How I Put My Amazon Niche Site Content Creation on Autopilot
Ever since I read Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek, I’ve known about virtual assistants (“VAs”). For whatever reason, even after being constantly reminded about VAs from various blogs that I read, it’s always been something I haven’t fully utilized. Sure, I wrote all about how to create a niche site in 0 hours. Unfortunately, writing about something and actually doing it are two completely different things.
I’ve outsourced a few tasks before – in particular, article writing and backlink building. My results have been mixed. The backlink quality isn’t always great. And the articles, even if they’re decent quality, still take time to format and publish on your niche site. Adding images, formatting, affiliate links, and other miscellaneous things take time.
I complain a lot about not having enough time to get my projects to where they want to be. Maybe Maren Kate’s guest post here about the 80/20 principle and delegation was the kick in the rear that I needed to finally execute on some more advanced outsourcing ideas. Let me tell you about what I did.
The Overall Plan: Growing My Amazon Niche Sites on “Autopilot”
My Amazon niche site challenge has stalled a bit, mainly because I don’t believe I’ve had a good approach to maintaining my niche sites after I create them. You know the story by now with these micro-niche sites:
- Create a site with WordPress.
- Add 5-10 pages of content.
- Add your affiliate links/ads.
- Throw some backlinks at it.
- Pray that you’ve done enough to rank high enough in Google and that your site will start earning money.
Sometimes, the above formula works. I have a few sites like that have remained virtually untouched ever since I finished them, and they continue to earn me a little bit of money on a fairly regular basis. Not a lot of money, but enough money to make my efforts worthwhile.
It seems likely, however, that the above formula may not be a sustainable niche site strategy going forward (especially considering many of the changes Google is making).
So What’s the Correct Approach?
To keep it simple, this is probably the optimal strategy for niche site success:
- More content
- Higher quality content
- More backlinks
- Higher quality backlinks
Simple, right? Easier said than done, of course. There’s no definite recipe for success aside from the vague objectives of “quantity” and “quality.” What you find is that, unless you’re seeing success fairly quickly (which does happen in some cases), you get sucked into this black hole of going through the motions and not knowing when enough is enough. You either give up too soon, or spend too much time focusing on a bunch of minor things that may not ever bring you results.
Unfortunately, I’m not here to give you the exact recipe, because I don’t have it. What I do have, however, is a pretty good solution to part of this recipe, which will allow you to free up a lot of your time.
Content is What Kills Me
As tedious as it may be, I don’t mind building backlinks. With tools like Blog Blueprint and The Best Spinner (affiliate links, because I love both products), it’s very easy to build higher quality backlinks. I can build a few each day for each of my sites, and it honestly doesn’t take too much time.
Content, on the other hand, has no shortcuts. Good quality content, that is. The more niche sites you have (and if you also have regularly-updated blogs like I do), the more difficult it is to keep up with adding content and going beyond the thinner 5-10 page sites that never see an update after they’re built.
Obviously, it’s not a revolutionary idea to hire a VA to write content for you. What I’ve found, however, is that this only gets you part of the way. If the writing is really inexpensive, it probably requires editing (both for grammer and structure). Even if it’s written perfectly, you still need to format it, add images, add affiliate links, and publish it. Not to mention, you probably also need to spend time with a tool like Market Samurai doing research for your article topics and titles. All of that may take less time than it does to write the content itself, but it’s still a non-scalable process.
What I’ve decided to do is take my existing niche sites and outsource the continuous updating of the content, with very little input from me (that’s the key!). For now, I’m still not outsourcing the backlinking process, but if I find a really effective way to do it (that isn’t expensive), I’ll definitely share it.
The Specifics: Here’s Exactly How I Did It
Rather than just give you fluff on why VAs are good (you’ve read about that a million times anyway), I’m going to show you exactly what I did, to the point where you can copy everything I did without much effort.
1) Get an Idea of What You Want the VA to Do
Before you do anything else, you need to clearly define what you hope to accomplish by hiring a VA. These were the basic things I wanted a VA to do, with respect to content creation on my Amazon niche sites:
- Research and come up with content ideas (including titles), staying within the given topic/theme of the niche site.
- Write the actual articles.
- Proofread/edit the articles for proper spelling and grammar.
- Format the articles (proper heading/sub-heading sizes, bold/italics in certain places, etc.)
- Add relevant images to the articles.
- Add my affiliate links to the article (this will require a bit of input from me, which I will explain later).
- Publish the article in WordPress.
2) Plan to Build on Existing Niche Sites
I certainly think you could do this process with a new site that currently has no content, but I prefer to work with my sites that already have content. This way, the VA can see examples of what I’ve written about, how I’ve formatted the articles, etc. I think it increases the chances that I’ll get the results I want.
3) Select Your Preferred Outsourcing Provider & Post A Job
Personally, I’ve used Elance for most of my outsourcing/VA needs. It’s free to post a job, so if you decide not to hire anyone, there’s no cost to you. Keep in mind that your job posting doesn’t need to contain EVERY detail and instruction for the project – stick to the key points and remember that the posting is somewhat public, so I try to leave out URLs and other key details about my site(s). You’ll have an opportunity to send your detailed instructions once you select a provider.
Here’s exactly what my recent job posting looked like (feel free to copy it and modify it to your needs!):
I am looking for a strong writer who has experience using WordPress, to write articles for six different blogs and publish them on those blogs, following a set of guidelines that I will give you upon being hired for this project.
This initial project will be for writing 8 articles at a rate of $7 per article. My intent is to find someone I like working with and have this turn into a long-term project lasting several months. My budget will be $140/month for whoever continues to work with me after this initial project.
Key requirements for this project:
1) Publish 5 articles per week. This initial project will only last 2 weeks, but if we decide to continue this project, we will aim for 5 articles per week.
2) All articles must be 350-500 words. Length will vary based on your discretion.
3) Most articles will be product reviews, but you may also periodically write more informational-type articles.
4) You will be in charge of determining what to write about, provided you stay within the specific topic of each given blog.
5) Content must be 100% unique and must contain nearly error-free spelling and grammar.
1) Strong English writing skills.
2) Intermediate experience using WordPress (able to publish posts, add an image to each post, add hyperlinks to certain words/phrases, etc.)
3) Experience with SEO-writing – In particular, you will need to write each article title in such a way that it is optimized for search engines (i.e. you should strategically select titles that contain phrases and keywords that receive at least some search volume from Google).
As you’ll see later in the post, I sent the provider (who I selected) a more detailed set of instructions and guidelines. With the above project description, I was able to find a native-English speaker/writer to handle the content creation, formatting, and publishing, for only $7/article. To me, this is a bargain, considering how long that entire process would take me.
4) Attract the Right Talent
You’re probably not going to be paying enough money to get any good writer really excited, so it’s important that you specify both your key requirements and an incentive to do a good job. Providing both of these up front is a great way to increase the chances of getting better results (in addition to having clear instructions and paying more money).
Do you need a writer with WordPress skills? Make sure to specify that. Don’t stop there, however. Give examples of what they’ll be doing with WordPress, so that you make sure you don’t get an intermediate user when you actually need an advanced one.
As for incentives, as you saw with the above project description, I usually like to specify that if the person I hire for the project does an excellent job, this project will turn into a long-term working relationship with continuous work on a weekly basis. Obviously, only write this if it’s true. Another possibility is offering the potential for a bonus after each week, provided the work is high quality and all instructions are followed properly (this can be something as little as $1 extra per article).
5) Create Clear and Specific Instructions
This is probably the most important step when using VAs for anything. Once you’ve hired a VA, you need to provide him or her very clear and specific instructions. Not giving this enough attention is probably the #1 reason why some people fail to have a productive experience with VAs, and why good VAs turn away certain clients.
Because I’m holding nothing back in this post, I want to give you the exact instructions I sent my VA (with certain personal information blocked out of course). You can download it here.
6) Empowerment is HUGE
It’s time to step outside your comfort zone and give your VA the authority to make important decisions. I’m allowing my VA to come up with topics and article titles and write about whatever she wants, provided she stays within the topic of the niche site and within the guidelines I have laid out for her.
Not only does this save me time, but it makes my VA feel more important (and they can write about things that may be more interesting to them). This will hopefully increase the chance that we form a longer-term relationship.
7) Be Sure to Give Timely Feedback
If something isn’t being done correctly or to your liking, be sure to communicate your concerns in a timely manner. You may think your initial instructions are clear, but it might be that you were missing key information that you hadn’t thought of when you wrote the instructions. It’s okay. Let your VA know what you want so that they can do it next time.
This process may not turn out as smooth as I’d ideally like to to be (so far though, it’s working well!), but at least now I’ve created a system for myself that allows me to build a niche site and put the content creation on autopilot. Once my VA gets used to working for me and knows what I want, I can easily add more niche sites to the mix, and she will begin working on those with ease.
The key takeaway is this: create systems that free your time and allow you to spend time in areas where you add more value. Hiring VAs is a great way to do this. Sure, it costs money, but the payoff should be greater than the cost. I’m a big believer in reinvesting in your business – it’s one of the best ways to accelerate your growth.
What do you think of my plan? Any key points that I’m missing? Share them in the comments!
If you haven’t already done so, subscribe to my RSS feed so that you don’t miss any updates on my progress. Thanks so much for the support, I really appreciate it!