Ready to start your very first niche website? Follow along and build it the right way.
In this guide, I’m going to show you exactly how to build a profitable niche website, even in competitive niches.
This is an exhaustive guide at over 16,000 words long. Every step of the journey is covered from setting it up on WordPress to coming up with a content strategy, getting traffic, and making money.
Table of contents:
Scroll down to start reading, or jump to a specific chapter/section by clicking one of the links below.
Chapter 1: What are niche sites and how are they built?
Chapter 2: Researching your niche
Chapter 3: Getting Your Domain Name And Hosting
Chapter 4: Installing WordPress & Analytics
Chapter 5: Your Content Strategy
Chapter 6: Driving Traffic To A Brand New Niche Site
Chapter 7: Monetizing And Making Money
Chapter 8: Conclusion & What’s Next?
Chapter 1: What are niche sites and how are they built?
Before we start building, let’s first take a moment to learn about what we’re building, and why.
How to build a niche site
Building a niche site consists of 3 main components: First, you need to set up a website with your own domain and hosting. Next, you need to publish content targeting specific keywords. Lastly, you need a reliable traffic strategy. For me, those are SEO and referral traffic.
What are niche sites?
We’re building sites that solve problems through information. This information can be trending news, viral stories, evergreen how-to articles and insights, or pure entertainment articles.
Some of the biggest blogs/niche sites on the web are The Huffington Post, Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, ESPN, etc. Of course, these companies have hundreds or even thousands of employees writing for them.
We’re solo entrepreneurs.
And for solo entrepreneurs, the best type of content are evergreen how-to articles.
What does evergreen mean? It means it stays relevant forever.
For example, content that talks about the recent soccer scores is time-sensitive news. It may be hot and trending at one moment, but once the season is over, it’s irrelevant.
Evergreen content would be something like an article that teaches you how to tie a bowtie. Something like that isn’t time-sensitive, so you can essentially write it once and continue driving traffic to it forever.
Why Start A Niche Site?
I started my first niche site nearly 10 years ago. Today, it’s become what I do for a living. Everyday, I’m working on growing my sites and coming up with ideas for building new ones.
It’s changed my life in so many positive ways. I’ve been able to work when and where I want, and choose the projects I want to pursue. Starting a success website opens a lot of doors for you. You get the opportunity to meet a lot of new people (virtually most of the time), and befriend a lot of other interesting people making a living online.
Why start a niche site? The answer varies from person to person, but the most popular reason is to build it into a high-traffic, high-income asset that you can work on full-time.
But it’s not just about money. The thing that brings the most joy to me (and this is true for other marketers I’ve talked to as well) is how many people I can help with my content. I’ve received hundreds of emails across several different websites from people thanking me for the content I’ve published. Sometimes, they’ll share stories of how it affected them specifically. That kind of thing is priceless, and it’s really what motivates me to spend all that time trying to put out the best content possible on my websites.
Yes, a niche site can be grown into a business. To those more experienced, niche sites are a business opportunity. A niche website can make just as much money as a physical business in the real-world. But it’s even better. A website runs 24/7. It doesn’t close up shop. It’s open for business whether you’re at your computer or not.
How niche sites work
So now that we know what niche sites are… let’s learn about how they work.
Here’s a quick run down:
We’re creating an information resource. And our goal is to enter a niche, and become the #1 resource for that niche.
How do we do that?
By creating high quality articles, better than what’s already available currently on the internet.
And we use SEO to optimize our articles for keywords, and to build links that boost rankings.
Over time, we’re going to drive a ton of traffic from Google, referral links, social media, and direct traffic.
SEO is our main strategy
Create awesome content, and build a lot of links. That’s pretty much what SEO boils down to.
If you can do that, over time, you’ll be able to drive a ton of traffic from Google for primary keywords + long-tail keywords.
And once we obtain this level of authority, we can start to monetize the site in various different ways.
But monetization isn’t important right now.
Since this is your first niche site, we want to first learn how to set up the site first and get it live on the web.
Can you make money with niche sites?
Niche sites are one of the best ways to build a long-term business online. If built properly with correct SEO strategies, they get stronger and stronger over time.
Your site amasses more and more traffic, and you can make money day and night.
Think passive income. The internet is running 24/7. Websites don’t close shop at 5pm like most offline stores. That means, with the proper set up, you can make money passively without needing to be present.
The bigger your site gets, the more traffic you get. And the more traffic you get, the more money you can make.
I make a full-time living running and niche sites, and they’re one of the most passive business models that exist in the world today.
There are various different ways to monetize your site:
1. Display advertising
2. Affiliate marketing
3. Selling products and services
The most commons ones include using Google Adsense ads, Amazon affiliate links, and affiliate links from other websites that are relevant to your site’s niche.
My personal favourites are Adsense, and selling your own ebooks and courses.
Since this is your very first niche site, don’t worry too much about your revenue model. If you can build a high-traffic site, the options are all available to you.
Setting up monetization isn’t the difficult part. The difficult part is building the site out and growing traffic.
A big payoff: Eventually, you may decide to sell your site. Niche sites are like pieces of property on the web. And selling a large site can result in a massive paycheque.
Sites usually make 20-30x monthly revenue.
So if you grow a site to $10,000/month, that’s a potential $300,000 sale — or even higher, since sites that are grown to such a large revenue are usually sold for even more than 30x.
Chapter 2: Researching your niche
The first step in building is finding your own profitable niche.
What is a niche?
A niche is your site’s topic. It can be anything, really. Bowling, fishing, sports, knitting, business, sky diving, camping, cooking, etc.
You get the idea.
Why do choose a niche? Why not build a massive site that targets everything?
Again, because we’re solo entrepreneurs.
To build a site about every topic in the world takes a massive amount of content around each topic. Creating great content takes a lot of time and work.
As a result, you end up building something that provides no value for any of your topics.
It’s a much better idea to build something that’s laser-targeted around one specific topics, and become the go-to resource for that industry.
Your aim is to choose one niche, and become the #1 resource on the internet for that niche.
Yes, this does narrow down your potential audience a lot. But you begin to get a very narrow, targeted audience on your site.
A targeted audience is useful for generating more income on your site.
1. You can sell to them directly, since they’re all interested in the same thing: your niche.
2. You can sell advertising for a much higher price — because advertisers are willing to pay extra to narrow down their targeting.
3. You can promote products as an affiliate product that each of your readers will be interested in.
4. You can release additional sites/services/software to your audience.
How do you choose your niche correctly?
We have to keep in mind that this is your first niche site.
For an experienced marketer and site builder, choosing a niche can be more about profitability than their own interests. This is because they have the experience and knowledge to build the site out correctly, and know exactly how to grow it out.
As a rule of thumb, the more profitable a niche is, the more competitive it’s going to be. Think of things like finance, stocks, real estate, business. These are all very crowded and competitive niches.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enter these niches. It just means that it’s going to take a lot more work (and expertise) to stand out from the others.
For an inexperienced marketer, this first site is going to be a learning curve. You’re going to learn a ton of things as you build it out and grow traffic. So targeting a super competitive niche might not be the best idea.
Rather thinking about the level of competition and profitability, we’re going to think about your interests instead.
That’s why your first niche should be something that:
1. You’re knowledgable about.
2. You’re interested in becoming knowledgable about.
Your niche should fall into one of these two categories.
Either you already know a ton about the topic, or you’re interested in learning a ton about the topic.
As your first site, you’re likely going to research and write all of the articles yourself (I wouldn’t recommend outsourcing anything until you learn how everything works first). As a result, over time you’re naturally going to become quite an expert in the topic you choose.
If you need help finding your niche, you can find a list of 112 profitable niche ideas in Niche Book.
TAKE ACTION: Determine your own niche
Okay so here’s the first “TAKE ACTION” step in this guide.
It’s time to select your own niche.
Now here’s how you do it.
Step 1: What do you know?
You need to start here.
Make a list of 10 things you know.
These are just things that you know and have some experience in.
For instance, if you go camping often, and know a lot about how to set up tents, start fires, and know a lot of nifty wilderness hacks, then that’s an awesome candidate you should definitely jot down on your list.
You’re not a wilderness expert.
You just know a bit more about it than the average person.
And don’t just do this in your head.
I want you to really get a pen and paper and write this down.
And don’t think too hard. Just write whatever comes into your head.
This should only take you 5-10 minutes max.
Here are some questions to get your brain flowing with ideas:
– What are you good at?
– What do you know a lot about?
– What do you find yourself researching and reading about for fun?
– Do people ask you for advice about anything? What is it?
– What are you the “go-to” person for?
– What were your strongest subjects in school?
– What are your accomplishments or any noteworthy achievements?
– What are you most proud of?
Don’t overthink it.
When you’re done, move to step 2.
Step 2: What are you curious about?
The next step is the same as step 1.
But instead of writing down what you know, write down your interests and curiosities.
For example, I’m very curious about personal finance. Mainly because I know it’s super important, and I suck at it.
For me, this would be the perfect example.
Writing about a topic forces you to study about it and become an expert in it.
Here are some good questions to get your brain flowing with ideas:
– What TV shows do you watch?
– What did you want to become (as a career) when you were younger?
– When you go to the bookstore, what section do you find yourself visiting?
– What magazines do you read?
– What websites do you read?
– What do you do for fun that you would like to become better at?
– If you could do one thing full-time for a year, and get paid for it, then what would you choose?
– What do you WANT to know more about?
Again, like in step 1, make a list of 10. Should only take you 5-10 minutes.
Step 3: Choose
There are a few more filtering steps that you can do.
But since this is your very first site, we can skip those.
Now all that’s left to do is choose from your list of 20.
Base your decision on one key question:
What topic will you enjoy learning, reading, and writing about every single day?
REMEMBER: It has to be of interest to you. For example, I don’t really care about sewing. So if I started my first niche site about sewing, I would lose interest fast. The probability of me giving up is a lot higher if I have no interest in the topic.
Do You Have To Be An Expert In Your Niche To Build An Authority Site?
The Niche That Gets An Insanely High CTR With Adsense
How To Do Niche Research For Authority Sites That Generate 5 Figures Per Month
Let’s Find A Profitable Niche Together (Live Walkthrough)
Chapter 3: Getting Your Domain Name And Hosting
Time to register your site and put it live on the web so we can start building it out.
How do sites get published on the web?
Before we get started, let’s go over a brief overview of what we’re actually doing here.
If you’ve never put a site live on the web before, it can seem like a daunting technical task.
BUT it’s not!
You only have to understand 2 things: Domain names and hosting.
Let’s go over each one briefly.
Right now, you’re on my site, RankXL.com.
Rankxl.com is my domain name. I decided on that name and registered it myself when I decided to start this website.
Think of domain names as home addresses. To give directions to your home you would give somebody your address, right?
Well domain names act as the same way. To get to my website you enter in my blog address, which is rankxl.com.
That’s all you need to know about domain names right now.
A domain name is just an address. If you don’t have anything built on your site, then all visitors will see is an empty page.
To store and display your site’s files (like a site’s articles and pages) then you need to host it on a hosting account.
For example, this page that you’re reading right now… I created it and stored it in my hosting.
As a result, when you visit this page, you’re able to see the content that I created 🙂
Don’t worry if this all sounds too technical
The reason you don’t really have to worry is that we don’t actually have to do each and every technical step ourselves.
Once we register our domain name and set up our hosting, all of that is handled automatically through the back end.
All we need to do now is register a domain name for your new niche site, and set up your hosting.
TAKE ACTION: Register Your Own Domain And Hosting
Here’s where you take action.
Follow the steps below to register your own domain and hosting.
By the end of this step, we’ll have your site live on the web. You’ll be able to open up your browser, enter in your domain name, and see your new niche site.
Follow the steps below.
Step 1: Decide on your domain name
Before we begin the registration process, you need to decide on your site’s domain name.
What makes a good domain name?
Try and make it two or three words. Include your topic, and add in one or two brandable words to it.
For example, my website is about SEO. That’s why I included the word, “rank” as in “rank in Google.”
My brandable word is XL.
Which resulted in RankXL.com.
I think of domain names all the time for new niche sites that I’m putting up, so I became pretty good at the process.
It’s not too hard.
Just think: Add in one word relevant to your niche, and another word for branding.
1. If your niche is cooking, you might want to use something like: spiceguru.com
2. If your niche is basketball, you might want to use something like: hoopsforlife.com
3. If your niche is home improvement, you might want to use something like: fixitgenius.com
4. If your niche is self improvement, you might want to use something like: efficientmonk.com
5. If your niche is travel, you might want to use something like: travelbear.com
These are all just examples, and I have no idea if they’re already registered by somebody else or not. But I hope they’re enough to give you a good idea of what you should be aiming for.
If you’re having trouble, try out this tool: Domain Name Brain.
Simply add in your niche related word, and it will give you an endless list of suggestions.
For example, if my niche was travel, I would simply add in the word travel and hit enter. And Domain Name Brain would give me a huge list of brandable domain name suggestions.
Not every domain will be available
A lot of domains these days are registered by other people and won’t be available.
So instead of just picking one, go through and make a list of 5-10 that you like.
Just write them down on another piece of paper.
In the next step, we’re going to go ahead and check if they’re available, and register your favorite one.
How to Choose The Perfect Domain Name For Your Niche Site
Step 2: Registering Your Domain & Hosting
The biggest question that you might be wondering right now is how much registering this all cost?
There are a lot of different companies out there offering domain and hosting. Not all of them are reliable. Some are stupid expensive, and they suck.
Trust me, I’ve tried a ton of different hosting companies.
And the one that I would recommend is Bluehost.
Usually, a domain name registration will cost about $10/year and hosting will cost around $100/year – so roughly $110/year.
But for readers of RankXL, you can get your hosting from Bluehost at just $3.95/month. And on top of that, you’ll also get your domain name registration free!
Once you’re on the page, come back and follow along.
I’ll guide you step-by-step through the setup process.
Step 1: Click on the big “Get Started Now” button
Step 2: Choose the basic plan
Step 3: Enter in your domain
Remember when we made a list of preferred domain names?
Now’s the time to enter in your favorite one here.
Enter it in, and press “Next”.
Step 4: Payment
The next step is easy – just fill out all your contact details and payment information (billed annually). Make sure you use your real details so you can verify your account.
Then, make sure your package information section looks like this.
We don’t need the Site Backup or SiteLock Security features. They’re a waste of money.
After that, just click Submit at the bottom of the page, and you’ll be done!
Your domain and hosting are now registered 🙂
And that was it!
Not too hard, right?
Now you own your domain name, and you have a hosting account where you can build out your new niche site.
In the next part, we’re going to install a piece of software called WordPress. This allows us to easily build out professional-looking websites without having to know any web programming language!
Chapter 4: Installing WordPress & Analytics
Now that we registered our domain and hosting, it’s time to build out the site by first installing WordPress.
What is WordPress?
Chances are, you already know what WordPress is.
But if you don’t, let me give you a quick little description so that you actually know what we’re going to be doing here in this step of the guide.
A gift for marketers like you and me.
Let me explain.
On top of that, you also needed to learn graphic design in order to make them look nice and pretty.
Well WordPress allows you to build beautiful, functional websites without knowing any code or design. And it’s perfect for bloggers and marketers building niche sites.
Here’s an example scenario to illustrate how awesome WordPress is
Let’s pretend that you wanted to create a new page, and then allow comments at the bottom for readers.
Without WordPress: You would need to create a brand new file, build the site using web programming language, upload it to your server, and create a custom code so that people can add in comments. You would also need to create a separate database so that you can store those comments separately.
With WordPress: You login to your dashboard, click “New Page”, write your content, and hit publish. It’s now live on your site.
So yeah… WordPress is pretty awesome, and that’s why we’re going to use it. 99% of digital marketers, SEO’s, and bloggers I know use WordPress. Media giants like CNN and The New York Times also use WordPress for their websites. So you know it must be reliable.
Oh, and of course, it’s completely free and open source.
That’s all you need to know about WordPress 🙂
Let’s go ahead and install it on your site.
How to install WordPress
First, log into your hosting account.
Scroll down until you see the icon called “Install WordPress”.
This will allow you to install WordPress with just a single click.
On the next page, you’ll see something like this:
Just enter in your site name (What your site will be called), your username (for logging into your site when building it out), and your password.
Hit install, and you’re done 🙂
When it’s done, it will show you your login screen. It will look something like this: http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin.
This is the URL you go to when you want to build your site (i.e. create articles, change the design, etc).
All of that will now be done here, instead of in your hosting’s CPANEL.
Log in using the username and password you set up, and you’ll get access to the admin area.
Choose your preferred WordPress theme
With WordPress, you don’t need to design the site from scratch. Creating a professional looking layout is as easy as installing a new theme.
So how do you change your theme?
You can do it right within your WordPress admin area.
First, go to your admin area by logging in.
Then, click on Appearance >> Themes.
Then click Add New.
Find the one you like
Here, you’ll find a ton of WordPress themes that you can install for free.
Just scroll down, find the one you like, then click Activate.
Go visit your website after that, and you’ll see that your design has been changed completely with your new theme.
Other places to get WordPress themes
As you might have seen, WordPress has a ton of options to choose from. I wrote an article listing out my favorites from that list here, if you want to take a look.
If you want themes that look a little premium, take a look at these themes from MyThemeShop.
Their themes are some of the best designed (and easiest to use) in the industry. They’re also the themes I use for my own niche sites.
Install 3 necessary WordPress plugins
Remember how I said that WordPress is so great because you don’t need to learn how to do any coding?
Well, it gets even better.
Any functionality you need to the site can be added simply by installing WordPress plugins.
If you ever need to add some cool feature on your site you can do a Google search for a plugin, and it’s highly likely to already exist.
Which ones do you need?
I have a large list of plugins that I install for my own niche sites.
But I’ll only list the 3 absolute essentials here.
These are the must-haves for your site.
1. Yoast SEO – A plugin that easily optimizes your on-page SEO.
2. Akismet – This will probably come automatically with your default WordPress installation. This plugin will detect spam comments for you and filter them out so you don’t have to.
3. Contact Form 7 – Easily create a contact form that sends all messages to your email.
Last step: Installing Analytics
This is the last part of our set up. We need to install our analytics.
What are analytics?
It’s a piece of software that tracks and measures all your site’s visitors for you.
You get to see things like:
– How many people visited your site.
– Where they came from.
– Where they’re located.
– What pages they looked at.
– How long they stayed.
– And more!
All very important things to know. This is especially important if you decide to sell your site down the road. Buyers absolutely must have access to this information, or else they would never buy.
And the best part about this is that it’s all free!
I’m going to guide you through it step-by-step.
Part 1: Go to Google Analytics and create a free account
Here’s the link: https://www.google.com/analytics.
Once you’re on the page, click on Sign In, then click on Analytics.
Then click the Sign Up button.
Then just fill out the details on the next page.
When you’re done, scroll to the bottom and click, “Get Tracking ID”.
Part 2: Copy and paste your tracking code
After you’re done creating an account, Google will give you a tracking ID.
Copy the code in this box:
Then go to your WordPress admin area.
Click on Appearance >> Themes.
Then go into your footer.php file.
Paste in the code from Google Analytics right above the closing body tag like this:
And you’re done!
Now you can log into your Google Analytics and see exactly what’s happening on your site.
Congratulations! You just put up your first live niche site on the web!
Isn’t it a great feeling?
Let’s have a virtual high five!
I remember when I first put up my first niche site.
I would open up an internet browser, type in my domain, and get all excited to see it there live on the web for everyone to see!
We need to fill your site with content, and start driving traffic and working on our SEO.
That’s the really exciting part: When you start seeing your pages rank in Google, and see people visiting and interacting with the site that you created… it’s a really fulfilling feeling.
I’ll never forget running and bragging to my mom that someone just came and spent a whole 7 minutes on my site!
It’s just a really awesome feeling.
And I can’t for you to start experiencing that feeling, too!
Now let’s dive into the actual strategy section of this guide: Growing the niche site – creating content, driving traffic, and making money.
Chapter 5: Your Content Strategy
After you start your niche website, the first step is to come up with a content strategy.
What you shouldn’t do is blindly throw up articles in random topics that come to your head.
What you should do is come up with a proper content strategy.
Content is the backbone of your business. You need to understand that, and keep it in mind with everything you do while growing your business.
Fail at content, and your business will have a very tough time succeeding. Too many people focus on the traffic or the monetization, and not enough about the content.
You’ve probably heard the term, content marketing a lot over the past few years.
Here’s the definition of content marketing that you need to understand before you continue: Content marketing is the art of producing consistent value to your audience in the form of content. Each piece of content you produce should deliver value to your readers, help them solve a problem, or answer questions they may have. As you consistently deliver value and help your readers, it establishes trust, builds your brand, and grows your audience – all of which lead to the long-term goal of driving sales.
That pretty much sums up what we’re trying to achieve here.
Further reading: How WikiHow Beat eHow With Higher Quality Content
So how do we go about doing this?
Your content quality is everything
However, it’s not something people pay much attention to. From my experience, most people are focused too much on length and too little on actual quality.
Just because an article has a high word count, doesn’t mean that it’s high quality. Great content is something that goes very deeply into problems or questions that readers have, and providing solutions in a detailed, but simple and easy to understand manner. It’s about knowing HOW to present the material, like a good teacher.
Think of it this way: Each piece of content you produce is a touch point with your current and potential customers.
This being the case, you need to really consider the quality of what you publish.
- Are you just pumping out thin articles to target as many long-tail keywords as possible?
- Are you cutting expenses by hiring only the cheapest writers?
- Is your content the best in your industry?
- Can you call yourself a leading expert in your field based on the content you’ve published?
Creating quality content is very hard OR very expensive.
It’s the biggest barrier to entry.
So you might be wondering…
What’s the content strategy then? Is it just: Publish high quality content?
In this next part, we’re going to get a little more specific. We’re going to address things like how often you should be publishing, where to find writers, the goals you should set with your content, and how long your articles should be.
How often should you be publishing?
It’s important to understand how publishing frequencies affect your overall search traffic AND the amount of traction you will build over the first year.
Your publishing schedule affects your traffic. There’s a debate amongst SEO’s that publishing frequency doesn’t really matter. But frequency matters, a lot, especially for the first year of a new website.
For a new site, the more often you publish, the higher your chances of building and piling on your traffic in the second year. When your niche site has less than 100 pages, content matters. Each piece of content you publish will affect your search traffic.
In the beginning, your site has zero content. There’s nothing to crawl, no long-tail keywords to rank your content for, and no reason for Google to crawl your site very often.
If you publish once a month, that’s 12 articles for Google to crawl and index in a year. If you publish once a week, that’s 52 articles for Google to crawl in a year. If you publish 3 times a week, that’s 156 articles!
156 or 12…
That’s a big difference.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should be pumping out articles. You should only publish as often as you can WHILE keeping your quality levels very high.
So what’s the magic number?
There isn’t one. But the number that I would recommend starting out with, and the one I’ll be starting out with myself is 2-3 times per week.
That’s about 100-150 articles of content within the first year.
That’s certainly doable. If you decide to write them yourself, it’ll take a lot of time and effort, but it’s doable. If you decide to hire writers, 100 articles isn’t crazy high to drive your budget out of control.
Let’s talk about content length.
How long should your articles be?
To understand what the ideal content length is, let me first tell you about the two different approaches you can take.
When you’re creating a site, you can take one of two approaches:
Approach #1. Go after ONLY big keywords/topics in your industry and create 10x content. You wouldn’t publish often, but when you do publish it will be amazing.
Approach #2. Hit a wide range of keywords/topics and create a large quantity of 3x content.
*By 10X or 3X I mean 10x or 3x better than what’s been created by your competitors. Note that 10x better doesn’t necessarily mean 10x longer. Depending on the content type, it can be better designed, more thorough, have more sources, have better presentation, etc.
At first glance, it might make more sense to lean toward Approach #1. You’re targeting the biggest keywords, and once you rank for them, you’ve pretty much built up a giant site already pulling in tons of traffic each month.
So doesn’t it make sense that everyone should take this approach instead?
Not really, and let me tell you why.
First of all, it’s extremely rare (and difficult) to build much traction while publishing that infrequently – especially in competitive niches.
It’s like building a brand new site in the finance industry, and your main strategy is basically to rank for finance tips, best credit cards, and debt consolidation. It’s just not something that the majority of marketers can replicate. It can be done, but there are a lot of other factors you need to get perfect.
The second reason I don’t lean toward Approach #1 is that it’s not guaranteed what pieces of content you publish will be hits or misses.
If you’re doing content marketing long enough, you’ll realize that some pieces of content just do a lot better than others… EVEN THOUGH your research told you otherwise.
That means, that in most niches, you can’t just see what was popular in the past, create something 10x better, and just expect it to get a lot of traction given the proper networking. Most of the time, it won’t work out as well as you thought. And a lot of the time, it’s the random pieces of content that suddenly pick up a lot of traction.
I’ve seen this happen many times, and because content behaves this way, I prefer (and recommend) Approach #2. It’s much more consistent and replicable.
You can grow just as large a business as using Approach #1. But you’re going to be doing so by going quantity over quality.
That doesn’t mean you’re ignoring quality. It just means that you’re spending less time, resources, AND DEPENDANCE/EXPECTATIONS on just one article and distributing them over multiple articles instead.
So how long should your articles be?
10x content might be something massive like a professionally designed 4K to 10k word “ultimate guide” kind of article.
For 3x content, the sweet spot is around 2000 words (in most niches). Don’t confuse that with low quality. Yes, compared to a 10,000 word guide, 2000 seems tiny.
But 2000 words is a LOT of content. It’s a meaty, high quality article. It’s long enough for you to go in-depth into the topic and completely solve somebody’s pain points or questions.
AND it’s long enough to beat most of the thin 500-word pieces of content that most other publishers are producing.
We’re not just making assumptions here.
Around 1800 to 2200 words has been proven by data to be the average length for pages that ranked on the first page of Google.
Like this study by SerpIQ, which is a few years old but still relevant today.
And this more recent analysis by Brian from Backlinko.
And this study study by OkDork and BuzzSumo showed that longer articles get more social shares.
I think it’s safe to say: Longform content wins, and 2000 words is an ideal length to be targeting.
You may be wondering, how can I write 100 articles at 2000 words each in a year by myself?
That’s like 200,000 words!
That’s a lot of work for just one person.
But it’s doable. You CAN create that much content in a year, and it’s been done before by many others who’ve built successful content businesses.
The real challenge is creating content that’s actually good. You need your content to have proper grammar, a consistent voice, good structure. You also need good sources to make your content credible. They need to be well-researched with sources to back up what you say.
Can you do that?
If you can, and are willing to put in your own hours, then great.
If not, you’ll want to hire writers like I’ll be doing. BUT ONLY if you’re willing to invest the money necessary.
Remember the disclaimer at the beginning of the article: This is a guide on creating a premium content business. This is not a guide on how to produce a mediocre blog that makes you some nice pocket money every month.
Quality content is EXPENSIVE.
A lot of people shoot themselves in the foot by getting too cheap with their content outsourcing.
Ask yourself this:
Will your content be good enough to get repeat visitors? Are people going to read your content and be happy to return to your site for related content?
Is your content just good enough to get ranked on page 1 of Google? Is it just decent, or is it awesome?
Remember what we just learned: Content is the backbone of your business.
You can’t be thinking of buying $5 articles off of Fiverr. You can’t be planning on hiring the cheapest writers off of Upwork. You can’t be thinking of getting 3-4 star articles off of places like Textbroker or iWriter.
In fact, you shouldn’t be using services like Textbroker or iWriter at all because you don’t get the chance to actually work with a writer. You need your content to have a consistent style, voice, and presentation.
So you have 3 options:
1. Go on Problogger and hire the best: This will cost you the most money. You’ll find the highest quality writers, but be prepared to pay them a high price per article (especially if you want to continue working with them). Treat writers as valued employees, not just as people who accepted your gig.
2. Go on Upwork and look for talented writers at fairer prices: This will require a lot of vetting. However, you can usually find some really talented writers for a much lower price than Problogger. There are skilled writers who are new to this site and just want to build their profile and reputation. So they’ll charge a lower price for their work. Once you get experience with working with them, and really like them, you can increase their pay to keep them onboard.
3. Hire someone you know: Do you know someone who has real-life experience in the industry you’re targeting? Talk to them and ask if they would like to write for your site. The costs will vary, and you’ll have to be negotiate with them, but keep in mind that the reason you would go this route is to save money, not spend more. You may even find out that working out a partnership agreement is more suitable for your situation.
What’s an ideal price per article?
If you’re thinking of going high quality, you should expect to pay about $100 to $150 per 2000 word article. For shorter 1000 word articles, you can reduce this to $50 to $75.
If you’re publishing twice a week, your costs for the year on content should be about $10,000 to $15,000. *If you’re hiring someone for long-term work, you could negotiate costs and even add in additional tasks such as formatting and even uploading to WordPress.
You could get by with $50 articles, but just remember, again, that content is the backbone of your content business.
And if it were me, and I only had the funds to produce low quality outsourced articles, I would just write them myself, or publish less frequently.
$10,000 – $15,000 might seem like a huge amount of money to be throwing at a website that hasn’t even made a dollar yet, but remember that this is an investment. And it’s the only big investment that you’ll need to make at this stage. Other areas won’t require you to throw much cash at it.
You can be thrifty on other areas like design, and you can do the marketing yourself. But for content, there’s no getting around it.
Either put in the time, or spend the money to hire the best.
If you want to find cheaper writers…
Your best bet will be Upwork and other freelancing websites. Or you may even want to try using a reputable agency.
Remember that hiring is all about who you find, and negotiating costs. I listed $100 to $150 because it’s the market price for a high quality article. It’s what you need to hire talented, established writers because that’s what they’re used to making. But it’s not a set cost for everyone, and you can find ways around it.
If you look on freelancing websites, you can find good writers and if you’re lucky, you can hire them for much cheaper.
And as a last resort:
If you need to hire writers, but only have a small budget, then publish less often.
Publishing less often is a better compromise than publishing a bunch of thin content.
For example, if you have $300 to spend on writers per month, don’t pay for 15 articles at $20 each.
Instead, get 3 articles at $100 each. You’ll only publish 3 times per month, but at least whatever you publish will stay inline with your content marketing goals.
The best free sources for content ideas
How do you get content ideas?
There are 4 free sources that are good for your beginning stages.
BuzzSumo is my favourite tool for getting content ideas.
Just input a keyword and it’ll show you the most popular content on the web.
For example, I searched for “money saving tips” and got back these results.
BuzzSumo will show you how many shares it got, who shared it, and who linked to it.
You can even search by domain name.
So you can input your competitors’ sites into the tool, and it’ll show you their most popular posts.
We’ll come back to BuzzSumo in the traffic part of this guide, but for content creation, what we’re really interested in is just looking at the post titles, and analyzing the content.
We want to know WHY their content is the most popular, and how we can create something that is 3x better than it.
I read Quora for pleasure, and even downloaded their app on my phone. It gives you the best answers to questions people have.
The coolest part is that most questions are answered by the most qualified and experienced people.
For example, if you ask about what it’s like to be in prison, you’ll find an ex inmate who tells you about their exact experience.
Or if you ask about what it’s like to own a dog, you’ll find a bunch of answers from people who actually have a dog.
You won’t find a bunch of spammers giving one sentence answers, just trying to link to their websites (although it does happen) like a lot of the other Q&A websites.
Quora is heavily moderated. As a result, the site is extremely popular, and it’s a haven for content ideas.
Just do a search for any topic.
And look at all these interesting questions.
There are thousands of questions for any topic, and most are extremely interesting – great for articles.
Reddit is a fantastic source for content ideas. They have subreddits (sub communities) for just about any topic.
I won’t go too deeply into Reddit because most of you already know what it is, and how to use it.
All you need to do is search for your topic/niche, and you’ll likely find a huge subreddit with thousands of members participating in discussions everyday.
The great thing is that because there is so much engagement on this site, everyday you return, the first few pages will all have brand new content for you to scour.
And lastly, YouTube.
Most people use it for JUST video, but I love getting content ideas from YouTube.
I wrote about this in the past, and you can read more into it here.
But all you need to do is search for your keyword, and you’ll get a ton of new and interesting ideas.
The cool thing is you can look at things like upvotes and view count to see what’s been popular.
Who cares if your keyword tool shows that it gets low searches a month. If the video got millions of views, and has a ton of upvotes, it’s likely a pretty popular piece of content!
Further reading: Use SEMRush To See Every Keyword Your Competitors Are Ranking For
Breaking it down: What is the overall goal with this content strategy?
So, what we’re focusing on instead is:
1. Hitting a wide range of keywords/topics in our niche.
2. Targeting keywords/topics based on relevance, interest, and popularity.
3. Publishing quality + providing value with every post.
You’ll also want to have strong on-site SEO to maximize your efforts.
With 2000-word articles consistently published in a wide variety of relevant topics in our niche, our niche site is going to mass up a ton of long-tail traffic over the years.
Chapter 6: Driving Traffic To Our Niche Site When It’s Brand New
In this part, we’re going to break down our traffic strategy for the initial stages of our new niche website’s life.
Mainly we’re going to be covering: How do you increase targeted traffic quickly after starting a brand new website?
Long-term, our goal is to dominate with SEO.
We want to build the site to a point where we have a strong link profile, and driving significant search traffic.
The good thing is that our content strategy is already helping us with this long-term goal. If you remember in the last chapter, we’re building extremely high quality content – in-depth 2000 word articles hitting a wide range of keywords/topics in our niche.
Doing this consistently starting from day 1 allows us to build a strong base of solid content which, later with link building, will build up a lot of organic traffic to our niche site.
But this guide isn’t about our long-term strategy with SEO.
SEO is our main long-term traffic channel, but it’s NOT going to be the one we focus on in the beginning.
This guide is more about getting traffic quickly to a new niche website BEFORE SEO kicks in.
Getting steady search traffic to a new site will take longer in competitive niches. Usually, it will take upwards of a year before we can fully see the results of SEO.
And we don’t want to just sit around and wait for that.
We want traffic right away. We want to get the word out about our site. We want to start building our audience right away. And we want to monetize somewhat quickly and get some income coming in.
Therefore, in the beginning, we’re not going to pay any attention to search traffic.
Instead of trying to rank for keywords, or worrying about whether Google is indexing our content or not, we’re going to rely on other traffic generation strategies where we can see more immediate results.
The nice thing is that everything we’re going to be doing is going to help us with our long-term goal with SEO.
The two strategies we’ll be using
In the beginning, we only need to focus our time and effort on just 2 strategies: Influencer networking and guest posting.
These two go hand in hand. They shouldn’t be seen as separate strategies.
Influencer networking is essential in landing guest post opportunities, and guest posting helps you build those relationships even further – and we’re going to leverage them to amplify our outreach efforts.
In the beginning, nobody knows you. Nobody knows you exist. You don’t have a readership. You don’t have an audience.
Influencers in your industry have the audience that you want to build. They have the traffic and the readers that you want to target. They’re who you need to get in front of.
And guest posting is a great, reliable (and repeatable) method of driving targeted traffic to a new website that nobody knows about yet.
But guest posting isn’t the only thing we’re looking for with our networking efforts
Guest posting through influencer networking is what we’re going to learn today, but there are also numerous other indirect/non-immediate benefits and opportunities that come with doing good outreach.
Building relationships with influencers can lead to opportunities that come up over time that may not be apparent to you right away. I’m talking about opportunities that would never have been open to you if it wasn’t for your networking.
For example, relationships built the right way can lead them to:
- link to you
- mention you in conversations with their readers or in the comments sections of their articles
- share your content on social media
- recommend/talk about you to other influencers
- invite you to their mastermind groups
- invite you to speak at conferences
- invite you to offline retreats
- invite you to partner on new projects
- introduce you to other influencers
I’ve experienced all these things after starting RankXL.
And each time, it wasn’t by a random influencer I’ve never talked to before. It was somebody I had already built up a relationship with.
When I first launched RankXL, nobody knew who I was. 6 months later, when I released my first paid product, I had about a dozen big influencers help promote it for me.
And that was with minimal networking. I didn’t take RankXL very seriously for the first few months, and I certainly could have done a better job at building relationships. But even so, within the first year, I had a lot of influencers share and link to my content, invite me to guest post on their websites, and promote my products.
I wasn’t just a nobody suddenly reaching out to them out of the blue and asking them to promote my new content. I reached out to them first to make a connection.
We became internet friends 🙂
They knew who I was already, I had built up a solid reputation with them, and that made them happy to get behind the products and blog posts I released.
Of course, I was producing high quality content on my website, which helped build that credibility, but as you learned earlier, you will be too!
Further reading: A full summary of my first year running RankXL.
Networking worked for Greatist.
Here’s another great example from a more well known niche site.
When Derek Flanzraich first launched Greatist.com he focused on one thing.
He emailed the top 100 influencers in his industry (health), and asked them for advice.
But he wasn’t just asking for advice, he was networking. He was introducing himself and getting the word out about his new website, all the while building relationships that would later help with outreach efforts.
When it came time to promoting new articles, they were happy to share it with their audience. They linked to Greatist in their articles, and some even became investors in their company.
How to break the ice
What you don’t want to do is just cold email a bunch of influencers asking them if you can post a guest post on their site.
You want them to know who you are when you email them.
Here are a few effective ways to start that first communication and break the ice.
1. Email and say hello.
The most basic way is to send them an email and say hello. Just introduce yourself and your new niche website, and ask for advice on how to get started.
If you’ve been following their site, let them know.
If you like their work, tell them what you like about it and how it helped you.
Add in some light, but tasteful praise.
Remember that they receive a ton of automated emails every day. So make an effort to stand out and not seem like a robot.
Make it as personal as possible – leave a good first impression.
Further reading: Here’s how to cold email like a boss
2. Comment on their articles.
Some bigger influencers may not respond to your emails. They may even have an assistant that responds to these “hello” types of emails for them. That’s not what you want.
Fortunately, there are other ways you can make a connection with them, and one of them is commenting.
Commenting on an influencer’s website is a great way to build up that first connection. It’s a great way to get busy people to notice you before you send them an email.
For example, when I first started RankXL, I spent quite a bit of time commenting on other websites in my space. Over time, this has led to backlinks, social shares, and even partnerships.
Some even led to a nice chunk of traffic.
It all started with me commenting on their articles.
How? I would leave insightful comments on their most recent articles, which led them to check out my site and find out who I am. Or, it would help put me on their radar and they wouldn’t see me as a stranger when I did finally reach out to them via email.
TIP: Leave comments on their most recent articles. They’re more likely to be active replying on freshly published content.
3. Link to them and let them know.
This is one of the most effective ways of making that first connection with influencers, since you’re actually doing them a favor.
Link out to influencers within your articles and, after it’s published, email every single one of them to let them know you linked out to them.
I love receiving emails that let me know I’ve been linked to. And I always take the time to check out the article to see where I was mentioned. Usually, I’ll take time to check out some of their other pages as well.
If the post is solid, I’ll go ahead and share it. But even if I don’t, I’ll often remember to link to it if I’m ever writing about a similar topic and need a good reference.
Here’s the email format that’s been working well for me:
This template is assuming that it’s the first time you’re reaching out to them.
Keep it short, and only include 5 points.
1. Tell them about the post.
2. Let them know you mentioned them.
3. Let them know how they helped you.
4. Hint at a share.
5. BONUS: Something personal that shows you actually know them.
I just published a giant article on X here: URL
Gave you a shoutout 🙂
Your articles on X really helped me to gain perspective.
Obviously, if you shared this article, it would mean the world to me. But, really, I’m just a new face in your industry, and just wanted to say HELLO 🙂
P.S. Your recent Reddit AMA was amazing. I learned a ton! Thanks for doing that, and keep up the great work!
It’s short, to the point, and very friendly.
Notice the way the email is structured. Although I mention they should share it, I let them know that it isn’t why I reached out to them. The primary reason was to say hello.
Keeping it light and not being pushy/slimy about it leaves a good impression and allows for further communication down the road.
4. Do a roundup post.
Unless you’re using a unique angle that will provide some real value to your readers, expert roundups are not something I recommend in the digital marketing niche. It’s been way overdone, and now it just seems like the same basic questions are asked over and over again.
But they’re not so common in other niches, and it can get some really great results.
The content standard goal of your roundup post should be to provide expert tips on a topic with the help from… REAL EXPERTS!
If done correctly, it can really be a unique, high-quality piece of content.
- Would you rather read about how to cook an egg from a random writer, or would you rather read 20 REAL LIFE professional chefs sharing their personal favorite ways to cook an egg?
- Would you rather read about what a police officer career is like from a random writer, or would you rather read 20 active duty police officers give you their first-hand advice.
- Would you rather read about 20 tips on how to be a leader from a random writer, or would you rather read 20 CEO’s give their #1 tip on running a large team?
You get the point.
If done right, link roundups can produce amazing, unique content that’s never been seen before in your industry.
And best of all, most influencers who participate are going to be happy to share the post after it’s published!
How to put influencer outreach into action (step-by-step)
The above methods were all ways you can break the ice.
But you’re probably looking for a more systemized method you can follow step by step.
So here it is.
Step 1: Put together a list of 100 influencers in your industry.
No need for fancy outreach software here. A simple spreadsheet in Excel or Numbers will be just fine.
Name and URL of the site in one column.
Name of the influencer in the second column.
Email in the third column.
Replied YES/NO in the fourth column.
I normally hate using spreadsheets for outreach, but it’s pretty essential for this stage. It helps keep everything organized, and saves you time.
Don’t just go after the giants in your industry. By influencer I mean all levels of influence. If they have an established site, consider them an influencer.
Step 2: Reach out and say hello.
The next part is to reach out to each one of them.
Further reading: Step by Step Process to Find Anyone’s Email Address
DO NOT use outreach software to send a mass email to all of them. Make each one as personal as you can.
If you haven’t been doing so already, read their content and learn about them.
Here’s an example email:
Hope you’re doing well.
My name’s Chris and I’ve been reading your site for a while now. Your recent article on productivity hacks was especially helpful for me, and couldn’t have come at a better time.
In fact, it’s really helped me focus the last few weeks getting ready for the launch of (URL). I’m a new face in your industry, and just wanted to say HELLO 🙂
As you have been in my shoes some time ago, I was hoping I could ask if you have any advice on getting started as a new website in (industry). I know it’s tough and very competitive, but I have some big plans for putting out excellent content, like yours!
Any words of wisdom, what to avoid, etc… anything that could help would mean the world to me.
Thanks, Tim. I really appreciate your time. And I know you must be super busy so if I don’t hear from you, no worries!
P.S. I’m really digging the custom graphics on your site!
Note I don’t finish off the email with things like “I look forward to your favourable reply” or “Awaiting your response.” Things like that leave a bad taste.
You shouldn’t look forward to anything.
Instead, let them know you understand how busy they are, and you’re fine if they can’t find time to reply to you.
Why this works
1. People love to help others in their industry. They’ve been through the beginning stages where it’s tough to build traction. They’ve had feelings of doubt and considered giving up. And they’re happy to help eager people who want to climb the same mountain. As a result, you’ll see quite a high response rate (usually around 70-80%).
2. Despite it being you asking for advice, receiving these kinds of emails are refreshing. You’re new to their industry, but you’re not asking them to share or link to your site to help you. You’ve considered them a mentor to ask advice, and especially they’re in the same niche, they can offer a lot of great advice. After email after email of requests and automated email blasts asking them to share content, this kind of email is pleasant to receive.
3. This is a great initial point of contact because, if you’re genuine and develop a good relationship with them, they’ll likely help you out in some way in the future. If your content is good, they’ll share it. Or they may remember to link to it if they ever need a good reference in their own articles.
4. It becomes A LOT easier (and more natural) for you to ask them to share or link to a post later on. You can ask for advice/opinions about specific articles you publish and mention that sharing would help you out a lot. Since they’ve given you advice about your site, they’ll be more likely to check out what you’ve been working on and give it a read.
If they DON’T reply:
You can continue with the other methods of breaking the ice.
Some influencers don’t reply to emails from readers. Not because they’re mean, but because they get thousands of them per day and just can’t find the time.
If so, try doing things like commenting on their articles, linking to them, or inviting them to participate a roundup post. They may not reply right away, but each of these actions will put you on their radar.
AND, because you’re providing them with value first, they’ll be more inclined to respond to your emails in the future.
Step 3: Ask for a guest post.
The quick win we’re after with influencer networking is to land a guest post. Remember, the people who read and follow your influencers’ sites are your target readers as well. And one of the most effective ways of reaching that audience is through guest posting.
For a new niche site in a competitive niche, it can be a significant (and reliable) source of increasing targeted traffic.
You don’t need to develop a very deep relationship with the influencer in order to get them to say yes to your pitch. And you don’t need to have a large website or audience.
You just need enough communication with them to know who you are when you contact them with your pitch.
I only had a few articles published on RankXL, and I wasn’t an established authority.
And I didn’t build deep relationships with them either. In fact, I had never reached out to them before that. The pitch was my first point of contact with them.
And they were still accepted!
So how did I land guest posts on two very big marketing blogs in such a short time?
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years:
1. Make sure you have a few articles on your own website first. Big sites are especially concerned about the quality of articles they publish. Having high quality content on your own website is like your writing portfolio. It shows them your work and your expertise. Don’t just pitch a guest post with no samples to show them.
2. If it’s your first guest post ever, write the post first. If you don’t have any past guest posts you can point to, and are not an established website yet, then writing the guest post first is a great way to make them say YES. Of course, your post needs to be excellent.
Writing it first turns the decision for the influencer into:
Should I take a look at it?
Should I let this stranger publish on my website?
The first one is a much easier ask to say YES to.
For example, this is the guest post pitch email I sent to Hayden of NoHatDigital just 2 months after launching RankXL.
I wrote out the guest post first, then sent him an email. I knew the topic was perfect for his audience.
And he replied:
And I landed my first guest post! You can read it here if you like. It was back when viral sites were all the rage so it was the perfect time to write about it.
You don’t always need to write out the guest post first. Just for your first few.
Afterwards, you can use your past guest posts as your references in your pitch. Like I did here pitching Matthew Woodward just shortly after the NoHatDigital post went live.
And that was accepted as well! Here’s the link if you want to read it.
The more you’ve done in the past, the easier it will be to pitch and be accepted in the future (since they can see your work published on larger blogs).
Always try and build the relationship first, using the steps outlined in this guide. Don’t pitch it through a cold email like I did.
It’ll make guest posting a lot more effective, and you’ll see better results.
One of my favorite examples of a guest post pitch is from Alex Turnbull, founder and CEO of Groove.
Here’s his guest post pitch email to Buffer.
Alex and the team at Groove are known for their success with guest posting, having used it to help grow their software business to their initial goal of $100K/month and now working towards their new goal of $10m/year.
And in his guide outlining Groove’s guest posting strategy, the most important takeaway is:
Step 4: Don’t disappear after the guest post – you just grew your relationship with the influencer!
If you land a guest post, don’t just pat yourself on the back and walk away.
Far too many people make the mistake of disappearing once it’s published.
Show your appreciation by saying thank you, and asking if you could help out in any way.
Ask if they would like to post a guest post on your site. Link out to them in future articles and let them know. Invite them to participate in expert roundups. Mention them wherever you can. Share their content on social media. Repay the favor.
Getting a guest post published will take your relationship with the influencer to the next stage. They trusted you enough to let you post on their website, and you’ve provided them with free high-quality content.
Step 5: Ask for an introduction.
What’s the best way to make new connections in real life? Through the friends you already have.
It makes it a lot easier (and less awkward) to connect with someone through a mutual friend. They’re also less likely to ignore you because of it.
The same goes for online communication. Every person that’s added into your network is linked with dozens of other potential connections you can make.
Once you develop a relationship, ask for a warm introduction with another influencer that they know.
Conclusion for building traffic to a brand new niche website
And that’s it. These two strategies alone are enough to start building your niche site up the right way with the right traffic.
The game plan is quite simple: Make friends with influencers – leverage your connection into a guest post.
Can we really kick off a legitimate content business with just guest posting?
While guest posting won’t drive you millions of visitors per month, it’s a reliable, repeatable method of driving traffic regardless of the competitiveness of the industry you’re in. We’re trying to increase traffic BEFORE SEO kicks in – and guest posting is one of the most reliable ways to do so.
And at scale, it can produce some massive results.
That’s 100,000 customers! NOT 100,000 visitors.
Remember our short-term goal:
And our goal is similar to Buffer’s. We’re not focusing on traffic numbers.
If you remember in the beginning of the article, I mentioned that our goal isn’t 1000 visitors per month. It’s to get our first 1000 email subscribers.
When you have a subscriber goal, instead of a traffic goal, it makes it simpler to measure growth in your early stages.
- We’re not going to fuss about Google indexing our content right away.
- We’re not going to worry about backlinks being indexed.
- We’re not going to get stressed out that we’re not ranking on Google.
All of those things can be left alone, and we can leave it for the long-term – when our SEO efforts really matter.
For now, we want to build the right relationships with influencers, and increase targeted referral traffic to our site.
Chapter 7: Getting To Profitability: Making Money With Your Niche Website
Finally, it’s time to talk about making money.
How do I start a niche website and make money with it? That’s one of the most common questions I get. Starting a niche website is the easy part. Making money gets a little more complicated because everything has to come together – content + traffic.
When your site is brand new (under a year old), things are usually going to be pretty slow. You won’t have much content, you won’t be driving too much traffic, and your presence in the search engines will be minimal.
So then how do you make money?
Much like our traffic strategy that we learned in the last chapter, there are two ways to view monetization: long-term and short-term.
Long-term, we have a lot of options… and they’re all profitable.
- CPC ads like Adsense
- direct advertising
- affiliate marketing
- selling your own services/products
Making money with a niche website is easy when you have a lot of traffic – especially in crowded niches.
The tough part is building revenue to your niche website when you’re brand new. And while there are a number of different options to choose from, there is one monetization strategy that far outperforms the others.
And that is: List building and selling products.
IMPORTANT: There are a various different ways to monetize a niche website. And your plans may be different. For instance, maybe your goal is to build an affiliate site and go straight into affiliate marketing with something like the Amazon Associates program. Or maybe you want to start with ads first and use something like AdSense. I’m not going to touch on all of them here. Instead, I’m only going to touch on one of the ones I found work best across most niches. The good part is, it’s also the fastest method of making money with a new niche website.
Our initial short-term monetization goal is to build our first 1000 email subscribers and use our list to make our first $1000+ in revenue in 6 months.
And in this post, we’re going to go through everything you need to know to execute this model for the first time.
Why do email subscribers matter?
You might be wondering, why do we even need to build a list in the first place?
When it comes to communication with your readers, email performs better than social media and display advertising combined.
Because we’re going to be selling products, having a reliable line of communication is crucial.
To illustrate this further, let’s consider two scenarios.
Let’s say you have a website with 100,000 monthly visitors. You’ve built a new product, priced at $500, and now you want to sell it on your site.
WITHOUT EMAIL LIST:
With no email list, your only real option is to link to it from your website. You could write a blogpost about it, link to it from your sidebar, and add in links in relevant articles. Doing this, you might get a site-wide click through rate of around 5%.
That’s 5,000 visitors to your sales page, which isn’t bad at all if you’re consistently driving traffic to it every month.
However, without an email list, you’ve never really built a relationship with your readers through email. You never really had any direct communication with them. And as a result, they barely know you, and they never even knew about your product launch. It’s very difficult to send cold traffic to a landing page and try to sell a $500 product. Your conversion rate is terrible, at 0.1% to 0.3%. (That might sound low, but that’s not an exaggeration.)
Let’s do the math.
We’ll use 0.3% to be fair.
0.3% of 5000 = 15 sales.
15 sales x $500 = $7500.
Not bad if you’re making that every month, but at 100,000 visitors per month, you can do a LOT better. We were pretty generous with our estimates, and that still doesn’t give you a 6-figure/year business.
WITH EMAIL LIST:
With an email list, you’re actually maximizing the value of your traffic. A niche website that gets 100,000 visitors per month is a valuable asset. But the email list you can build with that is even more valuable.
At 5% conversion rate, you grow your email list by 5,000 new subscribers per month. At the end of the year, that’s 60,000 subscribers. They’re interested. They trust you in their inbox. You send them high quality content, and they’re happy to be subscribers of your site.
Now, when you launch your product, you can actually email them beforehand to let them know what’s coming. You don’t need to plaster ads and links all over your site. All you need to do is send an email. Over the period of a launch week, the total number of people who open your email and click through to visit your sales page is at usually around 30% of your list.
That’s at least 18,000 people from the total 60,000 email subscribers you have.
Let’s do the math at a reasonable 2% conversion rate.
2% of 12,000 people = 360 sales.
360 sales x $500 = $180,000.
Definitely a lot better. If you launch the same product 4x throughout the year, that’s $720,000.
But that’s not even the best part.
For the sake of easy calculations, let’s say that your traffic DOES NOT grow at all over the next year. That means, the next year you continue to get 100,000 visitors per month, and you gain another 60,000 email subscribers.
That’s 120,000 email subscribers. Using the same figures, a launch week with the same price points and conversion rates will result in $360,000 in sales. A single week!
And so on, year after year this number reaches higher and higher numbers.
Of course, these are only rough estimates, and your results may vary. But I hope this illustrates the point of why an email list is important for your sales.
Whenever you have something to sell, you’ll have an instant flood of buyers to your sales page. If you write a new article, you’ll have an instant flood of readers who will comment, share, and link to your post.
It’s the same with RankXL
My email subscribers are different from regular visitors. They actively and knowingly subscribed to my website to hear more from me. They know who I am, and what I’m all about. They’ve read my past content. We’ve connected over email. And over time, I’ve built a connection with them.
As a result, they’re the most engaged readers. They leave insightful comments. They link to my articles on their own sites. They share my stuff on social media. They mention me on other discussion platforms.
Every time I publish something new, I email my list about it. That instantly brings a spike of visitors, comments, shares, and links.
The same goes for my paid products.
Random visitors who just visited my site for the first time are usually not going to buy anything that’s several hundred dollars. They have no idea who I am, or what this site is about. They don’t know if I’m a spammer, or if know what I’m talking about. They don’t know if the product will be any good.
When I release something new to sell, the majority of buyers are my email subscribers. That means, the bigger my list, the more sales I make.
They’ve seen my free content. They’ve gotten value out of it. They’re avid readers. And if they’ve purchased my other products before, they know it will be high quality.
And it’s how I grew RankXL to $130,000 in sales in the first year.
Our game plan
By now, you should have a small idea of what we’re after here: Building an email list, and selling them products.
But before we dive into the step-by-step details, let’s briefly go over the overall game plan so we know what we’re dealing with here.
As you learned, we’re going to publish a lot of high quality content.
We’re not going to worry about competing in the serps. SEO is going to come later. So instead, we’re going to build free targeted traffic in other ways using influencer networking.
And lastly, we’ll be capturing that traffic by collecting emails on our niche website.
After you start your site, it should take you about 3-6 months to build your list up to 1000, depending on how hard you’re working, and how effective your marketing is. Realistically, you can get a lot more a lot sooner if you execute well.
When we have 1000 subscribers, we’re going to launch our first paid product.
Our minimum monetary goal is set very low at $1000.
That’s only a 1% conversion rate with a $100 product, and a 2% conversion rate with a $50 product, and a 0.2% conversion rate with a $500 product.
These are way below normal.
At those price points, conversion rates should be a lot higher. We’re giving ourselves a lot of leeway here. I do that solely because I don’t know your niche and there are a lot of factors that affect sales.
I launched RankXL on a similar model. But I only launched to 500 subscribers.
Yet, total sales in the first month were $9100. Sales for the year crossed 6-figures.
That was with a $150 product, which was later doubled to $300 as I made more updates and improvements to it.
That’s a lot more than the $1000 in sales we’re aiming for, and I’m sharing this to show you that the $1000 bar is set very low and there is potential for you to make a lot more if you do things correctly.
- how big your email list is
- how engaged your email list is with you.
- the demand/value of your product.
- the price of your product.
- how well your product is built.
- how good your sales copy is.
- how good your launch strategy is.
If this is your first time with email marketing and building products, don’t worry.
We’ll go through everything step-by-step below, and we’ll keep everything as basic as possible.
Step 1: Set your site up to collect emails
How do you really build an email list?
There is a lot of information on the web on how to build an email list. But really, there’s only one thing you actually need: A website with traffic.
There are no secret tactics. Build a website that gets traffic, and you’ll build your email list quickly, consistently, and for free.
From there, all you need to do is optimize your opt-in forms on your site.
We already learned how we’re going to drive traffic to our niche website. What we want to do is get them to subscribe to our email list using opt-in forms.
If you look around RankXL, you’ll see I have various form placements for collecting emails. This took a lot of testing and custom design work to get right over the years.
If you’re new to list building, you don’t need to do all of these things. You can add more of them in over time.
For now, you can get away using just one: Popups.
Popups work. Very well. Some people argue they’re annoying, but the reason you still see them on nearly every website is because they’re so effective.
And honestly, popups aren’t annoying. Popups that pop up every 10 seconds is annoying! If I visit a website and the same popup keeps showing up on every page, THAT’S SUPER ANNOYING!
If you just show it once, and actually have a good call to action that people want, then it’s totally fine!
For example, here’s my current popup on RankXL.
It doesn’t just scream, “JOIN MY EMAIL LIST! PLEASE! I WANT YOUR EMAIL”. It presents the browser with a clear, desirable lead magnet without sounding desperate. If you want it, subscribe. If not, close the window.
Use exit intent
Most popup software will give you control over WHEN and HOW OFTEN your popup shows up.
I’ve set this to only show once per day, and to not show it to people who’ve already opted in (although it doesn’t work perfectly). But most importantly, I use exit intent.
It tracks the mouse movement of the browser and shows up when you move it up to click the back button. Meaning, it only shows when the visitor is about to leave your site.
That prevents it from showing up mid page when they’re focused on your content and produces much higher conversion rates.
Step 2: What to send your email list
They’ve opted into your list.
Now what? Do you send them a campaign of pre-written emails? Do you shove affiliate links down their throat?
Here’s what to do with a brand new email list once you start your niche website.
Create one awesome welcome email.
No email sequence is necessary at this point.
When your website is brand new, you don’t need to create a huge email sequence or any advanced funnels for new subscribers. You have nothing to sell, and still have minimal content on your website.
What you want to do is just create one well-written welcome email. This should send as soon as they sign up.
Basically, it should say hello, welcome them, and have a small introduction of what your site is all about, and what they should expect after joining your list.
I’ve joined email lists in the past where I would opt-in, and… that was it! No email saying hello. Nothing saying thank you for opting in.
Silence, until weeks later, by which point I don’t remember who they are and unsubscribe.
That’s not what you want.
You want to build a relationship with each subscriber and let them know you’re grateful that they subscribed.
Further reading: 16 Examples of the Best Welcome Emails in the Industry
Is that the only email you send?
No. That’s the only email that’s automated, but it’s not the only one you ever send to them.
You should be sending your list updates about new posts. And that’s it. Just send out a broadcast email when you publish a new post.
Here’s an example of one I recently sent out to my list for RankXL.
I use the title of the post as the email subject.
And in the body, I just let them know about the post, give a short description about it, and insert links.
In the P.S. section, I encourage them to leave a comment to let me know what they thought about it.
These update emails bring a flood of readers to my new articles, and I get comments, shares, and links.
Update emails are the perfect way to build trust in a subscriber’s inbox.
It gives you a reason to consistently email them and show up in their inbox WITHOUT spamming them. You’re not blasting them with affiliate links. You’re not annoying them with sales promotions.
You’re sending them fresh updates on high quality content that they might be interested in. If it helps them, it goes a long way in building a good reputation for you and your brand.
Tools for building your email list
I’ve tried all of them, and currently use and suggest ConvertKit. Aweber and Mailchimp are too basic, Drip is a little more on the advanced side and more suitable for developers, and ConvertKit is right in the sweet spot.
Popups: You have various options to choose from. I use almost all of them across my different sites, and the best ones are Optinmonster, Sumome, and Thrive. On RankXL, I’m using Sumome. These all have their own monthly fees, which add up to a few hundred dollars per year, so if you’re on a budget, you can use ConvertKit’s built in popup feature.
Building your product
Whether it be software, an ebook, an online course, or services, there are a lot of different products you can choose to sell your list.
There are no predefined answers here. Which one you choose will largely depend on your niche, what you’re most comfortable with, and your audience what you’ve been discovering their main pain points are over the first few months.
However, in most cases, for my very first product, my usual preference is an ebook.
But not just a regular $19 ebook – a very premium ebook that’s designed more as a starter kit – and priced between $49 and $100.
Further reading: How Samuel Hulick made over $37000 with his self-published book
How do you sell an ebook for $100
Answer: You don’t position it as just an ebook AND you use multiple packages. $100 for just a single book would be kind of ridiculous. But $100 for a book, along with multiple other bonuses is a pretty cool deal.
For example, my initial offering would be something like a $49 ebook, and a $99 upgraded package. I use this method a lot.
A perfect example is something like an old ebook which I used to sell on RankXL. I sold an ebook for $49, and had a $99 package that included things like downloadable swipe files, and other helpful guides around the topic.
It was only sold and promoted on the site for a few months, but resulted in some pretty good sales.
That was all with a $49 ebook, with a $99 upgraded package.
I could base my entire monetization strategy around ebook packages like this one, and turn it into a 6-figure revenue stream for this site.
However, my plan is usually to increase the price significantly and turn them into online courses.
Online courses sell for much higher prices
Online courses sell for a much higher price point.
Ebooks on their own usually sell for anywhere between $9 to $79.
Online courses on the other hand, usually start at $99 on the low end and go all the way up to $2000+.
Then why wouldn’t we just start with an online course? Why build an ebook first?
If you’re comfortable building a video course (and won’t take a whole year to finish creating it), then go for it! But for me, building courses are huge projects.
Ebooks are much easier (and faster) to put together.
Ebooks can realistically be completed from start to finish in just a few days. Online courses, on the other hand, can take months of work.
As a first product, my preference is to start it off as an ebook. If it gets a lot of sales and proves itself to be a popular product, you can add onto it, raise the price, and eventually turn it into a full course format.
However, that’s just my preference. The product you build is fully up to you, and what you’re comfortable with. Some people are more comfortable (and more experienced) with creating videos. Some people (like me) prefer the written word. And some people like live interaction in the form of services or coaching.
It all depends on your niche, what your audience needs, and what you’re comfortable with.
Tools for creating your product
Building an ebook: I build my ebooks using iBooks Author. This is a free download. You’ll need a Mac computer, though. Alternatives are Google Docs, Microsoft Word. Simply put them together, and export as a PDF when you’re done. It’s that easy.
Creating ebook covers: For creating book covers, you can use the default cover in iBooks Author or hire someone. I like to use designers from Envato Studios.
Sales and product delivery software: I’ve tried pretty much every software out there, and my favorites are Gumroad and Easy Digital Downloads. Gumroad now charges a monthly fee. Easy Digital Downloads is free, but will require more work setting up.
However, these are for self-hosted courses. Meaning, you need to build every aspect of it yourself on a fresh WordPress installation. There are a ton of moving parts, and can cause a lot of headaches if you’re not a coder.
Lately, I’ve been playing around with Teachable and am loving their platform. It’s what I’ll be using for building my courses from now on.
Launching your product
Okay, so you built an email list, built your product, and are ready to launch.
How do you launch it?
Do you just email your list?
There’s a right way and wrong way to launch your product to your list.
The difference between the two can be thousands of dollars in sales, so you’ll want to pay attention to this part.
There’s a lot more to launching a product than just announcing it to your list.
I’ve tested various different styles of product launches over the past few years, and here’s what I found works best.
Since this is likely to be your first launch, I’ll keep this as basic as possible. But it works, and is repeatable across different industries.
1. Set a launch date: While you’re building your product, set a launch date. Having a deadline will help you finish in time, rather than dragging the project on. Make the launch date reasonable, but tight.
2. Build a mini course: You don’t want to just throw your product at your list out of nowhere. You want to warm them up on the product first. The best way to do that is to create a 3 to 5 part mini course. A week before your launch date, schedule 3 to 5 emails based around the topic of your product. Each one should provide value, and get your subscribers wanting to learn more. The last email should let them know about your product and the launch date and time.
3. Send one more email before the launch date. A day before your launch, send out one more email reminding them about the open cart time the next day.
4. The ideal launch should only last 4 days, but for your first launch make it 3. You should email your list every day out of those 3 or 4 days.
– The first day lets them know the cart is open. Depending on the price of the product, you can introduce a 12 to 24 hour discount period (commonly called the Fast Mover Discount). The discount should be 15 to 25% off.
– The second day, you answer any frequently asked questions.
– The third day is usually when I like to send them to a review page from past buyers. But since it’s your first launch, and you won’t have testimonials, you can make this your last day. The last day, you send 2 emails. One in the morning to let them know it closes today, and one in the evening about 6 hours from cart close as a final reminder.
No need to get fancy and drag out your product launch for weeks. Just 3 to 4 days is plenty.
Why do we open and close the cart? Why not keep it open year-round?
With a product launch, the majority of your sales will be on the last day.
You’ll see a spike in sales on the first day, fairly modest in between, and the biggest spike will come on the last day. This is because of urgency. The cart is closing. They need to act now, or they can’t buy it until the next time it’s available.
If there’s nothing pushing them to buy, it’s likely to never happen. Most people will say, “I’ll just buy it next time” and that time will never come.
In the long-run, you can automate this process using more advanced email funnels through evergreen launches (where each subscriber goes through their own unique scheduled launch), but for now these live launch emails should convert best.
After the launch
Depending on your price, and other factors such as what you’re selling, engagement of your list, your sales copy etc… your value per subscriber can be anywhere between $1 and $20.
$20 might seem like it’s on the high end, but it’s totally doable. For example, if you sell a $1000 course to an engaged list with an effective launch strategy, a 2% conversion rate would make you 20 sales, making you $20,000.
Either way, your first launch should make you (at least) your first $1000 in revenue.
You’ve now built up some income that you can use to put back into your business 🙂
As you learned, it’s not that difficult to make your first few thousand in revenue with a new niche website. All you need is the right monetization strategy, and the right execution across all three pillars of your content business: Content, Traffic, and Monetization.
And for a new niche website with minimal traffic, list building and selling products is most effective.
What about in the future? Should you keep selling products and doing launches?
This largely depends on your niche, the type of site you’re building, and your audience.
Things change when you approach 1 million users a month. Selling digital products will probably not be the most profitable option. Sites with very targeted audiences can make a ton of money with native advertising – especially with sponsored or branded content.
These kinds of sites are also the most sellable. It’s more difficult to sell a site that’s heavily reliant on a few launches throughout the year to make the bulk of its revenue. Native advertising is more scalable, measurable, and is a more widely recognized monetization model that buyers can follow.
It all depends on your goals with the site, and your branding strategy.
But, this isn’t something that you need to worry about right now.
For now, the most profitable option is to build your list, sell products, and generate a profit.
You can always shift gears as you grow.
Chapter 8: Conclusion & What’s Next?
Wrapping up on our massive guide on how to build a niche website.
Starting a niche website is easy. Getting it set up on WordPress and writing your first article is simple stuff that anybody can do.
The difficult part comes in growing it into a money-making niche site. As you learned in this guide, there are a lot of moving parts. It takes patience, hard work, and persistence.
The biggest reason for failure is simply that people give up too quickly. And it’s not their fault. If it’s your first time, you don’t really know what to expect. You don’t know the processes and different cycles that a new niche website goes through before breaking through and finally being successful.
The strategy detailed in this guide is a proven one. I’ve been using for the past few years on multiple niche websites across multiple different industries.
Niche websites can truly change your life if you want it to. Starting a successful websites can open a lot of different doors for you. It can allow you to quit your job, finally travel the world, or just get some really good side income money.
So if you’re serious about getting this to work, stick to the game plan, don’t lose focus, and work hard. Hard work definitely pays off.
How long does it take to grow a niche website?
This depends on a lot of different factors such as how much time you have to spend on it every week, and how good you are. For example, I’m now able to do this full-time for a living. So I have the ability to work day and night on my niche website.
Building a niche website should be seen as a long-term goal. Think months and years. Not days and weeks.
On average, it will take you about a year or longer to grow the site large enough where it can replace your full-time job. Yes, it can be achieved much faster but this time period is what you should expect when you get started.
There are so many websites out there today. Isn’t it too competitive?
It’s more competitive now than ever. More and more people are trying to build a niche website and grow to the point where they can do it full-time. That being said, the market is never too competitive. People are still starting websites today in some of the most crowded industries like health and finance and making a killing with brand new sites.
It’s the people who don’t even give it a try who fail. There are a surprisingly large number of people who work hard at building their niche websites and end up making a ton of money.
Furthermore, it’s not as competitive as you might think it is. Most people give up on their sites in the first 12 months. A large percentage of them were actually on the right track, but they gave up because they either got impatient or lost interest. While it may seem crowded based on how many people are INTERESTED in niche website, there is still a lot of room at the top.
Have other questions about starting a niche website?
If you have any questions about how to start your niche website, or need assistance with any part of the process, contact me here and I’ll be happy to offer my two cents.