niche site project case study

Niche Site Project – A New Case Study!

I think it’s about time I build a new niche site and let you see the process as I go along.  Not only is this interesting for you, but it also keeps me accountable to anyone who reads and follows along the journey.

I am currently dabbling with the following online ventures:

  • Thicker niche sites.
  • Thin, eBay sites (my main income).
  • Moving my articles from sites like eZinearticles, Hubpages and Squidoo to another location that will be more lucrative in the long run (well… maybe – more on that after I get my first earnings and I can prove that it works).
  • Coding WordPress plugins in PHP and selling them.

The thin sites are definitely “set and forget” and don’t need much maintenance, but the thicker sites do take up more time and need regular content added to them to make them profitable.

I am also currently involved with another Niche Site Duel with a group I have hooked up with via the Micro Site Profits Facebook page.  We are all trying to rank a site for a single keyword and all seem to be struggling a little, although I think Google has at last started to rank the site for it’s main keyword and I have been making sales from Amazon since the first few weeks.

So, why start a new Niche Site?

Why not!  I need to keep my income rolling in and Amazon seems to be working much better than eBay for certain niches.  I definitely trust buying from Amazon more than eBay these days and I think the general public does too.

For this niche site, I will be following a similar path to my previous effort, but this time I will be using a method called Niche Site Project Management by Doug Cunnington.

The Niche Site Project method is pretty similar to others out there:

  1. Find keyword.
  2. Find related keywords.
  3. Write/order content.
  4. Build site with WordPress.
  5. Build tiered backlinks over time.

However, the thing that sets this course apart from the others is that the implementation of your new site, is all based around project management techniques – something I am not too distant from in my day job.

Having set tasks on certain days will help me maintain focus and know what to do when, which is helpful when you have so many sites and stuff online all the time.  Doug also lists some information about Risk Management too, which will help you plan for any unforeseen issues by mitigating, removing or transferring the issue.  Again, all stuff I live and breathe in my day job.

I will be keeping this blog updated with my progress and in the end, I plan to sell the site somewhere as this is going to be another of my business plans going forward.  Having these niche sites is all well and good, but when you end up with lots that you have to maintain, it becomes a bit of a problem if you are not trusting enough to outsource your content to others.

I think I have found a keyword to work with, using Long Tail Pro, so I will update here in a few days – so make sure you keep updated by subscribing using the “Subscribe By Email” option in the top right hand corner of the page.

2013 In Review And Beyond

Well, I have not posted an update here for quite some time, so I guess you are all due a peek behind the curtain at what I have been up to recently.

My thicker site test has ended up going pretty well overall and I am happy to announce that in 2013, the site earned me a total of $544.16 – which, considering it comes mainly from 1 page on the site, is not too bad.  The “Best Of” type posts do seem to work well for me and also on some of my other thick sites too.  I have also added an ad from media.net, but at only around 80 impressions or visitors per day, it does not achieve very much.

Amazon_com_Associates_Central_-_Tracking_ID_Summary_Report-3

 

$550 for the year is not very much money when you consider that other people have been able to make much more from a single site in 1 month, or by using “thin methods” rather than thick content.  The problem with my site is that the majority of the items I sell via Amazon.com are small in value, which equals small in affiliate earnings.  Sure, I have quite a good sell through rate and the number of items is quite good for such a small niche, but the return is quite small.

I have poured hours of work into this painful-feet.com site, whereas a thin site is thrown up in a matter of minutes and could possibly earn more in a shorter space of time.  2014 will definitely be the year of thin for me, but more on that a bit later…

Google Analytics (yes, I know… tin foil hat on, when it comes to Google) shows a nice set of visitors to my painful-feet.com site, at around 9000 for the year, which I know is nothing amazing, but definitely nothing to be sniffed at, seeing as I really did not do much backlinking to the site at all.  Plus, this niche is quite small and therefore is not an ideal earning opportunity.

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics

 

In an ideal world, I would be using Adsense to earn more from this site as it is more of an informational resource rather than an e-commerce store.  However, my “proper” Adsense account was terminated during 2013 as I had the ads all over the place on other sites and was definitely working against their TOS.  I then received an email from them a few months later, asking me to “Monetize my content with Adsense” to which I replied, got accepted under a different email address and was then terminated again a few weeks later.  There is just no winning with them, unless I want to start my own business and register under those details instead.  However, I would be reluctant to put the ads on any existing sites though as the link would be obvious if Google were wanting to ban me again.  I can understand them banning people for fraudulent clicks, but they should really work with people who have obvious thick content sites to make sure that they are in TOS.  An email stating “the use of this ad on your thin site is not allowed, please fix it” would have been better than an immediate hammer ban for the entire account.  But yes, I know I am just very small-fry to them and they can’t keep tabs on me all the time, so they have to protect themselves somehow and banning people outright is the easiest way.

But – don’t freaking send me emails asking me to monetize my content if you are just going to ban me again, retards!

So, the site continues to sit and be profitable in it’s current situation and with it’s current focus.  I am not looking to do much with it at the moment, although, thinking bigger, it could become a good site that is ideal for people who are looking for a “non-medical” type resource for painful feet.

If I put my brain in Pat Flynn Mode, there is definitely scope to releasing an eBook, or a podcast, doing Q&A sessions with professionals and doctors or keeping pounding on the content.  However, along with a long list of other thick sites that I have bubbling away, the time and commitment aspect comes into play.  Should I drop everything else and concentrate on this site?  Probably not – plus it is definitely not in an area I am interested enough in to spend so much time on it.  I do enjoy helping people, it’s definitely my “single motivating purpose” even if I don’t quite “get it” yet myself.  Perhaps the right niche has not arrived for me yet.

I think this is definitely my problem – time and commitment vs the need to move on to other, new things all the time.  The world of Internet Marketing is a constantly evolving beast and there are always new things to test, build, consider and react to.  Keeping the focus on one site or project can be difficult for me.

Thin to win.

This is where thin sites, build using eBay and Amazon as an affiliate partner are ideal.  They are a real set and forget type of site and the main cost of implementation is the initial domain cost and hosting.  The time is negligible really, as I have tools to help me find niches, keywords and content for the thin sites that makes building them very easy.  The actual mechanics of the site can be build on WordPress or on your own PHP framework.  Wordpress is easy, but cumbersome and after you get a few sites on your hosting, everything starts to slow down and you end up with resource issues.  PHP coding is definitely the way to go.  My newer thin sites all share common code and are really just a set of spun content, a list of keywords and a load of shared PHP functions to output eBay and Amazon links for people.  It all sounds ridiculously easy, which it is, but it does work – even if you only buy a .info domain for $1.99.

Once a thin site becomes indexed, receives visitors and proves profitable, the idea is to clone that “good site” and make another one on a new domain so that the search engines keep riding the wave of freshness.  Obviously, each site receives a little tweak to make them unique from the last one, but the process is quick and easy.

However, thin sites are also quite short-lived, lasting only around 6 weeks, before they are buried in the SERPS for being crappy spam sites.  This is to be expected though and once they drop, the odd trickle of traffic will help keep them going and hopefully past the initial cost of the domain and into profitability.

Thick or thin?

So, if thin sites are so easy to stick up and only cost a few dollars to implement, why not keep thick and thin running side-by-side?  That is pretty much what I have been doing already, but I have not built many thin sites over the last 12 months as it was not clear which methods were working for me and the rest of the IM community I have been hanging out with.  It has even crossed my mind to sell off my thicker sites – perhaps that is a way to move towards, build thick, then sell, move on to the next one.

Or should I just outsource the content of my thick sites and keep them going?  It’s hard to let go of control too and the writers on sites like iWriter.com seem to be pretty rubbish, so I would have to find good writers, which can be costly.

Anyway, I am rambling now :)  To many ideas, not enough hours in the day or energy in my body to make it all happen.  Like Bilbo says, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread”.  That is the story of my life though… but don’t get me started on that one.

Another niche site duel project.

I have also been involved with another “niche site duel” type project, where a team of people have been building sites around a single keyword, seeing who can manage to rank in Google.  So far, I have managed to make some small, cheeky Amazon sales from my site, but the numbers of visitors is quite low.

I have been backlinking and writing new content for the site regularly and also getting guest posts too.  Hopefully, like the painful-feet.com site, it will rank over time for longer tail keywords and income will come from there.  I will perhaps sell the site on after the “duel” is complete.  I don’t need another site dragging my time down to be honest.  It will have been an interesting experience, with different people doing different methods, so it will be interesting to see how it ends up.

Onwards

So, I had a good year in 2013, built some good thick sites, wrote some PHP code, decided on moving to a network of thin sites in 2014 and feel like I might have turned a corner in approaching it more like a business.  My monthly earnings will determine how many sites I will build the following month and a portion of my earnings will now be paid directly towards paying off my mortgage early.  Too long has my money languished in PayPal – time to put it to work.

So what do you think?  Is thin the way to go?  Should I sell my thick sites and go thin?  Are you interested in buying painful-feet.com from me?  Let me know in the comments.

I Must Be Doing Something Right

I seem to be clocking up several sales a day through my painful-feet.com now, all via Amazon.com and mostly for related items that I have blogged about.  Although they may be small value items, I can see that shipping lots of them will help with my overall Amazon affiliate sales as there is a sliding scale of earnings, based on how many items you ship.

I have 77 items to ship before I hit the next tier though…

Image 7The list of items that were sold are as follows:

Image 8The site is also getting quite a few visitors per day for a number of different keywords:

 

ana;yticsThe visits seem to be on an upward trend, so hopefully, if I can build some more content related to products, rather than information, with links to Amazon items, I should be able to see some sort of good profit soon from the site.  I think I will opt for an 80/20 rule on this, making 4 posts about products to each 1 informational one.

At the moment, the site is on my “thick site rotator”, meaning that I write content for it on a schedule with my other thicker sites.  I only have 2 other thick sites at the moment, so this one should get updated quite often.

Onwards and upwards!

 

 

 

Things are on the up

It has been quite a while since I posted here but this time, instead of the usual rants, I have some good news to share.

The site has made some me some money!!!!

If you take a look at the site, you will see that I have replaced the home page with a static page, all about Plantar Fasciitis Shoes, one of the keywords I have been targetting.  However, the majority of my traffic is now coming to an article I wrote about pains in your feet after driving.  I need to add an Amazon link or 2 in there to help build some income from that article, but things are looking better for the site now.

It is getting around 30-40 visitors a day at the moment too and that is just from doing some basic directory submissions using GSA Search Engine Ranker and “liking” WordPress.com posts with my Gravatar linking to the site (something I read in a WSO).

So.. .I am sure you are all gagging to know how much I have made so far…

$40 :)

This has come all from Amazon sales, so hopefully I can concentrate on these types of posts in the future and get more sales coming through.

Day Whatever…

I guess I must be around 2 months in to this Niche Site Challenge and am beginning to feel the bite of frustration and being impatient kicking in.

So – the fateful truth is that so far, I have earned $0 from my test niche site – Painful-feet.com.  I have been ranking for some keywords, some of which are in the top 10 of Google according to good old Mr Webmaster Tools, but the traffic is just not coming.  The days of build it and they will come are certainly not around any more.

Or are they….?

Spurred on by my adsense chopping last week, I have built 2 new thin sites (using SBPM and articles copied and spun from various places) and one of the sites (the older one) is already getting around 20 clicks on eBay per day.  So, at my current average EPC, which is £0.06p, this new “thin site” already blows my “thick authority site” out of the water!  So far the thin site has earned me around £6.00 which already pays for the .com domain I splashed out on.

Will it last?  No.  Definitely, the way that Google works shows that the site will do well to begin with, rage and then die, possibly to be picked up by BING and Yahoo if I am lucky.  During it’s brief life, it will make it’s money back – make me a profit and then limp along after that.  Still…. it’s money and it only took me around 1 hour to set up.

This annoying ability for thin, content-lite sites to rank quickly and sufficiently to make money is annoying when you compare the thicker niche site challenge I am working on.

Time to change direction I think.  Time to concentrate more on eBay and Amazon and not on quality articles for my painful feet site.  It’s time to make some money with this site and to hell with the thick idea.  The thicker basis will help me – but not as much as the site having some good eBay items on there to buy and a little spun content to help it along a bit.

Watch this space…

Bring The Adsense Ban Hammer

Well, I guess it had to happen some day.

I got a nice email from my good pals at Google, saying that they have “disabled” my Adsense account for not playing by their rules.

I kind of knew deep in my stomach that it would come eventually but it still hurts.  My Adsense earnings were around £100 per month, so not a massive amount of money, but certainly a kick in the teeth to my overall strategy of making some money online.

I did get another email the other day saying that the Adsense had been removed from one of my thin sites and, in hindsight, I should have gone mad an taken it off of all of my thin sites, leaving only my main thicker content blogs to carry the load.  And to be honest, it was the thicker sites that were generating my Adsense income, not the thin ones.

Damn!

I am in the process of adding Infolinks to the bigger sites in the hope that any income is better than sod all.  Luckily, I have added all of my WordPress sites to an InfiniteWP dashboard too, so quickly disabling all of my Adsense plugins was a breeze.  I do have my old BANS sites to deal with though, plus those sites where I might have hard coded any Adsense blocks.

It’s not the fact that I am annoyed because I was whiter than white – more the fact that I am now going to have to struggle to make back that £100 a month via other means.  Hassle – this MMO thing is real hassle…

So what does this mean for my Painful Feet site I have been building as part of my niche site challenge?  I guess I will be rethinking my monetization strategy.  Adsense was going to be my primary source of income, so I need to start thinking outside of the Google box.  Not that I have actually made any money so far with the site…  More of that another time…

Day 60 – How the other half live

One of the main reasons why I started this niche site challenge was all because of a little, unknown internet marketer going by the name of Pat Flynn ;) You might have heard of him (sarc!).  He started a Niche Site Duel and ended up building a monster site that earns him plenty of cash all year round.  The case study, which is quite old now, was definitely something I would like to emulate, building an authority site.

Now, it seems that he is going to start the niche site duel 2, building a new site, looking for ways to ensure that it ranks well and quickly in Google.  He also seems aware that you can no longer build the site, chuck out a load of crappy spun article backlinks and expect people to start arriving in droves.

On his Facebook page, he mentions enlisting the help of a chap called Alex Becker from Source-wave.com who can, apparently, rank sites pretty easily and offers it as a paid SEO service.

Looking around the source-wave.com site, I can see that Alex seems to rely on using tools such as SENukeXCR, Scrapebox and UltimateDemon to do some hands-off backlinking.  This is quite an old strategy, but perhaps he does it with a few tweaks and twists here and there.  This is also not dissimilar to what I do, using GSA Search Engine Ranker to build backlinks to my sites.

It will be interesting to see what Pat and Alex come up with over the next few months.  I think the “duel” will be starting in June and I will definitely be keeping an eye on their plans.

Day 52 – How you doin…?

Wow.. It’s been ages since I posted here on tao-mmo.com on the progress of my niche site challenge.  There goes my other plan to blog here every day about what is going on.

The site is getting a mediocre level of traffic from the serps, but mostly from those of you who are here reading this blog or are checking back on the site’s progress as I slowly add content to it.

Still no earnings from it as yet, but I have started to add a few backlinks here and there to the site, using the excellent GSA search engine ranker and manual links from places like FB and Twitter.  I have also written an article and plonked it up on Ezinearticles too (does that site still work for traffic?)  There is also a Squidoo lens of mine that links to the site now too.

So, my plan to slowly build links to these properties continues.  The Squidoo and EZ pages are still quite new, so I will add some backlinks to those soon too, creating a tiered approach that I have spoken about before.

Site content

As I have tried iWriter and found that unless you pay top dollar you get low quality, I am still into writing all of my own content.  However, I have hit a wall, so to speak, with ideas for content.  I keep writing about one main complaint, which is around my target keyword(s) but I know that if I can expand the site out more to other painful foot complaints, it will work well for me.

I have found that Quora is an excellent resource for content ideas.  I have just visited the “feet tag page” and grabbed 5 ideas for articles on my site.  I grabbed the title ideas and the Quora URL and dumped them into my WP site as draft posts, ready to be fleshed out into proper posts at a later date.  I guess where there are people asking questions, I can provide content that answers that question.

I also posted a question on Quora and spent 50 credits to have it directed at a podiatrist – so thats the 6th article sorted then when he replies :)  Hopefully, this is how connections are made with like minded people who I might be able to interview for the site.

So – onwards and upwards :)

I have also recently joined Micro Site Profits too (for my friend and I) and am building a site around their method (which is very simple).  Funnily enough, they recommend that the content for those micro niche sites also comes from iWriter – from the lowest possible cost writers.  And even more funnily enough, I did get some good articles for $3 from there which I have put on this new site :)

It seems that you have to be VERY specific when asking for what you want and keep asking for rewrites until you get it right.  I have found some good writers on there who can do 500 word articles for $3 – which is great if I need to buy some more content.

Day 35 – iWriter Elite Redeems Itself

After my rant yesterday about the bad content I got from iWriter, I bunged another $18 in the kitty there and paid for 2 new articles from their top flight Elite writers – and WOW – what a difference a few dollars makes!

Although they cost me $10 a pop, these 2 new articles are written in English and look like they are not spun rubbish or filler crap.  Until the site starts getting more visits (and makes it’s first money) I can’t really start to throw money at more content just yet.  It will give the site a nice boost content wise though.

I now have 6 posts to add to my niche site experiment site and will need to work on making them look pretty (H2/H3 tags etc) and adding images and links to internal and external posts as I see fit.  I should be linking out to other sites I think – it is part of the “SILO authority site model” that I have seen other people using.

Day 34 – iWriter Content Is Rubbish

So, as I suggested yesterday, I got 4 $6 articles from iWriter, based around topics and keywords that I thought would be relevant for my niche site challenge.  They are now available for me to download and I must say – the results are pretty crap to say the least.

So – why am I not happy?

Well, unlike Textbroker, which I have used before, iWriter seems to place people under lots of pressure to complete the articles.  Almost as soon as I published my “project”, complete with the 4 keywords around which the articles are supposed to be written, 3 were snapped up and were being worked on.  However, each of these seemed to have a time limit of either 2.5 or 3 hours to be completed (I am not sure which).

Surely this places the writers under pressure to create the content with less thought, planning or research – ergo = crappy, rushed content for the buyer.

The first article came back and even though I had selected the “Premium” level of “writer skill” it was obviously spun content – so I rejected it and blocked the writer immediately.

The others came in in dribs-and-drabs over the next few hours and I reviewed them last night, accepting them all apart from one, where I asked for a rewrite to be done.  This was because the keyword was based on symptoms and the article was more about causes and treatments.  The writer did do a good job of changing it but the overall quality is not brilliant.

Overall, the articles contain spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, incorrect information and quite a bit of fluffy fill that just pads it out to the required 500 words.  However, one writer did go to 630 words (even though I was only paying up to 500) so kudos to them – but it does make me think, did they just spin an existing 600 word article… rather than write it themselves?

I guess for the iWriter writers, time is money – bang them out the door as soon as possible and deal with the rejections and rewrites as they come.  I would be tempted to do the same myself if I were in the business of writing for them.

Another thing that irked me was that within iWriter, you have different levels of quality you can pay for when asking for your content.  Standard, Premium and Elite.  The top level Elite writers can expect to be paid around $8 per 500 words – not too bad if you can effectively spin content and churn it out.  But the problem is that you can “fast track” to become a Elite writer by keeping your article writing score at 4.5 stars or above for 30 articles and then pay $149 and you get bumped up.

I wonder how many non-english speaking countries have gamed this method…

So, I now have 4 pieces of content to play with.  One good thing about iWriter is that apart from getting the article, you get it checked in Copyscape for free and a copy that has been spun (contains spintax).  I have access to Spin Rewriter, so this is not a biggie for me – but it does save me a bit of time if I want to repurpose the content for something else.

Will I use iWriter again?  Maybe.  I stupidly added too much credit from PayPal so I have $2 left in there to use, which is too little for an article, so I will have to add more to get the money back, if you see what I mean.  I think with the next articles, I will push them back to the writer until they are perfect in every way, which will be hassle for them and more time for me, but worth it in the long run.  Perhaps I might find the perfect person on there who can write for me on a more permanent basis.

I have just found that you can ask certain writers to do your work too and they publish a list of the top rated writers so I will get an article written from the best person on there and see what that is like.  I might end up paying more, but as a benchmark, it will be worth it.

I think you also have to be quite specific when sending the requests out, detailing exactly how you want the article to be written and what they can and can’t do.  Without this, it makes it difficult to go back and complain or give them a poor rating.

Having content written for you is never ideal – unless you find the right person…  It always leaves me feeling a bit cheated.