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Should I Build Large or Small? Taking a Portfolio Approach with Niche Sites

Should I Build Large or Small? Taking a Portfolio Approach with Niche Sites

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been getting more and more questions from readers about the viability of building smaller niche sites.  They want to know, should I build 1 large site or should I build hundreds of micro niche sites…or do something in-between?

First of all, I feel honored that anyone would look to me for direction in their business.  I’ve answered many of these questions privately via email; however, today I want to do my best to lay out my advice for others looking to get into the internet publishing game with niche sites.

I’ve felt like I needed to write this post for a long time, and so I’m going to do my best to lay out some thoughts on the subject.  However, its also VERY important to understand that everyone’s situation is different, so there is no “one size fits all” approach to starting an internet business.

In addition, Google has changed dramatically since I started building niche sites back in 2007 or so; as a result I want to give some clarify for people that are still taking an “old school” approach to building niche sites.  Overall, you need to treat your websites like a business portfolio.  If you can take steps to reduce the overall risk of the assets in your portfolio, then you should.

What is a Niche Site?

finding-your-niche-va4businessI want to start off by simply clarifying how I personally think of niche sites.  A niche site does NOT mean a small website.  There, I said it.

I think too many people think that a “Niche” website means building a site that only has 10 or 20 pages of content.  This is simply not the case.

“Niche” really means a small segment of an overall market or product.  It means laser focused on one particular topic…or niche.  As a perfect example, and to prove that I’m not the only one that thinks this way; check out the Wikipedia page of what a “Niche” Market is right here.

And even better, guess what example Wikipedia gives as an example of a Niche market/website?  ESPN.com!  That’s right ESPN.com is a niche website.  It focuses exclusively (with laser focused intensity) on Sports.  Again, this isn’t my example, this is from Wikipedia.  Yes, this is a VERY large niche site, but it is indeed a niche site.

ESPN.com produces dozens of articles, videos, and more each and everyday.

I share this simply to get the incorrect idea out of your head, that “niche” means a “small” website.  It doesn’t.

However, its more common to think of a niche site as one that targets a more narrow niche than just Sports in general.  A smaller niche in sports would be perhaps, Little League baseball, or Curling in Canada, or Speed skating.  However, just because your niche site only covers curling in Canada, doesn’t mean it can’t be thousands of pages of content.  Make sense?

So, a niche site is a site that covers the sub-segment of any market.  The site could be one page or a million pages of content, its still a niche site.

Advantages of Building a Large Site

googlecompetitionSo, I don’t think the question is whether or not you should be a niche site – you should.  The question is whether or not you should build a small niche site or a large niche site.  The other option would just to build a general blog or website that doesn’t target any specific niche.  Sites like Wikipedia.com, eHow.com, CNN.com, HuffingtonPost.com, and others basically cover every topic under the sun.  They are not niche sites.

There are a few advantages to building larger niche sites that I would like to discuss.  For the sake of discussion, lets define a “Large” niche site as one that has over 100 pages of original content.

First, having a large site allows you to target lots of long tail keywords.  Because your site has more content, you can create content based on keywords that get very little search volume every month, but still do well because of the sheer volume of articles.

In fact, in my podcast last week with Jon Haver, he mentioned that even if a search term only gets searched for 10 times each month, he will write a piece of content on it.  He knows that in addition to the 10 searches per month, there will be plenty of related long tail phrases that he will hopefully rank for naturally as well.

I agree with this approach in theory (although ideally you can find easy to rank for keywords that get just a little more search volume).

In addition, having a large niche site or blog can allow you to truly get involved in your niche and establish relationships.  By actually participating in niche community (other bloggers, forums, etc.), you can garner links, guest posting opportunities, and eventually be viewed as more of an authority on the subject.

By taking this approach, you are also doing things more “naturally” when it comes to SEO.  The traffic from Google can either be a dream or a nightmare; so staying in their good graces can help you feel better about the long term prospects of your business.

And finally, you can obviously make WAY more money from one large niche site that you can with a small niche site.  The size of the site should equal more traffic, a larger following, and eventually more revenue.

Advantages of Building a Small Site

Tips-on-Keyword-Research-aAs you may know from reading my blog, I started off my online publishing career by building lots of very small niche sites.  I have done extremely well, because I’ve gotten very good at finding and ranking for long tail phrases.  However, if you keep reading you will see that my approach has changed over the past few years.

Small niche sites have traditionally had a few advantages.  First, you could have the keyword in the domain.  Having the keyword in the domain used to provide a large “bonus” in Google to help you rank better.  However, since the Exact Match Domain update; having the keyword in the domain has become less important.

Let me be clear that I don’t think it hurts to have the keyword in your domain; but it doesn’t help as much as it used to.  In fact, if you find a great keyword you may want to find a domain that is more brand-able, rather than worrying about whether or not it has the keyword in the domain.

Its just not a big deal anymore.

The other advantage is that you can tailor your homepage to one specific keyword, and really focus your link building and other SEO efforts on ranking for that one keyword.  Although, I suppose I see no reason that you couldn’t do this with a larger site as well.

The final big advantage of building smaller niche sites is that you can build lots of them relatively quickly.  As a result, you can target lots of different profitable keyword phrases that are in different niches and ideally rank well for all of them.

So, if you feel like you can spot low competition keywords and you enjoy analyzing the competition in various markets, then building smaller niche sites may appeal more to your strengths.

And for sake of discussion again, lets call a “small niche site” one that has somewhere between 10 and 50 pages of content. A medium sized site would be about 50 to 100 pages of content.

A Micro niche site is one that would have between 1 and 10 pages of content usually.  I personally no longer build any micro niche sites, and haven’t for quite some time.

My Advice for Someone Just Starting Out

adsensealternativesSo, I’ve given some brief advantages to building both small and large niche sites; but what does that mean for you?

I have gotten a number of questions, but several of them essentially revolve around this theme:

“Should I focus on building 1 larger site or dozens (or even hundreds) of small niche sites?”

The answer obviously depends on your skill level, your existing portfolio of websites, how much money you have to invest in more.  However, for the most part, people asking have a similar background: they haven’t built many (or any) sites before, they don’t have much money to invest, they want to make money in 2 seconds.

However, the answer is almost always that you should focus on just 1 larger site.  Building a large site is by far the best way to build a real business with the potential for some serious revenue down the road.

In addition, its less risky in my opinion; as I’ll explain below.  No one is guaranteed success, no matter how large or small their site is; and the reality is that a very large percentage of sites built will never do very well.

Learning from Small Sites

Now that I’ve said you should focus on building larger sites, I want to throw a curve in here and say that you can actually learn a ton from building smaller sites.  So, if you have never built a site before, maybe you can learn the ropes by trying your hand at one or 2 small niche sites first.

If you go into building these small sites with the mindset that you are just learning and not expecting to make much money from them, I think it definitely provides some great training ground.  But you should not expect these to be big money makers.  If you do everything right your first time around, then sure, you can make some money; but these should really just be seen as an investment into your education.

Once you’ve learned the process of finding and analyzing keywords, creating content, finding link building opportunities, and more, then perhaps you can move onto building a large niche site with the skills you’ve gained.

In reality, there are many different approaches your could take when you are just starting out; here are just a couple:

  • Build 1 large site and only focus on that.
  • Start a large site, but also start a couple of smaller niche sites to help you learn the ropes along the way.  Apply what you know to your larger niche site, which is likely to be your real money maker.
  • Start with 1 or 2 small niche sites and wait to build a larger niche site for a few months.  After a few months of learning and practicing, find a niche that interests you and build a larger niche site.  Focus on this niche site exclusively and build it into something significant.
  • Start 2 or 3 small niche sites and see if any of them take off.  If one starts doing well, focus on that one site and build it into your larger site.

Taking the Portfolio Approach

diversifyNotice that I am never recommending that you go out and build a couple of dozen small niche sites?  If you are just starting out, I think its a big mistake to try and do that.  Because of all the changes that Google has made, you are SO much better off focusing on quality and overall building a better site.

However, like any business, you should be taking a portfolio approach.  I want to dig in a bit on how you can take a portfolio approach with the internet publishing business.

All businesses have risk.  That point is very clear.  So, no matter what type of business you start or what type of website you start, you always have some amount of risk of losing money.  Some types of businesses or websites have more risk, and some have less risk.

Think of investing your money in stocks, bonds, etc.  Different assets have different amounts of risks.  Here are a few assets listed in order of least risky to most risky:

  • Savings Account
  • Municipal Bonds
  • Large Cap Mutual Funds
  • Small Cap stocks
  • Penny Stocks

In order to reduce your risk investing in stocks, you should diversify your portfolio.  You don’t want all your money in Penny stocks; however, if you want to see your money grow much, you also don’t want all your money in your savings account.  So depending on how much money you have to invest, when you plan to retire, what your current income is, and so much more, will determine how you divide up your money among the different asset classes.

The same portfolio approach should be taken with niche sites.  Now, I am going to list different types of sites and how risky they are in order of least risky to most risky.  (Think of the riskiness in terms of how likely Google is to penalize the site or how likely the site is to be severely impacted by a Google update).

  • Large Niche site/blog – using only natural link building
  • Small Niche Site – using only natural link building
  • Large Niche Site – using manual or outsourced link building
  • Small Niche Site – using manual or outsourced link building
  • Micro Niche Site – using manual or outsourced link building
  • Scraper site – content is not original

(Small Cap Stocks would be at the top of the list of these – Just to give you a reference of where an internet business lies on the risk scale.  Staring your own business is always going to be riskier than investing in an established company).

So, where are you least likely to lose your money?  Building a large niche site or blog that only uses original content and only collects links through natural methods.  As luck would have, one large site also has the potential to grow much more than a small site anyway.

However, building a scraper site or a micro niche site is MUCH more likely to get penalized by Google than any larger site.  But the reason people still build these sites is that you can potentially make some quick cash.  A large site might take a year or 2 before you see any returns; but a small niche site could be producing nice revenue after only a couple of months.

So, I see the strong appeal of small niche sites; I get it.  But if you want a long term business in internet publishing, you need to be focusing on a larger project that is as Google friendly as you can make it.

Gaming Google can be fun and can give you some really nice returns; but you can also lose everything overnight. Is that what you are looking for?

Fraser Cain, who I did a podcast interview with here, has always advised people to go out and find their passion and build just one large site.  I agree.  However, I also think as you have more experience and perhaps have a bit more money to invest, its okay to dabble a bit in the “riskier” side of the business.

But this should be a VERY small portion of your portfolio!  So, lets take a look at how someone that has time and money should diversify their portfolio among different types of sites:

  • 70% – Large Niche site/blog – using only natural link building
  • 10% – Small Niche Site – using only natural link building
  • 10% – Large Niche Site – using manual or outsourced link building
  • 5 % – Small Niche Site – using manual or outsourced link building
  • 0 to 5% – Micro Niche Site – using manual or outsourced link building
  • 0 to 5% – Scraper site – content is not original

To clarify, you should invest 100% of your time and energy on building 1 large site if you are just starting out or don’t have any money.  And perhaps you can spend a bit of time and money on 1 or 2 smaller niche sites to learn the ropes or to test out a market.

If you get to the point where you have thousands of dollars to invest and you are just looking to take on some additional risk, then perhaps you can try out building more small niche site or do other things to try and game Google…be my guest.  But just realize that its extremely risky and is not likely to last very long.

Even so, 70%+ of your time and money should be focused and invested on a larger site that can bring is significant returns for the long term!

Outsourcing and Link Building

projectsClosely linked to this entire discussion is outsourcing.  I think outsourcing is great because it can save you so much time, but you need to be concerned with quality..

The search engines are getting better and better at detecting quality content, so you should be giving readers and Google what they want.  So, if you have the time and ability to produce high quality content on your own, that is probably going to be the best way to go.

For example, I write all the content myself here at NichePursuits.com, because I know the content I produce is going to be better than what I could outsource (at least without spending a TON of money).  In addition, by producing all my own content for my blog, I’m much better in tune with my readers and can respond to their questions and comments more effectively.

Link Building

I also want to address the practice of outsourcing the link building for a site.  I’ve made it pretty clear, that for my smaller niche sites, I’ve almost always outsourced all the link building.  This is an extremely risky practice, and I know that.

As I’ve mentioned here, most of the link building done for my Niche Site Project Site: BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com was outsourced to LayeredLinks.com.  This is obviously not white-hat or natural links.  I think everyone is aware of that, but I took the risk because I also knew of the potential rewards.

But, I wouldn’t be taking those risks if I didn’t already have an established business.  I am in this business full-time, and as such I have established websites or other revenue streams that make the success or failure less of a big deal.

By far, the safest approach is to never outsource any link building.  You should actually get involved in your niche and contact other bloggers, produce interesting content, and let people know about it.  The links will come on their own if you do those things.

This is a long term approach and may take years to see significant gains, but its the approach I recommend for the largest portion of your portfolio for sure!

Is This a Change in My Philosophy?

I’ve actually mentioned this approach many times in the past, but I often wonder if people only listen to what they want to hear.  They like to hear that a few years ago I built 200+ niche sites and quite my job.  They often don’t like to hear what I’ve been saying for the past couple of years…which is that building hundreds of niche sites is super risky, and most people should focus on 1 or 2 larger sites.

In fact, the sole purpose for moving from my old blog and creating NichePursuits.com was in an effort to discuss ways to be more Google friendly and to attempt business ideas that didn’t even rely on Google.   That’s why I’ve built an iPhone app, created software products, and started other projects that do not involve small niche sites.

In fact, here are a few other posts that I’ve written over the past couple of years encouraging my readers to focus on higher quality and larger site:

As with any business focused on the internet or technology; change happens.  When I first got started in internet publishing, it was a different world.  In 2007 to 2010, I did very well with micro or small niche sites.  But over the past couple of years, I’ve really scaled that back big time, and have started focusing on larger sites.

My survival knife site is a decent example.  Right now its only about 50 pages of content, but I expect it to be over 100 pages of content soon, and I’ll continue to grow it from there.  But even so, this is really still a small to medium sized niche site.

Rather than trying to build 10 or 15 of these sites, I’m currently focused on just 2 larger sites that I’m building out.  My portfolio is already pretty heavy with small niche sites (I built over 200 before 2010); so I’m diversifying to give me a heavier balance with larger sites that are more Google “friendly”.

When I build smaller niche sites now, its only because I have money to invest and I fully understand the risks that come with trying to game Google.  If you are newer to internet publishing (and even if you are experienced), I would recommend focusing on 1 or 2 larger sites and creating an audience, brand, and empire there.

Overall and Your Thoughts

So, I’ve done my best to lay out my current thoughts on large and small niche sites, and the importance of diversifying your online portfolio.  Don’t get me wrong, small niche sites are still fun and can still have their place for those that understand and can handle the risks. (But this is not most people starting out).

You can test different niches with smaller sites and learn the ropes; and perhaps you can grow a smaller site into something more significant if it performs well.  But going out and building 20 different small niche sites at once and using whatever tactic you can to rank in Google, is simply not a good approach anymore.

If you want to risk 5 or 10% of your business portfolio on less stable small niche sites with outsourced link building, that’s just fine…but just be aware of the risks.  You need a diversified and balanced approach.

Building a larger site might take you a few years, but if you focus with enough effort, you can build a brand that will last a lifetime.  The monetary returns are likely to be much better by owning a large asset that can produce recurring revenue for many years.

When my friends, family, or others close to me ask how they can make a living online, I always tell them that they should focus on building one large website or asset.  And now I hope I’ve been clear in telling all of you the same.

I look forward to the comments, questions, and discussion that will take place below.  Please let me hear your thoughts!

179 Comments for this Post

  1. Nick Kizirnis

    Nick Kizirnis

    Great article with wise advice … while it’ might be possible to get lucky with a really small site, putting in the time and effort is what’s really going to pay off.

    I think larger sites give you a much greater chance to rank, both for target and long tail keywords. What are your thoughts on monetizing large sites? Is it better to wait until they are ranking organically?

    Thanks Spencer!

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Yes, I would still wait until a larger site is ranking organically before trying to monetize very aggressively.

      • John Gibb

        John Gibb

        hi Spencer

        We both know why niche sites leave a bad taste in most people’s mouths…

        They have been feed by other marketers and/or so-called Gurus that niche sites are 5-page mini sites; I love your ESPN example. It debunks the old myth that mini sites are niche sites and authority sites are large sites…

        I have sites that are less than 10 pages and are considered as “authority” in their niche/industry…

        Your stock portfolio investing example is a great comparison for starting niche/authority sites…

        I don’t advise my students to start building a large site as you say, if they don’t have money, as this will deepen their hungry for money… remember, most people want to start blogs/sites not out of a passion, but due to money/financial problems…

        For this category (which is the majority of people anyway) I recommend they build a portfolio of 5-7 mini sites, test them for 2-3 months, and focus on the 2 or 3 who take off… and forget about the others….

        • Chris

          Chris

          I like that approach too…start a handful of small niche sites and see how they do after a few months. Then focus on the winner/s.

          One thing I would add (for beginners like me) is to build those first sites one at a time, though.

          A the end of March, I bought 4 new domains and started building them out simultaneously. But I didn’t have the budget to get all 4 up and running at once, so by spreading my budget (and enthusiasm) thin, I ended up with 4 sites with just a few posts each…and none of them were going anywhere after the first 30 days.

          So the next month I focused on one site, got it up to about a dozen pages, tweaked the theme and sidebar, plugins, etc, and then moved on to the second site and did the same thing.

          That approach helped me keep my sanity.

          So for beginners, I’d recommend:

          1. Start 3-4 small niche sites.
          2. Build them out to 10-20 posts/pages each.
          3. But do this ONE AT A TIME…focusing on Site 1 for a month, then Site 2 for a month, etc.
          4. Then watch them for a couple months, trickling in some fresh content and doing some low key promoting and networking (e.g. comments on related blogs and forums, social sharing), etc.
          5. By month 6, pick out which site seems to have the most potential, and start pouring on the content and start adding links (whether outsourced or through aggressive networking/marketing).

  2. Ben

    Ben

    So the large niche sites you advise people to build as a ‘safer’ method – would your survival knife site be an example of this? Can that large, quality site centre around a product and hobby?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      No, my survival knife is not as “safe” as it could have been. I still outsourced link building and the site is still relatively small – only 50 pages of content or so. However, even my survival knife site is a much better approach than many others take. My example of a large site – the type that people should build, is my blog – NichePursuits.com. (Obviously I don’t mean in the same niche, but in terms of size, brand, and niche interaction).

    • Jason Wilson

      Jason Wilson

      Spencer is not saying MNS is dead, just that you need to diversify your portfolio. As someone just starting out I can tell you that this post great advice for those of us with limited time.

    • John Gibb

      John Gibb

      Ben

      I don’t believe large niche sites to be “safe”… if you don’t get the keywords right and the content right, and the partners to help with links/content widespread, then you’ll see little or no results even from a 100-page site…

      There are many examples out there of people with large sites that haven’t seen the success within their first one or two years…

      Smaller sites usually generate quicker results — that’s what makes them so attractive to build, isn’t it?

      THe only “safe” method is to build a diversified portfolio of sites, and at the same time to diversify your promotion and traffic sources — don’t rely on YouTube or Google alone… try to be everywhere as Pat Flynn says…

      • jim

        jim

        I think you’re confusing “safe” with “guaranteed”.

        >>There are many examples out there of people with large sites that haven’t seen the success within their first one or two years…>Smaller sites usually generate quicker results — that’s what makes them so attractive to build, isn’t it?<<

        No they don't. Why would they? Never mind that most large sites were actually small sites before they became large sites, lol.

        What makes them attractive is it's easier to create a 10 page site than it is to build 100 or 1,000 pages of content. The only reason a small site would generate quicker results is if you waited to complete the entire large site before putting it online…which, frankly, would be dumb.Other than that, there is no difference in the speed of success for one over the other.

  3. John

    John

    The days of quick IM money is over according to this Blog. However I have been raking it with MNS still.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I never said you couldn’t build and rank micro niche sites – I said its a portfolio approach and it would be unwise to have 100% of your business built on those types of properties. A micro niche site is MUCH more likely to get kicked to the curb than a larger and more valuable site.

      • John Gibb

        John Gibb

        Spencer

        You should interview (and “spy” on their approach) guys who are ranking with YouTube videos… they claim to be making affiliate sales/money within 2 or 3 weeks, and ranking with YT clips seem to be easier…

        Did you try this model before?

    • jim

      jim

      Proving one of Spencer’s points….people only listen to what they want to hear. :)

      • Chris

        Chris

        Haha!

        “LIKE”

  4. Mark N.

    Mark N.

    Hi Spencer

    Out of the 150-200 small niche websites you built in your “earlier” years (just the small niche sites – not including any of the bigger ones), how many are still earning you any monthly income worth mentioning?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I wrote a post that kind of addressed this question, I always expected that many of the sites wouldn’t do well: http://www.nichepursuits.com/yes-building-niche-websites-is-a-numbers-game/# . However, its been a while since I wrote that post. I would still say there is maybe around 20% or so of the sites I built 2+ years ago that still do okay. (That’s just a ballpark figure). So, as a venture its still been very profitable, because I’m still earning from work I did 2 years ago. However, anytime I’ve tried to build a larger site with more love and tender care, my success rate is better.

      The thing with building micro sites is that you constantly have to built hundreds of sites to replace the earnings from old sites that stop ranking. If you stop feeding the machine, the sites eventually die off. Its just a better use of time and money to build something that is awesome.

      • Mark N.

        Mark N.

        Thanks

      • Chris

        Chris

        “Its just a better use of time and money to build something that is awesome.”

        I think I just might print that out and tape it to my computer screen, Spencer.

        Well said!

        I hope all your readers caught the significance of that statement…

  5. Jason Rothman

    Jason Rothman

    Spencer, just awesome man! I came across your site about 5 months ago and I went through the above process. I thought that after the updates I had read about the old “game google” plan didn’t make much sense.

    So I started building some small websites. And one is actually doing well and is earning $60+ a month in passive income.

    But I thought, “man, if I’m going to do all of this work then why not try to build a REAL business that could change my life and become an asset that I could sell one day for millions of dollars.

    So now I’m doing what you prescribe above. I’m taking the skills that I learned from building small websites, continuing to grow them, and applying my online efforts to building a real business that could change my life.

    GO WITH GOOGLE! I look at Google as an AWESOME partner and someone that I want to keep happy rather than someone that I want to game or trick. I say the cream will always rise and to build life-changing websites with only white hat promotion.

    Awesome!

    And PS Spencer – As far as a reader and student of you and your blog, I think reading about large websites and your pursuits of major businesses is a million times more interesting than reading about small sites.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thank you Jason! I think there is so much to be learned from just building a site and learning the ropes to start. But as you have found, you can take those skills and apply it to something that will hopefully become a much larger business down the road.

      There are just SO many individuals and businesses building great blogs and websites, and there is no reason that people like you and me can’t build a large valuable asset.

      Also, glad to hear that you are interested in hearing more about building a major business on this blog than just reading about small sites.

      • John Gibb

        John Gibb

        I’d say…

        There’s no difference between building a small site vs. large site

        You need to shift your mindset and think…

        Regardless of the number of pages/posts/articles on a site, I should

        1. Create amazing content — my site needs to feature the best content out there, in that particular niche, content that could become viral…

        2. Create amazing relationships with folks within your industry, and not only… they are the people that can help with a link back, a comment, a tip, and so forth… they’re your tribe and raving fans

        3. Be active in the community – visit forums and blogs and interact with other like-minded people — why do you think I comment everyday on other people’s sites?

        When you do that, does it matter if your site is small or large?

        Not much… your content is the priority, focus on that…

        • Stephen Smith

          Stephen Smith

          I agree with both of you. I have ranked on page one not even trying because the content was good in a small site. The content is key, but in healthcare the big sites win. Mercola.com is the ESPN of alternative medicine and is full of niche articles and he dominates the alternative health niche with over 1.5 million visitors per month.

          Thank you Spencer, this article was very helpful.

  6. James Petzke

    James Petzke

    Great article Spencer. I totally agree that building out one or two bigger sites is the best strategy, especially for beginners. That is definitely the direction that I’m moving in now even though I’ve been building a large number of sites over the past few years, and the returns from the bigger sites are already much better.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks for the feedback James!

    • John Gibb

      John Gibb

      James

      I don’t think building large sites is the best strategy… the best strategy is to diversify your sites and income portfolio/traffic sources…

      Spencer already said that, but we need to have more than ears to listen — listen with your heart :)

      • Steve Wyman

        Steve Wyman

        dont agree.

        Large sites are the future of the web. OR very niche down expert sites.

  7. Yeok Heng

    Yeok Heng

    This is a great analysis on both small niche site and large niche site. I personally prefer to focus on one niche site and slowly bring it up as an authority site. That’s my idea. :)

  8. Dave Irwin

    Dave Irwin

    Thanks, Spencer for another great post. So many nuggets in here to mull over, and not just the portfolio breakdown suggestion, which I agree is good advice. It’s true that gaming Google makes a poor long-term business model. It is, however, a great learning experience.

    As an example, my first niche site was on a topic that I really had no interest in; I’d just done the keyword research as best I could (I was a total newby a year ago) and found what I thought would be easy to rank for. Then I decided to approach it from a totally neutral mind set and chalk it up to learning the ropes. Apparently I did something right and it took off and is still a good money maker (~$1500 in revenue last month), but I hold no hopes that it will last forever.

    Going forward I’m focusing on quality content in any site I build, and although I still am using keyword research as my primary criteria, I am looking to get on stronger footing with a “passion” site that does not depend on the fickle mistress Googlerella.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      That’s great Dave! Like I mentioned, I still think that building one or two smaller niche sites is a great way to learn, and like you, they still have a chance of doing well! So, congrats on that.

      But over the long run, a large site or two focused on something we enjoy or at least pay lots of attention to is likely to pay off much better.

    • John Gibb

      John Gibb

      hi Dave

      Your story sounds amazing…

      My partner (Codrut) will want to interview you for his upcoming premium product… are you interested to help others learn from your experience with affiliate marketing and niche sites?

      • Dave Irwin

        Dave Irwin

        Hey John, I’d love to see how I can help. Click my name to get in touch with me via my website.

  9. Naveen Kulkarni

    Naveen Kulkarni

    Thoughtful post Spencer,

    You explained well about “Niche’ site and loved your example of ESPN. This reveals 3 important things

    1. Building a successful Niche site can be same amount of work similar to building a large website. But the degree of success is very likely because of the keyword research process and picking a “Niche’ subject.

    2. Writing content for Niche website is EASY because we know what to write about. For example, if we pickup a product review approach, we already have material for at least 10-15 posts in hand. This makes interlinking also an easy affair

    3. We have an opportunity for emerging a “leading information provider” in a particular niche.

    Having mentioned above benefits, my personal opinion would be to build “ONE” large site about a particular niche so that we build a quality resource that attracts readers and serves them with useful and engaging info.

    If we divide our attention into too many small sites (especially if we are beginners) , then chances are that we might end up doing lots of work for all these sites and somewhere there are chances of compromising on quality.

    Seeing a single site rising in traffic and rankings is a GREAT motivator and after sometime when this site is STABLE, one can think of replicating the success to another niche.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Well said Naveen! In addition, attracting links (naturally) to one site is much easier than getting links to dozens of sites.

      • Naveen Kulkarni

        Naveen Kulkarni

        Yes,
        And with my (short) stint with SEO, natural links are mostly “deep” links linking to an article rather than root site.

        Because, generally we link out to external sites when we want to give a reference to particular situation for “added” information to deep links of other sites.

        So, if we are being mentioned by some other site pointing to a deep link of our own site, that’s what called as “Natural Link”.

        Big daddy loves those kind of links :-) Again, this opinions are from my own experience, not necessary that they are thumb rules.

  10. Rick

    Rick

    The idea of building larger, quality sites appeals to me because I take pride in my work and would feel guilty about banging out twenty sites with little content to offer readers. However, I need to re-evaluate my revenue expectations.

    Suppose your goal is to earn $3,000 per month. If a “survival knife” sized site earns $500/mo, you’d need six of these in your portfolio. Jon Haver is already up to $3,000/mo on his large site. Is it reasonable to expect to turn a $500 site into a $3,000 site through growth?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Rick, yes its possible to turn a site earning $500/mth into a $3k/mth site…depending on the specific situation. As a quick spoiler on my survival knife site, it will have a record month. I expect it to earn over $700 this month. I may never get it to $3k/mth, but $1k is definitely feasible. And if I decide to start reviewing products outside of just survival knives, it could certainly grow.

      But my survival knife site is not a perfect example of a larger site. If I had chosen a different domain like, survivaltools.com or something, I could have felt better about broadening the scope and size of the site a bit. Just some food for thought there.

      • Ivan

        Ivan

        Hey Spencer,

        If you had chosen “survivaltools.com” instead, but still optimized the home page for “best survival knife,” would it be harder to rank no. 1 for “best survival knife”?

        And hypothetically, if you chose “survivaltools.com” and initially optimized for “best survival knife” initially, but then decided to add other survival tools to the site, would you have to redo the Home page? and would it be harder to rank for a new, broader term?

        Or would you have – from the very beginning – optimized it for something like “survival tools” (assuming competitor analysis yields desirable results) from the start and have a first-tier page optimized for “best survival knife”?

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          Ivan – definitely could have still ranked for best survival knife with that domain, would have just been a tiny bit harder. I would have optimized homepage as something else; best survival knife page would have been a different page (not homepage). This is exactly what we are doing with Perrin’s site.

  11. Alex

    Alex

    Hi, Spencer

    Great post. I follow your NSP and start my own niche site. However, the ranking for my targeted keyword is always 500+ without any links. I still can’t figure out what’s the problem since the avg KC of my keyword is just 28.

    Now, I’m considering to hire Layeredlinks to built my links. Is it a good idea to boost up my ranking and get some traffic?

    • Naveen Kulkarni

      Naveen Kulkarni

      Hi Alex,
      How long your site is indexed in Google?
      How many posts it has?
      Are you using keywords in Title, headings and body of the article?
      Are you using Tags properly (include long tail keywords as tags)?
      Did you submit XML sitemap in Webmaster tools (check whether Google is crawling your site frequently).
      To build some basic links you can start commenting on other blogs using your Niche site. 0 links is a bad state to have.

      Let me know how are above statistics.

      • Alex

        Alex

        Hi,

        1) The site age is about 1 month and when I type site:mysite.com without quote in google, it shows 35 results and the latest one is a post that I published 4 days ago.
        2) It has 11 posts now and 10 more posts are scheduled to published within 2 weeks.
        3) I follow what Spencer did in NSP. I’ve used keyword in title and body of article. The keyword density is less than 1%.( I usually use the keyword 5-7 times in a 1000 words article.)
        4) I’ve used my targeted long tail keyword as tag and used other word phrase as other tags.
        5) I didn’t submit XML sitmap in webmaster tools. Is it necessary since Spencer didn’t mention that. How to do a sitemap?
        6) I’m considering to hire LayeredLinks to build links, so no backlink yet for my niche site.

        • Naveen Kulkarni

          Naveen Kulkarni

          Okay. It means that your site has been indexed by Google. Congratulations.

          Submitting a sitemap is NOT a mandatory step as such (this needs to be used if your site is not indexed at all by Google due to structural issues in your site).

          I think, all you need is back links (Hint: comment on other blogs). Also, your keyword density is too less in my opinion. You can increase it 5% without any side effects.

          Are you monitoring your site stats in Google Analytics and Webmaster tools? If not start using them immediately. They are GREAT tools to keep track of your site’s progress.

          In Google webmaster tool check the keywords that your site is attracting and the average position.

          Hope this helps.
          And don’t worry. Just keep adding good content. If you are linking out to Amazon, make sure you make all those links as “Nofollow”.

        • Alex

          Alex

          Thanks, Naveen Kulkarni

          You’ve raised another question on my niche site. I fact, I’m already used google analytics. The avg. position of my keyword is 87 and the impressions is 60. It is a huge difference when I use the rank checker in LTP (rank 500+).
          However, when I manually check the google position for my keyword, I can’t find my site within 30 pages. So, it is very confusing, which number should I believe in?

          Also, how to make as “nofollow” for my amazon links?

          Thanks

        • Naveen Kulkarni

          Naveen Kulkarni

          Hi Alex,
          Are you receiving any traffic from keywords as per Google Analytics. If yes, then chances are that you will surely continue to grow in ranking.

          Keep adding great content.

          Do a manual check for your keyword in Google and see where your site is appearing.

          For making links as nofollow you need to add rel nofollow tag in the amazon link. There are even plugins to do that (they make all outgoing links from your site as nofollow).

          Hope this helps.

          Spencer, correct me if I am wrong.

        • Alex

          Alex

          I received 2 visitors from 2 unexpected keywords at the very beginning, then no more visitor afterwards.
          I do a manual check for my primary keyword but I can’t find my site. However, I find my site in a very low position for an unexpected keyword.
          Now, I’ve ordered the LayeredLinks to build links. I hope it can help.

          Thank you so much, Naveen Kulkarni!!

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          I would stick with less than 1%. No need to go more than that.

        • Naveen Kulkarni

          Naveen Kulkarni

          Okay,
          Noted Spencer. In my case the density seems somewhere 5-6% (though I don’t measure it actually), but will keep it to what you have mentioned or near that percentage.

          Thanks :-)

        • Janet

          Janet

          Just some SEO food for thought – keyword density is no longer an SEO best practice. The search engines look for relevancy within the content on page yes, but there really is no set specific measurable percentage you should target.
          Focus on your theme and write killer content that could be shareable Nd valuable that’s more important than kw density

        • Alex

          Alex

          You’re right, Spencer.

          I would still stick with less than 1% to avoid keyword stuffing.

        • Chris

          Chris

          I would add that shorter keywords (1-2 words long) can tolerate a higher density than longer keywords (3-5+ words long).

          So how high to go on your keyword density depends on how long your keyword phrase is. Read it out loud, and if it sounds forced, then replace some of those longtails with other keyword variations instead.

      • Spencer Haws

        Spencer Haws

        Yep, Naveen has got the right idea here…make sure you have some of the basics down.

  12. Tung

    Tung

    I completely agree with you Spencer.

    People are confusing about small sites, large sites, authority sites, micro sites ..etc.

    I’m also going to try Jon Haver’s approach to build one large site with natural and manual link building while still replicating the success of my dumbbell site (pretty similar to your knife site)

    Love the Portfolio approach :D

    Tung

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Sounds great Tung! Best of luck with your larger site!

    • Charley

      Charley

      There’s been no new post on your blog since August 6th. Pretty large interval if you ask me :).

  13. Gary J.

    Gary J.

    Thank you for this great article. As a newbie in niche sites, this really helps me in which type of niche sites to pursue.

  14. Lucian

    Lucian

    A very good article that finally clears one thing out: niche websites should not be considered small websites. I have a similar approach when building my “empire” and actually the success I gained with my site that got to over 1 million uniques was from long tail keywords. Obviously, it was a large website – a niche authority site, let’s say :)

    I am also trying now the natural link building approach with one of my sites and even though the process is slow and tricky, that is a site I know Google will have no reason to penalize ever.

  15. Jerry Kidd

    Jerry Kidd

    I agree with you, Spencer,
    On my opinion niche site can be small, medium or large, depending on the entire niche, but there are two axioms (for me):
    1. Micro niche sites do not work anymore. There is no chance to win with microsites in long term.
    2. The larger site (with quality content) – the more success in long term.

    I used to have over a dozen of micro niche sites before Penguin and Panda killed almost all of them in 2012, my AdSence account has been blocked, I was upset. Now my strategy is to focus only on one site at a time. I’ll build one site and will start working on another only after the first one will reach some checkpoint. My first authority website (now it’s 25 pages only) reached the first checkpoint – $100 per month. I’ve just got my first $140.26 check from Amazon (Hooray!). Now it’s time to start building the second one but continue to grow up the first one.
    By the way, I’ve found the keyword for my 1st authority site using trial version of Long Tail Pro. Now I’m going to purchase the full version for my 2nd site keyword research. Any discount for regular reader since 2011, Spencer? ;)

    • Charley

      Charley

      I’ve realized that Adsense is a big waste of time. I built a niche site, poured in all the effort I could afford and got to #2 in Google for my keyword, but I was making only $0.12 per day after following all the guidelines for choosing keywords for Adsense sites and for optimizing earnings. I took the site down and started optimizing my Amazon micro niche site. When it got to #4 in Google I made $256 in 18 days before my site was penalized due to a scraper copying my content. I started all over again with a new domain and now my rankings are back and I’ve subsequently made $124 in the past 7 days since I regained my top Google rankings. So screw Adsense. Affiliate marketing is the best way and most profitable way to build a business online.

      That said, Adsense still works (Spencer’s income is an undeniable proof) – it just didn’t work for me. Affiliate marketing seems to be extremely more rewarding overall.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      That’s great Jerry! Glad you are finding some success with your new site. Don’t tell anyone, but you can get a discount of Long Tail Pro here: http://nichepursuits.com/ltpspecial :)

    • John Gibb

      John Gibb

      Jerry

      If you had awesome content and did quality back-linking, probably your sites will still make you money nowadays…

      That’s what Spencer noticed with most of his 200+ sites in the past…

      Most of my sites have above “average” content, and they still rank…

      I’d say… Google is looking for below “average” content sites and devalue them… those made for adsense sites are not a good site to start IMO…

      What do you think?

  16. Charley

    Charley

    Hi Spencer, I think it’s high time this distinction was put to rest. It’s not about building large niche sites or small niche sites, that’s not what you should be concerned about. The main question should be “what kind of keyword should I target at the inception of my niche site?”

    If you look at it from my perspective, you’ll notice that if you target a 4-6 word phrase as the main topic of your niche site, you would inevitably build a small or micro-niche site. Also, even if you main keyword is 2-3 words long but it is related to a particular product, e.g. the keyword “phen375 scam” is related to the product “Phen375″, you would still build a micro or small niche site.

    But if your keyword is not associated with a micro niche, for example, “best e cigs”, or if your keyword is a 2-3 word term (excluding stop words), such as “security guard training” or “food trucks for sale” (both borrowed from Pat Flynn :-), you would find building larger sites easier and even necessary. This is just my take on the subject.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Okay, that’s one way to think of it. Or you can take the approach that Jon Haver took with his large site and NOT have a primary keyword: http://www.nichepursuits.com/podcast-18-how-to-build-authority-sites-with-jon-haver/ That’s right, he just writes articles on lots of various keywords, but is not necessarily targeting one main keyword. Also, my site NichePursuits.com – I get TONS of traffic from Google, but I don’t have a primary keyword that I’m targeting – I just rank for lots of long tail keywords from the content I produce.

      So, with a large site you don’t necessarily have to have even a primary keyword. I still recommend it as the best approach, but there are alternative strategies.

      • Charley

        Charley

        Not having a primary keyword…That has got to be the best approach for building larger niche sites and an idea that has been on my radar screen for some time now. The opportunity to develop lots of quality content each targeting different keyword phrases and amassing a ton of traffic as a result is limitless with those sites. I think many will benefit from this idea you mentioned here (good subject for a new blog post btw). Gotta listen to that podcast – dunno how I missed it. Keep up the great work ;-)

      • John Gibb

        John Gibb

        Some people with large sites don’t even do keyword research or SEO… they just answer other people’s questions, and do that a few times a day…

        That’s what I love about Google — the more often you publish content, the more visitors you get, whether you know about SEO or target specific keywords…

        However, if you’re strategic about this and target some “low competition” keywords, and optimize for them the right way, then your results will multiply ten fold, I’d say…

  17. Jerry

    Jerry

    I agree that you can create large authority based sites without focusing on a primary keyword, although it is still a good practice to target one.

  18. Winston

    Winston

    Another great post Spencer!

    If you don’t mind my asking, do you have any link service suggestions for those who can’t afford the $200+ layout for layered links?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      There are many out there, but as discussed in this post…I moving more and more away from outsourced link building as I focus more on larger sites.

  19. Lenny

    Lenny

    Hi Spencer

    Thanks for this post.

    This advice can save some people a lot of time, frustration and false starts (if they heed it).

    A year ago I would have been exactly the person you describe ..”they haven’t built many (or any) sites before, they don’t have much money to invest, they want to make money in 2 seconds.”

    The wanting to make money quickly is the key part, and what set me and I’m guessing so many others on the wrong path.

    By the wrong path I mean chasing your tail trying many different methods to make money online, getting burned out with little or no success, and suffering from major information overload.

    I spent almost a year (part-time) on a site in a niche I had no interest in and never earned from it.

    But I learned from it , a lot.

    For anyone reading this that has just started pursuing an online business, count yourself lucky to have found Spencer’s blog and follow his plan of creating one large/authority site and perhaps a small niche site too.

    If, as stated above don’t have much money to invest and really need to make some extra income …

    then my advice (for what its worth) would be to choose a niche you have real interest or passion for.

    It WILL make it much easier !

    It will be easier to research, write articles, get involved with the community thats involved in the niche and build links etc.

    Pick your passion, hobby or whatever it is you have some knowledge about, or enough of a real interest in, and learn about the niche.

    Perhaps start with an even smaller sub-niche and create a little site with twenty or so articles to begin with.

    Build your site and share what you know.

    Try to get that initial success whether through Google Adsense or Amazons affiliate program.

    When you’ve seen it works, for you, as Spencer has already demonstrated, then tackle your large authority site and build for the future.

    Just my experience, hope it helps.

    Lenny

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks Lenny for sharing your thoughts and experience!

  20. Teddy

    Teddy

    My question is this: how long do you keep a niche site up before you call it quits?

    I mean if you create a niche site, build links and then 2, 3, 4 months later you still have no ranking, no real hits and (most importantly) no income from it, do you wrap it up or keep plugging along, all the way continuing to pay hosting?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      It depends – is a niche site you hope to create into something larger? If so, have you really produced great content and become involved in your community?

      If its just a small niche site, then perhaps its time to move on.

    • Dan

      Dan

      I was wondering about that too.

  21. Wirral Writer

    Wirral Writer

    This is very good advice on a problem which I have mentally wrestled with for years. And having assimilated, very carefully, all your comments, it is clear to me that my best option is to ditch any thoughts about building multiple niche sites and instead concentrate on just one huge authority site, which I have done with my site True Ghost Stories (which is ranked No. 1 on Google for the search term “true ghost stories” and has even earned me a guest spot on the TV show Most Haunted Live!). The only problem I am having with this site at the moment is the gradual dropping of traffic. In its early years, the site was regularly attracting over 1000 unique visitors per day, whereas now I am lucky if I get 200 per day! I don’t know if this can be attributed to the Google Panda update. What do you think?

    • Carl

      Carl

      Hey! I just wanted to make a quick comment based on your post.

      I need to put a disclaimer and state that I am no expert however would like to offer an alternate suggestion to why the traffic for your website has dropped of – and it isn´t due to any search engine updates.

      I think there was a fad that maybe started 8 or 9 years ago which drove a strong interest into the paranormal. People like Derek Acorah and shows like Most Haunted sparked a huge public interest into anything spiritual and spooky and it became an extremely popular topic. Ghost hunting groups and clairvoyant evenings were popping up all over the place!

      I think now, the popularity of such shows and celebrities has dropped somewhat and I feel this is the reason for your decline in searches? I think it´s more of a social factor than anything else.

      A little off topic for here but I do think it´s worth remembering that our successes and failures arent always down to the latest Google update. Sometimes things trend and then tail off as interest dies :)

  22. Ryan

    Ryan

    I had something weird happen to me a few days ago, I use href to check my backlinks which showed me I had about 220 backlinks or so (most of those came from this site actually from the three comments I made here.) But now it tells me that I only have about 80, it even retroactively went back to say that I never had over 100 backlinks!

    Not only that but now I’m somehow left with 78 dofollow links and 20 nofollow ones. Apparently Google doesn’t like this (not a big surprise) as I got less visitors and went down a bit in ranking. So can anyone tell me what happened?

  23. Tim B

    Tim B

    Great timing on this post Spencer. The big G seems to have taken another swing at the micro sites over the last week or so.

    Great stuff as always.

    • Tom

      Tom

      I would concur that something happened recently.

      This is a good, thought provoking post…

      …My concern with putting huge effort towards a “large” site, is that G can at any time simply decide it doesn’t like your site anymore. Quality content or not, 10 posts or 200, G can decide to move the goal posts on you and your site has now taken a dump.

  24. Franck

    Franck

    Thank you, Spencer, this is one of the best articles since I read Niche Pursuits (about 1 year ago)
    After building (too) many micro niche sites (some are very crappy ones), I’m definitely into building solid sites, niche or not.
    Thank you again for the inspiration!

  25. SEO ZEN

    SEO ZEN

    Great post! I am building niche site so these information are very useful with me. Thank you for sharing.

  26. RoadtoOnePercent

    RoadtoOnePercent

    Great post Spence.

    I have built 7 niche sites total over the last 5 months and I have been learning alot from each site.

    I 100% agree with you that you should learn from small sites and focus on one large site at a time.

    Out of 7 sites 2 of them are doing signicantly doing better than others so for me I’m focusing the two sites to be my large sites. Other 5 are still earning $$ but like you said it’s hard to get massive traffic focusing on one keyword.

    Conclusion: Longtail keywords rocks and always look for non competitive longtail keywords to write.

  27. Jake @AgnelWellness

    Jake @AgnelWellness

    Hey Spencer,

    Great post as always.

    I’ve experimented with building micro and normal niche sites as well. In my opinion a 100+ niche site (built organically over 2-3 months) is a better and a much viable option that one of those small 10 page built to forget sites.

    In the long run, they are safer considering the new google algo changes.

  28. Gary Nugent

    Gary Nugent

    I think building a handful of large sites is too much like putting all your eggs in one basket. It’s the philosophy I used to follow until Panda and Penguin hit. My sites had 100% unique content (written by me) and yet they were penalized by Google.

    Some sites have even been kicked out of Adsense even though I can’t see what rule Google thinks they’re breaking – these are sites that have run Adsense literally for years with nos issues whatsoever. And if you don’t see the problem (because Google are very vague about what’s wrong), Google ain’t going to point it out to you.

    I also never outsourced my link building and let backlinks build up naturally.

    Yet, for all my attempts to play by Google’s rules, my sites have been repeatedly kicked by Google.

    I now do not trust Google to do a decent job of ranking sites and not penalizing the guys who try to be white hat in site building.

    So I started building small niche sites (5-20 pages). There’s not a huge investment in any one that Google could piss away on a whim.

    My sites are built with a short lifetime in mind, so again I’m not going to lose out on putting years into a site only to have Google penalize it at some point.

    I’ve also switched my business model from building sites for passive revenue to building sites for sale/flipping. Backlinking is hard work and there’s no guarantee that the linking strategies you use today won’t hurt you tomorrow, even if you stick with white-hat techniques.

    Basically, Google can’t be trusted not to screw up your business.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Hey Gary, thanks for sharing. Its clear from your experience and others, that there is always risk. I’ve always tried to state that very clearly, even when you think you are doing everything right, at the end of the day, this is still a business. And as such, has risk associated with it.

  29. Dan

    Dan

    Great post Spencer,

    The portion about starting a smaller niche site to learn the ropes is certainly a smart play. There is so much to learn from basic SEO, wordpress, basic coding, monetization, content creation etc. It’s pretty a steep learning curve and I’ve found it a lot more bearable to make mistakes on a smaller site

    Cheers
    Dan

  30. Phil

    Phil

    Hey Spencer,

    thanks for these insights in your business again. I think smaller sites are great to test waters and bigger sites should be those which took off before.

    I think I should also go with only few sites and let some of my mini sites go.

    When can we expect the first update from your new student?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I expect to have an update tomorrow from the new student!

  31. Pedro

    Pedro

    Hi Spencer,

    What happened to your Adsense account? Are you still making money from niche websites?

    Thanks,
    Pedro

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Yes, I still have my Adsense account, and nothing has happened to it. I still do well with my smaller niche sites.

  32. Quinton Hamp @ The Lost Cyclist

    Quinton Hamp @ The Lost Cyclist

    I was one of those that wrote you, and thanks for taking the time to respond!

    I love how well you define everything. Your blog post just became the definitive article on what ‘micro’, ‘small’, ‘med’ and ‘large’ niche sites are.

    (Wikipedia is gonna start quoting YOU!)

    You advice to me to use small sites to see what niches are viable is excellent. Since yesterday, I’ve outlined content for the next TWO sites. (loving me my LTPlat!)

    If they get traffic, I’ll grow ‘em.

    I’m off to make me some monies like Spencer.

  33. Darina O'Kiely

    Darina O'Kiely

    I always look forward to reading your perspective on things Spencer, and it’s a good kick in the butt to get back to writing and link building!

  34. John

    John

    Outstanding post Spencer! With your new case study with one of your readers as a student, will your approach with the student be to build a large authority site, or a smaller niche site with the goal of 50-100 posts?

    How would you approach building a site/blog from the beginning with the goal of it being a large authority site? Do you plan out the site structure from day 1? How would you know what site categories to create? How many keywords would you would you start out with? And at what point would you know to monetize, and by what method? Adsense? Affiliate links? Product creation? All of the above?

    As you see, I have a lot of questions about exactly how to best start-up an large authority site, if that’s my intention from the beginning.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      John:
      Yes, I am going to push my student to consider starting a larger site from the very beginning. Getting to over 100+ posts may take up to a year, but that should be the plan from day one. So, for Niche Site Project 2, I hope to answer all of the questions you put forward there.

  35. CJ

    CJ

    There’s one thing that I’m not 100% clear on that would be great to get some clarification with.

    By the way to start out, reading your blog has helped me start my own niche site, and this month I should reach ~$200 and the site has been up for 3 months (total it’s made about $300).

    What I would like some clarification on is whether or not you should do ANY link building manually, whether it’s going to related forums or blogs, and whether or not you should do an guest posting? Or should we just put content up there and hope we get links?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      You should definitely be interacting on other sites – and this will likely include leaving your URL(link). Although the point of commenting on other blogs or doing guest posts isn’t just for the SEO efforts, its to build relationships with other bloggers which can eventually lead to additional mentions on their blog, etc. This is a whole discussion – but in a nutshell, yes interact on other sites, but don’t do it just to get a link. Hope that makes sense.

  36. MMD

    MMD

    Spencer,

    Quite an outstanding and resourceful post! It’s funny because whatever you write about always seems to parallel exactly the problem or question I’m currently facing in my own niche site building efforts.

    I was recently asking myself if I should start a third niche site or just continue to build upon the success of my first one and develop it even further. A few of the other blogs (aka your readers) have been publishing very handsome income reports. But their sites are much, much larger than my niche site and have more pages of content. I’m inspired to continue to add more pages of content and see if I can’t reproduce some of the success they have experienced.

    After reading this post, I’m now even more confident that this should be the way to go. However I do not want to give up on my two other niche sites and will therefore need to develop them in between putting forth the effort for my first niche site. Thank goodness for outsourcing!

  37. Rushin

    Rushin

    My opinion is always build Authority sites because they are simply more scalable than niche sites.

  38. Doug

    Doug

    Hi everyone,
    Thanks Spencer for another GREAT post. The replies from everyone are also amazing with so much knowledge shared, thank you!

    I’m learning video marketing and have all the right pro video equipment to create a decent production. Now we need to learn how to get traffic flowing and use video for SEO.

    My understanding from other posts is that a series of short videos posted in different places will drive traffic to a website. So far I’ve got some videos ranking fairly quickly for their keywords, but don’t see any increase in website traffic.

    One thought to help others is to create voice over slideshows if you have decent photographs but don’t have a video setup. I think the SEO value will be similar from tests I’ve done over the past 12 months.

    Best regards & success to all,
    Doug.

  39. Mark N.

    Mark N.

    BTW I disagree with the notion that “Sports” is a niche. It’s a whole market.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      That wasn’t my idea – that was from Wikipedia.

      • Mark N.

        Mark N.

        Yeah, I know. I just personally think the person who edited this into Wikipedia is mistaken.

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          Here’s the point the wikipedia page was making. The overall market is lets say: Men ages 18 to 49. The sub-segment of that market (the “Niche Market”) is Men ages 18 to 49 that watch sports. So, it is still a decent example, but you are right that we should try to narrow our focus even more. (I shared a few sub-niches for sports in the post).

        • Mark N.

          Mark N.

          Ah OK, I understand

  40. Curtis

    Curtis

    It’s funny, I was thinking about this very thing while driving to work this morning. I started my “large site” about three months ago. I have been adding content and gaining ground slowly. It’s going well I actually have more success than I originally thought I would, however…….

    As I do this, the little guy in the back of my head wants it all in “2 seconds.” Funny.

    I have to ground myself becuase I know this is the long haul. When I think about the overal success of the site I am looking down the road 4 to 5 years.

    I was just about to start a micro site. I’m not going to do it now thanks to the adivse in this article. I don’t have time to mess with one right now it’s just a distraction.

    Timely post, thanks for the virtual slap in the face :)

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks so much for the comment Curtis! If I’ve prevented just one person from getting distracted from what could be their real money maker, then I think the post was a success. I also agree that we should be taking a 4 to 5 year approach. If you think about the kind of resource you could build in that timeframe…the possibilities could be quite huge.

  41. Priyank

    Priyank

    Hello,

    I have something great to share here.

    In March 2013, I hover around Spencer’s Nichepurcuits.com and Pat’s SPI and read almost all posts. Yes, I spent 8 hours everyday for a full month thanks to my content writing business that was almost on autopilot.

    I thought I was ready to build sites and I did exactly that. (It’s all about taking actions after all, right Spencer?)

    I started my first site in the first week of April. I chose 2 primary keywords for that site (Wanted a backup if my KW fails. I ranked both those keywords but still they are not profitable, will tell you why). Niche is hair loss.

    Bought a fresh domain from Godaddy (Was it really a fresh domain? Read further)

    Started building long contents as my first impression was that long contents rank better.

    That site is now getting 500 visitors daily and last month I made $267 in profit from that site alone.

    Lessons learnt from this experience:

    1. If you blindly follow criteria to choose keyword and don’t understand difference between profitable and non-profitable keywords, you won’t make money even if you rank those keyword.

    That was the story of this site 2 months after I started. Both keywords were on first page but I was not making any money.

    Thankfully, I had better understand of keyword research so I added 8-10 more posts to that site (all buyer keywords). Do you know what guys? Out of those 10 keywords, 2 are ranking on first page of google and that 2 posts are giving me 200-250 visitors everyday and they are my biggest earners.

    I am not talking about big money here, but a big lesson when it comes to keyword research. You can find keywords by setting filters of LTP and sorting out keywords but real skill is to understand the market value of keywords.

    Spencer has done that quite a few time in various posts but I missed it. Don’t follow me, follow Spencer.

    2. I doubt many of you guys know that if you are buying fresh domain, that can also have history.

    When domain is not bought in expiring phase, it goes to expired domains pool and then after some time, it goes to new domains pool.

    I can say this with confidence because it happened to my with my first site. Domain I purchased from godaddy thinking that it was fresh and clean domain, was 8 years old.

    It was first registered in 2005 and stayed unused for 2-3 years, came back to fresh domains pool and I purchased in 2013.

    Thankfully for me, it didn’t had any spammed links or bad history. If that happens, you will never rank. Believe me or not…you will never rank. So before buying domains, even fresh domain, throw them in majestic and check if it has any backlinks or not.

    In my case it helped me because I now have 8 years old domain.

    3. Clean backlinking is key even if you outsource. So never outsource your linkbuilding so blindly. Have a plan, follow that plan, and if you outsource, make sure that service you outsource to is doing good.

    I dig too deep in this area that now I have my own linkbuilding service and I am making $800-1000 a month from that only.

    Moral: Always watch out for clean links.

    BTW, I am turning this site into monster. I already have 50+ contents and planning to add 25 every month. Planning to go up to 300 pages/posts.

    Spencer, I am followed you even before you wrote this post. That’s how big a fan I am of you and community here.

    Mainly, I am promoting hair loss product that’s $40 on each sell + amazon items.

    I am using multiple monetizing methods because it’s always wise to offer what visitors are looking for. If someone is looking for anti hair loss shampoo and if I promote a doctor to him/her, it’s not wise.

    Having one monetization method may work in some niches, but not in all.

    4. Most importantly, quality content doesn’t mean large chunks of texts. It’s about providing value. If you can do it with an image, that’s quality content for me. If you can create PPT and record it to make a video, that’s quality content for me.

    It’s about delivering to promise that your keyword offer when user is typing that. In any form.

    Probably I should stop here and write in another comment for my 2nd website.

    Thanks,
    Priaynk.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks for the comment and sharing your experiences. Sounds like you’ve learned quit a few lessons along the way.

      • Priyank

        Priyank

        Hey Spencer.

        Thanks for noticing.

        Yeah, learnt many lessons and some of them very big ones.

        The biggest satisfaction is that I got started. And credit goes to you Master. Nichepursuits gave me confidence to do something creative and productive.

        Would love to talk to you one day. I know I have a long way to get online with you but I am confident that I will make that happen.

        Thanks.

  42. Priyank

    Priyank

    Now about my second site.

    I started this one in April 2013.

    I copied spencer for this site, niche was different though. It’s Amazon products worth $200-1000.

    I was crazy about SEO by then. Started experimenting everything on this site.

    Before it had 5 contents, I started backlinks and done paid links to.

    I bought few PR3-PR5 links from Digital point at the start of 2nd month for this site.

    Site ranked on 2nd page within a month. I was happy because this little site made me $40 even before it had 10 contents.

    Any guesses what happened then after? I screwed a big way.

    After 1.5 months, I opened my gmail one day and had google webmasters mail that you site is penalized because of spammy links. Remove them and submit for reconsideration.

    Jaw dropped and I didn’t had any answers to it.

    Rankings gone overnight.

    First thing I did was to tell those 3 DP members to remove my paid links from their sites. They did it gracefully without giving refunds…Still I was happy.

    I then added few more contents. Like 5-6 more so that site now has 12-13 contents in total.

    Then I submitted my site for webmaster reconsideration. I received no reply so i thought about waiting if the site ranks or just scrap it.

    But after 2 weeks, my site was back on page 3 for it’s main keyword. Now that site is ranking 7th in Googel and 1st in Bing for it’s primary keyword. Getting around 100 visitors daily and I am making money from it. Last month I made $90 from that site.

    Moral:

    It’s more about good keyword research, quality content and site look (yeah it matters a lot as I experienced) and at last backlinking.

    About backlinking, less is more at the moment.

    I have several SEO projects now but one of them is quite interesting.

    Keyword is related to real estate in Australia. My client had over 15000 links to his home page, which was ranking 1st for all 10 keywords I am working on. After recent penguin 2.0, his site lost 1st rank and most the keywords are ranking below 5th rank.

    Interesting part, competitor site of this site had only 1 authority link, yes 1 authority link with 9 years old domain, and that site is beating us.

    In short, it’s about quality of links not quantity.

    I cannot write whole post about what is considered as quality links here but anyone interesting for friendly conversation, can contact me to my mail. I will be more than happy to guide you.

    I am making $350+ from both the sites and $1200+ from my SEO services. Spencer has a big role in this figures.
    I have learned a ton from Spencer and I that’s invaluable for me. Thank a million Spencer.

    Hope this long, boring and full of grammar errors posts help you guys.

    I am open to criticism and praises :)

    Thanks everyone.

  43. Dan

    Dan

    Spencer,
    Are there some benchmarks out there or maybe your own, about how much AdSense earnings you can expect for a certain amount of visitors to your site?
    For example: xx dollars for every 100 unique visitors per day.
    Looking back at your successful niche sites, what dollar amount per month made you say this is a successful site and is worth being built out further?

    Thanks
    Dan

    • CJ

      CJ

      For my site which is getting about 200 unique visitors/day, I am averaging about $3 per day just from Adsense, but this is a little bit misleading because I also have Amazon links on my site as well as links to another affiliate in the niche.

      I would imagine if I just went with Adsense, I could probably double that to about $6/day from the 200 unique visitors/day I receive.

      The approach I’m taking, and this could be wrong, but regardless of the site, I am investing about 10-20% of my earning back into the site for more content. So if my site is making 100$/month, I will add a couple of articles/month to the site because those additional articles have the potential to get additional keywords and in the end, it’s about getting as many visitors to your site as possible.

      Now obviously if you’re only making $20-30 dollars a month, then it’s going to be difficult to add more content.

      Now I’m saying this with the idea that you originally created the site with 10-20 core articles to give you a gauge on visitors/profits.

      This is just my opinion on the subject and what I’ve done on the couple of sites I’ve created in the last few months.

      • Dan

        Dan

        Thanks CJ. I’m planning on reinvesting potential earning into my site too, once I start making some money.
        I started my site in April 2013 and I’m averaging about 40 unique visitors a day (slowly growing). The first AdSense dollars start dripping in but it’s very sporadic. I’ll just keep going and try to get the visitor numbers up. AdSense will probably follow.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      No, because it depends on the niche. For one niche, you might earn $5 for every 100 visitors in others it might be 10 cents for every hundred visitors.

  44. ray

    ray

    Awesome post as always! I’m still struggling to get a front page spot on google for my primary keyword–it’s hard to keep up the motivation! Reading your posts and the comments that follow is always helpful in motivating myself to go and work on the site.

    • CJ

      CJ

      Ray,

      I noticed that my site didn’t consistently rank on the first page of Google for about 2 months. It’s strange, but for some reason certain keywords will rank faster than others, and that’s even if it’s a lower competition keyword.

      The best advice Spencer has given me, is to keep adding good unique content because it seems like Google is happier when a site is being updated regularly.

      So as long as you chose a lower competition keyword using the general rules Spencer laid out for keyword research, you’ll eventually get there. If you chose a higher competition keyword, then there’s much more work involved.

      It’s incredibly important to get the keyword research correct because otherwise it could cause you a great deal of frustration in the end.

  45. James

    James

    You have actually really helped me, i have started a website that has been punished by google thats because my attitude towards it wasn’t clear, and what i wanted it to be.

    My idea now is clear, i have three keywords that i think are good, one of them is a very small one, the other is small but one is a large site, and something i know a great deal of. My theory is to spend 70% of my time on that larger one but if i can rank the micro niche one’s it will fund me to spend that time on the bigger one, which is something you could maybe mention.

    Personally i work full time, but if i can rank two mini niche sites quickly and turn a small profit quickly, it will fund me time away from work to spend on building that bigger niche site. So all my time i am working on these small niche sites my bigger niche site will benefit technically.

    Hope you get what i mean, but you made me come to this apocalypse!

    • CJ

      CJ

      James,

      Its funny you mention that because that’s the approach I’m actually taking at the moment.

      I would like my main site to reach about 500/600 unique visitors/day and hopefully make me ~$500/month. I’m doing this by taking a portion of the money made to create additional content as well as any money I make off of another micro niche site I created.

      I have 21 articles on my main site, so I think I can reach my goal but it does take a decent amount of work. There really is no “make a lot of cash fast” anymore.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I get it. Thanks James for letting me know this post helped out!

  46. CJ

    CJ

    I’d like to also suggest that one of the things that I have learned is to be organized when you’re creating these sites, and even setup a checklist to keep everything sorted, especially for the larger niche sites. This is something that I’ve started to do.

    One of the biggest lessons I learned was to have a content creation plan in place before you start the site because it will give you a good idea of the number of articles you can create. From personal experience, you want to have at least 10-20 articles to go at the start of the site, but you also want to have a content creation plan that extends well beyond those initial articles.

    I have created my content creation plan and I currently have article ideas for upwards of 100 additional articles that i will be rolling out through the end of the year. Some of them target specific low competition keywords, but others don’t (I should get long tail searches from these even though).

    I can just say that organization is key, especially for larger sites.

  47. Marie Orlando

    Marie Orlando

    I’ve looked into starting over and building a large website but I know now about the profitable keywords and how to use them. I don’t have a large amount of time to invest on building a new site. Thank you for your tips Spencer! Marie

  48. Marieta

    Marieta

    I like the post and the comments in here are fascinating to read.

    I am just starting out and have also tried a few smaller sites to learn the basics…but going forward I think an important question to ask is: Do you want to be Nokia..or do you want to be Apple?
    I recently read the Steve Jobs biography and how he turned Apple around…he did away with the hundreds of crappy/average products Apple was selling to rather pick one product, focus on it and make it GREAT!!

    At that stage Nokia was still the biggest force in the cell phone market with a wide variety of products…but today? Today Nokia is almost irrelevant and the iPhone is a “game changer” product.

    On the size topic…I guess the key is that if you end up only doing a 10 page site…make sure its the 10 best pages possible. Would you be proud to show your friends that site and have them share it with other people? If not…its not good enough.

    Quick question: When starting out on building a bigger site (after having chosen your key words etc), are there some Key Performance Indicators to consider to evaluate whether the site has real potential to take off or not?

    Thanks!

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Look at the overall size of the market to determine is a niche has potential. This would mean looking at the search volume for several related keywords…at least to start.

  49. Jenda

    Jenda

    Hey Spencer,

    great post as always!

    I have one question for you – Do you think it’s possible to build small niche sites (for example site about “15 ASUS laptops”, second site about “13.3 Lenovo laptops”, third site about ”17 Acer laptops”) and when they go well then merge them to bigger niche site (like “Laptops”), copy all articles on smaller sites and redirect it to the bigger site? You know – like sites merge for bigger authority?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Why not just make them one site from the beginning? I think that’s the better approach.

      • Jenda

        Jenda

        Yeah. You’re probably right. EMD doesn’t give that much bonus now so why not.

        Thanks for reply! :)

  50. Chris

    Chris

    I think beginners can get off track with the “one site is best” approach.

    Yes, building out 1 or 2 big sites IS best — if you chose your niche and keywords well.

    But what if you underestimated your competition or profit potential when choosing your keyword/niche?

    Beginners do that ALL THE TIME.

    That’s why I like the approach of building out several small sites first, then picking a winner and building it out into a large site.

    I started 4 niche sites 5 months ago, but only one of them is showing real potential. What if I had only built ONE site at the start? If it wasn’t a winner to begin with, I’d still be wasting time, energy, and resources building a big site with very little potential.

    So beginners beware!

    Build out a few little sites one at a time and then 6 months down the road…pick the winner and make that into a large site.

    Don’t pour your heart and soul into a large site with no potential. Test the waters before making your big leap.

    Spencer, thanks again for this blog, and for this post in particular! Your advice is always so helpful, man.

    Like you did recently, I just finished taking some time off with the family, and I gotta say, as much as I enjoyed our vacation, I am glad to be back to work! I’m kinda chomping at the bit here!

    Aloha, Chris

  51. JR

    JR

    Great article Spencer… I like the idea of starting small just to test things out before trying to build a larger site. It seems like there is so much to learn… I know myself, i am working on my 2nd small one, and even from the first try I have learned a lot, what works and what doesn’t, and how to track things. Having that experience will be a big help when trying to go bigger!

    Thanks for the post!

  52. jimi

    jimi

    Awesome post Spencer. Thanks for sharing. What graphics are you using with your posts on this blog?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I believe I got all of these from iStockphoto. I’ve used most of these images before in other blog posts here and there…

  53. Holly

    Holly

    Nice article as usual Spencer. For those starting out, getting a small “quick win” (ranking first page, then ultimately top position and making some money in the first couple months) is really important, so on that basis I like the strategy of starting 2-3 small niche sites and building the best one out further.

    Get some success and then replicate the process on a broader scale.

  54. Frank

    Frank

    Hey Spencer, I really enjoyed this post. I’ve struggled with this question ever since I got started. I’m in the process of creating an authority blog however I do like the idea of building niche sites as well. As a 9-5 er it’s easy to come home and plug away at a smaller site. I think the results are more tangible and can be seen quicker. I think when you’re new you’re looking for some sort of validation and what better validation then seeing some revenue. Without a doubt there are pro’s and con’s to both approaches and like you said it’s not a one size fits all approach.

    I like the idea of working 70% on a larger site and the other 30% on smaller projects. This is what I’ll do since my true passion lies in creating an authority type blog. With that being said I’ll build some smaller sites using long tail pro and long tail classroom.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Frank that sounds like a great way to go. I think your short comment clearly stated what I was trying to say in 3000+ words :).

  55. Niche Site Duel Update: My Costs

    Niche Site Duel Update: My Costs

    […] most other people did for the challenge, but I’m sure it will pay out in the long run. Like Spencer said: Quality is what counts in 2013! He also mentions that he thinks only websites with 100+ pages of […]

  56. Paul Hill

    Paul Hill

    Hi Spencer,

    Great article and I completely agree with everything you have said – I started building niche sites after coming across the usual suspects (SPI, 4 hour work week etc.) I decided to build 10 sites to see if the good old 80/20 rule would show me the way forward. 18 months later and I am still working on 3 of my original 10, the other 7 are still out there making small amounts each month but I just use them to try out different SEO / IM strategies – some of these strategies make it on to my main sites but most just help me to get a better understanding of what’s works and what doesn’t. Either way both good to know and as I always say…if your not earning, your learning

    Once again, great post and take it easy!

    Paul H

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks Paul for sharing your thoughts! I like the balanced approach you’ve taken – makes sense.

  57. Don Shelton

    Don Shelton

    Spencer,

    I would rather have one really thought-provoking post a month than 4-8 fluffy ones. It’s a smaller-scale version of what you’re talking about with the sites and you’ve accomplished that with this post. I don’t really disagree with you; in fact when I first started my reaction to most micro niche sites was how weak they were. I aimed to create higher quality writing, even if still a micro niche. Google seems to reward that a little, but the algorithms still are better at discerning the subject rather than the quality of the piece. My internal debate runs along the risk/reward lines, but weighs the risk of writing/paying for dozens of articles and perhaps having to wait a year to see if you really have anything in that one big site. The time value risk there seems high, though if it works out then I agree the longevity prospects seem good. I have conducted an experiment on one site where it’s all content marketing – no links, and just a little keyword. It sat fallow for 11 months, then took off. We’ll see where it goes, but 11 months is a long time for results. On the other hand, I can have a MNS site up in a day with quality articles for around $35 and probably know within a month or two if it will do anything. If it does and the subject warrants, then expand content to medium sized. In the long run, I would love to do one or two large/medium authority sites primarily and have had that as a goal from the start (save lots of money on domain registrations!); the way I’ve hedged that bet is to do MNS to learn and get a few small successes along the way for encouragement. It just seemed too big a risk (perhaps the risk being more time and discouragement than money) for a beginner to go all in on one site from the get-go.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Don, I think we are essentially saying the same thing. Its okay to try a few small sites to test things out and learn. Ideally, you can then grow one of those sites into something larger. But I think its important that people have the eventual goal of creating a larger site, because that’s where some real significant returns can come from.

  58. Willem Grobler

    Willem Grobler

    Good post Spencer. I’m a very strong proponent of taking a portfolio approach to your niche site business. The financial services, real estate, project management and other industries have been reducing business risk and maximizing profits for many years by applying portfolio management discipline to their investment thinking. Diversifying your “asset classes” or website holdings in the way you suggested above is a smart way to start down that path. Almost synonymous with the question of building large sites vs. building smaller niche properties is the desire to build a “passive” income. Of course, we all want to do nothing and make money but let’s be honest: if you aim to build a large authority niche site with some longevity baked in, you need to prepare yourself to work hard at it! If you have a portfolio of multiple sites then be prepared to actively manage those assets to get the most out of them with your always limited resources.

    In a Passive portfolio management approach, you build or acquire your sites and then rely on the quality of the original decision and the market forces to increase the yield and value of the assets over time with minimal input afterwards. This is very much the old small niche website approach. Identify a niche, do some keyword research, create some content, do some SEO, build some links and hopefully rank for your primary and a few other long tail keywords. When the site starts raking in a few dollars each month, wash, rinse and repeat until the number of sites is sufficient to collectively generate a sustainable income. Sit back and post pictures of your beach house in the Bahamas.

    The risks associated with this approach are rather numerous and large, as has been vividly demonstrated by the Google Algorithm changes of the last year.

    An Active portfolio management strategy may start off pretty similar to the one above. Acquire the assets and apply some sort of investment and diversification strategy. But, unlike in the passive model you need to continuously and actively monitor your portfolio, making changes and improvements, replacing under-performing sites, following market trends and shifts, making educated predictions based on verified learning and then mitigate risks and seize opportunities.

    If you own a number of niche websites, then shifting to a model of active portfolio management is the way to build sustainable business. As you know, we built Site Portfolio Manager (http://www.siteportfoliomanager.com/) specifically for this purpose. The niche site business can be very risky, but also very rewarding. Entrepreneurs who dabble in this space need to smarten up, learn to see over the horizon and apply sound business practices to ground our efforts over the long term.

    Thanks for the great blog Spencer. We enjoy following the experiments and reading the success stories.

    Willem

  59. Meet Perrin, the Winning Applicant for Niche Site Project 2! | Niche Pursuits

    Meet Perrin, the Winning Applicant for Niche Site Project 2! | Niche Pursuits

    […] And just so everyone knows, I am going to coach Perrin to try building a niche site that could grow into something much larger than just a normal small niche site.  We will be following some of the principles I discussed in my previous post about whether people should be building one large site or many small sites. […]

  60. Troy in Las Vegas

    Troy in Las Vegas

    Being one of those guys just starting out, I had the notion to build a hundred + sites and diversify with other stuff (forums, ebooks etc) but now I really question that stategy. It does seem to make more sense.
    I think I will embrace the advise of CHRIS DESATOFF above where he suggests-

    1. Start 3-4 small niche sites.
    2. Build them out to 10-20 posts/pages each.
    3. But do this ONE AT A TIME…focusing on Site 1 for a month, then Site 2 for a month, etc.
    4. Then watch them for a couple months, trickling in some fresh content and doing some low key promoting and networking (e.g. comments on related blogs and forums, social sharing), etc.
    5. By month 6, pick out which site seems to have the most potential, and start pouring on the content and start adding links (whether outsourced or through aggressive networking/marketing).

    Sounds good to me.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Troy:
      Sounds like a great approach. I really idea the idea of starting a few to get your feet wet, then hopefully growing one of those into something bigger down the road. Best of luck!

      • Chris

        Chris

        Thanks Troy and Spencer :)

        I’ve been doing it that way since March (inspired by Spencer’s public niche site project), and so far so good.

        Three of those four niche sites are just sitting there, but one of them started pulling ahead after a few weeks, so that’s the one I’ve been focusing on, turning it into an authority site in its niche.

        It got over 3,000 unique visitors in its 5th month and is earning $30 to $50 per month from Amazon.

        Hopefully the strategies I’m implementing this month will push it over $100 in the next month or two.

        Good luck, Troy. And mahalo, Spencer, for all you’ve been teaching us.

        Aloha, Chris

  61. Rod J. Rogers (@FreeAgentRogers)

    Rod J. Rogers (@FreeAgentRogers)

    Layered Links claims to have evolved to be ‘white hat’ enough for Google. Anybody think this is a possibility?

    Thanks

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      It currently still works; however, anything that is out building manual links can’t ever really be considered “white hat”.

  62. ArtMom

    ArtMom

    Hi Spencer – love your podcast and the blog. I started my online adventure after Pat Flynn’s niche site duel and then happen to come across you through his podcast. I love your information, thanks for sharing so much great info!

  63. Jeff in Oregon

    Jeff in Oregon

    I have a question for ya Spencer!!

    If you build out a site into “something bigger” …..say for instance like this blog of yours, and it starts getting the kind of traffic we all dream of and THIS amount of great comments to keep up with and respond to, HOW do find time to work on all the other stuff? LOL ;)

    Great post and great comments!! Can’t recall the last time I learned so much highly relevant information on a single page!!

    Thanks Spencer and to the many great commentators!!!

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I do like to respond to comments, but really, it doesn’t take too much time…its worth the tradeoff :)

  64. Michael Hoo

    Michael Hoo

    Thanks for the great info Spencer info, love your blog and podcast, this will be great benefit for me, cheers!

  65. Dionne

    Dionne

    Wow you built over 200 sites lol! I believe a large site is better to start off with because the risk is low and you are focusing on one site. Now once you starting finding some success in that site, then try to replicate it.

  66. Folco

    Folco

    Hello Spencer,

    Thanks you once again for sharing this great insights and content. I loved your definition of what a Niche Website is. I starded a buliding a small niche website 2 years ago and decided to embark on buliding a larger niche website this spring, so your post comforted me in my decision.

    I can add to the debate a few words about the mindest and motivation that are according to me key factors of success.

    Buliding a small niche website lead me to earning my first dollars (euros !) online after a few months. My site is now on autopilot and brings in regularly some revenue. This is NOT definitely going to change my life BUT it proved me that I could earn money online by following simple rules and motivates me every time that I receive an email saying that I earned some commission. So this site now is like a little voice saying “Hey ! it works ! now keep on working !”

    However, since I was not really passionate about the topic I choose, this energy was not sufficient for me to keep on working on this site.

    Embarking on a larger Niche website, I chose a topic I was really passionate about. I know this is more a long term project so I wanted to make sure that I did not drop after a few months (so far this is a side project along my current job). Since I am passionate about my topic, I know I will mots of the time be willing to learn and share around my topic. And my little niche website reminds me that It can work !

    This was about the psychological aspects of a “portfolio approach” !

    Once again thanks for everything that you share !

    Folco

  67. Carl

    Carl

    Hi Everyone

    As always, a really interesting and useful post and even more help is coming from the comments and advice everyone is offering.

    I started with one niche site and in the first instance thought I had picked a good LT keyword. However I quite quickly realized it did not receive enough monthly searches….So I got greedy and made a new site with a keyword that received a much higher volume thinking it would instantly be successful.

    The issue with this is that I neglected the research element of the higher traffic keyword and it was in fact an extremely competitive niche.

    5 months on and I have learned a valuable lesson. My first site now receives between 100-200 unique hits a day, is ranked for over 400 other search terms and consistently earns at least $1 a day on adsense. The second project for the higher traffic (and more competitive keyword) …Well lets just say it is buried under the huge pile of better quality and more authoritative sites in the same niche.

    It taught me two things –

    1. Don´t prejudge a whole niche based on the selection of one longtail keyword. The content I continue to add provides the traffic and keeps the site ranking for new keywords each month. Persevere!

    2. Don´t think that after building one or two sites that you can ignore the rules of keyword research. Google doesn´t owe you anything and does not have an algorithm that says “ok so this guy has built one site that has made it to page one so lets rank him for whatever he chooses to write about”

    I think it´s great to experiment by trying new things – but treat it solely as an exercise and don´t lose heart or motivation if and when they do fail.

    I am now working on building an authority site and thank everyone again for their tips and help! Niche Pursuits Rocks!

    Carl

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks for the great words of wisdom Carl! Thanks so much for sharing!

  68. Rina

    Rina

    Very wise in determining two options for building niche sites large or small based on expertise and financial because we will not be able to realize all that we want when our expertise and finance have certain restrictions
    Thank you for your answer

  69. Steve Wyman

    Steve Wyman

    Hi Spencer

    Wooow rather a lot of people trying to force info down others throats.

    My take is that in the medium term Large sites will win out.

    Authority in terms of benig an expert will always carry weight in some niche’s,research, medical etc

    Outside of these, ignore what some folks say, Size really does matter!

    The main reason is that a large in depth site has a much greater change of gaining links and building DA and PA that a small site with just say 20 pages. Plus its internal linking will be far stronger. In the long run if google wants less spam they have to move the focus away from counting external links as the major parameter.

    For those not up to speed. G is right now in a mess again. Viperchill has documented very well what many of us are seeing. Freshness out of control, Vast numbers of rubbish links pushing sites to number 1 etc.

    Thats not going to hold.

    If you want to play games and make quick bucks fine.

    The long game is about creating a real business delivering real products to real people. And in a very real sense thats what Spencer has achieve with the Knife site.

    • Iain

      Iain

      Great point Steve.

      Creating a business is important.

      We often lost sight of what’s really important because we see the dollar signs, but if you want to run a real business taking a portfolio approach is much better.

      I mean why would you want to risk all your money one smaller riskier bets whereas a larger site has more potential. It is a longer game but it’s worth it.

      Google just keeps changing and unless your niche sites are done extremely well, will get penalized.

      Real business
      Real People
      Real products

      I like it

    • Chris

      Chris

      Hi Steve,

      I apologize if this is a dumb question, but what’s DA and PA.

      Thanks.

      • Spencer Haws

        Spencer Haws

        Domain Authority and Page Authority. From Moz.com/Opensiteexplorer.org

  70. Dan

    Dan

    Eye opening ideas in your post. I feel that I particularly learned good ideas from the comments and replies right in the commenting section. I am planning to expand my target niche with directly related niches but within the same blog or asset. In this way I can attract a buyer that will want my main products and also my “add-on” niche products. Thanks for stimulating my creative juices!

  71. Jay

    Jay

    Great post, and well timed for me. I started a few niche sites, picked up a few extra domain names for some others but found it super unproductive as I’m still getting comfortable with establishing my workflow and configuring things on what I consider to be my main site.

    I think the additional administrative burden of monitoring a half dozen sites by myself is creating more havoc than benefit, although its quite the learning experience as I’m trying a few webhosts and different SEO strategies on each.

    For those looking for organic link building, consider running a giveaway using Punchtab or Rafflecopter. One of the niche sites I created did this and the site was picked up on a few of the contest niche forums. I went from no traffic to 125 visits per day within 30 days (which I didn’t think was bad considering I had almost zero marketing). It appears to have increased my rankings and I still get 80-100 visits per day almost a month later.

    Most of the giveaway entries involved sharing on social media sites, Facebook, twitter, etc. I thought it was a pretty quick, solid way to increase my rankings. In contrast I tried a link building campaign in another niche that has WAY more searches, made it to the 2nd results page (same as my giveaway site), but still get almost no traffic.

    Great work, and thanks for the detailed post.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      great ideas…thanks for sharing Jay!

  72. Brandon

    Brandon

    Another great write up Spencer. Thanks for the information!

  73. SEO Machine Pro

    SEO Machine Pro

    Great article Spencer. I like the idea of starting small just to test things out before trying to build a larger site. Thank you for sharing.

  74. Jawbone Up Tips

    Jawbone Up Tips

    Wow! What can I say. This is such a long good post. You are aiming for several long tail keywords from this site? Nice approach!

    I really wonder, if we pump tons of super long post (2000 words ++) like Viper Chill, can we really get lots of long tail keyword? In that case do we aim articles as long as possible?

    If a single post with 2000 words + can fetch traffic, what’s the difference between micro niche site?

  75. FB Social Deck

    FB Social Deck

    Nicely presented information in this post, I prefer to read this kind of stuff. The quality of content is fine and the conclusion is excellent.

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  82. Jeff

    Jeff

    I think you have to start small, try several “experiments” and see what works and go from their….you can always build out a small site into a bigger authority site if you can gain some traction.

  83. Syed Irfan Ajmal

    Syed Irfan Ajmal

    Spencer, if there is an award for the master of digital inspiration, you will win it every single time :D
    Loved the post. I came to an immensely pleasant realization. I have always been good at writing and what I realize is that luck is on my side in the sense that by working on just 1-2 authority sites (or large niche sites) where my focus is on writing the most high quality content possible, I can keep myself safe from google mood swings.
    Another sweet realization was that everything you said was more or less similar to what I have told myself and others. I have some friends who focus on churning out too many micro niche websites doing some heavy blackhat seo for them and I was never a fan of that because firstly blackhat is risky anyway and secondly it does not look smart to be fully dependent on google alone (even if you are doing white hat seo – if that exists that is) and lastly, as you rightly mentioned, its better to write about something you are truly interested in rather than a boring niche which does not appeal to you. I do have a some niche sites, but as you rightly pointed out, I don’t depend on them to make a living. I have a diversified income portfolio and its nice to see that business model of mine being validated by you :)

    • Syed Irfan Ajmal

      Syed Irfan Ajmal

      Argh my English sucks :/ Sorry about that but hope it all makes sense.

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