Surviving and Thriving in an Under-served Niche

sproutPhoto by Indy Charlie

While I’ve already discussed the benefits of trying to grow a blog in a competitive, crowded niche, I want to devote some attention to how you can best grow a blog in an empty or under-served niche.

The best aspects of this method are an undivided market. If you’re the first quality blog on a topic a lot of people have been searching for, you’ll generally become the biggest blog in that niche because you were the first — as long as you stay consistent.

ProBlogger.net, arguably the first blog about blogging, is still the biggest. Freelance Switch, arguably the first blog dedicated to freelancers only, continues to remain the biggest in its niche.

Unless you’re focusing on ultra-obscure topics I think it would be difficult to be the first blog in any niche, but if a niche is under-served (there aren’t enough blogs to meet demand), it’s easier to be the best.

Tapping into an under-served niche is what many bloggers dream about when brainstorming blog topics.

While the potential gains are great (quality blogs in under-served niches tend to grow rapidly), surviving in an under-served niche can present a host of difficulties.

If we’re to think of things metaphorically, imagine an Oak seedling in a rocky clearing. If the seedling can thrive where others couldn’t, there’s plenty of space for it to grow into something grand.

Before that can happen, though, the seedling has to contend with a lack of soil to grow from. It probably sounds cutesy, but I think it’s a useful encapsulation of what you’ll be trying to do if you blog in an under-served niche.

No soil!

That old (but good) advice: comment, guest-post and pitch links on other blogs in your niche. Throw it out.

If your niche is under-served, there’ll be nowhere to do these things, or if there are, the other blogs will probably be so quiet that it isn’t worth your time.

Rather than looking for other blogs which slot neatly into your niche (of which there are likely to be few), source-out blogs which non-exclusively write on your topic.

If you run the only blog about a small college basketball team, try to get links or guest-posting gigs at big blogs about college basketball, for example. If the blog’s audience is big enough, you’re bound to find a pocket of people interested in your niche.

Some niches are also friendlier than others. For every niche that’s open to guest-posting and sharing links, there’s another niche where trying to do these things is almost impossible.

One unfortunate result of a wide and varied blogosphere is that some niches have a much stronger community than others.

Let’s assume that nobody will let you guest-post, nobody wants to link to you and your comments elsewhere don’t bring in any traffic. What do you do?

The good thing about SEO is that it doesn’t care much what the rest of your niche is doing. If there’s less competition and your blog is cleverly optimized, you stand to net a lot of traffic.

I’m not in a position to teach on SEO (even at a beginner’s level), so I’ll let Ciaran McKeever do so with his excellent article.

The self-sustaining nature of social media is also perfect for growing a blog in an under-served niche. If your niche is under-served, you’re probably blogging on a topic without widespread appeal.

For that reason, I’d suggest putting most, if not all of your efforts, into StumbleUpon. Its highly refined category system makes it a lot easier for niche content to succeed.

You can use StumbleUpon to build your niche site by voting up articles you see as high quality for your target audience. Stumblers with consistent taste in content tend to attract like-minded followers and ‘fans’.

If your blog is about money-box collecting and you consistently vote up articles on money-boxes or similar collectibles, you’re going to attract the interest of other Stumblers who’re also interested in those things.

Another useful StumbleUpon tip is to erase all your previously selected interests until you have no interests selected, then pick just one: the category which most narrowly suits your niche.

As you stumble, many of the sites you come across will appeal to your target audience. If you view the reviews page for the site, you can click through and ‘Fan’ the person who discovered it — a person who’s very likely to be interested in your blog’s niche. I

’d suggest doing this with as many people as possible. Not only does having a wide network enrich your StumbleUpon experience, but it also allows you to send your best content to mutual friends.

Once you have a steady stream of targeted SU traffic arriving at your blog it’s possible to grow and thrive on that alone.

Under-served vs. Not wanted

That there are few blogs on a particular topic doesn’t necessarily mean that there is some kind of seething, unmet demand, bubbling away in the nether regions of the web.

Some shopping strips are empty and dilapidated because nobody wants to shop there, and some niches are empty or lackluster because very few people are interested in reading blogs on the topic.

Notice the difference: very few people are interested in the topic, vs. very few people are interested in reading blogs on the topic.

Just because hundreds of people are searching for ‘wheelbarrows’ each day doesn’t that people want to read a blog about wheelbarrows.

Sure, people might want to buy them — and a blog on such a topic might well make a handsome profit from AdSense — but how many people honestly want to read about wheelbarrows every day?

If you’ve ever done research on niches with the AdWords keyword tool, next time, compare the search volume between your niche idea with the search volume for your niche idea + blog. The difference can be quite remarkable.

Concluding words

Under-served niches are potentially the most risky and most lucrative situations in which you can start a blog. The space can allow your blog to grow at a remarkable level, but you’ll need to overcome a lack of foundation first.

You’ll need to make your own soil to grow from.

  • Guest post, get links from and comment on blogs which touch on your topic, rather than being solely devoted to it.
  • Learn the basics of SEO and apply them to your blog. Focus on keywords your target audience are likely to be searching for.
  • Use StumbleUpon to meet and greet your target audience.
About Skellie

Massive nerd who just happens to enjoy anything related to blogging, creativity, and online marketing.

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