The Netsetter: Tackling Competitive Markets

A lot of prospective Internet marketers preemptively concede highly competitive niche markets to super affiliates and A-listers without testing the market for themselves. They either dismiss a competitive market out of hand, because they’re told it’s “too competitive,” or get scared away by their own keyword research, which may not have been extensive enough. You actually want to go after highly competitive markets, for the same reason people rob banks—because that’s where the money is.

While many keywords are too competitive, I don’t believe that any particular market is too competitive to enter. Extremely competitive, yes, but no niche is so inaccessible that you can’t make money from it. On the contrary, the usual knee-jerk reaction to competition—going after micro-niches—is suicide in my opinion.

The Problem with Aiming Low

Imagine you found that “dog rehabilitation” keywords collectively had a hypothetical 2400 searches a month, but there were relatively few websites and no information products in this narrow market (controversially, I use the terms “market” and “niche” interchangeably). You managed to get your dog rehab site to the top of Google for all related keywords, and managed to sell your $47 ebook at a 2% conversion rate, giving you nearly a $1000 a month in income: 2400 x .42 x .02 x $47 = $947.52 (.42 represents the 42% of search traffic a top result in Google statistically gets). Now all you have to is repeat the same model on a few other niches to make a full-time income.

That’s great until other internet marketers inevitably discover that there’s money to be made in that micro-niche. Once half a dozen competitors enter your market, they’ll start chipping away at your $1000 monthly earnings. With a mega-niche, like the diet market, you can always find more commercial-but-accessible keywords for traffic sources, but a micro-niche leaves you with no other viable keywords to prospect. You end up playing Whack-a-Mole with competitors in all of your micro-niches, turning your 4-hour workweek into a full-time job.

There are always side doors into any niche, no matter how competitive any subset of its keywords looks, as long as it’s not too narrow. Make no mistake: if you’re selling an information product, you want it to be as specific as possible; but your marketing needs to reach out to a wider array of traffic sources. Some keywords inevitably won’t perform as well as expected: they either don’t get the search traffic reported by a keyword tool, or they simply don’t convert well for what you’re selling.

Determining the Scope of Your Niche

The trick is to begin with the end in mind: pick a niche, then find keywords to support it. Don’t go into a niche strictly on the basis of keyword potentials. Beginning with the end in mind also means determining how much traffic you need to hit your income target. Knowing how much traffic you need will help you determine how many traffic sources you need.

To avoid getting too advanced here, “traffic sources,” in this context means keywords you’re going to rank for through SEO, not PPC (pay per click, i.e. paid traffic) but you can also get traffic from social media, joint venture partners (e.g. authorities in your niche with a healthy email list).

1. Determine how many products you need to sell. If your goal is to make $4000 a month, you need to sell 85 $47 ebooks each month, or roughly three per day. For this example, we’ll assume that you’re only selling one product in one niche.

2. Determine how many visitors you need. There’s no way to be scientific about conversion rates, since difference niches convert differently, but we’ll make an educated guess of 1.5%. For three sales a day, you would need a combined total of 6000 visitors a month, i.e. 200 visitors a day.

3. Determine how many keywords you need. Again, this is less of a science than an art, the value of keywords is measured differently by different people, and everyone has an opinion on the “right” way to evaluate keywords. I’ll direct you to my previous post, Keyword Competition Analysis, which will show you some methods for vetting keywords by their competitiveness.

Whatever method you use, you’ll eventually need the total search traffic from your keyword set to amount to the number of visitors required for three sales a day at a 1.5% conversion rate. 14285 searches a month = 5999.7 visits a month for top-ranked search results, so in the very unlikely event you could get to #1 in Google for all of your keywords, they need to theoretically bring in 14285 searches collectively to get 6000 visits to your site. Keep in mind that 6000 visits is your maximum potential with 14285 searches. You’re not going to get to the top of Google for all of your keywords. The real point is to calculate the order of magnitude you need to reach your target income. Realistically, you’ll need to target more keywords to get this level of traffic, factoring in the inevitability that many keywords won’t get ranked unless you have ways to backlink the hell out of them.

Capturing Traffic

One way to do this is to create a blog with keyword-optimized posts. You could have 25 posts, each optimized for one specific keyword, worth 571 searches a month on average. On the sidebar of each of these posts would be a display ad for your ebook. You can seriously increase your conversion rate if, instead of using that sidebar to offer the book directly, you install an email opt-in box to get your prospects onto an email list, but to keep things simple, let’s stick with the ad.

So let’s say you’ve been able to find a niche market. You get a list of potential keywords from the Google Keyword Tool or some third party keyword tool like Wordtracker, filtering out any results that get under 600 searches a month. I’d also recommend filtering out keywords with a $0.05 CPC or less, since they’re usually searches with non-commercial intent. “How to Twitter” gets 165K searches a month, but is a $0.05 CPC because almost everyone running this search is looking for free information; they’re generally not looking to buy something. Generally, the higher the CPC, the more likely it is that the search term has proven Internet buyers, which is why advertisers spend more on some keywords than others.

Then you would go through the list of remaining keywords and find the ones with high traffic and low competition (as determined by the “PageRank-Only” method in my aforementioned keyword competition analysis post). This might mean going through hundreds of keywords, but it’s time well spent. In my next article, we’ll look at some more automated tools to speed up keyword traffic and competition analysis.

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Andre Kibbe currently works as a content analyst for Internet Brands. He can be found on Twitter: @andrekibbe


  1. Ana da Silva on the 17th December

    Cool info Andre.

  2. TrafficColeman on the 17th December

    Andre you are right on the money my friends,,these are the steps I take all the time when I start an new niche site..thanks bro..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  3. isHristov on the 18th December

    That was a really good post. Thanks for on you analysis and great tips!

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