How to Build Profitable Niche Sites
I’ve got a something really cool for you today. Well, at least It’s cool and interesting to me.
I’m always looking for ways to make extra money online. If you’re interested in that, stick around because you’ll love this post (and this series).
Niche sites are the way most people would like to make money online. The idea behind niche sites is appealing…
You write a few posts about a topic that you love and then magically people start reading your site and you make passive income for the rest of your life.
And you live happily ever after…
That’s enough fairy tales for today. Let’s get back to reality…
As far as I know, Pat Flynn is the person who popularized niche sites. He publishes his monthly income reports and inspires people to start their own niche sites.
If you believe his income reports – which I actually do – he makes over $100’000 per month online.
The problem is, most of that doesn’t actually come from his niche sites!
Instead, he makes the majority of his income from his huge authority site.
He’s a classic example of a “make money online guru” who becomes rich by teaching you how to make money.
And there’s nothing wrong with that either!
He has inspired thousands of people to try to make money online. If you have an impact on that amount of people, you’ll make a lot of money.
My Online Business Journey So Far
I’ve been trying to make money online for 7 months now. I struggled for months without making any money.
Then I started having some success as a freelance copywriter which you can read about here.
Only in 2016 have I started to make money from a website though. You could call it “passive income” but in reality, it takes tons of work upfront before you see any results.
The Blog Post That Changed My Life
The main reason I’ve started to make money is because I followed some very good advice from Robert Koch. (If you’re reading this Robert, Thanks!)
Not to sound overly dramatic…but this blog post has changed my life. By following the advice in that post, I’ve started making money online.
While it’s not much at the moment, it’s a start. I’m starting to gain momentum now and there’s no way I’m going to quit until I reach my goals.
Success Makes Me Hungry For More
Now that I’ve had some success online, I want even more.
When I reached my goal of $100 in a month, I was hungry for more.
I’m still hungry for more and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
A poor man wants to be rich. A rich man wants to be king. And a king ain’t satisfied until he rules everything.
Mr Springsteen was 100% right about that.
You have to actually go after what you want. If you put in the work every day, you’ll achieve far more than you ever believed was possible.
At least that’s how it’s worked for me.
Getting back to the topic of niche sites…
Can You Still Make Money With Niche Sites in 2016?
I don’t know if niche sites are the best way to make money online. I could go on forums and ask stupid questions all day (= do nothing = achieve nothing).
Or I could start a niche site using everything I’ve learned in the past 7 months to make it a success.
Can you guess which option I chose?
Stop asking whether Guru X is telling the truth about niche sites and find out yourself.
As cliche as it sounds, trying (and failing) yourself is the only way to learn how to make money online.
If you aren’t even willing to try, I can’t help you and nobody else can either.
So if you are ready to put in the work, get another cup of coffee and I’ll show you how I’m going to build a profitable niche site.
Building A Niche Site in 5 Steps
1# Choosing A Profitable Niche
This is the area I see most people setting themselves up for failure.
You need to choose a niche that has limited competition while having enough interest. Furthermore, there has to be a fantastic product with an affiliate program that you can use.
Don’t go after niches that will only earn you $1 per sale. It isn’t worth your time and effort.
The commission % is not as important as the average commission per sale. While I don’t recommend Amazon Associates for your first niche site, it can work if the products you sell are expensive.
How do you find a niche that fits that description?
Here’s the basic overview:
- Think about Products you use that could benefit tons of people
- Keyword research
- Analyze the competition
The first point is self-explanatory so I’ll move straight to number 2.
Keyword Research For Niche Sites
Honestly, I think keyword research is largely overrated.
You don’t need any expensive programs to help you with this. All you need is the free Keyword Planner in Google AdWords.
It’s a great tool despite not being meant for this purpose. The only thing you’re looking at in the Keyword Planner is the monthly searches. The competition refers to AdWords PPC competition and isn’t relevant for our purposes.
You’ll get a rough idea how much interest there is for your niche. If there is no interest, you’re wasting your time building a niche site.
Pro Tip: Enter a broad keyword into the Keyword Planner to get new ideas for your niche site.
Your niche site is never going to rank on the first page of Google for the term “headphones” but that’s not the point. You’ll get a bunch of related keywords with lower search volume that you can actually rank for.
This is how I decided on my niche. If you don’t know what to write about, the Keyword Planner is your best friend.
Analyzing Competition For Your Keywords
Like I said, you’re never going to rank for terms like “headphones”.
Just trust me, it’s not going to happen.
That begs the question, what can you rank for?
This isn’t an easy question to answer. I honestly don’t know why I rank for some keywords and not for others.
You’ll have to try a bunch of different keywords inside your niche before you find one that works.
But there is a cool (free) tool that I’ve been using that will give you a decent idea how easily you can rank for a search term.
Install the SEO Moz toolbar in your browser. This will give you an idea whether you can outrank any specific site.
If the sites on the first page in Google all have high domain and page authority, stay clear.
A small niche site won’t rank above large sites with thousands of links pointing to them. If you see multiple sites with domain authority under 30 on the first page, the competition is fairly low.
There are some exceptions to my Domain Authority suggestion. If you see forum, reddit or facebook posts on the front page of Google, the competition is fairly low. Those sites will have high Domain Authority but you can still outrank them.
This isn’t the case with the “headphones” example I gave. I quickly looked at some related keywords that get around 1000 monthly searches. The first page of Google results is still dominated by huge brands like Sony, Amazon and Best Buy. So this wouldn’t be a good niche to target (based on my 2 minutes of research). Frankly, if I found a great niche I wouldn’t tell you about it either. Instead, I would use this guide to build my own niche site around that keyword.
For my niche site, I found a couple of keywords that get over 1000 monthly searches. The competition looks fairly low. If I was starting out from scratch, I’d go for an even easier niche. However, I believe I can rank in the top 5 quite easily which will be enough to make $100/month.
Nobody Will Give You Keyword Ideas!
This is the secret to niche sites that nobody will tell you…
Great keywords are valuable.
I won’t give them to you because I have no reason to. Nobody will ever give away good keyword ideas that they could rank for themselves.
This used to upset me because I thought bloggers were just being selfish. Now that I have my own niche site, I completely understand.
Once you’re making money online, people will steal your ideas. Why would you give yourself extra competition by telling people what keywords to target?
With that point out the way, I’m going to move onto something very important. You’ll need to internalize this if you ever want to make money online…
Sales isn’t evil.
Assuming you only promote excellent products, it’s the opposite. It is your responsibility to convince your visitors to buy the products you recommend.
Don’t be afraid of reviewing products and making sales.
The product will improve their life, right? So by selling more products you are helping more people.
This shows the importance of promoting products that actually work and not going for the quick $.
Being honest and having integrity is the only way to make money online in the long run.
Your reputation is worth a lot more than you’ll ever make by selling crappy products.
And yes, you need to sell a product. AdSense won’t make you any decent money on a niche site.
You could create your own products but if you’re just getting started in online business, affiliate marketing is the way to go.
After you successfully create your first niche site, you’ll have learned a lot that can be applied to selling your own products.
2# Website Setup: Domain, Hosting and Theme
Once you have decided on your niche you’ll need to find a domain name.
I suggest you go with a .com domain name whenever possible. Having your keyword in the domain name may be beneficial but certainly isn’t necessary.
Avoid spammy domain names with hyphens at all cost. I actually made this mistake in the past so believe me when I tell you…
Lose-Weight-Fast.com is not a good domain name.
Good domain names that are catchy and include your keyword are hard to find in most niches. Don’t worry too much about this step. It won’t be the deciding factor in the success of your niche website.
The only place I’ve ever bought a domain name is NameCheap. They offer a good service at cheap prices so there’s no reason to go anywhere else.
You’ll get free WHOIS protection for your first year which is important if you want to keep your personal details (Name, address, etc.) private.
Now all you need is web hosting…
You’ll probably start more than one website in your journey to making money online. Therefore, it’s absolutely worth paying $2 extra so that you can host all your domains from the same account.
And your website is ready!
Choose A Theme (Design)
At this point your site will look like shit but that’s ok. After you’ve written some content, you’ll want to find a nice theme that looks neat and tidy.
WordPress makes it incredibly easy to change themes. Just try a bunch of themes and see which one you like best.
There are some decent free themes. But ultimately, paid themes will always have the upper-hand.
Thrive is great. I highly recommend investing $20 per month to use their themes.
And now the real fun begins…
Everything up until this point can be done in 1-2 hours. If this is your first time creating a website, it might take you a day or two.
None of this requires any real computer knowledge or programming skills either. Literally anyone can set up a simple WordPress site in 24 hours.
Of course, not everyone is going to make money online. The majority of new blogs will never make any money and I already touched on the reason earlier…
Most blogs don’t sell anything!
If you put in the effort and are willing to write for 6+ months, I’m 100% convinced you’ll make some money. Probably not a lot…
But you’ll see slow improvements over time and your income will increase suddenly.
But now I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Before you make any money, you need to focus on the next part of the plan…
3# How to Write Compelling Content That Makes You Money Forever
Everything you’ve done up until this point was easy.
Anyone can create a blog but very few people will ever make any money.
In order to make money, you’ll need to write helpful posts. “Content is king” isn’t a new idea but it is horribly misunderstood in my experience.
Giving free advice to people is not good content.
If you’re famous or already successful at something a lot of people want to learn, that will work for you.
But unless people know why they should listen to your advice, nobody will care about what you have to say.
Let me tell you a quick story to prove my point…
I had a blog that gave away tons of free information on a topic that I care about a lot: Losing fat and gaining muscle
For about 4 months, I consistently published one article a week and never asked for a penny.
While my ideas weren’t revolutionary, the advice would have worked for anyone who followed it. The problem was, nobody followed my advice because I didn’t have any readers!
So was that a good blog? Was I publishing quality content?
I was writing generic lifting advice that hasn’t helped a single person.
Critics might say that this website sucks because all I do is recommend other people’s product. However, I am helping far more people now than I ever did when I gave away free information!
So with that little story out the way, hopefully you understand that you need to write about fantastic products related to your niche.
How to Write Good Content
This could be a post of its own but for now I’ll leave you with a couple of tips.
These suggestions are what I’ve learned after 7 months of writing online. Use these strategies and you’ll stay ahead of your competition.
- Use Spellcheck but don’t obsess over it.
- Long content is usually better than shorter posts.
- Always include a P.S with a link to products you mentioned.
- Remember to include subheadings, underline important words and use bolding.
- Keep your paragraphs short when writing online. A blog is not a scientific paper.
These 5 tips will help you tremendously if you apply them in every post.
Most of the points are self-explanatory but I want to take a closer look at two of them…
Long Posts vs Short Posts
Long copy vs short copy is a huge debate in the copywriting world. There are good arguments for both because it largely depends on the products you’re trying to sell. In general, expensive products will require more words to sell. If your product is new and revolutionary, you’ll also need longer copy to get your sales message across.
When should you use short copy?
Neville Medhora gives the perfect example of selling a basic Yo-Yo. Everyone knows what a Yo-Yo does and it doesn’t cost much so short copy is fine.
While that’s a good rule for writing product descriptions, I don’t recommend it for niche sites.
For niche sites, long posts will almost always outperform short posts. The reason lies in a concept I picked up from Ca$hvertising called the “length implies strength heuristic”.
As soon as I read it, I thought I was stupid for not noticing this trend myself.
Think about the blogs you find useful…
They all publish long articles of 2000+ words. Obviously, long posts might have more advice in them but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.
Subconsciously we associate long content with great content.
I rarely share cool posts I find that are “only” 800 words. This is silly but length absolutely does imply strength.
That’s why I recommend all your blog posts should be over 1000 words long.
Everyone will tell you to write long posts with the disclaimer that you need to have a lot to say. I’m going to go a step further…
Make your posts long… for the sake of being long.
Obviously, they shouldn’t become boring but if you’re a decent writer, they won’t.
This also comes with some SEO benefits which we’ll cover later in this post.
The Power of The P.S
Putting a link in the P.S is mandatory if you want to make money online.
I’ve done the testing and it is 100% true that those links get clicked on more than any other link.
I didn’t think it would be the case because I personally rarely click on P.S links. It would seem logical to me that links at the start of a post get clicked on more but they don’t.
People who click on a link in the P.S also convert at a higher rate.
Not using this simple strategy means you are throwing money out of the window.
I think you get the point.
Let’s quickly go over what we’ve learned about writing good content…
The main takeaway from this section is that good content is not the same as giving away free information.
If you’re trying to build a huge authority site, that might be the right strategy. I’ve not achieved that yet personally so I won’t give any advice on how to do it.
For niche sites, focus on discussing products that will benefit your readers and you’ll be fine.
What if you’re not a good writer?
Learn how to write.
But don’t spend too much time worrying about this. You’ll improve over time anyway and if you’ve got helpful information, people will read your site.
Actually, that’s not true. They’ll only read your site if they somehow find it, so I’ll cover that next.
4# SEO: How to Get Traffic to Your Niche Site
Some of you probably skipped to this section. SEO is everyone’s favourite topic when it comes to making money online.
The truth is, you don’t need to know a lot about SEO in order to create a successful niche site.
Nobody will tell you this because experts are trying to sell you SEO guides. Luckily, I followed the advice from 30 Days to X instead of reading about SEO.
I even find SEO interesting but that doesn’t change the fact that you only need the absolute basics.
Basics of SEO for Niche Sites
- Write 20-30 posts at least
- Focus on internally linking your posts
- Write long posts (1000 words or more)
- Put the keyword you want to rank for in the title
- Optional: Guest Post or network with other bloggers in your niche
Low Competition Keywords
Every post you write will target a different search term which you discovered while doing keyword research using the Keyword Planner.
You’ll want to go after easy terms with very low competition.
Usually this will be keywords like: “best product X for Y” or “Product X review”
Putting the keyword in the title of your post is often enough to rank for these search terms.
The search volume will be low but that doesn’t matter. If you’ve got 30 posts averaging just a couple of clicks per day, you’ll make money.
Quick note: Most of your income will come from 1-2 posts. The top 10% of posts will usually get more traffic than the rest combined. That’s why you need to write 20-30 posts. Your chances of ranking well obviously goes up the more you write.
Length of Posts
I have noticed that posts containing more than 1000 words consistently do better than shorter posts in Google.
Apparently, Google also believes in the “length implies strength heuristic”.
This is why I suggest you make your posts as long and detailed as possible.
Unlike with other forms of copywriting, short content will very rarely make you more money.
Even if you lower the conversion rate, you’ll make up for that by getting more traffic due to the higher SERP position.
Building Links to Your Niche Site
Link building undoubtedly has an effect on your Google rankings.
I just don’t think it’s worth spending too much time worrying about.
Internal linking on the other hand, makes sense from a user experience point of view and an SEO standpoint. How much it benefits your rankings I don’t know, but it’s hardly any effort anyway so just do it.
Create 20+ pages of content first before you start thinking about getting external links. You’ll find your site starts ranking without putting effort into link building.
That is of course assuming that you are following the advice in this post. If you’re going after competitive keywords, you have no chance of ranking without doing a lot of link building.
But niche sites aren’t supposed to be time-consuming. Writing new content for an hour will always give you a better ROI than trying to get high-quality backlinks.
Over time, you will start to attract some links naturally which will help you in the long run.
If you think there is potential to make decent money in your niche, then you can start networking with other bloggers and doing some guest posting.
Personally, I won’t be doing any guest posting for my niche site. But I have done it in the past and it does seem to help with SEO.
The Most Important SEO Factor For New Sites
It takes time to start seeing results especially when it comes to search engine traffic.
Most of my posts don’t start picking up organic traffic until one month after I release them. If you’re starting a new site it will take even longer.
Focus on writing content to give yourself the best chance of ranking.
And then have some patience.
A niche site should just be a little side project anyway. You shouldn’t devote all of your time to it.
Here is the timeline I expect for my own niche site:
- 1st month: write 8 posts, get indexed
- 2nd month: write 3-5 posts, start getting Google traffic from earlier posts
- 3rd month and beyond: write 2-4 posts per month and start making affiliate sales
That’s my rough plan. It’s quite conservative and I wouldn’t be surprised if I grow faster.
My goal is to hit $100/month in under 6 months. Remember that this is only a side project; not something I’m devoting a lot of time to.
Getting Traffic From Twitter, Facebook, Forums, etc.
My advice is simple: Stay away
Your income will come from Google traffic not people discovering your site via social media.
The exception would be if you already have a social media presence.
While you can generate traffic from these platforms, you won’t get many sales. People searching for “product X review” are more likely to buy through your affiliate link than someone who visits your niche site from Twitter.
That’s simply a fact.
You won’t make a ton of money from your niche site. Therefore, getting a positive ROI on social media is almost impossible.
Don’t get me wrong…
I like Twitter and I think it’s a great way to connect with other intelligent people.
But for a niche site, it isn’t necessary.
At most, tweet a link to your reviews that mentions whoever produces the product. If the person/company has a decent following and retweets you, you might make some sales.
Other than that, your time will be better spent writing on your own platform (your niche site) than on somebody else’s platform (social media).
5# Collect Money (and Live Happily Ever After)
Now we’re getting to the fun part.
You’ve built your niche site and slowly added content over the course of 6 months.
You should be making at least $100/month by this point. And the best part is, you aren’t doing much work on the niche site anymore.
At this point, you have the choice between occasionally adding posts or simply leaving the site.
By adding new articles you give yourself a chance to rank for new keywords that will increase your traffic and profit. But if you’ve already seized all the opportunities in your niche, you can just leave the site.
You also have the option of selling it but I won’t go into that here.
I’ve never bought or sold a website so I might do that with this new niche site just as a learning experience. It would be an interesting topic to write about and share with you guys. However, it would have to make financial sense. Otherwise, I’ll just let the site collect affiliate sales.
Bonus: How to Analyze Data And Optimize Your Site
Once your site is getting traffic, you’ll want to take a look at where the traffic is coming from. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools are both very effective tools for this purpose.
You want to install both when you start your niche site. However, don’t waste time looking at the data in your first few months.
You won’t be getting enough traffic yet to make any real conclusions.
But after a while you should take some time to find out what pages are doing well and why. This isn’t always easy but it has been a very effective tactic for me.
By looking at the search terms people used to find my site, I was able to make changes to my posts that boosted rankings almost immediately.
That is how SEO should be done in my opinion. You need to actually have a site before you can do “Search Engine Optimization“.
To end this section, I’d like to warn you…
For a lot of people (myself included) looking at Analytics data can become addictive. It’s easy to waste time by constantly refreshing the page and the worst part is, you think you’re being productive!
You are procrastinating. It’s no different from spending hours on Facebook every day.
Optimizing your site based on the data from 3+ months is completely different to checking traffic stats multiple times per day.
The first may double your earnings, the latter will do nothing but waste your time.
Bonus: Everything You Need to Know About Advertising and Email Marketing For Niche Sites
I’m adding this section because I think it’s an important discussion. I’ve made this mistake in the past and I see others doing the same with their niche sites.
If you’ve read anything about Internet Marketing, you know that email marketing is very powerful. How do you get email subscribers? You send thousands of people to “squeeze pages” through (Facebook) ads.
I’m sure there are some people who make a lot of money by doing exactly that..
I’ve tried and it didn’t go well.
Sure, I could spend lots of money to try to figure it out. But that’s not the path I’m taking and I don’t recommend you do that either.
Niche sites are a small project that should be relatively passive. You want a simple business model that requires very little maintenance. By adding email lists and PPC ads you make everything more complex than it has to be.
If all you’re trying to do is build a niche site that requires almost no work and makes $100 per month, stay away from email marketing and advertisements.
Your income will come from people who find your niche site via Google and buy something through your affiliate links.
Niche sites have a limited income potential so it makes no sense to spend money on ads and email services. Once you have a larger project with huge potential, definitely consider Email marketing and even PPC ads.
Until then, just focus on ranking in Google and brining in affiliate sales.
Closing Thoughts On Building A Niche Site
You’ve made it to the end!
If you’ve made it this far, you are serious about starting a niche site.
That’s great! Everyone should constantly be looking for new ways to make money online.
The great thing about niche sites is how passive they can be once you’ve got them set up. But before you get to that point, you need to put in some effort.
You need to commit to this goal for at least 6 months.
If you notice that you chose the wrong niche, you can start from scratch. But don’t quit too early because you never know when your site will start to take off.
I will be sharing my experience building a niche site on Red Pill Reviews. I’m very confident I will reach my goal of $100/month by September (6 months).
Hopefully, some of you will join me on this challenge. If you do, write about your experience on a blog so that everyone can learn from your mistakes. You could even contact me and possibly guest post about your experience.
I have found that publishing logs like this is a great way to keep me accountable (it would be embarrassing if I failed to reach my goal). That’s why I’ll be releasing a monthly update on my niche site progress.
Stick around if you like this type of content. There will be more in-depth posts like this one to come if you guys find them useful.
Anyway, that’s all for today.
Until next time,
There’s tons of money waiting to be made!