So, you’re deciding on your next big project.
And you’ve come across that familiar crossroads:
- Should I start a blog on a niche topic that I love?
- Or should I blog about something that’s profitable?
I’ve been there all too many times. Even this blog itself took me years to finally start.
In fact, I’ve had this domain for many years now and it’s really done nothing but collect dust so far (LOL).
Please note: This post is properly formatted and a regurgitation of my thoughts. I promise future guides will be more organized and concise =]!
Did I scare you away yet?
What's in this guide?
Writing about what you like or writing about where the money’s at
On one hand, you’re probably contemplating if the topic you love:
- I don’t know if it’s even profitable
- Is there even a large enough evidence for it?
- The niche is way too specific and no one will ever find my blog
On the other hand, for the profitable topic, you’re probably thinking:
- I don’t know enough about the niche
- I think the niche sounds completely boring
- I don’t want to write hundreds of posts for something I don’t care about
Believe it or not, your points are totally valid.
I’ve probably started about 40 different websites now. And 100% of the time, this is always something I ask myself about. I read about SEO, niches, and the next “hot topic” in the industry to build a site around daily.
I also suffer from shiny object syndrome so I’m always building new sites, working on them for a few weeks, then just abandoning it altogether when I see the next shiny thing. It’s probably my worst enemy.
It’s a tradeoff, friend
When you’re deciding between something you actually enjoy and something that you have no interest in, you need to ask yourself a few questions to make a solid decision.
After all, we all only have 24 hours a day no matter who you are or what you do.
Thus, it’s a big decision. Especially if you plan to dedicate the next year or so of your free time writing about this niche. Taking some time to deep dive into the right niche to pursue may save you tons of time later on.
You don’t want to end up working on a site that you get bored with in a few months
You don’t want to write about something that you enjoy but end up with 20 visits per month
And you definitely don’t want to write about something that puts you into tears trying to push out another 3000 word post (I think many of you already know this feeling)
So you want to do your research now, no matter how painful it feels.
That’s the point of this tutorial- to teach you a few pointers I’ve picked up on choosing a topic for your next online business project.
Here are some things that may point you towards the right direction.
1. Writing about a topic you enjoy
“But I love metal-rim fish tanks!”
Okay, that’s great. But how many people actually will be searching for this monthly on Google? Is it enough to actually make a profit over? Do you WANT to make a profit from this website? Or are you just purely writing for fun?
That’s the kicker. If you’re just writing for fun and you never plan to make anything from it- then by all means, choose the passion project.
But, if you do plan to make money from your blog eventually (most of us here), you’ll want to make sure there’s an audience for it.
Sure, you could have the world’s best resource for metal-rim fish tanks, but why would it matter when there are only “0-10” people searching for it a month?
You’ve basically reached the entire audience already and plateaued.
You can’t take the website to the next level anymore. That’s it! You’ve hit the roof!
This means that you basically used up however many hours you put down to write all those posts, make the site look pretty, promote it, and whatever else you’ve done. And there’s no way to make the site better.
You’ve basically sold out the show and there’s no more space for a bigger stadium.
This is why you need a balance between writing about something you like and something that’s profitable.
The key to all this? Surely you love more than one thing, right =]?
If the first thing has no search volume, choose something else that you think you’ll enjoy writing about and check that. Then check another. Check all of ‘em and rank them by search volume. Then weigh how much you like writing about each particular topic. Then decide from there.
You can make a spreadsheet with columns like this:
- TOPIC – MONTHLY SEARCH VOLUME – HOW MUCH I LIKE IT (1-10 scale)
- This will make it much easier to see it all at a glance.
You’ll want to choose a topic that balances how much you like the niche that has a high search volume. Note that just because some topics have lots of searches does NOT mean it’s a profitable topic.
2. Writing about something for profit
The profitability of a niche depends on more factors than I can name, but here are a few:
- Availability of affiliate programs
- Advertisers bidding on keywords related to that niche
- Advertisers supply of sponsored posts or ad space
- How many commercial companies are in that niche
- Competition levels between the companies
- How many other websites already exist about that topic
- The amount of ad spend for that topic by advertisers
If you’re new to all this, this stuff may blow your mind. But search volume is just an indicator of how many times a keyword is searched monthly. After that, all of the above variables come into play to determine how profitable that niche is.
For example, the keyword “ball python” is searched at least 100K times per month. That’s a lot of volume.
But guess what? When someone searches that topic, the search results show a bunch of informational websites about ball pythons (breed information, habitat, care, etc.).
These sites have lower advertiser demand because people searching for these are just seeking info. They’re not BUYING anything. So why would advertisers waste their money on these searchers? Get it?
Now let’s try another keyword that’s very similar: “ball python for sale.” You can see this has lower search volume, but it’s a lot more profitable.
Why? It’s because people searching for this are BUYING ball pythons.
Advertisers know that these searchers are in a spending mood, and thus bid to have their ads show up on websites. If you plan to use display ads or sponsored posts, you need advertisers willing to bid on your site and place ads on there.
And you can be pretty sure that a website with a post about “what to look for when buying a ball python” will get MUCH more interest from advertisers than “ball python habitat.”
So this is an example of how search volume can be deceiving.
Sometimes sites about topics with lower volume can be more profitable than sites dealing with higher search volume. Of course, the content on the site is what really matters overall.
But choosing a niche that has a lot of BUYING power from the start will help you choose a profitable topic to start a blog about! Don’t corner yourself into something that’s not profitable or has no advertiser wars.
3. Will you get bored writing the content?
This is another big one to consider.
Are you actually planning to stick through dozens upon dozens of posts to make your site an authority in its niche? Do you know enough about the topic to actually write like an expert? Do you actually ENJOY writing about it? Will you ever get bored?
The thing about this is that for those who have money to spare, you can always hire someone to write it for you.
Many of the top bloggers frequently have staff writers or partnered writers write for them. It’s not a bad thing to do so. Just don’t pass off the work as your own.
Besides, people who regularly read your blog will be able to tell that you didn’t write it yourself =].
If you plan to go chasing the money rather than your passion, keep in mind that you can always hire writers. For those who can afford it, your options are a lot more broad:
- You can hire writers to write the boring, yet profitable articles for you.
- You can hire writers to write supplemental posts to your own posts.
- You can even hire writers to write for the niche you love and multiply your post output!
4. Are there enough things to write about?
This is another point to consider.
Sometimes when you’re going after a niche, you’ll want to make sure there’s enough topics to write about. I know, you’re probably thinking you can write about everything single thing there is to cover that niche.
While that works (and there’s no reason you shouldn’t), the problem starts to show when you write posts that overlap each other in what they rank for.
When you hit this point, you’ll start to get what’s known as keyword cannibalization. You can read more about this here.
Basically, your posts will start to get repetitive and compete with each other in the search results. So if you don’t have clear-cut topics that you’re writing about because the niche is too small, you probably want to seek out another one.
It doesn’t matter if you like the niche or not. You want to pick something that has enough room for at least a few dozen posts if you want to become the authority.
Consider choosing topics that:
- Aren’t seasonal (always people searching for it)
- Always evolving or has new developments
- Hasn’t been covered by hundreds of other sites yet
- Doesn’t have an authority on the subject that offers complete details
- Has only little bits and pieces of information scattered across multiple websites
If you can “compile” a new site that’s well-organized, detailed, user-friendly, and offers a ton of original content- you can easily beat out the competition for a particular niche. Of course, you’ll always want to analyze what other sites are ranking on the SERPs.
This is just a good starting point that I always take when deciding on a new project.
There’s no point to try to rank for super competitive stuff like “credit card reviews” or “best insurance plans” unless you have millions of dollars to spend on content, branding, and SEO campaigns.
It’s practically not possible for one person to outrank the giants legitimately for these hyper competitive niches, so don’t waste your energy.
You need something that’s not impossible to pierce through so you can start to get traction early on. When you get that first slow flow of traffic, that’s when Google starts to measure your user metrics.
If users enjoy your site and show a lot of positive signals, then you’ll continue to get rewarded.
That’s when you can start to attempt more difficult keywords in your niche. Start with the low-hanging, easy to rank stuff first. Then move to more difficult keywords.
If you think about it, it’s almost like choosing a niche. After you pick your niche, the keywords you choose for post is like niche research all over again. But in a miniature fashion. Or something like that.
Let’s move onto the next topic.
5. How much time do you have dedicated to write?
The content is the hardest part.
Too many people waste time on things like:
- Choosing a theme for their site
- Picking WordPress plugins
- Customizing the looks and layout
- Deciding on menu buttons
- Doing all the technical stuff (caching, optimizing, etc.)
Buying a logo
All this stuff can be done anytime. Especially when you first start getting the trickle of organic vistoros.
The first thing you need to do is start WRITING. This is all that matters in the beginning. Choose a free theme that looks good and runs fast. Spend minimal time on these steps. You need to start putting out content as quickly as you can. Worry about this stuff later.
Why is this so important?
Because Google will take about 3 months to start ranking your articles. So the faster you put it out, the faster they’ll start to show up in the SERPs. Then you can start getting your user metrics logged and take it from there.
If you start a site and waste a month fiddling around with zero content out, that’s a wasted month that could’ve been used to write a few pieces.
Don’t waste time with the basics stuff. Get your content out there ASAP.
Besides, if you’re delaying the process of writing so much, you probably either chose a niche for the money or you’re not putting in the real work =P.
The next thing to consider is if you plan to go “niche” or you plan to go “authority.” These two terms have always been a hot debate in the SEO world, but they’re really not that different from each other.
- A niche site is basically a smaller site focused on a single topic
- An authority is a larger site focused on a broad range of similar topics
The thing to note is that authority sites are based on niches. And niche sites can become authority sites in their niche. The only real difference between the two are the number of posts and the topics covered.
Going forward, I think niche sites are easier to rank in an unpopular niche. If you write 12 pages about “most popular labradors in comedy movies,” you’ll probably rank easily in a short time.
The problem with that is that no one is searching for those tight niches.
You can go 1 inch wide and 1 mile deep. Or you can go 1 mile wide and 1 inch deep.
Both are poor examples and you shouldn’t do either of them. Rather, you should find a balance between the two extremes. Choose a topic that gets traffic and is earched.
But don’t choose one that’s full of competition. Choose something that’ll have unlimited topics to write about. But don’t choose a niche that spans over too many topics. You need to find the right balance between the two.
In today’s SEO climate, I personally think authority sites are the way to go. They tend to rank for more keywords and are worth more when you sell them.
They also have the potential to make a lot more money just because of the sheer amount of keywords you can rank for. More traffic means more money.
7. But what about the competition?
So the hardest part about starting being an authority in a crowded market is the competition.
I think competition is good because it means there’s money to be made. The thing to keep in mind is to avoid niches where it’s just impossible to penetrate.
You can tell how competitive a niche is just by recongzing big brands shwonig up on the search results.
Here are some handy tips:
- Avoid finance, cooking, health, fashion, sports, cars, entertainment, clothing, makeup, or general broad niches – always niche down
- Avoid niches with 100+ millions of search results
- Avoid niches where there are no advertiser ads showing up in search (be sure to turn off your adblocker)
- Avoid niches where the top pages are dominated by the same brands over and over
- Avoid niches where results have dozens of authors writing for the company (it’s hard to outperform a team of writers, unless you have one also)
The key is to choose a niche that’s slightly competitive with advertiser presence. But not overdone with powerhouse websites dominating the search pages yet. Basically, you want to assess the competition and see which topics don’t have an authoritative “leader” yet. One or two is fine. But not dozens upon dozens.
I really don’t have any specific hard rules. Typically I try to write about topics that are less than 1M in the SERPs. But I’d feel comfortable writing up to 10M, depending on how strong the authority sites are on page 1.
Well, this was just a ramble of my thoughts for starting a site. I seriously do apologize for the regurgitation and lack of formatting. I promise my future guides will be better!
I’ll write up a guide on assessing the competition without using any paid keyword tools soon =]. Feel free to bookmark me in case you want to come back!