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A year ago I started a project that was going to literally change my life – I built my first niche sites.
I had read a lot on this topic but I still did not know much about what I was doing. With hindsight, there are things I would have done differently particularly keyword research. However, all is well that ends well and I am very happy with the progress my niche sites have made.
My niche sites have enabled me to leave Australia with my family and become digital nomads. This time last year I would never have imagined that I would be writing this 12 month update from Paris. How life can change!
The best part, though, is how everything I have learned from this project has not only given me great income from my niche sites, but I was able to apply my learning to my travel blog which is finally making decent levels of income. You may want to read my last update at 10 months.
12 month progress
I have not link built to any of these sites in months – not since February. This year, I have just been adding one article built to buying keywords per month to each site which I outsource to my brother.
I have not added to my PBN in a long time. It is still going strong and I regularly check it all and add articles. It’s more work than I would like but I would rather keep it looking good than risk my current income from my niche sites.
All my PBN is built on expired domains which I mostly purchased from brokers. I also had some Web 2.0s that I bought from The HOTH, but after one of my original niche sites was de-indexed two weeks after adding these links (the only links to that site), I stopped using those sites and don’t recommend them for linking directly to your money sites.
You can see how this site took awhile to rank in Google. Unfortunately, webmaster tools only shows data from the last three months so that is not useful, but it grew in the same way as the hits in Google Analytics.
Most of my link building was in the first few months then it gradually tapered out until I stopped in February.
I was initially concerned about this site as I followed the wrong advice and targeted ecommerce keywords which many people say you can’t rank for. However, thankfully I did rank for them and people still bought.
My average keyword ranking for the last month from webmaster tools:
Primary keywords: 6.3 and 2.0
Main secondary keywords: 2.0, 2.0, 5.1. 11.4, 3.1, 4.5
Now what you really want to know, my income for the last year! All amounts are from Amazon and in $USD.
It actually hasn’t quite been a year since I published this site, but close enough. You can see how it started off slow and it took about 6 months to really start growing – as predicted by people who believe in the Google sandbox. I find it interesting how it did not do much until then when this is when I stopped link building as well.
It follows the same pattern as site 1 above. In webmaster tools, there is the same story since the majority of traffic is from Google.
This site is much bigger than site 1 and attacks many different buying keywords. What I was happy to discover when writing this is that I am finally page 1 for my primary keyword. After 10 months sitting around position 20, I didn’t actually think it was possible for me to get to the first page and I even changed some of the links I had pointing at this page. It is great to see that I am still growing in rankings.
For people following along, these are my average rankings over the last month according to webmaster tools:
Primary keyword: 8.1
Secondary keywords: 3.0 – 18
I also rank for many other keywords on the first page which individual articles target.
The last month has not shown my usual amount of growth. I was worried that my sites had stagnated and I would have to do something about link building. Then I remembered that many Amazon affiliates notice the same thing over the summer and my experience did seem to be in line with theirs. The first half of the month was good with earnings dropping back as the month went on. Not being from the Northern hemisphere, it’s easy to forget these things.
I look forward to seeing how they go in September when the slump is hopefully over! And then there is the Christmas season!
It has not been easy and it has not been quick.
At the time that I started this project, it was hard to know how it would go thanks to the fact that even articles written about niche sites at the beginning of last year were out of date thanks to Google changes. I certainly did not find it as easy and quick to rank as people did in 2013. Even people who had written on this topic more recently talk as though it is much quicker than I found.
It took a lot of patience, but it all happened how I expected eventually.
The other challenge is the amount of bs that exists on this topic. For one of my sites, I picked my keywords based on a tutorial who spouted how successful their niche sites were. I learned later that they earned basically nothing from their niches sites, their earnings came from their blog about how to make money. A common theme in internet marketing unfortunately.
I spent far too much money on products and a course which were not what I expected. Again, from listening to the wrong bloggers. The wasted time on these things is actually worse than the money itself, although I suspect I spent over US$4000 on crap.
WarningBe very careful who’s advice you listen to. Anyone who makes money from people wanting to make money online rather than from actually making money online from other sources should make you VERY weary.
Of course these people are good at putting up a front so it can be hard to tell. Just don’t take anything at face value. And this advice also applies to blogging, not just building niche sites.
FYI: I do not put myself in this category as I barely make any money from this blog, it is definitely a labour of love! I would be far better off building another niche site!
Should you build a niche site?
This is obviously a personal decision. It is easy to see my success here and want to copy it. However, my general advice is to consider building an authority site rather than a niche site.
What’s the difference?
An authority site is a bigger, more legit site, like my travel blog. It’s one where you are proud to put your name, where you would have social media accounts and would hope to earn natural links.
A niche site is smaller and generally only of interest to a small subset of people. It is not something that is likely to gain subscribers or many social media followers. Read more here.
The problem is that whatever site you build, you NEED a link building strategy. It is generally harder to link build to a niche site than an authority site.
I set up a PBN to link build to my niche site. This was a crazy amount of work so that I could make it look legit so that I hopefully avoid the wrath of google. Most PBN sites I have seen from others are, quite frankly, crap. I am too scared to link exchange anymore as I don’t want to end up with a penalty because of it.
To keep my PBN sites looking legit is also a fair bit of ongoing work. I try to mask these links in my link profile with lots of links from legitimate blogs thanks to having lots of blogging friends. There are only so many times I can get these types of links though.
An authority site lends itself far more to white hat link building – this is links from legitimate sites, like my friend’s blogs, guest posting, doing collaborative posts and a million other ways of white hat link building. On the surface, these links can see like more work, but in practice, I don’t find them as quick to get but they do not take more effort either.
If you build a site with a quality link profile, it is likely to last for far longer. Given how long it took me to start earning decent money from my niche sites, shady link building could get your site penalised faster than you see profits. I personally would rather put in more effort up front and end up with a hopefully longer lasting income.
If you already have an authority site, try to make it work for affiliate commissions. One of the most interesting things for me is just how much quicker I have been able to replicate these earnings on my travel blog. I did not start using Amazon on there until December and I started earning over US$1,100 per month 6 months later.
I hope you have found my niche site updates informative and that they help you build your own niche sites or make a decision about whether to build one. It’s been an interesting journey and one that I would not take back for anything. I made mistakes, but I also made a lot of progress and it has worked out well for me.
I will no longer be writing these updates, but you can keep tabs on how my niche sites are performing in my monthly income reports. Good luck for your own niche sites!
You can now read my second niche site case study which includes all the income from these two sites for the first two years.
You can also find more posts on my case studies and niche sites here.