How To Do Niche Research For Authority Sites That Generate 5 Figures Per Month

By Chris Lee 72 comments

monoflat_icons_122How do you begin your research for new niche sites? What do you use as the determining factors of whether to tackle a niche or not?

For most people, the first step is to open up a keyword tool and start looking up search terms. They’ll probably start with some bigger search volume keywords first, and check the competition for them. After looking at a few metrics, they’ll usually decide to move on to a more long-tailed keyword with fewer searches, but weaker competition.

But the process is fundamentally flawed and here’s why.

When I first started out building niche sites, everybody’s been preaching the same thing: find the long-tail keywords with no competition. And it worked well. I was finding uncompetitive niches with barely any competition, ranking my own sites, and profiting. Then Panda and Penguin came around and changed the entire landscape of how niche sites should be built.

The thing is, while our backlinking strategies have evolved (for most people) to adopt to these changes, our niche analysis strategies have not changed at all.

Whatever search you look up today will bring back results full of really strong competitors on the first page.

You rarely see micro niche sites with a bunch of weak links on the first page anymore. Yet, still people are still teaching the same niche research strategy as if nothing has changed. Since we were trained to avoid competition, that leaves almost every high search volume keyword off the table.

All that we’re left with are baby keywords, getting under 1000 searches a month. And that’s not the proper criteria for building a dominating niche site that has the potential to bring in thousands per month in revenue.

If your looking to build out highly profitable niche sites generating 4 to 5 figures per month in revenue, you have to first change your criteria for niche selection.

Moving towards the authority model

You’re probably familiar with the term, authority site. But what does it mean in terms of niche and competition analysis?

Basically, it means realizing that authority websites don’t rely on a few keywords to determine their success, and then adjusting your niche analysis strategy to suit.

There are various definitions for what an authority model is, and everyone has their own idea of how an authority site should be built. For me, it literally means becoming an authority in the niche.

If my niche is blue widgets, I’m looking to be the central resource for everything about blue widgets.

This mindset changes our niche analysis strategy completely (at least in the beginning). No longer are we contemplating whether to tackle a niche based on competition of a few keywords. It becomes a decision based on popularity. Fortunately, competition is a pretty clear indicator that a keyword is a popular topic, and a popular search that your target audience is interested in.

So how should you be starting your competition analysis?

For me, it no longer becomes about backlink profiles of the competition and metrics based around them.

I still start by using the keyword research tool, but high competition for 1 or 2 main keywords is not the deciding factor in whether I enter the niche or not. What I’m more interested in is the growth potential within the niche.

What kind of traffic numbers are possible with organic search when we eventually become an authority in this niche? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

Authority sites are designed for the long-tail. In the long-run it’s not unusual for large authority sites to have over 90% of their search traffic come from long-tail keywords, even if they’re ranking for big volume keywords.

So, the first thing I do is look up is the first page on Google for its biggest keywords that I want to target.

What I’m looking for are in the results are sites directly built around the niche.

So if you see things like Wikipedia, eHow, Forbes, etc… that’s not what I’m looking for here. If my keyword was about dog training, I’m looking for websites that are built specifically around the dog training niche.

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Why? Because it’s most related to the site that I’m going to build. Sites like Wikipedia, eHow, Wikihow, etc. target everything. They’re too general.

Check traffic volumes to that entire site

If it’s on the first page for a high search volume keyword, chances are they’re ranking well for a lot of other terms as well and bringing in a lot of long-tail traffic.

So the first thing I want to do is get an idea of how much TOTAL traffic is going to such a website, and how much of that is from organic search.

Let’s run it through SimilarWeb.

With SimilarWeb, you’re able to get a fairly accurate estimate on how much traffic the entire site is getting per month, and from which sources. It’s free to use.

I decided to check out Petfinder.com first.

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3.6 million visits per month. Impressive. A lot of their traffic is coming in directly, and from referral sites, so we can assume they’re a popular resource in the niche with a lot of fans.

33.68% of their traffic is coming from search – so roughly a million visitors. That’s a great sign, and what we were hoping to see.

The more the better, since we’re just looking for a rough estimate of how much organic traffic a top site in the niche is getting.

If the top sites in the niche were only pulling in something like 50k visitors per month from search, it may not be worth the effort in growing out an authority site in the niche (unless I plan to only tackle it as a category).

Let’s look up another site, CesarsWay.com

They also seem like a pretty big authority in the niche. The site covers basically everything you need to know about dog training. A perfect example of what we want to model our own site around.

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They’re getting 2.2 million visitors per month, with 79.52% from search. So roughly 1.75 million visitors per month from search.

They could be doing a lot better by working on other traffic sources as well, something to keep in mind for our own site.

Another awesome sign that this is a great niche. Let’s take a look at their biggest keywords.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 1.53.16 PM

The main reason for checking this is to make sure that close to 90% of their search traffic isn’t just a brand search where customers search for their site by name.

These sites have insane backlink profiles

CesarsWay is ranking #1 for “dog training” and “dog training tips.”

A quick look at their link profile through Moz shows a very strong link profile.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 1.56.53 PM

Those numbers are enough to turn away most people from entering the niche.

Would I still tackle this niche?

The short answer is, yes.

An analysis of some of the other competitors shows some very high competition ahead of us. Of course, there are a lot of other niches where the competition is a lot less severe than this one, so I’m not saying this is the best niche to enter by any means. It’s just as an example.

But this goes back to what I said in the beginning: We’re not looking at competition for a few keywords to determine if we tackle the niche or not.

Sure, “dog training” and “dog training tips” have some seriously strong competitors. But we’re not looking to build our entire site just around those keywords.

Are we still going to target them? Yes. They’re the main, most popular topic of our niche site (at least the one in this example). If I decide to build out a site and take on this niche, I’m doing so with the mentality that I’m going to be one of the biggest and best authorities on the subject – and you can’t do that by avoiding keywords just because they’re competitive.

We won’t outrank them anytime soon, but we should be able to pull in a lot more traffic than they are when we do start ranking up there with them.

Look at the content on the first page

This is one of the main things I’m looking for. The sites on the first page are all authority figures in the niche with really strong backlink profiles. But their content sucks.

A lot of the pages are only a few paragraphs long with no real in-depth information.

That gives us an opportunity to build something great that the current leaders aren’t providing.

How would I build out this site?

If I were to build out the site, what I would do is analyze content and keywords for expansion down the line.

When we do build out our site and gain authority, we want to be able to take advantage of that and pump out content through our domain. At that point, our site can rank for various long-tail keywords almost immediately after being published, with no external backlinking needed.

So, we want to make sure our niche isn’t too limited. Is dogs/dog training a big enough niche where we can continuously pump our articles around it and continuously grow our traffic through long-tail?

If not, I would start out the site with a more broader domain name rather than something specific like caninecentral.com (off the top of my head).

Then, I would go one layer broader and maybe plan to go into pet training in general. That way, I can expand to other animals once I build up authority.

I would still target dog training first and build out the site. But I want to leave myself the option to expand into other pets on the same domain.

It becomes a lot easier to rank future competitive keywords on our established domain, so that’s the move I would take.

Conclusion

I’m not saying don’t do any competitor analysis at all. What I wanted to get across to you was that you should base your niche selection based on a bigger picture, and show you a different way of approaching your research.

It still seems a lot of people base their niche selection on keyword analysis for a few main keywords. Most high search volume keywords today are filled with high authority sites no matter what you search for, so that leaves nothing on the table except for baby terms that bring in no traffic.

Instead, change your mindset of the type of niche site you’re going to build out. Don’t think quick rankings for easy keywords. Those will come automatically once you build authority with your site.

Approach it with the mindset that you’re going to become a major player in the niche. Millions of visitors to a website can be a real business. It’s enough traffic to replace most people’s full-time income.

But you can’t get there creating new niche sites targeting a few 500 searches per month long-tail keywords. It’s worth taking the time to enter into more competitive niches even if it takes more time and effort to make it to the top.

Consider these things the next time you decide to enter a niche or not. Don’t let competition stray you away from building out a highly profitable niche site.

Leave a Reply

72 Comments

  • Reply Jacob April 14, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Good stuff, thanks for the post Chris.

    • Reply Chris Lee April 14, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks, Jacob.

    • Reply Alia November 18, 2015 at 3:54 am

      i am doing niche research from 3 months but couldn’t find a perfect solution yet.
      My planing is to enter in affiliate marketing and i guess for that one must have a good reputed blog.
      Now the question is what should be the best niche for a blog to get enter in affiliate market. Any suggestions?

      • Reply Chris Lee November 18, 2015 at 5:04 am

        There isn’t a best niche. Research what other sites in the niche are doing and what they’re promoting.

  • Reply Olli April 14, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    Hi Chris,
    Very interesting viewpoint.
    Is this approach related to adsence sites only or may also be applied to affiliate or CPA marketing? As far as I understand – it’s not.
    Another question is that how can I overrank huge authority niche sites in the issue? Ok, with better content my site will get traffic on long-tail keywords at once almost after publishing it and perhaps some rankings on these keywords. Then my site will grow into authority in it’s niche… But which way can I beat top sites on main keywords after that, all the same, my ultimate goal is this, right? Is this all about link profile? (It’s not the topic of your current post still interesting to know what you think about it and your further actions).
    And the last is related to SimilarWeb. There are some doubts about accuracy in traffic estimation. For example, a blog of known to you man – neilpatel.com/blog. Neil shows his monthly traffic number and it’s much lower than SimilarWeb estimates. This is the first example came to mind, there are some others with similar difference. Can you comment on this?
    Thanks, Chris.

    • Reply Chris Lee April 14, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      Hey Olli, this strategy is not only directly related to sites monetizing through Adsense. Adsense is only a monetization strategy.

      Yes, you’re right. Outranking the big sites currently ranking will require backlinking. But approach it understanding that you probably won’t rank for these keywords for a long time until you amass some high quality links. I’ve talked about strategies on backlinking in the past, and have a few more posts in drafts going to be published soon.

      No traffic counting software is entirely accurate, but SimilarWeb is close enough. The numbers brought back only show traffic stats to the entire domain. So that’s a fairly close number I would assume. Although his blog on NeilPatel.com has only recently been launched, his front page has been live for a long time, and he sends a lot of traffic to it from other sources – paid and free.

  • Reply Ron April 14, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    Thank you, I am really learning from your blog posts.
    Thanks again

    • Reply Chris Lee April 14, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      Thanks for reading, Ron.

  • Reply Elena April 14, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Hello Chris

    I really like your posts and i find them useful

    I wanted to ask you about social media..Do you also spend time on building for example FB fan pages? Or your niche sites are only getting traffic from search engines

    I have 2 sites but i still need a lot of time to increase fans

    • Reply Chris Lee April 14, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      Thanks, Elena. I generally don’t spend much time on Facebook pages for my niche sites unless I see it as a viable way to get traffic from it. Not all niches are right for Facebook, and some niches are perfect for it.

      For the ones that aren’t, I find them a big waste of time that could be spent on better things.

  • Reply Aprilmay April 14, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    You Explain things so well Chris. Thank you!

    • Reply Chris Lee April 14, 2015 at 8:31 pm

      Thank you, April πŸ™‚

  • Reply Harry Singh April 18, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Thank you Chris… I am looking for the same information and thought to shot you an email about my queries. But after reading your post I am pretty much clear to proceed further. But I have long term and short term plan.

    Short term means i will definitely target high search long trail keywords with low competition and generate decent amount of traffic by following EMD ( Exact match Domain technique) I think it is still working.

    Long term means – Targeting high search keywords for bigger search traffic and build a real business.

    • Reply Chris Lee April 18, 2015 at 11:36 am

      Hey Harry, that’s exactly right. Thanks for reading.

  • Reply Indobanged June 18, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    i’m start learning step by step, it’s second email i got and ready to read and understand all.. that’s for all you effort.. God Bless You

  • Reply Kulwant Nagi July 3, 2015 at 5:28 am

    Loved this priceless information.

    You completely changed the way I used to think about niche blogging.

    Thanks for such an awesome explanation.

    • Reply Chris Lee July 3, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      Cool, thanks for reading Kulwant:)

  • Reply Franklin July 5, 2015 at 12:05 am

    Just stumbled across this article and it’s a great read. One thing though I wouldn’t reply on imilarWeb much as it gives false readings. It’s not very accurate at all. Tested it on a few of my sites and some friends is well, the visitor volume can be off by over 60% sometimes.

    Either way good article.

    • Reply Chris Lee July 5, 2015 at 2:43 am

      Hey Franklin. Hmm didn’t know that. I guess they’re not that accurate for some sites. For every site that I tested where I knew the traffic volumes, it was pretty accurate. Thanks for letting me know.

  • Reply mikeJR July 11, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Great article Chris. One thing that confuse me is the URL of the domain. You said “caninecentral.com” but then you said go up for one more level to maybe target more pet training. If so, your domain should be something like “pettraining101.com” isn’t it?

    • Reply Chris Lee July 12, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      Hey Mike. Yup, that’s correct.

  • Reply Fero July 23, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the post, Very good and interesting information, I read all your posts.

    My question is, When you go one layer up and who much up?
    Why not to go one layer up even if the niche isn’t too limited! Even two layers up! Or three… When to stop go up?

    For example:
    Dog training -> pet training -> pets
    (more options to expand into other pets on the same domain)
    or why not…
    Dog training -> dogs -> pets

    or
    Weight loss tips for men -> weight loss tips -> weight loss -> Diet -> fitness -> Healthy Active lifestyle -> Health

    Waiting for your comment πŸ˜‰
    Thanks, Chris.

    • Reply Chris Lee July 23, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      Hey Fero, that’s why you need to do the proper planning. How much can you really handle. What do you want your site to be built around?

      Usually just one is big enough. Or else you’ll end up with a magazine type site about anything and everything.

  • Reply Tony August 21, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    So what’s the minimum volume we are looking for here? 100k, 500k, or the million in your example?

    Also just found your blog and really loving your content.

    • Reply Chris Lee August 21, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      Hey Tony, I like to go with close to 100k.

  • Reply Smach September 21, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Hey, I’ve never read another post on nice research like this.
    It’s the Best one.Thanks for sharing

    • Reply Chris Lee September 21, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Great to hear that, Smach πŸ™‚

  • Reply Seng Sotharith November 15, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing these tips. It is very important for me to learn from you.

    • Reply Chris Lee November 16, 2015 at 1:41 am

      Seng, glad that it helped!

  • Reply Terry December 3, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Hi Chris,
    Great post – thank you. My question is how big does your site have to be to be regarded as an authority site?

    • Reply Chris Lee December 3, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      Authority isn’t measured on the number of pages but rather on your content quality/performance, traffic, and your positioning in your industry.

      Meaning… don’t pay much attention to how many pages you have πŸ™‚

  • Reply kartik December 5, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    i’m confused regrading affiliate marketing. there low search keywords… is there any guidance ???

    • Reply Chris Lee December 6, 2015 at 5:34 pm

      Kartik, not sure what you’re asking.

  • Reply Harsh S. December 16, 2015 at 11:40 am

    Hi Chris – I drop by here via searching for the best ways to search the right niche though I’m already working on one which is technology and programming. Anyways, after finding this post, I ended my search as I get lot of useful tips to move forward. And in addition, the manner you integrated the income generation part which is also very insightful. I’ve already read this post 2 times πŸ™‚ but will refer it again as it’ll keep me motivated and up on task. Thanks for presenting such an incredible information.

    • Reply Chris Lee December 17, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      Great to hear that. Thanks for your feedback, Harsh πŸ™‚

  • Reply Jonathan January 20, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Hello Chris,

    So, what criteria should you not tackled a niche then? I found quite a few keywords that has thin information regarding the search intent in the serps. But the sites that ranks have quite impressive backlinks.

    Or should I not worry about this and just go on and build my site?

    Thanks.

    • Reply Chris Lee January 21, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      Hey Jonathan. You should always do competition research for your niche the same as you always do. But approach it with a bigger picture of looking at the niche rather than specific keywords.

      • Reply Jonathan January 25, 2016 at 9:00 am

        Sorry but could you elaborate on that?

        Thanks

        • Reply Chris Lee January 25, 2016 at 3:25 pm

          I mean to look at the size of the niche and the overall opportunity rather than just a few keywords and their competition.

  • Reply Joseph Ybholy February 8, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    God bless you; am still on your second course! Hopes to become PRO after undertaking the last phase; you knows how to explain with authority.

    I respect you bro – thanks

    • Reply Chris Lee February 8, 2016 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks a lot Joseph πŸ™‚

  • Reply Nathan February 17, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I love your holistic, long-term vision of site creation. It resonates with me and at the same time is so different from what most other “experts” teach.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 17, 2016 at 10:42 pm

      Thanks Nathan πŸ™‚

  • Reply Steve March 18, 2016 at 6:46 am

    Hey Chris, just discovered your blog and I am loving it! I am working on niche site and was wondering what you thought of .edu and .gov sites in the top search results? Bad thing? Good thing? Depends? Thanks.

    • Reply Chris Lee March 19, 2016 at 7:30 am

      Usually will be impossible to beat depending on what your keyword is and its search intent.

  • Reply Jeff May 25, 2016 at 2:16 am

    Hi Chris, while i get the idea of your post, do u really advice newbies to do what you?
    I mean can your method be replicated.
    It also seems like to me you dont really care each individual keyword diffculty at all.
    And seriously,do u use Only email outreach and guests post to drive traffic.?

    As i find that most of your posts you didnt mention how to drive massive traffic or u just let it happen naturally (which takes a long time).

    And if possible i like to suggest a post of an example of how your integrate those longtail and high searches keywords into your content.

    Thanks

    • Reply Chris Lee May 25, 2016 at 7:37 pm

      Hey Jeff! Yeah, the post is really important for newbies to shed a different light on how to approach niche sites.

      The whole point is to treat it as a long-term business rather than look for shortcuts and rank for a few uncompetitive keywords.

      Outreach is a long-term game as well. Massive traffic comes from building authority to your site with these power links obtained from outreach, while targeting high volume keywords.

  • Reply Mantra Gayatri June 14, 2016 at 3:54 am

    It looks like authority sites are really the only way to go about keeping something for the long term. Oh well, looks like I’ll have to work hard after all.
    Keep up the great work.

    • Reply Chris Lee June 16, 2016 at 5:34 pm

      Yup they really are. Thanks Mantra!

  • Reply Apps for PC August 14, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing that informative post Chris. I was looking for this topic.

    • Reply Chris Lee August 15, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      Glad it helped.

  • Reply Alinda October 15, 2016 at 4:55 am

    Hi Chris,
    An awesome post, Chris. By reading this post i have open my mind and give me a new understanding about what we really need to do and must note once we begin to do the KW research to build the big and best authority site. As you write, that’s the mentality that we have to own. πŸ™‚

    This is my first time visit to your site but i am very impressed.

    Thanks once again Chris.

    Cheers,

    Alinda

    • Reply Chris Lee October 18, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Thanks Alinda πŸ™‚ Glad to hear that.

  • Reply JANNY PATEL November 7, 2016 at 6:36 am

    doing niche research from 3 months but couldn’t find a perfect solution yet.
    My planing is to enter in recharge and eCommerce or affiliate marketing and But i am not sure this is perfect or not…

    what should be the best niche for a blog to get enter in eCommerce . Any suggestions?

    • Reply Chris Lee November 8, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      There’s really no “best niche” out there.

  • Reply TubePC January 9, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Thank you so much for sharing that informative post Chris. I was looking for this topic. Keep on doing such work buddy. Appraising work was done by you.

    • Reply Chris Lee January 12, 2017 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks!

  • Reply Dan January 16, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Dear Chris,

    I devour your blog and find this post especially interesting…

    Having read this, I changed my decision about what niche to work on / what frozen web-projects of mine to revive…

    I read that you will release a course, I would be very interested… Sent you an email asking if the course will help with my existing website – must have landed in Spam

    The main competitor/ the authority, the goal to overtake – is a Magazine’s website and a huge team with 30 Mio. pageviews/month according to similarweb.

    I feel a lot of interest in the topic, which is hard for me in most other niches…

    So I wonder if your course could work with pushing a “hibernating” project, with no penalties I know of… or if the visitors are too many indicating too much competition? 30 Mio is 10x what you liked about the dog training niche in this article.

    Would love to hear if you could help me here

    Thx a million

    Dan

    • Reply Chris Lee March 17, 2017 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks Dan πŸ™‚

      Depends on a lot of factors. Where is their traffic coming from? And to what pages for what keywords?

      Check their stats in semrush and buzzsumo and a link checker.

  • Reply Ekopa February 9, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Thanks for Sharing This article. Well Explained piece of article. I used to fear Keywords with stiff competition. Its time i start facing the fear of not ranking. Thanks.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 9, 2017 at 10:15 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it Ekopa!

  • Reply Tushar February 11, 2017 at 4:01 am

    Hello Chris,

    I just came to your website and WOW, I am feeling really lucky that I land on your website. I have read few posts and totally surprised by the information that you are providing. Keep it up.Really appreciate your efforts.

    I do have a website on a subject called “Memory”. I mean related to human memory,concentration,focus and all those sorts of things.

    I just need an information regarding CPC. I do have 10 to 16 posts at the moment. Few keywords has CPC over $1 but has around 1000 to 2000 searches and few of them has 0 CPC but has 25000 to 50000 searches so how would get a revenue. Is it worth targeting a keyword of huge volume that has 0 CPC.

    I would get revenue keyword to keyword or it is related to domain name,niche or keywords. Sorry I am lost.

    I mean if someone lands on my post targeting a keyword that gets 50000 searches per month but has 0 CPC so what should I expect. I am totally lost in between good CPC but has few searches and no CPC but huge volume of search. What is the right way to go.

    • Reply Chris Lee February 24, 2017 at 6:10 pm

      Hey Tushar!

      At this point, remember that it’s far more important to create awesome content and increase your readership than it is to focus on which keywords are making you more money.

      Traffic first, and the money will come πŸ™‚

  • Reply Francis John March 8, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Great perspective!

    I’m changing my approach. My site is relative young so I can still change how I lay the foundation. I’m excited!

    • Reply Chris Lee March 16, 2017 at 11:46 am

      Awesome.

  • Reply Lenin Zapata March 9, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Hello, thank you very much for the article for beginners.
    A question, page of general subjects that inside has categories like: Politics, Entertainment, etc …
    And receive good traffic the CPC of these pages is less true ?.

    • Reply Chris Lee March 16, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      If it’s a quality site, sure πŸ™‚

  • Reply Narerit April 10, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Thanks for this thing that’s change my mine. Keep reading all of yours blogs.

  • Reply ANKESH AGARWAL April 23, 2017 at 6:07 am

    A very intyresting articel. Information was shared in a very good manner. I am new in online Marketig, and I have a basic question, is there any limit of Nos of backling to be created on daily basis?
    Please reply

    • Reply Chris Lee April 28, 2017 at 12:44 pm

      No limit if you’re building quality links πŸ™‚

  • Reply Faizan August 8, 2017 at 11:34 am

    I have tried tips of all the so-called internet gurus on niche research but none of them worked for me. You explained the topic really well and it cleared many of my concepts related to niche research. Will definitely try it and post my feedback again on it.

    • Reply Chris Lee August 12, 2017 at 12:35 am

      Great to hear that πŸ™‚