Written by: Gene Schleeter

How to Do Niche Keyword Research the Right Way

Niche keyword research is the single most important step to building a successful niche affiliate website.

You can’t build a house without a solid foundation, and you can’t build a website unless you lay solid groundwork. 

But knowing where to find the right keywords can be a daunting task.

In this guide, we are going to show you how to do niche keyword research the right way. We’ll show you how to brainstorm and find your keywords, and how to analyze them to find the best keywords possible.

If you follow these steps and put in the work upfront, you’ll be able to find keywords that are easier to rank for, and create content that’s more targeted, which means higher conversions (i.e. more revenue).

Niche Keyword Research Basics

Before you can run, you need to learn how to walk. If you already know the basics you can skip this section, but be aware that keyword research for niche sites is different from standard keyword research.

What is a niche keyword?

A keyword is a search term or phrase that people type into search engines. For the purposes of niche keyword research, we’re going to be focusing on Google, due to their domination of online search.

Niche Keyword Example

In this image, “best dog food” is the keyword.

A niche keyword is a type of keyword. It’s typically a long-tail keyword, meaning it’s more specific and targeted towards a particular person or need. 

A niche keyword typically has a lower search volume, and ideally lower competition, than a broad/generic keyword. 

So, in our example, instead of “best dog food,” a good niche keyword might be “best vegetarian dog food for golden retrievers.” This keyword will have fewer people searching for it, but those people will be more specific, or niche.

What is niche keyword research?

Niche keyword research is the process of finding niche keywords for your website to target. When searching for keywords, you will be looking for keywords based on a few factors.

  • Search volume: Search volume is how many people are searching for that keyword each month.
  • Competition: Competition is how difficult it is to rank for that keyword. There are a lot of factors that determine a term’s keyword difficulty, like search volume, the authority of sites that are ranking for it, and how many linking domains the ranking sites have.
  • Search intent: Search intent is what people are looking for when they search for a certain phrase. Search intent can be answers to questions, products, or destinations. 

Another thing to keep in mind when you are doing niche keyword research is what type of content will rank for the keyword. There are three primary types of keywords to look for:

Money keywords:

Money keywords are keywords that are related to content that your site will directly profit from.

For affiliate marketing, these keywords will usually be product-based (reviews and buying guides). “Best vegan dog food” and “best dog food for small dog breeds” are examples of money keywords.

Info keywords: Info keywords are related to ideas or questions instead of products. These include how-to guides and informational posts.

Examples of info keywords are “what is the bland dog food diet” and “how to make vegetarian dog food at home”.

Link building/outreach keywords: Link building keywords are topics that are frequently linked to from other websites.  

“Dog food recalls” is a good link building keyword, because the top results for this keyword have a lot of linking domains.

Why is niche keyword research so important?

Niche keyword research is important because it’s the foundation your entire content strategy relies upon. 

A lot of site owners have tried to just write content without doing keyword research, and it always ends badly. They have hundreds of articles, but their site gets little to no traffic because they wrote about topics nobody is searching for.

If you want users to find your site, organic search traffic is your best shot. And, if you want to rank in Google, you need to have a proper content strategy. That starts with keyword research. 

How to Find Niche Keyword Ideas

Okay, knowing what to look for is fine, but how do you look for them? When you do your niche keyword research, there is a process you should follow. 

Brainstorm primary keywords

Your primary keywords, or seed keywords, are the keywords you will use to find more niche long-tail keywords. We have a few ways to brainstorm primary keywords that you can try.

First, create a mind map. A mind map is a written web of different words as they come to your mind. 

You think of terms related to your niche, then words related to those words, and so on. Once you write out your mind map, star keywords you think might work well as primary keywords.

niche keyword research brainstorm

Another great way to find seed keywords is to look at products in your niche. The best place to do this is Amazon. 

Amazon knows how to organize products to sell well, so their product categories are a great way to organize your content categories, also known as content silos. 

Head over to Amazon or another large retailer in your niche and navigate to the product categories. Copy the subcategories into a spreadsheet or word document. Repeat for all the subcategories until there are none left. That document is a great start for seed keywords.

For our example, we used Chewy.com, because they are one of the most popular online dog food retailers.

chewy keyword categories

Research competitor keywords

Before you start using keyword research tools, you should find out what keywords your competitors are targeting. 

To find out who your competitors are, the best tactic is to just start searching a few keywords. Try to search long-tail keywords, because you’ll have a better chance of finding smaller sites.

Take the results from the SERPs, or search engine results pages, and put the websites into a document. You’ll plug those into a keyword research tool later to see what keywords those sites are ranking for.

niche keyword example

Note: Don’t put general news sites into your competitor list. They are targeting too many topics for you to pick through. Only include niche sites that will have relevant keywords for you to target.

Niche Keyword Research spreadsheet

Study your niche 

When you are starting a new niche website, you need to see what people in the industry are talking about. 

Besides looking at your competition, take a look at some forums and Facebook groups. This way you can see what people in your niche are talking about. 

What are their problems? What are the current trends? You should be able to find a few primary keywords with this method.

Niche Keyword Research - study

Use niche keyword research tools

Keyword research tools are an integral part of the niche keyword research process. These tools allow you to see what people are searching for in your niche. 

You don’t need to get the best tools on the market (because they’re typically on the pricier side), but you will need something to get started. 

Best niche keyword research tools

  • Ahrefs: Ahrefs is the industry-leading keyword research tool. They have the most accurate information available, and they have more features than you could ever need. Ahrefs is one of the more expensive keyword research tools on the market, but they offer the best results.
  • KWFinder: KWFinder is a great tool for finding long-tail keywords from seed keywords. It’s affordable and easy to use, but there are less ways to sort and filter data when compared to other tools. 
  • SEMrush: Semrush is another industry-leading tool. They are almost as expensive as Ahrefs, and some website owners like their data better. The difference between the two comes down to personal preference.
  • SE Ranking: SE Ranking is a more affordable keyword research tool. They have dependable data like the other options, but their features are more limited and their interface is harder to navigate.  
  • Ubersuggest: Ubersuggest is a keyword management tool owned by internet marketing influencer Neil Patel. It is a watered-down version of Ahrefs. It has fewer features and is less user friendly, but it works fine for site owners on a budget.

How to use niche keyword research tools

The first step of using niche keyword research tools is to analyze your competitor keywords. 

Search your competitor domains on your chosen tool, and navigate to the keyword report. Export the data from your niche keyword research tool, and copy it into a master keyword spreadsheet. Repeat for all your competitors.

Niche Keyword Research - seranking

In this example, we're using SE Ranking

Now, load each of your seed keywords into the research tool’s keyword explorer and find the related keyword report. 

What you should get is a huge list of keywords, along with data about each keyword. Export this keyword master list to Microsoft Excel or Google sheets. Copy the data into your master keyword list.

export niche keywords

How to Analyze Niche Keywords

Now that you have a master list of keywords, you need to narrow down which keywords to target. Here’s how to filter your list and choose the best keywords for your niche. 

Eliminate irrelevant and duplicate keywords

No matter how selective you are with your seed keywords, your master list will undoubtedly have results in it that have nothing to do with your niche. 

Run through your spreadsheet, and select all the keywords that are irrelevant or duplicated. If you have a list of ten thousand keywords, this sounds like an enormous task, but it goes very quickly.

niche keyword analysis

Analyze search volume

A keyword is not worth targeting if nobody is searching for it. However, if a keyword has hundreds of thousands of searches per month, it’s likely too competitive to lower authority sites to rank for. 

We’ve found a good search volume to target is between 300-1000 searches per month for new sites. That’ll allow you to get some quick wins and build initial traffic. As your website builds more authority, you can target higher search volume keywords as you see fit. 

Click-through rate

Some keyword research tools include click-through rate data. Here’s an example from Ahrefs:

ahrefs click through rate

Click-through rate is the percentage of searchers who click on a website in the Google search results. If a keyword has a low click-through rate, you probably don’t want to target it. 

For a lot of queries, Google offers users a simple answer snippet. While these are great for users, they also mean the user probably won’t make it to your website. They will take their answer and leave, meaning you won’t benefit from your content. 

Keyword difficulty

Every niche keyword research tool has some type of keyword difficulty rating. They are all called something different, but the idea is the same. Keyword difficulty is how hard the research tool believes it will be to rank in Google for that keyword. 

Keyword difficulty is typically measured by the quality of backlinks the top ranking websites have, domain authority and a few other factors.

A general rule of thumb is that a new site should target keywords with an “easy” keyword difficulty score. These are the keywords you can realistically rank for with less site authority. 

What’s considered “easy” depends on the tool you’re using, but most will be in the range of 1-30. Here’s an example of what it looks like in SE Ranking. In this screenshot, the keywords with green scores are considered easy.

se ranking keyword difficulty score

Search intent

When you are developing a content strategy for your site, you should always be thinking of search intent. 

When someone Googles something, they have an idea of the type of answer they want. 

If they are looking to buy something, then that’s a good money keyword. If they are looking to learn something, that’s a good info keyword. Your content should always reflect a keyword’s search intent. 

For example, if someone searches for “best wet dog food”, it stands to reason they want to buy wet dog food. 

However, if someone searches for “is wet dog food bad for dog’s teeth?”, then they are probably just looking for some information. Informational content is good for driving traffic to your website, but is difficult to monetize.

How to Sort And Prioritize Niche Keywords

Now you have a list of hundreds or thousands of keywords, and you’ve analyzed which keywords are best for which kinds of content. Now it’s time to organize and prioritize your keywords and develop a content publishing strategy. 

Group similar keywords by parent topic

No matter what keyword you are targeting with your content, you will almost always rank for a lot of smaller keywords because they have the same parent topic.

A lot of niche keywords are different ways of saying the same thing. “Best dog food for senior dogs” and “best senior dog food” have the same search intent. Therefore you shouldn’t write separate pieces of content; one piece of content can target both of those keywords. 

Group your keywords by parent topic so you have the best idea of the total search volume and click-through rate you are targeting. 

Sort keywords by content type

When you are developing a content strategy for your niche site, it’s important to group keywords by content type. 

It’s recommended that beginner sites follow the 80/20 model: 80% money content, and 20% info content. We also recommend splitting that info content into half outreach content and half traffic-driving content.

To find your money keywords, search for keywords including terms like “best”, “vs”, or “review”. Users searching with those terms are looking to buy something, so they are the easiest to monetize.

Niche Keyword Research - money keywords

For info keywords, the easiest strategy is to look for questions. Terms like “how” or “what” will help you sort those keywords. 

To separate outreach keywords from info keywords that will drive traffic to your site, look at the keyword difficulty.

niche keyword difficulty

“Vegan dog food recipes” has a keyword difficulty of 7, so we could probably rank for that.

medium niche keyword difficulty

“Dog food recalls” has a keyword difficulty of 46 and would be harder for a new site to rank for. 

However, the ranking sites for that keyword have tens of thousands of linking domains that you can reach out to and ask for a backlink.

niche keyword research - backlink analysis

Sorting your info keywords will help you find keywords you can get traffic from, while also finding keywords that can help your site build authority.

Prioritize keywords you can realistically rank for

Especially for money keywords, you should start with keywords you can realistically rank for. 

A new site isn’t going to be able to rank for “best dog food”, it’s just too competitive. Starting with keywords like “best dog food for Labradoodles” or “best hunting dog food” will help your site get off the ground. The more competitive keywords will still be there when Google trusts your site more. 

Niche Keyword Research is The Key to Success

Niche keyword research is one of the most time consuming parts of starting a new site. Most site owners would rather be choosing colors and designing logos than spending days combing through keyword lists. 

But niche keyword research is the most important step of starting a site out on the right foot. 

If you follow the steps in this guide, build targeted content silos, and write good content for your chosen keywords, you will be able to get traffic faster, build authority quicker, and start earning revenue sooner. 

Niche keyword research will be the solid bedrock for you to build your affiliate site upon. With a solid foundation, you are much more likely to succeed.

Niche Keyword Research Glossary

  • Niche: Category or industry a website pertains to.
  • Niche keyword: A highly targeted term entered into a search engine.
  • Long-tail keyword: A search engine phrase composed of more words than average. Long-tail keywords have a more targeted search intent than shorter search phrases. 
  • Search intent: The type of response a user is looking for when they enter a keyword in a search engine. 
  • Search volume: The number of users who search for a given keyword each month.
  • Keyword difficulty: The estimated difficulty for a site to rank for a given keyword in Google search results. 
  • Click-through rate: The percentage of users who click on a web page link from a Google search results page. 
  • Content silo: Groups of content in a website’s structure with related parent topics. 
  • Money keywords: Keywords that are easily monetizable.
  • Info keywords: Keywords related to informational content. Info keywords may or may not be easily monetizable. 
  • Link building/outreach keywords: Keywords with sites ranking in Google with a lot of linking domains for possible outreach campaigns. 
  • Linking domains: Websites that link to a web page on another website.
  • Backlinks: Links from external websites to a web page.
  • Link building/outreach: Contacting website owners in hope of acquiring a backlink to a page on a website.
  • SERPS: Search engine results pages; the list of web pages that a search engine provides for a given query.
  • Parent topic: The shared topic of multiple niche keywords dictated by search intent.

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