Today's post is a guest post from Kyle McFarlane. Kyle recently shared in a comment some of the success he was having with Long Tail Pro and building his niche site, and I decided that it would be interesting for the Niche Pursuits community to hear more of his story.
I love Kyle's story because it truly illustrates his journey from knowing basically nothing about building a successful website, to owning a successful site.
So, with that brief introduction, here's Kyle…
I love video games.
Yes I’m that old.
The premise of the game was simple, use your controller to run up some ramps, climb some ladders, jump over some barrels and rescue a princess from a large gorilla named Donkey Kong.
The first time I played, I barely made it up the first ramp, the controls were slow, my timing was off and those barrels kept coming down.
Eventually you get comfortable, learn some tricks, your friends come over and you all take turns taking a go a Donkey Kong.
Then one day you do it! You rescue the princess and that’s it, you’re hooked!
Then you spend the next 30 years of your life playing game after game trying to rescue the princess, save humanity from the alien covenant or win the superbowl.
In all cases it’s you against technology and when you win, it’s addicting.
I found that starting a niche site had a lot of similarities to video games.
Setting Up The Console
It was early August 2014, my wife and I were eagerly waiting for our second child to arrive.
If you have young children you'll recall those first 6 months after baby arrives, there is an awful lot of sitting, watching, and waiting.
So why not start a hobby, I thought.
Then one night just after 7pm, my wife and I were sitting on the couch watching TV as we typically did each night after our oldest son went to bed.
I said to my wife…
“I think I want to start a website and make some money” (Yeah, I thought it was that easy).
I don’t think she really knew how to respond.
“Why and about what” she asked.
Those were pretty valid questions considering I didn’t have the answers, but I knew I wanted to try.
Below is my best attempt to share all the ups and downs and the one thing that changed it all for me.
Level 1 – First Time Playing.
So there I was sitting in front of a dark, empty computer screen with absolutely no experience or knowledge about blogging, html code, SEO or how to even start a website.
I really knew nothing at all.
In fact, I’m actually pretty useless when it comes to technology, I didn’t even have a Facebook account and to be honest I still don’t.
So what did I do, how did I get started?
I did what most people do when they want to learn something. I went to YouTube and entered….
Yup, you guessed it…
“How to Start a Blog and Make Money”
Little did I know that was probably the worst thing I could have done. If you have done this you know what I’m talking about.
Here is a screen shot from YouTube of the top results when I enter that search.
Video after video of people trying to make a quick buck. I’m sure some of these videos might be helpful, but knowing what I know now – no one showing up for this search is someone I would consider an “Authority”.
However, at the time I thought these videos were gold. I watched what felt like a hundred. I clicked on some links, bought a domain, got some hosting and downloaded WordPress.
Boom! I now have a website, now what?
After a few days of getting familiar with WordPress, I started writing posts about what I “thought” my niche wanted to hear.
If you didn’t already see this coming, there were a few problems with what I did and didn’t do.
Here they are in no particular order;
- I picked a random niche with no thought about demand, search volume or competitiveness.
- I picked a rather long exact match domain because that’s what the videos told me would help.
- I started to write what I thought people wanted to hear, not what they actually wanted.
- I copied articles from other sites and used a spinner because I was lazy.
- I used google images to find pictures and used them on my site without credit.
- I didn’t do any keyword research I didn’t even know what that was.
- I didn’t structure my site, pages or posts to be SEO friendly.
- I didn’t get educated, I just trusted some random videos on YouTube.
If you have read this far, PLEASE don’t be like me. Avoid all of these mistakes if you can. I’m sure I made hundreds more, but this is just what I can recall.
Those Stupid Barrels – Game Over?
So after about nine months of writing over 50 posts, some copied and some of my own. I saw very little traffic and ZERO sales.
Below is a screen shot of the traffic to my site during August 1, 2014 – April 30, 2015.
You can see the most visitors occurred in March where I had almost 20 visits in one day. (Please hold your applause)
You’ll also notice in April my traffic fell off the map, I’m guessing due to a google algorithm change or something.
This was the exact point I decided to quit.
My Extra Life
So here I was 9 months into my niche site with no sales, no rankings and no traffic. I was officially the owner of a failed site.
Look at my traffic from April 30, 2015 – Aug 30, 2015. Absolutely pathetic, what is that four visitors in 5 months?
But Wait There’s more!
In a desperate attempt to see some success I decided to check my Amazon Associates account and this is what I found.
So here's the funny thing.
If you're just starting out this may seem a little odd to you. But making $13.10 felt like winning the lottery. For those of you that have felt this you know what I mean.
I ran with the laptop to show my wife. It was only $13.10 but it validated me, I wasn’t a failure, I can do this.
So here’s what I did next.
Climbing The Ladders.
Now that I knew I could actually do this, I went to google researching everything I could consume;
- Website structure
- Email marketing
- Social marketing
You get the idea.
After watching the video, I was intrigued and checked out the Long Tail Pro site and downloaded the 10 day free trial on Aug 9, 2015.
Here is a copy of my receipt:
I got right to work and found as many keywords as I could find, I must have been researching keywords for days. It was actually addicting in a weird way.
The one thing I was disappointed about was that the trial didn’t have the KC score, which is what I really wanted to test out.
(Spencer's Note: A $1 Trial of Long Tail Pro now includes the KC calculation during the trial period…)
So what I did instead was found high traffic keywords in my niche with as many words as possible, the longer the tail the better, in my opinion.
I understand now that this is not the most reliable way to use the tool, but I only had it for 10 days and didn’t have access to KC score.
Once I selected my keywords, I wrote articles about each topic, posted them to my site and waited.
And waited….Then this happened.
On Sept 7, 2015 almost one month after using the trial version I got 34 visitors from Google in one day!
In fact in the month of Sept 2015 I saw 1,435 visitors to my site, which was more than my entire first year struggling by myself.
I also saw another month of sales, here is what my income looked like for Sept 2015.
So, of course I did what anyone would do in this situation, I bought the platinum package on November 27, 2015, here is my reciept.
Want to start your own blog?
Well done Spencer, well done!
Cheat Codes – Using KC Scores and Modifiers to My Advantage.
Now that I have the platinum version of Long Tail Pro with access to the KC numbers I really started to target buyer intent keywords and added modifiers like;
- Best (keyword)
- Best (keyword) For
- Top Rated (keyword)
- (keyword) Review
I followed Spencer’s recommendation and only targeted keywords with a KC of less than 30, then I added the modifiers shown above.
To be very honest, I didn’t follow Spencer’s guidelines exactly, I only paid attention to the KC score.
Spencer recommends a few other metrics you should follow when selecting your keywords. Such as, ensuring the keyword isn’t in your competitor’s page title tag or checking the age of the site, among others.
The key takeaway here is,
- I only targeted keywords with a KC 30 or under.
- Added some modifiers.
That is honestly all I did and I still saw success!
By the end of December I saw significant growth in traffic to my site. From less than 10 visits a day to approx. 75 visits a day, which translates to a 750% increase.
I’ll tell you how much I made with Amazon in a moment.
I Rescued The Princess
As the year went on, I continued to post articles targeting buyer keywords exactly as I described above, no more, no less.
As I approach my one year anniversary using Long Tail Pro I’m very pleased to say I’m no longer the owner of a failed site.
Here are some highlights followed by screen shots;
- 300-500 visitors per day from organic search
- 35,000 monthly page views
- 2% bounce rate
- Ranked number 1 in google for many of my target buyer keywords in my niche.
- 2015-2016 Amazon sales $33,000.000 my commissions $2,300.00 (Avg $200/mth)
- Over 300 email subscribers (still trying to monetize this)
My traffic has been increasing month over month until present day and currently just under 300-500 visits a day (including some social referrals).
I’m seeing approx. 35,000 page views per month with a bounce rate of 2%, see below;
My Amazon commissions have also increased month over month with the last three months earning over $400.
Other key highlights:
- Created a few lead magnets for giveaways, started building my email list to over 300 subscribers
- Created a $7 eBook.
- I have reinvested $200 to outsource some content to be written. Don't judge I have two youg children 😉
- I have not done any form of link building or promotion, so I’m thinking I need to start some outreach ASAP
I didn’t write this post to brag or show off, my intention is to prove that anyone can succeed given the right tools.
When I first started I was led astray by others trying to make a quick buck. This was a blessing in disguise because I learned quickly who I shouldn’t trust.
Then, after I made those first sales I was motivated enough to seek out valuable, useful and actionable information, which led me to where I am now.
If you read between the lines of this story, you’ll see the process that many of us go through in our journey to succeed. In fact this story could apply to anyone with a problem they need solved.
Here are a few things I hope you keep close as you develop you niche sites.
- Be honest.
- Provide Value.
- Solve your reader’s problems.
- Help people succeed and you will succeed.
- Don’t chase the money, it will come, be patient.
If someone would have been there for me from the start, not only would I be further along with my success, but they would also have a customer for life.
P.S – And if you're wondering about the baby? We had our second baby boy on Aug 13, 2014 and now I have no time for a niche site 😉