If you’re starting your first niche site as I am, you’re yet to start a niche site or you’ve been into it for sometime, you will find this first update of my niche site challenge helpful.
In case you’re yet to read the post where I announced my niche site challenge here’s the summary of how I got here.
- I am in the business of online content writing and I already have a few sites to my name; some doing well. Even though I have created some successful websites, I have never built a niche site.
- The success a business colleague is having with niche sites, the build rank and profit business model motivated me to venture into the business. And I decided to use the whole of 2016 to build and grow 3 niche websites.
- I decided to document my process and progress to keep me motivated to start and build all 3 sites like I have planned and grow them all to success, taking one at a time. And also to provide an up to date resource of the strategies for building a niche site that works for 2016 and beyond.
If you’re reading this and wondering what a niche site is, then you should read the home page of the blog where I clearly explained that.
How to Start Your First Niche Site
When I decided to start a niche website I was very happy. In fact I was so happy to get started that I couldn’t concentrate on other things I had wanted to do before starting out. I guess this is why many people find themselves always starting a new project but never completing any. There’s this excitement and motivation you get each time you want to start a new project. It’s the same excitement that comes with a new year. I guess it has to do with New Hope of better things to come.
I know for me it has to do with new hope; but also because I want to win. I’ve always wanted to create a site that becomes a go-to site in its niche. Each time I start a new site project I’m always thinking ‘this will be the game changer’. And I’m hoping this one will be the game changer for me in terms of website traffic and income growth.
So how do you get started with your first niche website? How did I get started?
Well, when you’re about to start something you have never done, the first logical thing to do to help your chances for success is to learn from those who have done what you want to do.
I wanted to know any and everything about building niche sites so that I could increase my chances for success when I start. I researched and researched. Read and read. And I was glad I did, because during one of such research I found cloudincome.com and it’s been a great resource for me, especially for my keyword research. More on this later
Strategies for Building a Niche Site
This is was what I hoped to learn from the research I was doing. There’s a lot being said about how to build successful niche sites and there are some techniques shared by experts that conflict with each other.
I recently read an article where several experts revealed their secrets for growing a niche website. There I found some advice that conflict with each other, and that’s normal because different people with different things working for them. But there were a few things they all agreed on and they are:
- Produce quality content. If you’re outsourcing make sure what you get is of quality.
- Thoroughly research your niche; especially do keyword research if you’re going to rank your site quickly and make money in the niche.
The others are what you’ll normally do when building an authority site. That is, aim to become an expert in your niche; and that means you have to be passionate about the niche you choose, foster relationships with other bloggers and create a system for quality content creation and promotion. Nothing out of the ordinary.
With my experience online and what I know about SEO, the amount of effort you have to put into a niche site to achieve your goal depends on the existing competition for it.
I have no intention of building relationship with other bloggers in other to promote the sites I will be creating.
I am not using expired domain name as recommended by Lewis Ogden of cloudincome.com. He insists that if you buy and use an expired domain name for a niche site, especially one with a few backlinks to it you can rank the site within weeks or even days.
most niche site builders go with a brand new domain that’s never been registered before and I think that’s a HUGE mistake.
Despite weather you believe in it or not, I have seen first-hand how new domains simply don’t rank as quickly as expired domains or those with a good history and existing backlinks.
Lewis thinks it will take 3-6 months to safely rank a new domain name.
Well, I hear him loud and clear. And it kind of makes sense. But I love to choose my own domain name and not build on an idea someone else started. Moreover I don’t have the extra money to spend on an expired domain name.
I have no plans for complicated link building strategy such as creating a private blog network as some are doing. Building backlinks is the thing I hate the most about growing a content website online. The most I can do to get backlinks is guest posting. But I am not planning to do even that. I intend to only do a few blog commenting and that’s it. And I am sure that would be enough. Why? It’s because I am only targeting long tail keywords (keywords with at least 4 words in them) with very low competition. And I am not talking about US low competition. I am talking about Nigeria low competition.
For example ‘how much is iphone 6 in Nigeria’ has way less competition than ‘how much is iphone 6’. Even though both of them are long tail keywords their competition isn’t the same.
Think about it. Targeting the whole world vs targeting one country. Going for long tail keywords greatly cuts down on the competition for the keywords. Going for local long tail keywords further cuts down that competition even more so if you’re targeting a country where very few people know about and or care about SEO.
I’ve looked at my competitors sites and most of their content pages ranking well in search engines don’t have backlinks to them. So even though I am yet to start my site and confirm my strategy I think I can confidently say that if you want to rank a site quickly and start making money from it without working too hard and spending extra money on a few techniques meant to help a site rank quickly, then go local. Look for one of the things people in your country are buying regularly online. Go to where they are buying it online. They are likely to have an affiliate program. Sign up to become an affiliate and create a niche site targeting the buying search phrases they are using.
Progress with my Niche Site Challenge
When I announced the challenge 14 days ago, my plan was:
I will start my keyword research tomorrow (January 31th 2015) and conclude January 2nd 2016. Then January 3rd I will set up the site, and in the meantime password the whole site so that search engines can’t crawl and index it. January 4th I will start writing content for the site. I will focus on writing and publishing the content on the blog for all of January 2016, hopefully doing 3 posts a day for as many days of the month as possible for me.
It’s very likely things won’t work out perfectly as described above. I’m sure there will be days I won’t be able to finish a task and move it to the next day; and maybe a day or two I won’t feel like working at all. Putting this into consideration, I’m giving myself a deadline of February 8th 2016 to launch the blog.
As at writing this it’s January 14th 2016 and I am yet to set up the site and start content writing.
I’ve had some challenges. I’m not in perfect health condition. I have persistent Malaria and a headache that sometimes keeps me away from my laptop.
When I am wasn’t feeling sick or having a nagging headache I was feeling overwhelmed.
Honestly the keyword research process got me feeling really overwhelmed. I underestimated how long the process will take. I thought that it would take at most two days. But with all the new tools I discovered and used I got so many keywords suggestion than I knew what to do with. And because the suggestion tools don’t give any data on the keywords like their search demand and competition level I was left wondering which are actual search phrases and which are not. Going through the process of finding out their data overwhelmed me.
But I’m taking my eldest sister’s advice that I should get started with what I already have and later build on it. I like to create a content blueprint of my site before getting started, it helps me decide on what I need as regards the theme and plugins I need to achieve my goal and motivates me to start writing. But I think I have enough now and I know what kind of site I want to create.
Moreover it’s not necessary that I stress myself about keywords demand and competition numbers. I’ll explain this in a bit.
Choosing a Niche – Find a Hungry Niche Market
Like I have said my niche site challenge was inspired by a colleague’s success with niche sites. I am competing in the same niches that he’s in. So I didn’t spend any time thinking about a niche market to get into. I already knew the niche I wanted to compete in before starting the challenge. But if you’re building your first niche site and have no idea which is the best niche to compete in or how to find the right niche market, then here’s a quick guide.
If you can’t afford to pay someone to write your content for you then you need to choose a topic you’re either passionate about or have interest in. The niche I am starting my first niche site on isn’t something I am passionate about. In fact if it didn’t offer such high income potential I would never have created a site on it. But I hope to write all the content for it because even though I’m not a technical person and don’t know much about technology which the niche is in, I have a very basic knowledge about the niche and the information the audience is looking for is simple enough for me to put together with my basic knowledge and some research. I’m talking about a features and price comparison site. How hard can that be to put together? It’s not as simple as it sounds though. But I have enough interest in it to put the effort into researching and putting together helpful information for my visitors. I’m not passionate about the topic as I have said. And I do not have much interest in the topic either. But I am interested in giving value and the income potential of the niche should it become successful that I am ready to put in the work.
So all you really need is interest. Have a very basic knowledge about the niche then have the interest and you’re good to go.
So where do you start finding a niche with an hungry audience to feed? Well think about every item you use on a daily basis that people are spending money on online. Just thinking about the items I use on a regular basis here’s what I have; body care (soap, body cream, body spray and perfumes), hair extensions, clothes, bags, shoes, TV, laptop, cell phone and home appliances. Regardless of the country you live in these are things people spend money on daily, online and offline.
If you don’t find something there, then think about the different problem people are looking for a solution for and spending money on to get the solution they want. Within the health care niche alone you will find 10s of smaller niches. Also think about the different careers available and tools the professionals need to do their work that they likely come online to buy. A photographer needs a good camera, a podcaster needs…Just continue in that line and you’ll realize there are so many niches with hungry audiences with money to spend.
As you may already have noticed, I’m not creating a niche site with the intention of monetizing with Adsense. That’s an unreliable source of income. I may eventually monetize the site with Adsense but my primary source of income for the site is Affiliate products. I already signed up as an affiliate to a hand full of local online retail stores. So I will mostly be writing on buying keywords.
My Niche Site Keyword Research Process
I’ve learned a long time ago the importance of keyword research for a content website. There’s no site I want to start that I don’t do some keyword research on before starting it. For a niche site, one you hope to rank in the search engines quickly you can not avoid keyword research. Otherwise you stand no chance at all.
If you don’t know why keyword research is necessary here are the major benefits:
- First of all it allows you to know whether there a good number of people searching on the topic you want to start a site on, and if there are, what phrases they are typing into a search engine like Google to find the information they need within your niche. You need to know this to be sure that when your site does rank on page one for a search term you will get search traffic to your site and the information on your site will be what the searcher is looking for so that people don’t visit your site and immediately get off it.
- You are able to find very profitable keywords, keywords a lot of people seem to be searching on that a lot of competitors are not targeting in search results. You can start your site content with such keywords and quickly get some search traffic to your site.
- You’re able to find a lot of content ideas; in fact each of your chosen keyword becomes a post subject on your blog. And you’re sure it’s information your searchers care about.
How to do Keyword Research for a Niche Site
To do keyword research you need keyword research tools. I used to only use Google Keyword Planner and SBI for WP Brainstormer but recently I found Lewis Ogden’s detailed 3 part keyword research guide. There he shared an exhaustive list of keyword research tools. Being the detailed person I am I checked out all of them. Unfortunately most of them require a subscription to get the full benefits and they’re not cheap. But I was able to use some of them. Below are the steps I followed to do my keyword research.
Step 1: Come up with seed words. An initial word or phrase to start your keyword research. This can be anything; a gadget, animal, color, hobby, book, an illness or condition, a career etc.
Step 2: Start your research. First with Google Keyword Planner.
Here I used two words keyword as the seed for my research. I used a few seed keywords. Since I was targeting buyers in the niche I am going into and I was targeting Nigerians, I started by simply adding a trigger for buyers phrases to Nigeria. For example:
And so on.
After a seed word search I download the keyword ideas it came up with. I did this for all the seed word I ran through the tool. I’ll worry about sorting it out later. Now I just want every buying keyword it can come up with. Of course during sorting I’ll pick out ONLY the keywords that apply to the niche I am interested in.
Some triggers for buyers search phrases:
- Where to buy
- How much
- For sale
Once I get the keyword ideas for a seed word I click to ‘Keyword Ideas’ column and I click Download. That’s all I do with the Google Keyword Planner tool. I don’t sort the keywords there because I don’t rely on the data the tool offers me. The reason is because this tool wasn’t created for the purpose of keyword research for a content site. It was created for Google advertisers to research on the keyword(s) they want to bid on and get details about the cost for the Ads. But it’s a great tool to get the basic information about a seed word or get related seed words.
To know what each column is about just click the question mark symbol (?) beside each of them and it will explain what it is about.
If the primary source of my income from the blog was going to be Adsense then I would be interested in the Suggested Bid for each keyword. As the name implies the suggested bid is the bid suggested to the advertiser for the ad. But this amount is influenced by the cost per click advertisers are paying for a keyword and the location you choose for the search. Like you know I chose Nigeria. The higher the suggested bid the more you’re likely to make per click on Adsense. But since Adsense wouldn’t be a primary source of income, I don’t really care what the Suggested Bid for the keywords are.
The tool I have always trusted and used its data for choosing profitable keywords is Brainstormer. Brainstormer is part of SBI! for WP. It’s an advanced keyword research tool. With it you can find as many actual search keywords as it can gather that contain the seed word that you run a search on and related keywords to the seed word. For all the keywords it brings, it shows the search interest and competition level, top 10 ranking sites for the keyword and 10 related sites to each of them.
I’ve been using Brainstormer for keyword research for over 5 years now. For a long time the research tool was only available as part of SBI! Recently they released it to WordPress users as part of their online business training resource for WordPress users called SBI! for WP.
I wouldn’t be going into much detail about what the tool does or how to use it because SiteSell the owners of the tool already wrote detailed articles on what SBI Brainstormer is about and how to use it and translate its data. You’ll find the details in this and this article. Also you can read my review of SBI! for WP.
SBI! for WP cost just $17 a month or $149 annually. But there’s a full access 30 day no credit card required free trial. So you can try it free.
When using Brainstomer I usually look for keywords with high search interests and low competition. Say anything above 1000 search interest and less than 50 or 100 in competition. But as you’d expect most buyers long tail keywords don’t have a lot of demand. And it doesn’t matter. A site targeting buyers keywords doesn’t need a lot of traffic to convert. I knew of a site getting 100 visitors a day and converting well in terms of site income. If you target buying keywords most of the people who come to your site will be looking to buy not just seeking information. So you only really need a few of them to start making money. However as you know the more people who visit your site the more money you will make. But that still won’t be a problem because you’d find hundreds of long tail keywords. And their search interest do add up well. Moreover one long tail keyword could be ranking for 10s of other related search term. That is what I discovered when I checked my competitors sites for top traffic referring keywords. I discovered on several sites that one post was ranking for several keywords.
For this first niche site I didn’t bother myself much about the competition level for each keyword simply because it’s targeting a local audience. There are very few strong competitors in the niche locally. And one of them is pricecheck.com.ng. If you visit the site you’ll notice as many price comparison sites do the site targets so many products unlike what I have in mind. Regardless of the age of such a site and authority it has in the niche already, you can easily beat the site in ranking if you target just one category of the products on its platform instead of competing on price. I wasn’t surprise to find that my niche wasn’t on its top search traffic referring keywords; although it’s a well known site and ranks number one for the search term ‘price check’ on Google.com.ng.
I don’t care to rank for price check. I care to rank for long tail keywords that are very specific. For example ‘where to buy wedding rings in Lagos’, ‘where to buy baking soda in Nigeria’ ‘online shopping sites in Nigeria’ and more. But of course target one site to one category of products.
Step 3: Used other keyword research tools to get more keywords suggestion and used SEMRush to get competitors top traffic referring keywords.
I used Brainstormer to get keywords that include my seed words and related keywords. The good thing for me about using the tool is that I get all the data for the keywords and immediately know which to keep and which to delete which wasn’t the case with the other tools I used.
I used the following tools to get more keywords ideas.
- Ubersuggest.org: One of my favorite keyword research tools.
- Keywordtool.oi: Much better alternative to Google Keyword Planner. I like it because I could get keyword ideas for just Google.com.ng and it brought me some really great keywords suggestion. This tool is great for generating content ideas I tell you.
My dilemma with these tools is getting the data for them; search interest and competition level. Brainstormer has a feature called ‘Add Keyword’ where you can add a keyword and it gives you a detailed information about it or tells you there’s no such keyword, meaning it’s not an actual search for phrase. The problem with this feature is that you have to add the keywords one after the other.
You can’t upload a group of keywords at once. I did this for some of the keywords the above tools got me until I got frustrated with how slow the process was and how much time it was taking from me.
I finally decided that I wasn’t going to stress myself about getting the data for these keywords. Instead I’ll just go ahead and write on every one of them that I feel makes sense from a searcher’s point of view.
Now to the final part of my keyword research and my favorite keyword research tool.
Find Competitors top search traffic referring keywords using semRUSH
When I researched on how to build a successful niche site many niche bloggers recommended semRUSH as the best keyword research tool to spy on your competitors. And I have confirmed that myself to be the truth. As of this moment it is my favorite keyword research tool. The only problem is that the price to use it isn’t cheap.
But I was able to get a 14 days free trial for the Guru package. I went through the process of payment, collected my credit card information and all but the card wouldn’t be charged until the 14 days expires. So I had a lot of time to use the tool as much as I wanted.
The only issue this tool for me is that it doesn’t have my country’s search engine extension (Google.com.ng) on its list. So I had to use US data for local competitors sites. And because I wasn’t using the right extension I didn’t get as much value from the tool as expected. Like the ranking for each keyword most of the time wasn’t accurate and I also think I may have gotten more top traffic referring keywords if I was using the right search engine. But regardless I made note of all the relevant top organic keywords of my competitors.
I contacted support about not having Google.com.ng on the list and they said hopefully in a later update it will be available.
When you do a search on a domain name you get an overview of the traffic (free and paid) backlinks and referring domains for the site. To demonstrate I plugged our example domain name in the tool. And the images below show the overview.
Like I said before, it’s not surprising to see that this site’s top organic keyword is ‘price check’. Whoever said it isn’t important to have your keyword in your domain name definitely don’t know what they’re talking about. Although I’m sure there are other factors helping the site rank on number one of the first page of Google other than having their keyword in their domain name.
To get more details for each category (traffic, backlinks and referring domains) just click the ‘View full report’ link.
For top organic keywords I clicked on ‘View full report’ to see the first 3-5 pages of the report. I don’t exceed 5. At that point it just becomes exhausting and you’ll also notice competitors are not ranking well for those keywords.
A click on each of the keyword will give you phrase match keywords and related keywords. And the search results for the keyword. This is a good way to find more profitable keywords too.
A click on the URL for each keyword will show you the page that is ranking for that keyword, the full list of all keywords the page is ranking for, the backlinks, anchor text used to create the backlinks and referring domain name if any to the page.
I was really only interested in finding their top referring keywords and their backlinks sources.
I must say that being able to see all the keywords a page was ranking for was so great for me. I found pages that were ranking for keywords that could form another content page. Meaning they were ranking for keywords that the pages weren’t really optimized for. So what did I do? I saved these keywords to create separate pages for them so that my pages being better optimized for them will hopefully take the lead in search ranking.
From my research I discovered that my competitors were getting all their traffic from search engines and direct traffic. No advertising at all. Some of the sites (home page) don’t have many links pointing to it. And most of their posts have no backlinks. So I’m thinking easy to win.
For now I cancelled my trial for semRUSH because it is not cheap and for that price I should be able to get more accurate data which isn’t available now because Google.com.ng isn’t on their list yet and local is my interest for niche sites. But once they fix that I very likely will be subscribing to be using the tool in the near future. For all the data it gathers for us, I’ll say it’s a good investment.
Since I love the tool I became an affiliate for it. So you can click my referral link for semRUSH and try it out yourself. With a free trial you are very limited on the amount of data you can get and number of searches. But at least you’ll get to see how it works and if you can’t afford it now you can save it to your list of tools to invest in; in the near future.
I’ve been thinking about how best to structure the content of the site to stand out from competitors and offer maximum value to the searcher therefore making my site a one-stop place for research before buying. I think I have figured it out. Hopefully I’ll be setting up the site later today. And tomorrow, January 15th, 2016 I’ll start with content writing.
In my next update, I’ll write about all that; choosing a domain name, choosing the best WordPress theme for the niche, optimizing the site for search engines and creating content. That update will come when I’m done with the first phase of my content writing. And that will be 3-4 weeks from now.
Use the form above to subscribe to my updates and I’ll notify you when the next update becomes available.