Hidden Gems: How to Find Uncompetitive Online Niches

Hidden_Gems

Image by @socialtalent

One of the questions I hear most often from new internet marketers is “I’m just getting started. How can I find an easy niche to get my feet wet in?”

What people are really saying when they ask that question is, “I’ve spent a lot of money learning this stuff – and I can’t afford to spend any more money without making some back!”

I completely sympathize with this, because in my first couple of years in IM, I spent hundreds (nay, thousands) of dollars learning, with little money coming back in. And, gradually, my wife went from excited supporter to cynical observer. A typical conversation from those days:

Me (excited): “I came across a new IM course today by guru X. I just know that this is THE course that’s finally going to kick-start my online business. The guru said so on his sales page!”

My wife (eyes narrowing): “Uh, tell me again when you’re going to start making money with this “hobby”?

The point is this: all new internet marketers could do with a “newbie niche”. A niche they can ease into, learn from and earn from (even if it’s a small amount of money), and then expand into other areas. A niche that wouldn’t cost them $1,000 in Adwords spend in two days, with nothing to show for it.

A niche like farming, for example. Farm animals, to be exact. Farm animals is a market I got into about a few years ago. I was doing some keyword research, and stumbled across a particular type of livestock that gets decent search volume on Google every month.

When I looked into that market further, it seemed that there was strong unmet demand for an information product on how to profitably raise that particular farm animal. So, I launched a survey, and within a short amount of time had collected 300 responses. Many of the responses were from farmers who were looking to branch out into other types of livestock.

I had an information product developed that consisted of an e-book and audio interviews with six successful farmers (and a professor of Animal Science). To this day, I still sell that product profitably through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

Because there’s little competition in that market, the click costs are very low, and my conversion (i.e. sales) rate is pretty good. It’s the perfect newbie niche.

I can hear the question that’s going through your mind: “How can I find a niche like that?”

That’s what this post is all about! In the paragraphs that follow, I’ll outline some of the steps I use to find niches that aren’t crammed with competitors. You can use these 4 steps to find your own newbie niche.

4 Steps to Finding a Newbie Niche

From doing an intensive amount of niche research over the past few years, I’ve developed a list of criteria that I use when examining the viability of a niche. Those criteria fall into four categories. But everything starts with brainstorming a niche.

Step #1 in Finding a Newbie Niche: Brainstorming

A recurring theme through my free report (and this blog) is that to build a sustainable online business, you should first choose an audience to serve, don’t pick products.

Once you’ve chosen an audience, the next step is to research the problems and challenges facing that audience, and get in tune with their desires. This will set you up well to pick (or create) products to promote to them.

When I say that the first step in finding a newbie niche is to “brainstorm a niche”, I mean that you need to pick a topic that is of interest to your target audience – whether it be a pain point, a passionate hobby, or other type of interest.

There are a bunch of resources that I use to research topics of interest to my target audience, but one stands out from the crowd: Dummies” books.

If you’ve never heard of the “Dummies” books, then you must be…a dummy.

Kidding! (How do you like my strategy for growing my blog readership: insulting my readers!)

The “Dummies” books began way back in 1991, with the very first title: DOS for Dummies. The last time I had my VA update my categorized list of Dummies titles (which is a bonus in my Niche Sherpa Video Coaching Course), there were 1,874 books in the Dummies series.

What makes the Dummies books such a powerful market research medium is that they’ve done the research for you. The Dummies series has become immensely successful, and it’s a safe assumption that John Wiley & Sons (the publisher) does not launch a new book until they KNOW there’s a market for it.

So you can benefit from their research by simply browsing through the Dummies website, looking for books that are a match for your target audience.

Step #2 in Finding a Newbie Niche: Stability and Size

Once you’ve decided on a handful of topics by going through Dummies.com, the next step is to determine if the niche is stable and sizeable enough to pursue.

The stability of a niche is important, because you don’t want to choose something that is “here today, gone tomorrow”. A great example of this is fad diets, like the Atkins diet.

Now, that’s not to say you should stay away from weight loss as a niche! We all know how timeless that niche is, not to mention potentially lucrative. And the great thing about building an online business around weight loss is that you’ll constantly have new offers to promote to your audience.

What I’m saying is that you need to be careful not to choose a niche that is very narrow AND has the potential to die out soon.

So how do you check the “staying power” of a niche? One of the best ways is to use a tool called Google Trends.

google-trends-logo

Google Trends is a very straightforward service: type in the keyword you’re curious about, and Google will show you how stable the search volume has been for that keyword over the past couple of years.

The main audience for my online business is middle-aged, overweight males. So the first niche I’ve selected is one from my Dummies list that I think will appeal to my target audience: blues guitar. So, the keyword I’m going to start with is “blues guitar”.

Check out what comes up when I type “blues guitar” into Google Trends:

blues_guitar_google_trends

Hmmm…the “search volume index” (which is the blue line in the graph) has been declining steadily since 2005. I’m not sure why there’s been a decline in search volume (it would be interesting to explore that question), but the decline would lead me to NOT pursue this niche.

Let’s look at another one that might appeal to my audience – type 2 diabetes. I typed “type 2 diabetes treatment” into Google Trends and got this:

type_2_diabetes_google_trends

Definitely a more upward trend in the search volume there!

There are a couple of things to keep in mind about Google Trends:

  1. Your keyword has to have a high volume of keywords for Google to show you the trend. What does “high volume” mean? Nobody knows. You just have to enter your keyword and see if Google will show you the trend.
  2. Even when Google Trends shows a graph for your keyword, the period of time it displays varies from keyword to keyword. Sometimes the graph goes back 9 years; sometimes it’s only one year.

Next, let’s look at the size of the niche. To do this, I’ll use Google’s Keyword Planner (formerly the “Keyword Tool”).

Here are the results for “type 2 diabetes treatment”:

type_2_diabetes_treatment_google_keyword_planner

 

The results here are quite promising. Not only do keywords related to “diabetes treatment” get a good amount of search volume (over 25,000 exact-match searches per month), but there are keywords that imply intent.

Keywords that imply intent tell you very clearly what the searcher is looking for. As I’ve highlighted in the screenshot with red arrows, searchers are also looking for:

  • “diabetes symptoms”: this itself is not a good commercial keyword, but one that suggests a crapload of people have the health condition)
  • “diabetes diet”: needless to say, an entire business could be built on this keyword!

So after doing a bit of digging using Google Trends and Google’s Keyword Planner, the diabetes treatment niche looks pretty promising.

Step #3 in Finding a Newbie Niche: Niche Desire

Now that we’ve established that the “diabetes treatment” niche has good stability and strong search volume, we need to determine if the audience has what I call “niche desire”.

Put simply, “niche desire” means that the target audience has a strong emotional need to accomplish something – whether it be learning a musical instrument, overcoming a health problem, etc. The product(s) that you promote to your audience will help them satisfy that emotional need.

Here are two questions from a longer list that I use to determine niche desire:

  • Is the target audience actively searching for a solution? (E.g. on the search engines, in online forums, etc.)
  • Do people lie awake at night worrying about this problem?

In the case of the diabetes treatment niche, the “desire” that the audience feels is obvious – to rid themselves of a horrible health condition.

Step #4 in Finding a Newbie Niche: Competition

Competition is an obvious factor when choosing a niche. Building an online business is all about PERSISTENCE and the CONFIDENCE to push forward. Both of these can be cut short if you get killed by competitors in the first niche you attempt.

When looking for an uncompetitive niche, I keep these factors in mind:

Quantity and Quality of Existing Solutions

Markets that have a lot of high-quality products can be great to get into as an affiliate, except that your competition is probably going to be quite high.

In my opinion, these markets are best to enter once you have some experience under your belt, particularly if you plan to get most of your traffic through pay-per-click advertising. I’ve met many a newbie who has blown through thousands of dollars in PPC spend with few sales to show for it.

Here are a couple of the obvious places to research the quality and quantity of current products on the market:

Google Adwords. To do this is pretty straightforward: type the primary keywords for your niche into Google.com, and check out the ads that show up. (Paid ads will be on the right-side of the results page, and sometimes at the very top of the page.)

Here’s what I got when I typed “type 2 diabetes treatment” into Google:

type_2_diabetes_treatment_google_search_result

LOTS of ads on this page, which is a good AND bad thing.

It’s good because if there are lots of advertisers, you can be confident that there’s money to be made in the niche.

It’s bad because of the obvious: a high level of competition.

So I would consider this to be a pretty competitive niche.

BUT, I wouldn’t rule it out, even if you’re a newbie. If this is a niche that you’re passionate about (maybe because you have type 2 diabetes yourself, or someone in your family does), you could get your foot in the door by going “micro” in the niche – in other words, finding a micro niche within the “type 2 diabetes treatment” niche.

  • Types 2 Diabetes Treatment for African-Americans, maybe?
  • Herbal Therapies for Types 2 Diabetes, perhaps?

I’ll bet most of these sites have never taken the time to survey their list, or conduct any kind of research on their target audience’s needs. I’m certain that there are unmet needs in this niche that an observant marketer could pick up on, along with unique positioning that could be used (like the African-American or herbal therapy angles).

Clickbank Marketplace. Clickbank is the largest online retailer of digital products (mostly ebooks and software), and their Marketplace has over 10,000 products.

To search the Marketplace just go to www.Clickbank.com/Marketplace, and type your keyword into the search box.

(Pro tip:the search function in the Marketplace sucks. To filter out the crap, look at the Filters on the left-side of the page, and put the number “1” in the box that says “Gravity”. That will filter out the thousands of products that haven’t made a single sale.)

When I searched “diabetes treatment”, I found dozens of digital products on diabetes treatment.

A couple of the diabetes treatment products in the Marketplace have excellent “gravity” (“gravity” indicates how many distinct affiliates have made a sale of a product in the past 90 days).

In the screenshot below I’ve highlighted two products: one has a gravity of 183, the other a gravity of 122, with affiliate commissions of ~$34.00. High gravity with a good affiliate payout is a sign of a healthy market.

diabetes_treatment_clickbank_marketplace

Note: I mention the Clickbank Marketplace here because it’s an easy source of market intelligence. But by no means is it a great source of information. There are a lot of niches that have no products in the Marketplace, and in crowded niches a lot of the products are crappy. Take it with a grain of salt!

I should point out that even if there are lots of solutions in a market, you might be able to find a way to position your product so it’s both new to the market, and adequately fills your audience’s needs.

For example:

  • Can you introduce a new product in a format that is unique to the market – such as setting up a membership site or launching an online video course in a market that currently only has e-books?
  • Can you re-position a product so it appeals to a new audience segment – such as taking a “generic” diabetes treatment course and re-positioning it as a program designed specifically for baby boomers?
  • Can you add a hot new trend to an existing product – such as adding to a diabetes treatments course a module on new herbal treatments?

I hate to use a cliché (okay – I’m all about clichés ;), but when it comes to online business, the only limit really is your creativity.

Cost-per-Click of Main Keywords

Cost-per-click (CPC) on Google Adwords can be a great indicator of the competitiveness of a niche, and also of how much money people are making in that niche.

Why?

Because the more money advertisers are willing to spend per click, the more money they are probably making. (Note I said “probably”. There’s a theory held by some internet marketers that a high CPC in some niches is not an indication of profitability – it’s more an indication that there are a lot of dumb, deep-pocketed advertisers in that market.)

Let’s look at the CPC for the “diabetes treatment” niche again, and see what we can learn:

diabetes_treatment_cpc_google_adwords

There are some HIGH cost-per-click bids in this niche. As you can see from the screenshot, the top 3 keywords cost $4.44, $3.88, and $8.30 per click.

As a general rule, I wouldn’t recommend that new internet marketers get into niches that have a high CPC, because if you’re going to make pay-per-click advertising your primary traffic source you might be bankrupted before seeing many sales.

And even if you’re going to try search engine optimization, you might be waiting a long time for traffic (markets that have a high CPC also tend to be harder to rank organically for).

Better to cut your teeth in a market that has a lower CPC, and will allow you to learn gradually.

But as mentioned above, a high CPC is usually an indicator of a healthy market – and you might be able to “niche down” to a micro niche that has less competition and lower CPCs.

Summing Up

In this post I showed some of the steps I use to find uncompetitive niches – niches that are a great starting point for newbies, because they have relatively little competition and low cost-per-click.

What I’ve shown you in this post is just the tip of the iceberg. I know from doing niche research every day that there is HUGE potential to exploit little-known niches. I’m talking literally hundreds, if not thousands, of niches that are either untapped or underserved.

This truly is the best time in history to be an entrepreneur. Never before have the barriers to entry been so low, and the potential rewards so high. As with anything else in life worth doing, however, capitalizing on this opportunity requires determination and a willingness to learn from one’s mistakes.

If you have a niche success story to share, please do so below. And as always, your comments are appreciated!

[feature_box style=”15″ only_advanced=”There are no title options for the choosen style” alignment=”center”]

This post was updated in September 2014

[/feature_box]

About the Author Moe Muise

I've been making money online since 2009 and have a passion for research. My focus is niche research: finding profitable niches, keyword research, and competition analysis, as well as creating outstanding content.

Leave a Comment:

36 comments
Add Your Reply