In prior posts we've discussed how to come up with a niche idea, how to research a niche before entering it and how to find the best affiliate programs within a niche to promote. Now it's time to build and promote that site, right?
Wrong. Now it's time to create a strategy for how you plan to build and market that affiliate site or blog.
I've been building affiliate sites and branded blogs for a long time now. And at times, I've gone into one without a strategy. But over the years, I've learned that it's better to strategize vs. leaping first and “figuring it out” later. Nowadays when I plan out affiliate sites or new blogs, I do so with as much precision as possible.
Identifying your target demographic
Before I can figure out what to market and how to market it, I have to know who I am marketing to. Sometimes the “who” is obvious. If you're running a work at home mom blog, then your target demographic is obviously going to be women with children who want to earn money while working from home.
But, even if you have the “general” down, there's still some specifics you might be missing out on (what's their average household income, level of education, etc). As well as the “social demographics” for that topic.
However – let's say your topic demographic isn't as obviously defined. For example – let's say your new niche is gardening. That's a pretty broad potential demographic. So how do you research to find out who your readers are / may be?
IDENTIFYING THE COMPETITION
In order to try and define your demographic, you need to identify who is already reaching it. To start this process, I'd head over to Google and run some searches – starting with broad terms and drilling down as necessary.
Using the gardening blog example above, I'd run a search for “gardening”. I'm looking for root domains focusing on the topic and not sites with subsections targeting it. As an example – organicgardening.com is a root domain focusing only on the specific topic of gardening. bhg.com/gardening is a site that focuses on multiple topics, with gardening being one of them. For this purpose, I'm only interested in the root domains (like organicgardening.com) targeting the topic.
Let's say my blog won't simply be a gardening blog, but instead will focus on container gardening. After taking note of the domains in the top 10 for “gardening”, I'd run a search for “container gardening”. But, that search brings me up a lot of sub sections of broad domains. So, I'd then narrow my search to be “container gardening blog” which would provide me with a few more root domains to add to my list.
Once I have anywhere from 10-20 domains, I'd begin the process of determining their demographics.
ORGANIZING YOUR RESEARCH
Before you begin the next part of this research, you'll want to create a spreadsheet with the following headings:
- Site name
- Percentage male
- Percentage female
- Primary age group
- Primary education level
- Kids (yes or no)
- Primary income level
- Primary race
- Twitter Follower count
- Active on Twitter?
- Twitter sharing
- Facebook Fan count
- Active on Facebook?
- Google+ Circle count
- Active on Google+?
- Google+ sharing
- Instagram Follower count
- Active on Instagram?
- Linkedin Follower count
- Active on LinkedIn?
- Pinterest Follower count
- Active on Pinterest
- Pinterest sharing
PULLING DEMOGRAPHIC DATA
The demographic information we'll be pulling from Quantcast. The social information you'll be pulling the old fashioned way – by visiting their websites.
Head on over to Quantcast and put in the domain you want to research. When I did this for the example above, the first domain I searched – organicgardening.com had hidden their demographic data. Fair enough. I'll still research their social aspects, but I'm out of luck on the demographics. (Note, you can use Alexa to get some general demographic information for free, but it's not as detailed as Quantcast.)
Or am I? Keep in mind that a lot of sites – especially those that offer advertising opportunities, also offer up their reader demographics on site to entice advertisers. While organicgardening.com has hidden their quantcast data, they've made some of their demographic information available in their media kit http://www.organicgardening.com/2014-mediakit-reader-profile.
(Bonus tip – a lot of offline magazines that don't rank well but still can tell you a lot about your target audience offer up this information as well. You can search your topic on a site like Magazines.com to find offline publications to research.)
I move onto the next site in my research list which is urbanorganicgardener.com. Their Quantcast data is available, so I go ahead and grab the numbers and add them to my research spreadsheet. I repeat this process on every domain using Quantcast.
Then it's time to check out their social activity.
PULLING SOCIAL DATA
Based on the demographics of your niche, you can use the general demographic information for the different social networks to make some educated decisions about where your social media time may be best spent. But I like to be thorough, so I like to research the social activities of my competition as well.
First up, I'll head to their websites and find and click on their social icons. If they don't promote a specific social account on their site (say Google+), I'll enter “none” in that field.
If they are promoting a social account, then I'll add the number of followers that social account has in their field – also noting whether or not they appear “active” on that social network (if their last post was yesterday, I would answer “yes” – if their last post was three weeks ago, I'd answer “no” in that section).
I'll run a search for the root domain of the site I'm researching on Twitter. The goal here is to see if articles from the site are actually being shared on Twitter. If multiple tweets referencing the site have been done in the last two weeks, then I'll answer “yes” in this section. If not, I'll enter “no”.
I'll repeat the same search on Google+, with the same qualifications (and thus answers) as I did for Twitter.
PINTEREST SOURCE URL
Pinterest allows you to search their site to see how many pins have come from a specific website. For instance – http://www.pinterest.com/source/urbanorganicgardener.com/ – allows me to see if this website is popular on Pinterest (AKA, is anyone pinning their stuff) and exactly what TYPE of content from this website has done well on Pinterest.
If multiple sites in my research have low pin counts, then that signals to me that Pinterest is likely not a “hot” social source I need to focus on. If multiple sites have high pin counts, then it's a good bet that my target audience is active on Pinterest.
Putting it all together
Doing the above, you should start to see some trends. You'll have a general idea of the demographic statistics of your primary competition (which in theory, will be your demographics as well).
VISUALIZING THE DATA
If you're more of a visual person (or are researching a large amount of sites), you may find it revealing to create charts overviewing the data. If you're awesome with excel, you can do so right within excel. I however am not awesome with Excel. If you're not either, you may want to check into Datacracker which allows you to upload an excel spreadsheet which it automatically will turn it into graphs for you.
You can upload the spreadsheet suggested above as a .csv and see the data visualized in moments without needing to know anything about creating charts. Neat tool (and it has a free version you can try).
WHY DO I CARE?
Knowing who your marketing to will help you shape everything from your brand design (logo, site design, etc.) to your content and marketing strategy. The last thing you want to do is launch a pastel themed site with a flower in the logo to find out that your target demographic is 70% male.
If your target demographic has a low level of income, then you may find success with basing a portion of your content strategy around how to DIY or do things on a budget. If your target demographic is super active on Pinterest, then you may want to create “Pinterest optimized” graphics for your posts. Conjointly, if your target demographic has a low education level (or is young in age) you may not want to use words like conjointly when creating your content. ;-)
Knowing your social demographic helps you focus your social efforts also helps you know where to spend your social time and effort in regards to getting the most ROI.
I started a new site recently and found that Twitter wasn't super effective for promoting that niche, despite it being the most successful social promotion vehicle for me in other niches. Pinterest drives little if any traffic to Sugarrae, but accounts for almost 50% of the traffic to the site I mentioned above that didn't “work” for Twitter.
It can also help you better target “when” you're marketing on social. For Sugarrae, marketing on weekdays during the workday is best. In our industry, it's part of our job to be on social media throughout the day. If your target demographic is teenagers, then they're in school during the weekdays – and more active on social media during the evening and weekends. If your demographic is most active on Facebook, then you may want your like box to be more prominent than your other social buttons.
Part 2 – Creating Your Initial Sitemap & Wireframe
Now that you know who your target demographic is, it's time to start shaping your site – which I'll cover in Part 2 – Creating Your Sitemap & Wireframe – (now live).
As always, if you have anything to add or tips to share, drop them in the comments below. :)