One of the biggest problems new internet marketers face is which niche to pursue. There are literally millions of topics and products being searched for and discussed on the web. And Google has reported that 20% – 25% of their daily search queries are unique. That means even interest in different niches on the web is constantly changing.
When I first heard that it was possible to make money online, I started to devour as much free information that I could find. But after doing that for a couple of weeks, I wanted to take action. Then I found myself staring at my computer screen thinking, “Now what?”
Finding a good niche is one of the most important steps in making money online. If you don’t find the right niche from the get-go you face some MAJOR risks:
- Entering a market where there are too many “browsers” and not enough buyers
- Entering a market with so much competition that it takes years to rank on the first page of Google, or costs $5 per click to advertise on the first page
- Entering a market that’s a short-lived trend, so it doesn’t last long enough for you to profit from it
Some people say that it’s possible to succeed in any niche with some persistence. But do you really want to spend years trying to rank for the word “fibromyalgia”? (At the time of writing this post, there were over 7 million results for fibromyalgia – exact match!)
Here are 9 techniques that I use to brainstorm new niches:
1. WordTracker’s Top 1000 Search Engine Keywords
Even if you’re new to internet marketing, you’ve probably heard of WordTracker (WT). WT is an online keyword research tool (like the Google Keyword Tool, or Keyword Discovery) which allows you to research the keywords that people are typing into search engines.
Every keyword research tool gets their search data from different sources. WT gets its keyword data from “metasearch” engines, which blend the top web search results from search engines like Google, Yahoo, etc. WT uses the keywords from MetaCrawler and Dogpile, which apparently have about 1% of the search market in the U.S.
WordTracker has a lot of cool features, but one of its greatest sources of ideas is overlooked by most internet marketers. What I’m talking about is WT’s Top 1000 Keywords Report.
There are two kinds of Top 1000 Keywords reports: the “short-term” report, and the “long-term” report. The short-term report shows the highest-volume keywords from WT’s database over the past 24 hours. With this report you can pick up on new, hot trends as they emerge.
The long-term Top 1000 Keywords report shows the highest-volume keywords over the past 90 days. As WT says, “these are the keywords and keyphrases that stick around, month to month, year to year”. In other words, if you choose to go after one of these topics, you don’t have to worry about it disappearing from the web in a couple of months.
When looking at the Top 1000 report keep a couple of things in mind: (1) there’s a ton of porn-related searches in there; and (2) the Top 1000 report seems to contain a disproportionate number of Latino- and Asia-specific keywords. But even with those caveats, the WT Top 1000 report is an invaluable source of ideas.
The Top 1000 report is available only to WordTracker subscribers. But if you don’t have a WT subscription, fear not – you can find a weekly round-up of WT’s top 500 keywords at SearchEngineGuide .
2. “How to” websites
If you’ve ever tried to figure out how to do something by using one of those “how to” websites, you already know what a great source of information they can be. But did you know that you can also use them to brainstorm new niche ideas? I’ll explain how below.
There are two kinds of how-to websites: free and paid.
Examples of free how-to websites include general sites like eHow, WikiHow, and VideoJug, and sites that target a specific niche, like DoctorsLounge (advice for medical professional).
How can you mine these free sites for ideas? Many free how-to websites allow you to search for the most popular articles and categories. Ehow.com is a great example. The site displays the “Top 10 eHows” on its homepage (#1 at the time of this writing: How To Buy Foreclosures), along with “Popular Categories”. In just five minutes of browsing the site, you can get a good sense of the solutions that people are searching for online.
How-to sites that require people to pay for an answer are an even better source of niche ideas – because you know that people are willing to pay for a solution. Examples of this type of site include JustAnswer.com and LivePerson.com. On JustAnswer users bid for answers to their questions, while on LivePerson.com experts charge per minute. Here are some of the topics covered on those sites:
o Eye expert
o Urology expert
o Bankruptcy law expert
o Motorcycle expert
o Horse management expert
3. Popular online forums
Forums that have active members are awesome sources of niche ideas, and you can also use them to research the pain points of your target audience.
Here are three steps to brainstorm niches using forums:
- Go to BoardReader and click on “Browse Top Internet > Sites”. This will give you a list of the most popular forum websites.
- Click on a forum that interests you, and BoardReader will show you lots of useful stats on that site: posting activity, top posters, most active sub-forums.
- Open a spreadsheet and record those stats
- Repeat the process for 5 – 10 forums
What you’re looking for are forums that have a very active membership. If the forum has lots of members who are posting frequently, you know they’re PASSIONATE about that topic. When people have a passion for a topic, they’re willing to spend money indulging that passion.
4. Books about trends
Books that discuss current and future trends in society are a great source of niche ideas. They can be big trends (like recycling – everyone’s jumping on that bandwagon these days) or “micro” trends (like medical tourism).
Speaking of micro trends, I recently read the book called MicroTrends by Mark Penn. It generated a lot of ideas. Here are some of the ideas I got from the book:
- Lasik eye surgery
- Baby boomers’ obsession with looking and feeling young
- Plastic surgery for children
- Plastic surgery tourism
- Stay-at-home mom businesses
- Single-parent adoption (women & gay men)
- Cougars (older women who “prey” on young men)
- Alternative medicine for dogs
- Pet health insurance
- How to keep your inter-racial marriage together
- 20-somethings and bankruptcy
- Senior citizens and bankruptcy
Of course, not all trends are money-makers. You still have to do your research to figure out if a niche is worth pursuing.
5. Amazon Bestsellers and Amazon Movers & Shakers
Amazon Bestsellers is a list of the most popular items on Amazon.com, and includes books, movies, video games, and anything else you can think of (because Amazon sells everything but kitchen sinks these days J).
What’s great about this service is that you can brainstorm ideas for information products (by browsing “Books bestsellers”) and also get ideas for hot products that you can promote as an affiliate (by browsing apparel, video games, etc.).
Here’s an example: at the time I wrote this post, three of the top ten bestsellers in “apparel” are Crocs sandals. For an affiliate looking to promote a sure-thing, I’d bet that Crocs are converting pretty well.
If you’re looking to get in on a rising trend, Amazon Movers & Shakers is another service you should keep an eye on. These are the biggest-gaining products in the Amazon Marketplace over the past 24 hours. Use Movers & Shakers to spot products that are rising quickly in popularity, so you can get in before other affiliates do.
6. PayPal Shops
Paypal Shops shows you the Paypal sellers that are doing the highest volume of sales in a range of categories like travel, clothing, and computers.
There are a few ways you can use Paypal Shops: to brainstorm niche ideas; to see what specific products are selling well online; and to find savvy competitors that you can steal borrow ideas from.
To brainstorm niche ideas, go to the Paypal Shops homepage and click on a category that interests you (look on the left side of the page for the list of categories). You’ll then see a list of websites that is ranked by volume and includes the “seller reputation”, which is the number of Paypal members who have bought something from the seller.
For example, if you click on “Health” you’ll see some pretty interesting product categories: wu-long slimming tea, ginseng products, anti-aging products, etc. We’ve all seen ads for these types of products around the web. By noting the amount of sales that these sellers are making, we’re validating that these are markets with good volume.
You can also see what products are selling well by clicking through to the websites of sellers. Make a note of the products that are displayed prominently on their homepages. Chances are these are their real money-makers.
The Paypal shops that are ranked highest for each product category are also great competitors to spy on. When you click through to their homepage note the look and feel of their site – how it’s laid out; navigation, colors, etc. Once you’ve looked at a few sites, you’ll probably notice a pattern emerging. The most successful sites test the bejesus out of their landing pages, including their homepages. So if all of the sites you look at have a big orange button for orders, that’s probably a good thing to copy for your own site.
For a more detailed look at Paypal Shops, check out Yaro Starak’s blog post on Paypal Shops market research.
7. Your own personal/family problems
Now, I don’t expect you to air your dirty laundry on the web! The point of this exercise is simply to get you thinking about problems that you have and would like to solve. Chances are, if you have a problem, many other people will, too. Where there’s a problem, there’s a potential for you to provide a solution – and profit from it.
Here are some common family problems.
8. Common health problems
Health is a HUGE topic on the web. A study published in the New York Times found that 52% of adults use the web to find health information.
I recently launched an information product in a health niche, and it was immediately profitable (not just because I chose the right niche – I also surveyed the market to find out their pain points.)
It’s important to understand that health niches can be very competitive. That’s why it’s important to segment your market and offer a unique product.
So how do you find out what health problems people are searching for? Let someone else do the work for you: check out WebMD’s list of top 300 health search terms. (Tip: the people who run WebMD are pros – if a health condition is popular, they’ll have it on their list.)
9. Use this list of 204 hot topics for “how to” ebooks .
This is an awesome list provided by Andrew and Daryl Grant, who have a great course on how to research and produce information products. If you’re a complete newbie to information product creation and marketing, I highly recommend you look into their course (I’ve taken it).
There are a bunch of other things I do to brainstorm new niches, but I’ll leave it at that for now. If you have another technique to add to this list, please do so below!