Finging your nicheYou've decided to build an affiliate marketing business.  Congratulations!  You are way ahead of many people who never get that far.  Now, you need to identify a niche area. Now that you understand a basic overview of affiliate marketing, you know there are four basic steps that I’m describing in this guide on how to find a niche.

The first of the basic steps in affiliate marketing is to decide on the niche that you’re going to work in. This is exactly the same kind of thinking you would use if you were going to start a brick and mortar business.

bunch of fresh red hot chilli pepperLet’s say you were going to open a restaurant. You would have to decide what kind of food you were going to serve; Is it going to be a French bakery or a Mexican food joint?  If it's going to be Mexican food, will you focus on Tex-Mex or more traditional Mexican food?

The same idea applies when you’re trying to decide how to start your first internet business. You need to decide what kind of business it’s going to be. Since you’re reading this guide we’ve already decided that it’s going to be an affiliate marketing business. That means we’re going to attract traffic to our website and send that traffic to offers from other service providers.

For example, we might write a review of a fantastic lawn mower from Honda and send people to buy that lawn mower at Amazon.com or Sears.com. We might review on Netflix and send people to sign up for Netflix service at Netflix.com. We might review a hot new iPhone case and send people to buy that iPhone case through the affiliate program hosted by the company that actually makes the phone case.

It's a simple idea – in all these cases we’re basically referring traffic in exchange for a commission.  In most cases, we get that commission when a sale is actually made.

So to start an affiliate marketing business, you first have to decide what exactly is it that you want your website to be about and what kind of products you’ll recommend. We refer this process as finding your niche.

Three keys to Niche SelectionFinding A Niche Profitable Niche –
Three Key Things

In the overview I mentioned that there are two primary considerations for niche selection when you’re thinking about building your first affiliate website – profitability and passion.

Choosing a niche that you care about (passion) will help you make it through the learning curve.  The only problem is that all of your efforts will be for nothing (speaking monetarily) if what you care about is not profitable.

That's why your first and primary consideration is that you need to find a niche that is profitable. When deciding whether or not a niche is profitable there are three primary considerations.   If the niche you are considering does not pass these three tests, you should move on to something else.

Test 1:  Are People Looking To Buy?

Here's the first consideration:  are people looking to buy products online in the niche that you’re considering? In other words, are people going to Google and searching for the products that you are planning to recommend on your site?

If not, there’s absolutely no reason to build a website about those products. The entire point of business is to match offers with buyers. If there aren’t any buyers in your niche then there is no reason to try and go find them – they aren’t there.

Surprisingly, in today's world, you can find buyers in almost every market.  Just make sure that what you are thinking about makes sense.  Are people buying products in your nice online.

Finding Profitable Niches

What you really want to know is are other marketers in this niche making money?  If other people are making money, that is usually a great indication that you can too.  But how can you tell?   The answer is simple.

If you go to Google and search for a term that you’re considering building a website around – let’s say for example, “blue suede shoes” – you’ll notice three main areas in the search results; the top of the listing, the main listing area, and the right hand side.

The top of the listing and the right hand side area contain paid advertising. If there advertisers paying for ad slots in your target marketing then there is probably money to be made.  Advertisers don’t spend money advertising in Google unless they are making money that more than covers the cost of their ads. That’s a very simple way to understand whether or not a niche is profitable.

A second clue is whether or not products are for sale online. For example, when you search for products in your niche online do you find any? If you go to Amazon are there products for sale? If there are, chances are people are making money in that niche and you can too.

Test 2:  Are There Good Keywords Available?

Affiliate Niche KeywordsOnce you’ve decided that a niche is potentially profitable, the second consideration is whether or not there are keywords that you can target for your website that will provide you traffic that you can convert into sales.

In the kind of affiliate marketing website that we’re going to build, we’ll depend on free traffic from the search engines. In order to get that traffic we have to have a website that is optimized for the kind of keywords that people are typing into search engines like Google.

This means that there must be keywords available that have large enough search volumes to make them meaningful and low enough competition that we can actually win the fight in Google to rank for them on the first page of the search results.

To figure all this out we need to do keyword research to determine whether or not there are enough viable keywords to make it worth building our website.  We’ll talk about keyword research in detail in another article, but for now just know that you need to have enough searchers searching for a term that has low enough competition that you can rank in the search engines for that term.

Once you rank in Google and Bing for your search terms, people will click on your website in the search engines, come to your website, and click on your affiliate offers to move to the affiliate site. Once on the affiliate site, some percentage of those people will buy the products you’re recommending and you’ll get a commission.

It’s a chain of events that is only as strong as its weakest link. If you don’t have enough searches for your keyword term, you won’t get enough traffic from Google. If you don’t rank high enough in the search engines, you won’t get enough traffic from Google. If your offers are not good enough, you won’t send enough traffic to merchant sales pages. If your offers don’t convert well, you won’t make any sales. So in order for affiliate marketing to work all of these pieces need to work, and it all starts with keyword research.

Test 3:  Are There Good Offers to Connect People With?

affiliate marketing offersThe third thing you need to determine to understand whether a niche is profitable is whether or not there are a few good offers that will actually convert.

There are several places where you can find affiliate offers, including Amazon.com, Commission Junction, eBay (like I use on The Corn Sheller Site), Share-a-Sale.com, and a host of others. Many products have their own self-administered affiliate programs. This is particularly true in the internet marketing niche, but can also be true for physical products.

In any case, the question is; are there offers that look like they’ll actually convert? OR are there offers where conversion data is available so you know that they convert?  

In cases like Commission Junction, the affiliate program details will actually tell you how the offer is converting in the marketplace. But, you can do some work on your own to understand whether or not the offer looks good. If you click to the offer page on the affiliate website, does it look nice and clean? Is there a call to action? Is it easy to understand how to buy the product? Do they take payment forms that most people will have, like MasterCard and Visa? And so on.

Bottom line – Would you buy that product? If you can find a few products that you would buy based on the website, you’ve probably found some good offers. And if it’s in a profitable niche with a lot of keywords that are rich and ready to go with low competition, then you’ve found yourself a profitable niche.

Add a Little Passion to the Program

The next criteria that I mention in the overview of affiliate marketing article is that you need to have some passion around your very first niche website. Now, passion is a word that scares people. I’m not talking about the kind of passion that you feel about your life’s calling. Heck, most of us don’t even have any idea what our life’s calling is. But, you do need to pick something that you’re interested in.

affiliate marketing footballIf you absolutely hate football, don’t build a website that sells Dallas Cowboys football jerseys. You’re not going to be interested in it.  When the going “gets tough” and there is hard work to do, your enthusiasm will fade and you will end up with another “unfinished website.”  You can build site about stuff you don't care about later when you are a pro.  For now, stick with stuff you know.

One of the things we’ll teach in this affiliate marketing tutorial is a concept called content marketing where we create valuable content that readers can’t live without and recommend products as part of the content creation process. You’re not going to be able to create “can’t live without” content if you’re not interested in the topic that you’re writing about. So I personally believe that it’s really important that at least initially you choose something that you’re interested in.

Once you know how to do affiliate marketing and you have some wins under your belt then you can start picking topics and products to market that you don’t care about, that you don’t have passion around. You can go for very high profit products in very competitive markets even if you’re not interested in them. But for now I strongly encourage to pick a topic that you’re interested in. As I mentioned before, affiliate marketing is really hard work and you’re going to need to pick a topic that you’re interested in to stay motivated.

Finally, let me say a word about stressing out over niches. Don’t.

What have I done!?You may build your very first affiliate website based on your life’s passion and it may end up making $3,000 per month. That can happen. OR you may build your first affiliate website over something that you don’t care about very much and it may make $500 per month. OR you may not make a single penny on your first website.

In fact, I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve built several websites that haven’t made much money at all. Recently I did an experiment with a website on snoring products and it didn’t go anyway. Over the last five months that website has had 18 visitors total and made zero sales. It happens, so don’t worry about selecting the perfect niche.

Don’t spend three months trying to figure out what your website should be about. Make a list of the things that you’re interested in and pick something from the list that looks like it will be profitable. It’s really that simple for your first website.

I’m planning on making a list of resources to help you with niche brainstorming and niche selection at a future date. For now, just simply pick a niche based on the criteria here. If it doesn’t work out, don’t worry about it. After all, you’re talking to a guy who picked up a keyword about corn shellers and is making $50 per month on that website. Wouldn’t you be thrilled if your first website made $50 a month and you only spent a few days working on it?

The Story Behind the Corn Sheller Website

corn-shellerSpeaking of The Corn Sheller Site, I promised in this tutorial that we’d follow it along during our adventure. I’ve told this story many times, but let me tell it again here for the purpose of tying in the corn sheller niche website to this tutorial.

My good friend Josh Spaulding owns a keyword research tool with my other good friend Jon Leger, it’s called Keyword Canine. (You can check it out over at KeywordCanine.net.) One day Josh called me and said, “Hey Mark, I have this new tool. Would you like to promote it on your website?”

I told Josh the same thing I always tell everyone, that I only promote products that I actually use. Of course Josh is a friend and he said, “Yes, I know that. That’s why I’ve selected three keywords at random from the tool that the tool says will be easy to rank for and be profitable.”

The keywords weren’t all that great. I don’t even remember what they all were, but one of them was “corn sheller.” I didn’t even know what a corn sheller was, I really didn’t. I had to look it up on Wikipedia. I double checked the results from Keyword Canine and found that indeed this was a low competition keyword with enough search traffic to make things interesting.

So this keyword for corn shellers passed the first part of my test for profitability, there were searchers and the competition was low. The question was; were there offers? The truth of the matter was at first I couldn’t see the offers. There were no corn shellers to speak of for sale on Amazon.com, I couldn’t see much in any products for corn shellers anywhere on the web.

Corn shellers are a farm implement and they were used many years ago. Suddenly I realized that the searchers for corn shellers were searching for antique corn shellers – these were collectors. Of course, we all know that collectors buy things on eBay. As it happens, eBay has an affiliate program. So there was my profitable affiliate offer that I knew I could convert.

eBay has an interesting affiliate program because once someone clicks into eBay from your affiliate link you get a commission no matter what they buy. If you look at the breakdown for the commissions that I’m getting from CornShellers.net only half of them are actually from antique corn shellers, the rest come from other things that people are buying on eBay.

With search traffic, low competition, and an offer that I could make on my website, the corn sheller niche met my test. I wasn’t passionate about it but I wanted to see if Josh’s tool worked, so that gave me enough motivation to build the site.

The bottom line is don’t worry about the exact niche for your first site. Pick something that meets this criteria and just go for it. The most valuable thing you’re going to get out of building your first website is not the website itself, it’s learning the process. After that you can build as many websites as you want.

Have any questions?

Remember, this is a tutorial for YOU. I expect that you’ll have questions after reading each one of these tutorials. After all, there are 1,000 questions I can think of about how to find a niche. Eventually I plan to cover all of those questions in the supporting material for this lesson. Right now that material doesn’t exist yet, so ask your questions below in the comments and I’ll do my very best to answer them. Remember, if you have a question chances are everyone else reading this article has that question as well.

Next step:  Building Your Website

Have a great day.

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