AdSense Micro-Niche Site Public Case Study – Research & Initial Setup (Part 2)
It’s time to actually get to work on this project! If you didn’t get a chance to read the introduction, you can do so here.
Before we worry about hosting and buying a domain, we need to do our research. Even if you don’t already have a hosting account, I still recommend doing research first. There’s no point in paying for hosting if you don’t even know the basics of the site you’re going to build.
This part of the case study will walk through my entire research process, buying a domain, and figuring out where to host your site. And yes, I will reveal the domain of my micro-niche site!
What Defines an Ideal Micro-Niche Target Keyword?
[Note: Your criteria may be different – these are the guidelines I’m going to follow, but feel free to narrow or widen your parameters.]
These are the basic criteria for which I’ll evaluate keywords for micro-niche sites:
1) Low keyword search volume – There will be exceptions to this rule, but generally micro-niche sites will target low search volume keywords. I will generally focus on keywords with 1,200-6,000 exact searches per month for local monthly searches. I’ll go for keywords that have more than 6,000 exact searches per month if I come across good ones, but most likely the volume will be less than that. I’ll avoid keywords that receive less than 1,200 exact searches per month, but I’m willing to make an exception if I find one that’s particularly appealing.
2) Cost-per-click (CPC) of at least $1.00 – This isn’t necessarily what I can expect to earn from someone clicking an AdSense ad (it could easily be more or less), but I won’t target keywords that show less than $1.00 for the CPC listed in the Google Keyword Research Tool.
3) Low competition – This can be defined in many different ways, but for me, I will look at the top 10 sites on page 1 of Google for a given keyword, and evaluate a few different characteristics (I’ll explain how I do this, later in this post):
- At least two of the top ten search results for the target keyword must have 10 or less backlinks (to the page, not the domain)
- At least two of the top ten search results for the target keyword must have a page rank (PR) of 0
- Most of the ranking sites are not root domains – In other words, I want to see sites that look like this: “www.examplesite.com/example-article” not “www.examplesite.com”
- There are some other things I will take into account on a case by case basis, such as what types of sites are ranking (YouTube and Amazon pages are typically easier to outrank than sites that are clearly created by internet marketers and probably have backlinks with very specific anchor text used).
4) Exact match domain available – At some point I could make an exception to this rule, but for this project, I will be looking for a domain that matches my keyword exactly, with either a .com, .net, or .org extension. I will avoid hyphenated domains unless I think the keyword is exceptionally appealing.
Meeting all of these criteria may increase the time I spend on research, however if I stick to them, I should have a greater chance of being able to create micro-niche sites that will rank on page 1 of Google with limited SEO/backlinking.
The Research Tools I Use
I’ve long been a fan of Market Samurai for niche site research in general, but have recently started using Long Tail Pro, which I think is a better tool for researching keywords for micro-niche sites (and I’ll show you why). Because I own both tools, I’ll use each tool for different things, but you don’t need to purchase both. They can both accomplish what you need, however each has its own strengths (in my opinion).
The nice thing about Market Samurai is that you can try the full version for free, which really means there’s no reason to not try it, since it won’t cost you anything. I’ve written about Market Samurai a lot in the past, and you can view some of my past articles to see ways that I’ve used it (here, here, and here).
As I walk through my research further down in this post, you’ll see which functions I’m using Market Samurai for (vs. Long Tail Pro).
Long Tail Pro
I’ve been using Long Tail Pro since it became available months ago in beta testing, and has recently been released to the public. The reason I (and many others) immediately jumped on this tool was because it was created by Spencer from NichePursuits.com (he wrote a guest post on my blog too). If you’re not familiar with Spencer, he has quickly made a name for himself in the “niche site world” as someone who is absolutely dominating AdSense-monetized, micro-niche sites.
He initially developed Long Tail Pro not to turn it into a business – but to use it himself, for his niche site research. He specifically designed the software to help himself build micro-niche AdSense sites extremely efficiently, because he couldn’t find a tool that could do exactly what he wanted. Now, he earns over $12,000/month with his micro-niche sites, having built over 200 of them.
To me, the best testimonial for a product is that its creator designed the product for himself. It doesn’t even require hype, because you can just read about the personal success he’s had with it. Anyway, I highly recommend it (yes, this is an affiliate link) and you’ll see how I use it below.
Doing Research without Buying Software
Buying research software isn’t a necessity by any means. The Google Keyword Research Tool is great for doing keyword research. There are also free online tools for finding exact match keyword domains, such as Exact Match Finder.
Researching competition is a bit more difficult to do manually, and it a bit outside the scope of this article. If you want to check one of the top 10 ranking site’s PR, you can do it here. There are also various tool bars you can install, depending on which browser you use. There are also numerous sites online that’ll allow you to check the backlinks to a particular site for free – here’s an example of one of them. Be careful, as these “free” tools will often try to sell products and services to you.
Let’s Research Our Keyword
As I’ve said before, this is probably the most critical part of the niche site creation process because your chosen keyword is going to affect your search engine ranking and the traffic your site will receive, which will drastically impact your site’s earning potential.
Before we can start evaluating keywords, we need a starting point. Sometimes this is difficult because you may not have any good ideas off the top of your head. To get ideas, I like to browse article sites such as Info Barrel or Hub Pages, because these sites contain tons of content, much of which has been researched by internet marketers. To be clear – we’re not looking to rip off content. We’re just looking for seed keywords to get the ball rolling. This may take some trial and error at first until you settle on a good keyword. Feel free to try several seed keywords at once.
The seed keyword I started with was moving.
As you can see from the screenshot from Long Tail Pro, make sure you you have the match type set to “Exact” and that you are logged into Google Adwords (which will allow you to see many more keyword results).
Applying Filters & Finding an Exact Match Domain
Normally, this wouldn’t all be one step, but Long Tail Pro allows you to do it all at once, which to me is the most valuable feature of the software. Because you can do step so quickly and all at once, I will typically do my search for exact match domains before I’ve even evaluated the competition.
This seems backwards, but it works better this way given the speed of this step in the process. In other words, I first gather my keywords and identify available domains based on the filters below, and then I evaluate the competition to decide whether or not I should buy the domain.
First, I want to tell Long Tail Pro to check for domain availability and check for exact match domains.
Next, I want to apply the other filters that I discussed earlier.
Now, it’s time to let the software do all the hard work! Click on Generate Keywords.
Long Tail Pro will begin processing your request – it usually goes pretty quickly, but the speed will depend on the number of keywords it returns, and what kind of filters you place on the search. Here’s what my search came up with (click image to enlarge):
Although I really wasn’t targeting the “dating” niche with my seed keyword, it looks like the keyword “moving in together” fits my criteria. Granted, the local search volume is on the low end of what I want, but the CPC figures to be decent given the fact that the dating niche is a lucrative one. We’re not ready to buy the domain yet though – we need to check out our competition.
Evaluating the Competition
This is something that can easily be done in Long Tail Pro (in fact, it can be done very quickly in Long Tail Pro by simply clicking on your keyword in the keyword research results), but for whatever reason, I like to do it in Market Samurai (not because it’s any better, but because it’s more visually appealing to me).
Here’s what the keyword “moving in together” looks like with respect to its competition on page 1 of Google (click to enlarge image):
Looks like we have a successful keyword to target! As you’ll notice 4 of the top 10 ranking pages have a PR of 0. Even better, 5 of the top 10 pages have no backlinks pointing at them. It appears that it should be reasonably easy to get onto page 1 of Google for my target keyword with a bit of SEO work. Nothing is guaranteed, however. It’s possible that, despite meeting the “easy competition” criteria, this keyword could still be difficult to rank for.
The Initial Set-Up
Before we can actually start building the site, we need to make sure we have two crucial things: a hosting provider, and a domain.
The nice thing about most hosting packages, as you may know, is that they allow you to host unlimited domains. There are a lot of different hosting companies out there, and for the most part, all of the “big names” are pretty good. Right now, I use Host Gator for all of my websites.
Although I can technically have unlimited domains on my Host Gator hosting account, I think it’s good to not have “all of your eggs in one basket.” With that said, I’ve decided to open a second hosting account at BlueHost. I’ve heard nothing but great things about them, and their rates are very competitive – hosting is only $6.95/month, and with your initial signup, you get a free domain. $6.95/month may seem like a lot to spend if you only have one micro-niche site, but over time as you add new sites, this monthly amount (on a per site basis) becomes increasingly insignificant.
Although the first domain on BlueHost is free, the rest are not. I actually opened my BlueHost account a few weeks ago for another site I started, so for this project, I’ll be buying a domain through GoDaddy. I own over 25 domains through them, and have never had any problems.
When you purchase a domain through GoDaddy for your BlueHost hosting account, you need to make sure to tell GoDaddy to point the domain to BlueHost. You do this by setting the nameservers, which is shown in the screenshot below:
Domains will usually cost $10+ each, however you can discount them at GoDaddy with the following coupon codes:
- FAN3 – $7.49 .COM domains
- YES749 – $7.49 .NET domains
- FAN749 – $7.49 .ORG domains
Looks like we’re definitely off to a good start here! My micro-niche site – www.movingintogether.net – doesn’t figure to be a high traffic site initially, but with low competition and a reasonably high cost-per-click, I should be primed for a profitable site.
The next article in this case study will cover the actual website setup & design, including my plan for ad placement (which is crucial to the success with these types of sites!). What do you think of my plan so far? Are you following along with your own site? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
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