This is the first article in what I hope will be an indefinite series about the processes involved in developing a brand new community from scratch. I am currently purchasing a domain name for a new community and will detail the development of the site on this blog. As I have said before, I think it is far easier to learn by example rather than simply reading another person’s theories and ideas.
Step One: Identify a niche
You will find it far easier to make a success of your community if you can do something different to all the other communities out there. Ideally you want your community to fill a niche that nobody else has yet established themselves in. Realistically this is unlikely, however you can still ensure that you do something better than the competition and differentiate in that way.
At present, I will not be revealing details on the subject of the new community I am developing. This is for two reasons: firstly, to allow my new site to become established before inviting new competitors and secondly, for reasons of fairness I want to show that it is possible to build successful new communities from scratch without using any other influences.
I have been looking to develop a new online community for quite a while now, but haven’t done so as I have been unable to find a niche that I feel is able to accommodate a new website. Additionally I had not thought of a niche that I felt would be sufficiently interesting for to me to remain motivated in developing.
A couple of weeks ago the idea for the niche I am now establishing a community within just popped into my head. Before considering it seriously though, I needed to undertake some research in order to ensure the niche was not saturated with websites – I am not interested in setting up a site alongside hundreds of competitors.
Step Two: Investigate the competition
In order to undertake this research, I wrote a list of keywords that would be associated with the new community. When I had this list, I ran them through a variety of search engines (not just Google!) to see what kind of sites already existed in the niche.
Initially I was surprised at the low number of apparent competitors. When looking at the websites of my potential competitors, I felt confident that I could improve upon the offerings of those existing communities.
Once I had satisfied myself that the niche was not over-saturated and that I could offer improvements over the websites currently operating within the market, I was ready to choose a domain name.
Step Three: Do your research
You need to consider whether there will be any demand for your planned new community. Sure, setting up a community in a minority niche will reduce the amount of competition you face but if you are chasing a tiny number of members success will be very hard indeed.
A good way of assessing market demand for your idea is through the Google Adwords keyword tool. Simply type in keywords related to the planned subject of your new community, and click the ‘Get Keyword Ideas’ button. As an example, let’s say we are looking to establish a community for anglers.
Google will return a list of suggested keywords similar to the ones you entered, and provide some valuable data on those keywords. You can click on each column to order the results according to the criteria you are interested in. Click on the ‘Average Search Volume’ column to see the most popular keywords, or click on the ‘Advertiser Competition’ column to see the keywords that advertisers are targeting. Of course, the more advertisers that are targeting the keywords, the more revenue you stand to generate from your new community.
In this example, it would appear that the phrase ‘fishing forum’ would be the best to go for as it enjoys a reasonable level of search volume, and a high level of advertiser competition.
Next week I will detail the processes involved in choosing a relevant domain name for your community, along with my experiences of the escrow process.
How did you decide on the niche you chose for your community? Did you look at the competition before taking the plunge, or did you establish a community based on your passion regardless of competitive pressures? Share your thoughts, ideas and experiences by leaving a comment below.