The success or failure of any online side hustle or small business can depend on the niche you choose. This choice can determine how difficult or expensive it is to obtain website traffic. Even your potential sales could be drastically affected by your niche selection.
Before you select the primary focus of your website, you need to do some research to get an idea of the amount of competition present from other businesses. The more people that attempt to target a specific niche, the less likely you are to succeed. More competition simply equals more work and time required to gain traffic and sales.
What is a Niche?
If you're not familiar with the term niche and how it relates to a website or online business, let me explain real quick. Most websites or any kind of online business has some type of focus. I'll use this blog as an example here. I don't write articles that cover every potential topic in the world. Instead, I solely focus on money related topics.
I'll cover a few sub-niches - personal finance, investing and side hustles. Each of these niches has a defined focus, but all three of them also relate to each other since they're all about managing your money or making more money.
This business focus and the category or industry you cover is the niche of your website. You can choose to target multiple niches like I'm doing on this website, but in order to do so, they should all heavily relate to each other to get the best results.
Why Your Niche Matters
So why shouldn't you build a website dedicated to both pet cats and hang gliding, especially if both are your true passions? First of all, it won't make much sense to your website visitors to have those two niches together. It will simply lead to confusion and a split audience that will likely only be interested in half of your content.
It also matters when it comes to marketing, especially when you're trying to get free search engine traffic. Google doesn't want you to build a site about pet cats and hang gliding, unless you're actually taking your cats hang gliding with you. They would prefer a separate site about pet cats and another site about hang gliding.
To get good search engine rankings, you may need to accumulate dozens or even hundreds of articles about your website niche. This shows your focus to search engines like Google and makes them more likely to respect your content as an authority on the subject.
Niche selection also matters when it comes to making money. If you'll make money from advertising, certain industries will average higher pay for website traffic. Even an eBay store will do better when it maintains a focus on a specific type of products. It's simply easier to build an audience and sell things to them when you have a defined focus.
Choosing a Niche
Unfortunately, there isn't a clearly defined guideline I can give you for selecting a niche since there are many different kinds of internet businesses and side hustles. Consider all aspects that are important to a website when you make your selection though. Competition among other businesses, marketing potential, audience building potential and the potential to make money.
Research all of these aspects for your business before you make a final decision. Figure out where you want your traffic to originate, and research that plan to see if there are a lot of other people already doing the same thing. Think about how you'll build an audience to grow your business over time. Especially consider how you'll make money, and whether you'll need to worry about the competition to succeed.
If you'll be creating content for your niche, also consider whether this will be easy or difficult. Could you write an article about a different topic in your niche every day for 10 years or will you run out of good potential topics in a few months? By research future content for the site, you can sometimes identify the need to make your niche topic more specific or more general.
The more focused your niche selection, the less competition you'll face. However, a more focused niche is also more limited in total topics / keywords and may even be limited in an overall audience. For example, "cars" would be a super-vague niche, while a site exclusively about the 1964 Ford Mustang might be too specific.
Google Search Engine Competition Research
Google can be used for niche research. It can be quite useful to give you some information about how much competition exists for the niche. In particular, if you want to get free, targeted search engine traffic to your website, then you'll likely want to how if it will be difficult.
The Google Keyword Planner can be used to find out how much search traffic exists for various keyword phrases. Targeting phrases with too much traffic on a brand new website is not likely to provide any traffic. Instead, start with less popular phrases that are much less likely to have competition, and then target more popular phrases as your site grows. Anything over 1k monthly searches is likely out of reach for a new website.
You can also use Google itself for research. Simply search a keyword phrase. This could be the primary keyword for your niche choice, but you can also search individual topics in your niche too. It's not a perfect gauge, but you can use the number of results returned for each search as a general gauge of competition.
I've searched two keyword phrases on Google: "personal finance" and "combining finances after marriage". "Personal finance" has 10k - 100k monthly searches and yields 808 million results on Google. "Combining finances after marriage" has 100 - 1k monthly searches and has 1.84 million search results. You might get more traffic from one phrase, but there's also much more competition for it too. It's often better to pursue the phrases with less traffic when you're first starting. The effort to get a top ranking on a really popular phrase can be much more than the effort needed to get the same amount of traffic from numerous keywords that are less popular.
"combining finances with marriage" Google results
"personal finance" Google results
Other Niche Research
Depending on your business plan, you'll likely want to do other niche research besides using Google. For example, if you're going to sell products on eBay, research similar listings. How many other vendors do you estimate are doing the same thing? Also be sure to take note of how many listings you can find for different types of products you're considering selling.
When you want to pay for advertising or make money from advertising, you can research this information before you choose your niche too. On Facebook or on Google Ads, you can set up an account to run your own advertising and often receive estimated costs. Some niches will be much more expensive than others. When you plan to pay for traffic, you need to know how much it will cost to see if it fits with your budget and if the potential even exists to make a profit. When you'll make money from running these ads, you can estimate earnings by viewing what it costs to run ads.
Ultimately, anything that will affect the success or failure of your business relating to your niche selection and how you'll make money should be researched before you make a final decision. This is something that many people will rush when they don't have much experience. If you make a wrong choice, you may not realize it for months or even years, which can result in a lot of wasted time, effort and money.