One of the most difficult parts of starting your affiliate website is figuring out what topic you will do. It can seem like all the good ideas are already taken, or that you are not an expert in anything.
Some people have the opposite trouble, where they have tons of hobbies and interests, so they don't know which topic is the best to start with. Which topic will make me the most money?
These are all great questions and concerns!
However, the truth is that ANY topic can make money. As a beginner, your goals is not to make your website perfect. You should not care about becoming a millionaire right away. Our goal is simply to understand the process and make a bit of money.
Most likely, you'll find some flaws in your topic choice and just build a bigger, better website next time. Alternatively, you can use your experience to double-down on your current website to grow it into a search-engine-dominating, massive money generator.
What were my first websites? Here's a list of topics I tried out:
- horse care products
- "Asian flush" cures
- home exercises for twisted ankles
- antivirus software reviews
- lose belly fat
- how to make mobile apps
- plants vs zombies plush toys
None of them generated more than a few dollars, but I gained a ton of experience. Eventually, I started a VPN website for expats living in China because I was living in China at the time. We had to use VPNs to access Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix.
The perfect niche was sitting right under my nose the whole time!
Within 12 months I was generating over $10,000 per month promoting VPN subscriptions.
(I'm no longer in that niche. I sold my websites. Feel free to use that idea!)
All that being said, I recommend you spend a few minutes, or a day or two to consider what your first affiliate website will be about. Here's what we're gonna cover - click a link to skip to that section or just read from top to bottom.
What Is A Niche?
A niche is a small area, so people in business always use it to describe a "small area" of the market. Lots of people use the word interchangeably with "topic". So when someone asks, "What's your niche?" they mean, "What's your website about?"
Why don't they just say it that way then?
There's a reason for that.
The reason is that we don't just want to make our website about general topics. When you make your first affiliate website, don't choose something like:
- health & fitness
- weight loss
Those ideas are too broad. There's too much to cover! As a single writer for your website, it's too much work for you. Websites like Buzzfeed or Mashable have a full staff of writers which is why they can write about anything they want.
Also, broad websites like that don't speak to a specific audience. They are harder to rank and harder to grow.
Health and fitness is not a niche. That's an industry. Here are some example niches within the health and fitness industry.
- weight loss for men over 50
- weight loss for diabetics
- weight loss for kids
- weight loss with keto diet
- weight loss for vegetarians
- protein powder reviews
- vegan bodybuilding
- gain weight for women
- nootropic supplement reviews
- home gym exercises
- stay in shape for busy professionals
- celebrity diet reviews
- myth-busting fad diets
- natural remedies for common illnesses
- yoga for kids
- first time marathon preparation
The main thing to gain from this is to understand that the audiences are different. Someone who wants to train for a marathon isn't trying to gain or lose weight. A man over 50 has different dietary needs than a woman under 30. A person who wants to boost mental health with nootropics doesn't care about whey protein.
Is There a Formula For A Successful Niche?
As you might have guessed, there's no specific formula for how to pick the perfect niche. Some affiliate courses will teach you some research tactics, but in my opinion, at this point, that's not really worth your time.
The main thing to focus on at this point is picking something you enjoy researching and writing about.
There will be many ups and downs in your business, especially during the beginning stages. You will want to quit. You will second-guess your abilities. You will hate-watch successful websites and wonder why they are successful but you are not.
If you pick a topic you don't care about, you chances of quitting increase. If you pick a topic that holds your interest, at the very least you'll enjoy part of the business-building process.
For example, one time I started a website about motion sensor sprinklers. Cats were crapping in my yard, so I bought some sprinklers that would turn on when they sensed motion. I hated those cats so much for messing up my lawn that I had plenty of mental fuel for writing content even though it took several months to rank and start making money.
- What kind of things do you like reading about?
- Who would you like to have conversations with on your website?
- Which type of person would you enjoy helping?
- What products are you interested in reading about or even buying?
PLUS, if you care about what you write, it's easier to make content that engages readers. If you are a good enough writer, you can definitely fake engagement, passion, and interest. As a new writer though, it's much easier to write about stuff you care and know about.Do you have a niche in mind? Want to check with me to see if it's a good one? Leave a comment, and I'll help out! Remember, your first website doesn't have to be a home run!
Is Your Niche A Profitable One?
The simple answer is YES. If you are interested in something, there are thousands of other people that are interested in the same topic. No matter how weird you think you are, there are plenty of other "weird" people just like you.
Even if you don't "sell" or promote anything on your website, you can still make money with display ads. With those type of ads, you just need views, so your only job is to get traffic. I'll talk about traffic in another tutorial.
Aside from the bare-bones method of making money through display ads, just think about how many products there are on Amazon. You can order anything from a replacement fridge handle to a $25,000 espresso machine, to a persimmon tree from Florida, to an offensive halloween costume.
Amazon is just one website. There are hundreds of thousands of affiliate programs to choose from, and millions of products within those companies. The opportunities to make money promoting affiliate products are absolutely endless.
Can You Really Make Money In Any Niche?
Yes. You can make money with a website about anything. If you aren't making money, you're doing something wrong. No big deal, you just need to tweak your strategy a bit and keep moving forward.
For some "proof" that anything can make money, I went out and found a bunch of weird and unexpected websites that are making money.
Not all of these are affiliate websites. I just want to demonstrate that you can pick some really odd topics and they'll still get traffic. All you need is traffic to your website and you can make money in one way or another.
In a worst-case scenario, let's say you pick out a really dumb topic that's hard to monetize. In this hypothetical scenario, you pick a toilet paper review website. There's still a way to make money here, and plenty of it.
Firstly, are you solving a problem? Yes.
Personally, I hate thin toilet paper. You know, the kind you find in a gas station or airport bathroom?
My thought process is this - I make over a hundred grand a year. I don't have to freakin' a penny per square inch for toilet paper. I want to have some luxurious, soft, and sturdy product. I can afford it.
You know what else? I'm going to buy it online.
So far, we know that people want good products, and they want to buy them online.
But maybe you discover that no one is looking for toilet paper reviews. Is there anything related to toilet paper where someone might need to look up reviews? Yes. After my trip to Thailand, I was hooked on bidets, and the good ones are not cheap!
5% commission on a $300-$600 item is a lot if you are making multiple sales daily. You could make a full time income just talking about your crapper at home!
One step further, what other comforts people look for in the bathroom? How about listening to music while you shave or get ready to go out? Amazon Alexa and other wireless speakers would be a great fit.
Look at that! Now we have a bunch $100+ products to review and promote on our website, plus tons of potential avenues to write content.
Our website has transformed from a toilet paper review website into a bathroom comfort and luxury website. What other luxuries could you promote and talk about as well? You could branch into skin care products, DIY projects, or even local contractor recommendations.
This transformation is exactly what can happen to your website, no matter how bad your first idea is. This is one reason I love affiliate marketing as a business model for newbies. Everything can be changed, tweaked, edited, and updated as you grow your business. Don't be afraid to start with your "best" idea right now, and improve it later on.
That's Not A Niche. This Is A Niche!
One problem newbies have when picking a topic for their affiliate website is going either too "narrow" or too "broad".
Here are examples of topics that are too broad:
- weight loss
- mental health
- becoming happy
- how to start a business
If you suspect you might have chosen too broad of a topic, think about whether or not you can divide into further "tribes" of people. For example, let's look at technology. An incorrect way to look at it would be to say that my target audience is "people who like technology".
However, you can very easily divide that into more narrow audiences that can be differentiated from each other.
- beginner app creation
- advanced app creation
- retro gaming console repair
- how to use smartphones for age 50+
- automated sprinkler systems
- making robots for teenagers
- smart technology upgrades for cars
- make money as a graphic designer
- Segway & scooter reviews
- drone photography
- remote work & travel
- cutting cable
- how to make a WordPress website
- cloud storage reviews
- tablets for kids
- kids learning app reviews
As you can see from the examples above, products range from real life scooters and drones, to 100% "in the cloud" products or services like cloud storage and apps.
Someone who wants to know the best drone for their wedding photography business is a completely different person than someone who wants to know which iPad apps are going to make his kid smarter without getting addicted to technology.
Think about how different audiences have different wants, and how you can speak to a specific group of PEOPLE.
Some new affiliate marketers have the opposite problem, and they go too narrow. This can also be a problem, because you will run out of stuff to say! Here are some examples of topics that are too focused to be a "niche market".
- carrot cake recipes
- coffee mug reviews
- how to make watermelon cocktails
- how to prune citrus trees
- cures for common Boston Terrier illnesses
- organic baby socks
- best matches for cigars
- how to choose the right lipstick color
The problem with most of these examples above is that you'd get bored just a few weeks into building your website. Are there really that many types of matches you can use for your cigars? There's a few carrot cake recipes out there, but can you create hundreds of recipes? Probably not.
Envision Your Daily Research And Writing
Once your website is set up, your day to day tasks will be mostly doing research and writing content for your website. You can make really good money just writing for your website every day!
While you're picking the niche topic for your affiliate site, try to think about potential things to write about in the future. Will there be enough to write about? If not, broaden your topic.
For example, we figured out that no matter how hard we try, we just can't think of a new carrot cake recipe every month. What about a new cake recipe every month though? Yeah, we could do that! Cake recipes could be a great niche website idea.
Other potential niche websites could be:
- keto cake recipes
- no-bake cake recipes
- cake-making for kids and parents
Personally, I like to go broader so I'd stick with cake recipes if it were me, but those more focused topics also have great potential.
There's no "perfect" answer. ANY website can make money as long as you commit to it.
You don't have to make a detailed business plan of your content topics for the next year. Discovering new topics will be a natural progression for your business. When I started One More Cup of Coffee, I didn't think that I would be writing about binary options and cryptocurrency, but I discovered those 4 years after I started!
Basic Research For Affiliate Products
Choosing a good affiliate program can be important for your success online. It's not the only factor to consider, but if you take just 30 minutes to do some basic research you can help develop your current "idea" into a master plan.
One concern I hear from a lot of new affiliates is that they worry about picking a niche where they can't make any money, or that they don't know if there are actually any products to promote in their niche.
I briefly mentioned that you can make money with display ads. In fact, you can make boatloads of money with this type of ads. How much? I'm talking $10k+ or more. There are some disadvantages to display ads though, namely that you need wayyyyy more traffic to make good money than with promoting affiliate offers.
At one point, I had a site that was getting less than 50 organic visits per day but was raking in about $3,000 per month. To earn $3k/month from display ads you'll need between 2,000 and 4,000 visits PER DAY.
Big difference, right?
I mention these things simply to say that checking out some initial affiliate offers related to your niche is a good idea if you want to take the time to do the research.
You do not have to apply yet! You don't even have a website yet 🙂
At this point it's enough to just see what's out there and available.
Plus, don't forget that you'll find more opportunities as your site grows. As you learn more about affiliate marketing and become an expert in your niche, you'll think of more and more ways to monetize your website.
For example, when I started my homebrewing website, I planned just to make money by promoting homebrewing supplies. I didn't know that there were beer of the month clubs you could promote! Now I make money promoting a product called the rare beer club.
Finding products to promote is pretty easy.
Go to Google and type "My Niche + Affiliate Program"
Another option is to go to Amazon and type in stuff related to what you're promoting. If Amazon doesn't do their affiliate program in your state, you can pick a place like Walmart or Target, both of which have popular affiliate programs.
You can see in the screenshot below that homebrew beer items on Amazon range from $10 to $800, so there's plenty of options to choose from.
I'll talk about product reviews in a future lesson. Keep in mind that writing about things you don't own or don't know much about can be challenging to new affiliate marketers, but it's possible to do it in an ethical way, so don't stress about having to invest 1,000's of dollars into your business to purchase and test stuff for product reviews.
If you want to do some research beforehand, I highly recommend you check out these four lists:
- High Ticket Affiliate Programs
- Two-Tier Affiliate Programs
- High Paying Affiliate Programs
- Recurring Affiliate Programs
In those posts, you'll find 100+ companies to potentially work with. Don't focus on the exact company per se, but you can brainstorm some website ideas based on what they sell.
For example, if you see a company that sells diamonds has an affiliate program, that doesn't mean you should immediately start a diamond affiliate site. You could start a "proposal ideas" website, and include diamonds as one type or product you promote.
Here's the full list of affiliate programs we've covered, so there are plenty of ideas to work with over there. At the end of each blog post I give 2-4 different ideas for potential niche websites.
I Just Want To Make Money & Don't Care About Niches
In general, most legitimate training programs will have you focus on something you care about for your first website. They do not have you focus on money AT ALL, because flashing dollar signs in your eyes can be the worst enemy for a beginner niche marketer.
Chasing money is a great way to end up doing unethical things like promoting products simply because they are expensive and earn you lots of money. Over time, this hurts your brand, and it's not a long term strategy for building an authority website that will generate income for many years.
However, don't ignore the fact that you can develop a passion for a topic over time.
Was I super-duper in love with VPNs? No! VPNs are not even in my Top 100 of things I would say I like.
So how did I grow my VPN websites to generate over $10,000 per month? After I made my first couple sales and saw the recurring commissions start to stack up. It was very motivating, and I threw myself into the research so I could create better, more interesting content.
Over time, I became an expert on how VPNs work and who needs to use them. It's entirely possible that your journey could be similar.
There is an advantage choosing a topic with good profit potential and developing a passion for it over time. If you're making money, anything can be interesting. I wrote about coffee enemas for 2 years (yes, that's a real thing).
Did you know that the caffeine in coffee enemas can be used as a pain reliever, and that it can also get rid of cancer-causing free radicals?
Would you turn down the opportunity to help people that suffer from chronic pain? If you could earn a grand a month researching butt-coffee would you turn down that opportunity?
I'm guessing NOT!
So, if you do not have a strong passion for any topic right now, don't stress. You can still do this.
Find A Profitable Niche (Without A Passion)
When I'm doing research on a new website, I like to check trends on the big social media and shopping websites. It's not a perfect method, but it's a place to start. Amazon Best Sellers works really well to see what's selling.
Twitter Search is another resource where you can look up trending hashtags and see what people are saying online.
I also like to check out Google Trends to see the general direction of public interest. It looks like Crossfit interest is dying out, and it's a highly seasonal niche, so it's not something I would get too excited about in terms of affiliate marketing.
Smart home related topics on the other hand look like they're rising in popularity! You could make a website about home automation in general, or dig deeper into a niche like DIY home security or surround sound speaker systems.
So what do you think? Do you have a topic in mind you know you want to start with, or will you do some research beforehand and try to pick someone based on that?