What is this niche site project?
This niche site project is a side project I started in June 2019 where I build a niche site from scratch and try and turn it into a profitable one.
For quite a few months, I have been dabbling with the idea of starting a bunch on new niche sites.
I already have a couple of authority sites and I am making a full-time living for more than five years now (with the income from these sites).
While I can continue to work on my existing sites, I love the idea of building niche sites. No matter whether these succeed or fail, I end up learning a lot of new things in this ever-changing online business world.
I am not new to starting new sites and I have tried a few in the past few months. Some did well ($100-$200 per month) and some didn’t. I also shared some learnings from these sites in the Human Proof Design podcast.
This article is more of a journal of what I do with one of the new sites I am starting and what works (or doesn’t work).
I am not going to reveal the site name or the exact niche, but I will share all the other details including the traffic/rankings/income with the snapshots.
Also, note that it takes time for a niche site to get traffic organically and make money. So, for the initial few months, you’ll see me spend time and money with almost no results.
No matter how hard you try in the first few months, results take time. So if you start your own site today, be ready to put in long hours (and have a lot of patience).
I will be sharing monthly updates in this article (I initially started with weekly updates, but that quickly became a lot of work).
Let’s get started!
- Date of Starting this niche site: June 2019 (2nd week)
- Target: A total of $100 in the first eight months (by the end of February 2020) and $500 per month by June 2020.
A word about the target – Getting from 0 to $100 is extremely tough and takes time. Once you’re at $100 a month, growing your site to $1000 is easier.
Let’s get started with the updates now (I will keep adding more updates every month in this same article).
Week #1 Update
- Number of articles published: 0
- Word Count of the articles published: 0
- Pageviews: 0
- Income: $0
I spent a couple of days doing niche and keyword research.
Since I already have a few failed sites, I made sure I don’t repeat the same mistakes. So when it came to niche selection, I considered the following factor:
- Familiarity with the niche: While you can easily create a niche site on a topic you’re not familiar with, I didn’t want this. I feel more comfortable when I understand the niche, even if the familiarity is low. I find it easier to be more motivated when the niche is something that interests me. Again, this is just my personal preference.
- There should be a lot of info keywords in the niche: This is important for me as it can help find more keyword ideas, get traffic faster, and open a new monetization channel – display ads. When you use networks such as Ezoic or Mediavine or Adthrive, you can make good money with traffic on info content articles. Also, keep in mind that sites that have multiple sources of income are more likely to have a higher multiple in case you decide to sell the site in the future (also confirmed by Greg from Empire Flippers in this HPD podcast).
- Focussed on the US market: While there is low competition and a much better chance of getting traffic in the Indian market, I am only focussing on the US market. With the US market, I am more likely to make more money with display ads, and the probability of selling the site is higher, as most of the buyers are interested in sites that get traffic from the US.
- Has Amazon products to recommend: While I am not a huge fan of the Amazon affiliate business model, I know it’s probably the easiest to start with. And since Amazon sells almost everything under the sun, it’s easier to find products on it. I made sure the niche has a lot of products of different kinds that I can recommend through my site.
- Amazon products have reviews (lots of it): I find it assuring when the niche has products with lots of reviews. It’s proof that there are a lot of sales happening through Amazon.
- Product Value is greater than $50: While you can make a lot of money with low-value items as well, I wanted to start in a niche where every sale gives me more money. Another reason I wanted this is that I wanted to attract those kinds of people that have higher spending capacity. This also helps me get higher RPM on display ads.
- Has some active forums: While this is not a huge consideration, having active forums in your niche helps in two ways – it gives you ideas for new info content (based on questions people are asking), and it helps you make your content better. People drop a lot of value bombs in forums, and you can use these to improve your existing articles or while writing new articles.
With all these in mind, I analyzed hundreds of niches and finally zeroed in on a few.
For doing keyword research, I mostly used SEMRush, Google Autosuggest, and AnswerThePublic.
Finally, I booked a domain name from NameCheap.
While getting this domain name, I made sure it sounds nice, doesn’t have the words such as best or review, but include the niche keyword (one word).
It’s a brandable domain name, and in case this site gets big (fingers crossed), I can even think of selling it. I haven’t sold any of my sites so far and I am a complete noob in it, but this is a huge consideration while starting this site.
Oh, and yes, it’s a .com domain.
While I have ranked other TLDs just as easily as .com, I still wanted a .com as I believe it might be valued higher in case I plan to sell it in the future (if it works).
Another thing I managed to do in Week 1 is set up the entire site and make it ready for publishing content.
Starting and setting the site takes a lof time (at least for me).
Here are some usual steps involved in setting up the site:
- Connecting the domain name with hosting (I use and recommend SiteGround). It’s cheap, fast, reliable, and has great support.
- Installing WordPress
- Adding the SSL certificate (one click with SiteGround)
- Changing Permalink settings (only have post name in the URL)
- Adding a logo and Favicon (used Canva to make this)
- Adding GeneratePress theme (you can use whichever you want)
- Adding and activating plugins (Akismet, Easy TOC, Elementor Pro, WP-Rocket, AAWP, Classic Editor, ShortPixel, Yoast)
- Creating the header, footer, page, post, and category archive templates using Elementor Pro.
But you don’t have to make this expense.
Here are some substitutes:
- Elementor Pro: No need for this or any other plugin like this for now. I use it for its theme builder functionality, but you can install any free theme you like and get started. Don’t get hung up on your site design. You can always work on it later.
- WP Rocket: Use W3 Total Cache. If you get hosting from SiteGround, you can use their SG Optimizer plugin which is good enough.
- AAWP: It’s a plugin I use to get Amazon product data such as images, prices, and links. You don’t need this as of now. In fact, I don’t recommend getting it at all unless you’re making money already.
So, by the end of Week 1, I have a fully functional site that is ready for publishing content.
To be honest, this is only a few hours of work (given that I do this a lot), and I probably would have added some content had I only been working on this site alone. But I have a lot of other sites to manage as well, so I don’t think I will be able to spend more than a few hours on this site anyway.
But that has been the plan all along.
And I believe the hard part is over – niche selection and keyword research.
In the coming weeks, I will only be spending time getting content for the site (I might write a few articles myself as well). The aim is to have 50-60 low competition keywords on this site and let it get out of the sandbox if there exists something like that.
Based on my past niche sites experience, it takes about 3-5 months to get any stable movement in rankings (with a lot of ranking fluctuations in the first few months). Since I am focussing a lot on info content, I might see some movement sooner (or later… you never know… we will find out)
Now coming to the link building part.
It’s hard! And important.
But I am not going to do it for the first few months. I need to see some traffic coming in before I spend time on it. Once I see some traffic, I will start with link building.
We will cross that bridge when we get there.
So far, all’s well and I am desperately hoping (while keeping a confident pro-like exterior) for this to work.
Gut feeling tells me it will.
Week #2 Update
- Number of articles published: 1
- Total number of articles on the site: 1
- Pageviews: 0
- Income: $0
Week 2 ended up being a bit neglected. I got busy with a lot of other stuff and couldn’t spend enough time on the site. These are the things I managed to do for the site:
- Added the site to Google Search Console. This is not needed immediately, but it’s one less step to worry about. It also doesn’t take a lot of time. All you need to do is verify the domain in GSC and add the sitemap.
- Added Google Analytics to the site. Again, it took less than a minute and I don’t expect any movement in the first 15-20 weeks.
- Added one article to the site – 1,811 words. This is an info article. It’s a decent start and I plan to add ~4000-5000 words per week.
Now let me share the most important development of week 2.
I finally hired an agency to write content for my site.
It’s Content Development Pros.
Now, before I share my thoughts about the content writing agency, here is a suggestion – if you’re a beginner and are not making any money, it’s better to write the content yourself. Once you start generating income (or have enough confidence in the site), you can outsource content writing.
Another benefit of writing the content yourself is that you get to familiarize yourself with the niche and the content writing process. This helps you later when you decide to outsource your content.
Now. coming to the price.
CDP charges $39 per 1000 words (you can negotiate further if you’re placing a bulk order).
That’s a bit pricey (considering I could have hired someone full time in India for far less), but I am happy with the quality of their content. It’s well researched, and there were no major grammar mistakes.
The drawback is that they haven’t shown a quick turnaround in the first two articles. I order the content in the first week itself and they delivered two articles in two weeks.
That’s very very slow.
I have reached out to my account manager and asked him to speed it up, but I am also worried that this may take a toll on the quality. So to strike a balance, even if I get 2 articles from them every week, I am going to be fine.
For me, quality trumps quantity.
I may also write a few articles in case I get time. Although this will not be the best use of my time, I want to have a decent enough knowledge of the niche I am in. And writing a few articles and researching about it would give me that.
For week 3, I plan to publish 2-3 articles and also create some social profiles such as a Pinterest account and a Facebook page (still thinking of which ones would make more sense).
If I can get the CDP writing agency to speed up a little, I might also do some keyword research and send them a list of articles to write, but if that doesn’t happen, I will have to try and find another agency or hire a writer.
Week #3/4/5 Update
- Number of articles published: 5
- Total number of articles on the site: 6
- Pageviews: 0
- Income: $0
I am clubbing the updates for the three weeks as most of what I did was repetitive (also, I didn’t get time to write the update for each week separately).
In week 3/4/5, I managed to do the following:
- Publish 5 articles
- Create social media accounts
- Publish videos to YouTube
I mentioned in Week 2 that I have hired an agency to write content for the site. While I was struggling initially with the pace of delivery of articles, they have really picked up after a little nudge.
As of now, they are sending me 4-5 articles per week.
The quality of these articles is still the same (decent with minimal or no revision needed).
I also created a couple of social media accounts for the site (mainly Pinterest and YouTube). These accounts make the site look natural and also has an added benefit of getting a NOFOLLOW backlink from the profile.
While these profile links may not help a lot in rankings, it’s still a good signal about the authenticity of the site for search engines.
While I am not looking to add videos on YouTube (at least for now), I plan to be active on Pinterest. I have seen some crazy results with Pinterest in the past and I hope to see some here as well.
For the coming weeks, I will send another batch of articles to Content Development Pros and continue to publish articles and videos on the site.
Week #6/7/8 Update
- Number of articles published: 9
- Total number of articles on the site: 15
- Pageviews: 0
- Income: $0
I am again clubbing the updates for multiple weeks as I was traveling and didn’t get time to write it for each week.
I continued to publish articles that I got from the CDP agency. They have finally picked up the pace and I hope they continue to keep it.
I also ordered another batch of 30K articles from them.
So far, all the 15 articles I have published are information articles.
I will continue with a few more information articles before I switch to a mix of info content and review articles.
It’s been almost two months now and I expect to see some movement in rankings soon.
I also realized that I forgot to install the Google Analytics code (which I thought I had). So I will be able to exactly track the number of page views the site is getting (I don’t expect anything major happening soon though).
There is some movement in the impressions in Google Search Console (nothing too exciting, but good to see some movement)
- Number of articles published: 12
- Total number of articles on the site: 27
- Pageviews: 44
- Income: $0
This month I have only focussed on publishing articles and doing some keyword research for the next batch of articles.
While my intent is to focus on info articles first (to get enough traffic for display ads), I also published the first review article (~3000 words).
I will continue to publish a couple of review articles every month so that they have some time to age and rank the best they could. I can then try and further push these using some backlinks later.
- Number of articles published: 3
- Total number of articles on the site: 30
- Pageviews: 50
- Income: $0
I couldn’t spend enough time on the site this month, but I did manage to publish 2 review articles and one info article. This takes my total tally for review articles to 3.
As of now, I am solely focussing on the Amazon affiliate program for these review articles. Once I get some traction, I may consider switching to other affiliate programs that have a slightly higher commission.
The reason I am not switching to other affiliates as of now is that it takes me less time to publish Amazon affiliate links (thanks to AAWP). When I start using other affiliate programs, it will take me some time to add those links.
I will do it when I see some traction for the existing articles.
- Number of articles published: 15
- Total number of articles on the site: 45
- Pageviews: 107
- Income: $0
I was able to devote more time and energy in adding more articles this month. The organic traffic more than doubled and is at a grand total 0f 107 page views 😉
It’s the fifth month since I started the site, so I hope to be out of sandbox soon (which I am assuming I am currently stuck with given the low page views stats).
- Number of articles published: 6
- Total number of articles on the site: 51
- Pageviews: 191
- Income: $0
Another good jump in page views (from 107 last month to 191 this month). Again, nothing huge but encouraging to see that it’s moving as expected.
I hope to touch the 1000 pageviews mark in the next 3-4 months.
Of the 6 articles that I published this month, 1 was a review article, and 5 were information posts.
Again, I didn’t focus enough on this site as I am currently working on multiple new sites. I also attended the Chiang Mai SEO conference in Thailand, where I got to meet a lot of awesome folks and picked up some awesome tips about SEO and online business in general.
- Number of articles published: 17
- Total number of articles on the site: 68
- Pageviews: 697
- Income: $0
I really went crazy with publishing content this month. Since I already had quite a few articles in the draft (thanks for Content Development Pro for being so quick), I was able to publish a total of 17 articles.
This brings the total number of articles to 68, where 6 are review articles (Top 10 types of articles with 2500-3500 words each) and 62 are information posts.
Pageviews continue to go up (from 191 last month to 697 this month).
While my aim was to make $100 by February 2020, I feel it would be hard to achieve, but it all depends on the numbers in January (fingers crossed).
I am also planning on publishing more product review roundup articles (given that I have a sufficient number of information articles already).
- Number of articles published: 6
- Total number of articles on the site: 74
- Pageviews: 1,474
- Income: $0
I focussed on publishing only the round-up reviews this month (Top 10 or 10 Best X for Y).
As some info articles slowly climb the rankings, the traffic more than doubled (from 697 to 1474). I expect this to continue to show this growth in the coming months.
Once it gets to a 10K+ page views a month, I can reach out to Ezoic or AdThrive to see if they can approve the site for ads.
Another thing I did this month was to build a couple of comment links to the homepage. I searched for recent articles that talk about the same topic and left a well-written comment.
While these won’t work for high competition articles, it can help a lot of smaller low-competition long-tailed keywords.
I am also starting the link-building campaign to get some outreach links. I am not doing this myself and have hired someone to do it for me. The aim is to do manual outreach and get at least 8-10 links.
February 2020 (Income – $26.57)
- Number of articles published: 1
- Total number of articles on the site: 75
- Pageviews (this month): 2,539
- Income: $26.57
Finally, after 8 months, the site has started making money.
I started this site in June 2019 with an aim to make ~$100 by Feb 2020, which clearly didn’t happen. But I am happy that the money has started trickling in.
As of now, the site has 75 articles and I am planning to wait till I get more traffic and income coming in. Once I cross the 5k pageviews/month mark, I will start adding more content.
Now coming to the income part, here is the breakdown:
- Amazon affiliate: $26.35
- Google Adsense: $0.22
I spent a few hours adding relevant product recommendations to those info articles that were getting the majority of the traffic. This led to some income from the Amazon Affiliate program.
But I am more excited about the AdSense income. It’s only a few cents as of now (as my site was approved by Adsense in the last week of Feb).
Once I cross the 10K pageviews mark, I can approach Ezoic or AdThrive to add this site to their network, which would mean a way better RPM and higher income as compared with Adsense.
The outreach efforts also started bearing fruit and got a few links from decent sites (AHREFs DR of 25-55).
Since this is a new site with low authority, even a few links lead to a decent ranking movement. As I continue to get more links, I am hoping more articles would crack the top 10 positions.
The traffic continued to grow in February and saw an increase of ~72% (up 2539 from 1474 in Jan 2020).
With the same growth rate, I expect it to cross the 10K pageviews mark by April 2020.
March 2020 (Income – $64.95)
- Number of articles published: 2
- Total number of articles on the site: 77
- Pageviews (this month): 7,838
- Income: $64.95
The site continued its explosive growth with traffic growing by 200%+ and income growing by 144%+.
I have still not reached the goal of $100 per month yet, but overall numbers are promising. Hopefully, I should be there next to next month.
Here is the breakdown of the overall earnings:
- Amazon affiliate: $47.15
- Google Adsense: $17.8
I am quite happy with the AdSense numbers and as the traffic continues to grow, I can see a lot of potential with the ad income.
As soon as the pageviews cross 10K+ a month mark, I will reach out to Ezoic and AdThrive and check if they can add the site on their platform. That should further boost the ad income.
In terms of link building, I have built ~10 links through manual outreach. Since the site is now ranking for a lot of info queries, it’s also picking up some links naturally from forums.
April 2020 (Income – $334.64)
- Number of articles published: 10
- Total number of articles on the site: 87
- Pageviews (this month): 30,614
- Income: $334.64
Finally, the earnings crossed the $100/month mark.
The traffic almost quadrupled (from 7838 in March to 30614 in April). And with this, I got the opportunity to reach out to AdThrive to check if they would be willing to add this site to their network.
And the site got into AdThrive!
Since 80% of the site is currently info articles, this would lead to a nice ad income in the coming months.
Another major thing that happened was that Amazon slashed its commissions in some of the categories. For example, the home improvement category commission was slashed from 8% to 3% and grocery products from 5% to 1%.
While this doesn’t impact my category directly, it does impact that additional commission I was making when people buy products in other categories as well.
But all in all, Amazon associate is still working well for the site.
So here is the detailed breakup of the income:
- Amazon affiliate: $197.1
- AdThrive: $118.89
- Google Adsense: $18.65
Some of the review roundup articles have started ranking on the first page, which is leading to decent sales on Amazon.
On the display ads side, April is known to have low RPMs, and I expect the ad income to increase in the coming months.
I started this site with an aim to make $500 per month by June 2020, and it looks all set to reach there.
May 2020 ($983.43) – Target Achieved
- Number of articles published: 18
- Total number of articles on the site: 105
- Pageviews (this month): 53,021
- Income: $983.43
The total expense so far on the site is ~$7,600 (primarily on content and a little on link building)
When I started the site in June 2019, I feared that I may fail to reach the set target (to generate $500 per month in 12 month – by the end of June 2020).
And now, after 11 months, the site has not only achieved the target, it has smashed it out of the park.
Here is a breakup of the overall income in May 2020:
- Amazon affiliate: $387.64
- AdThrive: $595.79
In May 2020, I continued to publish content like a maniac and the effect was visible with growth in traffic. I published a total of 18 articles and the site got a total of 53,021 pageviews in May 202o (~73% increase).
Since many of these articles have been published only a few days ago, I expect to see the benefit from these in the coming months.
On the income front, since the site got a full month on AdThrive, the income was a lot higher this month. Also, the RPM saw some recovery and is expected to get even better in the coming months.
Amazon also did well and the income almost doubled over last month (95% increase over April 2020).
All in all, a fantastic month.
While niche sites take time to make money, it’s amazing how fast it can grow once it starts making money. Also, it’s an asset that can easily be sold on market places (such as Empire Flippers, FE International, or Flippa) at 25-30x the monthly income.
Considering a conservative 25x multiple, this site can be sold for $25K (since it doesn’t have any major recurring cost).
While I did make an investment of ~7,600 in this site (mainly on Content and some on link building), if you’re a beginner or on a shoestring budget, you can do the content writing and link building yourself.