Nobody denies that Google is the king of the search engine kingdom. But there’s a lot more to the searchable Internet than Google. For instance, you can make money on the Internet by launching niche search engines. And when you’ve cornered the market on your own niche, you can be a king – or queen – in your own right.
A niche engine is a targeted searching tool. So instead of searching millions of Web pages on Google to find, say, a resort, a person could search with a niche engine that’s devoted to websites in just that one particular market (niche).
The big advantage to running a niche engine? You don’t have to overcome the impossible task of becoming as popular as Google to make money. By focusing on the core group of users that make up your niche, you can be successful. In fact, one of the niche engines I developed has fewer than 10,000 unique users per month. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the millions Google gets. But this site was profitable the first month it went live.
Popular and Profitable Niche Engines
You’ve probably used, or at least heard of, niche search engines… even if you didn’t know it.
In many ways, Amazon.com is a niche engine devoted to books. Newegg.com is a niche engine devoted to computer supplies and technology products and reviews. BestRatedTravel.com is a niche engine (and ratings service) devoted to travel websites.
BestRatedTravel was one of the first niche engines with a “paid-inclusion” program, where companies can pay to have their websites included in the search engine database. Today, hundreds of search engines, including Yahoo! and Overture, offer these programs.
EquiSearch.com is a profitable niche engine developed by a group of entrepreneurs in Kentucky. It serves the thoroughbred horse racing and breeding industry. Most of EquiSearch’s users and prospects are horse buyers, stables, trainers, brokers, and racing speculators. Its revenues come from multiple sources, including online and print advertising, Google AdSense, directory listings, affiliate partnerships, and classified ads.
Choosing Your Niche
When it comes time to create your own niche engine, the first thing you have to do is choose your niche. Countless opportunities are out there just waiting for you. But don’t forget, your aim is to make a profit, so you want to choose a niche that will help you do so. You don’t want to develop a niche engine on an area that is so tight almost no one will ever search for it. Instead of going with something like Naso Tang tropical fish, a better choice would be tropical fish in general (buy/sell, products, accessories, information, etc.).
Here are a few of the hottest niche engine markets:
- Stock trading
- Real estate
- Matchmaking (dating)
- Online education (courses, seminars, e-books, tutorials)
- Images (non-adult)
- Vacation rentals
- Precious metals
- Online gaming (cheats, strategies, tools)
- Live Web cams
- Specialty automobiles and parts
- Business research
- Restaurants (reviews, forums, images, live video)
- Retirement communities
- Apartment rentals
- Programming code
- Global positioning systems (GPS)
Not interested in any of those? There are lots more niches out there. Do your research. Find out what’s popular. Figure out how you can cater to the latest trends with your niche engine.
Building a Profitable Niche Engine
Developing a profitable search engine takes some tech savvy. Fortunately, sites like ScriptLance, DICE.com, CraigsList, and eLance make it easy to track down freelance programmers and software developers that can help you out. And once the programming of the search software and database is completed, the rest is easy.
Here are a few requirements that you and your programmer should be familiar with before you get started.
1. Your niche engine needs to have a database program like Microsoft Access, SQL, or Oracle that will store information until a user makes a query. Linux has some nice database applications too.
2. In order for users to be able to search your database, you need a program like Autonomy or Google’s Custom Search Business Edition.
3. Your niche engine needs a graphical user interface (GUI). This is what people “see” when they come to your website. It includes the site’s graphic design, color scheme, navigation, “look and feel,” etc.
For example, Google’s home page GUI is designed with 97 percent white space, a search box, and three text links below the search box. It is simple and easy to use. What’s more, Google hasn’t changed its GUI very much since the first day it went live… because it works.
Promoting Your Niche Engine
The key to success for any niche engine is Internet marketing. And to ramp up Internet traffic to your niche engine quickly, I recommend the following four fast-start promotional tactics:
- PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. Google and Yahoo! are the most popular PPC networks, and they can be very effective. But there are some lesser-known networks too, including ABCSearch.com, 7Search.com, Kanoodle.com, and LookSmart.com.
- High-end search engine optimization (SEO). This is the type of SEO that analyzes every aspect of your niche engine, especially as it relates to the top 10 search engines. Two companies that provide high-end SEO are eBrandz.com and BruceClay.com.
- Targeted advertising. This means advertising with e-zines, blogs, websites, directories, and social networking sites that are a natural fit for the subject of your niche engine. Keep in mind that publishers and website owners will always negotiate – so avoid paying retail to place your ads.
- The mass media. If your niche engine is featured in a prominent publication that reaches a large audience, you could receive mind-boggling levels of traffic. But chasing mass media editors and journalists can be a lot of work – without a corresponding return. One alternative is URLWire.com. They offer unique URL announcement services to targeted media, editors, and journalists.
By the way, one of the best kept secrets on the Internet is that all the major search engines and directories tend to give other search engines high rankings on their results pages. Why? Because they give more “weight” to sites that have relevant content. And there are few things on the Internet more relevant than search engines!
You can submit your niche engine into all of the major search engines, and if your site is ranked prominently, you could receive monster traffic… absolutely free.
Advantages of the Niche Search Engine
One of the benefits of having your own niche engine is that it can become an “automatic profit center” for you. (I once developed a niche engine that focused on precious metals dealers. It took less than 30 days and cost me less than $2,500!) It might even develop into multiple profit centers.
On top of that, once set up, niche engines often require minimal administration, babysitting, and maintenance.
The important thing to remember is that they are fairly easy to develop and activate on the Internet.
Don’t get bogged down by the details of launching a niche engine. Put your ideas together on paper and then on a website, and get it live as soon as possible.
Ready, Fire, Aim! You’ll have plenty of time for “tweaking” once it’s up and running.[Ed. Note: You don’t have to limit yourself to traditional ideas when you’re thinking of ways to make money. Plenty of profitable opportunities exist just out of sight. Marc Charles – the “King of Business Opportunities” – can show you just where to look for unique and sometimes unusual possibilities.]