After starting my first niche site in 2009, it took me 4 years to finally get to a full-time income.
4 years is a loooong time and I know I could have gotten to this point sooner if I just knew what I know today. It’s interesting to look back and see how much my niche site and SEO strategy has evolved over the years.
Back then, I had no idea if what I was doing was sustainable. But today, I’m satisfied with the overall process that goes into everything.
Here are 9 things I wish I knew when building my first niche site.
Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and get there a lot faster than I did.
1. Target high search volume keywords
This probably isn’t what you’re used to hearing. But if you’re going with Adsense as a monetization strategy, you need traffic… and lots of it.
When I first started out online, I was targeting long-tail keywords and building entire sites around a few 500-1000 searches per month keywords.
Something like that isn’t going to get you to $100/day. It’ll be tough to even get to $500/month with that strategy.
Instead, the way to build a profitable niche site is to target high search volume keywords and build a valuable authority site.
You can still target smaller long-tail keywords, but you also need to be targeting some bigger keywords as well……. The ones that have the potential to bring you a flood of traffic when you start ranking for them.
2. Make everything be about long-term growth
Don’t think about the short-term. Fast rankings, and quick money is always nice, but that usually never lasts very long online, especially when SEO and Google are involved.
Make everything you do (content creation, building backlinks) be about the long-term.
My entire niche site building process now revolves around sustainability, and building a real business out of it that will be around for the long-haul.
3. Focus less on design
This might be a personal thing that not many others can relate to, but I’m 90% sure I have a sickness… and it’s limiting my productivity.
I spend so much time on design. From font-size, color scheme, margins and paddings, if something looks even 1px off then I’ll spend hours just fidgeting around with the CSS and end up doing a complete design overhaul.
If you’ve been reading RankXL since the beginning, you’ll know how many design changes there were, especially in the last 2 months.
There was even a period where the entire design and layout would change every single day for about a week.
This is what the first version of RankXL looked like:
Funny thing is… even looking at this now I’m thinking to myself… “Man, that looks pretty nice. Maybe I should change it back…”
Making the site look professional is nice, but spending that time on producing quality content and doing promotion are what actually grow the business.
4. Build fewer links
Similar to #2… My entire backlink strategy is different now compared to a few years ago. When I first got started online, spammier links were working REALLY well.
It’s tough to recover a site where 90% of the link profile are links from weak, spammy sources.
Instead, focus on creating strong links one-by-one. It took me a long-time to realize the importance of quality over quantity. Spend the time to get links that actually make an impact on your rankings.
Links that are easy to acquire usually will not make any dent in your rankings. They usually won’t harm your rankings either. BUT… it will probably dilute the power of a strong link you acquire in the future.
I’ve ranked for big keywords with fewer than 20 links. It’s all about quality.
5. Don’t slack off on content creation
Quality content is becoming increasingly important.
It’s the reason I still write my own articles for posts targeting big keywords. I put a lot of work into making them the best out of what’s ranking already.
Time spent on site, bounce rate…. they’re all ranking factors that will impact your rankings.
If you’re targeting a big keyword and all you have is a generic 500 word article then nobody is going read, share, or link to you.
If you’re going to do it, do it right the first time.
You only need to create an article once, and it has the potential to make money for you for years (and even decades) in the future.
It also makes your backlinking campaigns so much more effective when you have a great piece of content to work with.
When you think of it like that, spending 3-4 hours on content creation doesn’t seem so bad.
6. Build just ONE niche site at a time
In the beginning, I was throwing up niche sites left and right. It wasn’t a terrible strategy to do that back then.
But the better option would have been to start with a SINGLE site and work on growing that into something really valuable.
This is more important today than it was in the past. It’s much easier and faster to grow a single site to 5 figures/month than it is to grow a bunch of sites that add up to that amount.
Start with a single site and put all your energy into growing it into something huge.
7. Treat it like a business, not a gig
This is probably one of the biggest ones, and one that most people are guilty of not doing too.
Treat your niche site like a business, not a gig.
If your goal is to make $10,000/month with your next niche site, then realize just how big the project and outcome are.
$10,000/month is over $100k/year. Most offline businesses would be dancing in their shoes to make that much their first year.
WIth Adsense and niche sites, you also have the luxury of passive income. You don’t need to open up shop every morning to start making money. The website is always running.
What I mean by treat it like a business is… to grow it like a real business. A business doesn’t just get to $100/day and $10,000/month overnight.
You need to put in the work required. AND… you need to take the right steps and think about the long-term.
Don’t get frustrated that you aren’t making $100/day after your first month and just bomb it to death with link packages.
Don’t look for shortcuts.
8. Stop chasing shiny objects
I seriously have focus issues, and it was holding me back from being successful online.
I’ve tried literally every make money online method there is.
From dating sites, CPA offers, mobile advertising, Facebook, YouTube, affiliate programs…. everything you can think of…. I’ve tried it.
The funny thing is, each time I did so I did it with the anticipation that this would make me a boatload of money overnight.
It took me a long time to realize that I should just stick with the one thing I DID have some success with. Adsense and niche sites.
That doesn’t mean that the other methods don’t work. Other people are having success with them.
But if you’re going to do something, give it your all. Don’t just dabble into multiple things and half-ass everything.
Focus on one thing and do it really well.
9. Learn SEO… real SEO
If you spend time on Warrior Forum, you’ll see a lot of threads like this:
“Where can I learn X?” or… “How can I do this?”
And people will answer…
“Just search around this forum. Everything you need to know is in here.”
Umm…. not really.
What people discuss on Warrior Forum is not real SEO. Building tiered links with web 2.0’s and article directories, discussing the best link packages on Fiverr, and debating whether or not SENuke is a good investment…… is NOT real SEO.
Instead, invest your time and resources into learning real SEO, backlinking strategies and techniques used at the biggest agencies around the world.
And if you want a full guide on applying these strategies specifically for niche sites, check out The Niche Site Course.