Starting From Scratch: Keyword Research Is Addictive

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Jim and Lu

Here is Jim skiing with his dog. I didn’t even know dogs could ski!

This is part 2 in a series where I coach a person brand new to niche sites to create a site that makes $2,000 per month.

It won’t be easy.

But my friend Jim is up for the challenge in a very public way.

(See examples of Amazon Affiliate Niche Sites get 15,000 keywords there, too.)

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I didn’t mention it in the opening post for this case study, but Jim lives down the street from me.

We have been meeting up once a week at the neighborhood coffeeshop, where there are dozens of other people on laptops every morning.

Jim started with niche sites around the beginning of the year, and I think one of his first resources was my Niche Site Project Management Book, 2015 edition. (It’s out of print right now…but I have an updated course now. You can sign up to be notified when it’s open, Five Figure Niche Site.)

The point being, Jim didn’t know what he was doing but he was taking action.

Taking action is the most important thing. 

So, when I pitched Jim on the idea of working on a live and very public case study, he already had a niche picked out.

He already had a WordPress site built out, and it looked pretty damn good too.

But like many first time niche site builders, his keyword research was flawed. He didn’t know how to do keyword research for niche sites.

So, we started over. 

Jim knew the mechanics of KW research so I gave him some homework to find a new niche.

Here was the assignment:

  • The Goal is to ID about 3 – 5 Pillar Post Topics & about 15 other KWs that are long tails
    • Input 10 or so quick seed keywords
    • More specific seed keywords are better
    • Consider using modifiers like: best, reviews, how to, vs, under, $xxx, for, etc
    • Sort to only show “long tail” keywords (4 words or more)
    • Filter based on words, like “best”, “reviews”, etc
    • Look for keywords under 30 KC
    • Look for weak competition
    • The 3 – 5 Pillar post topics should have a larger search volume – 720+ exact monthly searches
    • The other 15 KWs can have a 0+ searches. (Yes, zero is okay.) Use the ratio for allintitle/volume…
    • If you find more, great! Just save them and we’ll get to them.

Let’s hear about what Jim’s been up to…

Hi, my name is Jim and I’m addicted to keyword research. 

I love it…

I keep Google Adwords, an allintitle search and Long Tail Pro (LTP) open pretty much all the time because I’m always looking for the next great keyword. 

This, my friends, has not always been the case.

But without the the right tools I was pretty much grasping at threads.

When I first started out I was pretty clueless as to how to go about doing all of this, especially the keyword research.  I would just look around my condo and the stuff I was doing for hobbies, things I liked to do, etc.  But without the the right tools I was pretty much grasping at threads.

Then I found Long Tail Pro (That’s an affiliate link & I really appreciate it if you use it) and that was a big help but I was still up in the air in terms of what would classify as a profitable niche. 

I would search for some terms, see what came up and really after trying one or two modifiers I would just stall out and try something else.  Now I know the whole game is deep diving into weird corners of a market you may not even know are there.

That said, my initial KW research was pretty pinball, I was bouncing from one idea to the next without a game plan. 

Then I found a great way to think about approaching niches in a book I had picked up at the library. 

Your choice doesn’t have to meet all of them

Now, I’m a little leery of physical media in this space because everything is happening at hyper speed but there are still things you can glean. 

Here are some things I found helpful in doing not only my kw research but niche selection as well.  Your choice doesn’t have to meet all of them, it’s more of just a way to purse out the bad ones.

Selection Questions to Ask

  • Is there a large enough market
  • Is there a lot of “pain” in the market (This is a great one to ask yourself)
        • Are people irrational passionate about finding a solution
        • Are people already looking for a solution
  • Are people already spending money on the type of solution you want to offer
  • Is there a good backend potential for other types of products (other ways to monetize)

The “Great” Keyword – Needle in a Haystack

Really what’s made KW research easiest for me was finding a niche that, topically, looked inviting e.g. low quality competition, low keyword competitiveness scores, something I liked, and on and on.

Study the market, not just from a KW standpoint, but really look at it.

Once I had decided on a niche I was taking a closer look at the market as a whole and finding oddities that I hadn’t know were there before. 

Some of those weird corners have led me to looking for KWs that turned into longer tailed KWs that have now become some of my pillar posts. 

Study the market, not just from a KW standpoint, but really look at it. 

Find ancillary products that support your main items and you may be able to combine the terms and find great avenues into the market.

The Old, Original Niche Is Too Competitive

Before I started working with Doug I had purchased a domain, setup all the inner workings and was even writing a bit.  But after doing some proper KW research it became clear it would just be way too hard to rank for some of the KWs that I would need/want to write on. 

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Starting Over

I had chosen a saturated market

I went back and forth over it for a while and finally decided that I wanted to start fresh and go down the right path with proper KW research and market analysis. 

I’m very happy I did so.

Mainly the reason for switch is that I had chosen a saturated market.  Everybody and their dog was out there trying the same stuff within that niche, and there were some BIG dogs out there. 

My current niche is still one where there is competition and that’s a good thing. 

Remember up above?  People are spending money on it, actively looking for solutions and there are others out there who have recognized that potential. 

You vet your market selection by seeing if there are others who do too.

Some Competition Is Good

The journey to my current niche was preceded by quite a few others.  I tended (ok, I still do) want to buy up every cool, brandable domain that met my current speculation. 

This is a dangerous thing to do as it eats up time and resources that are much better spent on one good project. 

Think About It Hard But Don’t Overthink It

Really there’s nothing too wrong about having a lot of ideas in the beginning, you’re supposed to be sorting through the haystack and looking around but I fell victim to my old foe “Paralysis by Analysis”. 

I waffled over every niche I was thinking about. 

  • Should I buy the domain? 
  • What would the site look like?
  • How big could I grow it?
  • And on, and on, and on…

Be your own consultant, keep the vision and trust your research.

You Got To Have Some Interest

My current niche is something I’m really interested but not wholly. 

It’s like this, I have a hobby, lets call it X, I do X a lot and I love it, but X by itself is pretty thin and there’s not a lot of other KW’s out there for it. 

I would keel over from boredom if I had to write 2,000 word in-depth articles on them

Thankfully W, Y, and Z all go along in the same vein and they’re of interest to me.  I don’t do them, but they’re interesting and who knows I might pick one up after learning all this new stuff. 

Having an interest in your niche is absolutely critical! 

For example, sewing machines might be an awesome niche, fit all the right criteria and so on but I would keel over from boredom if I had to write 2,000 word in-depth articles on them. 

It just wouldn’t work for me.

Take Your Time With KW Research

Overall, I would say that finding your niche is all about taking off the blinders. 

Don’t get frustrated right out of the gate, finding a successful niche takes time.

Find something you love, look at the surrounding arena it exists in and find other products that sound fun. 

Then you can start doing a deeper analysis of the niche and see if it’s really something worth pursuing.  The old adage holds true “If it were easy, everyone would do it”.

 Do you have any tips for Jim on the Keyword Research topic? If you have any questions about KW research, just ask in the comments below. See all the posts in the series – here.

About the Author: Doug Cunnington is the founder of Niche Site Project. He shows people how to create Affiliate Sites using project management and a proven, repeatable framework. Doug loves creating systems, using templates, and brewing beer (but usually not at the same time).

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Niche Website Builders help their customers build and grow more profitable content sites. They offer a fully hands-off approach for all the services that they offer.For example, their content creation service includes their proprietary keyword research process, articles are written by in-house native English speakers, formatted using review templates that are proven to convert and uploaded to WordPress with affiliate links added so that all you need to do is review and click publish.This makes their service perfect for both beginners wondering where to start, through to experienced portfolio owners looking to scale their operationsThey also offer ‘done for you’ site builds and link building services.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Great article Doug. Most people charge for advice like this on building an affiliate website. The keyword advice is really good for anyone looking to build a successful niche site. I wish now I could have read this article before I built my website.

    • Jim

      Yeah, major luck out on my part! I think fate definitely intervened on my behalf for this one. Thanks for commenting!

  • Hey Jim, sounds like you have it all figured out! My keyword research tip is to look at all of the top ranking pages for the keywords you want to go after, and see what those pages are doing. Specifically look to see what other longtail and related keywords they are using. If the keywords combination is helping them be on page 1 – it might just help you as well.

    Also, are there any other similar style niche sites ranking for your chose niche? Make a list of their targeted keywords, it’s usually 100% obvious, and make sure you have better on-site SEO and better pages overall than them!

    I think it’s important not to just have a uniquely worded article in a post – but you have to actually add unique VALUE in your posts. So if you can match their on-site SEO, and provide better value to your visitors – you’ll do well.

    My two cents anyways …

    • Jim

      Yeah, KW research is super important for any site trying to rank. I definitely worked through the competition trying to see what they were going after. I’ve got a lot of good stuff in my niche and I’m interested in it too so writing quality content isn’t too hard. I think I’ve burned a hole through my keyboard I’ve been typing so much though 😛

  • Hi Jim,

    I am with Dave above on this area and I think many people make keyword research a lot harder than it really is. Just steal the keywords! If you find an Amazon Affiliate website, chances are they have laid out most of the keywords for you. When you have that list then go to google suggest and from there you can easily get 100 more plus the related search terms at the bottom of the page will give you 500 more keywords. Then as Dave suggested just write longer articles, make sure they are optimised and categorised and your keyword research is done. Personally I think the competition thing is not that real. If you have a website with 100 high quality articles on it, there will be sales and you will rank no matter who else is on Page 1 of Google. Grab the keywords and invest your time/money in great articles…good luck by the way

    • Jim

      I couldn’t agree more! It’s all about finding good KW’s. Maybe it’s beginners luck or whatever but I’ve found some really great stuff that isn’t being targeted quite yet. I’ll just plugging away and grinding out content.

  • Tim

    Whaoo! taught am the only one having this keyword nightmare. I started a site on a good niche. Had visitors but conversion was zero. I later discovered that the niche is too narrow. now i am starting all over with better content, good site structure and optimization. Thanks Dave for your quality coment.

    • Jim

      Yeah, sometimes you’ve just got to recognize a mistake and switch gears. Hopefully this new direction will be good for both of our endeavors. Good luck!

  • Casey

    Hi guys. Great post thank you. What do you look at to decide if a market is saturated?

    • Jim

      Hi Casey-
      I guess the easiest way to put it would be to just do the proper keyword research. If you’re interested in a niche then drill down and explore different areas. If you can find a good amount of KW’s that are open that’s all I’d really need to see to start getting more interested. If every KW you’re seeing has a lot of authoritative sites trying for them then it might give a good idea of saturation.
      Good luck!

      • Casey

        Thanks Jim!

  • Pushkal Gogna

    Hello Doug & Jim,

    I love your case study.

    I have question related to keyword reserach, 3 – 5 pillar post topics focus buy intent keywords and what about 15 other keywords Is it informational type keywords? or all buyer intent articles post on the site.

    And you using any % of information and buyer intent articles.



    • Pushkal

      Hello Doug/Jim

      I am still looking your reply.



    • Jim

      Hello Pushkal-
      Having a blend of different KW’s is important to have a well rounded site, it adds value and builds a loyal following. The 3-5 pillar posts are ones that you will build big articles on and compete for higher rankings with. I think that these could be either promotional, informational or some combination. Pillar IMHO means something that you’re sites all about and that you can build you site off of, hence ‘pillar’.

      Hope this helps,

  • Brian

    Just curious what you define as too competitive or maybe mentioning the niche you passed on so I have a reference. Would something niche like juicers be considered too competitive. I wonder if most big niches like dogs, cat, skincare, electronics have enough to find initial uncompetitive kw’s that eventually could target igher traffic stuff. People seem to niche down too much on azon sites like shower heads and then hard to grow it bigger?

    • Brian, thanks for the comment.
      Competition Analysis kind of an art. But if you see all ecommerce sites in the top 10, then that keyword (or set of keywords) is probably not a good one. You may just need to have a look at the right (buyers) keywords.

      Your example for shower heads is great. Why not focus on bathroom products and then you CAN grow the site? Make sense?

      And juicers are competitive, but you can probably find some keywords that you can rank for. You should think about long phrases and use ubersuggest.

  • Theo

    Hi guys,
    Great article and really helpful,
    I was looking for a cheaper but still reliable keyword tool, long tail pro is great, but since I’m in the beginning of this I want to invest more time and less money if possible. I have some questions.
    1.I have found a tool for Keyword research called keywordkeg, looks new since I see a beta on their site, but looks reliable. Do you think if I use this instead of long tail pro I’ll miss important information to make a decision for my niche?
    2. I know people are asking you for “red flags” on when to drop a niche due to competition, and you have state KGR many times, should I use this metric only? I’m researching a niche in which I have great expertise due to my current job, it’s in the aesthetic device and cosmetics business, I can write really valuable content, the market is big if not huge, but the competitions is strong, should I drop it? I can target long tail KW but are these going to pay back my time? Do you recommend any other strategy?
    Btw I just read your article about Niche Site Roller Coaster, SZ is really there many times, I hope we all find ways to get over it. I’m living near the see and I just go and watch the waves splashing, this resets my mind most of the times.
    Best regards from Athens,

    • Hey Theo, good questions!

      1. Yeah, Keyword Keg is great and I use it. It seems to be the most economic tool right now. No, you won’t miss anything if you don’t use Long Tail Pro. People will tell you need the Keyword Competitiveness number but it’s not a good metric. Pay attention and you’ll see that the people telling you to use the KC number are affiliates for LTP!

      2. It’s too hard to say based on what you mentioned. If you have an unfair advantage – USE IT! But me, I don’t like competition so I go for less competitive niches. Long Tails work though and the KGR does too. Sorry I can’t help more!

      Thanks about the Niche Site Roller Coaster – Jim nailed it with that description.
      Cheers & See you around the blog

  • Hey Doug,
    This information sharing it’s much appreciate it as you’ve heard this many many times before I’m sure!
    Thank you for doing this !

    As I’m reading Jim’s story here I can’t stop seeing myself a few weeks ago … if you change Jim with Adrian in the above story …it feels like telling my own story 🙂 .

    I’ve come to meet you Doug through an interview that you did with WP Eagle, who I owe him the creation of my first website !

    I was so keen to start with this that I’ve never done the propper research, I just went through WP EAGLE turorials and the more I saw my website coming together the more happier I was but … I’m quiet sure that my website it’s just the wrong one … just like Jim, I feel like I need to start all over again and do the whole process from scratch … that’s why I am here now on your website learning to do this the right way !

    I will let you know in the future, hopefuly not very far, if I’ve got back on track and have nice profitable niche website !

    Thanks again