How to Find the Right Niche for Online Writing (Hint: It’s the Opposite of What You’d Think!)

Online marketers talk a lot about niches. Niche marketing involves creating highly specific material for a limited (but sharply defined) audience. Sports would not count as a niche. Neither would tennis. But start writing material for tennis players over 50 or people who like to travel to tennis resorts or teaching your under-10-year-old how to play great tennis … and you’re in a niche.

Many writers have the wrong idea about niches. As writers, we tend to go for the scoop. We seek the unusual story and the odd angle no one has ever used before. We writers cross article ideas off the list as soon as we see other people writing about them.

After all, in the ink-on-paper world, the fastest way to get a rejection is to propose an article on a subject that a competitive publication recently wrote about. If you’re writing for a magazine or newspaper, a very unusual, one-of-a-kind story can be an easy sale.

Internet marketing does not work like that.

When you write for online sources, your work can be deep, but it has to be narrow. The Internet has become the medium for specialists. It’s the best place to get information on how to grow roses in the tropics or make your own yogurt or learn about the symptoms of Brugada’s disease.

The risk in focusing so sharply on a specific subject is that it is much easier to miss the mark than to hit it.

A good writer is looking for readers and a good online writer is looking for customers. So online writers need to become marketers in terms of finding their niches.

Most online marketers research niches to find traffic before they embark on projects. The idea is that you don’t want to venture into a niche where there isn’t already at least some conversation and activity going on.

That’s right, online marketers want to find competition in their niches of choice, because competition means there is already interest, buzz, and business in that sector.

In other words, many niches that are possible are not viable. In a sense, Internet writers need to think like ink-and-paper publishers. A publisher would hesitate to publish a book on the best shoes to wear on an airplane simply because it seems unlikely that anyone would buy it. An Internet writer has to think about niches the same way. Is there an audience for the material?

Finding the answer to that is easier online than in the brick-and-mortar world. Internet marketers look at keywords in an effort to find profitable niches. Keywords are the words or phrases that you type into search engines when you’re looking for something.

There are lots of ways to perform keyword research; some of them can be done for free. By visiting the inventory at ( you can find out how many searches on Yahoo took place in a recent month (which may be six months ago) for any keywords you type in. Yahoo is not the Internet universe, but most authorities feel that Yahoo results can be extended to the other major search engines. In other words, if lots of people searched Yahoo for “hula lessons,” it is quite likely that many people also searched Google and other search engines for the same topic.

There are more sophisticated ways to do keyword research; it’s practically a science. However, for most online newbies, using a simple, straightforward keyword search will likely provide more than enough information to get your project off to a good start.

The problem with keyword searches is that you have to suggest keywords and then you can find out what is there. If you’re stumped or just want to see where there is a lot of buzz, type in things like “how to” or “secrets” or “tips” or “free” and you’ll see things with those words that were most searched for.

This is the part that can get confusing for writers. Most writers think that a keyword search with few results means the keyword is hot, while a keyword that’s getting a lot of hits is a dead end. Wrong! When it comes to Internet marketing, it’s the other way around.

Lots of activity on a keyword means that there is interest in the subject, a demand for information in that niche, and possibly a “community” that’s already built up of folks interested in that particular topic. If you find a keyword with very little activity, you have more likely found a subject that nobody cares about than some great untapped opportunity. In other words, if nobody is searching for information about knitting hats for Chihuahuas, it’s probably not a niche you want to invest in.

The next step is to type in those keywords and related keywords to see what comes up. Again, there are many very advanced techniques to this kind of research, but writers can make do with the basics. Just see what turns up. This is what the people searching those keywords will find. You may even want to see what kind of sites they are: are they selling physical products? Selling information? Offering free content? How would your proposed product or site fit in? Writers can get scared off when they find their subject is already quite well covered. If you venture into some well established niches, you’ll find content-heavy sites, blogs, information products, courses, and products for sale. But competition online is a symptom that there is a lot of interest in the topic.

Just as people don’t necessarily own one pair of jeans or eat in only one restaurant, competition can be welcome.

There is another huge benefit to writing in a busy niche: you may be able to tap into pre-existing traffic. If there is a rabid group of people eager to talk about setting up an at-home design business, your information product on tax guidelines for the at-home artist-entrepreneur has a ready-made customer base.

How do you find your niche? Some niches find you, in that you may know all about a certain unusual subject or you may have a personal passion. An Internet marketer would also try to discover “hidden” niches or secret niches by trying to find busy keywords that were being serviced by some (but not many) matching information sites. If you can find where the demand is not being entirely met … you have a winner!

Once you identify the niche, you next have to identify how you care to participate and how you want to monetize your activities. As an online writer, you can develop a content-rich site on the topic to sell advertising or an information product that can be sold with a sales page type website. Information products include books, electronic books, special reports, courses, CDs and other media.

No business is immune to risk and online writing is no exception. There’s probably more risk in Internet business because it’s fast-paced and everyone is new at it. On the other hand, you can often launch an Internet venture with minimal financial investment.

But there is still a risk. You’re going to be spending a lot of time and energy creating a product that may or may not sell. That’s why you need to pick the right niches. Go to niches where there is already a lot of energy and activity; you’re more likely to find customers where there is also some healthy competition.