NICHE SITES 101: What Are Niche Sites & How Do You Set Them Up?
A Step-By-Step Guide To Building Your Very First Niche Site
Ready to start your very first niche site? Follow along and build it the right way.
Who is this guide for?
This guide was created for beginners starting out with their very first site. It’s going to take you step-by-step through the entire process of putting up your first site.
By the end of this guide, you’re going to understand how everything works, choose your own profitable niche topic, and have your first site up and running.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
Follow along: This guide is designed to be interactive. To get the most out of this guide, follow along with each step and take action right away.
Table of contents:
Scroll down to start reading, or jump to a specific chapter/section by clicking one of the links below.
- How to build a niche site
- What are niche sites?
- How do niche sites work?
- Can you make money with niche sites?
- How do sites get published on the web?
- Deciding on your domain name
- Registering your domain and hosting
- What is WordPress?
- How to install WordPress
- Choose your preferred WordPress theme
- Install 3 essential WordPress plugins
- Last step: Install analytics
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 published content targeting specific keywords. Lastly, you need a reliable traffic strategy. For me, those are SEO and referral traffic.
What are niche sites?
Niche sites, blogs, authority sites… they’re all the same thing: websites!
More specifically, 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.
Blogs vs Niche Sites
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 blogs 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.
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.
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.
Blogging 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 blogs 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
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 blog.
Think of domain names as addresses. To give directions to your you would give somebody your address, right?
Well domain names act as the same way. To get to my blog 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 blog 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 and blogs 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 blogging 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 site for 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!
Chapter 5: What’s next?
Time to learn the real stuff!
In this guide, you learned how to set up your very first niche site!
Now it’s time to start building the site, growing your traffic, and learning about monetization. That’s the really exciting part, and the part that involves some more advanced strategy.
Join my free email course on how to build profitable niche sites – A 5 lesson course on the most critical aspects of building a niche site into a high-traffic, high-revenue business.