One of the most common questions I’m asked is how to evaluate a niche from an SEO based affiliate perspective before diving head first into it.
We all know the obvious – check traffic volume for keywords in the niche using your favorite keyword research tool.
But just because there is traffic, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the “right” niche.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way and below, I’ll share with you some of the things I research before deciding to enter a niche as an affiliate that is primarily marketing my site through SEO.
Check PPC Advertiser Competition
First, I want to be sure the niche actually makes coin. Do a search for some of the primary keywords for the niche in Google. If you see that no or very few advertisers are showing up, this can be a red flag.
While you might have stumbled onto a fantastic niche that no one else knows about, it’s more likely that the lack of advertisers is a signal that there is little revenue to be made in the niche.
Knowing that up front can save you a lot of time and heartache.
Exceptions to this would be if the terms are trademarked or “disallowed” from paid advertisements (such as words containing the term “HCG”).
Check WHO Is Ranking On The Top Keywords
If you run a quick search for the top keywords in the industry and you find the top ten results return all big brands and no affiliates, you may want to rethink the niche, unless you are confident your site strategy and SEO skill level are good enough to compete.
I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m just saying that a top ten listing of nothing but big brands for your primary keywords means that the efforts to rank in that niche are usually going to require much more effort and skill than one where the top ten is an equal mix of merchant and affiliates.
Check WHAT Is Ranking On The Top Keywords
If the top ten results are all top level domains (www.theirsite.com), then the industry is likely harder to compete in from an SEO perspective than a result that also includes individual page results (www.theirsite.com/page.html).
There are obviously exceptions to this rule, and the presence of all top level domains absolutely shouldn’t be a deterrent. But it will help give you a gauge on how competitive the space is.
Research The Backlinks Of Competitors
Once you’ve determined the space isn’t “owned” by big brands, it’s time to check out the “strength” of the competition you’ll be facing.
I’m a big fan of Raven Tools for all things link development.
Using Raven’s “Backlinks” tool (which is powered by Majestic SEO) I will run a backlink report on the top five results.
This will give you an idea of how many links they have and how keyword centric those inbound links are and how many (and what kind of) links you will need to compete.
You can then decide if you think you can generate what you need to in order to rank.
Check For Multiple Affiliate Programs
This isn’t directly related to “SEO”, but it’s important to look at since creating a killer affiliate site with real value takes time and effort.
While one program may have drawn your attention to a niche, I’m not comfortable building a site where the revenue source (i.e. merchant) isn’t easily replaceable if I ever need to do so.
Years ago, I spent time and effort building and ranking a site centered around a certain affiliate program and when it closed down, there was no “replacement” for it.
This was before the days of Adsense, so I basically had a site ranking on some awesome keywords that made me no money. Even now that Adsense exists, I don’t like to depend on it as the only revenue stream for a site.
You could potentially strike up some direct lead generation deals, but I’m an affiliate for a reason and that reason is that I like low-maintenance, high return monetization without having to deal directly with consumers.
If there aren’t at least three merchants in the space running affiliate programs, I will typically pass.
Got An Additional Tip To Share?
If you have any of your own tips for evaluating an affiliate niche form an SEO perspective, feel free to share them in the comments.
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