How To Choose a Niche For Your Blog in 2021
So you’re interested in building an affiliate site to generate passive income for you and your family.
But you have no idea what niche to base it on?
I totally get that.
Because you and everyone else who has ever built a niche site has struggled with this particular problem.
The truth is that the process of selecting a niche is only as complicated as you make it.
So here’s a tutorial that explains how you can find an almost unlimited number of ideas for your new blog.
And by the time you’ve finished this article, you’ll have more ideas for niches than you know what to do with.
What Is a Niche?
When discussing affiliate marketing, a niche is a small segment of a larger market.
It involves providing specialized or unique products and services to a very specific demographic.
Newcomers to the online business game often confused markets and niches, so let’s give you a few examples.
- Market – babies
- Niche – baby strollers
- Market – drones
- Niche – drone photography
- Market – CBD
- Niche – CBD for dogs
Oh, and it’s pronounced “nich” in North America, and “Neesh” in Europe, so both are correct depending on where you live in the world.
Why Pick a Niche?
You’re probably wondering why you can’t just blog about random topics until you find something that you like and then focus solely on that?
There are two reasons why you shouldn’t do this:
1. Specialist blogs make more money
Blogs that specialize in a focused area always get more attention and make more money than generalists. It’s the same logic as to why a cosmetic surgeon earns more than a general surgeon. (Less competition / more of a for specialized information) The same logic applies to blogging.
2. Google likes niches
Google needs to understand what your site is about so it can place it in a specific “category”. It will struggle to do this if your blog contains movie reviews, food recipes, and hiking tips. But Google will have no issue with categorizing your site if it contains only food recipes, or only movie reviews, or only hiking tips.
This categorization of sites is something Google is investing a lot of time and resources in because it allows them to provide more accurate search results.
The technical term for this categorization process is thematic relevance.
All you need to worry about here though is making sure that your site has a niche and that you only blog on topics relevant to that niche.
Don’t Follow Your Passion
99% of the sites that talk about “How to choose a blog niche” all share the same well-intentioned but incorrect advice and that is: “Follow your passion”.
According to them, you should only ever select a niche for your blog if it’s something you’re truly passionate about.
The problem is that it’s the type of advice you get from people who don’t run a profitable blog or niche – they just make their money selling courses on how to do that.
“Follow your passion” is meant to cause some kind of universal convergence where your hobby of collecting interesting pieces of tree bark will magically make you money. (That’ll never work.)
That’s why it isn’t good advice – it can send you down a rabbit hole where you choose a blog niche that generates exactly zero dollars for you.
Be helpful and answer popular questions
Being helpful is a far better way to approach the niche selection process.
Think of ways you could help people, or simply problems that people need help with. Because, behind every problem is a line of people looking for a solution.
Now, this might have you thinking, “Yeah…but what if I hate the topic that people need help with?”
Could you maybe enjoy learning more about it? I certainly could if the niche makes money. 🙂
Plus, you can always outsource the writing work to somebody who does actually love the subject. So “passion” becomes even less of a factor here.
In fact, there are certain niches (Your Money Your Life) where you’ll have to hire a certified professional to write the content for you otherwise Google will not send traffic to your site.
Being interested in your niche is great, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
Plus, there’s no point in pursuing a passion project that doesn’t generate profit.
Otherwise, you have a hobby and not an online business and the job replacement income you want so badly.
Brainstorming Your Niche
It’s time to talk about how you actually come up with ideas for your new site.
This is where most people really struggle. And, a lot of that struggle is a result of the fact that the process conflicts with the notion of e.g. “Only blog about your passions”.
But the good news is there are thousands upon thousands of niches out there for you to tap into, including ones that will make you think, “Oh, that would be a fun topic to blog about”.
Let’s look at the numerous ways you can come up with blog niche ideas.
Blog niche ideas
Here are the best places to research blog niches.
1. Your life
Make sure you have that pen and paper handy – you can use a notepad document or anything that allows you to record information.
There’s something about writing ideas down on paper that makes any niche brainstorming session far more effective.
Without overthinking the process, make a list of the following:
- Your hobbies and general interests
- Previous jobs
- What you studied in college
- Magazines you read
- Your favorite blogs (and their topics)
- Things you Google on a regular basis
Don’t allow this to become an open-ended exercise that you can complete “whenever”. Instead, find a quiet corner/time of day in your home, set a timer for no more than 90-minutes, and start writing.
There are no right or wrong answers, so don’t stop to critique your ideas because that’s the quickest way to hit a mental block.
When you’re done, put the sheet(s) of paper in a drawer, and don’t look at them again for 24 hours.
The final step in the process is to then draw a circle around 5 – 7 ideas that appeal to you as potential topics for your blog.
Put the paper away for safekeeping – you’ll need it later on for the niche validation process.
2. Your surroundings
Another interesting exercise in discovering a niche is to simply analyze the contents of the room you’re sitting in.
Because every single item was purchased for a specific reason – you paid money for each one. So other people might want to learn more about them and what influenced your purchasing decision, for example.
So, from where I’m sitting right now I can see the following:
- Desktop computer
- Office desk
- Computer displays
- A5 notebooks
- A5 legal pads
- Bluetooth headphones
- Bluelight glasses
- Computer speakers
- Electric guitar
- Mini guitar amplifier
- Sparkling water
- Wi-Fi adapter
- Wi-Fi extender
- External USB hard drive
- Whiteboard sheets
- Incense holder
- Inkjet printer
Is each of the above a great idea for a niche site?
But there’s definitely a lot of potential ideas to explore, and at least one of them will be worth pursuing.
3. Commuting, shopping, traveling…
Reminder: Keep a notepad app or a physical notepad with you at all times.
Watch for those moments when you see a clever advertising campaign for a new product you’re not familiar with.
Or a new type of smartphone, headset, or sneakers that are becoming popular.
This is how you spot niches before they ever appear in a keyword tool.
Never discount an idea but also never promise yourself that you’ll remember it later – I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll forget it.
Amazon is one of the largest online retailers on the planet, but they’re also one of the best places to mine for ideas for emerging niches.
There are two methods you can use when researching Amazon.
- From the Amazon homepage click on the “burger” menu:
- Underneath ‘Shop by department’ click on ‘See All’.
- Choose a category that appeals to you – in our example, it’s ‘Pet Supplies’ and then ‘Dogs’.
- Scroll through the listings looking for ideas, making note of them as you go.
Here’s an example of how this works in real life.
While putting together this tutorial, I noticed that a common theme in many of Amazon’s ‘Best Sellers’ in this niche:
They’re indoor or outdoor “potty” products for dogs – training pads, poop bags, pooper scoopers, etc.
Amazon has already given me a lot of information to work with:
- These are in-demand products
- Will be bought more than once
- Every responsible dog owner needs them
So I could potentially start a niche site around top-selling dog toilet and potty training products, as well as cleaning items for when your pooch has an indoor accident.
Do you think you could help people out by writing honest reviews of these products and sharing them on your blog?
That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.
Of course you could, and probably generate at least a few hundred bucks a month doing nothing more than that.
Another way to find relatively new, or even completely untapped, niches is to use the Amazon ‘Hot New Releases’ page.
You’ll need to drill down into different ‘Departments’ to find interesting products and ideas.
So if we click on ‘Electronics’ and then ‘Camera and Photo’ we find that mini spy cameras are selling well:
As are binoculars for both adults and children:
So your immediate list of potential niches here looks something like this:
- Home spy cameras
- Nanny cameras
- Binoculars for kids
- Binoculars for beginners
You can repeat the above process with most e-commerce stores, eBay, etc.
And you’ll be amazed at just how many blog niche ideas you can come up with
5. Social media
Social media is always a great place to look for new ideas and trending topics.
Pay particularly close attention to patterns you see on Intagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
If you start noticing trends about something, it’s a telling sign that whatever it is that people are posting about will be a profitable niche.
For example, I noticed a lot of my friends posting about golf range finders a few years ago. Sure enough, if you search “golf range finders” today, you’ll see a variety of affiliate sites making good money!
6. Website marketplaces
Another sneaky way of finding blog niches is to spend time browsing the different website marketplaces.
Flippa is just one example of this type of site. Site owners have learned to hide their niches because people use Flippa for research, so many of the listings are ‘Confidential’.
But just as many are not, like the ones listed below:
You can find at least half a dozen niches you’d never have thought of by spending a few minutes browsing through the various listings on Flippa:
- Nursery gliders
- Power generators
- Pool cleaning
- Boxing gloves
Spend at least an hour coming up with a list of potential blog niches by following the above advice and tips.
Also, please don’t rush ahead in the process – what seems like a great niche now might not look as promising once you evaluate it for profitability, traffic, etc.
Take your time.
Narrow First. Broad Later
Probably the single biggest mistake I see bloggers make is they try to start these huge blogs about very broad subjects.
A typical example of a broad subject is “dogs”.
A blog that will discuss every aspect of dogs will require thousands of pages of content, tens of thousands of images, and several thousand dollars worth of backlinks.
It will also take a year to build, and that’s with the help of a team of writers and a veterinarian helping out with any dog-related health advice you publish.
You probably won’t see any income for the first 6 months, and no real return on investment for the first 18 months.
A blog about dog potty products, on the other hand, will require maybe 30 pages of content, can be up and running within a week, and profitable within 6 months.
Those big “authority” sites are great…if you have a budget of between $15k and $60k to invest in one and can afford to wait around to get your money back when you sell the site and/or it’s generating 5-figures per month.
My honest recommendation
But you can have the best of both worlds.
You can start a niche site and then expand it to become an authority site later on – this is exactly how many of the most successful affiliate marketers build their niche sites.
The trick is not to paint yourself into a corner with the wrong domain name.
We discuss this in more detail a little later on.
Validating your niche
So now that you have a pretty long list of niches…how do you know which one to choose for your blog?
After all, you need to be reasonably certain it can generate income for you.
Thankfully, it’s not as complicated as you think.
Does the niche make money?
The first thing we’ll do is understand whether or not there’s money in your niche.
The smart place to start when determining if there’s money to be made in a niche is in Google search results. Not in a keyword tool.
Keyword tools can give you a lot of data to work with, but they’re not the best way to decide whether or not you’re going to pursue a given topic.
First, you need to pick a keyword relevant to the niche you want to build a blog around.
So let’s say the potential topic for your site is “hiking boots”.
Now we need to find a keyword related to this topic that also has commercial intent.
Commercial intent is just a fancy way of saying, “People want to buy stuff”.
A trend for online shoppers is to look for the “Best” product for a given purpose e.g. “Best hiking boots for wide feet”, or for reviews of a specific product e.g. “Kenetrek hiking boots”.
Now open up an ‘Incognito’ or ‘Private’ window in your browser of choice – this is necessary so that Google doesn’t factor in your typical browsing habits for the results it gives you.
We’re going to use the first keyword from our examples above to illustrate how this process works:
Scroll down through sites listed on the first two pages of Google and look for:
- Affiliate sites
- E-commerce sites
You’ll typically need to open each site in a separate browser tab and then do some detective work to find which ones are run by affiliate marketers.
Things to watch out for include affiliate income disclosure statements, lots of display ads on the site, and that most of the content on the site is made up of product reviews.
Click on some of the products listed in each review and see what store you’re redirected to e.g. Amazon.
Affiliate sites also tend not to have corporate headquarters or contact telephone numbers listed on their sites, so that’s something else to watch out for.
Here’s what the results for this query look like:
The first three sites listed by Google for, “best hiking boots for wide feet” are full-blown affiliate sites.
In fact, 8/10 of the sites on page one of Google for this keyword are affiliate sites.
The fact that you can see other affiliates ranking and banking for this keyword means that this is a profitable blog niche.
I typically use this to back up my decision about a niche based on the above steps.
At this point you already know that there are other affiliates operating in the “hiking boot” niche, but is there money to be made selling boots online?
Fortunately, Google gives you this information the split second you hit the page thanks to Google Ads:
The ads tell me that online retailers and e-commerce stores generate enough revenue from these products that they’re willing to spend money on paid advertising.
So we know that this niche can generate money with either organic traffic or PPC, within reason.
This is the final step in the process to determine if the niche makes money.
At this point, you know that your niche has quite a bit of commercial intent but it’s smart to check whether or not interest in the topic is trending upwards or downwards over the last few months or years.
Google Trends is a great free tool that allows you to do just that.
Just remember that our primary niche keyword is “hiking boots” and not “best hiking boots for wide feet”:
You might be feeling disappointed at this point because the trend for “hiking boots” seems to be falling off a cliff.
But what you’re actually seeing is two things:
- An overall upwards trend
- This is a seasonal niche
So there’s growing interest in hiking boots but interest in them peaks during the Fall (autumn) of each year…because that’s when people go hiking.
This means you can expect a surge in traffic from September – November each year but it will then level out after that.
So just to give you a quick summary of the niche validation process:
- At least 2 affiliate or e-commerce sites on the first page of Google
- Google Ads displayed for products in the niche
- Predictable annual trending and/or a steady upwards trend in interest
Your final selection
Okay, so you’ve spent a few dozen hours doing research and coming up with niche ideas that both interest you and have proven commercial intent?
But…there’s that gnawing question in your gut right now, “…what if I’m wrong”.
The sad truth is that sometimes niche sites just do not work out, and it’s nobody’s fault.
A bad case of the “what ifs” can stop you dead in your tracks, so here’s a way to buy yourself some mental health insurance.
Choose three niches that you think have the best chance of being a commercial success, backed up of course by the niche validation process above.
This is the niche at the top of your shortlist and is also the site that you’re going to invest the bulk of your time and financial resources in.
You’re working on a 24-month timeline here so there’s plenty of time to figure stuff out.
Niche 2 & 3
Brainstorm and register a domain name for each of these sites. Then buy yourself some cheap shared hosting to place them on.
Do some basic keyword research for these extra niches until you have 9 informational keywords and 1 commercial keyword for each site.
Now, outsource the writing of the content to an agency. (ProBlogger, Upwork, and Textbroker are excellent places to start.) Do Not pay any more than $.03 per word for this content – using cheap writers is fine.
I recommend 5 to 10 short articles (1,000 to 1,500 words each).
That’s because the goal of these pages or posts isn’t to convert visitors or do SEO magic – it’s just there to give Google something to read.
Make sure each page or post features images, internal and external links, and looks reasonably good.
But again, don’t invest weeks in this process. Instead, approach it as you would giving your home an “emergency clean” just before your parents show up.
Neat and tidy, but it’s not going to win any prizes.
Publish all of these posts/pages at the same time…and then just let the sites sit there.
Focus the rest of your time on your primary niche.
But if in 12 month’s time you decide that your main niche site is a lame duck, well you have two backup, aged sites ready to go.
Use a Broad Domain Name
You’ll have two choices when registering a domain name:
- Go narrow
- Go broad
A “narrow” domain name is one that’s laser-focused on the primary keyword for the niche e.g. BestHikingBootsGuy.com
A broad domain name is one that’s focused on the overall niche instead e.g. “OutdoorsGuy.com”
Narrow domain names might seem like a great idea…until you realize that you now want to also review backpacks and walking poles, and maybe some of your own merch.
This won’t be a problem if your domain name is broad because “OutdoorsGuy.com” suggests that visitors will find lots of general information about the great outdoors and how to enjoy them.
Always keep your domain choices as broad as possible so that you can expand your site later on.
Wrapping things up
Hopefully, you feel a lot more comfortable about generating blog niche ideas after reading our tutorial.
The reality is, it’s not that difficult.
And once you become familiar with the process you’ll find new niche opportunities everywhere you look.
Any of which you could start a blog on.
Just remember to focus on one site at a time.
That’s the true path to success in affiliate marketing. Go niche, or go home.
About Matt Collins
With a rapidly growing team of readers, my mission is to teach hungry professionals how to maximize their net worth with scalable side hustles and responsible financial management practices.
My reputation is of the utmost importance to me, which is why I only provide completely honest, 100% true, unbiased recommendations for systems and software I know and trust.