Google, Livesearch (MSN), Ask and yahoo
Researching a niche (1) online is pretty simple. It's important to do though, because you need to know what your competition is doing. Before starting a new site it pays to see whether there are already a significant amount of sites that cover that topic. If not - jump in right away. Getting visitors is likely going to be relatively easy. If there is competition, the question becomes: how good a competition are they?
1. Finding Keywords
When doing research on a niche, make a list of all keywords related to that niche that you can think of. Just use pen and paper. Your computer isn't going to be much use in this (there are keyword-tools, but I prefer the human touch). Keyword combinations are also very relevant. So any you come up with are great. This keyword list is going to help you:
- Think of article ideas
- Research your niche
Search engines are really good for this next step. I'm usually interested in only the top 20 (40 max). You need to find out what your competition is, so google the central keywords you have. The largest, most general keywords likely turn up most results. This is hardly relevant. Your site isn't going to be comprehensive about a general subject anyhow, not at first. Still you need to know. Save the top 20 for each search you do. This is also useful for link-building later on.
After the general searches go down to the more specialized keywords and key phrases. This is where it likely gets interesting. These are your prospective article titles after all. So search the main search engines for these phrases. Google, Ask, Yahoo and MSN (2). Again, the top 20 is the most relevant. Again, save the results.
Look at the results to see whether the keywords were found in the title. This is the text with the link in it. If the majority of found pages has your keywords in the title, you are in a crowded niche and your competition is going to be hard to beat. If not, you have found a niche that you can build a site for that is going to get visitors relatively quickly.
1) A niche is really just a subject. Some subjects are very popular online, which means that making a site that will get visitors is going to be hard. Some subjects are very hard to write about, or look boring, yet have a large prospective userbase. New websites in those niches are likely going to be more successful. Be creative and write about what you know or are willing to learn about.
For instance, there are a lot of myspace sites around, so making a new one is only going to be successful if you cover topics those other sites don't cover. Don't be the twentieth copycat of a myspace graphics site.
2) In practice I only use google. Still, it does make sense to also find out whether MSN, Ask and Yahoo show competition. Since about 70% of searches are done through google, they are the main way of determining whether there is competition. For well filled niches a search in another engine is a good idea, because a new site can often rank for competitive keywords more quickly in MSN.