Today, we are going to dive deep into how to choose a niche for affiliate marketing. This can be one of the biggest decisions that you make during your affiliate marketing journey.
But don’t be too worried about making the wrong decision that could throw a wrench in your plan for a website before you have even started!
We have prepared this step-by-step guide to make it simple for you to find a niche that you care about, and can make you sustainable money in the future.
Our 3 Keys to Finding the Right Niche
There is a lot of information on the internet about affiliate marketing, especially niche selection. This is great for self-starters and independent learning types, but we realize that it can lead to “analysis paralysis.”
This will have you thinking things like:
“How can I be sure I’m making the right choice?”
“What if I pick the wrong niche and never make any money?”
“What if I pick the right niche but still never make any money?”
This is completely normal, but I want you to keep these concepts in mind as you read through our guide. These are the most important aspects of niche selection.
- Ensuring your niche can be monetized.
- Finding a niche where you can be competitive.
- Choosing a niche that you care about, or at least could see yourself caring about.
We will refer back to these points throughout the guide. Let’s get started.
Finding Your Niche Ideas
The first big step you can take towards finding your niche is making a list of keywords that you can focus on. The great thing about this step is that you can do it at any time, without spending any money at all.
The goal here is to come up with a list of 10-20 niches, which will then be further refined.
Here’s a quick list that I have put together as an example. These are all interests that I have or products I am on the lookout for.
Some of these niche ideas are borrowed from the 1,452 Niche Ideas list that you can access on the BrandBuilders site.
This is a great resource for your first step in how to choose a niche for affiliate marketing. It will also give you a stronger definition of what a niche truly is so that you can better determine niches from your own hobbies and interests.
NOTE: If you’re ready to get straight to it, you can get one of our pre-made niche websites for sale. We apply our years of experience to finding strong niches for you, so you can focus on growing the site!
Exploring Niches with Quora
If you are looking for a more self-directed way to find your niche, a tool like Quora can be a great way to dig deeper into topics that you are already interested in.
Take the “scuba diving” niche, for example. This isn’t really a niche, more of a starting point.
It is probably extremely competitive. However, I can find niches within this topic that could work better for affiliate marketing by entering a simple search query.
Under the “scuba diving” search, Quora has shared several relevant and recent questions that real people have had about scuba diving.
Just from taking a look at this, I know I can look into “night scuba diving”, “scuba diving in Goa” and “beginner scuba diving equipment.” People have answered these questions, so there is clearly a demand for people to learn more about the topics.
Other Niche Idea Methods
If you are still struggling to find niches for your initial list, try looking through your “recently purchased” list on Amazon or the bookmarks section of your web browser.
Another good tip is to do as Brady from BrandBuilders mentions in his video on niche selection. It’s worth a watch and goes hand in hand with this article.
Brady recommends thinking about niche selection through the lens of the “language of need.”
Purchasing decisions are driven by the problems that people have. You want to be able to solve their problem with your content, and with the products or services that you can refer them to.
Think about times when you or someone you know has said, “I wish that there was a better solution for this.”
You can solve this problem and fill the need with your content!
Are You Passionate About Your Niche?
This can be a contentious topic in the affiliate marketing world, especially when it comes to answering the question of how to choose a niche for affiliate marketing.
Some will say that you can only succeed if you really care about your niche enough to have it on your mind for months while your site builds authority.
Others hold fast to the belief that sticking only to your passions can keep you from picking truly profitable niches, which handcuffs you at the start of your journey.
This will always be a debate, but I like an answer that lies somewhere in the middle.
You should choose a niche that you are passionate about, or have the capacity to be passionate about.
Here’s a good test you can use to make sure you are making the right decision about your niche: If you were at a bookstore, would you spend $20 on a book about this subject?
If the answer is yes, then also ask yourself, would you read that book to unwind after work? Would you want to keep learning about this subject even when you have been having articles written about it for months?
A niche that you are passionate about allows you to:
- Create well-informed content consistently
- Make it through the authority-building months where you aren’t earning money
- Think of creative new content methods to help solve people’s problems
If you choose a niche that you aren’t passionate about, you risk the following outcomes:
- You become frustrated with a topic that is hard to learn
- Your content quality suffers as you pump out more of it to try to boost your rating
- You lose confidence as an affiliate marketer
Remember, a huge part of affiliate marketing is content marketing.
A huge problem that this discipline has faced in recent years is content that is created for search engines, not people.
If you create good content that solves people’s problems, you have a much better chance of seeing success in affiliate marketing.
From our original list, I can remove several niches.
“Water filtration systems” can go, because although it has the opportunity to be profitable, there’s no way I would have the capacity to educate myself on it consistently. Because I enjoy cooking, even after a long day at work, I would much rather stick to my “mediterranean diet” and “growing herbs at home” niches.
Can You Make Money With Your Niche?
Now that you have your list of niches, it’s time to break this list down a bit further.
Before you talk about keyword research or competition in a niche, you need to be able to make sure of one thing: can you make money in the niche? Will it be a profitable niche in the long term?
There are a few basic questions that you can ask yourself to verify this.
Again, this doesn’t require any time-consuming research or expensive software. All it takes is a critical eye.
Is There a Product?
Niches with physical products are a great choice for anyone getting started in affiliate marketing. This is because the path to making money is clear, so you can use affiliate posts to refer visitors to places where they can buy.
Physical products often have less competitive keywords too, making them easier to monetize.
Profitable niches can also exist when you are selling services. A service like website hosting or password management for bloggers makes sense, as long as there isn’t too much competition.
Other methods of earning money like display ads or selling your own product like an e-book can be effective as well, but they are not worth worrying about when you are just getting started.
Testing Monetization With Amazon Associates
You can easily check to see if a niche is worth monetizing using Amazon. This works best if you are considering joining the Amazon Associates program, which is common for beginner affiliate marketers.
Try searching for products related to your niche. If you can find at least 30 products that are in your niche, you have probably found one that can be properly monetized.
If there are any fewer, your niche is likely too narrow and you will need to step back and try again with a different topic in mind.
Can I Sell My Own Product?
Asking yourself whether you can sell your own product is a great exercise for making sure you have found a profitable niche.
The point of this isn’t to start thinking about whether it’s feasible to start prototyping a “fogless shaving mirror” all on your own. It’s about asking whether there is room for small players.
If I were in the PC gaming niche, for example, it might be very difficult for me to sell a product. There are plenty of large players in the industry who are very effective at getting their product (PC video games) to consumers.
However, if I focused on PC gaming accessories, it’s much more realistic to imagine finding a way to sell gaming keyboard pads or other accessories.
Selling your own product is a late-stage strategy that some affiliate marketers use to earn even more money from their sites. Give it some thought now to make sure you are entering the right niche.
For each niche, it should be fairly easy to determine how much commission affiliates will pay for each sale made.
Check out our list of the 36 Best Affiliate Programs for Making Money With Your Site to see how commissions vary for many niches.
It will be much easier to monetize a site with a higher commission rate. Keep in mind that affiliates like Amazon Associates typically operate with much lower commissions.
Try some quick calculations to make sure that a low commission rate can be offset by higher sales volume. As an example, you would have to refer 1000 sales of a $50 PC Gaming Keyboard Pad at a 1% commission to make $500 in a month.
Another question that you can ask yourself has to do with how fast things change in your niche.
Some popular affiliate niches (especially in technology) see new products being introduced constantly. The smart home industry is a great example of this – there are new products and versions released at a breakneck pace.
This can be a good thing. It can mean that there are lots of products to review, and you will have no problem finding new keywords to focus on with your content.
However, this can also mean that your older content becomes ineffective rather quickly.
Finding a profitable niche in affiliate marketing will be much easier if your older posts can still do the leg work for you months down the road, so we recommend sticking to niches and products with longer life cycles.
Think about products that people typically hold onto for a few years at least, rather than something that can become obsolete quickly.
It is relatively simple to determine if a niche is worth going into by determining the Domain Authority of sites that are already operating.
First, you can make a Google search for some basic keywords in the niche. We can try this with “growing herbs at home.”
After scrolling past the ads and “people always ask” section, we can see that there are several sites we have heard of (like thespruce.com) and others we haven’t (harvesttotable.com).
Using a Domain Authority Tool
Now we can use the Ahrefs Website Authority Checker to find “low Domain Authority” sites.
Domain Ranking is a measure of how a site will rank on Google, and we will try to find sites that have a low DR (less than 25). If we can find a site on the first page with a low DR, then this niche is worth going into.
If not, ranking in this niche will be like trying to train for an Olympic hundred-meter dash. Let’s try plugging the harvesttotable.com into the Website Authority Checker.
This is a pretty high domain rating. After a few other searches, I find out that this the lowest DR on the search results page.
This is a very competitive niche. I would be much better off finding a different sub-niche.
I could focus on less popular herbs like marjoram, or growing herbs indoors or in apartments.
What is the Earnings Ceiling?
Keep in mind that the presence of some sites with a strong DR on the SERP isn’t a bad thing.
If you notice that there are no larger sites for a hyper-specific niche, this could mean that this is a less profitable niche.
It’s unlikely that you will be the very first to start an authority site for a niche. The presence of a few other players means that there is money to be made, and you can carve out your own space in the niche.
Find Your Keywords
Now that you have established that 2-3 niches that look promising, it’s time to move on to the next step in the niche selection process. Here, we will do some introductory keyword research that will allow you to validate which niche makes the most sense for your affiliate site in the long term.
Basic keyword research is a great skill to have for anyone interested in online marketing. But if you have looked into the topic before, you have probably noticed that there is an upfront cost associated with it.
Choosing Your Keyword Research Tool
We will be referring to Ahrefs for this step-by-step guide, because it is one of the very best keyword research tools out there.
It is effective at showing keyword info for affiliate marketers at a glance and is easy to learn how to use.
However, the “Lite” version goes for $99 USD per month. We highly recommend doing a 7-day trial for $7 to start out (just make sure you pick 7 days where you know you will have plenty of time to do research), then you can sign up for the full version later.
Other tools like KW Finder, SEM Rush, and even Google Trends can be effective for varying levels of keyword research too. Keep an eye out for an upcoming BrandBuilders article where we compare our favorite tools!
How to Conduct Keyword Research
Brady from BrandBuilders released a great video on keyword research, which you can watch to see this process in greater detail.
Our goal with keyword research for niche selection is to find 10+ keywords for your niche that can be possible to rank for, and have decent search volume. If you start to have difficulty building a list of 10, it probably means that you should try a different niche.
These are the criteria that we can follow to make sure our keywords are suitable:
- Keywords must get more than 200 searches per month
- When we search these keywords in Google, they must have at least 2 affiliate sites in the top 10
- Keywords should be 3+ words long, as these “long tail” keywords work well for niches
Start With Seed Keywords
First, we are going to find some general keywords that are common in the niche already. This is done in the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer tab.
After doing domain research for “growing herbs at home”, I have decided that the space seems too competitive. However, I am interested to see what opportunities can be found in “bike touring”.
Bike touring (or “bikepacking”) involves travelling long distances on a bicycle, while carrying everything you need to survive. It involves a lot of different products, and requires a fair amount of research.
After entering some keyword ideas into the search bar, I then select “All Keyword Ideas” from the side menu.
Filter Your Results
This is going to give me a lot of ideas, so we will need to filter this down. Here are a few things we can do to make this happen.
- Set minimum word count to 3+
- Set Keyword Difficulty to a maximum of 10.
- Set the “include” modifier to “Any Word” with “best” and ”review”. These are great keywords for affiliate marketing.
Now that we have applied these filters, we are in much better shape! We are down to a list of 171 keywords from over 14,000 when we started.
There are 3 keywords with 200+ searches per month here, with a few close behind. This is a close call, and you may want to do more research before you decide on this niche for the long haul.
Low search volume can decrease your chances of earnings in the future, but this seems like it could be a promising product-focused niche.
Let’s do another test to be sure.
Ahrefs has a great feature that allows you to see the search engine results for any given keyword at a glance. We can check this to make sure that a few more criteria are being followed.
- Ensure there are not more than 5 eCommerce sites on Google’s first page. These will be difficult to rank against.
- Determine if there are any other affiliate sites currently optimizing for the keywords. If there are a few sites with low DR, this is a good sign.
- Check if low DR sites have 10+ backlinks. If this is the case, you will need to work much harder on your backlinking strategy.
By clicking on the SERP header on our keyword list, we can the true opportunity for the “best bikepacking bikes” keyword.
Although there is an eCommerce site (REI), there are a few existing affiliate marketing sites too (Bikepacking and Cyclingabout).
However, these sites have pretty high Domain Ratings that may be tough to compete against.
Also, most of the pages that these sites link to have over 10 backlinks. Maintaining a backlink strategy for your content can be a lot of work, and this is something to consider early in the game.
Getting 10 sites to link to an article is a challenge, so just imagine doing that for every content piece you create. Sounds pretty time-intensive right?
Where To Go From Here
So now that our “bike touring” niche isn’t looking great, we’re going to have to start from scratch, right? Not so fast.
We can simply try a few different new keywords into the search field, like different types of gear or lists of the best bike touring routes.
Even if that doesn’t work, the whole process takes ten minutes per keyword group. We want to ensure that as you are going through the niche research process, don’t be afraid of running into a few brick walls.
Be flexible, and don’t feel like you can’t add on to your initial niche list. We have prepared this step-by-step guide to eliminate the guesswork that you have to do.
If you run into any roadblocks along the way, our team is happy to help with our coaching calls. You can bring your biggest questions and have an experienced affiliate marketer on the line to point you in the right direction.
The Final Selection
We have covered a lot of ground with this article. Hopefully, you can say that you now know how to choose a niche for affiliate marketing!
We deliberately tried to make this as simple as possible to follow so that you can feel confident with the decision you have made.
Be sure to watch out for new content on the BrandBuilders blog that will help you reach your affiliate marketing goals.