me to share how I do it, so here we go with Coaching Call 2…
UPDATE: I’m sorry, folks. We had all kinds of technical difficulties with this call. The screen capture stopped recording properly early in the call, so most of this coaching call is audio only. We will continue the process in the next call, so hopefully we’ll get the visual problems worked out so you can see what we are looking at on our computer screens and talking about during the call. Still, the audio came through okay, and I think you’ll find some value in listening to it like it’s a “podcast”…
Choosing Amazon Products For Niche Sites…
Here are some things I look for in a product for my niche sites…
- PERSONAL INTEREST (HELPFUL BUT OPTIONAL)
- PRACTICAL / USEFUL
- COLLECTIBLE (MULTIPLE PURCHASES OVER TIME)
- COOLNESS FACTOR & SUBCULTURE
- SEVERAL BRANDS & MODELS
- GOOD CUSTOMER REVIEWS
- RELATED PRODUCTS & ACCESSORIES
- POTENTIAL FOR LONGFORM/HOW-TO CONTENT
- NOT TOO COMPETITIVE / MAINSTREAM
1. Choose A Product You Are Familiar With Or Interested In
It definitely helps to choose a product and niche that you are already familiar with. It will make content creation much faster and much more enjoyable – and potentially more valuable to your readers, as it will have in-depth information from an insider and not just basic info you found on Google. It will also put you in a great position to build out that site into an authority site later on.
But you don’t actually need to know about the product in order to create a niche site on it. If you at least find the product to be interesting and something you’ll enjoy researching and writing about – and perhaps purchasing yourself – then that will help you a lot.
For two of my best niche sites, I had zero personal experience or knowledge about the topics when I first started those sites. Because of this, I ended up relying more on outsourced content to get some momentum going, and now those sites are doing just fine and earning me $50-$100 per month on average (and several times that amount at Christmas time).
For one of the sites, I eventually bought several of the products myself and learned to use them and made some friends with other folks who use them too, so I ended up writing most of the content for that site. But initially, I was completely ignorant. I just saw it on Amazon and thought it looked cool, so I started the niche site and outsourced some articles to freelance writers.
Again, though, this is not a deal-breaker. You can choose a product that you’re not interested in at all. But that just means you’ll need to be more disciplined to write articles about it, or it means you’ll need to spend some money to hire others to write those articles for you.
Now, there may eventually come a time when that approach just won’t be good enough to rank in the search engines and get free traffic from them. At some point in the future, content that is not written by experts or insiders just won’t cut it. But here in early 2016, it’s still working pretty well for me. We’ll talk more about WHY it still works in a later post in this niche site project.
2. Choose A Product That Is Useful Or Practical
I’ve had good results marketing products that provide some kind of usefulness to the customer. These products aren’t just there to look at; people pick them up and use them or play around with them or whatever. These might include things like sporting goods, garden tools, automotive tools, woodworking tools, toys, art supplies, kitchen utensils, kitchen appliances, camping equipment, exercise equipment, photo and video equipment, etc.
They don’t necessarily have to be items that people use every single day. And they don’t have to be boring, either. Sanjeev mentioned that he made a niche site about pressure washers. Yes, pressure washers are definitely useful tools that people can use often, and there is plenty of money in that niche (and plenty of competition too). But writing about pressure washers can also get pretty boring, making it hard to create enough content to make a decent income.
3. Choose A Product That People Like To Collect
Now, we aren’t talking about collecting in the usual sense of the word. I don’t mean things like baseball cards, vintage toys and comic books. If you want to make a niche site on those things, you had better know the subject matter really well, or nobody in those niches will ever trust your site or come back to it in the future.
What I mean is that people buy many of these products over time, perhaps even during a single purchase. Spencer Haws’ Niche Site Project 1 on NichePursuits is a great example of this. He built a website about survival knives. Survival knives have practical value as tools (see point #2 above), but they are also quite collectible – in the sense that we are discussing here. Nobody buys knives on Amazon and puts them in display cases or anything, but people who are really into knives don’t just buy one. A lot of people like to build up a collection of survival knives of all shapes and sizes.
Sure, when you’re out in the wilderness on a 10-day hiking trip, you don’t need 20 survival knives, but people still own 20 survival knives simply because they BIG KNIVES ARE COOL and because they enjoy collecting them.
4. Choose A Cool Product With A Subculture Around It
When people come to your website about pressure washers, it’s not likely that they’re going to link to your articles to share with all their friends. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you probably don’t see too many active Facebook groups about pressure washers.
There’s just nothing cool or collectible about pressure washers.
But build a niche site about survival knives and make the content really good, and you’ll find it a lot easier to get organic links and social shares. That’s because there is an active subculture around survival knives and related products. There are blogs and books and movies and even brick-and-mortar retail stores devoted to the survivalist niche, so again, what a great choice Spencer made choosing that product for his niche site. Survival knives are pretty cool.
5. Choose A Product That Is Evergreen
For my niche sites, I avoid trendy products.
Since I don’t build backlinks or spend much time on promotion, it takes my niche sites a year or two to get them up into that $50/month range in earnings. So there’s no way I could make this work with trending products that are going to lose popularity overnight.
If you want to pursue trendy products, you’re going to have to put in a lot of work on promotion so that you can rank your site and get traffic quickly. But as I mentioned before, I don’t know how to do that kind of stuff, nor do I want to spend my time, resources and energy on that.
With a content-heavy strategy like mine, you need to stick with evergreen products and have more of a long-term perspective.
6. Choose A Product That Has Several Brands And Models Available
My most successful niche sites have 30-60 articles on them, and they cover a variety of brands and models. There’s no way I could do that if there was only one brand or a handful of models selling on Amazon. There’s only so much you can say about one particular product model.
So I recommend looking for a product for which there are at least 5-10 distinct brands on Amazon, all of them selling several different models each. If you can find a niche/product with 5 major brands selling 10 different product models, then you have at least 50 potential review articles right there. You can build a pretty extensive niche site in a niche like that, and when you start considering related products too, you might even have the potential for a larger authority site down the road.
7. Choose A Product With Good Customer Reviews
As you’re browsing through products on Amazon, pay attention to the ratings and reviews that customers are giving those products. Ideally, you’ll want your niche site to feature products with 4- and 5-star ratings and LOTS of reviews.
If you come across a line of products that simply has no reviews yet, then that’s a good indication that nobody is buying those products. You should probably choose something else.
Also, be aware that many products will have fake reviews on them, either fake reviews that the seller hired someone to post for them, or fake reviews that their competition hired someone to post for them. This is usually done on a small scale, though, so if you find a product with a handful of 5-star reviews, be a little suspicious. Look instead for products with dozens or hundreds of reviews on them. When you see a lot of reviews like that – especially recent reviews — then you know that these are products that people are buying.
8. Choose A Niche That Also Contains Related Products & Accessories For Your Main Product
Now, I haven’t really exploited this approach with my own niche sites, and I’ll talk more about that when we get to Coaching Call 3 next week (I made some mistakes early on that limited my growth potential). But it’s something I’m looking into for my future projects, and it’s something I want you to keep in mind when building your own niche sites.
When choosing your main product, it can be really helpful if there are also related products for sale on Amazon. And not just related products in that niche, but accessories for your own main product as well.
Darren Rowse of Problogger has talked about this in regards to his digital photography site, so please go read his thoughts there, particularly point #6 about related products. But the idea is that you want to choose a main product for which you can also market a variety of accessories and replacement parts.
For a site about digital SLR cameras, readers would also be interested in buying lenses, tripods, filters, spare batteries, battery grips, flashes, filters, lens cleaning supplies, etc.
For survival knives, readers might also be interested in sheaths, sharpening stones, rubbing oils, lanyards, paracord wraps, handle scales, etc.
If you’re not familiar with the product, you might not know enough to even think about accessories, but Amazon can help you with that. Look carefully at the “Customers who bought this also viewed…” section in the Amazon listing. Also, read some of their customer reviews and also scroll down and read through the questions and answers section in the product listings for additional ideas.
9. Choose Products That Have A Lot Of “How-To” Article Potential
While our niche sites are going to be focused on specific products for sale on Amazon, we don’t want the sites to be composed entirely of product reviews. We also want to give a lot of informational content, not only to give search engines a lot to bite into, but also just to be helpful to our visitors on the site and to attract organic links and social shares.
So when considering a product, think about whether this is a product that you could also write informational articles about. You might even do some quick searches on Google or Bing to see if there are already “How-To” articles about these products. If you can find a lot of information out there, then that’s probably a good thing. It shows that there’s a lot to be said about these products.
Of course, if there’s already a lot of content out there about the products, then that can also work against you, making it harder for your niche site to rank against those other websites. But even if competition is strong, there may be room for us to get in there and grab some long-tail keyword traffic.
10. Choose A Product That Isn’t Too Mainstream
Another point to consider that goes hand-in-hand with the “subculture” idea above is that the products we’re looking at are not exactly mainstream. Mainstream products are everywhere, and the competition from e-commerce sites and authority sites is fierce. There’s no way we’re going to make money with a niche site about iPhones or Nike shoes – way too mainstream, way too popular and way too competitive.
That’s why we want a product that you won’t find advertised on television or in large, pop-culture magazines. We don’t want a product that is so popular that everybody is talking about it.
If everyone knows about your product and already owns one or plans on getting one, chance are that niche is too competitive for you to make any money with a brand new, small niche site. But if most people walking down the street have never heard of your product, then it’s going to be a lot easier to rank and get some traffic and sales.
So how do you know where to draw the line between a product that is not too popular but that is also something that is selling and has decent profit potential? I think a decent way to judge that is by looking at the number of monthly searches in Google Adwords Keyword Planner, probably something in the 5,000 to 10,000 range is good (exact, US).
We’ll go into more detail with keywords next time.
For those who are unfamiliar with the GAKP, here’s a video I found that will help you learn how to use it. It’s a free tool by Google. You need to create a Google AdWords account, but you don’t need to actually buy Google ads to use the Keyword Planner.
<GAKP VIDEO ON YOUTUBE>
Follow Up Email To Sanjeev…
So how is the product-choosing process going? Do you feel good about choosing one or more of the products we looked at in Coaching Call 2?
As I was thinking back about the call, I realized that I should clarify something.
When we plug in our main keyword to Google and look at the competition, we don’t need to be scared away if we only see big authoritative blogs and ecommerce sites on the front page. Spencer [of nichepursuits.com] might not go with a niche with competition like that, but we don’t have to worry so much, because we aren’t trying to earn $500-$1,000 per month with this niche site like he is. Since our goal is to earn $50/month, we don’t need to rank on the front page for our main product keyword. In fact, we don’t really even need to rank on the first two or three pages to make $50. Our traffic will mostly come from longtail keywords, and ecommerce sites don’t normally rank too well for those, because they are thin on content and usually only give their visitors a short product description, photo and price tag.
The reason we were looking at our competition on the first page or two of search results is that we want to see if there are any easy openings. If we see niche sites, blogs, forums or Q&A sites ranking on the first page for the main product keyword, then that shows us that the competition is not too strong and we’ll have an easier time ranking. But even if we only see ecommerce sites, we can still go after that niche — as long as there’s plenty of longtail potential, how-to content potential, or personal interest/knowledge about the topic (so that our content can provide greater depth, written by an insider).
So I felt like I didn’t explain that very well in the video.
I hope that helps.
- UP NEXT: COACHING CALL 3: Sanjeev Chooses His Niche/Product