January… it’s that time of year when people are extra passionate about new beginnings.
For a lot of you, this might mean venturing into a new niche site project.
In this post I want to share some tips with you on how to get started and how to avoid some very common (and crucial) mistakes.
Deciding to start a new niche site is exciting! I still get hyped up whenever I decide to enter a new niche.
The possibility of growing something from scratch, dominating a new niche, and building upon my monthly income hopefully a significant amount is an exciting feeling.
But it’s not like a few years ago anymore. We can’t just throw up niche sites with the intention of building it to a few dollars per day, and then move onto the next project.
If you are, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
Your domain authority is a huge ranking factor, and with the way Google is improving their search results to include high authority, highly trusted sites, it’s going to lean even further this way in the future.
This post is 3527 words long. Click here to download a checklist that summarizes the guide and shows you how to avoid the 7 most common mistakes made when starting a niche site.
So what does that mean for niche site creators?
How will this affect our overall strategy? How will it impact HOW we build out the site, and HOW we grow it out into a full-time income?
For one, when we’re just starting our new niche site, all of our effort should be focused on two things, and two things only: Building trust, and building authority.
We build trust through high quality pieces of content. We build authority by building links to these pieces of content.
From then on forward, you can grow it by throwing on new pages and enjoying the benefits that an authority site receives – new pages ranking instantly on the first page, and driving a ton of long-tail traffic to pages across your entire domain.
New niche sites are started everyday, all with the goal of achieving exactly what I described above.
But most people fail.
And I’ll tell you first hand, that failing with a niche site sucks.
Niche sites take a lot of work, and if you make some of the mistakes I’m going to discuss in this post, all that time can go down the drain.
Some mistakes are fixable, some mistakes are irreversible.
But all of them avoidable.
And hopefully this post will help you save a lot of time, money, and effort in building your next niche site.
Here are the top 7 mistakes that people make when starting a new niche site (and how to avoid them).
1. Publishing articles too quickly
The first mistake that I want to address is content quantity.
Most people who start niche sites today almost seem as if they’re in a race to fill up their site with content. Usually, it’s so that it doesn’t look empty.
What ends up happening is that the site gets filled up with thin, low-quality content.
Apart from spamming a site to death with low-quality links, hitting a site with low-quality content is just as harmful.
You’re setting the quality on your site way too low right from the start, and this means that even if you do end up ranking, there’s no stability. It’s at risk of being penalized at any moment.
The most common mistake is publishing a bunch of short 300-word articles when you first publish your site.
It’s a waste of time. Don’t do it.
Nobody’s going to read them anyways, and they will play no part in your journey to kickstart this website with rankings and traffic.
What to do instead
Stop publishing content just for the sake of publishing content.
Instead, publish every piece of content with only two objectives in mind: establishing the quality of your site, and building backlinks.
They go hand in hand.
If you’re putting out thin content, you’re not doing anything for your site at all. It’s not going to magically drive traffic, it’s not going to rank (even for long-tail keywords), and it’s not going to help get you any backlinks.
Every page you build in the beginning should be done with the intention of building links to them.
Is your new article a linkable asset? Will people link to it? Does it provide any value? Is it the best guide on the internet about that specific topic?
Understand that an empty site is not a bad thing.
It’s natural for a brand new site to look like a brand new site, even if it only has one or two pieces of content.
A new site with 1-2 pages of thin content is bad. A new site with 1-2 pages of fantastic content is great.
It’s not about how many pages you have. It’s about how much traffic each one can drive to your site.
- One article can bring in more traffic than 1000 articles.
- One article can bring in enough traffic to make you a full-time income.
When you understand that, and build it out accordingly, you’ll have a much easier time actually driving traffic, and building up your authority.
2. Buying articles for cheap
This goes along with point #1.
If your plan is to order a bunch of articles for $5-$10 for your new niche site, then stop right now.
There’s nothing wrong with ordering articles for cheap. I still use iWriter for my own sites, and I’m able to get decent quality articles for $5 each.
That’s… really cheap. A bargain.
But I would never start a site with these articles. These articles are only profitable to publish AFTER you build a level of authority to your site and you can start taking advantage of it.
A new site should ONLY have high quality articles.
If you’re going to publish nothing but $5-$10 articles onto a new site, you may as well save your time and money, and just not start the site in the first place.
It’s not going to build any traction… unless you can somehow build a ton of links to them. But even then, you’re risking getting hit for thin content in the future.
What you should do instead
Focus only on creating high-quality, in-depth articles over 2000 words long.
For the first 20 or so articles on my new sites, I always write all of the content myself.
That’s because I’m confident in my ability to research and write a super high quality post that’s optimized for my keyword.
If you’re a solid writer, then write it yourself. And don’t spend less than 3-4 hours putting it together. Researching, formatting, gathering sources, and making it perfect takes time.
And every bit is worth it in these beginning stages.
If you’re going to outsource it, make sure that you’re paying AT LEAST $50 per article.
Yes, the costs are going to add up, but it’s the price you need to pay for quality writing.
Remember what we learned from point #1: Every article published should be done so with the intention of building links.
And the only way to do that is to create something awesome that people would actually link to.
For some actionable tips on how to create linkable content, check out Thiam’s guide on content creation.
3. Focusing on multiple traffic sources
One of the biggest mistakes I see is people focusing on too many traffic sources – mainly through social media.
There’s absolutely no reason you should have multiple social media profiles for your new niche site.
I still see a lot of people creating a Facebook page, Twitter page, Google Plus page, Pinterest Page, and a LinkedIn page.
What’s the point…?
You’re not achieving anything.
You’re not going to drive meaningful traffic from all of them, and even if you were to build them up, it’s more effective to do it one at a time.
When I’m creating a new niche site, I don’t focus on anything except SEO – creating super high quality articles, and building high quality links to them.
Why? Because my main objective with the site is to build up organic search traffic. And spending time on anything else is a waste of time.
What you should do instead
In the beginning, ONLY STICK WITH ONE TRAFFIC SOURCE.
If your main goal is high rankings and lots of organic traffic, stick with SEO and focus ONLY on SEO.
If your main goal is to drive a ton of Facebook traffic, then focus ONLY on Facebook. And don’t build any other social media profiles until you grow a considerable audience on Facebook first.
The main thing to remember is that you should be focusing on one thing at a time.
Dividing up your attention is a waste of time and will prevent you from doing one thing optimally, and instead do multiple things sub-optimally and end up giving up.
4. Targeting niches that are too small
One of the best reasons to build a niche site these days is due to how strong authority sites rank in the search engines.
You’re probably tired of me saying this by now since I’ve said it so many times before: It’s harder to get to $100 per month than it was in the past, but it’s easier to get to $100/day.
That means, it’s harder to get a new site off the ground than it was in the past. But once you do, it’s so much easier to scale it to a substantial monthly income.
Google is all about authority now. If you can build a high domain authority on your site, then you have a huge advantage over your competitors in the search engines.
You rank new pages almost instantly, and you pull in tons of long-tail traffic.
The worst thing you can do is target a niche that’s too small.
Once you do ALL the work to build this authority to your site, you want to start taking advantage of it.
By entering a niche that’s too small, you’re putting a cap on your site’s growth potential and you won’t be able to scale when it’s most profitable to do so.
Meaning… you’re doing all the work for no reward.
What you should do instead
One of the main reasons why I was able to pass $20K/month in earnings from my niche sites last year was because my niche sites were in big markets. And I want to touch on two very important points.
First,I was targeting a niche with very high search volume keywords.
If you’re entering a niche where you’re targeting nothing but keywords that get a few hundred or few thousand searches per month, what can you really expect from its long-term growth?
Make sure the effort is worth the reward. If you rank #1 for your keywords, will it make a big difference in your traffic? Will it bring you a significantly higher income?
If the answer is no, I’ll usually dump the niche and find a better opportunity.
Second, I gave myself room to scale before I built out the niche site
Before I even launch any niche site, I make sure I do proper growth planning.
Like I said, once you build up authority to your site, the SEO game completely changes.
Most people who talk about SEO these days only discuss how rankings affect new sites. How much harder it is to rank in the past, how micro-sites are dead, how spam links are dead etc.
But once you build up authority, the game is different. You’re able to see those instant first page rankings just days or weeks after you hit publish without building a single link.
You’re able to see that rise in long-tail search traffic, and you’re able to realize the power that authority sites have in the serps.
You need to understand this before you build the site, so that when you finally build this authority to your own niche site, you can scale like crazy into a site that makes hundreds of dollars per day.
When you’re researching niches to enter, make sure that:
- It has plenty of search volume keywords so that ranking #1 will actually mean something significant in your traffic and earnings.
- You have plenty of room to scale the site into hundreds of pages.
link spam packages
Despite Google having changed completely to combat spam links, there seems to be no change in the number of people selling and ordering these link blast packages.
Most of you know what I’m talking about. They’re all over the place on Fiverr and in SEO forums.
If you see things like this for the first time, you might feel lucky to have landed on a gold mine of link opportunities.
But once you really look behind the curtain… you’ll realize that there’s a reason these links are so cheap, and that ordering even one of them can seriously harm your site’s SEO.
Here’s a classic example: They’ll build you a link on a forum on a subdomain of a college site nested so deep in multiple directories that Google spiders probably never visit it. But because the official homepage of the college’s website is a PR9 (yes, they still refer to PR), they’ll call it a PR9 EDU link.
It’s useless. And if you order a link package and end up with a link profile that has nothing but hundreds of these kinds of links, that’s difficult to recover from.
What you should do instead
The most common scenario I’ve found is… you’ll work on your site passionately when it’s first launched. Then you’ll try building a few links, and run into a road block. Your rankings and traffic don’t rise.
Then you turn to these link packages hoping one of these link blasts will do the trick. I know because I’ve done this myself. It seems like the easy way out when you’re frustrated with your results, but it’s not.
In reality, you’ve just ruined your chances of ranking for anything any time soon, and you’ve either got a much steeper hill to climb or you’ll need to just start fresh on a new domain.
Understand that the only way for somebody to sell you hundreds or thousands of links for that cheap is by using software tools.
And also understand that links built with software at this scale are considered spam, and are easily detected by Google.
So how should you build links then?
Start learning how to do outreach, and get really good at it. Once you do, you’ll be able to build valuable properties on the web, and truly realize the benefits of doing proper white-hat SEO.
A single link that you earn from outreach is going to be way stronger than a package of 10,000 links ordered from one of these services.
And if you do decide that you need help with link building, make sure that whoever you hire doesn’t use software to build their links.
Understand the purpose of building blog comments and forum comments
Blog and forum comments are still one of the most popular forms of link building. Mainly because it’s easy, and it’s one of the only ways where you can go into a website you don’t own and leave a link to your website.
It’s probably the most common form of link building that I see people doing to their new niche sites.
But if you’re going spend any time building blog and forum comments, do so with the understanding that it’s not going to affect your rankings much at all.
Does that mean they’re useless? No.
For my new sites, I still search out the popular forums and blogs in my niches and build links on them.
But I do so ONLY for traffic.
Don’t build a few blog comments and forum links and wonder why your rankings aren’t budging.
6. Over-optimizing content
When I first got into SEO, I was taught to pay attention to keyword density. I was told that I needed to have my keywords a certain percentage of times on my page in order for me to rank for them.
The “recommended percentage” changed rapidly from 4% when I first learned about the term to about 1-2% after Panda hit.
Today, the recommended density is N/A – meaning don’t pay attention to it at all. And this is exactly my opinion as well.
It’s still a common mistake I see people making, and I actually get a surprising number of emails from people asking me what the optimal keyword density for their pages should be.
The only time I focus on keyword density is after an article is written, right before it’s about to be published.
While under-optimization is not much of an issue, accidentally keyword stuffing is.
Write naturally, and just make sure that your article doesn’t sound like it’s been stuffed with keywords.
It’s an easy mistake to make without knowing it.
If you do feel that the article sounds strange with too many repetitions of the keyword, simply replace some of them with pronouns and LSI keywords.
Keyword density will vary largely depending on what you’re writing about
For instance, if your keyword was “coffee beans” in your article about how coffee beans are made, you’re naturally going to have a very high repetition. It’s just natural. You can’t avoid it.
And if you were to pay attention to keyword density and saw something like 10%, it would throw alarm bells in your face when it’s actually a perfectly well-written article.
Especially after Google’s Hummingbird update, the term “keyword density” shouldn’t even need to be discussed anymore.
Instead, your focus should be on user intent – understanding what someone is looking for when they search for your keyword, and providing a valuable resource that answers their question.
7. Having an ugly design
I know that a lot of people say that design isn’t important, but I completely disagree.
Sure, a poorly designed website can get popular. But a nice design can help it get popular faster.
Especially if you’re doing outreach link building, you need your website to look credible. It’ll increase your success rate significantly.
I don’t mean that you need to pay thousands of dollars for a flashy custom design.
You just need it to look professional, and credible. This also helps with ranking factors such bounce rate and time on site.
If you’re not a designer, always go for the clean and simple option.
Playing around with colors, background textures, and custom fonts and graphics are going to do you more harm than good.
The only things you should be concerned with are:
- Clean, readable text.
- Plenty of spacing so that it doesn’t look cramped.
- Proper formatting.
Text formatting is EVERYTHING
Not formatting your content is one of the simplest mistakes you can make that can have a negative impact on your site’s success.
Not formatting your content properly is, in my opinion, one of the worst things you can do.
By formatting, I don’t mean remembering to include your H1’s and H2’s.
I mean… properly designing your text layout so that your H2’s and H3’s are clear, and your paragraph text is spaced out and readable.
H2’s should look like H2’s. And H3’s should look like H3’s.
I personally spend way too much time on text formatting.
Just look at the RankXL article you’re reading now.
It’s clean, readable with clear header tags, spaced out with enough margin so you know that a new section is a new section.
Now, take a look at what this same article would look like if I ignored formatting:
All of a sudden, the same article you’re reading now doesn’t look the same. If you landed on this site for the first time and saw that… I don’t think you would have the same impression.
I, for one, would immediately discredit the site as unprofessional unless I was familiar with the site already. It just looks thrown together without any thought.
Text formatting is more important than anything else when you’re focusing on design for SEO.
Pay attention to it. If you want to learn more, check out this typography guide from tutsplus.
There are a lot of moving parts in building and growing a niche site.
And unless you’re an experienced veteran with a couple of high-income sites in your portfolio already, you’re bound to make mistakes.
When I first got into SEO and niche sites, I made every single one listed in this blog post.
And I can tell you first hand that it is not a pleasant feeling to work on a site and find out that you’ve made critical errors that will prevent it from ever growing to where you wanted it to be.
One of the things I hate more than anything is having to give up on a niche site mid-way because there just isn’t potential in it anymore.
Today, I feel that I’ve refined my strategy to the point where I’m doing everything in the most efficient way possible. But it took much longer than I would have liked, and a lot of trial and error to get here.
Hopefully, you’re able to avoid the mistakes I’ve made, save yourself time and money, and see positive results a lot faster.
What are some mistakes you’ve made with your niche sites? I’d love to about them in the comments.
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