How to Narrow Your Niche and Beat the Big Guys
By Ken Evoy
There’s no doubt that a narrower niche is better. The Web has become more competitive (i.e., more supply), but there’s also more demand. This means that narrower-niche sites deliver more traffic than they did in the past.
“More demand” only translates if a site gets found. So if you write broadly on broad topics about a broad niche, you’re doomed to the back pages of the SERPs for searches that have too much supply.
Narrow down to a level where you can be found.
That “narrower-niche demand” is now able to deliver more traffic than would have sustained you some years back.
Going too narrow can still max out the potential of your site, but that level is higher than it used to be. Also, as you explore narrowing your niche, consider higher-paying monetization models. A model that triples your current dollar-per-visitor ratio overcomes a lower “max.”
Even though both examples in this article happen to be travel sites, the principles apply to all categories.
Stick to Your Knitting
In today’s Web, more than ever…
Stick to one small area that you know deeply. Do not diffuse your site’s concept and your unique spin on that concept.
So what should you do about a too-broad site? Let’s say it’s “Caribbean Islands,” where each category (each individual island) is basically a site in itself.
There’s just too much competition out there to fight that. It just can’t keep up with all the bigger organizations and corporations who can put enough focus on all the individual to nail “the Caribbean.”
What to do?
There are two options…
1) Re-organize the existing site, gradually morphing it into a new concept.
2) Start over with a new domain and concept.
The latter choice gives you a clean, quick break.
Why pick another island? (Yawn, another site “all about [insert island here]”). Get creative. Slice and dice differently. For example…
1) Play to what people need. Saving money fits in that category. If you can find a lot of “cheap”-related keywords that could make up a site that covers the entire Caribbean and that are winnable, “ShoestringCarib.com” would be a more viable concept.
2) Play to what people want. Many folks want to do the coolest stuff, or the real insider stuff, etc. Enter KoolCarib.com or BeFirstCarib.com. (Labor over the name. Push your creativity.)
Understand the difference between need and want…
“Need” is meat-and-potatoes. OVERdeliver and you will find an audience.
“Want” is trickier. You should be one of those people to really understand them. While you must understand both types of audience, you must really know the coolest nightspot in Bridgetown to be considered “Kool.”
Of course, doing the obvious (narrowing down to an island) can still do well. Find one of the smaller islands that is under-served online (there may be lots of sites on Nevis, for example, but how many are great?)…
Assuming you know Nevis, or are ready to rent a room for a month to get started (now there’s a story in itself!), there just may be room for Nevisit.com! (Again, spend time on the name.)
Build a Fierce Following
Narrowing down is a good time to get creative, even if you do the obvious. Narrowing finds a more highly-focused audience, which is a great start. Now…
How can you spin that to deliver something that they really need or want, delivering it in a voice that they really respond to?
As Google gets better at understanding meaning (the Hummingbird release will only get better at that), it’s going to understand that your “shoestring” site is becoming authoritative for searches with the intent of finding low-priced information.
Instead of slicing by the water between the islands, you keep them all and slice by low price (or 7-star high-end), or coolness, or “where the locals go,” etc. This is a concept that the engines are more ready for, and they will only get better at understanding.
So spin your narrowing…
Instead of narrowing by geography (the obvious thing to do), spin by concept. Go where the big companies don’t. Some other examples…
“OffSeasonCarib.com” is a viable concept. While business to the Caribbean drops during the summer months, a niche as broad as the Caribbean can handle that. Suddenly, you’re the maven of the Caribbean in summer.
“CaribSurf.com” could be strong because there are lots of great surfing spots scattered from Rincon, Puerto Rico to the Atlantic coast of Barbados. It’s not known for its surfing, so there’s not a lot of info on it. This could find a truly gnarly (sorry) audience.
On Knowing What You Cover
Narrowing is an opportunity to do it right the second time around. A creative approach, one that goes in a conceptual direction where there’s little competition, one that builds passionate readers who respond to your voice, is a terrific chance to get it “more than right” this time.
But you must know what you’re writing about. If you don’t have enough primary information (i.e., your own experience) to go deep on your niche, that’s a problem.
When it comes to travel, for example, you need to visit at least once or twice a year and gather a ton of ideas and photos. Better still, is to live there.
And that’s true for any type of niche. You do need to eat, sleep and live it. That experience, that “done-that knowledge,” always shines through.
So, while you’re spinning ideas, consider what it is that you do know. Limiting yourself to the obvious (geographic slicing, in the case of travel) means that you need to know a lot about that one direction. On the other hand…
Opening your mind to the many possible ways to slice a niche (that would entertain, inform and generally blow away visitors) opens up the odds that you find a direction that you do know.
How To Beat the Big Guys
Go where they aren’t. And go deeper and better. That is what establishes you beyond Fodor’s and Tripadvisor.
So hit the beaches if you don’t already know them. Hit them deeper if all you’ve ever done is a few beach days. Talk to folks. Eat at the restaurants, stay at the accommodations, meet the locals. Know them…
Yes, you could research TripAdvisor and they might cover a specific bar. If they do, you could regurgitate the 3 reviews into your own coverage, merging into one combined review.
But the realness won’t shine.
And if you make enough mistakes for Google to pick up on duplicated, no-added-value content, you’ll find yourself out of business one day.
Does anyone believe that non-original (i.e., not born of your knowledge and experience) material will win in the long run? I hope not.
Even really well done “researched pieces” will never have that “really been there” feel, those special points and stories, let alone photos and forums and social, etc., that can only happen from true experience.
Best advice? Narrow to a niche that you can become “king of” (or “queen of”). Be the big fish in a small pond that has monetization opportunities. And on that note…
Spend more time on planning the earning of income than you do on everything else. It may be 6 months before you start getting “known” by those in your niche, before traffic starts growing. But once it does…
Be ready to execute monetization plans.
- Do the non-obvious.
- Play to “want” or “need”.
- Research and brainstorm.
- Deliver a crystal-clear concept and unique spin.
- Nail down a voice.
- The “package” should have “fierce-following” potential.
- Know your material.
- Become a big fish in a small pond.
- Consider monetization. Tighter niches make for focused opportunities.
- Start clean unless the existing site is easy to morph into something unique.
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