I'm excited to see what the future brings for niche sites. I really am.
I think in the next few years, there is going to be lots of opportunities for intelligent webmasters to do very well with niche sites. But that will require innovative thinking, and the strategies of yesterday won't work anymore.
As recently discussed, Google has come out with the Exact Match Domains update and Panda and Penguin updates as well. These have thrown some niche marketers for a loop, because their sites are no longer ranking where they used to be. Some have even thrown in the towel completely; giving up on building sites that generate traffic from Google completely. Rather than change how they build sites to match the changing times, they have just given up! Are you someone that will let a small bump in the road make you give up on your business dreams?
My opinion? You're crazy not to try and get some free Google traffic. Its free traffic!
As mentioned, the latest updates has only had about a 13% negative impact on my sites overall. In fact, some of my sites are ranking better now than they were before.
Yes, any negative impact hurts, but because I have sites that are still performing well, I can compare them to the sites that are not. Its pretty clear to me, the direction I will be going with my niche sites in the future.
Here's what I see:
- Higher Quality sites are performing better
- Sites that have real links pointing to them perform better.
Simple right? Well, it should make you re-think how you are building sites and link building.
A Better Content Strategy
If you are paying someone on Fiverr (or some other cheap outsourcer) to write articles for your sites; its eventually going to catch up to you. In addition, I think a better strategy is to not only write high quality articles, but to create a true resource for your niche. This might include a video course, free ebooks, clickable maps (like Pat Flynn's Niche Site example), actual independent ratings and reviews, custom software, dynamic calculators, and more. In other words, you will be better off is you can provide something ORIGINAL on your site that people can't get anywhere else.
This requires thinking “outside the box”. If all you have is text content on your niche sites, you should really start thinking about how you can make your site more useful and interesting. I'm NOT saying that you MUST have something besides articles on your sites; I'm just saying if you can do something original and useful – you will be ahead of the game. This might be as simple as creating original graphs or charts with reviews and ratings. Or it could be creating a free guide that other sites in your niche don't offer. Its time to think on your feet.
Also, I mentioned previously that I would be building larger sites; starting out with 25 original articles or so. Please don't get hung up on this number. Its more about the quality than the number of articles. You might be able to rank just fine with only a handful of articles. But if you truly want to be the go-to source for your niche; chances are you will need more content.
A Better Link Building Strategy
I have to admit, that I have relied on poor link building strategies in the past. I was using Unique Article Wizard or other low quality link building tools to get the majority of my links. That's just not going to cut it anymore.
True links that Google actually cares about can be obtained by networking in your niche, providing a valuable resource to others, guest posting, obtaining the links that your competitors have, finding high quality directories, and other techniques. And by all means, please make sure you aren't keyword stuffing your anchor text. Penguin will kill you for that.
There may be a place for article marketing and automated link building tools (like UAW), but I would rarely if ever use them to point links directly to my own money site. These tools could be used to build up web 2.0 properties or other domains that are secondary.
Multiple Sources of Traffic
The easiest way to get traffic is from Google and webmasters would be crazy not to do everything they can to rank well in Google. But Google traffic can also be the easiest to lose. So webmasters should also be doing other things to get traffic.
My number one advice is to start building a list in your niche. When you get a visitor to your site, try to convert them into a repeat visitor. I personally use the Welcome Splash plugin to build my email lists. I developed this plugin along with Chris Guthrie earlier in the year. Most of my leads now come from this quality list building tool.
Even if you have an Adsense site, build a list. Once they are on your list, you can send visitors to your new posts or you can introduce them to relevant products. Trust me, its a better long term strategy.
I have one niche site that has over generated over 2,000 leads on my email list. That site no longer ranks as well in Google, but with one email, I can get more traffic to that site that I would get from Google anyway.
In addition, so many strategies exist for generating traffic from forums, blog commenting, guest posting, paid advertising, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, and more. Its time to take a more complete approach.
I would still advise that you do everything you can to rank well in Google, but don't be afraid to put other traffic strategies into play as well.
All Starts with Keyword Research
Overall, many of the basics of niche sites remain the same. You should still be starting with keyword research. Long Tail Pro can help you brainstorm and find low competition keywords.
In fact, keyword research may be even more important now. You need to be focusing on keywords that can be built into something bigger. Maybe before you could build a site on “men's red pants”, but I would really recommend finding a broader topic now.
As mentioned, I will personally be focusing on keywords that have exact match search volume of anywhere around 4k to 20k a month. This will allow me to develop a fuller site on a bigger topic as the site shows promise.
The Payoff Can Be Even Bigger Now!
I'm excited for the future of niche sites, because the return on investment might actually be bigger now. Bigger sites focused on slightly larger topics have the potential to bring in bigger monthly returns. Rather than re-investing all the returns into new sites, I can now focus on making a handful of sites into bigger and better resources.
Right now, I have 2 sites that I am working on. I plan on working on these sites exclusively for the next couple of months.
I've already found the keywords and brainstormed how I can truly make the sites into something unique and useful (more than just a bunch of articles). I'm excited to see how these sites go and will be sharing the progress of these in the future!
I would love to hear your thoughts. What are your plans for building niche sites down the road?