Many other resources that talk about niche selection suggest that you choose a niche based on whether or not you can rank in Google for keywords in that niche. The idea is that if you choose a niche with low-competition and high-search-volume keywords, you will have an easier time ranking in Google’s search results and getting traffic from Google. While keyword research can help determine whether or not there’s advertiser demand in your niche, it should never be the basis of your decision making process when it comes to selecting your niche.
You simply cannot rely receiving free organic traffic from Google as a marketing channel anymore. While it was a relatively straight-forward process to create content that ranks for specific keywords ten years ago, that’s no longer the case. Google has made it increasingly difficult to manipulate search results through a variety of search algorithms that have been implemented in the last five years. You may have heard of algorithm updates like Panda, Penguin and Pigeon, which have all attempted to prevent website publishers from manipulating search results. It’s not impossible to rank for competitive keywords, but most high-volume words are dominated by a handful of companies that have a substantially better understanding of search engine optimization (SEO) than either you or I do.
The most important thing to understand about your relationship with Google is that their business interests aren’t aligned with your business interests. Google’s business interests are creating revenue for their shareholders and building sticky products and services that people use over and over again. They aren’t concerned about whether or not they send traffic to any given website. Organic search results are increasingly being pushed aside for paid ad placements. There are now no organic search results above the fold for many competitive keywords like “insurance” and “mortgages.” There are only ads that companies have purchased through Google AdWords. Increasingly, receiving traffic from Google will be a pay-to-play activity. The days where small publishers rely on Google traffic as their primary marketing channel is quickly coming to an end.
Getting traffic from Google and other search engines will be one of the marketing channels that you use to attract traffic to your website, but you shouldn’t rely on it as your primary customer acquisition strategy. Too many publishers have had to shut down their businesses because they were reliant on getting search traffic from Google and lost much of their web traffic after one of Google’s many algorithm updates. Jason Calacanis’s Mahalo.com laid off more than 80 people after being on the losing end of the original Panda update in 2011 (https://www.seroundtable.com/jason-calacanis-revenge-google-matt-cutts-18794.html). The company had to pivot their entire business and relaunched as Inside.com a few years later. Many other publishers weren’t so lucky. My first business, American Consumer News.com, lost much of its traffic as a result of the first Panda update which negatively affected many personal finance bloggers like myself. We eventually had to shut down that business after seeing our traffic decline by more than 60% overnight.
As you build your business, think of receiving traffic from Google and other search engines as gravy. It’s nice to have, you might try to get some of it by doing basic SEO and you’ll certainly take it as long as they want to send traffic your way, but it should never be your primary traffic source or be the basis of your business. Instead, focus on using a combination of different marketing channels, like Email, Bing, YouTube, Podcasting, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon’s Kindle Store, Twitter and paid advertising techniques.