Keyword research is arguably the most important part of building your niche website. If you get the keyword research wrong, or you don’t put enough effort into it, then you could build your entire site, do all of your on-site optimization, offsite SEO and eventually get to a point where you cannot make a success of the project.
By the time you realize that you picked the wrong niche, or the wrong keywords you have invested untold time and effort in your website and it’s all been for nothing.
For this reason it is super important to take your time when it comes to the initial stages of researching and planning your project.
Research and Planning
Although we call it the keyword research stage, it is more than that. This stage is about researching and planning out your project. You can plan everything at this stage from the niche you are going to target, to the keywords you are going to try and rank for right through to the products or services that you are going to sell to your target audience and you can even estimate the potential income that you can generate from each keyword.
The more research you do at this stage, the better. This shouldn’t be limited to vague estimations either. At this stage you can fully plan out all of the keywords you are going to target and the articles that you are going to write. You can even produce a 6-12 month offsite SEO plan so that you have a solid idea of the links you are going to build, the anchor text you are going to use and the distribution of those links throughout your website.
Picking a Niche
The first step in getting your project off the ground is selecting your niche. At this stage you should be thinking about a broad niche – for example kitchen appliances.
Don’t fall into the authority site trap
Don’t fall into the authority site trap. By this I mean don’t think that you are going to build the best site in the world for all kitchen appliances or that you are going to be the go-to authority for anything kitchen related. This is a very common trap that people fall in to when building a niche site. Its easy to get swept up in the romance of building a really great website and sometimes you end up taking on more than you can chew, so to speak.
In reality, to build a site of that magnitude would take so much money and effort that its unlikely to get all the way to fruition. It is far better to build a laser targeted niche site. With a small website your time and money can be used to create a super high quality website that really adds value for your target audience. The same amount of time and money invested into an authority site would leave you with a mediocre website that doesn’t really cover the niche properly and doesn’t add anywhere near as much value to the target audience (which, by the way, would be ginormous).
Looking for sub-niches
Now that you have an idea of the niche that you want to go for, its time to look for a sub-niche. If you are going for kitchen appliances, then a sub-niche might be blenders.
This is a very small niche, in fact its focusing on a single product. Despite it being a small niche, there are lots of articles that you can write for this niche – you can have product reviews, how-to guides, comparisons and many other topics that all focus on the single micro-niche of blenders.
This is an idea size of market for your niche website as you can cover the sub-niche in its entirety without breaking the bank. Being able to comprehensively cover a niche in this way not only allows you to add value to the target audience, it also allows you to build authority to all of the content on your website by way of internal linking and cross-relevance. In other words, if you have various articles linking to each-other internally, and they are collectively covering an entire niche, then Google and other search engines will see that each article is effectively surrounded by other articles on closely related topics and as such this re-enforces the topical relevance of each article.
This method of creating topical relevance through internal linking gives your website a head-start before you have even built a single external backlink.
Finding target keywords
Now that you have an idea of your niche, it’s time to find some keywords that you can actually rank. There are several things that you need to look for when choosing your target keywords:
- Decent amount of search volume
- Decent CPC (Cost per click) or Availability of relevant products
- Low competition
There are several tools out there that you can use for your keyword research, but in my opinion the best tool for the job is Keyword Revealer.
This tool will produce a list of keywords for you, based on the niche or sub-niche that you enter into the search box. The tool will also show you the monthly search volume, CPC and potential profit for each keyword that it finds.
You can filter the results based on your predefined metrics for search volume and CPC and you can then drill down further by evaluating the competition for each keyword.
Keyword Revealer will give you a competition score and also show you detailed research including search trends, social presence and statistics for each of the sites currently ranking in the top ten for your given keyword (including page authority, external links, social shares and the presence of various on-page SEO factors).
Ideally you are looking for 5-10 primary keywords for your niche site, depending on the size of website that you are planning to build. Remember, quality over quantity is the key here. It is much better to find and focus on a lower number of quality keywords – ones that a) you can comfortably rank for and b) once that will actually generate a decent profit once you rank.
Look for secondary or LSI keywords
When you are researching for your primary keywords, remember that you will need secondary or LSI keywords to go with each primary keyword that you select. For this reason, it is advisable to find keywords that are not too closely related, otherwise you end up targeting very similar keywords with different articles and this is a bad idea.
Consider that you want to cover each of your target keywords comprehensively and this means that by design your article is going to cover several related keywords. For this reason, it is a good idea to perform further research once you have your primary keywords and to find several related keywords for each.
The result is several groups of keywords, each one containing a primary target keyword and several long-tail keywords or phrases.
Not only does this allow you to target several keywords (And thus increase your chances of ranking and also increasing the amount of traffic that your article can generate) but it also gives you the opportunity of covering your sub-topic in greater detail and this in turn leaves you with an article that comprehensively covers your primary keyword or topic.
Once you have your keywords then you can put all of this information into a spreadsheet, grouping each of your keyword sets together and also planning out the hierarchy of your website.
Ideally you want to have your content set out in a logical format with your broader topics on the top level of your navigation and then the more specific topics as your second (and possibly third) level navigation.
For example, you might have an article with the title “how to use a blender” which could be on your first level navigation and linked to via your navigation menu. Then you might have a secondary article with the title “how to make a sauce with your blender” which would be on level two of your navigation, below the previously mentioned article. This could be placed as a sidebar link from the top level article, or it could be linked to via a drop-down menu in your primary navigation.
The important point is that you have a logical hierarchy for your website and that broader topics on your website link to more specific topics. Once again, this is important as the broad topics help to instill topical relevance to the more specific topics that they are linking to and vice versa.
At this stage you can plan out this hierarchy in detail and you can even start to think about where and how each article will link to the others, even if they are adjacent navigation items.
For example, you might also have an area of the site that focuses on product reviews. This area would have its own link in the navigation as well as its own set of primary, secondary and tertiary items in the hierarchy. However, there may still be areas within this content where you could legitimately link to your “how to” guides. Planning out these links before your get to the content writing stage will help to ensure that you end up with a site that has logical inter-linking between all of its content (where relevant) and this will help reduce bounce rate and also will help with topical relevance.
If you are wondering how much weight Google will give to the hierarchy of a website and its topical relevance you only have to look at the AdWords documentation and best practices and how Google always suggest that your website layout matches your AdWords categories and that they form a logical hierarchy. To me this is a great insight into the important that Google give to a sites layout and navigation structure.
The planning doesn’t stop with your keyword research, or your sites structure. You should already be thinking about your back-linking strategy at this stage as well.
Why? Because its too easy to get carried away with your link-building and go for that snazzy looking PBN service, or that all-in-one SEO package and totally mess up your backlink profile before you have even started. In reality you know what needs to be done – you need a slow and steady link-building process that builds authority to your homepage and then to your sub-pages. You need social signals, link diversity and a super-cautious anchor text profile in order to rank your website.
If you plan out this backlink strategy before you get started on your website then it will be a lot easier to stick to it. Also it forms a good base for recording your actual link building efforts and this in turn provides you with a way of tracking your sites progress and attributing your efforts to any improvements in the SERPS.
The end result
By the end of this stage you should have chosen your niche and have a clear idea of the size and scope of your niche site.
You should have a structured list of target keywords, grouped into several sets, each containing primary and secondary keywords.
You should have a site plan including a fully documentation navigation structure.
You should also have a 6-12 month backlink plan for your website.
All of this before you have even thought about registering a domain name.
If you have managed to follow the above guidance, then you have a really solid base for starting your project and you’ve probably tripled your chances of success.