In this second installment of creating an EPN blog start to finish we’ll cover the process of choosing a good niche. Choosing a niche for your site is by far the most crucial aspect of the whole process, and the easiest part to mess up. When dealing with a site specifically designed for Ebay Partner Network, it’s even more important. Adsense is relatively foolproof, but there are certain niches that just won’t give you great results. This will be a complete walkthrough of the steps I have taken to find a niche to use for this series.
The first thing we need to do before we get started is set out the criteria for our niche.
1. We want a niche that will be relatively easy to get organic search traffic to.
You could easily set up a blog selling iPods or PSP but you’re not going to be rolling in organic search traffic. Competitive niches like iPods are already heavily saturated with eBay and other affiliates, and this is no place to stake your claim.
2. We want a niche that has products that consumers are buying
You could easily set up a celebrity gossip blog and get traffic established quickly without a lot of work, but there aren’t going to be any targeted products to sell, and the demographic that reads those kinds of blogs isn’t likely to be interested in buying anything.
3. We want a niche that has products listed in eBay
Sure, maybe purple coffee tables are getting a ton of searches in Google and you could easily grab a top ranking for them. It’s not going to do you a lot of good to set up an eBay affiliate site when there’s only 1 purple coffee table listed. You definitely want to make sure your niche has enough products to get your visitor to look around and hopefully click through to ebay.
Now we know the basics we’re looking for, we can get started. Now other websites will give you all kinds of different sources to do your niche research. One of them is eBay Pulse. Personally, I think for doing niche research for an eBay Partner Network site there is no place more appropriate to look than the source. So this tutorial will specifically cover using eBay Pulse to do your niche research. There are lots of other places you can do niche research, like Google Trends for example, but that kind of niche research isn’t necessarily product focused like the data you get from eBay itself.
So the first thing I did was head over to pulse.ebay.com. The very first thing you see is a list of the most popular searches on eBay for things like iPod, Nintendo Wii, etc. Ignore these. You will not find a creative niche in the top 10 most popular products on eBay.
Instead, take a look at the drop down box right above. Here, you’ll be able to dig deeper into the most popular searches by category. Now, I just bought a home recently and home furnishings have been in my head a lot these days, so I decided to check out the Home & Garden category. Now there’s a new list of popular searches, but these are still probably too vague. Another click on the drop down reveals further sub categories in the main Home and Garden category. I decided to go further to the “Inside the Home” category, then one last step further into the “Home Decor and Accents” category. The deeper you dig down into the results, the more focused your niche will be.
Now that I’ve gotten deep enough, looking over the list I want to find something that stands out – seems a little unique. It’s also important to note that you generally don’t want to use a specific brand as your niche to avoid infringing on anyone else’s trademarks. Going down the list, I see item #7 is Shabby Chic. Looks like a good candidate to do some further research on. You pretty much have to use your best judgement here, and try to find something that sounds a little outside the box.
Now that I’ve found a product I want to research further, it’s time to check out what kind of keywords are associated with it, and what kind of traffic they are getting. I use two tools for this. The Google Keyword Tool, and Wordtracker’s Free Keyword Tool. Both tools give a little bit different data, and neither is necessarily that accurate, but by cross checking your niche in both you’ll probably find something juicy.
First thing I need to do is open up the Google Keyword Tool, enter Shabby Chic in the text box, and submit. On the following page, find the drop down box on the right side and select Exact Match.
Now you’ll see a list of targeted results. What we’re looking for is something a little more specifc, that gets a healthy amount of search volume. The second result in the list is “Shabby Chic Bedding”, and Google claims the average monthly search volume is around 6,000. That’s pretty good. You don’t necessarily need something that high, and it doesn’t really matter what the search volume is as long as you can capture a majority of those searches, and the traffic is highly targeted.
Now that I’ve found a keyword that interests me, I’ll cross check it using the Wordtracker keyword tool. Wordtracker tells me Shabby Chic Bedding gets 22 searches per day. Less than the 6,600/month Google told me, but still not too bad. Since the keyword checked out in both Google and Wordtracker, it’s time to analyze the competition.
The next step is to do a regular Google search for Shabby Chic Bedding. First thing you need to look at is the number of search results. Google tells me this keyword gets around 200,000. That’s a pretty solid number. I’ve seen other similar tutorials that say anything under 5 million results is good. For me, personally, I like anything that’s under 1 million. If you can ever find a niche getting under 100,000 results, you know you’ve got a real gem.
Now that it’s passed the first test, take a look at the first page of search results. First thing you want to look for is how many of the results are to the home page of a site, and how many results are to an inner page of a site. If most of the results are to a home page, the keyword will be harder to rank for. If most of the results are to an inner page, the keyword will be easier to rank for. At this point, I only see the first Google result linking to a home page, the rest of the first page results are all linking to sub pages.
The next test is to look at the title links on each of the results on the first page. What we want to see is how many of those results actually have complete keyword phrase “Shabby Chic Bedding” consecutively in the link, and what the position of the keyword is in the link. At the time of this writing, I see 3 results that start with the keyword Shabby Chic Bedding, and 5 total results that contain that keyword. This is pretty good, it could be better, but since there are only 236,000 total results, I think this niche will be good to work with.
If after doing the research to this point, you’re still not sure, you can always research further. Take a look at the competing sites on the first page of search results. Analyze their backlinks and see what it would take to be successful with that keyword. I’m laying out pretty basic instructions here, but you could literally spend all day on this part of the tutorial.
Next thing – you could have done this before checking the Google search results – check and make sure there is a nice supply of products in eBay for the keyword. Right now, eBay is showing me 1,016 results for Shabby Chic Bedding, so I would consider that to be fine. The more the better is generally the rule, but sometimes it doesn’t matter that much.
The last thing you will need to do is choose a domain – a critical part of choosing a niche. Ideally, you want to have yourniche.com as your domain name. Having your main keyword as your domain is by far the best possible way to go, and having a .com domain is definitely also the best possible scenario. Unfortunately most of the time the .com version of yourniche.com is probably not available. I usually head over to GoDaddy.com to check domain availability. I usually register all my domains with Bluehost, but I like to check availability at GoDaddy because the search box is right on the front page, and they tell you all the TLDs available including .ws, .us, .me, etc. Some other registrars don’t tell you all the URL options you have.
I’ve found that shabbychicbedding . com is not available, but shabbychicbedding.net is. This is a pretty fair concession, so this will be the domain I’ll be using for the rest of this series. One thing to note – if you check yourniche.com and find that almost every domain with that keyword including the hyphenated version is not available, this is another indicator that the niche may already be too heavily saturated.
As far as choosing from other TLDs besides .com, I generally don’t think it matters a whole lot what you end up with. I’ve done a lot of successful sites using the .ws extension and .info extension. The country specific extensions are not great, and I would also stay away from .name, .tv and .mobi for obvious reasons. Don’t forget you can also try the hyphenated version your-niche.com if the non-hyphenated version doesn’t present any good options. I use hyphenated domains often and they work quite fine. If you absolutely need to add an additional word into the domain, put it at the end, not the beginning, for exaple do yournichesite.com, not bestyourniche.com.
Closing Thoughts to Remember
Don’t worry about the price range of the product you’re going to be promoting. The key to an eBay Partner Network affiliate site is simply getting the user to click on one of your auctions to implant your cookie. You don’t need them to spend an hour browsing your site. Regardless of whether you’re selling a $1.o0 product or a $1000 product, ACRU payouts are still the same, and you will still make a commission on any other products the visitor ends up buying within the tracking period. Plus, cheaper products are more likely to sell than incredibly expensive ones. Basically, don’t even worry about it. I didn’t look at the pricing on shabby chic bedding at all during the process of researching this niche and I still haven’t.
The most important thing of all…
This niche research is all unnecessary if you can simply come up with a good niche yourself. While your out and about, watching tv, talking to people, keep your ears open. Whenever you hear a product that you’ve never heard of before, make a mental note, then do some research next time you’re at your computer. I can tell you that just since I bought a house, I’ve found out about 3-4 great niches just by going through the course of my day and keeping my ears open to new things. This is the best possible way to find new niches. Keep your eyes out for brand new products as well. Even if they are going to ultimately become hugely popular, you can still get a lot of traffic on the front end. Always keep your ear to the streets.