Doing the proper research to select the right niche is one of the most important tasks you need to do to ensure your success. More has probably been written about niche marketing than any other topic of interest to the affiliate marketer except perhaps search engine optimization and WordPress.
A niche is a small, specialized area that may not get many searches. Since the imagined income is so much less, it attracts fewer affiliate marketers, which means less competition. Less competition means you have a reasonable chance, as a new affiliate marketer, to build a website or develop a social media campaign that will rank reasonably high, and you will make money.
You’re also looking to cultivate a small, specific group of potential customers who are looking for the product you’re offering. For comparison, take the niche “football snack helmet.” It has a very low search volume, which means a much lower potential income, but it also has less competition. Google tells a much different story when you type “football snack helmet” into the browser. The top listing on the page is an affiliate marketer’s site selling Amazon football snack helmets and making a profit.
So you, too, can find your own specialized niche, build your website to address the needs of your specialized market, and start to build your affiliate business around this niche by answering the needs of this specialized audience.
The following suggestions will help you find a profitable niche for affiliate marketing.
1. Follow the head and the heart
Some affiliate marketers say the best way to look at and search for the right affiliate markets is to look at the money. Which are the best-paying markets? Which have the best-paying products? That approach does assure that you’ll have a good product to promote and a ready and proven buying audience. So is this the right way? We think there are several limitations to this approach:
- It puts you in the thick of high-competition markets, where you don’t want to be. Lots of potential affiliate earnings to be made because of high searches and well-paying products means lots of major corporations and experienced affiliate marketers fighting for those dollars.
- You may be putting blinders on and avoiding some great affiliate niche markets that cater to your passions, interests, and expertise. You’re ignoring some of your natural strengths that you would be bringing to these niche markets.
- You may find you don’t have the interest and perseverance in a niche chosen purely on the basis of money to carry on the three to six months you need to establish your market and see it bear fruit. You don’t want to be losing steam right before the money starts rolling in.
I call the method of niche research I follow the heart and head model. I marry all the potential niches I’ve come up with from my passions, interests, and experiences and then run all of those possibilities through the tools of analysis to see whether there is a potential for affiliate profit.
I’ve sometimes found that no one else (at least not the buying public) was interested in a niche I was interested in developing. So I just moved on to a much more immediately profitable niche and filed the other one for future (if ever) development.
2. Consider market size and competition
When it comes to niche marketing, what you’re looking for in market size is the “Goldilocks” zone. You don’t want a market that’s so big that it attracts lots of competition and corporate heavyweights willing to spend big bucks to achieve top position. Neither do you want a market that’s so small that you aren’t going to make reasonable affiliate profits from your efforts.
You want a market that’s just right. You want it small enough that it doesn’t attract too many competitors with more money or reputation that would be almost impossible to compete against. But you also want it large enough so you have a chance to be rewarded for your affiliate marketing efforts with sales.
We all are seduced by the word “easy.” Thorough niche research that can earn you a steady income takes hours — sometimes hours over multiple days. But keep in mind that you’re setting up things that may produce an income stream for you that lasts for years. I am still getting paid for things I set up 15 years ago, and although I’ve spent some time freshening things up, it’s nothing like the time I spent in setting things up.
Competition in a niche market and competitive analysis is about so much more than just the number of sites that are competing for the same niche that you are. It’s about the strength of the competition.
An analysis of your competition’s strengths and weaknesses can often be your road map to competing successfully.
It’s about spying on your competition to see what they do, to see the keywords they use, to see where their visitors come from, and other factors. Then you analyze this information to see the best way for you to compete.
3. Identify monetization opportunities within the niche
The best way to establish multiple streams of income is to select a niche which has several monetization options. By doing this, you spread your risk, ensuring you will remain in business even if one of your affiliate accounts closes. Start by evaluating the competition and observing how they monetize. Search Google for your primary topic, then check the top ten to fifteen results. Your goal is to monetize these sites with sponsored content, Google ads, Amazon products, and membership areas.
The next step is to visit Amazon to discover what products affiliates can promote in the niche. In the left-hand panel, choose a category to display products relevant to your audience. Select products that you feel comfortable recommending. You can also find related products through other affiliate networks, like ClickBank, Commission Junction, or Offervault. Make sure that you can promote a wide range of products in the niche.
The sheer number of users on ClickBank makes it a great place to check out. At the top of the screen, click the marketplace icon to begin researching a niche topic. Start by performing a search for your industry in the provided field. It will reveal a few interesting sub-niches. Be sure to also take a look at the menu on the left side of the page, which already offers curated lists.
Following the search for your industry or selecting your category in the search field, the results will appear. You can filter the search results on the left side of the page, and product information can be found on the right side. You can promote each of the products here as an affiliate.
To sort the results, it is best to use the Gravity filter. Affiliate commissions are measured in this way to determine how many affiliates earned commissions recently. Consider whether any of the listed products will appeal to your audience. A product with a high Gravity score and a decent average income-per-sale is the best. Using this method, one can identify products that are likely to attract people and analyze a possible niche for affiliate marketing.
4. Use Keyword Analysis Tools
The right tools make niche marketing a lot easier and quicker, as you find out in this section. They can analyze a lot of data and present it in a way that makes sense, that is understandable, and that you can use in your affiliate marketing business.
There is one category of tools that we don’t cover here. These are the tools that you’re given as an affiliate, such as links, banners, and buttons you can simply paste on your website. Of course, you can do A-B testing to see what works best, but you can’t really use them as tools for analysis.
Lots of internet gurus are selling what they say are “hot off the press” lists of niche markets they have researched and are almost guaranteed to make you money. They say these lists have the low-competition keywords you’re looking for. But beware. We always ask these three questions:
- If you’re a niche market (or SEO) genius and have researched niches that are almost guaranteed to make money, why are you selling them for a few dollars?
- How fresh are these “hot off the press” niche market lists? When were they released?
- How many affiliate marketers has this list been sold to?
KeywordRevealer is a paid tool, but there is a lifetime membership offer that makes it very cost-effective. The different levels of membership have different daily limits for the number of searches. I chose the lifetime marketer, which is the middle level, and I think most affiliate marketers would be happy with it.
KeywordRevealer will either generate a keyword list or allow you to import keywords. It shows you the number of searches, monthly volume, and so on. I think what most people are looking for is the numerical difficulty number for each keyword, where they rate the difficulty from easy to lots of competition.
Numbers appear within a red, orange, or green circle depending upon difficulty. However, you have to click on the analyze button for each keyword separately.
Google designed both of these tools to assist advertisers who are interested in paying for Google AdWords. The affiliate marketer can use both tools to find valuable keywords and do keyword research — you just have to realize the difference in perspective and view the data these tools present in light of your affiliate marketing needs.
Google Keyword Planner helps you with keyword research and analysis. Google Trends is helpful for affiliate marketers in viewing trends and analyzing seasonal trends if they are interested in profiting from seasonal niches. Google Trends points out search volume over time, which shows you whether the trend is up, down, or steady. It’s informative in your niche pursuit to see whether the search volume is growing or diminishing. Diminishing search volume may just indicate that the initial bust of interest has died down, but that may mean competition has also died down while it can still be a steady source of income for the affiliate marketer.
You must set up a free Google AdWords account to use these tools. You don’t have to spend money on an AdWords campaign, so make sure you set your marketing budget to zero or something really low, or you’ll find the money sucked out of your wallet faster than you can imagine.
Keywords Everywhere is a great keyword tool that adds search volume, cost per click (CPC), and competition data right on the screen. Currently, it adds this data for 16 of the most popular websites.
This Chrome extension is available at https://keywordseverywhere.com/. It gives new affiliate marketers some analysis of their competitors, the keywords they are ranking for, and the CPC and search volume for keywords. It has no monthly subscriptions; it’s a pay-as-you-go program with a variety of pricing plans.
Learn more about the best keyword tools.
5. Spying on the Competition
Spying on the competition allows you to see where your target audience spends its time and what its interests lie. It shows you what social sites they visit. You can also find out about the demographics of your niche audience like income, age, sex, likes and dislikes, and so on.
The more you know about your target audience, the better you can tailor your approach, your web page, your emails, and so forth to customize your appeal and make your affiliate marketing business more effective. After all, isn’t that how Facebook became a multibillion-dollar company? And we gave them all the information!
Here are some tools you can use to check out what competitors are doing:
SimilarWeb brings up sites that are similar to yours, allowing you to spy on popular websites. It shows you the global rank, country rank, and category rank for any website. It also shows you a lot of information; since you’re targeting the same audience, it can help you find out more about your audience.
It shows you information on traffic sources and top referring sites, display advertising, and social sites and interests so you better know what your audience likes and where they spend their time. Then it shows you the website’s competitors and similar sites so you can expand your competitive research on all of these other similar sites.
SimilarWeb is like a flashlight: It illuminates what you shine it on.
Enter your competition’s URL, and it shows you how your competition is doing. Shine it on your own site, and it shows you how you’re doing. Have you seen internet gurus who are claiming they got 100,000 visitors and made a million dollars last year, and you’re not sure about that claim? Put their URLs in SimilarWeb; the truth will be revealed, and you can see how they are really doing.
Facebook Audience Insights
Facebook’s Audience Insights is a tremendous tool to really drill down into the demographic data to find out the sex, age, education, income, likes, dislikes, education level, job, and so on of your prospective audience.
Keep in mind that this tool is designed to narrow down and target specific markets for advertisers. So if you’re looking to advertise on Facebook, Audience Insights allows you to specifically target the market you want to reach by specifying specific demographics.
For the affiliate marketer who isn’t interested in paying Facebook to advertise, Audience Insights gives you important information about the characteristics of your target market, which allows you to better customize your approach, message, and method to reach them.
You can use Amazon to find a lot of great information about your potential audience. Go to Amazon and enter your keyword or niche. You can also enter a specific product name.
The first entries that are identified as “sponsored” means those spots have been paid for and for your purposes should be discarded. Go to the first “organic” or non-sponsored result. You can see items frequently bought together, and what items customers who viewed this item also viewed.
Amazon is helping you build a more complete picture of the likes and desires of your target audience so you can tailor your message to more closely meet your audience’s needs and appeal to their buying the product you’re promoting.
You are allowed to put in one domain at a time and get a limited view of the power of SpyFu. But for the full power of SpyFu, you have to sign up for a paid account. It costs $33 a month if paid on an annual basis or $39 a month if paid for monthly.
That’s for their basic plan; they also have higher-priced plans and special reports you can commission SpyFu to do. The result has specific recommendations and tells you what to do.
SpyFu is a keyword tool specifically designed for competitive analysis. It allows you to spy on and download your competitors’ keywords. You can see what they pay for their advertising. It lets you see what is working for your competitors and what isn’t.
6. Search for previously sold websites or profitable acquisitions
A good barometer of a niche’s success is how many successful businesses or websites it has. It is a sign that there is profit potential if eCommerce stores, blogs and other sites in your niche are regularly purchased. Try Flippa – a large website marketplace – and search for the main keyword in your niche, such as ‘muscle building’.
Using the ‘Monthly Profit’ filter, you can see how much each website makes each month. Select ‘ClickBank’ and ‘Amazon’ from the ‘Monetization’ drop-down box if you are only interested in sites that earn income from affiliate marketing.
By clicking the ‘search’ icon, you will find a list of websites on Flippa that are currently available for auction. Alternatively, you can sort the results by ‘highest price to lowest price’. On this page, you can review the performance statistics of the websites and analyze why they are successful. Also, you can identify ways to improve them further.
In addition to helping you with your niche research, this information also reveals the diverse niches people are entering to earn enormous sums of money. You will be surprised by the profits you can make in really bizarre niches. Whenever you come across a good idea, write it down. You can find high-priced websites you personally like that appeal to you. In the same way that someone else was able to create a profitable site and sell it for a big sum of money, you can do the same.
Empire Flippers is another great resource for finding online businesses for sale and websites. There is a marketplace on this website where you can search for niche keywords and filter the results to see recently sold businesses and websites.
Empire Flippers displays the selling price and profits of these sites without revealing their addresses. When you click on a listing, you can find out a great deal about a website, like how many visitors, income, and traffic/income sources it receives. This analysis will show you exactly how much different websites in your industry are earning, and how fast you can replicate their success.
7. Survey Seasonal Niches
A seasonal niche doesn’t necessarily mean the seasons of the year. Instead it refers to niches that have a big fluctuation in search volume occurring on a repeatable basis.
One of my mentors in affiliate marketing loved promoting holidays. He was particularly passionate about Halloween. Not only was he personally passionate about Halloween, he was also passionate about the opportunity for affiliate profit.
He said a lot of affiliate marketers don’t pursue the seasonal markets because there is a brief profitable period, and for the rest of the year (once the holiday is past) you’re not really making any money. So where other affiliate marketers found the brief pay period to be a reason to avoid seasonal markets, he saw an opportunity — lower competition.
Once Halloween was over, my mentor started marketing Christmas. As an added profit bonus, if you can predict what will be the hot Halloween costume or the hot Christmas toy for the upcoming holidays and tailor your marketing messages to those hot items, you can profit greatly.
Seasonal doesn’t only mean holidays. It can mean any niche that has a dramatically varying but repetitive pattern of interest, demand, and purchasing. For instance, if your niche was the ski market and related items of interest to the skier, you would see a bump in interest and sales in the fall and winter. You wouldn’t be seeing much interest in the summer.
You can get the data and a graphic picture of number of searches by using Google Trends, a free tool available at www.google.com/trends. Enter the search term you want and choose the time period. When you hit enter, you’ll see the search fluctuation over a year. If you change the time period to a longer one — say, the year 2004 until present — you’ll see the repetitive pattern each year.
If the long-term trend has this repetitive pattern, you can be relatively sure it will be back next year. If there is no repetitive pattern in the long-term panel, it’s not really a seasonal niche.
Google Trends may just be indicting a long-term trend of a product that is fading in the public interest. Depending on what the numbers show, you may want to rethink your promotional strategy.
Your role as an affiliate is to determine which niches are promising, determine if it is worthwhile to enter them, and then to develop high-quality content that solves the problems of your prospects while positioning you as a reliable expert. You may have realized by now that this is not as difficult as most people think.
Remember, a “saturated niche” does not exist. Taking a different approach or outperforming your competitors can always generate profit. Take action today and begin finding a profitable niche by following the above advice rather than feeling daunted. Don’t be fooled, a lucrative affiliate niche is a stone’s throw away.