How we find niche site ideas that earn real money

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This article represents a ton background work. If you’d be so kind as to share on Pinterest, it would really mean a lot. Enjoy!

I want your niche site to hit it out of the park!  So how can you make your site a home run and not a total flop?

It all starts with the idea.

Good businesses are all built on ideas and opportunities.  Think about any business out there, from tiny to gigantic, and they’re all built around a single opportunity that somebody saw and took advantage of.  Now when I talk about opportunities, what I’m really talking about are gaps.  Gaps are places where there’s a need that nobody else is filling.

A lot of small businesses fill gaps in their local area.  So even though one city has a Thai restaurant, your hometown may still have a gap in the Thai cuisine market, and if you happen to have some knowledge or skill around Thai cuisine, maybe opening a Thai restaurant would be a good opportunity for you.

I get it, you didn’t come here to talk about opening a Thai restaurant, but the principle is the same.  If you want your niche site to be able to generate real income, then you need to find a good opportunity.  Or rather, you need to find a gap in the market that you can fill.

Niche Site Idea Basics

If you’re here, it’s probably because you’re already convinced of what a niche website can do for you.  It’s through niche websites that we’ve been growing our income for years now and it just keeps getting better.  But not every niche site ends up being worth the effort it took to build it.  So what makes the difference?

In many cases, it’s the idea.

This isn’t to say that a niche site idea is inherently bad for everyone.  But there are niche site ideas that would be bad for you.

Let me give you an example from our history.

A couple years ago, Jim bought a niche website in the athletics space.  This one specifically is about baseball.  Now, it’s not a bad site.  It’s setup just fine.  And the thought behind it was that even though Jim isn’t a big baseball enthusiast, he could force himself to write the articles he needed to and do the research on the right products to make the site successful.  In this, he was wrong.  If you ask him about it, he’ll tell you that this site has been one of his niche site failures.

But has it failed for him?  Is baseball a bad niche?

Of course not.  It’s just a bad niche for Jim, who has struggled to get himself to write the content and do the research needed to adequately fill the gap that this niche site idea should be filling.

This brings us to our first main point.

Choose a niche that you can enjoy writing about

It’s not just writing either.  It has to be a niche that you would enjoy researching.  You’ll spend a lot of time writing your articles.  But chances are you’ll spend even more time researching them depending on your niche and your experience in that niche.

Even if you think, “I can motivate myself to write 30-60 articles about anything,” don’t kid yourself.  You may actually be able to.  In fact you probably can.  But by the end, you’ll probably hate it.  And if you end up hating your topic, then it’ll come out in your writing.  If you’re really going to make something that provides value for people to read, then it needs to be something you can really put all of yourself into.  And a topic that you don’t enjoy just won’t do it.

Let me give you another example from our recent history.

About two years ago, Jim bought a pontoon boat.  Now, he loved the boat but he really knew very little about boating and specifically about pontoon boats.  So as he researched all about pontoon boats—what to do with them, how to use them, what accessories to buy, and so on—he discovered that there wasn’t a single central website where he could find all the information he wanted.  There was a gap that nobody was filling.

In this case, it was a topic that Jim would be happy researching.  In fact, he had already done the research.  All he had to do now was go back and write articles that answered the questions he had been asking.  That wasn’t hard and in a matter of a couple months, Jim had build a site with about 35 articles that he has hardly touched since.  In less than two years, this site earns $4,000 per month and was recently appraised for $107,000 by a reputable company that brokers the buying and selling of websites.

The differences between the two sites I’ve talked about are subtle, and we’ll talk about a few more of them as we go on.  But the biggest difference, the one that made one a success and the other a flop, was how much Jim liked researching and writing about the topic.

So pick an topic for your site that you can enjoy writing about.

Choose a niche that fills a gap

This should be fairly obvious by this point.  We’ve talked about gaps so I won’t beat that drum for too much longer.  The point is this, pick a topic that doesn’t already have all of the information readily accessible on another site.

Let me give you an example.

The weight loss/fitness niche is very crowded.  You would be hard pressed to find any topic in that area that doesn’t already have several niche sites and blogs covering the same topic.  I’m not saying it’s not possible, but for people to find your site it needs to be able to rank in search engines like Google and on YouTube, which will be tough to do in the weight loss/fitness space.

Now, let’s say you have a knack for cooking inexpensive and healthy meals, or you know lots of ingredient substitutions that make food healthier and cut out unnecessary calories, there’s a niche that isn’t as crowded even though it’s related.

If you have an idea but you’re not sure if that space is really crowded, take a specific topic that you’d like to write about—I mean a very specific topic that could be the headline for one of your articles—and do a Google search.  If nothing comes up that really covers that topic, then that’s a good sign.  On the other hand, if a major corporate website pops up, then that should raise red flags in your mind that it’s not a good topic for you.  A niche site will never be able to compete with a major corporate website in Google rankings.

If you’re struggling with ideas, check out our article 50 Niche Site Ideas Ripe for the Taking.

So make sure your topic fills a gap

Choose a niche that can earn you money

We use to say, “Focus on traffic.  With enough traffic, you can easily convert page views into income.”  Now, we take a little different approach

“Begin with the end in mind.”  That’s habit 2 from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which is a fantastic book by Stephen Covey that I highly recommend, but that’s not why I’m bringing it up.

When you first think about what idea to base your site on, you need to have a clear vision in mind of what the site is meant to do for you.  When we build niche websites, we have a couple of purposes.  Like most any business really, it exists to provide a product or service to people who need it (filling a gap) and it exists to earn income for the business owner.  If you’re going through the effort to build a niche website, you’re probably not just doing it out of the good of your heart.  You are probably also hoping that it’ll make you some money, maybe even a lot of it.

If that’s the goal, then how do you expect to achieve it if that’s not even a consideration when you’re coming up with the idea.  Building a niche website without thinking about how it can make money would be just like opening a lawn care business that mows people’s lawns for free.  It’s a fantastic service that people will love.  In fact, you’d probably get a ton of customers.  But you’d work yourself into the ground and not earn a penny.

I think we’ve beat that in enough.

So how is your idea going to earn money?

There are a few main monetization strategies for niche websites.  You can use any combination of these strategies (and probably lots of others).

Affiliate Marketing

This is simply where you recommend other people’s products or services on your own website.  There are tons of companies that you can work with to get lists of affiliate products that fit your niche.  You simply link to their website from your site, and every time someone clicks and buys, you get a commission.

This is the first strategy that virtually every niche site should implement.  A lot of niche sites are actually built completely around this idea and can earn several thousand dollars each month just through affiliate links.

The first place you should look for affiliate opportunities is Amazon.com.  They have a great program that’s really easy to get started with and allows you to link to any product they sell and earn a commission.  If there are any products that you can recommend on your site, then you should definitely sign up.

Some other top affiliate companies are Clickbank, CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction), and Share-a-Sale.

Courses

There are a lot of niches where most of what you’re doing is teaching somebody else a skill.  These types of sites lend themselves really well to digital courses.

These courses can be pretty complicated, or they can be extremely simple.  A lot of people create courses and sell them through companies like Udemy.  That’s great.  But you can keep things simple and record a series of videos or even just audio files that you send out to people who buy your course.

For example, we have a course that walks you through step-by-step how to take your niche site from idea all the way to building traffic and earning money in 60 days.  We call it Niche Site School.  This is a course where almost every day you receive an email.  The email has an assignment with detailed and specific instructions for completing that assignment.  Some of the instructions are written.  Most of them, though,  are provided as videos which we link to in the emails.

We could have used a company like Udemy to host this content, but then they would charge us and it would make the entire course more complicated.  So instead, we went the simple route and give you exactly the information you need in an easy-to-use format.

It’s your choice how simple or how complicated you want to get with your courses.  You can decide how professional or how simple you want to get with recorded videos.  The point here is to keep this option in mind as you think of niche site ideas.  Is your idea something that people would pay money to learn about?  If so, then it might be a great niche for selling courses.

Digital Products

Digital products can be fantastic.

These are basically products that you can sell through your site that are completely digital, or rather, they’re a downloadable file.  This can range from e-books to video guides, from audio files to a package of software settings.  The sky really is the limit.  Anything that you can package up into a digital file for someone to download falls into this category.

But why are these so fantastic?  Digital products are fantastic because they don’t require extra work from you for each sale, and the cost to you per sale is basically $0.  When you sell a digital product, the customer buys a file.  Whether 100 people or 1,000,000 people buy that file, the cost to you is essentially the same.  Not only that, the work you have to do is essentially the same.

So think about this as you think about niche site ideas.  Is your idea something that lends itself to a digital product?  If so, then it could be a great niche for selling digital products.

Once you have courses and/or digital products, you can even make your site a subscription site where users can sign up and pay a monthly fee for access to a group of digital products and course content.  This can be a fantastic and continuous stream of income.

Physical Products

If your topic lends itself to a lot of physical products, then at some point you can quit earning small commissions from Amazon on each sale you make for them, and selling the products yourself.

Now, selling physical products through your site adds a bit of complexity.  Not that the site becomes terribly complex, that part isn’t so bad, but now you have to deal with ordering products, storing them, shipping, and so on.  You can cut all that out if your supplier can drop ship for you.  Or, you can use a service from Amazon.com called Fulfilled by Amazon.  This is usually referred to as Amazon FBA.

Some people are making a bunch of money like this, but be warned it isn’t for everyone.

A lot of products that people sell like this are cheap products made overseas that they can buy in bulk very inexpensively.  They then have the products shipped directly to Amazon, who takes care of storing them.  They make an Amazon store and then on their site, they just link to their own product on Amazon.com.  So instead of getting a commission for selling someone else’s product, you can just get people to buy yours and you get all of the profits.  Well, that is after you pay Amazon their cut which is fairly substantial for FBA.

But Amazon FBA isn’t the only way to sell physical products through your site.  Depending on your niche, you may be able to get a high quality supplier and sell the products directly on your site.  Remember, cheap stuff isn’t the only stuff that sells well online.  Actually, high quality, higher priced items can do really well for you and don’t require the same number of sales to really pay off.  Again, this isn’t too terribly difficult to setup.  You just need to figure out how to handle storage and shipping and you’re set.

So choose an idea that has a clear path to earn you money

That’s really all there is to it.

If you have an idea for a niche site and it’s something you could enjoy writing about for a few months at least, it fills a gap, and you can use one or more of the monetization strategies we’ve talked about here to make money off the idea, then it’s an idea that will probably work.

Then all you have to do is put in the work to build the site, write and content, and get people to it.

Now, that’s a lot of work, so check out Income School’s Niche Site School for a consultation to hash out your idea with us and really refine it, followed by a 60-day guide to take your site from idea to income in 60 days.  You’ll get unlimited email access to Jim and Ricky to have your questions answered for 60 days.  Plus you’ll get step-by-step instructions showing you the recipe that we use when we build our own niche sites.

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