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 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 Dell.com, HP.com, Apple.com, 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!]