The Word Bay

Your niche sites – the missing key(word)

So, in an earlier article we were saying that to actually get traffic to our sites we need to provide content that people are actually looking for. And fundamental to that is doing proper keyword research.

Here’s the thing about how searchers and how they behave (you and I included). They are NOT usually looking for just a bunch of hastily posted eBay listings and a few lines of thin content at the top of the page, and Google and the others know that.

They are looking for information, for answers, and very often (and this is VERY important!) they are looking for confirmation that the thing they are planning to buy is the right choice. So if someone comes to your site on quite specific product search terms like “flip ultra hd camcorder” (yes, those search terms are getting longer these days), chances are they have already looked at this product, have their heart set on it, and they are just looking for someone to say “Yes, that is a great choice, go and buy it here” (or if we are doing ethical business, “Look, that model isn’t all that great, why not look at this one”), and then your job is really just to close the deal!

That, in a nutshell, should be how affiliate marketing works, and we all pretty much know that. The tricky bit for a lot of us is, we just can’t seem to actually get Google to send us people searching for the product name/s we have chosen!

The missing key(word)

A huge part of getting traffic to our sites boils down, then, to keyword research. This is something you pretty much MUST do if you are producing a niche site, yet something that many of us just don’t even consider when we are starting out.

I can’t tell you how many sites I built this way! I talked about this in the previous article I mentioned above – I would choose some random keywords related to the niche (used bulldozers, used cranes) write a few lines of text for each page and stick a load of Wordbay listings (or Adsense ads, or Amazon products, whatever) on it.

And then I would sit back and wait for Google to send me hordes of visitors who are looking for whatever is contained in the listings. And it generally never happened (I DID get lucky with that a couple of times, but failed far more).

Come on, admit it, you have done this too.

Why this doesn’t work

There are a number of reasons why this doesn’t usually work, the prime ones (apart from poor-quality content, very often) being directly connected with our choice of keywords. You CANNOT just choose keywords at random to base your site around, just because they ‘seem like a good niche’, not in this day and age. Google, the other search engines and Internet marketing in its entirety, totally revolve around keywords, competition for specific keywords can be fierce and choosing proper keywords is essential, preferably BEFORE starting to build a site!

The game is this simple: your site has to appear on page one of Google when searchers search for those keywords (preferably near the top) or you have basically failed! The only ray of light is if your content is interesting enough to the Google algo that even when your page doesn’t rank on page one for its main keyword, Google nevertheless starts sending visitors for some of the more specific product names and descriptions on your page (the so-called ‘long tail’). That DOES happen sometimes, but is a poor second place to hitting the jackpot with your main keyword.

How exactly we achieve this is a topic for another time, but let me leave you with some characteristics of poorly-chosen keywords, that are doomed to failure from the outset, and then the converse – good keywords that will drastically increase your chances of succeeding.

Characteristics of badly-chosen keywords:

  1. No-one is actually searching for them!
  2. People are searching for them, but not actually interested in buying anything (they are not “buying keywords”).
  3. People are searching for them, possibly a LOT of people (e.g. “cheap iPad”), but the competition on page one of Google is WAY too strong and well-established for your site to rank up there – in fact you are probably languishing on page 53.

Characteristics of well-chosen keywords:

  1. Good search-volume. Not 46 searches a month. Enough to get you at least a few dozen search hits a day if you hit the top of page one – or many more, depending on your ambitions. Otherwise it’s really not worthwhile pursuing, unless you are promoting something mega-high-earning.
  2. Buying keywords” – keywords related to products or services that indicate a willingness to spend money on the part of the searcher! “iPad microphone” MIGHT be a buying keyword, or maybe the searcher is just the owner of an iPad microphone and wants to find some instructions for it. This is less easy to be sure of and needs some research and thought.
  3. Low competition on page one. Few enough “strong” sites in the top ten that when Google comes across your page, the algo says, “This is one of the best pages on this topic” and shunts it up there. This is the hardest to gauge, competition is a subjective thing, and it is getting harder to rank a page like this without doing some additional backlinking etc. (whatever Google would have us believe about “quality content”). But you CAN make it easier for yourself. Trust me, if you create a page called “buy iPad”, you are unlikely to get a look-in without some serious SEO voodoo, but if you choose your keywords wisely you could be seeing some nice traffic within a few weeks or months.

So where does your site currently fit into this picture? Maybe you already have an idea (especially judging by the amount of traffic you do or don’t get!), but maybe we need to look at these key factors more closely another time and get the real picture. Your site MIGHT be salveagable, or it might just be time to cut your losses and start from scratch, this time doing your keyword research properly.