You wrote two statements:
"The niche is actually fairly popular"
"the ones I emailed with my announcement didn't bother responding". There is information in that statement.
Statement 1 is the hypothesis, and statement 2 is the test result. There is information in the second statement, since it is the test of your hypothesis.
Unless you targeted the wrong individuals, or targeted them incorrectly (e.g. in a way that made them offended or considered your offering as spam), then I'm afraid your theory has been proven as invalid. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt (though the consumer is never wrong).
To answer your question now. There is no magic formula for building a following to your site. If you are operating in a niche market segment, that gives you only so much 'breathing space' before competitors realize what you are doing, and enter the space, to compete with you.
like Ross (above) commented: "content is king". It may sound cliche, but it is indeed the truth.
You need to somehow get the best possible content for your site - you may do this by:
- writing the material your self (if you have the experience and know what you're doing, else no one will bother to read)
- hiring well known authors in that space and maybe working out some 'royalty' agreement with them to keep your costs down
This is the very first thing you need to do (getting content). Once you have got some content that people would like to read, THEN and only then should you worry about driving people to the site.
In practice, this is what I would do
- Learn SEO. There is nothing strange or magical about this. If you can read and write, you should be able to grasp the essentials of SEO in a few hours. By essentials, I dont mean the technical aspects (which is a whole topic in in itself),
Basically, SEO decomposes into the following
a). Judicious selection of a keyword -
use the Google keyword tool to find a keyword that is the essence of what your article is about, has sufficient enough of searches to make it worth your while, and yet not so many searches as to cause your article to be lost in the pile
b). Simple technical things like:
i). using the keyword in the title for the page
ii). using the keyword in the page url
iii). Actually make the content be about the things that the keyword emotes
c). Wait - it will still take some time (perhaps up to 6 weeks) before that keyword search brings your page up, in all that time you will gradually start gaining traffic to your site (assuming of course that your material is indeed unique and of interest to someone)
This is an iterative process. You do this for every article you want to write about.
Now having got some hopefully useful content on your site (by useful - I dont mean as deemed by you the author - but rather, as confirmed by your traffic, should be steadily increasing), you can now worry about 'expanding your circle of influence'
There are several ways of doing this - in other words it depends on the domain you are operating in. Basically it involves interacting with other forms of communication used in your domain:
Sites (e.g. blogs) specializing in your domain (non-existent as per your previous claim)
In your case, you may want to interact with offline communication methods (again with a bias to your market segment):
- Offline publications
- Interview with regulatory body for your market (if one exists)
All this takes time as you can see.