I always love it when a reader contacts me and tells me they are having success with their niche website!
Doug Cunnington contacted me recently and let me know that his site of only a few months already is earning over $1,200 per month! That’s right, niche sites still work…Doug’s story is just more proof!
Of course, I’ve shared many other success stories right here many times in the past.
However, its always great to hear another fresh story of someone’s success with niche sites. If you have your own success story to share, please read how to do that here.
I love Doug’s story because not only does he have some great tips to share, but the quick earnings growth of his niche site is quite impressive!
Finally, Doug is also taking a project management approach from his “day job” and applying it to niche sites. So far, his strategies appear to be working very well!
He was also clever enough to buy the domain name of a phrase I coined over here: “Niche Site Project”. (Maybe I should charge a royalty!). So, you can now follow along with what Doug is up to at NicheSiteProject.com.
With that, I will let Doug tell his own story below…
Doug’s Success Story
1. What is your name and current job/profession?
My name is Doug Cunnington and I work full time as a project manager for a software company. I’ve been working in IT consulting and project management for about 10 years.
I would also consider my secondary professions enthusiastic owner of a border collie and supportive husband to my wife of 4 years (my wife considers my primary job to be a supportive husband…).
2. How did you get started building niche websites? How long have you been building websites?
I started creating niche sites after finding the Smart Passive Income podcast earlier this year, 2013. SPI led me to discover Niche Pursuits at about the same time that Spencer was working on the first Niche Site Project. I thought the concept of “passive” income was fantastic and decided to explore the possibilities in my spare time.
I enjoy diving into new hobbies and was intrigued by the many different options and variations discussed on the Niche Pursuits Podcast.
3. Tell us about one (preferred) or multiple of your successful websites. What is the URL and what niche are you targeting? If you are not willing to publicly share your domain or niche, that’s just fine.
I modeled my most successful web site very closely after the process outlined in Niche Site Project 1, an Amazon Affiliate site. Even though the link from Niche Pursuits is tempting, I will keep the domain and niche private.
I started the site on July 14th and immediately began writing content for the main home page and moving on to product reviews. After a week, there were about 10 articles consisting of a 2,500 word front page post and product review pages with 400-900 words a piece.
After the initial set-up, I contracted some of the product reviews out to a virtual assistant, some to my wife, and I continued writing so we could have the website up as quickly as possible.
Prior to my highly successful site I created a couple of Google Adsense sites; these sites are still active, but none of them can hold a candle to the Amazon Affiliate site. One of the Adsense sites is making about $0.40 a day, so it’s not a failure in terms of covering expenses, but my efforts are better spent elsewhere.
It turns out my initial keyword research was flawed, but the experience was a valuable learning process for me. I learned I can’t meet my revenue expectations if the average CPC (cost per click) is $0.40 and the search volume is ~1000 exact search matches per month.
4. How much money do you make from this successful website(s) each month?
We are still experiencing tremendous growth and the holidays/retail season might prove to be extremely profitable. I also expect a significant drop off after December, partly due to the retail season and also because Google trends show a decline in the niche related keywords.
The trend over the last few years is that the searches for this particular niche rise by about 25% from October to December before falling in January. We are currently working on expanding the website and improving rankings to include additional related long tail keywords, so I am optimistic that the income will continue to grow.
Below is our income to date:
- July: No sales.
- August: $20
- September: $500
- October: $1270
- Up to November 17: $1009.66
5. What is the reason for this website’s success?
The website would not have been a success if I hadn’t persevered through the hard work and (at times) frustration. The success is due to three main reasons:
- Keyword research is definitely the primary reason for profitability. The primary keywords get over 5k exact searches a month and there are plenty of related keywords that drive traffic from Google. The keywords were also not very competitive so I was able to rank, and rank quickly. Even with a high number of exact searches, the profitability would be uncertain unless you consider the second point…
- Use a Buyer’s Term. The search term is something a buyer is going to purchase, not a casual web researcher. The site attracts traffic from Google on the way to purchasing an item. The number of unique visitors is not astonishing compared to other websites, but the users are interested in buying a product soon. We’re intercepting the visitors/buyers on the way to Amazon. It works remarkably well. You might have the best niche ever with a killer buyer’s term but you won’t get positive results without the third point….
- Focus. This is the most challenging part and has two separate components. The first is the ability to NOT work on the other projects that are attracting my interest. Sure, I have some ideas for other niches, but working on more than one thing at a time or multitasking can result in many partially completed projects rather than one fully completed project. I firmly believe that focusing on the task at hand produces a better result, and I coach my project management team on this daily. The second part is focusing on the specific items that will actually make a difference, or, in project management terms, ensuring that critical path tasks are addressed (this is where I was able to utilize my project management background).
For example, searching for just the right theme might not be a smart use of time. It is very tempting to spend time looking for the right theme because you have a really specific idea how the site should look. Then, once you find the theme, you end up wrestling with the layout, trying to get that widget in just the right space. And, once you are successful, the body of the article is displaying on your images. &*^#*!!
It turns out that WordPress’s default themes, 2011, 2012, and 2013, well, they look pretty darn good. My site is using 2012 and I decided that I wasn’t going to spend more than a minute selecting a theme. (Yes, that example above happened to me.)
While it is important to have a visually pleasing site, it is more important to have good content and high rankings. Once I have more income from this site, I may hire a web designer to make it “slick” looking, but I didn’t focus on this initially.
Other things that might be distracting, but not critical to success initially are starting an email list, starting a podcast, starting youtube channel, etc. Those are all great things to do but think about those efforts in v2.0. You don’t need that stuff out of the gates. Think about making improvements over time; it doesn’t need to be absolutely perfect the first time around.
6. Please briefly share your overall strategy for finding a niche, getting traffic to your site, ranking in Google, and making money from niche sites.
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First of all, I treat each of these endeavors as a project with a clear beginning, a clear end, and with evaluation points along the way. Having a structured mindset goes a long way to ensure that you are not putting the cart before the horse. It keeps you from reading about link building when you should be brainstorming about your keyword, or reading about converting visitors to your email list when you don’t even have a website up.
The project of creating an affiliate niche site is overwhelming considering the work as a whole, but it really is just a set of tasks that are simple if you break it down.
Finding a niche: It is a long process. Brainstorming – then research – then first page analysis. Rinse. Repeat if needed. Refer to Spencer’s guides since they are effective.
After you get into a certain mode, the ideas just keep popping up all day long, every day. I kept a list to track all my ideas waiting to be researched. The hard part is figuring out how competitive the top ranking pages are to determine if you can rank in that coveted top spot.
Analyzing competition is an art and something that is an ongoing learning experience, especially due to Google algorithm changes. For this site, my wife suggested that we try to choose a site related to something we were already interested in and/or had knowledge about. This definitely made it easier with our site, but I don’t think is a prerequisite.
Getting Traffic & Ranking: I rely solely on Google search traffic. I haven’t been affected at all by any of the recent algorithm updates, thank goodness. I don’t have much to add that has not been said about ranking – it is all related to keyword research and backlinks.
Backlinks are critically; even with killer, super valuable content, you need links. You need a keyword or niche that has a reasonable level of competition. If the niche is open and thin with content, then you have an opportunity to step up and rank highly with a smaller number of links. If the niche is highly competitive, then you have to assume that it will take longer to rank and more dedicated work along the way.
Making money: Intercept a soon-to-be-buyer on the way to Amazon. If you get highly targeted traffic, then your job is easy (or at least it’s easier). Be very positive in your product review.
However, I like to check out some of the 2 or 3 star reviews to try and find a legitimate issue, just so I can mention it. Most of the time, you can chalk it up to a user error in your review. Pointing out a minor flaw adds credibility.
7. What link-building tips can you offer?
I recommend commenting as a good starting point. Otherwise, diversity in the anchor text is essential, so use tools like Majestic SEO & ahrefs to make sure the statistics are within acceptable ranges. Be wary of cheap fiverr gigs for link building or blog roll mentions.
Here are a couple searches for finding blogs to comment on and use the Google “search tool” drop down to find recent blogs:
“keywords” + “You may use these HTML tags and attributes:”
“keywords” + “Notify me of follow-up comments by email.”
Private Blog Networks (PBNs) are extremely powerful but very, very time consuming to implement. Check out Jon Haver’s website for a guide on the process and you’ll see how much effort it can be. And, of course, check out Spencer and Hayden’s webinar outlines the process, too.
Please contact me if you have a PBN, even a couple sites, and are looking to leverage the power of your domains or you are looking for a PBN but are not sure how to connect with an owner. I am currently working on my own PBN but it is the startup phase. WOW – it’s a lot of work!
8. How has the success from this website impacted your life?
The main impact so far is that it has made me very excited about continuing to build successful websites! A secondary effect is that my wife is tired of hearing about new niche ideas and websites. 🙂
Another huge impact is that I am writing a book that describes using project management best practices to create an Amazon affiliate website.
This is project is producing a nice income that can supplement our regular income. My wife has been working part time for the last several months so this is a nice way to help make up the difference from a full time income.
In addition, I am confident that I can start other affiliate websites or even larger projects. Most likely, this income will be the seed funding to scale and expand my web presence.
9. Do you have any additional tips or advice for others that would like to replicate your success with their own websites?
Focus and understand which tasks are critical. Multitasking is bad without understanding the interdependencies and relationships between tasks. Set goals and deadlines so you can evaluate your progress.
10. Do you have a blog or other place that people can following along with what you are doing?
Please visit http://nichesiteproject.com where I will write about applying project management principles and best practices to niche sites. That will be the place to get updates about the alpha and beta releases for the book.
The book will outline a lot of what Spencer has offered in his Niche Site Projects, my own research from many other sources, and how to take advantage of project management best practices to make niche site creation process driven.
I am looking to connect with Niche Pursuits readers and to join a mastermind group so please contact me at the website if you are interested.
Overall, congrats to Doug on the nice success he is having with his niche site! In addition, thank you so much for sharing your strategies with us here!
As always, if you are reading this and have questions or thoughts you would like to add, please do so in the comments. Let’s continue the discussion and shared education below!