NB: You can now read my second niche site case study
I have started branching out into the world of Amazon affiliate sites hoping to increase my online income.
I have been working very hard on this for just under two months and I am happy to say that I am now the proud owner of a small PBN and two Amazon affiliate sites – one finished for the time being and the other nearly there. I am also close to starting a third Amazon affiliate site. As you can imagine, I have been working pretty damn hard! Especially as I need to keep my travel blog running at the same time, while also travelling and dealing with my kids.
Anyway, more about that in the monthly update. This post is to keep my commitment to start posting more regularly and to share my latest venture with you – that of trying to make money through niche sites. If you are confused by what I am talking – keep reading I will define this below.
This post is my first in a new series about my first three Amazon affiliate sites. Hopefully it will be a very successful series since I hope the sites will be successful, but time will tell. If nothing else, we can all learn from my mistakes! As I said, I currently have two online and a third one is mostly planned. The two online have only been online in the last fortnight so they are very very new.
But first, what are niche sites, money sites, PBNs and expired domains?
Niche Sites and Money Sites
Niche sites are basically sites built around a certain topic. For example, you could say that my main site, WheresSharon.com, is a niche site about family travel. Generally when people are talking about niche sites in the context that I am currently, they mean sites built around a niche (generally a small specific one, but not always) that are purposefully built to earn money. Usually this income is from advertising, such as adsense, or affiliate programs, such as Amazon.
Niche sites can be many shapes and sizes. Some are ultra small, maybe only about ten pages, about a very specific niche. Others can be massive, like WheresSharon (over 1000 pages although not all are live at the moment).
Money sites refer to sites that are built to earn money. So if I build a site about moisturising creams, for example, and link out to Amazon, then this niche site (where the niche is moisturising creams) is also my money site. Not all sites are built to earn money directly.
Expired domains are domains that were used for a site but are now available to purchase. Just because a domain name expires and is no longer used does not mean that it loses all its links or authority in Google’s eyes. Many, many, many domains expire every day and many of them already have a great link profile. Also many have a spammy link profile – ensure you do some research before purchasing one. Buying an expired domain that already has a good link profile can be a good way to quickly create sites that already have great authority. These can be used for money sites, but often they are used to build a private blog network…
Private Blog Network (PBN)
A private blog network is a set of sites that have been built specifically to use to link build to a money site. These sites are usually built on expired domains. This way within a few hours you can have a site that has the potential to have great authority links without having to go build any links yourself.
The idea is to build a series of sites on expired domains, ideally with the expired domain being in a similar niche to your money site. Google attaches more link juice to relevant sites linking to your money site.
They are called private blog networks because usually a network of sites is required to produce enough link juice to help a money site rank well in google. I have been told 5-10 sites in a PBN for a single money site is ideal.
Why use a PBN? The idea is that then you have total control over your links to your money site. When you pay other people for links, you don’t know exactly what will happen. If Google changes it rules, you can easily change links on your own sites.
You could create a PBN to help give link juice to any site, it doesn’t have to be an affiliate site. I could do this process to help gives WheresSharon a boost. I don’t and I won’t though as it is already going well by itself without me doing any link building and there is some risk associated with any type of link building – if google discovers you are doing it, your site can be deindexed. For a new site, this is a risk I am happy to take. It is not a risk I want to take with my main cash cow and labour of love.
Why amd I building three sites?
Everything I am reading about building niche sites at the moment is saying that sites are taking a long time to rank well in Google – about six months! So I feel pressure to get at least a few up as quick as possible so they can start earning credibility with Google. I also had quite a few niche site ideas that I liked, and each of the sites have taken a different angle in aspects such as how competitive the keyword is, how many searches there are and how big I see the site growing. I feel these three sites will be a good experiment for me and, at the end of it, I will know whether to bother continuing with Amazon affiliate niche sites or not. If I do continue, I will have a better idea of what to target.
All my niche sites are in the parenting niche. I am certainly not an expert in any of them, but I do have some vague idea thanks to being a parent. My PBN is built around this niche. I am not going to reveal the sites, as I am weary of copycats and negative SEO. The KC I mention is keyword competitiveness and it is based on using Long Tail Pro keyword tool (which I love). Basically, the lower the better. Here is a brief introduction!
Site 1: 5,000 monthly searches, KC: 34
The keyword competitiveness for this site was a bit higher than I would have liked, but the product is related enough to travel that I have already been able to get some good links from some travel blogging buddies and I hope to get more. I think it is definitely a bonus to choose a niche where you know lots of people with sites in that area. I do not want any footprint, so I am avoiding the temptation to put a link from WheresSharon.
This site is already up and running with a great look and feel (even if I do say so myself!), 7 product reviews and a detailed home page, buying guide and comparison chart. I am leaving it at that at the moment, but I plan to make time in a few weeks to add some more articles.
For this site, I tried outsourcing six of the reviews via iWriter. They were mostly great and overall I would have been quite happy if I had realised how iWriter worked before posting the job. Six different people writing the reviews meant that even with a strict template and example, I ended up with six slightly different reviews and I had to rewrite them all to make them more consistent.
Site 2: 1,900 monthly searches, KC:28
The searches are not high for this, but the KC seemed more achievable and the product is quite pricey so I will not need to make many sales to make money.
The site is currently live with about 6 articles, including the main ones. I have a list of six other ones to post, then I will concentrate more fully on getting my third site up. I am writing all of these articles myself. I am trying to write one a night.
This site may have an advantage as it is actually using an expired domain. This was completely accidental! I didn’t realise until I was building it and I noticed it had a DA of 9 and PA of 22 in my moz toolbar. I was worried initially that it might have some spammy links, but thankfully its link profile looks fine. This was a lucky purchase! In future, I will definitely check out domains before I buy them just in case. I would hate to build a whole site on an expired domain and not realise it has a bad link profile.
Site 3: Main keyword (for now) 4,400 searches, KC: 26
This site is still being planned and I have many ideas of how I will make it work. The other two sites will be small niche sites, but I am hoping to grow this into a large niche site. I plan for it to be a more general niche with me targeting more specific niches within the site. I will start with one of these specific niches. I already have a long list of keywords I would like to target overall and I feel this site has the most potential, but it will also be the most work.
I hope to get a skeleton site up in the next week with some articles.
How did I pick these keywords?
I basically used a process from another blogger which I have since not found to be the best so I no longer link to this (updated after first publication) using the AmaSuite tools which allowed me to quickly find good, recommended and popular products on Amazon.
I did run into some problems, though. I only recently discovered an absolutely amazing case study on Niche Pursuits where the expert, Spencer, teaches his student and fan, Perrin, how to build an Amazon affiliate site from scratch. It is probably the most useful resource I have come across with the million and ones things I have read about this topic. One of the many things I learned was that normal SEO rules do not apply when it comes to eCommerce sites.
My husband was originally working on a third site when I read about this where the search terms were completely dominated by eCommerce sites so we had to scratch this. I was a bit annoyed as I had heard other authorities saying it was a good sign when search results were dominated by eCommerce sites and to ignore search results with already established niche sites which was the opposite of Spencer’s advice. At least we hadn’t gone further down that path. However, I do think the search results for my first two keywords are more dominated by eCommerce sites than I would like. I probably wouldn’t have chosen them had I known that before I started. However, now that they are already up, I feel I may as well continue. At least they are not totally dominated.
What have I learned so far?
I have learned so much. A few months ago, I had never even heard of PBNs, expired domains, niche sites, etc and now I have built some! I think I am improving my technique to research keywords all the time. I am now very quick at signing up for domain names, hosting and building new WordPress sites thanks to my PBN. I am definitely glad of both my IT and writing background through this process.
I have also hired my first freelancers through oDesk and have mostly had success thanks to following a great article by Lewis at Cloud Income about how to hire cheap writers. They have written the vast majority of my PBN articles.
I wish I had come across the information earlier on Niche Pursuits about SEO with eCommerce sites that I mentioned above. However, I have been doing A LOT of reading as well as a PBN course, so at some point I just had to start.
I am going to continue slowly link building for Site 1, finish off Site 2 and start Site 3. I actually go to Singapore in a week’s time for a week and I also have many travel blogging obligations around that, so I will not get as much time to work on this as I would like. Still, I am hopeful I will have something to report again soon. I also hope to post about how I built each of these niche and PBN sites and how I am going about the beginning of my link building.
Any questions or advice?
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate link to products that I use and personally recommend. If you decide to purchase any of them, I would love it if you could support my blog by using these links.