By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning nonprofit content writer, website publisher, and author of 9 books.
One question I hear a lot from writers is, “What is a niche site – and should I create one?” The confusion about niche sites creates plenty of angst for writers because digital content has become more specialized. New and prospective bloggers want to know how detailed their website must be – how “niched down” – in order to get traffic.
Should you create a niche site? It depends on your goal. I started my first niche site as a way to produce my own content while also working for paying clients. I’ve created two more niche sites since then. When you add affiliate links to your niche site, all of the sudden you’ve got a passive income stream. Niche blogging for profit can be a nice side hustle.
Niche blogging can even become a full-time gig. Jon Dykstra at Fat Stacks Blog creates niche sites and sells them. In fact, he’s been in the niche site business full-time, earning a 6-figure salary, since 2012.
If you’re thinking of starting a niche site, there’s plenty of opportunity and oodles of benefits. But first things first. What is a niche site … and how is it different from a straight up website or blog?
A niche is a highly-specialized market, says online publisher and guru Neil Patel. That means a niche site is a blog or website that caters to a highly-specialized market. This small segment of readers – usually part of a larger pool – shares a common, narrow interest.
It’s that narrow interest that sets apart a niche site from a typical site. A mainstream website or blog addresses a more generalized topic. A niche site is laser-focused on one specific subject.
That interest drills down to a very particular need, want, problem, activity, hobby, pursuit, or profession. For example, a generalized website may profile different types of hobbies for collectors. A more specific site could tackle the subtopic of collecting insects.
But a dedicated site for readers who collect butterflies? That’s a niche site.
One common misconception about a niche site is its size. The “niche” does not refer to the number of pages on the site. In fact, niche sites can contain hundreds or thousands of pages. The site isn’t “niched” into a small sliver on the web. Rather, the “niche” refers to the readers’ specific interest. It’s extremely well-defined.
A second misconception about niche sites is the timeframe needed to build a decent one. That is, it’s easy to underestimate the time needed.
True, once you build a basic site and begin to get traffic, you can earn a nice passive income stream whether you’re a solopreneur, a business owner, or simply a hobbyist who wants to fund your passion. And by “nice income stream” I mean anywhere from $10 a month to thousands. Yet you need to build 30 pages of high quality content on your site before you begin to think about monetizing it, so if you’re looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, then a niche site may not be for you.
But if you’d like to own and manage a project that brings you long-term satisfaction (along with some extra income), then a niche site may be a good choice. A niche site has additional benefits, too. Here are a few.
A niche site can benefit your visibility to prospects within your specialty and can help you capture leads. This is an especially helpful benefit for freelancers.
Let’s say you specialize in writing content for the boating industry. You write articles and web content for clients associated with watercraft and water sports.
But you also own a small bass boat and get out on the lake whenever you can. In both your work life and in your private life you’ve discovered there’s a need for information about bass boats for the low-budget enthusiast.
What is a niche site that could benefit you (as a bass boat buff) and your work (keeping your pulse on one segment of your specialty industry)? One that includes plenty of information about bass boats, their construction, a comparison of brands, best engines for bass boats, vacation spots for bass fishermen, bass boat gadget reviews, bass boat maintenance …. you get the idea.
In building a niche site about bass boats, you set yourself apart as an expert in your industry. You can leverage your site when you pitch potential clients. And clients in the boating industry will seek you out because of your expertise. Along the way you’ll have fun writing about something that interests you … and you’ll make money at it, too.
What is a niche site benefit that’s especially valuable to biz owners? Traffic. More traffic means more visibility, more prospects, and more conversions. In this instance, your niche site goal is to build awareness.
You can convert your existing website to become more niched down. Just add more informational pages, stories, or a blog and optimize them using SEO. Or you can create an altogether new site and link to it from your current online home – again, drawing on basic SEO principles to use keywords that attract readers in your niche.
For instance, perhaps you head up a nonprofit organization that addresses children’s hunger in your local area. The agency has a small website. You decide to niche that site to raise awareness, acquire volunteers, and add donors.
You conduct some basic SEO research and discover appropriate search terms like “hungry kids in Smith County,” “how nutrition affects preschoolers,” and “local food donations.”
Then, you systematically add pages to your site using those terms. Your pages explain the impact of hunger on child development … stories of children that you’ve served and how feeding has made a difference … snapshots of your events … blog posts from volunteers … profiles of local restaurants and grocery stores who donate food to food banks …
Soon, your site’s traffic shoots up. And so do financial gifts and volunteers.
A niche site can provide a creative outlet for a hobbyist and passive income along with it. Such is the case with Tomato Dirt, my niche site for home gardeners. There are plenty of gardening websites. But Tomato Dirt focuses on one crop – tomatoes – and how people can grow them at home.
I built it for a couple of reasons. First, gardening is a fun hobby for my husband and me. A niche site about my hobby gave me a way to keep writing, but to a different audience and about a completely different topic from my day-to-day work with nonprofits. As I gather information for new pages, I share it with my husband and we learn more together about how to improve our vegetable garden.
And over the months and years Tomato Dirt has provided a nice passive income stream, too. Readers come to the site to get information about how to start tomato seeds or what types of tomatoes to grow in cool, short climates. Once they’re there, they click on affiliate links to get products they need. And I earn commissions from their purchases.
How do you go about with niche site creation … where should you start? I created my first niche website when I participated in Nick Usborne’s Money-Making Websites course. Nick explained how to go about finding a topic, how to get started building the site, how to add content consistently over time to build readership, and how to make money at it. And Jon Dykstra at Fat Stacks offers a wealth of resources for building profitable niche sites. Hop over to Fat Stacks blog to check them out.
Regardless, the first step is choosing a topic. Maybe you have a hobby you’d like to write about. Or you’d like to create a passive income stream to piggyback on your biz or in your spare time. Or you’d like to build your authority in your field as a freelancer or professional.
Look at your niche site as a long-term project. Work on it consistently. Over time, you can build readership and notoriety. And in the process, you’ll create a nice piece of intellectual property that others flock to, that you own, and that generates cash.
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