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:

  1. Create a site with WordPress.
  2. Add 5-10 pages of content.
  3. Add your affiliate links/ads.
  4. Throw some backlinks at it.
  5. 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:

  1. More content
  2. Higher quality content
  3. More backlinks
  4. 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:

  1. Research and come up with content ideas (including titles), staying within the given topic/theme of the niche site.
  2. Write the actual articles.
  3. Proofread/edit the articles for proper spelling and grammar.
  4. Format the articles (proper heading/sub-heading sizes, bold/italics in certain places, etc.)
  5. Add relevant images to the articles.
  6. Add my affiliate links to the article (this will require a bit of input from me, which I will explain later).
  7. 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.

Key qualifications:

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.

Conclusion

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!

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30 Responses to “How I Put My Amazon Niche Site Content Creation on Autopilot”

  1. I think the main learning point here is that you as the business owner create systems rather than products.

    While this is difficult when you as an entrepreneur want to focus on building the product, it pays off designing the whole process up front.

    I’m not really into niche sites but I do have a content writer working full time for me.

    In my system I have an seo guy giving her instructions each Monday on what articles he wants written for that week. So I only have to discuss the week’s goals with one guy but have two working on the same goals. This has worked fine for a month now.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Great point, Rasmus. Getting a system into place allows others to create products for you (whatever those may be for your business), based on your specifications.

    I like the idea of having someone to manage a VA, so that you only have to give instructions once, but have two people working on your projects. Nice. :)

    [Reply]

    Rasmus Reply:

    I think the whole “setting up a system” way of thinking can be seen very well in Robert Kiosaki’s Cashflow Quadrant.

    A bit inspired by this I wrote a small post on why you as an online entrepreneur should care about this :)
    http://my4hours.com/robert-kiyosaki-cashflow-quadrant

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing, Rasmus.

  2. Hey Eric,

    Love that you’re taking a structured approach to this; it’s something that I’ve been working on lately as well.

    Because we have the knowledge and access to resources we generally jump right in but what I’ve been doing is basically laying out the exact roadmap and structure that I want in my sites now.

    This understanding of the ‘process’ can be applied to other things too. Your blueprint for writing, for example, is insanely detailed and structure that people will be able to take it and run with it no problem. You don’t have to spend hours explaining what to do.

    One other suggestion I would make is to maybe do a video or two for your VA if they have any questions that way you can use it again in the future as your own form of business documentation.

    Other than that, spot on man, really awesome stuff!
    Murray Lunn recently posted… How to Start a Niche Online Business- A Foreword

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Hey Murray – I like the idea of creating video. That’s probably a solid way to clearly communicate what you want, and it might even be easier than writing instructions.

    For whatever reason, I still haven’t gotten into doing video (for this blog, or for anything else), but I KNOW it’s something I need to get around to one of these days. Thanks for the comment man, I appreciate it.

    [Reply]

  3. Hey Eric! You have a great post! great website also! Easy to navigate. If you could, when you have the time, I’d like for you to take a look at my new personal blog, similar to what you are doing. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

    Question, are you only doing Amazon affiliate website building? Please comment, waiting for your response. Also, how long does it take for you to target and hit 1st place in google, and what type of competitive keyword are you targeting, in relation to using Market Samurai?

    Cheers!
    ShaKd recently posted… 3rd Update to Niche Site – Still a Rise in Traffic

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Hey ShaKd – To answer your question, most of my niche sites are Amazon-focused right now, but I do have a few that focus on Clickbank products and one where I make money off private advertising.

    As for hitting #1 on Google…it totally varies on the keyword, the niche, and your site. I’ve hit #1 before but it’s been temporary. Right now, I don’t have any sites that are actually at #1, but I do have a couple that are at least on the 1st page. For me, traffic has been okay, but conversion (i.e. click-to-sales ratio) has been terrible.

    As for keywords, they vary on each site. I usually target one main keyword (one that receives decent traffic) and a few lesser-traffic keywords.

    Hope that answers your questions!

    [Reply]

  4. I think you should be able to find some REALLY good talent for that budget. I once had a pack of 18 articles written at $4-5 an article and it turned out really well.

    I love the fact that you are trying to automate too. This is definitely more of a business and system approach than a project website approach.

    Good luck!
    Eugene recently posted… 42 Internet Stars Share Their “Impossible” Accomplishments

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Eugene. Yeah, I know I could get decent articles for $4-5 each, but then to find someone who will format them, add images, add links, publish them, etc. I figured I needed to pay a little more. For me, it’s definitely worth the added cost.

    [Reply]

  5. VA’s huh.. heard a lot about it too and I still have to decide if I am going to get that up and running.

    I find article marketing also a very good items. Paid 5 bucks for a high quality 1500 word article.

    Perhaps an idea..

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    I’d highly recommend outsourcing content creation for niche sites – definitely worth it if you can find someone who can write well (it’s worth paying extra for a good writer). I’d much rather pay $6 for an article that I don’t have to touch than $4 for an article that I need to spend 20 minutes editing.

    [Reply]

    Ralph Reply:

    Where I source some of my articles is easyplr.com.

    Holla!

    [Reply]

  6. I’ve never had success with this kind of sites. Maybe because you need to put a lot of work into finding a niche easy enough to rank on with just a few articles and without daily update. Takes a lot of research, and that’s where i usually fail hard.
    Maria Pavel recently posted… CNA Training in California

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    You’re right, Maria, it’s not easy. It’s been several months since I’ve created these sites, and they’re still not earning much.

    With that said, I am starting to see earnings climb, and I think it’s only a matter of time before I’m earning decent amounts on a consistent basis. Having this content creation strategy in place (utilizing a VA) is going to go a long way toward increasing my rankings and just getting more content out there (which should increase traffic, because I’ll be ranking for more long-tail keywords).

    [Reply]

  7. Great post. I try to outsource some of the content creation when I have a chance and even doing just a little bit of delegation can really make a big difference in speeding up the process and getting things going. I’ll be curious to see what you think as the process continues. Best of luck!
    Master Dayton recently posted… Freelance Writing 2011- So What Now

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Master Dayton. I’ll definitely continue to post updates on this process as I get a bit more experienced with it and refine it.

    [Reply]

  8. Hey E! I’m working on developing niche sites using Amazon as well. I haven’t outsourced any of the content creation yet. Using the Best Spinner and Unique Article Wizard, the writing part, for the most part, is taken care of.

    VAs are definitely the way to go, especially those task you don’t know how to do or feel like doing. Your tips and expectations for working with VAs are spot on!

    Awesome post, man!
    Kevin Douglas recently posted… Link Love Friday- Episode 2

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Kevin! Great to hear that you’re creating Amazon niche sites as well. I love The Best Spinner and UAW, great tools – definitely helps with the backlinking process. Looking forward to reading about your progress.

    [Reply]

  9. Nice how you creating an autopilot with these formula.. I can understand why article content and higher quality backlinks must be pretty huge factors with these sites. Thanks for sharing!

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Kevin!

    [Reply]

  10. Hi Eric,

    Working on niche websites is something hard to do but once you get the trick of getting to the top it gets easier and you start working a lot much harder. It’s very important to work daily or as much as possible in order to gain more experience. It’s hard to work on niche websites as I said, but it’s extremely well-paid if you know how to do it the right way. Having a niche site on autopilot is absolutly genious. This article is a open-minder, thank you very much!
    Adrian recently posted… Building a Barn Shed

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    You’re welcome Adrian, and thanks for the comment! :)

    [Reply]

  11. Hi Eric,

    Just found out about your blog. Good stuff you are sharing here. Thanks!!

    I’m outsourcing all of my content writing as well but so far haven’t been ready to outsource the actual publishing. It’s always hard to trust somebody to do something you know you’re good at. On the other hand it does free a lot of your time and after all those are just admin tasks.

    Let us know in a couple of weeks how it does work for you. Maybe by then I’ll definitively try to outsource more tasks.
    Eric Sangerma recently posted… Is Google giving a Higher Rank to a Website which runs AdSense

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Hey Eric – I know, it is really hard to outsource something that you’re good at. It’s all a matter of where you feel your time is most valuable. Do those things, and outsource the rest (ideally).

    My original provider for this project fell through (she had some kind of family problems preventing her from continuing the work) so I’m currently getting a new VA started on it. We’ll see how it goes.

    [Reply]

  12. How’s it going with the VAs? Happy with the work. I’m still yet to do it as far as you have. I have people writing and making links but not actually touching my sites!
    J recently posted… Just Can’t Get the Staff

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    It’s going okay – my current VA doesn’t quite have the writing skills I was hoping for, so I expect to try out at least 1-2 more before I settle on one who will hopefully work for me for a long time.

    [Reply]

  13. Hey Eric

    I might have a writer that you could be interested in. She’s very good, but I cannot really fill her time (I don’t have a lot of niche sites for her to work on like you do :) ).

    You can contact me if you’re interested.
    Rasmus recently posted… Books I recommend again and again

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Hey Rasmus, sounds good, thanks – I may e-mail you if my current writers don’t work out.

    [Reply]

  14. Can this really be done on autopilot? Would make my dreams come true :) )
    I believe bringing new quality content poses problems to everyone after a while, since we’re not pro writers, but just normal bloggers. The key is to find someone trustworthy to write the content, someone that won’t leave you hanging without warning. Easier said than done.
    Amit recently posted… OSHA Rules and Regulations for Forklift Operators

    [Reply]

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