Designing and Marketing Quality Niche Content Websites

Nov 29th

Niche websites:

You can’t create a site about what’s going on in the plastic industry unless you learn how they think. You gotta pick up some trade papers. Talk to some people inside. So that when you do create you will be authentic and loved. So that you get it. You can’t be fucking pedestrian and set up a site and hope they will come. They may visit but they won’t come back. And if they don’t come back you have lost.

Danny Sullivan is launching Search Engine Land in 2 weeks. NickW is podcasting web dev stuff. Both will surely be great niche websites, although it remains to be seen what sort of brand strength and share of voice SearchEngineWatch.com will have without Danny Sullivan at the helm.

Videos (Google has a clear lead in packaging and aggregating that niche content): You are What You Say and All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Google are both interesting, via Rough Type.

Via Blogoscoped, Google has a clear lead in scanning books

Google, for instance, is digitizing some great libraries. But their contracts (which were actually secret contracts with libraries – which is bizarre, but anyway, they were secret until they got sued out of them by some governments) are under such restrictions that they’re pretty useless... the copies that go back to the libraries. Pretty much Google is trying to set themselves up as the only place to get to these materials; the only library; the only access. The idea of having only one company control the library of human knowledge is a nightmare. I mean this is 1984 – a book about how bad the world would be if this really came about, if a few governments’ control and corporations’ control on information goes too far.

Why Aggregation & Context and Not (Necessarily) Content are King in Entertainment [PDF] - a good piece of research showing why and how Google is gaining leverage daily. Key quote:

Value of aggregation and brands increases with exponential increase in content choice.

Which is another way of saying that it is going to be better off for small players to own a niche than to be a choice within a larger marketplace.

If you own a niche the aggregators NEED you. If you are just another player in a crowded market then it is going to be tough to build much of anything as quality algorithms suck the life out of your market.

Published: November 29, 2006

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Comments

November 29, 2006 - 11:44am

I really don't like the idea of having only one company control the library of human knowledge, especially Google.It should not be under the authority of any particular company.

November 29, 2006 - 2:17pm

Niche is good, but also consider going "stylized". Instead of narrowing your topic all the way down to something less competitive, why not stylize the way you present the content to appeal in a unique way to your audience.

A bad example, but one that works would be the naked news broadcasters. News and soft-core pornography are both very broad topics. But by combining the two and "stylizing" the presentation they were able to receive an amazing amount of press and exposure by presenting them in a unique or "stylized" way.

You don't have to go niche, but you do have to offer your audience something new or different.

I (actually my company) launched an SEO / Web Design Blog 10 days ago and I didn't go niche, because I don't want to have to write on a super niche subject every day. It's too early to judge successes, but already Web Pro News has pitched on becoming a blogging partner.

I'm still working on figuring out an angle that will be successful in the long run, but for now we're providing lots of content written from an opinionated first person perspective that isn't just a comment on news or stuff found elsewhere (like the usual and very boring "according to blank this company will now offer").
We'll see how it works out.

My personal blog is non-themed, because again I don't want to write on just one basic topic, but whenever I post a movie review it ranks on Google above the other movie review only blogs and most huge websites, so you don't think you're forced to go niche.

Do a regular Google search for "saw 3 movie review" or "saw III movie review", the personal review in my blog is on the first page and ranks above the TV Guide and LA Weekly review (as well as the other movie review only blogs), so don't feel trapped into thinking you have to go niche.

November 29, 2006 - 4:23pm

Niche targeting is the way to go.
Like you said: "If you own a niche the aggregators NEED you."

It allows you to spend more time on delivering quality content and less time worrying about competing in a broad market. One exception is being first to market.

If you have an affinity for a niche market it will show in everything you do. Look at the people who are passionate about their work. They're usually leaders in their industry.

November 29, 2006 - 6:41pm

Dave,
I'm perplexed why you say "...especially Google" - is Google at the point where it has lovers and haters already?! I liken that attitude to the relationship between Open Source folks and M$ - a honeymoon made in heaven.

I challenge someone else to come up with an indexing and retrieval (search) platform similar to Google's - good luck with that. I would rather realize they are the world's top search engine and simply plug into it rather than try to reinvent it.

I personally like the idea of a centralized repository of information - back in the 80's would you rather scour 10 libraries to find a book, or know that one library had them all? I'll choose the latter personally. Works for me.

Allen

November 29, 2006 - 6:58pm

I personally like the idea of a centralized repository of information

But it would be nowhere near as good as a decentralized one.

Just look at the Library of Alexandria.

November 29, 2006 - 8:39pm

This is an interesting topic to me because i've just entered a niche market. We (ACS) developed it as a social network, but its more of a content based site about California Wine; a very small market.

In my opinion, its harder to make a community flourish when in a small market. One of the main reasons for this is the restrictive nature of being in a niche market. Because if you begin discussing topics outside of your niche, you run the risk of becoming diluted.

I agree with you that niche markets are the way to go, but there are major hurdles on both sides.

Azhar Malik
November 29, 2006 - 9:08pm

I strongly believe without competition there is no evolution. Search Engines are a prime example until Google the evolution of search engine industry was moving at a very slow pace. Keeping that in mind I have to agree with Solomon Rothman that we can create competition by being innovative not niche.

If that was the not the case myspace will not have existed since friendster was already there at the time of their launch.

Competition brews quality and gives the small guy a chance to become the big guy.

Azhar Malik
November 29, 2006 - 9:32pm

"You can’t create a site about what’s going on in the plastic industry unless you learn how they think. You gotta pick up some trade papers. Talk to some people inside. So that when you do create you will be authentic and loved. So that you get it. You can’t be fucking pedestrian and set up a site and hope they will come."

Aaron, hitting the nail on the head, I have to completely agree. This is simply a time tested best practice in traditional marketing, aka, marketing research. Every thing we are implementing now with help of analytics and data is what has been done in traditional marketing for years. Instead of physical focus groups and surveys, we have web driven focus groups and surveys. Instead of going to jupiter, gartner or anyother research company we research it ourself now through web. Basically once we do our research to find out what is it that the clients want and than implement it into our Search engine strategry (SEO, SEM, SEA) we get very close to getting pilgrims to mecca.

November 30, 2006 - 2:40am

I agree, niche targeting is will give you a better chance then something such as Xbox, etc. Niche users are also more loyal. I did enjoy the quotes, and I agree with much of what was in them.

November 30, 2006 - 6:54am

"You can’t create a site about what’s going on in the plastic industry unless you learn how they think. You gotta pick up some trade papers. Talk to some people inside. So that when you do create you will be authentic and loved. So that you get it."

I love the perspective of this blog post and the above quote sums it up. Let me paraphrase: "follow the money. don't know enough about a potentially valuable niche? find out all about it and make millions!"

The affiliate marketer with dollar signs in her eyes will always be a step behind the sincerely interested advocate who is *passionate* about her niche. A step behind the passion which fuels the content that is what we all want. But (sadly) probably ahead in the dollars and cents game.

Nope, passion isn't always profitable. But it's sure a helluva lot more interesting most of the time. Not that it matters to the affiliate marketer with dollar signs in her eyes.

Just what we need - every micro-niche saturated with greedy marketers who "get it" who are "authentic and loved" but purely there to make money.

November 30, 2006 - 7:35am

Another way you might be able to "niche" something down could be with localization. Something like "seo blog" is really competitive but "utah seo blog" narrows that down quite a bit. While still allowing you the breathing room you're not completely lost in a sea of competition.

November 30, 2006 - 10:48am

But it would be nowhere near as good as a decentralized one. Certainly there are more disadvantages rather than advantages of having the knowledge centre at one place or with one company. If anything happens than everyone will be at a huge loss.

November 30, 2006 - 2:40pm

In response to Christer Edwards - Why would you want to localize an SEO blog? SEO isn't dependent upon a physical location so I find excluding everyone from all other locations in order to dimish competition very problamatic. What is the difference between SEO in Utah or in India? All the steps, issues, and ideas are essentially the same.

Let the individual pages on your blog / website be specifically targeted. You don't have to pick an overall niche theme, you only have to provide some sort of unique content or spin on whatever you're targeting. Ofcourse for organic SEO you'll either have to be sucessfull in viral marketing to obtain enough links to beat out your competition or be patient and target low traffic keywords and steadily keep creating more content.

I believe trying to stand out in a sea of competitors is a good thing. It will refine your ideas and demand more work & creativity to succeed. I still perfer to keep my new blog on a general topic, then when It's successfull I'll have built a lot more value then if I boxed myself in by going over niche.

Plus when I jump to video next month (if you google me I'm a filmmaker in my spare time) it will be a lot more interesting to watch and will have the potential to be worth a lot more. Besides, you don't need to become the next SEO superstar like Aaron Wall, I believe most of the people reading this would be more then happy with a 40 hour work week (as opposed to 80+ hours entrepenuers routinely put in) and a income in the upper middle income bracket. The audience is there, niche dosen't = passion. In fact I think going over niche can kill your passion and limit your creativity by forcing you to think and write on such narrow topics.

November 30, 2006 - 3:52pm

There are so many crap, niche (adsense) sites out there, it makes my head spin. There are a lot of people making a lot money with them, but that won't last. There has to be some authenticity and realism (valuable content) for them to make it through all the algo's, etc...

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