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Your experience: Better to have a niche?

1:50 am on Jan 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have a website that I am adding a store to.

I'm trying to decide between selling all widgets on there, or to have the site focus on a specific type of widget.

I feel I'm limiting myself if I focus on a specific widget type, but then again, I think maybe I will have a bigger impact amongst people who are looking for that specific widget type. I can have a social media aspect around it as well, so the whole site will focus on this niche.

I already have another site that sells all widgets, so maybe this would be a good balance to have a niche site?

Anyone have any thoughts or experience on this?


2:46 pm on Jan 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lorax is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I suggest it depends upon the direction you want to take your business. The wider variety of offerings might help the bottom line but it may also affect perception of your business. If you've positioned yourself as an expert on one type of widget, then keeping the store to that one widget makes sense. If you sell more than that, you can work on positioning your site as an expert on all of the widgets you offer.
7:20 am on Jan 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

anyone else?
2:21 pm on Jan 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Niche is good.

It gives you:
- better marketing opportunities
- better trust of your customers

Starting with narrow niche product, you might gradually try with related products to expand your niche.

Having wider selection might seem like you might have wider customer's base, but it is harder to convert wide base of potential customers into actual buyers.

1:25 pm on Jan 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

It takes a while to get a rep in a niche, but it is definitely worth doing. I have found that people who are interested in the niche will spend more, often a LOT more, than people who are just buying something. I make and sell certain niche products, and then I just repackage and sell other ones--my site is a little schizophrenic, but it has a unifying theme. The widgets I make and sell are for a tiny niche that I am expanding into, and no evil eye, it is working. What is really neat about it, though, is the non-money part. You get to talk to people all over who are interested and very knowledgeable about that tiny niche. They really appreciate a vendor who has their level of knowledge or higher about the niche product. They will recommend you to other people in the niche. And they give you ideas for new products. It is great. This is my favorite part of my biz.

Plus, when/if the time comes to sell that biz, you have a niche nailed down.

[edited by: HRoth at 1:26 pm (utc) on Jan. 7, 2009]

11:27 pm on Jan 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

In my experience it is better to have a niche.
4:49 pm on Jan 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I vote for Niche.
You'll become and appear to be the "specialist" (trust) in that product line.

Otherwise, you'd be competing with the big boys (Wal-Mart, Amazon, etc.)

5:11 pm on Jan 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Start with a small niche area, then expand outwards. Attack from a position of stength.
7:19 pm on Jan 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I'm all for compromises. In this case, if at all possible, I would say both. I operate, broadly speaking, with home improvement/plumbing. So I have a catch-all store and then 5 smaller, niche stores. It works out great. For those who don't want to see all sorts of widgets they have no interest in, they purchase from the niche stores. For those who want to browse a large variation of products for many different projects, the catch-all is there to meet their needs.

However, I do agree 100% with the "specialist" angle -- the emails and calls we receive from the niche sites are significantly more technical and detailed than from the catch-all. The differences are, in my mind, comparable to those of a general practitioner/family doctor and a cardiologist -- while they're both highly trained doctors, you're only ever going to have one perform open heart surgery. Still, both are necessary and both serve a purpose. So once again, I suggest you go for both if possible.

11:31 pm on Jan 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

HugeNerd, is it basically that you have one site where everything is combined and 5 sites that divide those same items amongst them into niches? And if so, how do you get around getting a duplicate content penalty?
11:51 pm on Jan 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I have a small online store on my site, the products of which are very closely related to my site's niche.

However, there's one manufacturer that makes widgets for my niche as well as for another niche.

When the other niche gets active in the late spring/early summer, I run AdWords ads for the unrelated niche widgets. I get a good response because my prices are far lower than the competitors in that unrelated niche. The margins in my niche are low, but are very high in the unrelated niche, so I thought,"why not?" Customers who are shopping for price buy like crazy from me.

1:52 am on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lorax is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

It's a matter of degrees. If you dominate a niche market space and can move into the tangentials and other flavors AND you have the business plan in place to cover (wo)man hours and expense and have a clear way to recoup expense then YES! Expand! If you're not prepared and cannot see the path, then get the recipe right in a smaller space where the losses will be far less if you mess it up!
4:48 pm on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

is it basically that you have one site where everything is combined and 5 sites that divide those same items amongst them into niches? And if so, how do you get around getting a duplicate content penalty?

The stores are divided much as you suspect: the catch-all has, more or less, every single item our brick and mortar business sells (I work for a plumbing wholesaler, so you can imagine that there are quite a few items). The niche sites are broken down by product categories (i.e. 'red widgets' as opposed to simply 'widgets').

The niche sites are done as entirely seperate entities. They are registered to a different LLC, hosted on a different DNS than the main store so they have different IPs and TLDs -- it's as if they are unrelated in any way and they do not have overlapping content between them (not a single SKU). The only duplicate content between the sites is the toll-free number at the top of every page and product files such as manufacturer .pdf files for dimensions and specifications. We tried to change product write-ups as much as possible, but there are only so many ways to describe some widgets...and some product pictures/marketing information provided by the manufacturers.

Essentially, the only shared space between the main site and satellite sites is the warehouse from which material is shipped; as of yet Google and Yahoo haven't sent spiders to the warehouse :o)

6:46 pm on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Well, that sounds like a cool idea. I don't think I could manage it with my site, though. I have a lot of content and I sure would hate to have to rewrite it all.
10:44 pm on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

It's not nearly as difficult to manage as you might think. Initially, we just scraped our own content and then revised and rewrote as we went through the sites. We only released one site at a time, so that made the workload managable and kept it from being completely monotonous. We only released the first niche site a year ago. Of the 5 sites, one is doing much better than anticipated. Another site holds items which see seasonally releated sales, but it ranks well for SERPs so it sees solid, regular traffic even if it only converts well a few months out of the year; this is no surprise as these widgets have, and will likely always, be as such. Two other sites are not doing nearly as well as predicted -- in part because of stiff competition and because the niche manufacturers dominate the SERPs (I'll be damned if I'm going to pay to outbid them on their own brand name). The 5th satellite site has not yet gone live and we are rethinking our strategy for this site in light of the 2, more or less, failures. The "failures" do convert traffic and rank reasonably well; they are just not performing as we had hoped, particularly in comparison to the other 2 sites.

Still, the satellite sites work well enough and target a customer base we were not accessing previously. They are also, on a per visitor basis, cheaper as there are fewer documents to call up and significantly fewer SKUs; they have less "window shoppers" and more "potential buyers" so there is a lower bandwith per user* requirement as they tend to find exactly what they want and then purchase or bounce. The main site, with its plethora of products, sees a lot of traffic wandering around and browsing. No complaints to that end as I enjoy seeing "Time Spent on Site: 01:23:45" and really long click paths, etc.

All things considered, it's a set-up I would urge any and all to attempt as we do see a significant variation between the two types of sites. When one is having an off day, the other tends (but not always) to pick up the slack.

*We were one of the first customers to use our web developer/hosting firm when "they" were "he" and just a start-up, so we have a great relationship and are on a unlimited usage plan with dedicated servers (not to mention we have never had a late payment)...so my stats here are very rudimentary as they are not an actual concern. This is also how we have come upon our current main site/satellite site set-up; I doubt it would have been as easy or smooth without their assistance.

12:25 pm on Jan 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

"target a customer base we were not accessing previously"

This is what I am so interested in. I have noticed in my site what you are talking about with your main site--people wandering around and window-shopping. My widgets are of four basic types and I have long thought it would be much more efficient and perhaps get me more business if I split it up. People can be after a particular widget, but if they see it in the wrong context, they don't want it as much. Thanks for the inspiration, HugeNerd.

2:21 pm on Jan 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

My pleasure, HRoth!

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