Listen up and I’ll share with you in this blog post how to make enough money to stop working. It’s common knowledge that money doesn’t buy happiness because that comes from within, but making enough money so you can stop working a traditional slave wage job makes me pretty damn happy! What about you?
The strategy we’re going to employ here is to build an easy-to-implement niche blog network. Don’t worry, I’m going to show you how to set up everything right here on my blog – for free. 🙂
For those who’ve been following my lessons, this is Lesson 2 in my series about how to quit your job and build passive, profitable niche blogs. A mouthful, I know. But totally delicious and totally worth the extra calories. All of my blog posts are wordy, but that’s by design. As I teach you how to write and format blog posts in an upcoming lesson, you’ll see why the wordiness is a necessary part of your success.
OK, now that that’s all out of the way, let’s get down to business. Here in Lesson 2, I’m going to teach you how to choose a niche for your blog. After all, you can’t choose a domain name or write any content until you have decided on your niche.
Choosing the right niche for your blog is the most important part of this whole process. Let’s not mess it up.
As you know, I’m here to help you cut down on your learning curve. There are several common mistakes I see people make when selecting a niche, and I want to help you avoid those mistakes at all costs.
Avoiding critical mistakes is going to save you a lot of time and will allow you to quit your job a lot sooner. Mistakes can be educational and can’t be completely avoided because we’re all human, but I strive to help you avoid them by offering up my experience.
How to Choose a Niche for Your Blog or Vlog
I suggest taking a four part approach when selecting your niche:
1. Identify what you’re good at, have knowledge about, or at a minimum, have a strong desire to research and obtain knowledge about.
2. Is your potential niche popular enough that it’s going to provide you with sufficient traffic? Is it too seasonal?
3. The niche you’re considering is probably pretty general. Narrow down the niche you decided on in #1 & #2 and morph it into something more specific so it’s not too saturated or competitive.
4. Be honest with yourself about how you best express yourself to others. Are you best at writing or performing on video?
OK, let’s slow down here for a second. What does all that even mean? If you’re confused, don’t worry. I’ll explain further and hold your hand throughout the process of selecting your niche.
Let’s break down #’s 1 – 4, one at a time…
Let’s start with #1… which was the following:
Identify what you’re good at, have knowledge about, or at a minimum, have a strong desire to research and obtain knowledge about.
What I’m trying to say is, choose something you’re emotionally invested in. Choose something where you have the actual ability to provide value and be of help to people.
Uh oh, time to go off on a tangent again…
Back in 2009, when I was reading the iconic SEO blog written by Grizzly Brears and promoting my ebook Nomad’s Guide to Make Money Online, I had zero focus on value and excellence. I only saw dollar signs.
Being the greedy punk I was, I happily pumped out junk content like I taught in my ebook and created as many substanceless Adsense niche blogs as I possibly could. At least I was “spreading the wealth” and teaching others how to do the same in my ebook, though, so give me a little credit! 😉
The honest truth was, I was solely focused on what was in it for me and on scooping up as much quick Google traffic as I could get my hands on. That turned into a disaster because Google caught on to the scheme and de-indexed all of my crappy niche blogs during one of their updates.
Talk about a blow to my bank account. Janet Smith went from partying it up in the Greek Islands to mom’s spare bedroom in two months flat. Yours truly had no choice but to get a job.
It took me a few years to figure out what Google wanted, and during that time I built up a pretty cool I.T. career for myself, but my heart belongs to passive income and niche blogs.
After some soul searching and research, I figured out what Google wants SEO-wise. What do they want? They want everyone to cut out the B.S. Plain and simple. I had to stop trying to get one over on people, learn a niche the proper way, and humbly teach people what I know!
The corporate and retail world wore me out – and I wasn’t even in it for as long as most of you have been! My heart goes out to you… it truly does. That’s why I want to help you figure this out for free.
I feel saddened when I see how many people hate their job and want out of it. But I also feel hopeful because I have the step-by-step recipe to help you quit your job. The journey starts by choosing your niche.
Fast Forward to Today
Today, I only focus on how I can be of service to my target audience. I don’t pull any schemes.
Few people have heard of me or understand my level of success because I prefer running small, passive niche blogs that quietly make the world (and the Google SERPs) a better place. I pride myself on being low key.
My anonymous, knowledgeable little niche blogs rank awesome in Google all on their own merit, and they hold those rankings for years and years. Trust me, I keep tabs on my rankings. Anything can become successful from scratch if it has a foundation in excellence and if it’s worked from the right angle.
Therefore, I have no need to make a living by jumping on stage with well-known internet marketing (self-labeled) gurus. I could give keynote speeches, but I don’t wanna… That’s not my style. It’s mostly blockheads who like stroking each others’ egos that show up at those events anyway. 😉
My strategy of integrity and excellence has been working out very well for me for the past few years without issues, and that’s why I’m promoting this strategy to you now. It works. Google is happy, my readers are happy, and I’m happy being of service to you. It’s a win-win-win situation that will keep plugging along well into the future.
To Sum Up #1…
Whatever niche you choose, make sure you have the ability to deliver excellence in it. Otherwise, choose something else where you can. This is very very very very important.
Don’t choose a niche strictly based on the $$$ you think you can make because that will backfire – usually because you’ll lose interest in it or get called out as incompetent.
Honestly, it’s possible to narrow down or twist any niche into something profitable, so don’t have tunnel vision as you brainstorm ideas. Be open and honest about what you have expert knowledge in or about what you are mentally prepared to undergo an extreme boot camp for in order to become an expert.
If you aren’t sure what you’re good at, ask someone who knows you well.
OK, on to #2… which was the following:
Is your potential niche popular enough that it’s going to provide you with sufficient traffic? Is it too seasonal?
You need to find out the answer to both of those questions now before you invest too much time and effort into this endeavor only to find out no one else is interested in your niche. We’ll get more exact numbers about sufficient traffic in the next lesson about keyword research, but we’ll touch on it now as well.
Wouldn’t it suck to write 30 blog posts (with each post being a minimum of 1200 words) only to find out you and your cousin are the only two people in the world who care about your niche?
50 people per month are not enough to allow you to someday quit your job. You need to have the potential to build up your blog’s traffic to at least 50k per month, but more is better. 100k+ per month is ideal. The niches I consider good garner me 225k pageviews per month.
Use Google Trends to Guide You in Choosing a Niche
To get an idea of how popular a niche is, use a broad search term for your niche and search it on Google Trends.
If your topic shows up on Google trends and doesn’t have excessive seasonal spikes or a downward trend over the past 5 years, it’s probably popular enough to pursue. Do a quick Google search to see what’s on the first couple of pages as well. Having competitors is a good thing; most popular niches have many competitors. If you see zero competition, that is NOT a good thing because it signals zero interest.
For example, if you’re an expert in flying drones, even though you will later be zeroing in on something less broad and less competitive within the drone niche in #3, simply type in “drones” into Google Trends to get an idea of its popularity among the masses.
After changing the view to the ‘Past 5 years’ as shown in the screenshot above, you’ll see that the popularity of drones peaks during the holiday season (Black Friday through Christmas), suggesting that they are seasonal.
However, this isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker.
Writing a blog about Christmas decoration ideas is too seasonal. Drones… not too seasonal. Use your common sense.
If you look closer, you’ll see the general popularity of drones has remained relatively steady over the past 5 years, suggesting steady blog traffic.
Since the drone niche, in general, is too competitive (and not to mention too vague) you can narrow down the niche to serve a more focused audience. For example, maybe you’ll want to create a blog about Drone Photography Tips or FPV Drone Racing. Narrowing down a competitive topic is what we’ll talk about in #3.
One More Google Trends Example: Vanlife
Before we move on, let’s look at one more niche plugged into Google Trends. Type in “vanlife” to see the next example.
I’m intrigued by the #vanlife movement because the lifestyle looks appealing to me. I’m not a van dweller, but I do have a friend who is. Who’s to say I won’t get on the road myself someday soon?
Typically, vanlifers aren’t the richest group of peeps and generally can’t afford to buy expensive affiliate products like solar panel systems (you could try, though). Most, from what I’ve seen, are retirees on a budget or people who got sick of the 9-to-5 nonsense and live on a strict budget in order to make the lifestyle work.
But, to be fair, there are a growing number of van dwellers who live the lifestyle because they love traveling and have the means to spend lavishly. That type is probably in a $100k RV, but some live in fancy Roadtreks or Sprinter Vans. Another reason many people on the road have extra cash (but aren’t necessarily wealthy) is because they save a ton of money on rent. Those who live in their vans by choice probably have more disposable income than many who live in traditional sticks and bricks structures.
Many of the more popular vanlifers like Bob Wells from Cheap RV Living are clearly banking it on YouTube. Others are making bank as Instagram influencers if they’re attractive. These types of vanlife activists can obviously afford to buy whatever they want.
If you wanted to target the wealthier vanlife people, info products, affiliate products, and Amazon combinations could be good. If you wanted to target those on a shoestring budget, premium pageview-based ads and cheap (less than $20) info products are the way to go.
It may seem like I’m just blabbing on about irrelevant vanlife crap you probably couldn’t care less about, but I’m trying to make a point.
Identify Your Target Audience
Dive into your possible niche to this extent (ad nauseam) and carefully consider who your target audience should be. This could be a certain age group, gender, geographical area, hobby enthusiast, etc.
If you’re familiar enough with your niche, who you should target will probably be quite obvious to you. Regardless, spend at least a whole day thinking about this. Don’t rush it. You might have an epiphany and think of a whole new sector of people that are untapped in your niche, you never know.
There will most likely be multiple types of target audiences that could work for your blog, and you should think through which type and their beliefs, concerns, etc align with your passion, angle, and monetization goals the best.
Make sure you are a good fit for each other because you are going to be spending a lot of time creating content for these people. They need to feel like you understand them and you need to feel great about being of service to them.
Think About Monetization Now Rather Than Later
When considering which niche to choose, you should not only take into consideration its overall popularity (did you see the general upward trend of vanlife since April 2017 in the Google Trends screenshot?), but also what potential monetization sources could work for it.
Will affiliate products work? Will ads work? Affiliate products and ads are my favorite recipe for the ultimate passive blog!
I used to make way more money with the Amazon Associates Program on my earlier blogs. It was something like 75% of my income. Then Amazon decreased the cut that affiliates get, and now I make hardly anything from Amazon Associates. It’s maybe 10% of my income now – depending on the month. During the holiday season, it spikes.
I could recommend awesome books for you to read and buy from Amazon all day long, but I only get 4.5% commission for selling a $15 book. That’s… what… 68 cents? Meh.
I still might recommend some books to you in future lessons because a lot of books have genuinely changed my life, but right now I’m just proving a point.
To make Amazon worth it, you must stick with only recommending items that are at least $100. Does the niche you’re considering have useful items that are in the $100 – $350 range? If not, Amazon might not be a good choice for that niche.
Lucky for me, I never add just one monetization method to a blog. I always start out with one (actually, I get my initial 30 blog posts up with zero monetization), but I continue adding more as my traffic grows. I used to start with Amazon, but now I start with ads – and I don’t even bother with the ads until I break 30k pageviews per month.
I Love Premium Ad Networks
Around that same time that Amazon “let me down” so to speak, my favorite premium ad network (which we’ll talk about in the monetization lesson) really came through for me.
They love my content. They always do. That’s YET ANOTHER reason to create killer content and be of service to your readers. Ad networks might just reward you with a higher pay rate of up to $20 per 1000 pageviews. Yes, they pay you based on simple pageviews – not based on purchases or even clicks! 🙂
If you have 30k monthly pageviews then $20 x 30 is $600 per month. Now just build it up to my definition of a “successful” blog that gets 225k pageviews per month and you’ll be banking $4500 per month just from ads from that one blog. Cool, right? $4500 per month is more than I used to make from my I.T. job.
I now make about 75% of my online income from various ad networks. The rest of my income comes from miscellaneous sources (a couple of info products, other affiliate products, etc.)
If there are no appropriate affiliate products and ads don’t work for whatever reason, will you have to put in some extra effort to create your own info product? Info products, while I am quite fond of them, make a blog less passive because customer service and updates to keep the content fresh come with the territory.
As you can see, running niche blogs is not totally passive (there’s no such thing) because you have to keep an eye on your monetization methods and change strategies when one of them pulls a stunt like Amazon did. It’s not all that volatile, though. You can leave things on autopilot for months at a time, and often, I do.
The good news is, as long as you continue focusing on getting traffic, finding new or better ways to monetize is a piece of cake. And those ads… gotta love them! 😉
Focus on traffic! Focus on quality content! Focus on choosing the right niche and doing keyword research – and you’ll be fine!
More about all this in the monetization lesson! Stay tuned!
Ads Won’t Work With Some Niches
Be careful about some niches. Learn upfront if the niche you’re considering is acceptable by ad networks before you invest time in creating the content and buying a domain name. Contact the ad networks to find out. I’ll give you a list of the ad networks I like in the monetization lesson.
If you have your heart set on ads, then you would have to switch niches to something they allow. It’s better to know now than find out the hard way later.
If you run a cryptocurrency blog, for example, ad networks might not be too keen on accepting your application. If I were in the crypto niche (or any other niche that is considered taboo), I’d focus on selling print-on-demand t-shirts, my own info products, go aggressive on a YouTube channel, etc. I’d stay away from promoting ICOs and shady affiliate programs like the BitConnect Ponzi scheme from 2018.
FYI, I have no problem with cryptocurrencies and even own a few myself (go Digibyte!), but the general consensus (until they become more mainstream and better understood by the average Joe Schmoe) is that they’re “shady”, “useless”, and “unnecessary”. People bury their heads in the sand about things they don’t understand until one day they’re told to think otherwise by the Powers that Be. 😉
If crypto or some “un-politically correct” niche is what you’re passionate about and you have identified others who are interested in it too, I say pour your heart and soul into that niche and make it work without ads! If it’s what you’re truly knowledgeable and passionate about, that passion will shine through in your blog posts and become that niche’s go-to source for information.
Now, for #3… which was the following:
The niche you’re considering is probably pretty general. Narrow down the niche you decided on in #1 & #2 and morph it into something more specific so it’s not too saturated or competitive.
You want results (traffic) in weeks or months – not years. Duh, right?
If you are hard-headed and insist upon sticking with a general blog about just drones or just photography, you’re going to be waiting years for significant organic Google traffic to start flowing to you – if it ever does at all. It’s also going to take a heck of a lot more than 30 blog posts to get the job done. You’ll probably need thousands of impeccable, keyword-centered blog posts that are of equal length to a novel. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Since everyone and their grandmother creates online content these days, it’s not easy to break into huge, obvious niches. Be more creative.
Just so you know, those huge general “tech” or “pet” or “photography” (or whatever) blogs that have thousands of posts usually have teams of writers that have been adding content consistently over the years. Can you beat that right out the gate? Don’t even try. Narrow down your niche and serve a more exclusive audience.
On the surface, it might seem like every possible niche has been dominated by someone else and have become so saturated that there is no room for you.
That’s not true, though.
I’d like to let you in on a little secret: The real money is in narrow, specific niches. Not too narrow, of course, but usually, the more specific the better.
Now, if you’re looking to get into the baseball niche and decide to narrow it down to baseball tips for people in the Southwest USA who like to wear their underwear in public… Yes… I’d say that’s too specific and most likely won’t have enough search traffic. 😉
Adjust Your Niche for a Highly Specific Target Audience
If baseball tips is too competitive (yep, it probably is) – you can still stick with the baseball niche if you dive a little deeper. Find a specific target audience (a non-underwear revealing one perhaps?) that you can target.
Targeting specific age groups or geographic areas tend to work well. For example, baseball tips for 9th graders might be doable. FYI, I haven’t researched that niche or the keyword baseball tips for 9th graders, so do know that it exists purely as an arbitrary example at this point.
When I finish typing up the keyword research lesson, I’ll link to it from here so we can dive much more deeply into how to find keywords that aren’t too competitive.
How to Find an Appropriate Target Audience or Subgroup Within Your Niche
Before I started this blog, when I was still in the planning stage and pondering what angle I should take for the make money online niche (since the internet marketing niche is massive and stubbornly competitive) I decided to think about the type of person I’d like to help.
I decided to target people who are sick and tired of the Rat Race and want to quit their job. I felt that the “quit your job” and “make money online so you can travel” types of keywords were specific enough that I’m not tripping over the Neil Patel and Pat Flynn types, but still have a large enough search volume that I can reach enough people and grow my traffic to hundreds of thousands per month.
Only time will tell if I’m right, but that’s my logic. If I ever hit the first page of Google for “make money online” I’d be more shocked than anyone, believe me. I’ve found that my niche blog strategy works best (and fastest) for low and medium volume keywords that have less competition.
And now for #4… which was:
Be honest with yourself about how you best express yourself to others. Are you best at writing or performing on video?
I think now is a good time to mention you may or may not be best suited for writing blog posts. I realize I keep saying blog, blog, blog, but I use the term loosely.
Some people are just not writers and/or are extreme extroverts and must talk when they share knowledge, and that’s OK. You might be better suited for a YouTube channel if you’re comfortable on camera or a podcast if you have a face made for radio. 😉
I’m an ultra introvert and have always loved writing, so writing blog posts is what comes most natural to me. Therefore, that’s what I primarily blog about. I can’t help it.
I’m of the belief you can’t and shouldn’t ever try to change who you are. Regardless of which type of person you are, be honest with yourself and create your content according to how you are wired.
If you disrespect who you are, you will give up and won’t stick with this process. What you don’t want to do is torture yourself into creating content that you hate creating. It will be content that doesn’t turn out decent because it’s not authentic. People know when you’re bamboozling them.
Worse yet, you’ll give up and stop creating content period – and be stuck in your crappy job forever and ever… Yuck.
Then you’ll definitely never learn how to make enough money to stop working!
Avoid These Niches (Especially if You’re a Beginner)
If you’re just starting out, avoid the following niches like the plague. They are simply too competitive and will just create frustration no matter how much effort you put into your blog posts.
- Make money online – I’m pursuing this one for fun/because I can. I have many other niche blogs providing me with an income already.
- Finance (stocks or any other investments, budgeting, saving money, coupons, etc.)
- Fitness (exercise, weightlifting, workout videos, yoga, etc.) Specific sports are probably fine! 🙂
- Food (recipes, dieting, food of any sort.)
- Health and medical (Google takes this niche very seriously and won’t rank unqualified blogs for topics that cover health or medical advice – for good reason! Peoples’ health and lives might be on the line, so Google must be certain they are ranking only credentialed, qualified sources written by professionals to guide people when they perform search queries for medical and health advice.)
My Lessons are More WordPress Niche Blog Based
Admittedly, my lessons have a bias toward WordPress niche blogs for a couple of reasons: 1.) Blogging is how I make 100% of my online income and it’s what I know best, and 2.) I find that most other people also do best with blogging because they don’t have to worry about performing in front of a camera.
I’ll throw in a lesson or two directed at YouTube vlogging, however. The keyword research process is different for YouTube than it is for niche blogging. We’ll need to discuss that when the time comes…
Some of my other niche blogs have a YouTube channel that I upload 10 quick keyword-focused videos that link back to the blogs by having a call to action, to help the blogs grow faster and build trust with Google faster. I don’t upload YouTube videos with the intention of getting subscribers on the channel. I’m not too aggressive with my YouTube pursuits, but it’s a nice touch that helps out a little bit.
We’ll talk more about YouTube later, in the respective lesson. 😉
Don’t Be Stubborn Like My Vanlife Friend
This has gotten way too long, so I’ll end this lesson with a short story and call it a day:
My friend the van dweller started a very clever blog where he writes entertaining manifestos under a pseudonym, but he struggles to grow his income and traffic because he refuses to listen to me. I’ve told him many times how to make enough money to stop working and it falls on deaf ears.
He won’t follow my system of researching keywords (AKA, the search terms his target audience is searching in Google) and writing blog posts with those keywords. He’s a professional writer and poet, so he’s stuck in his ways, even though he can clearly see me raking in the big bucks.
I have even sat down at Starbucks with him and shown him the direct deposits from all the ad networks into my bank account to give him solid, non-screenshot proof (something I don’t do for just anyone!) and he still won’t budge. O. M. G. dude!
I’ll just quote his exact words here: “BUT I WANT IT MY WAY!!!”
He wants everything his way and doesn’t take the actions necessary to best serve his niche.
The man won’t listen to me, yet complains that he can’t get his monthly pageviews over 1600 for a blog that is 3 years old in a niche that is growing by leaps and bounds!
His blog posts are so funny and interesting because he’s a brilliant, talented writer – way better than I am! If only he’d weave some keywords into the posts and titles, and make them a little bit longer, he’d be killing it!
I can’t help those who don’t want to help themselves. 🙁
I hope you won’t be like him and will listen to me…
See you in the next lesson, which is about keyword research! 😉