The term “Niche” comes to us from the Scientific world where it’s used to help categorize the role various organisms play in their environment. When it comes to websites and marketing it’s more specific to how the Internet gets organized—sort of. Niches are like little boxes where similar things get put to help people find them more easily. Being able to find and target niches is the secret sauce of many of the world’s most successful marketing campaigns.

Finding the Long Tail

Way back in 2004, Wired.com writer Chris Anderson coined the phrase “Long Tail” to describe a certain type of distribution model to predict consumer preferences. Simply put; Anderson noted that the majority of purchases came not from “blockbuster” products but from somewhat random purchases from deeper in product catalogs. While single-product sales may be higher for the latest Hollywood hit they won’t account for more sales than all other DVD titles combined. It’s a really simple concept but not always the easiest to describe. Check out this chart to get a better idea:

Long Tail Curve MoneyMound

Distribution curve of keyword search phrases

This graph illustrates the most popular keyword phrases as having the highest number of monthly searches per month. That’s to say, popular search terms like marketing get searched for more often than more specific keyword phrases like digital marketing and especially more often than long-tail keyword like WordPress blog marketing strategies. The thing is, even though popular search phrases like marketing get more monthly searches per word, the combined monthly searches for all those long-tail variations add up to be a lot more. Being able to cash in on all that interest is the key to survival in the marketing world—just like it is in the animal kingdom as well!

Fundamental Niches vs. Realized Niches

Back in the world of Science, niches are broken down into two distinct means of classification. There are fundamental niches and realized niches. These both describe the roles available to an organism within their environment. This includes things like behaviors, food sources, and even which other organisms may prey on them. A fundamental niche accounts more for all possible roles for an organism and the term Realized Niche accounts for actual roles available.

For example, all ducks might be able to eat pine nuts and walnuts but ducks living in an area without pine trees would likely only eat walnuts. This illustrates that ducks are within a larger fundamental omnivorous niche able to feed on tree nuts but, on a local scale, are fitted within a niche of omnivores that eat walnuts. It’s not important to know the roots of the terms to apply them in marketing—but I always thought it was interesting!

Website Niches

Websites can be categorized using the concepts of niches just like animals can. A website that is within a fundamental niche of marketing might find the majority of its content falling into the realized niche of digital marketing. The terms “niche” and “sub-niche” work as well. Website niches are, for most practical considerations, reflections of consumer interests. These interest groups fall into the same niche categories, and sub-categories, as websites do. All this means is that content on a website within the marketing niche will be of value to consumers within the marketing interest group niche. This might seem like splitting hairs, but it helps make useful connections. For example, a website in the organic food niche might also be of value to the fitness interest group niche. The website would only fall into one niche, but it could be relevant to multiple interest group niches.

What Are Interest Groups

Interest groups are exactly what they sound like; groups of related interests. I bring them up because it’s important to know how to identify them and apply them to your marketing strategy. One of the commonest places to run into interest groups is on your Google Analytics dashboard. Assuming you’ve enabled demographics and interest reporting, you should see some insightful data in the Audience -> Interests -> Overview menu accessed from the left-hand panel of your Google Analytics dashboard.

Google Analytics Interests Reports

Google Analytics segments users into interest groups for better understanding a website audience

These groups, provided by Google Analytics anyway, aren’t that useful in many cases. They are, however, quite illustrative of the point that niches can help describe not only the content of a website but also the interests of a website’s audience. Finding related niches to your website can help connect with new audiences and scale your website more effectively.

Finding a Niche

Enough talk. Let’s break down how websites can leverage the concept of niches to better promote their content and bolster the bottom lines. There’s a lot to consider when selecting a niche but some of the most important consideration should be given to keyword search data. Even if your business is brick and mortar only—keyword data still provides an accurate reflection of consumer interest.

Keyword Data

Below are some keywords that I’ve pulled the data for from SemRush, a popular keyword research tool, to illustrate how metrics change as keywords become longer tailed:

Marketing

  • 74,000 Monthly Searches
  • $3.93 CPC Bid
  • 2,000,000,000 Results

Digital Marketing

  • 40,500 Monthly Searches
  • $10.77 CPC Bid
  • 1,300,000,000 Results

Digital Marketing websites

  • 170 Monthly Searches
  • $10.88 CPC Bid
  • 200 Million Results

Notice that There are considerably fewer searches for digital marketing each month than there are marketing. That’s because digital marketing represents a niche interest group within the larger marketing interest group. In other words, all digital marketing is marketing but not all marketing is digital marketing. In this particular case, digital marketing shows the most promise (taking only these numbers into account) since it has a considerably higher avg. CPC bid and almost half as many results to compete with. Sure, there are fewer monthly searches but the increased CPC bids indicate that you’d find a stronger overall value there.

Keyword data doesn’t always provide the entire picture of a niche. Doing an extensive competitive analysis and initial research is still a vital part of creating a successful website.

Specialization

Once you find a niche that you feel represents a lucrative opportunity don’t hesitate to keep digging! Many times, I find that niches have potentially lucrative sub-niches within them. For example, the health niche covers a wide range of topics ranging from longevity to early childhood development. Each of these sub-niches contains entire worlds of more specialized interest groups and audiences that can be targeted. The more specialized your website becomes the higher conversion rates your find. Be careful though, narrowing down your content could also narrow down your audience.

Balanced Content

Don’t fall into the trap of overspecialization. Having a website that caters to the interests of one particular group to such a degree that it isolates another valuable group can hurt your bottom line. On the other hand, if you’ve got the resources, there are many cases where targeting seemingly random and obscure interest group niches can have big rewards. One of the best examples I’ve ever seen is IKEA’s autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) campaign. The ASMR interest group is really narrow. IKEA’s target audience is really broad. So how’d they make this video work so well? The IKEA ASMR campaign worked so well because it went all-in on ASMR in such a way that gave that audience what it wanted but didn’t even try to force it on their other audience. That worked for them because they have so much other content that their non-ASMR audiences weren’t isolated.

IKEA’s ASMR campaign is an example of Niche marketing at its finest

Final Thoughts

Niches are among the closest-held secrets among professional marketers. Finding a lucrative online niche can mean the difference between hundreds and hundreds-of-thousands of dollars. The Internet represents the collective interest groups of our entire species and is ripe with opportunity. A larger keyword may boast gigantic monthly search volumes but, more often than not, the collective long-tail variations of those keywords offer more total monthly search volumes. Knowing how to narrow down your niche can help your website become more profitable and more relevant.