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How to Find a Niche for Your Online Business

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How to Find a Niche for Your Online Business

Starting an online business was the single best decision I ever made. It changed my life forever, giving me the time and freedom to earn an income on my own terms.

But I wasn’t an overnight success. I had to go through many iterations before finding a niche that worked for me. I tried everything from e-commerce and dropshipping, to making my own products for Etsy, to photography, and even selling kitchen knives.

I finally settled on freelance writing, which quickly grew into full-service SEO and eventually led to me starting my own websites for affiliate marketing. I now run several successful online and offline businesses.

Today, I want to teach you everything I’ve learned about how to find a niche for your business so you can skip the years of trial and error I had to go through.

A niche is a specialized segment of the market that your business is created to serve. It can be anything: gardening, banking, automotive, or even sewing.

Here are a few niche market examples if you need more of an explanation.

Three ways to find a niche

There are a lot of ways to find a niche for your business—but I’ve found that these three have a low barrier to entry and provide some solid data to work with right off the bat.

1. Browse existing businesses

One of the easiest ways to find a niche is by browsing business sales directories like Flippa and Empire Flippers to find data on already existing businesses and see what niches they’re in.

Once you create an account, you can see information like what niche the website is in, how much the monthly revenue and net profit were over the last 12+ months, and even some analytics data—all for free.

Empire Flippers' business marketplace

Empire Flippers mostly sells affiliate websites. Flippa, on the other hand, gives you the option to browse e-commerce, SaaS, service-based businesses, and more. It also shows financial and traffic information for each website listed for sale.

You can use this information to understand the pulse of a niche and what you can potentially earn in it.

2. Use Google Ads data

Another method is to use the “traffic value” metric in Ahrefs’ Content Explorer to find the potential value of the traffic going to sites in a given niche.

Traffic value is the estimated value of the organic traffic a website receives if it were to purchase that same traffic through Google Ads instead of receiving it organically.

The idea here is that if advertisers are paying a lot of money to appear in the search results for these keywords, then it’s likely that the traffic from those keywords makes the site a lot of money.

To use this data to find a niche, head over to Content Explorer and enter a topic you are interested in. If you have no idea what topic to enter, you can try the following keywords:

  • “Amazon associates” to find affiliate websites with an Amazon associates disclaimer.
  • “Buy” to find e-commerce and some service websites.
  • “Sell” to find other general ideas.

From there, set the minimum website traffic value to 5,000 by going to More filters > Website traffic value and entering 5,000 in the “From” field. This will only show you websites that would be paying at least $5K to get that traffic from Google Ads.

Using Ahrefs' Content Explorer to find business niche ideas

I also like to set a Domain Rating (DR) filter with a maximum value of 40. This will only show you websites that don’t have as many backlinks and, thus, will be easier to compete with.

Ahrefs' "Domain Rating" filter

Make sure you click “Show results” to set these filters.

Finally, set the “One page per domain” filter so you don’t see a bunch of pages from the same website.

Ahrefs' "One page per domain" filter in Content Explorer

From here, browse the pages to see if there are any niches or industries you are interested in.

You can also click the “Websites” tab to see a list of domain names, then sort them by website traffic value from highest to lowest.

"Websites" tab in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

3. Use Ikigai

Ikigai (pronounced “ee-key-guy”) is a Japanese concept I learned about as a teenager that combines the terms iki (meaning “alive” or “life”) and gai (meaning “benefit” or “worth”).

It’s the Japanese method of finding and leading a fulfilling life. 

But how can you use Ikigai to find a business niche?

It involves answering a series of questions to determine where what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for all overlap—this is your Ikigai.

Venn diagram of the Ikigai concept
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

I won’t get too philosophical here, but answering these questions really helped me choose my first business niche (and helped with life in general). They are:

  • What do you love doing in your free time?
  • What are you really good at?
  • What are you interested in learning about?
  • What do other people tell you you’re good at?
  • What have you been paid to do?
  • What do people always ask you for help with?

Look for the overlaps in your answers. Maybe you’re really good at gardening, love doing it, and have been paid to be a marketer. A gardening website could be a perfect fit for you.

I obviously have no idea what your answers are to these questions. The goal of this exercise is to give you some niche ideas that align with your current interests and skills.

10 niches you might want to try

If you’ve tried the exercises above and still can’t find a niche, don’t worry. 

I wrote a guide to the best niches for affiliate marketing where I researched dozens of niches to find 10 that I think are not oversaturated and have a high potential for income. We also have a list of niche site ideas with other possibilities.

Here are some niches we found that you might be interested in:

  1. Vacuum cleaners
  2. Hotels with jacuzzis
  3. Ebikes
  4. Golf
  5. Home gym equipment
  6. Guitars
  7. Woodworking
  8. Zero waste
  9. Car audio equipment
  10. DIY gardening

How to research and vet your niche ideas

Once you’ve found a possible niche, it’s a good idea to vet the niche to make sure it’s something you can succeed in before you commit to it. 

Here’s how to do that:

Research traffic sources and competition

In this stage, your goal is to see:

  • How much traffic your competitors get and where that traffic comes from.
  • How difficult it may be to rank highly for keywords on Google in that niche.
  • How much money they spend on ads.

In doing this, you’ll see how much money you may have to spend to compete in that niche and where you may go to get your traffic. 

Let’s start by finding a competitor and entering their website into Similarweb to see how much traffic they get and where it comes from.

First, Google a keyword your competitors may rank for, such as “best bed frames,” if you’re in the sleep niche. Look for a competitor that is specifically about your niche—not a generic, broad competitor.

For example, in these results, I would skip giant sites like Forbes and WSJ and, instead, look at Sleep Foundation:

Google SERP for "best bed frames"

Looking at Similarweb, we can see it receives over 6.7 million monthly site visits.

Monthly site visits to sleepfoundation.org, via Similarweb

If you scroll down, you can see that the majority of this traffic comes from organic search:

Traffic sources for sleepfoundation.org, via Similarweb

Repeat this process for several competitors to get an idea of where the majority of traffic comes from in your niche.

If you find that many of your competitors are using search engine optimization to get traffic from Google, the next step is to see how difficult it may be to rank your own site for similar keywords. 

To do that, plug one of your competitor’s sites into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. Head to the Organic keywords tab and browse the keywords it ranks for, paying special attention to Keyword Difficulty (KD).

Organic keywords report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

If you find that the majority of keywords in this report have a KD greater than 30, that means it will be difficult for you to compete as a new site. That’s not to say you can’t compete—just know that it may not be easy.

In this instance, the majority of the keywords Sleep Foundation ranks for are above 30 and, thus, may indicate a tough niche to compete in. However, I suggest you do further keyword research before ruling a competitive niche out entirely.

Now, we have one more thing to check: ad spend in Google Search.

To see your competitors’ ad spend, go to the “Overview 2.0” page in Site Explorer. Sleep Foundation didn’t have any data here, so let’s look at another competitor: Sleepopolis.

Paid search estimations for Sleepopolis in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

We can see that it purchased 55 ads targeting 63 keywords, which cost ~USD 17K and got it 3.9K monthly visitors. Keep in mind that these numbers are estimates and may not be 100% accurate—however, they can still be used for a rough idea of your competitors’ ad spend.

Check several sites to get a more accurate picture of average ad spend among competitors.

Look at seasonality and trendiness

If you’ve done the research and found a niche still worth pursuing, there are a few more things I recommend you check before buying a domain name and starting your new business.

You should figure out if the niche you chose is seasonal (i.e., snowboarding) or if it’s a passing trend (i.e., fidget spinners).

Seasonality and trendiness are easy to check. Just plug one of the niche’s main keywords into Google Trends to see if searches decrease at certain times of the year and if your niche is a dying or dead trend.

If we look at “fidget spinner” and set the filter to “2004–present,” we can see it’s obviously a dead trend that peaked in 2017:

Google Trends results for "fidget spinner"

Looking at “snowboarding,” we can see that its searches peak every December, signaling seasonality:

Google Trends results for "snowboarding"

Just because a niche is seasonal or trendy doesn’t mean it’s a bad niche. However, it is something you should be aware of and take into consideration before making a decision.

After all, this is (hopefully) a business you will be working on for years to come, and you don’t want to find out you built a whole business on a dying trend.

By this point, you should have found at least one potential niche. But if you’re torn between a few, how do you actually pick?

There are three things to think about when selecting your niche:

1. Passion vs. profit

Should you choose a niche that is exciting to you, or should you focus on one that has the highest profit potential?

Personally, I am not “money motivated.” I’ve been fortunate to make quite a bit of money in my career, but I didn’t choose my business niches based on how much money I could make.

However, I did choose my niches based on things I was excited and curious about. After all, if I’m not excited about something, it’s hard to get myself to do it.

Are you fine with boring, uninteresting work if the money is right? Or do you prefer to wake up excited to work and figure out how to make more money in a potentially less lucrative niche?

The choice is ultimately up to you.

2. Low vs. high competition

Many business experts will tell you to avoid high-competition niches unless you have a lot of capital and/or expertise in that market.

While generally I agree with this, I do believe that there is always space for exceptional businesses in every niche—even those that are highly saturated.

High competition typically also means high potential for profits. And if you’re a fiercely competitive and motivated person, you can compete well in virtually any niche.

That said, a low-competition niche will be easier to win in—though at the potential cost of not earning as much money. You need to figure out whether you’re willing to put in the work for a competitive niche, or if you want something a little easier.

3. Micro vs. broad

Similar to the last argument, many experts will say it’s better to go after smaller niches to avoid competition and become more specialized.

Again, however, there’s a trade-off here; smaller niches often require much more creativity to earn the same money you could make in a larger niche. Of course, that also depends on the niche—some small niches have people with deep pockets and can be really lucrative.

Like every other argument here, it really depends on the niche. My advice would be to choose the niche that feels right to you (and looks good on paper).

Final thoughts

Choosing a niche for your online business is a matter of some basic research and thoughtful considerations.

Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself if a niche is worth pursuing and whether you’ll go purely after profits or if you prefer something that’s actually interesting to you.

As for me, I’ll choose an exciting niche over a boring but profitable one every time.

Questions? Comments? Ping me on Twitter.



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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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