When starting out down the path of affiliate marketing one of the hardest tasks is actually knowing where to begin and what to target. Procrastination can get the better of us all and in the realm of performance marketing with the myriad of different niches and marketing techniques it can seem like a minefield for the new publisher to know how to approach the end goal.
The great diversity of the skill set of new publishers makes it difficult to provide a one size fits all guide on how to make money from performance marketing, so of course it is important to play to your own strengths. However, if I was to offer my 10+ years of experience to the new publisher beginning their first venture I would highlight the following areas of good practice and poor practice. Hopefully one or two of the points will help galvanise the path you want to take and prevent you from falling by the wayside.
Choosing the area that you are going to focus your time and effort is typically one of the most exciting aspects of getting started. It is also one of the most important decisions you can make as your initial choice can often make or break the project.
Make it interesting
I would advocate your choice of niche should be led by your own interests. Reflect on perhaps five areas of interest to you. The sort of topics that you could legitimately say to yourself that you could sit down and write about for 6 months, a year or even longer. Once you have thought in depth about each of the niches it should become apparent which niche holds the most interest to you. If you choose a niche that you are truly interested in you will stand a far greater chance of staying motivated enough to update your site, write content, market it and do all the other associated tasks to make a success of it.
Keyword competition analysis?
At this stage, many performance marketing experts will preach the critical importance of keyword competition tools such as the Google Adwords Keyword Tool or tools such as Word Tracker (these are online tools that allow you to find how many people are searching per month for keyword combinations of your choosing). The rationale behind this is that the deciding factor in terms of your niche selection will be the keywords where the most traffic resides -in other words only choosing a niche that has associated keywords, which meet a certain criteria such as over 10,000 exact match searches per month. This is an area that I believe many new entrants to performance marketing are being slightly misled.
By all means use a keyword competition tool to see general traffic stats for keywords in your niche, but it should not be the overriding factor that decides the niche to target. Your passion for the subject should be the sole determination for your first foray into performance marketing.
The exact match domain phenomenon
An extremely popular past thread on the A4u forum covered niche selection through the use of keyword competition analysis and transposing the popular keywords into keyword rich exact match domain names.
The thread was aimed at new publishers and sought to provide the motivation for a new breed of marketers to create websites that would ultimately make them money. Based on the comments on the thread it certainly roused people to get working on new websites, but although the information seemed to be well meaning it was also slightly off the mark. To essentially give a new publisher a random niche to work on (regardless of keyword traffic) is a mistake in my view.
An intermediate or advanced marketer should have no problem using their experience to research and market websites in a variety of different niches, but a newbie needs to find their way using first-hand knowledge of their niche and expansion can come with confidence and experience later. That is why it is important to base your niche selection decision on what you know rather than try to follow the traffic.
Give yourself a chance
By following the traffic you are pitching yourselves against seasoned professionals and teams of marketing experts with large budgets. If you are just starting out you want to give yourself a fighting chance whilst you are learning the ropes so focus on a niche that you know thoroughly. Search engines are increasingly rewarding well-written and original content. So as you are already an expert in your chosen niche you can use this skill to your advantage.
Some will argue that it is impossible to make money from the niche that they have chosen - that the keywords/products aren't worth enough money to make a good return on investment or there simply isn't enough traffic in that niche. I would argue that if you, as a sensible performance marketer, choose a subject that interests you, there will be a subset of the other 2.2 billion people wired up to the Internet around the world that will also be interested in the same niche.
Once your website ranks well in its niche you will be able to analyse traffic patterns and start to branch out to other closely related niches which potentially hold greater riches and use the trust that you have derived in the eyes of the search engines to expand your well written, well-researched content website. As an absolute last resort if you are struggling to monetise your niche, but you have managed to rank well and are getting reasonable traffic to the site there are always buyers out there that will be happy to purchase content websites to add to their portfolios.