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: “” not “”
  • 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).

Market Samurai

Try Market Samurai FreeThe 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 (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.

Seed Keyword(s)

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 – – 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!

Also, if you enjoyed this post, I’d greatly appreciate a share on Facebook or a retweet!  To make sure you don’t miss any future updates, subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks!

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42 Responses to “AdSense Micro-Niche Site Public Case Study – Research & Initial Setup (Part 2)”

  1. Thanks for great article. Bookmarked.
    Alan Usen recently posted… Progresso Soup Coupons


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Alan!


  2. This series looks like it’s shaping up really nicely. I’ve been wanting to try out nich-sites as a way to supplement the money I make from article writing, but so far I haven’t made time to take the plunge.

    If the rest of this series as informative as the first article, I’ll have no choice!

    I think you ended up with a pretty promising domain too.
    JustinS recently posted… ‘Showing Your 3D Art’ – Part 3


    Eric G. Reply:

    It’s definitely a great way to mix it up a bit and add some additional income sources to your article writing. It’s more work, but I think it’s worth it.

    Thanks for the comment!


  3. Hi Eric,

    Really a great introduction to the research and how to evaluate the competition.

    In your case, I wonder one thing that I suppose is in next articles or not: in terms of competition “moving in together” sounds good but not in term of advertisers, with just 3 is extremely low. How do you measure this point?

    Other question off topic, how is your experience ranking on Top 10 a Wikipedia entry with your keyword? I don’t know if it’s harder to beat or not 😉


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    Eric G. Reply:

    Hi Gra – I agree that 3 seems low, but with the cost-per-click at $3+, I’m not worried. Also, keep in mind that although that’s the CPC for my target keyword, ads will be based on the entire context. This is going to vary by page (within my site), so the CPCs and advertisers will very.

    Being in the dating niche in general, however, I’m not too concerned, as I know this is generally a more expensive niche for advertisers.

    I’m not sure I understand your other question – I think it’s sometimes easy to outrank Wikipedia, but it depends on the article. Sometimes a Wikipedia article is only ranked highly because the root domain is so powerful, but the actual page doesn’t have many backlinks (or backlinks with our targeted keyword as the anchor text). In these cases, it can be outranked without too much work. It’s always going to be a case by case issue though!


    Gera Reply:

    Eric, I understand from your experience in the dating niche, the content would have different secondary keywords that can have more advertisers.

    Related to Wikipedia, I see the point and this is by each case, depending if the keyword is targeted exactly or not, number backlinks, etc

    Thanks for the feedback you’ve done!

    Gera recently posted… CommentLuv Premium Plugin Review: 7 Reasons Why this Plugin Rocks


  4. Nice going Eric,

    Really curious to see where this is heading.
    One of my niches is getting about 255 views per month but the actual conversion is way to low.. not sure why that is..

    Anyway, its a thing for me to work out I guess :)

    I’ve had quite some good result with Facebook and LinkedIn to generate some traffic so perhaps that is something for you to look at.



    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment Ralph, glad to have you here following along. Traffic can be weird, and not all traffic is equal. I’ll take 10 super relevant and targeted visitors over 100 completely untargeted visitors any day, because you’re much more likely to convert those 10.

    Focus not only on how much traffic you receive, but also on what type of traffic it is (and where it’s coming from). Facebook and LinkedIn seem like they could generate some very well-targeted traffic.


  5. I am looking forward to your next articles. I am just starting into the making small adsense websites. I am gotten the my first three sites to show up on Google’s first page with just doing on page SEO for my main keywords.

    They are all ranked between 5 and 10th place. Now I need to learn more about backlinking, so I can the sites to rank in the first five spots. I am enjoying these projects and have even starting making about $50 a month for the last two months on these three sites. I have very good conversion rates, so I just need to get more traffic.

    Looking forward to your posts,
    Tom Shay


    Eric G. Reply:

    Hey Tom, that’s awesome that you’ve been able to get to page 1 of Google with only on-page SEO. It shouldn’t take too much backlinking to move them up further.

    Also, $50/month across 3 AdSense sites is excellent – keep building those sites and you will have a great source of income before long.


  6. Awesome! If you have not checked out already Jo and Justin at … I suggest you do. They are based here in Davao City and kicking butt in the adsense space


    Eric G. Reply:

    I do follow those guys, and indeed, they are really dominating the niche site space by scaling up their site-building operations.

    Thanks for the comment John!


    Justin Reply:

    Thanks for the mention!
    Justin recently posted… Income Report – October 2011


  7. Hey Eric – great case study here! Love the way you are using Long Tail Pro :) . Looks like you found a low competition keyword indeed. I am always blown away by the interesting domains names that are still available!

    I enjoy these public projects as much as anyone, so thanks for sharing Eric!
    Spencer recently posted… Authority Site Project Update #3 – Earnings!


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Spencer, I appreciate it! LTP is an awesome tool – thanks for building it and making it available. Also, I’m thoroughly enjoying your authority site updates…keep it going!


  8. Hi Eric
    Thanks for the advice on Long Tail Pro, I haven’t heard about it before, only Market Samurai and of course Google Keyword Tool. I look forward to the rest of this niche drilling.


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Jean!


  9. I love following case studies. Sorry the previous one didn’t work out. I wish you all the best with this one and look forward to your reports.
    Victoria @ The PLR Boutique recently posted… Weight Loss PLR – 10 Articles


    Eric G. Reply:

    Success or failure, I think they’re all good learning experiences. Even if this one doesn’t pan out, I’m focused refining processes, especially ones that can be duplicated.

    Even if this site fails, I hope to create enough where the value of the successes outweighs the cost of the failures.


  10. Awesome, Eric. I have MS and love to see how you use Long Tail Pro, the filter feature is a killer. I got Niche Finder couple months ago and got some nice micro-niche domain names too.

    Definitely, I will consider buying Long Tail Pro. I missed the beta on WSO.

    I subscribed to your RSS and love to read your follow-up posts. Thanks!
    Kent @ Make Extra Money Online recently posted… My focus in 2011


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Kent! I’m loving LTP so far and can’t recommend it enough.


  11. Eric, quite an interesting little study. Kind of miffed that I missed it when you were first posting about this. I actually just started my own first micro-niche site and I’ve never done it before. I tried a few of my own little tactics, but Long Tail Pro is definitely something that was missing from my equation.
    Noah Whitmore recently posted… Earnings


    Eric G. Reply:

    No worries Noah – the beauty of these sites is that, eventually, they are quick and easy to create. Plenty of future opportunity still out there.


  12. Hi Eric,

    I made the switch to Long Tail Pro a few weeks ago and love the program! So much faster than Market Samurai. But like you, I still use Market Samurai occassionally for the competition analysis because of the graphical view but not very much. Good luck on this project!

    I too am starting a new strategy on 3 sites creating info products (and a 4th virtual product) but as soon as those are done, I’ll start building a few adsense sites with all the great keywords I’ve found with LTP.
    Harlan Yee recently posted… How Pat’s Niche Site Duel Kept Me Motivated


    Eric G. Reply:

    Hi Harlan – thanks for commenting. It’s nice to have the luxury of using both pieces of software, but as I mentioned (for anyone else reading this who doesn’t own either of them), you only need one or the other. I’m leaning toward LTP right now.

    Sounds like you have a great plan set – looking forward to seeing how well it goes!


  13. I’ve never made the big move to purchase market samurai, and i really don’t have a ton of time to devote to my niche sites (only own a small few) due to a hectic schedule, but i really like what you’re doing with long tail pro and this is, without a doubt, one of the best ‘How To’ series I’ve read about setting up a micro niche site.

    There are a billion resources out there on how to backlink and others on how to do keyword research. But most aren’t free.

    Also been using your backlink tracker for a while now and I love it.

    Can’t wait to read the next series!
    Brendan recently posted… True Protein Discount Code Video!


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks so much for the kind words, Brendan. Glad to see you’re getting something out of this case study and the backlink tracker tool.

    Like you, I don’t have a ton of time either…but the key is making the most of what little free time you may have.


  14. I would like to add, however, that I hate reading blogs like these. Because I read the comments and always find about 5 new people to follow each time! I could spend all day reading!!
    Brendan recently posted… True Protein Discount Code BRD231 Save 10% Off


    Eric G. Reply:

    I know what you mean! It’s hard to figure out where to draw line, before it becomes “information overload.”


  15. Looks good so far eric! Fast analyzing of the top 10. looks like a good tool and i like the interface. The programs i payed $97 for are all slow and it takes forever for them to load any data.
    casey dennison recently posted… How To Install A Submersible Pump


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Casey! LTP is a great tool and works very efficiently for researching keywords and finding good (available) domains. If you’re only going to be building one site, it may not be worth investing in one of these tools, but if you plan on building many sites, LTP (or Market Samurai) is a must have.


  16. Thanks for wonderful post!
    I am following your blog from now on!
    Devine Power recently posted… Type of Physical Therapy Assistant Schools and Physical Therapy Assistant Requirements


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Devine!


  17. I have a question about keyword research that confuses me a lot.
    I found a very good KW and bought EMD. However the long tail related keywords have very low searches and I don’t want that. I want a 10 page website with kws that have at least 1000 searches.

    So my question is can I use keywords that are in the same general niche but not necessarily related to my main keyword?
    For example my main keyword in the EMD is “gold hats” can I have an article on the same website targeting the kw “how to play golf”.

    Thank you


    Ahmed Reply:

    I have a question about keyword research that confuses me a lot.
    I found a very good KW and bought EMD. However the long tail related keywords have very low searches and I don’t want that. I want a 10 page website with kws that have at least 1000 searches.

    So my question is can I use keywords that are in the same general niche but not necessarily related to my main keyword?
    For example my main keyword in the EMD is “golf hats” can I have an article on the same website targeting the kw “how to play golf”.

    Thank you


    Eric G. Reply:

    Yes, you can really target any keywords that you want, but I will point out that it will be easier to target those long tail keywords that share the same keywords found within your domain.

    Also, remember that search volume is not the only thing that makes a good keyword. I’d much rather target a keyword with 500 monthly searches that has NO competition over a 2k/month keyword with a lot of competition. Being at the top of page 1 on Google for a 500 search keyword will yield more traffic than being at the bottom of page one for a 2k search keyword.


  18. Hey Erie, I’m thinking about giving this a try… what do you think about buying an exact match domain for a relatively common misspelling of a major brand?

    I found one that has decent search volume and relatively lowish competition, but I wonder whether people would be more likely to realize their mistake and re-search than click on a misspelled domain–even if it ranks highly.
    JustinS recently posted… 15 Films We’d Love to See Re-released in 3D


    Eric G. Reply:

    Hi Justin,

    That may be worth testing out, however I’d take caution in doing that. I think when you misspell something common in a Google search, Google will redirect you to the correct spelling. Like if you were searching for “Appel computers” it might say “Showing results for ‘Apple computers’ .” So even though you see a high volume of searches for the misspelling, it’s quite possible that most or all of those are just going to be redirected to the proper spelling.


  19. I have a question about keyword research that confuses me a lot. I found a very good KW and bought EMD. However the long tail related keywords have very low searches and I don’t want that.
    if i not take action much about keyword but from good content it is possible?
    sreng vichhay recently posted… Top 10 Best Places to Visit in Canada


    Eric G. Reply:

    If you have a solid primary keyword, I wouldn’t worry about the related low traffic long tail keywords. It may still be worth pursuing anyway.


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