Who (Not What) is Your Niche?


This is a guest contribution from Joe Kernan of Tropicus Home.

how to keyword research for seoSome of the first questions that many newbies ask are,

How should I choose a niche?” or “What is a good niche?

I’ve seen tons of great answers to these questions since I’ve joined WA (WealthyAffiliate.com). I want to tell you about my own experience with this and how my niche continues to evolve.

But first, I want to say a few words about the WA community.

Like Simon, I’m a premium member of WA and I’m so grateful to have found such a supportive community. I’ve learned so much since joining and I’ve became really passionate about WA.

The thing I like the most is the “pay it forward” attitude I’ve found at WA. Everyone truly wants to help each other.

It’s Easy to Get Unstuck at WA

wealthy-affiliate-reviewAs a premium member, I know that if I have a question, it’s easy to find the answer to most questions in the massive library of training at WA.

But, for some questions, it’s better to tap into the collective wisdom of the entire community, and just ask.

Each time I’ve had a question at WA, I’ve always gotten super useful answers. And the answers don’t just come from one or two so called “gurus”.

Sure, the founders of WA, Kyle and Carson, are happy to answer questions. But the combined knowledge of all of us, is mush more than just one or two so called “experts”.

And each member has their own approach and their own business model. What works for a travel website, might not work for a blog about the top new smartphones. Instead of a one size fits all “system”, members help each other by “paying it forward”.

Choosing a Niche

There’s some great training on choosing a niche at WA and Simon provides excellent ideas in a couple of his posts on this site:

Whenever I hear someone answer that question: “How should I choose a niche?” I’ve noticed that the answer almost always includes something like: “Follow you passion” or as Simon says (pun intended), “Pick something you love”.

I agree with this 100%.

After all, if you’re going to invest hours and hours of your time, writing and thinking about a subject, it should be something that you’re really into.

Here’s how it happened for me

I didn’t pick my niche, it sort of picked me. I’ll try to explain briefly.

I've lived in Hawaii for over thirty years. I fell in love with the Aloha State right away and I’ve always loved showing people around.

My wife is from China. A few years ago, we started doing small tours for Chinese visitors. My wife used a couple of Chinese social media platforms (WeChat and QQ) to find customers. It turned out to be a good enough business for me to quit my regular job.

From this, we started a couple of vacation rentals. We rent these out on Airbnb and to Chinese visitors my wife connects with online.

A couple of years ago, I first set up our website focused on Hawaii Vacations. I didn’t know anything about online marketing at this point and I still hadn’t heard of WA. I could write a book about all of the things I could have done better.

The bottom line is I was getting zero traffic.

Today, I realize that one of the biggest problems with my site, was that it was focused only on the product and not the audience.

So now you’re thinking, “What does this have to do with me? You had a niche from the start. How do I choose a niche?”…

Okay, I’m getting to that.

Your Audience IS your Niche

how to make money by bloggingI eventually stumbled upon WA, just as I was about to give up on the website altogether.

I joined as a free member and started the training. On the third lesson I had my Eureka moment when I read the words:

A niche is a group of people

What I had been doing before, was simply describing my product (our vacation rentals) to the entire internet. There are two billion people on the internet. So, why didn’t anyone come to my site?

Because I was trying to talk to all of them, but I wasn’t reaching any of them.

I realized then, that I need to start by focusing on who my audience is and what they want.

It took me a while, but I eventually realized that also needed to take a close look at my competition. My niche, like many others, has some very big players. I’m not going to beat them at their own game, at least not anytime soon.

Why would someone go to my site and book one of my handful of vacation rentals, when they have Airbnb, Hotels.com and dozens of other big players to choose from? I realized that I need to find an audience, and start a conversation with them.

At first, I thought of my audience as all the people who are thinking about a trip to Hawaii. It’s a pretty big group; more than 8 million people visit Hawaii every year.

The thing is, our vacation rentals are on Oahu. So, I decided that I should focus on Oahu visitors (still about 5 million potential customers).

Audience = Niche

I’m still a very small fish in a big pond, so I needed to narrow my audience even more. I did this by using the WA keyword research tool and other techniques I’d learned in the training there.

I was able to discover the questions that visitors to Hawaii are typing into their search engines. And I was also able to find out if my competition is answering their questions.

For each post I write on my site, I try to answer a question that folks are typing into their search engines. These people are my niche, and they provide me with an endless supply of ideas.

And when I write my post, I think of my audience as a group of friends looking for answers to their questions.

Be Ready to Adjust

The other great advantage of thinking of my niche as my audience, rather than a set of products, is that it makes it easier to change course.

Like I mentioned, mine is a very competitive niche. I probably wouldn’t have chosen it if I wasn’t already invested in my own business. Our vacation rentals are still doing well. But that’s no thanks to my website. We have not had a single booking through the website.

But my site is gaining traction in some unexpected areas. A few of my Honolulu restaurant reviews are ranking on the first page for certain keywords.

And most importantly, I’m earning affiliate commissions from tour companies and the big travel sites, like Orbitz and Expedia!

The real big surprise is that my very first post is doing really well. This was a post titled: “Bitcoin Vacation”, about using bitcoin when you travel to Hawaii. (Spoiler alert, there are very few places to spend bitcoin in Hawaii).

It wasn’t overnight, but little by little, that post has been creeping up the Google and Bing rankings. So much so, that I decided to write a follow up post, which went right away to the first page of Bing (search: bitcoin + hawaii).

Give the People What They Want

So now, I’m planning a big shift in the direction of the website. I’ll continue to post about Hawaii activities based on what I learn from my audience and keyword research.

Good content is what brings people to the site. But I’ll be dropping the vacation rentals soon. And yes, I have plans to capitalize on the surprising popularity of my bitcoin posts!

So here’s my advice:

When you are choosing your niche: yes you should look for some products or services that you can market, but that’s not where your focus should be.

Your focus should be on your audience and what they are looking for.

Use keyword research to find out what questions they want answers to. Then, keep you eyes on the traffic for each of your pages and posts.

When you see one of your posts doing well, take that as a message from your audience: “More of this please!

Then all you have to do is give them what they want!

Joe Kernan lives in Honolulu with his wife, daughter and their dog, Huai Huai (it means “bad boy” in Chinese).

They spend much of their time enjoying all the fun places and activities that Hawaii has to offer, so they can share their experiences on their website, Tropicus Home.

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