When You Are Looking At A Niche & Evaluating The Existing Competition, What Do You Look At?

Stones

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I was looking at a regional niche recently that has a bunch of new sites going after it and looking at the various slices of the larger niche, these sites were targeting.

Outside of the content strategy, publishing frequency and the link strategy, what things do you think indicate the skill or focus that a site owner has for the site.

I ask this after seeing 2 of the 'newer' sites in this niche using a full sentence, sometimes two, as their H2 and article intro. You've all seen it, where the H2s/H3s are used as styling rather than for page hierarchy. Not saying this is the worst thing in the world but it's one of those things that indicate a designer or someone unaware of SEO is at the helm.

Any thoughts? What other indications do you look for that you squeeze more small wins, then the comp? Hosting, domain reg length etc?
 
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I start with Ahrefs when I start to evaluate if a niche is worth it.
Before entering a niche I look at:
  • How many low DR sites are on page1 for the main keywords. Ideally, I want 2-3 with DR <10, and 2-3 DR <20. If there are only like 2 with DR <20, it's still doable, just needs more work (relevance +power).
  • How much traffic the lower DR sites get. If they can get 5-10K organic traffic with DR <10, that's a very good sign. The lower the DR and the higher the traffic numbers the better.
  • How valuable that traffic is (Traffic value), the higher the number the better (usually more and better quality affiliate programs out there).
  • If there are a few that have DR <20 and get at least 10K organic traffic, I move to the next step. I start looking at their backlink profiles, evaluating how many good links I will need to beat them. The reason why low DR is important is that sites with low DR usually have only a few links and most of their links are weak. Which means you can beat them easily.
  • If there are a few sites with low DR, decent organic traffic, decent traffic value, and weak backlink profile on page1, I will check their content. I check how many articles they have about the topic, how strong the topical relevance is. The less topical relevance they have the better. If one of those DR <10 sites has like 50 articles and they still have 5-10K organic traffic, that's a great sign.
  • Once I see how many topically relevant articles they have I will check how optimized those articles are. Usually, I check only their first 5-10 best-performing articles. For this I use SurferSEO. The more orange and red I see the better. It means I can beat them easily with well-optimized content with only a few links.
  • If most of the boxes from above can be ticked, I will create a list of the topics/keywords with the potential traffic I can get. To start a website I should have at least 50-100 articles/topics and at least 20-30K traffic according to ahrefs. You will get usually 3-10x more traffic than ahrefs says anyway.
  • Make sure the affiliate programs in the niche pay well. I usually start the research with this step, but because you are already considering the niche, you probably check this already.
If the niche is a go, you want to go back to the lower DR sites. When you start with content production, you will write about their best-performing pages first as those will rank quicker.

That's about it. Now can anyone teach me how to build decent whitehat links at scale? :-D. That's my weakness right now and I could be 3-5x more profitable if I learn that.
 

Steve Brownlie

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Now I think about how easy it'll be to monetise - properly like not just a few bucks per 1000 views. I've had some ideas that were just too complicated to make money from in the past, needed manual negotiating with folks, collecting payments and all sorts. In some niches you need proper deals direct with providers and the direct affiliate deals suck (back in the poker days I spent ages negotiating with small skins to get a proper deal vs the 3-5% you would get through a bulk provider of rakeback deals to affiliate sites etc). So I take into account that kind of thing too.

I do a lot less now than in the past so try not to get sucked into things that might be hard to make money from once there's some traffic coming in.
 

Ryuzaki

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The way that I look at this these days has changed. @janky has a real nice structure there and something I would follow if I was making smaller and tighter-niche'd sites. It's great advice in general.

These days, I only swing for the fences with authority sites with the intention of them reaching 500, then 1000, and then many 1000's of posts. To do that you often need to be thinking about entire verticals instead of niches.

And when you're thinking about verticals you can be sure of two things:
  1. It's chockfull of big players you won't beat
  2. It's got nearly endless low competition keywords
How you find those keywords is up to you, but the point is that you'll never run out of "walk in the park" keywords to dominate while you rack up your backlink profile and start testing what level of intermediate competition and volume keywords you can take down.

Eventually you're juiced up and there's really no point in bothering fighting with the DR80 to DR90 sites for "best product" and all that crap. You can publish for a low competition and auto-rank and publish for intermediate competition and high volume keywords, land a link or two, and take it down too. And these are endless. It's like taking candy from a baby, especially once you have juice and topical authority.

You can dodge a lot of in-depth thinking and investigating if you know you'll become a bigger player and the vertical is gigantic. You also can be assured the monetization opportunities are there, often based on volume of conversions (affiliate programs, display ads) and you can snipe high value stuff later.

But before worrying about the competition, I always recommend concerning yourself with the monetization method, which will guide you to the type of traffic you need, which will then guide you to the keywords and an investigation into competition on those. @janky's method comes right back into play at this point.

Any thoughts? What other indications do you look for that you squeeze more small wins, then the comp? Hosting, domain reg length etc?
Header usage like you pointed out, nesting headers incorrectly, not resizing images before uploading them, really dumb CSS tweaks to pre-made themes, obvious use of a million plugins, horrible page speed, lack of on-page SEO in general, no adjustment of the URL slugs.

It's definitely the tiny and routine stuff. Any lack of discipline or interest there tells us all we need to know.
 

secretagentdad

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I’ve found the the most consistent niche scoring is to look for telltale signs of deliberate optimization and keep a running tally. Focusing on relevancy signals is decent for easy keywords.
You can then have a calculated field for comparing words to each other with what ever weighting you want.

For sizing up more competitive stuff.

I like to look at comparative backlink data over time graphs.

You don’t need to do this if the keywords aren’t on the higher end of the curve. If there isn’t already targeted relevancy it will just give you deceptive noise.

Document volume in googles indexes used to be really useful as a signal, but they’ve gotten all cagey about it lately so it’s tough to peg things to.
 
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Stones

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Now I think about how easy it'll be to monetise
I've made this very naive mistake in the past and underestimated the friction of new ideas in local markets.

To do that you often need to be thinking about entire verticals instead of niches.
True and verticals start with niches. I'm going to look at the next project with a longer time horizon and swing for the fences.

That's a fine list and process @janky .Thanks for the replies.
 
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@Stones
Yeah, it's a great starting point to find good niches. If you choose the niche wisely you can build up a pretty good affiliate site. One of my niche sites gets like 25K visitors a month and earns ~$5K. And the affiliate payouts are not that good TBH.

So with the "method" I gave you, you can probably find niches that can bring in $3-20K/month if you do thorough research.
My "method" can help you find a decent subniche and from there you can attack the full vertical and take the other subniches/shoulder niches.