The One Question No One Seems to be Asking About Niche Sites

Let’s face it – niche sites are hot right now.  Everywhere you look, people are creating niche sites, blogging about niche sites, and coming up with all sorts of strategies to make money with them. There are a few sites out there with excellent information, but for the most part, people generally seem to regurgitate and rehash the same things.

With that being said, there are a few things out there that I don’t think get discussed very often, probably because there’s no “correct” answer. The other day, on this post, one commenter (Dave) left a very detailed comment and brought up an interesting question.  It wasn’t something I’ve seen discussed much online, so I thought my response to him deserved to come in the form of a blog post.

The Question

The basic question was this: “How do know when a niche site is ‘complete’? When can you stop tinkering with it, and move onto something else?”

Here was the original comment from Dave:

Interesting discussion you started here Eric. It’s easy to spend the up front effort to build a site and then become discouraged when the ranks, traffic, and dollars don’t show up as quickly as we’d like.

I put up 8 sites and my traffic wass low. I stepped back and self assessed and relized that the sites had only been live a month and more importantly, I my KW reseach was bad and the traffic would probably never be real good.

Lesson learned, and my refined approach to KW search and even to the article sourcing and site build process was improved for my next batch. I have about 4 new sites up a couple weeks – too early for results – but I know my process has improved and will continue to do so.

A topic that jumped out at me, that I’m not seeing in the comments is about knowing when you’re done. You rightly differentiate a site being live vs. being complete.

How do you define this difference?

It is easy to do too things… over tinker with a site and not move on, or production line a string of half baked sites. How do you define the sweet spot in the middle??

Reading from several sources, mostly you and Spencer I’ve crafted the following approach.

1 – research KW, buy domain
2 – ID 4 article titles and have these outsourced. 1 of the artiles is purposely short.
3 – post 3 articles with interlinking across the articles on my site
4 – set up Privacy, About, Contact, Terms, pages
5 – set up adsense
6 – wait 1 week
7 – release the short article through MAN
8 – Order a UAW 5er gig also using the short artile

…wait… I’ve only started this process since mid January so not enough time has passed to see if this will work. But based on ideas from Spencer, this is a numbers game so start with a small site and build on those that show promise. I’m currently waiting for the promise. And meanwhile, continuing the building.

When I complete those 8 steps, I consider them done, pending the need to grow the good ones.

Thoughts on this? How do others know when to “move on”, rather than contiuing to tinker??

Here’s What I Think

This question is somewhat similar to one I answered a while back, how to know when to give up with niche sites, except that post focused more on failure than success.  In this case, we’re looking more at how you know when a niche site is complete and successful, so that you don’t continue to put more and more time and money into it.

I will immediately point out that we are not talking about authority-style websites, because you’re never truly done with one of these unless you sell it or declare “failure.”  These types of sites generally require continuous work and interaction that extends beyond simply writing content.

1) At a minimum, you are on page 1 of Google for your target keyword.

I think we can all agree that this is a very common, basic goal that we all have when we create niche sites (especially micro-niche sites).  While a site can be successful without this (due to other long-tail traffic and page 2 traffic for very high volume keywords), you could hardly consider a site “complete” if it’s not yet on page 1 – at least, not early on.

2) Your traffic and earnings appear “as good as they can be.”

It goes without saying that traffic is the #1 determinant of earnings.  No traffic = no earnings (but the converse isn’t always true – you can have decent traffic but still low or no earnings).  Therefore, if your site is ranking #1 for its target keyword and you’ve reasonably monetized your site (either with ads, opt-ins, affiliate links, etc.) but your site still doesn’t really get much traffic (and thus, doesn’t earn much), you might need to consider it complete and move on.

I’m not saying to immediately discard the website, and I’m not even saying that you shouldn’t renew the domain at the end of the year.  Even if the site is earning $5/month at that point, it’s still profitable to renew the domain ($60/year earnings vs. $10/year renewal fee).  All I’m saying is, you should consider the site “complete” and move onto something else.

If the site does receive solid traffic (but doesn’t earn much), I wouldn’t move on until I’ve tested different types of monetization, ad layouts, etc.  But if that doesn’t work, and your site is already ranked #1 (or #2-3), your site is probably “as good as it can be.”  Maybe you picked a bad niche or bad keyword – that’s fine.  Move on – there is more money to be earned elsewhere.

3) Setting goals for your niche site is ultimately meaningless.

I don’t think setting individual niche site goals is a bad idea – I simply think it’s going to be meaningless in the end.  For example, you might set a goal of earning $50/month from a niche site, and you find yourself a few months later earning $60/month from that site.  Great, we met our goal! It’s time to call it a success and move on, right? Wrong.  

If anything, surpassing a niche site goal is more of a reason to keep working on it.  When your site is failing, it’s hard to determine when to give up, but when you’re finding a lot of success, it’s easy – keep working on it.  You’ve found a great niche, or Google seems to really like your site (or both).  Either way, you’ve crafted a real asset – one that can probably continue to grow and become more valuable.

Add more content. Try to rank for other related keywords.  Trying to make $70/month from a site that’s currently earning $50/month is a lot easier than trying to earn $10/month from a site that’s earning $1/month.

You may get to a point where your added effort doesn’t seem to be getting you anywhere, and this is when you should refer back to #2 above.

4) Re-examine your page 1 competition.

Hopefully when you initially performed your niche site research, you evaluated your Google page 1 competition.  That’s great, but it was probably at least a few months ago.  If your site is currently ranking #8 and you’re not sure if you should keep putting work into it, go back to your research process.  How does site #7 look? What about the others above it?

If there’s legitimate room for you to improve, take advantage of it.  However, if all the sites above you are high PR, high-level authority sites, it may be time to move on, assuming you’ve already added content to go after some related, secondary keywords.  For example, if you’re targeting “lightweight laptops” and all of the sites above you are,,, etc., you probably have no chance to outrank these sites (without a lot of work).

5) Take a look at where you’re at on the timeline and don’t forget to go back.

If you created a site one month ago and feel you’ve done all the necessary steps (both with content and SEO), don’t make the decision yet on whether or not to consider the site “complete.”  Websites take time to age, and Google isn’t going to find all of your backlinks immediately.

It’s okay to pause one niche site and move onto another, but make sure you revisit the earlier site.  There’s no magical point in time where you should do this, but keep the site on your radar.  Follow its progress, both in earnings and rankings, on a regular basis.  Maybe set a reminder every month to revisit the site and see what else you can do to improve it.

One personal example that I had recently, was when I revisited a site I created over a year ago that I hadn’t really touched in many months.  When I went back to it, I realized that there were some new on-page SEO strategies that I had learned over the past few months, which I never applied to this site.  I made a few a minor tweaks, and over the next few days, the site actually improved in its rankings by 2 spots.

I think we sometimes grow bored with our older sites, and we’re content to let them fade into mediocrity.  We’re more interested in our current and future projects, that we tend to neglect our older projects.


Dave, I hope I answered your comment and questions adequately, and thanks for giving me the inspiration to write this blog post.  Hopefully others who read this will also find it helpful.

Does anyone else out there have some other suggestions or tips on how to determine when a site is “complete” and it’s time to move on?  Share them in the comments! :)

[As a site note, if you found this post interesting or helpful, I’d greatly appreciate a retweet or share on Facebook/Google+. Thanks!]

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26 Responses to “The One Question No One Seems to be Asking About Niche Sites”

  1. Hey Eric. Good writeup. Is the niche site currently your major focus?


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Rasmus – and yes, niche sites are my current focus.


  2. Selecting your niche and targeted audience are primary factors in setting up a site. Well, don’t forget to set up your goals and plans for it. If you figure that all out, the rest will be easy to manage. Focusing on your content is a great mindset.
    Ms.Amber recently posted… 2012 prophecy


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Ms. Amber. I agree – if you can find a good niche, set up a solid plan, and focus on good content, you’ll right on your way to success (but don’t forget about SEO!).


  3. good question and good answers. for me personally, when my top X keywords are ranking #1, i know it is time to move on. it’s about balancing effort/resources to return (ROI essentially).

    i have some niche sites where the site is ranked #1 for only the main keyword and i meant it to be that way (remaining keywords have low search demand)

    i have other sites where the site is #1 for 5 keywords because i deliberately meant it to be that way.

    then i have 2 particular sites that are in such broad niches that the “work” doesn’t end. there is always scope to expand as there are countless keywords within the niche that have high search demand. of course one has to balance the competition, again for ROI analysis purposes.

    basically a long winded way to say that in my opinion, you first determine the number / type of keywords you want to rank #1 for and you work toward that. once there, you determine whether there is scope for expansion. if the potential is not too attractive from an ROI perspective, you research a new niche and replicate the process.

    it is also important to realize that what starts as a niche site can also be turned into an authority site eventually.
    Sunil l Expediting Wealth Through Extra Income recently posted… How to Get Your Web Pages & Blog Posts Quickly in the Search Engine Index


    Eric G. Reply:

    Hey Sunil – thanks for stopping by to comment. It definitely makes sense to move on once you’ve hit #1 and you don’t plan on doing much for the secondary keywords, and I usually find that when I’m ranking very well for my target keyword, I naturally get a lot of traffic from secondary, longer tail keywords anyway.

    Thinking in terms of ROI is a great perspective to take too – we should always be thinking, “how can my next incremental minute of work provide me the most value, both in the short and long term?” Work “close to the money” while keeping the long-term in mind as well.


  4. Have to agree with Sunil, when I’ve reached the #1 spot it’s time to move on to something else. It’s a great post and you really have to know where that balance is in order to decide.
    Jim Jenks recently posted… Melaleuca’s Sei Bella Beauty Products


    Eric G. Reply:

    Yep, absolutely. I know the more difficult part is when you really don’t think you can get to #1 or #2…it becomes a more tricky situation to figure out.


  5. Good stuff Eric, thanks for taking on my question. I’ll certainly track the responses for other ideas.

    As I love the discussion, I’ll try to keep it rolling.

    I don’t want to parse words too much, but there’s really two flavors of done.

    There’s “DONE”, in which you’ve ranked as high as you can, and really tapped out the potential – good or bad – that the site has to offer.

    And there’s “done”. This is where I was really focusing my questions and you hit it well in your point 5.

    I create a batch of sites – using my 8 step process – and those sites are “done”. I’ve mixed the cake batter and now it’s baking. How long till it’s “DONE” and how it will taste is another matter.

    My original problem is knowing when to step back and let nature have its way with the site. I can write another article or submit to another directory until I’m an old man and with very marginal results. At some point its time to cut bait and build the next site.

    The 8 steps – and in reality, it’s closer to 50 steps that fall into 8 categories is the metric I use. Once those are complete, I force (or allow) myself to move on.

    Now I love your idea or revisiting old sites. And one tactic I’ll deploy is to continually add to my go-live check list. Today it’s 50, tomorrow it’ll be 55 and so I should plan to visit all live sites to add in those 5 new steps.. and so on.

    I see accomplishing that check list as “done”. Since all my sites are so new, I’ve not yet defined my “DONE”, but it’s an interesting thought.

    It reminds me of Forest Gump and the dude who kept talking about shrimp and how it could be prepared. Each of those are articles that could be added to a niche site. But not all sites deserve that kind of treatment.

    It also reminds me of the saying that pornograhy can’t be defined but you know it when you see it. I can’t define “DONE” but I hope to know it when I see it.

    Great topic… appreciate the treatment and look forward to the comments.


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for inspiring this post, Dave – definitely an interesting discussion!

    I understand the question you’re really focused on, and it is difficult to really define. For me, once I’ve essentially done the “8 steps” you’ve laid out, I consider myself “done with the initial work” but not “done.”

    Each site needs to be taken on a case by case basis, of course. For one site, the initial 8 steps might get you nowhere, and you may decide to scrap that project altogether in favor of working on things that have a greater potential.

    On the other hand, the initial 8 steps might get you to #1 in Google, and you may decide you don’t need to do much work to keep this site in an “optimal” state.

    Then there’s the in between…where most of our sites are. I think we can agree that these sites are very likely not 100% complete after the “8 steps.” Of course, you can let them sit and hope they work out on their own, but it’s generally good to revisit the site at least once or twice, months into the future (in my opinion).


  6. For me, I feel “complete” when I hit a point where the traffic starts to level out. Sure, I could probably do more to get even more traffic but I think it’s a great point to start testing different offers.

    For example, just recently I decided to completely remove some ads from one of my niche sites and, instead, replace it with a new product; earnings have been far more significant than the other even though it’s the same traffic numbers.

    Once you have a steady flow of traffic – your numbers are more accurate than some wild spike that you can’t really base anything off of.

    Also, I generally move on to new projects just because I need to be working on new things – it’s a personal thing – I come back to older projects time to time but I like the thrill of building things from scratch.
    Murray Lunn recently posted… Everyday Marketing: Online Strategies for Offline Businesses


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment Murray, and I agree with what you’re saying. Once a site gets to that “sweet spot” and has reliable, steady traffic, you definitely have more flexibility to do some testing and see how you can get the most out of that traffic (vs. spending your time on trying to get more traffic).

    And I’m the same way as you – if I’m not working on new projects in some capacity, I get bored. Sometimes it works against me when I leave projects unfinished, but I’m usually good about going back to the older stuff.


  7. Eric, I learned something new from you today – take a reader question and be helpful answering in a blog post.

    I saw Dave question in your last post, but didn’t think through. :)

    For me, I would wait for 3 months to see if a niche site is potential or not. If it’s worthy, I will add new posts and drive more backlinks to rank it. Or not, I will just move on.

    As Sunil said, it’s all about ROI. Shall I spend more time on that Niche Site, or just move on creating new ones.

    Recently, I learned that I would just focus on a few authority sites and create/rank new posts. Since they are making money, why don’t I grow them more and drive more traffic to them instead of thinning myself and build new ones taking much more time to rank. (This is just what I have been experiencing in Feb.)

    My 2 cents!
    Kent @ Niche Marketing Tips recently posted… How to select the best Amazon Product to promote


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Kent – I do like taking a good comment/question and turning it into a blog post because it forces you to tackle “real” issues that people are having vs. focusing on some of the more theoretical stuff.

    3 months is a good time frame to wait as a general rule of thumb, but I tend to take sites on a case by cases basis. If I’m 3 months in but at month 2 I realized something new I can do with the site, I’ll give that site more time to get better.

    Focusing on a few authority sites is also a great way to go – I can see how you could derive more value from that vs. smaller niche sites.


  8. Good day Eric, your post is packed with great information and I do agree on your statement you’ve mention. I learn something by reading all of your post. It generates my idea on what you have said in the conclusion and those “HERE’s WHAT I THINK” numbered list. Thanks for sharing this one. Its been 2months focusing on my niche.
    Farrel recently posted… XHTML Special Characters


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Farrel! :)


    Farrel Reply:

    Eric, its been 5 days you were out? What happen?
    Farrel recently posted… XHTML Special Characters


  9. If the site is making money then I would probably start looking at ways of reinvesting that money back into the site by looking for more keywords I could target with the site.

    Adding more pages/content would also be away to help it stay at number one as Google seems to like sites that get updated often.

    I think going back to sites at pre set intervals to add more content is essential if you want to hold your rankings so in that sense a site is never finished!
    Joe recently posted… Another Free Pinging Tool


    Eric G. Reply:

    I’m a big fan of reinvesting earnings. You’re right that if you keep planning on adding content, your site will never be finished. For many sites, I think this is true.

    However, if you do good keyword research in the beginning and you find niches that are truly low competition, you hopefully won’t need to do a lot of maintenance work to keep your high rankings.


  10. For me it depends on what kind of niche site we are talking about. If its a micro niche site or a larger authority site. Obviously there are many variations of these.

    If we are talking about a micro niche site my general rule of thumb is I get my starting pages up, usually 5-10 with content and begin ranking for those. I use on-page SEO techniques and some basic back-link strategies, nothing crazy at first. If I did my research at the beginning correctly then my site should be ranking after a month. If its not, or it just not seeing the traffic I was hoping for, or the consumers for this niche are not so click happy then I move on!

    However if I do start to see rankings and the traffic I was hoping for, I will begin to extend my back-linking so I can move up to number one.

    I guess my point is, its on a case by case basis, but bottom line, if its not making anything, not worth putting time into!
    Chris | Sminso recently posted… A passive income lesson I learned while playing soccer


    Eric G. Reply:

    Great comment, Chris – your approach is very similar to mine. It’s definitely something you need to determine on a case by case basis. If you’ve been patient enough and the site still isn’t working for you, your time and money are better spent working on new sites with higher potential.


  11. I have an Amazon niche site currently doing ok. The best thing about Amazon sites is that around Christmas time people just go beserk. Its funny they leave my fitness equipment mini site and end up buying an LCD TV and about 10 other gifts. That is why amazon is awesome.


    Eric G. Reply:

    I agree, Alex – Christmas is phenomenal for Amazon affiliates. If you can just get decent traffic to an Amazon affiliate site during that time, it’s pure gold.


  12. Currently I own close to hundred small niche sites and most of them are successful because of load of content.
    I post one article each week on each and every site that I have. Of course it costs a lot in maintenance but I don’t have to build new links as it happens “organically” due to many fresh articles. Content is still the king of SEO but still not many webmasters realize that.

    Thanks Eric for ideas!
    Steven recently posted… Vocabulary Level E Answers


    Eric G. Reply:

    Wow, that’s great Steve. I can’t imagine doing one post per week on 100 sites – you must have a ton of content out there! Thanks for commenting!


  13. Way to success in a good niche, set up a solid base, and if we focus on unique content you can easily achieve the goal.


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