hitting the bullseye in picking a nicheSo you’ve decided that you’re going to build yourself a brand spanking new Internet based business. Congrats – now, have you picked the right niche yet? No? If you’re not sure or if you simply don’t understand what I mean about picking a niche, then you need to read on because you could be in for a world of hurt when you try to build your new business.

What is a Niche?

Let’s start with the obvious and then we’ll get down to the specifics of picking a niche. If you want to create a personal blog to ramble on about your own life, then forget about picking a niche. It’s totally unimportant.
Of course, unless your name happens to be Justin Bieber or someone else who is equally famous, you should also forget about making money from your blog. The odds are good that you wouldn’t even make a dollar on your blog, never mind making enough to cover the costs of running the blog or to cover the cost of providing you with a bit of a living.
On the other hand, if you are determined to make money from your blog, then you need to pick a specific topic you’re going to cover.
That means that if you choose to talk about the latest video games, you generally won’t be writing posts on your latest camping trip or about the local restaurant you visited which was just great (unless of course you played video games on your camping trip and the restaurant is a video game themed restaurant).
In other words, you need to pick a specific niche in which you’re going to write whatever it is that you plan to write.

The Three Rules

For those who don’t want to read what is going to be a rather long blog post, let me break it down for you here. There are three basic rules that should govern picking your niche and I’ll explain each one in detail further on in this blog post. However, for the impatient, they are:

  1. You must be passionate about your niche
  2. Your niche must be something that holds interest for others, not just yourself
  3. Your niche needs to be one that makes money

Being Passionate

Let’s start with the discussion of passion. I recently got a complaint from a client of mine that he felt I wasn’t “passionate” about his business in the kind of writing I provided for him. I’ve got to say, I’m not passionate about it and it’s hard to be passionate when you get constant rewrite requests from a client who seems to think that the minimal wage he’s paying me entitles him to months of my time. However, this complaint does bring up an important point.

You’ll Get Bored

If you are going to sell someone a product or if you are going to discuss a particular issue, you must be passionate about it or you’ll get bored long before you get your blog off the ground. You’ll find yourself tapering off slowly but surely and eventually giving up altogether on doing updates, because your heart just isn’t in it. This is especially true since few blogs make money until they’ve become entrenched after almost a year of constant updates.

People Can Tell When It’s Phony

However, beyond that, if people sense that your writing is just an effort to play to keywords which make money, they’re not going to read your blog. They’ll go elsewhere and try to find someone who is passionate about the subject in question and your blog will be ignored. Ultimately, even if you are able to get some people to click through from Google, this means that you’ll have very limited success in building an audience and making money from you blog.

You May Make Mistakes

Finally, before we close out the subject of passion, let’s talk about credibility.
Say you decide that you want to write a blog about photography techniques because you heard that it’s a good business to make money in. However, you don’t know much about photography – you simply go out and shoot pictures with your cell phone or maybe your point and shoot camera.
Suddenly, you are surrounded by a veritable alphabet soup of acronyms and terms, including things like dSLR, RAW, f stops, shutter speed and ED/SD lenses. Even if you study up on this stuff, if it’s not something you care about, you’re more likely to make mistakes while running your blog and lose credibility with your audience.

Your Niche Needs an Audience

Okay, so you’ve picked out something you are passionate about and now you’re ready to start your blog. Not so fast. Let’s say for example that you happen to love collecting duct tape art and you’ve decided to create a blog around that subject (that was an example I saw mentioned elsewhere and I thought it strange – I’ll explain a moment).
Now, it is true that you wouldn’t be the only person on earth to have an abiding interest in duct tape art. There may well be groups of people in your area and all over the world who are passionate about this particular niche.

Is There Enough of an Audience?

However, you need to ask yourself – is there a broad enough audience to make this into a daily blog? Heck, is there enough to talk to about with duct tape art? Maybe, but maybe not; I honestly don’t know enough about it to know if there is that big an interest in it.
The bottom line is that your niche must have a decent sized audience who will be passionate enough about the subject to come by and spend time at your blog, reading what you have to say and buying products that you advertise so that you can make money doing what you do. This means doing the research to find out whether or not there is a decent sized audience for your niche.

Doing the Research

Doing the research on this issue is critical. In essence, what you’d do is visit Google and punch in some keywords related to your niche and see whether or not there are lots of other blogs with a similar focus. It could also be useful to consider a visit to the Google Adwords keyword tool to see how many searches there are for your keyword on a daily basis.

It Also Can’t Be Too Broad

The reverse of this subject is also true. If you pick a subject which is so broad that it could fill volumes, you’ll also struggle to build an audience because you simply won’t have enough material up in any one area of interest for your audience to build a commitment. This means for example that if you were to create a blog about weight loss, you’d do better creating one about a particular method of weight loss than about weight loss in general because the subject is so broad.

It Needs to Make Money

This of course is the dirty little secret of picking a niche for any online business, regardless of what it may be. Your niche needs to be one that could make money for you. If it’s not, then you aren’t very likely to succeed, no matter how large your audience may be.

The Real Life of Steve Jobs

A case in point was a fake blog which purported to be written by Steve Jobs. It was in fact written by a blogger from New York who was doing a pseudo parody of the Apple Inc. CEO. He wrote an article in the New Yorker a couple of years ago in which he declared blogging for money to be a waste of time.
He said that even when he had more than a million hits after a New York Times expose on him, he made only a few hundred dollars from Adsense that month and he eventually decided that the amount of work he was putting in wasn’t worth it. His conclusion was that you can’t make a living from blogging.

The Truth

The truth is that you can make a living from blogging, but he made a cardinal mistake with his blog. He didn’t have a clue as to what it was his audience would buy. He simply wrote about a subject which his audience might be interested in (and they were), but it was difficult to monetize.

Even When There is Lots of Traffic…

A similar problem occurs even when there is a lot of traffic and a lot of sales, but the amounts are small. For example, ringtones are very popular and they do have lots of sales volume. However, because the margins for such things are so small, you’re unlikely to see much money from a blog about ringtones even though you’re seeing lots of traffic. The volume you’d need would be astronomical and you’re simply not likely to see it happening.

Bottom Line

Picking your niche is not a subject that should be the result of whimsy. It needs to be a serious decision that you take after having done the appropriate research to know that you’re likely to stick with it and that you’re likely to make money from doing it. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of wasting your time.