Once attending a popular affiliate forum, I was amazed that dozens of people sign up to this board alone daily to find their way in making money online. And, guess what, all these new affiliates have one and the same first question: they're puzzled about how to find their niche.
Indeed, is there any roadmap every newbie could use to brainstorm different affiliate opportunities?
In my attempt to provide the answer, I asked 15 recognized online entrepreneurs and affiliate marketers the following:
How to find your affiliate niche? In particular, what advice on selecting a niche you wish you'd got when you were just starting out?
This article contains experts' replies, which include the exact steps to take, some unexpected tricks, and the main things to consider when exploring the exciting world of affiliate earnings.
1. Think beyond Amazon Associates: find a niche with ebooks, courses, software, or live events.
If you are just starting out online and you have decided to become an affiliate marketer, here is my advice to help you choose a niche. I suggest you ask yourself these important questions:
- What do you care enough to spend time doing every single day?
- What affiliate products are there in the niche you can sell?
- How much do you make per sale?
- Are there any recurring subscription products you can sell?
- Do you know the average conversion rate of the products?
- Are there many different products at different prices you can promote?
- How much competition is there in that niche?
The problem with some niches is you will find that the only affiliate products you can sell are through things like Amazon Associates, a great program, but it pays very small margins. You might only make a dollar or two per sale.
If you can find a niche where there are ebooks, courses, software, or live events that you can promote, often these pay 50% commissions, which means you make much more per sale.
I have promoted a course that came with software that paid out $1,500 per sale in commission. You only need to make ten or twenty sales and you have enough money to live off for an entire year in a country like Thailand!
It's important you focus on a niche you care about because you will need to put in quite a bit of time creating content and marketing your work to attract traffic. Without doing the work, you won't have the traffic, and no traffic means no sales.
I also recommend you search for affiliate programs that are recurring subscriptions, so you get paid over and over again each time the product rebills.
It's important that a niche you go after has the potential for you to build a real business behind it. That means there should be multiple products and people willing to spend money on many different things.
Make sure you research how much competition there is in a market, but to be too afraid if you find some people already doing what you want to do. That’s a good thing because it means there is money to be made. The worse situation is if you can't find anyone, which probably means it’s not a profitable market.
The most important tip I have left for last. Whatever niche you go after, make sure you build an email newsletter for it. You will make more affiliate sales via email marketing than any other method online.
2. Find what you love in life, then find a way to make money at it.
I was always taught from a young age to find what you love in life, then find a way to make money at it. I believe that also applies to the web!
Work out what you love the most in life. What is your favorite hobby? What do you know most about? What is your true passion?
Once you have worked that out then take a look around at what types of websites are floating about in that space. Make a bullet point list of what you like and what you don't like about each one.
Next, try and note down 5 common problems people face in the niche. This is the beginning of your content strategy.
Then start taking a look around at affiliate opportunities. Who are the merchants/businesses you can partner with to earn money?
Don't forget you can also earn money outside of affiliate sales by creating your product(s) and selling advertising space.
After a few hours of research, you should have a good feel and understanding of the niche. You'll also know exactly what your website needs to be/do, the type of content you need to produce, and how you can make money.
Lewis Ogden also wrote an awesome tutorial on how to find proven money-making niches.
3. Rely on Google Ads Keyword Planner stats.
I started out by checking the potential of affiliate offers in affiliate networks. I checked search volumes and competition using Google Adwords Keyword Planner and Google search results. If there wasn't a lot of competition, I'd set up my site. Most of my early niche affiliate sites were in the fashion market promoting physical products like women's winter boots for example.
After a while, I noticed that it was hard to maintain those sites since I didn't really have a specific interest in the fashion market. What I learned is: it's very important to do something you like because that will keep you motivated to grow your sites and consequently your earnings.
Start with making a list of your favorite hobby (or hobbies), your talents, and interesting experiences you've had. If you use this as a starting point, you will never run out of ideas to generate content, which is essential for online marketing.
Use this list to start by checking search volumes for your keywords in Google Ads Keyword Planner.
Furthermore, you have to know if there are products and people willing to buy for your niche. You can see that by checking out if there are ads on Google. You can also join a few affiliate networks to see if there are any offers related to your niche.
Another source that might help you is Amazon: check out if there are books that sell well in your niche. This means there is an audience and you can use that as inspiration for your content.
4. Passion is great, still look where the money is.
Looking back over many years of building affiliate websites, choosing the right affiliate niche has always been the number one factor between success and failure.
Many people say choose a niche that you love and have a passion for and others say choose one where the money is, I say it takes a mixture of both.
It's easy to get burnt out on a website when you're taking on a topic you don't enjoy. Step one in starting out is brainstorming niches that you really love. What makes you the most excited about? What could you write about all day long?
Create your list of everything that makes you excited in this world, the more experience you have in it the better. Don't stop at just one or two. Try and come up with as many as you can think of.
Your next step is to see where the money is. Sure, you might be the best underwater juggler in the world, but you are going to have a tough time building a profitable affiliate site around that. Finding out if a niche is profitable or not can be tough for those new to building a site, but the key is to do as much research as possible.
Visit the different affiliate networks out there and see what programs might fit your potential audience. Do some Google searches and see if anyone else is monetizing the niche. I'd be more afraid of a niche where there is no competition, than a niche that has medium to high competition.
If other people are making money in the niche, then chances are you can too if you work harder than your competition.
5. Ask yourself what unique value you will bring to the table.
The advice I wish I'd been given when I started out in affiliate marketing is this:
When you're thinking of entering a new affiliate niche, ask yourself what unique value you will bring to the table.
What reason will customers have to visit your site? What information or resource will you provide that they can't get anywhere else?
Some of my most spectacular failures as an affiliate are directly related to not having a solid answer to that unique value proposition question. Put yourself in your prospective visitor’s shoes – what value will they get by interacting with your site?
If it's just some half-baked blog post or made-up product review, that's probably not going to cut it. Instead, it takes some real thought (and likely some real time and effort) to come up with an affiliate business model worth doing business with.
There are some hugely successful affiliates out there dominating their niches because they went after them with a unique angle. Consider what TripAdvisor has done for travel reviews, or what RetailMeNot has done for online coupons.
Both are basically affiliate businesses, but both deliver massive value for their users. Ask yourself if you can bring that same level of value to whatever niche you’re considering.
6. Take over micro niches to drive traffic into more general ones and mind safety when choosing an affiliate program.
I found my first niche because I saw a need. No one was catering to LGBT people and weddings, so I launched a site with what I would want to see if I was going to get married. Not what others are writing because they think that is what this community or what "these people" want.
After I went into clothing and fashion which was more competitive and then I found micro niches were the easiest to take over. Once you take them over, you can drive traffic from those sites into more general ones and really start to grow.
I recently entered into a very competitive entertainment niche because I found a large group of people with no resources for them. I now fulfill them and make money off of the website.
The trick to finding an affiliate niche is not to find one and stick with it. If your site dies, drops in rankings or Google slaps it, you are done. Find multiple niches you are interested in and for which you can write at least 50 solid and informative articles. Make sure there is a need for the type of resource you will provide.
I recommend you have at least two or three so that if one fails, you can have the other to support you while you fix the one that took a hit.
You also need to be careful of the programs you choose to promote. Make sure they protect you and do not work with adware, trademark bidders, and that no active affiliates show up for their URL or trademark + coupons in Google. All of this can cause content, PPC, and niche affiliates to lose sales and have their cookies overwritten.
7. Build credibility and help your potential customers solve their problems.
Do remember that we are talking about an affiliate niche (a smaller part of a larger mainstream market). When finding your niche, go with what you are passionate about. There are most likely several affiliate products that you will be able to promote to support your passion. Choosing the right one can be overwhelming, but if you are passionate about something and have the knowledge (some experience would be great), then it is easier to work on with the products surrounding your niche.
If you don't have the knowledge, do find the time to learn more about the niche you choose. Potential customers today seek information before making a purchase. If you can provide value, build credibility and help them solve their problems, I say you are on the right path.
Don't give up on a topic just because you're not knowledgeable about it. You don’t need a Ph.D. to create a website about most subjects. If you can find a niche that you are really passionate about, I am almost sure that you'll soon become a trusted expert.
- What magazines do you subscribe to?
- What about your job? Present and past?
- Are you a member of a club? (Motorcycle, book club, etc.)
- What were your favorite subjects in school?
- Do you have any hobbies or love any particular sports? (like stamp collection, coins, music, etc?)
As you can see, just by looking at your day-to-day activities, past experiences, etc., you can most likely identify a niche that you like and can work with. Good luck and to your success!
8. Look at the top 5 and think if you can do better — then you're on to something.
The biggest piece of advice I wish I had when starting out as an affiliate would be to pay less attention to keyword search volumes and place more emphasis on the potential profitability of a niche.
I made the mistake early on in my online career of trying to rank a website for the keyword "How To Make French Toast", which at the time received over 74k searches per month according to the Google Keyword Tool. Once I hit the top 3 I thought I had made it and the money would come rolling in.
I quickly realized that there was literally no money to be made in this niche. No one wants to buy Google Ads for people making French Toast, something I would have found out much sooner if I had researched. Which brings me on to my next point.
By putting in more time and effort upfront, you increase your chances of finding a profitable niche. I don't 100% buy into the "choose something you are passionate about" mantra, sure it may help you if you have issues with focus. However, if you are serious about affiliate marketing, then you need to treat it like a real business and be prepared to put in the time and effort.
There is, of course, another element to consider when choosing an affiliate niche, and that is existing competition. Forget all these fancy calculations, the number of competing sites, and so on, your REAL competition is the top 10 sites in Google, scratch that, it's the top 5 as we are ambitious, right?
If you look at the top 5 and think you can do better, then you are on to something. There are tools to help with this process, and my tool of choice is Long Tail Pro, which provides both keyword search volumes, average keyword competitiveness, and rank tracking all in one.
My final piece of advice would be, before you dive into a niche, think about how you will monetize once the site is complete. People often do this after the fact and realize they have wasted a lot of time and effort.
9. Ask average joes around about their online habits. You'll find niches unused by other affiliates.
I'd first like to refer to Lewis's epic article on Matthew Woodward's blog.
Finding niches using other people's data has always been a fantastic way to go about it. Some call it cheating, I call it a quick win for finding success in an industry that is heavily researched.
Personally, I find industries by talking to people, I ask them about their online habits, what they buy, what they do, etc... Just average joes that are maybe friends or family that use the Internet a lot. I've found about 30 golden niches doing this, niches that are mostly unused by other affiliates and some that aren't at all.
When it comes to business, people seem to think they know everything about their industry, so? Do you know everything about everyone’s online habits and how to optimize for your target niches’ habits? NOPE! So go talk to a few, you don't even have to pay for a focus group, just speak to friends/family in that target audience.
10. My favorite affiliate niche is TV shows.
Over the past 9 years, I've tried A LOT of different niches with affiliate marketing, but I have had by far the most fun and most success promoting things I am interested in. You will have a much easier time creating content and connecting with your audience if you are working with a niche that you enjoy. No matter what the niche you will probably be excited to get working at first, but as time goes on, you won't have that same excitement unless you are working within a niche you really like.
My favorite niches (besides affiliate marketing) that I work in are the TV shows I watch regularly. I have two of the largest communities for my two favorite TV shows that I have been watching for years. I work on it daily and it makes me happy!
11. Think if you can not sell to your visitors, but help them make an educated purchase of goods online.
From a network perspective, we often find that new affiliates who start a blog only as a way to facilitate affiliate links aren't successful.
On the other hand, new affiliates who have started a site with the focus on writing about their passions, say a blog about outdoor gear reviews or their world travels, and approach the affiliate part as a secondary purpose of their blog are often very successful.
Your niche should be your passion for something you truly enjoy and the motivating factor for being online in the first place - not to "make a bunch of money online".
Once you've found that niche, you have a much better platform to move forward with your affiliate marketing efforts.
Once you do move forward, don't resort to simply throwing up a handful of banner ads and call it good. All successful content-driven affiliates will tell you that deep integration of your marketing into your content is the most successful strategy, most of which can be accomplished by looking for affiliate tools outside of the quintessential and tired banner ad.
Look for opportunities to deep-link to products or brands you mention in your content with custom affiliate link builders or create gift guides for your readers and visually represent the products in the guide with a highly interactive product widget. Try not to sell your visitors, but to help them make an educated purchase of goods online.
Your niche shouldn't just be what you represent on your site but also how you plan to weave in your affiliate efforts in the most helpful way possible to your readers.
12. Be different. Know your "Why". Set goals.
Before selecting any affiliate niche, it's a good idea to ask yourself a few questions first:
- Is there anything in particular I know a lot about (and am interested in) that I can share with others in a new, valuable way?
- Is there a niche I can focus on that others haven't really done yet?
- Whether my topic has been done before, can I do it better than everyone else?
- How am I going to market the products and services I’d like to offer? Will I write personal opinions on a blog, do product reviews, create shopping comparison opportunities, etc?
- What time/resources am I going to need to make this project successful?
- What goals do I have? Is it to quit my full-time job? Is it to have some extra spending money each month? Is it to have a creative outlet as a hobby that I can monetize?
It's essential you understand the PURPOSE of why you're getting into affiliate marketing and what GOALS you want to accomplish before you get started.
Once you understand your "why" and your goals, make a short list of things you like that are specific enough that you can become the go-to expert on that topic, such as a particular type of camera lens, how to bake gluten-free, or where to buy the best hand-made creative toys for toddlers. Be specific. Love your topic. Be different. Know your "Why". Set goals. And keep at it! This is a long-term commitment, so be sure you're consistent and ready to put in the effort!
With these steps in mind and with proper, consistent execution, I’m sure you'll reach your targets in no time!
13. Find people with whom you can connect through a shared interest.
In order to create a great site, you need great content and engaged followers. To be able to sustain this level of engagement, you need to post regularly and remain enthusiastic and passionate about your subject. So, I truly believe the greatest success will come about through blogging about what you genuinely love.
A year since I started my own site at So Sew Easy, I had no idea about blogging for money, and just started writing about a subject I was interested in.
I never even imagined people would find my site in the vastness of the internet and want to follow along. It became successful quite by accident, and once I became aware of the possibilities and learned just a little about niche blogging, I concentrated my efforts on a particular area, and it paid off.
Whatever your subject, however crazy you are about something obscure, you can be sure there are people out there just as crazy about it as you are.
If you find a small group of people with whom you connect through this shared interest, nurture them, give them everything you can, be the person they want to follow, be genuine, and once you’ve found your natural niche your affiliate marketing success will follow.
14. Mind the two paths: organic and paid.
In affiliate marketing, information is king. Do your research and understand the general landscape before you make a decision on what to pursue.
In my view, the affiliate space is split into 2 major categories: organic and paid. Organic refers to building up a web property (including email lists) that adds some incremental value, whether that's great original content (think mom blogs), a deal site (think comparison sites or Groupon), or a unique technology-based proposition (think free mobile or Facebook games).
The concept is that you're going to provide something of value to your users, and in turn, you promote affiliate offers to them. The key here is a viable business concept that actually garners an audience. You'll need to rely much on search engine rankings, and your awesome content should help with that.
Paid traffic refers to media buyers who purchase traffic from an existing site or ad network and attempts more or less an arbitrage play. The value add for the media buyers in this equation is the initial creative and also any additional pre-sell landing pages that will increase the conversion rate. If the revenue generated is greater than what you paid in traffic costs, then you're ROI positive.
Contrary to the organic path, the key to media buying has a lot to do with data and statistics. It is termed as performance marketing. Your goal is to be able to analyze and crunch large data sets in order to optimize your campaigns.
Do your research and pick a path that's most akin to your skills and goals. Understand the players in the space from traffic sources to affiliate networks, and once you find what you want to go after, take action and attack it ruthlessly!
15. Know the needs of your prospects and feed them with what they want.
When looking for a niche, my biggest concern is to make sure it's not something that I personally find boring. I always select niches I personally know about. Even if I don't know much, some experience helps me understand the ins and outs of a niche and create helpful content.
No matter if I'm using paid advertisements or organic traffic, the main thing in my opinion is to know the needs of your prospects and feed them with what they want.
I will give an example of the Forex niche. When I started seeing success in my internet marketing career, I decided to learn something new and started investing in Forex trading. I ended up creating a very successful Forex niche website where I educate new people about making money on Forex.
Whenever anyone asks me about selecting an affiliate niche, my answer is always the same: select a niche you know and are interested in. Our purpose is not just to monetize our websites but to provide valuable information to our website visitors.
Join SEO PowerSuite Affiliate Program
If you are really into affiliate marketing as a way to monetize your web resource, you will find it useful to read our SEO Guide for Affiliate Marketers.
SEO PowerSuite also offers an affiliate program for online marketers. The affiliate commission is 33%, an average of $197 per sale. Doesn’t it sound good? Have a look at our SEO affiliate marketing program here. And on this page, you will get guidance on how to set up your affiliate account.
As you can see, many of our experts are talking about the importance of following one's passions when choosing an affiliate niche. Beyond that, they show how exactly you can see if the niche you have in mind is potentially profitable.
Do you agree with the methods suggested? What do you think is most crucial in finding an affiliate niche that'll bring you consistent income? Share your ideas in the comments below!
The expert round-up on How to Find an Affiliate Niche was first time published on SEO PowerSuite’s legacy blog; it’s been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness.