So you want to build and monetize a website. You’ve decided that you’re going to create a medium to large authority site that will rank well in the search engines and bring lots of traffic. You’ll become a recognized expert and people will want to buy the products you promote or create yourself. Fantastic! The next step is obvious, but not always as easy as it sounds:
You Need a Website Idea
It’s easy to make three mistakes at this stage:
- Thinking that you don’t know enough about any topic to be an expert and start a site,
- Bouncing around from one topic to another and not being able to decide on one, or
- Falling in love with your favourite topic without determining that you can make money from it.
We’ll address these issues by using a methodical approach to brainstorming and evaluating your potential website ideas. This process is important, since you’ll be spending many, many hours working on your website and you want to make sure that it’s an idea that can work! So take the time to go through the process below.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Since our goal is Online Passive Income, we need to choose a topic that people will actually spend money on. People will usually spend the most money on:
- A hobby or sport that they are passionate about
- A burning problem they need to solve
Much has been made out of making a business from your passion, but don’t forget about solving people’s problems!
Write down all of the fears or burning issues that are important in your life or that used to be important but you have now solved. Examples might be financial problems, being nervous talking to boys/girls, a child with a learning disability, a termite infestation in your house, adult acne… The list can go on and on.
Now add a list of everything that you’re passionate about. Think about the conversations you like to have with friends or the types of websites that you frequent.
At this point, you can keep you list fairly general. You can write down “gardening” instead of “growing ancient strains of tomatoes.”
Step 2: Narrow the List
You should now have a list of a dozen or two website ideas. Cross off any that don’t meet these criteria:
- You feel comfortable telling your spouse/best friend what your website is about
- You’re interested enough in the topic that you can imagine writing 50 articles about it
- You understand and identify with your audience well enough that you can picture them in your head and wouldn’t mind going out for coffee with them.
Step 3: Evaluate the Market
Unfortunately, it’s not enough that you love pressing flowers. You need to evaluate each item on your website idea shortlist to make sure that there are enough other people out there who love pressing flowers, and that are willing to spend money on flower pressing gear, books, or courses.
We’ll get into researching keyword search frequency and other Google-centric market evaluation tools in coming posts, but for now, I want you to stay at a higher level and just get a feel for whether other people are making money in the topics on your website idea shortlist:
- How much have you or your friends spent on this topic?
- Are there magazines on the rack at your local supermarket that cater to the topic?
- When you type a few relevant search terms into Google, do ads show up above and to the right of the search terms?
- Still in Google, type in forum: your topic. Are there active forums of people talking about your topic?
- Go to Amazon and search for books or products related to your topic. Are there a decent number of reviews? (Flower pressing returns 4 books, and the most popular only has 8 reviews.)
It’s a mistake to think that competition is bad and to look for a completely new topic or one where nobody is monetizing it. If nobody else is already making money in your niche, then chances are you won’t be able to either.
Step 4: Narrow your Niche
You should have two or three website ideas that have survived your narrowing process. Up until now, we’ve been looking at fairly broad topics.
The internet’s a big place and you need to be very specific about your niche in order to shine in it. You need to find a small enough niche that your voice can be heard, but not so small that there won’t be enough traffic to monetize.
See that little girl in the picture at the top of this post? She’s found a niche in the wall that’s just the right size for her!
There’s definitely some judgment involved in deciding how small a niche to choose, but we can add some science to the process by discovering the number of people searching for various terms related to our niche and then evaluating the competition that already exists for the terms that we choose to target.
An Example Website Idea
I love to sail. I spend lots of time on forums and boring my friends with my constant sailing talk. I could write a hundred blog posts on all things sailing and not have even scratched the surface.
There are many shops that specialize in selling sailing gear and people spend a lot of money on their gear and their boats, so there’s certainly enough money being spent.
Finally, however, there are a lot of very large magazines and other businesses that dominate the results if you just search for sailing. I could never build a business on such a broad term. I may be able to rank in Google for terms related to learning to sail, sailing with kids, or anchoring techniques, though. These are more appropriate niche sizes.
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