When Niche Market is the Wrong Advice

Andrew Goodman wrote a delightfully good column over at SEL about how and when going niche is wrong. He noted that the advice to go niche typically comes from niche market thought leaders and people selling information products who tend to think everyone else is just like them.

The reason people push the niche idea are:

  • it is easy advice to give

  • overestimating the value of our own experience
  • the web has many self-reinforcing effects that favor market leaders
  • it is hard to conquire a big field until you have proven success and gained confidence from conquering a smaller niche
  • it doesn't take much to get past self sustaining if you focus on something you are passionate about
  • it is harder to get burned out working on something you are passionate about

It is a mistake I have made many times, but it is easy to speak of your own experiences as truth, especially if you are expected to write nearly every day. Focusing too tightly on a niche for an extended period of time makes it easy to become inauthentic, inaccurate, boring, and/or pessimistic. Those are obvious to anyone who reads frequently, and they are counter to what allows companies to expand:

We can certainly see how small to midsized retailers—online and off—who undergo recognizable and surprising spurts of growth, seem to have something in common beyond the executional wisdom and recruiting skills of the larger enterprises that Collins tracks in Good to Great. That intangible seems to be: contagious excitement.

The market for something to believe in is infinite.

If you are making 50 websites it is likely that you will be more successful if you focus on one or two of them before building out all the others, such that you incorporate learning from your first few sites into your later sites. Why repeat all the mistakes? In the same sense, it helps to conquer one market position before going too broad. When I started on the web I wanted to know a lot more about search than I could have profitably done, especially since the market already had clear market leaders with momentum, social relationships, media relationships, strong brand, capital, and knowledge advantages over me.

After I niched down to SEO and built a brand I was able to create numerous revenue streams (consulting sales, ebook sales, direct ad sales, contextual ad sales, affiliate commissions, link sales, referral commissions, speaking engagements, etc). It is also easy to further leverage my knowledge gained building this site to provide more revenue streams away from this site. I have a network idea I want to launch soon, but it still needs some work.

I have long been a fan of parallel markets after attaining self reinforcing authority status in a core market.

Published: July 17, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


July 18, 2007 - 4:21am

I agree it's better to focus on one than many at the same time. It's wise to grow and become expert in one field in the long run.

But some people do make money from a number of niches, especially when the business is just startup. It all depends on if you are suitable for it.

Ashish Roy
July 18, 2007 - 8:45am


I am way too puny to differ on what you opine, but would still suggest that SEO isn't a niche anymore. KW research, SMM, copywriting, hosting and tech issues, metrics analysis, branding, researching for online visibility, PPC are niches in themselves.

Ashish Roy

July 19, 2007 - 2:10pm

From what it would seem, Google starts to place more and more emphasis on "giant" websites, like about.com and wikipedia. What I particularly have against niche websites is the fact that many people who are beginners in the world of Internet Marketing (and the number is increasing every day) hear about the possibility of making fortunes from niche websites. The advice is given by more or less educated people who just want to rake in easy bucks. Consequently, people start building poor quality websites on a topic they know almost nothing about. The result is low quality websites that do nothing but spam the web. And I think this is the exact reason for which Google is starting to trust giant websites. Just my point of view.

stu foster
July 19, 2007 - 3:08pm

...and then there are the experienced internet marketers who use scraper tools to build massive spam sites.

To balance the above, slightly blinkered point of view.

S Michener
July 19, 2007 - 5:28pm

There are many niches that are made up almost exclusively of low quality sites with little in-depth product information or value. Entering a niche like this and going above and beyond what is currently there in terms of site quality and depth is not that difficult and also increases the value of the web.

I've decided to focus most of my time on 2 sites that I really have a genuine interest in, but I'm also on my way to creating 48 others that I don't care much about. But I'll be sure they are quality sites for their niche, and that's why they'll rank high... or so I hope.

Thanks for the post Aaron.

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