On the most common goals of a solopreneur or online marketer is to develop a revenue-generating content-based website. The model here is to attract an audience with your content, and then monetize that content through advertising, affiliate marketing, or sale of digital content such as ebooks or access to an online learning platform.
Let me caveat this entire article by saying that this method is designed to generate a content website that strategically targeted, not a passion project. Meaning, if you simply love cats and want to write a website about health care tips for cats, then go for it. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about developing a content-based website that is geared toward monetization and not necessarily about a topic that you know well.
That being said, if you are a solopreneur interested in launching a content-based revenue-generating website, you shouldn’t just dive into any topic at random.
Without some research on how much your topic is trending, you’ll risk either picking a topic that is oversaturated with competition, or possibly suffering from waning interest, and therefore lower potential traffic.
Here are the steps I’ve found helpful to create a website topic niche that hits the middle ground between these two extremes, and it makes use of the search tool Google Trends.
Brainstorm as many random ideas as you can
Without filtering your thoughts, start jotting down as many possible topics as you can. Try not to think too much during this process. If you find yourself saying “that’s not a good one,” or “that’s too vague,” etc., stop that guarding impulse and instead keep thinking of new ideas.
Eventually you’ll have a solid list of possible topics. Most will not be useful in the end. That’s not the point. If you have a list of ten topics, you only need one to lead you to something potentially worthwhile.
Here’s an example of some unfiltered, random topics that I brainstormed:
- Banana recipes
- Hostels in estonia
- Lemon juice
- Back pain remedies
- Ear infections
- Chinese manufacturing
- Kansas waterfalls
- Solar panels
Once you have a decent list (shoot for at least ten, but more doesn’t hurt), you’re ready to plug them to Google Trends and start getting a sense of search history.
Enter your brainstormed terms into Google Trends
A quick Google search of “Google Trends” will lead you straight to the site where you can start entering your terms and looking for website topic ideas.
Enter search term, and then evaluate the results in trends. Note if it is near its peak popularity or is waning – set your geographical area and time. I prefer 5 years (or at least 3) to ensure you have an accurate picture of how the topic is trending.
Scroll down on this page to “Related Topics” and “Related Queries” section. This will provide you with additional search terms that might provide even better potential topics for your content-based website. For example, in these results I can already see that terms like “banana flour” (+550%) and “banana pudding poke cake” (+1,100%) are on fire right now, and trending in a major way, with huge increases in search volume.
These are definitely some potential topics I can create a website about. I might not even know that banana pudding poke cake is, but if I’m willing to move quickly and learn about it, there is potential search opportunity in this topic area.
Drill down into your related terms and try to identify topics trending in the right direction. You can do this by clicking on the topic name. This will show you a graph that clearly illustrates the trend. Evaluate whether the increases in search volume are recent and trending up, or largely in the past and trending down. If the latter, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. For example, when I drill into “banana pudding poke cake,” I see that most of the gains over the last five years where in the early past. “Banana flour” on the other hand, is clearly gaining more momentum recently.
Compare all the related topics to get a sense of how which have better volume and are trending in the right direction. For example, one of the best trending topic that had a steady, reliable upward trend was “cooking banana”. When compared to other related terms I found, it was clearly at a higher volume, while also trending upward.
Determine if you want to pursue topics that might not have as much search volume now, but are trending in the right direction and a breakout topic. These search terms might be the best opportunities for getting in early and generating significant traffic fast. This is more a matter of personal taste, depending on if you are a risk taker and want to capitalize on something that is red hot, or are looking for slow, steady, reliably trending topics.
Search the most promising trending topic in a Google search and look for lesser known domains in the results
So, after finding the topic “cooking banana” was somewhat promising, I also unfortunately saw one problem: the term is still being dominated by major domains on the first page of Google search results. This brings up the next key step in looking for website topics. It’s one thing if the topic is trending in the right direction. It’s quite another if you are really alte to the party, and there are already many powerhouse websites dominating this topic in organic search.
Such powerhouse domains include anything with an instantly recognizable corporate name – think CNN, Livestrong, ABC, GE, or anything associated with a large brand or celebrity, etc.
Ideally, what you want to find is a topic that is trending, and that, when you do a basic Google search for it, the first page of results contains off-brand websites. Particularly, look for the following types of domains in the Google search results first page:
- Domains from other countries – If your website is going to be geared toward a US audience, for example, but you see a .de or .au or .es domain in the first page, this might be an indication that there isn’t a whole lot of competition from US-based .coms.
- Academic or peer-reviewed journals – Academic journals published online are excellent resources for information, and contain some of the best peer-reviewed research in the world. However, they do not tend to have large audiences. Therefore, if you see an academic journal in the first page of results, this may indicate there is not a large amount of high-traffic websites dominating this topic.
- Social media pages – This is a strong signal of potential. If the first page of Google results links to someone’s Facebook or Pinterest page, that again means that there are not many standard domains out there that are serving up quality content about this topic.
- Lack of paid search ads – Google will undoubtedly serve up Adwords paid search ads in the first page of results. If you notice that there are not that many, this might mean that the term is not being controlled by companies with large budgets, giving more room for up-and-coming solopreneurs to fill a content demand vacuum. Also, just do the math – the fewer spots on the first page taken up by ads, the more spots available for organically relevant content.
Here is an example that illustrates a more promising potential topic that is both trending in the right direction and seems not to be dominated by large corporate domains.
In my brainstorming list above, I took the last term: solar panels. This term itself did not yield promising results. It has a gigantic search volume and is dominated by big brands like Tesla and Solar City. However, the related search term “Photovoltaic power station” as a big green light.
First off, “Photovoltaic power station” is trending in the right direction. Over the last 5 years, there are not really any major spikes. Instead, we se steady, slow growth, which means it’s moving in the right direction, and in a very stable, reliable manner. It’s highly unlikely that this term will be obsolete any time soon.
Also, the first page of Google search results appears equally promising.
There are no ads at the top of the page or the bottom, which provides plenty of real estate for organic results.
Within the first three positions, there is a .de domain, which is a website from a company in Germany, indicating that there might not be a lot of competition in the US for this topic.
Finally, toward the bottom of the first page of results, we have 2 academic journals. Note, these do not have to end in a .edu domain – rather, they just must be the lengthy, peer-reviewed style of publications that are characteristic of academic publications.
So in summary, these results are promising.
Repeat this process for all of your keywords. If you find a search topic that is trending in the right volume, and not dominated by major brand domains on the first page of Google search results, then you’ve found a potentially great topic for your content-based website.