A VERY LONG DISCLAIMER: This content plan is for those who are willing to invest the time, money, and effort into building a premium blog. This isn’t a guide on how to put up something quickly and make money as fast as you can by taking short cuts and getting by on “just enough” work. This isn’t a guide on how to put up a $100/month site, or even a $1000/month site. If you’re looking for that, you’re going to waste your time reading this, and you don’t even really need to get into a competitive niche in the first place. This is an in-depth guide on how to build an online publication with the goal of possibly selling it for 7-figures in the future. To do that, we need to do things a little bit differently. Everything about your new blog and brand has to be of premium quality – especially content. You need to build a strong brand, grow the right (targeted) audience of readers (and customers), and have the potential to be scaled to multiple times your size given additional resources. If that’s something that interests you, continue reading… 🙂
This is the first guide of a 3-part series that I’ll be publishing over the next few weeks. It’s basically going to outline the step-by-step strategy that I personally am going to be using going forward with new projects in more competitive niches.
While the strategy is designed for dealing with higher levels of competition, that doesn’t mean that you can’t follow it yourself in less crowded markets.
Essentially, you’re going to learn how marketers of all levels can compete with the big guys and build a profitable online business, even in very competitive niches. The reason it’s the game plan that I’ll be following is that it’s the most effective way to build initial traction to a new site (that can be scaled long-term) – in terms of building traffic, and initial revenue.
And it’s the combination of three things: content strategy, traffic strategy, and monetization strategy.
Which is why I’ll be publishing 3 separate blog posts over the following weeks:
Part 1: Content
Part 2: Traffic
Part 3: Monetization
Each section accommodates the other. For instance, our content strategy helps our traffic strategy. Our traffic strategy aligns with our monetization strategy.
And in the first part of this series, we’re first going to learn about our content strategy.
But first… why a competitive niche?
While I’m all for building a business in less crowded niches, there is a reason that certain niches are packed with competitors, and that’s the potential to scale your traffic and revenue.
We want to build a site in competitive niches because they have the potential to build the most traffic, make the most money, and later on be sold for the highest price.
Yes, it’s easier to build a high-traffic site in less competitive niches, which makes it easier and faster to make your first $100/month.
But when you really want to scale your business to the highest levels, competitive niches have the best potential.
The challenge, though, is building traction to the site, and building enough traffic to it where monetization is a profitable option.
But we’ll discuss traffic and monetization in the next blog post. First, let’s start with content.
Content as a marketing (and business) 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 site.
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 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.
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 sources for content ideas
How do you get content ideas?
There are 4 main sources that I use in the 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 blog posts.
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?
In competitive niches, it’s NOT a smart strategy to just pick a few high volume keywords and try to rank for them. Unless you have some ninja networking and PR skills, your brand new site isn’t going to shoot up to the top spots for big keywords.
That CAN’T be our main content/traffic strategy at this stage.
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 – not based on competition.
3. Publishing quality + providing value with every post.
You’ll also want to have strong on-site SEO to maximize your efforts.
What we didn’t talk about in this guide is keyword research.
That doesn’t mean that you ignore it. Keyword research, and having a strong plan of what keywords you’re targeting is essential. It’s just not as essential in this stage of the game when entering a competitive niche.
We don’t dictate what content we publish based on keywords. We’re not going to decide against creating a piece of content around a topic because the keyword is too competitive.
Instead, we’re going to write whatever is relevant to our niche. And we’re going to hit a wide range of topics/keywords. Although we’re not actively focused on ranking for keywords, we know that we will eventually rank for a ton of them. That’s the end result we’re hoping for with this strategy. And that’s including the competitive keywords as well.
With 2000-word articles consistently published in a wide variety of relevant topics in our niche, our site is going to mass up a ton of long-tail traffic over the years.
That wraps up Part 1. If you made it all the way here… awesome!
As you learned, our content strategy is a little bit different when entering competitive niches.
Some things may not make sense as to WHY we do things a certain way. If so, first go back to the beginning of the article and re-read the disclaimer. Next, remember our content, traffic, and monetization strategies all work together. So as you read parts 2 and 3, it’ll make more sense.
Stay tuned for Part 2. It’ll be released some time next week. If you want an update as soon as it’s out, subscribe by clicking here. As a thank you, you’ll also get a bunch of extra free resources.
*UPDATE: Part 2 is live. Click here to read it.
Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts and questions to add.
And if you could share this post, it’ll really encourage me to get to work and release parts 2 and 3 sooner. 😉