Are niche sites dead? After the recent Google updates, does it still make sense to build a site around a single specific keywords like “Halloween costumes for kids” or “post-pregnancy workout?”
In the last two years, niche sites have been heavily targeted by Google, mainly because of their low quality: ugly templates, no more than 5 spun articles of content, and tons of poor quality backlinks were common features. They were called MFAs, or made for Adsense, and many webmasters actually wanted their users to be repelled by their sites, so that they would click back via an ad.
What about now then? Niche sites are not dead and can still be a viable source of passive income, but a few things have changed. In this three-post series we’ll explain how to build a niche site and make it rank in Google in the post-Panda and Penguin world. We suggest you start with one, and then lather, rinse repeat. Here is a breakdown of the single steps:
What’s in a keyword?
A good keyword has high potential, which means (relatively) high volume of traffic with (relatively) low competition. Finding a good keyword is the first and most important step, and I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to do your homework with diligence. I’ve seen many niche site projects fail because of people being too eager to start a website first, and see what happens later.
Finding keyword ideas
Finding the right keyword is a mix of science and art. The first thing to look at is the volume of searches per month, as there is no point in ranking number one for a term that nobody is interested in.
Can it be monetized?
To find that out, the Google Adwords Keyword tool is still the best free resource you can have. If you’re willing to pay to speed up the process however, Market Samurai or Long Tail Pro are two very solid options. The first is a desktop application, the latter is an online tool, and they can pull a comprehensive list of terms from a seed keyword, complete with search volumes.
Whichever tool you decide to use, here are three basic rules to follow:
- A minimum of 2000 exact global searches per month is what you should aim for, but you can set a higher starting number, 3000 per month for example. In doing that, you will likely make the research a bit longer but you will end up with keywords with higher potential.
- Always go for “exact” match type, as opposed to “broad.” It’s literally just about ticking one box instead of the other, but it will make the difference between real and useless values
- Also, keywords should be phrases of at least two or three words, as they are normally much easier to rank for than one-word terms.
The art of finding inspiration for keyword ideas. What terms should you paste in the keyword research tool? This is the point where building niche sites become a sort of art. The first go-to places would be Amazon or Ebay, where stuff is actually sold, and if you search for the best sellers in each category, you can start getting an idea of what a popular keyword is like.
However, that’s just the beginning. Remember: good profitable keywords can be hidden everywhere, and the best place to hide something is often in front of your own eyes. So look around right now, and make a list of all the objects you see: your next niche site might be right there. Once you get into search mode, you’ll find yourself more aware of the things surrounding you, as they can turn out to be a good topic.
Can it be monetized? Once you have found suitable candidates, you want to check if the keyword has commercial potential: is it sold online on Amazon, Ebay, or other affiliate programs? Do ads appear in the search results? It’s a quick check that can save you time and disappointment at a later stage, as there is no point in getting to number one in Google for a term, just to find out that there is no meaningful market behind.