Starting a blog or niche site can fill you with doubt before you’ve even begun. While other bloggers seem to be sure of their expertise, you don’t know where you fit in. You want to pick the best niche topic for you that can make money. You just can’t figure out what that is.
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Even when you get an idea, you doubt it. What if you put time into it, but it doesn’t work out? What if there’s something better? What if it’s not right for you? And then, finally, what the hell gives you the right?
Sometimes you might feel like an average person who’s not particularly good at any one thing.
This indecision is financial stress, analysis paralysis, and imposter syndrome rolled up into one giant, ugly bugaboo.
And where do you end up? Doing nothing at all, waiting for the next big idea.
I want to make the case that you’ll find an amazing niche that’s right for you when you stop thinking, and start doing.
I don’t just want you to find the best niche out there. I want you to find out where your unique genius resides.
Yes, your subject matter is an important decision. You need to pick something that’s both personally interesting and that sells.
But if you choose a blog niche just because it seems like the “next thing,” but you can’t get into it, it’s going to turn into a taskmaster — a job you hate. You won’t feel motivated to work on it, and you’ll feel like crap when you do.
Instead, you’re going to find out what you can write about that you love and that people want from you. You’ll be putting a lot of time into your blog, so let’s find out what’s worth it. These exercises will get you started right now. You’ll optimize to make money as you go.
How to Find a Blog Niche Idea For You
Taking the first step is the hardest. But once you do, you can get an audience, hone in on the value you provide them, and perfect your message. Let’s end the paralysis and get started today.
1. Answer Questions Online
I bet you never thought you could find your best niche by using Reddit.
But it works because unlike starting a whole blog, it’s commitment-free.
It’s easy to join a conversation about something you like or have a lot to say about.
The minute people start asking you questions, you’ll know you’re onto something.
You can use other question and answer sites like Quora, but I like Reddit because it’s a back-and-forth that gives you fast feedback.
Create an account and search for subreddits about topics you like, know, or want to learn about. Look for subs that are active with discussion, and join in:
- Answer questions you think you can help with.
- Submit a post about something you can talk about, whether it’s out of expertise or interest.
- Focus on providing value where you can. That’s what blogging will be about, too.
- Ask questions and get conversations going.
- Follow subreddit rules and don’t self-promote.
There’s magic here, because you might find out you know more than you think you do. Expertise has a funny way of making you assume your knowledge is obvious to everyone. But in reality, you could be flying over people’s heads.
If people ask a lot of questions or want your opinion, you’ve struck gold.
So, which posts got a big response? Which ones did you enjoy writing about? Follow that trail to your new blog topic.
Bonus: This exercise helps you understand your future readers, too. You’ll see questions you may not have considered, and learn the perspective of a beginner. When people read your blog, they’ll see that you know where they’re coming from.
2. Don’t Think About Money Yet
Don’t get me wrong. You’re going to think about money. But I’m urging you not to think about it first.
Yes, you’re going to need to be strategic when looking for a profitable niche idea. And we’re going to get to ways to do that. But is it really the right place to start? I don’t think so, and here’s why.
- One, it’s exhausting. Perfectionism is going to block you from deciding on anything.
- Two, if you’re starting out alone and with a small budget, you’re going to do most of your site’s work yourself. So look for the topics that give you energy.
Burnout is real for content creators, so it’s better to think in terms of your values now to stay motivated when challenges come later.
Even if you’re sure an idea will make money, if you just don’t care about it, work will be a chore. You’ll get stuck on the little things.
That’s 100% counter to the ideal feeling of productivity that comes from doing something more natural to you, and which is totally possible.
Affiliate marketers look for the perfect affiliate niche that will make money with minimal effort without thinking about this. But I and other online entrepreneurs have found out the hard way this doesn’t really work.
Sure, if you have a big budget and strong content marketing skills, you can probably manage a team on a project you aren’t necessarily thrilled about. But if you’re a small content creator, go for what you can do.
Try these questions to help you brainstorm better:
- What do you care about more than prestige, approval, and money?
- What’s the thing you always say you wish you had more time for?
- What do you want to learn more about? What’s so damn interesting it pulls you down a rabbit hole?
- What qualities do you value within yourself?
- What qualities have others pointed out about you?
- If you pursue an idea you have, will you be happy working on it in five years?
Those are things you could involve yourself in or write about every single day. And they’re the angles you can use to give your site a unique edge.
Consider that you don’t even have to write about a business-oriented blog niche to make a living.
Mark Manson has been posting blog essays on an array of life topics for years before writing his best-selling book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Blog-wise, he shunned ads, and monetized with a subscription model instead. Eventually, he added ebooks to his monetization strategy.
The fact that you might branch out from blogging later to create products is all the more reason to pursue something you really like.
And trust me, people would rather read a blog by someone who is passionate about the subject.
Do all this now, then we’ll analyze your topic ideas for profitability.
3. Who Do You Want to Help?
Think beyond yourself. Who are the people you want to help?
You probably thought of people who are in a place you’ve been before. We all have advice we wouldn’t mind giving our past selves. We learn from our mistakes and our hard-won achievements.
Pat Flynn skyrocketed to success after he put together a study guide for people taking a difficult certification test that he’d had to pass before.
He was in tune with his audience, and that’s why it worked.
It could also be something you’re dealing with now. I like to think of the people going through the same things I am. We’re going through this together, so how we can help each other?
If you can make a real connection with your readers, they’ll feel it and remember you.
- Think broad, and get more specific. Let’s say you want to help writers. What kind of writers? Are they students, content marketers, novelists, freelancers, kindle eBook writers, or grant writers?
- It’s OK to find a balance between a broad and specific niche. Maybe you want to grow into an authority site or media outlet in the future! As long as your categories fit into an overarching theme, you’re fine. If you do go broad, be prepared to outsource more and know the costs of doing so. Consider starting narrow first, but leaving room to grow.
Here are just a few examples of target audiences: Teachers, students, artists, people in recovery, people who want to improve their relationships, busy moms.
Your audience is greater than people consuming your media and then moving on. They’re your community, so think about engaging with them meaningfully.
4. What Do You Want to be Known For?
Affiliate marketers have made niche sites into a secretive thing. Since blogging has such a low barrier to entry, marketers don’t want people to imitate their sites.
While that’s valid, it’s also a side-effect of thinking only in terms of money and strategy.
Nowadays, secrecy is less useful. A strong personal brand is what’s going to stand out and let readers and potential clients connect with you.
If you don’t think about your legacy now, what if the site grows later?
If you’re not proud of your work enough to put your name on it, you’ll sit out opportunities that come your way later to grow your brand.
As far as your name or pen name goes, Google rewards authorship, web presence, and expertise in many niches.
It also just means your legacy over time. As your site grows, it’s going to be your baby. You’ll be proud. You’ll feel loyalty to the people who’ve been reading to your blog.
Thinking about what you want to be known for will keep you honest, motivated, and in touch with your values.
And it’ll give you something to say when your friends and family ask you what it is exactly that you blog about.
There aren’t right or wrong answers. It’s a personal question based on your own values and self-image.
Here are some examples:
- It’s why some people will work in home budgeting, but not coupons.
- Some bloggers will write about travel, but not credit card points. It’s not how they want to spend their time.
- Other marketers work in ads of all kinds, but don’t personally choose to work in the adult areas.
They know how it’ll impact their self-image and their reputation down the line.
5. What Have You Googled Lately?
It sounds like a weird opener at a party. (Maybe I should use it?)
Really though, being aware of your own problems that you’ve had to solve could clue you into a good blog niche idea.
Pieter Levels, who built 12 startups in 12 months, said it’s good to start with a problem because you’re already an expert on your own problems.
Your recent searches are one good way to find them. Were you able to find what you were looking for? How was the quality of the websites you got back? Did the search relate to a larger subject matter you are involved in?
Maybe the search results were sparse. Or maybe they were saturated, but still not helpful. Maybe you found the answer, but it could have been presented better.
Outline a better tutorial or explanation and see if you can do a better job.
A good niche can solve a simple problem a lot of people have. One great niche site this brings to mind is PC Parts Picker, which helps people with customized computer builds for their needs.
This can also lead to ideas for simple web apps that do something you could use software to do, but that the average person doesn’t.
Keep in mind that not every blog needs to be written by the world’s foremost expert. People like to read blogs by someone still going through the process.
Take note of your searches and see where it leads you.
6. Write Your Way into a Good Niche Idea
Now you can test the ideas you have and see if they really have legs.
Pick something you just want to write. Is it a guide to something you can explain well? An essay about something that should change? A tutorial you couldn’t find when you needed it? A product you like? Maybe it’s one of your Reddit posts from the first exercise, but fleshed out.
Open up the page and start writing! It’s okay if it resembles word vomit at first. You’ll polish it into something good. Break the article up into sections with subheadings.
You’ll probably find tangents of related information, but that don’t fit the post’s scope. Now which one of those tangents do you want to write? There’s your next article. Open up a new page and go. You don’t have to make each article perfect to move to a new draft.
Do you see where I’m going with this? If you do this and keep finding new related articles you can write, you’ve got a good niche for you.
Try writing a few so-called money posts as well. These might be reviews of affiliate products, a landing page for an e-mail opt-in, or some other monetization goal.
As you write you might get more ideas than you can write at once. Start plugging ideas into a blog calendar. I personally use Airtable, and treat my calendar as a complete editorial budget in a spreadsheet view.
If you make a spreadsheet, make a column for the post status. For example: Planned, Assigned, Needs Edits, Edited, Published. Now hit “planned” on any topic you actually want to write. You’ll quickly see the real direction your niche will take, and can narrow it down accordingly.
This is a great way to get started. Honestly, sometimes we just need momentum.
7. When It’s Time to Think About Money
The point of all the above is to take action instead of letting perfectionism block you from starting your blog. That said, eventually your blog will be a business and not just a hobby. So how do you plan for that while being true to all of the above?
In a separate spreadsheet from your calendar, start some lists for monetization ideas.
Look at your niche ideas, and organize lists of affiliate programs related to them. Go ahead and think of related products and check their websites for affiliate programs, or Google their name and “affiliate program.”
The most obvious affiliate program is the Amazon Associates program. You can join this pretty easily once your site is running, and promote literally anything on Amazon. The commissions, however, are tiny so you’ll be operating on sheer volume.
Affiliate niche sites are better served by affiliate programs with payouts of $30 and up per sale.
Courses and Books
Make a list of courses you could create related to your niche. Whether you sell them on your site or through Skillshare or Udemy, you can promote them through your own content. You can also sell eBooks if you prefer a written format.
You can sell digital downloads like workbooks, software presets, and art and media tools. The sky’s the limit.
If you want to monetize with ads, you’ll need a good amount of traffic for it to be worthwhile. Your users’ attention is limited, so you’d be better off forgoing ads in favor of promotion of your own products or affiliate products.
Once you have enough traffic, you can apply for ad programs through Mediavine or AdThrive. They’re known to pay better than Google Adsense.
A money page is a part of your user’s journey. You’ll decide on your most important pieces of content (cornerstone content) and make them stick out all over your site. You’ll think about how users will arrive to those posts, and how they will convert.
For the writing you’ve done in the above steps, you’ll also do some basic keyword research. This means typing your article’s topic into a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest.com to find out which search terms people use most. Then you’ll use that to adjust your piece for optimal SEO.
My Quick and Dirty Tips on Blog Niches
I’ve been making a living from niche sites for years, so if you want me to get real, here are some quick and dirty tips.
★ You don’t have to go too narrow.
I truly believe you should give yourself room to grow. I’ve had huge success in a niche that was somewhat narrow, and wanted to expand it into a bigger publication.
If you’re going to go for a narrow micro-niche, try to choose a domain name that lets you expand your topic if you need to.
★ Health and finance are difficult.
Even though they’re profitable niches, health and finance are considered high-risk by Google, meaning they’re harder to rank for in search results. This has been the case ever since the August 2018 algorithm update known by SEOs as Google Medic. To rank well, you’ll need to show authority signals with authorship, your body of work, credentials, and/or those of your team. If your topic highly impacts your audience’s well-being, know that it can be an upward battle if you don’t have some real credentials or aren’t willing to build up that social proof over time.
★ Don’t worry too much about saturation.
You can enter a saturated niche if you target long-tail keywords and have your own unique angle. If there’s already a lot out there on your topic, you know it’s something people want. In fact, search Amazon for books on your subject matter and see just how much a topic is in demand and how much of it is getting covered. Just focus on building your own angle on it.
★ Figure out your own voice.
Whenever I start a new project, I make it a rule not to look at what other people are doing at first. It could block or influence what I create, and I don’t want that. This was my rule for digital art and it can apply to blogging, too. Later, when I’m more solid in my own point of view and style, I’ll check in on what other people are doing. In blogging, you have to make content that competes — but don’t let that block you from getting started.
★ Don’t buy a niche site to start.
It’s better to write your own content at least at first, even if you plan on outsourcing later. You’ll get to know your topic.
However, you can check out the niche site listings on sites like Flippa to see what’s out there. I really don’t think you should buy anything here, but it can give you an idea of what kind of money people are making in different niches.
★ Niches That Make A Lot of Money
Everybody still wants to know this. I’ll say some of the most profitable sites I’ve seen (for affiliates) have been in: Credit cards; weddings; health; business; and technology.
However, affiliate marketing isn’t all that’s out there. I know people making good money from ad revenue writing celebrity gossip. Some bloggers have made millions writing about fashion like shoes and purses.
★ Sites That People Love
Whatever you do, make sure your audience is a part of your blog. Make something they’ll come back to again and again. That could be a problem-solving site or it could be a community around a certain topic. Readers return to sites that speak to their specific needs and help them improve their life, or to communities and forums where they can make connections around some topic.
Final Thoughts and Encouragement
Your niche choice doesn’t have to be perfect right now.
If you just start writing things now, you’ll eventually hit upon something that works. Something that’s popular with others, something that makes money, and something you enjoy.
When you hit on that thing, that pain point your audience has, you can optimize for it over and over again.
Above all, take action. Your path is yours alone, and to find it, you just have to get started.
Ready to set up your blog? Read my guide to start a blog with WordPress the way that works.
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