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Nick LeRoy’s Success Story: Keyword Research, Buying Links, and Other Strategies for Niche Sites

When I first got started building websites, I would scour the internet looking for success stories.  I wanted to find real stories of real people making real money through websites they had built.  For some reason all of us (well, at least me) want to see that someone else is really doing well, before we jump into something with two feet.

For that reason, I've created a series of success stories of people building niche websites!  You no longer need to scour the internet hoping to find others sharing their success, you can find all the success stories on my blog right here! (If you have a success story that you would like to share, please read the guidelines right here).

Today is no different.  I am sharing the story of Nick LeRoy from NickLeroy.com.  What I love is that he shares the exact URL of the site he is talking about, so you can go and check it out yourself!

In addition, Nick shares some of the tactics he is using to find keywords, a unique monetization strategy (after getting kick out of Amazon Associates), and the “right and wrong way” to buy links.

And if you read the story carefully, you will know that Nick mentioned he was about to have TWINS!  Well, he just informed me that they were indeed born on Tuesday…congrats!  I've changed plenty of diapers myself (I'm a father of 3), but I've never changed 2 diapers at once!  Good luck with that Nick… 🙂

Nick Leroy's Success Story

1. What is your name and current job/profession?

My name is Nick LeRoy.  I work full time as an SEO consultant for various law firms at one of the largest legal marketing firms in the United States.  On the side I offer SEO Audits and limited monthly SEO services via my SEO company BackBreakingSEO.com.

2. How did you get started building niche websites?  How long have you been building websites?

I have been in the SEO industry since 2008 offering various monthly services to clients.  While I still offer these services on a limited basis I moved towards building and ranking my own websites as a way to continue to make money without the stress and anxiety of meeting clients demands.  Anyone who's offered SEO services to a company or individual knows that setting the right expectations is absolutely key to a successful campaign.

Unfortunately I've run into too many issues where clients “get it” in the beginning and then forget and get upset when they aren't ranking 30 days after we start.  Alternatively, its very frustrating when you get a client to sign on but they are either unwilling or unable to execute your recommendations.

This scenario is much more common with larger companies that have a top / down approval process.  Getting title tags updated or even content generated can take months to get approval.  With SEO being such a fast pace “game” it's really hard to justify your existence when all your SEO suggestions and action items get stuck in a bottle neck.

So to really answer your question:  I've been building websites for myself since around 2010.  It started out with a personal SEO blog where the goal was to rank for my name and to build a name for myself within the SEO industry.  After years of blogging about SEO (to attract clients) I decided a more passive income is really what my goal was and I switched the entire website to focus on niche website and other personal website projects i've been working on.

The primary reason I made the switch from working exclusively with clients vs my own portfolio of website was simple. If I built my own website and monetized them through various offerings – I only had myself to hold accountable.  If content didn't get written or a certain link not built it was my fault.  Nobody else's.  There simply is no excuse for success.

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.

Several months ago (after you published your knife site) I started my first amazon niche website BestCanisterVacuums.net.  It's been a wild journey that started out with wordpress tools I've never used before to help pre-populated product pages (WPZonBuilder) to getting kicked out of Amazon Associates for being in a state where they no longer support affiliate marketers (Minnesota).  finally,  I was able to find another service to kick-start the site again when I thought Amazon all but killed it. (Now using SkimLinks)

4. How much money do you make from this successful website(s) each month?

As of the last few months I have been averaging roughly $400 to $500.  This was only after getting the website reconfigured with the SkimLinks affiliate program since I was kicked out of the Amazon affiliate program.

niche-vacuum-earnings

Funny enough, when my site “died” due to Amazon dropping me I panicked and offered to sell it to one of my readers for $200.  This was when the website was only generating about $40/m but knew it was climbing the rankings.  Thank goodness he turned me down and it forced me to look into other Amazon affiliates.

5. What is the reason for this website’s success?

I attribute the websites success to a few things.
1.  Proper keyword research through Long Tail Pro
2.  Proper competitive research using Majestic SEO, Open Site Explorer and the knowledge I've gained over the years as an SEO.
3.  An exact match domain being available.
4.  Offering the visitors of the website information and content that they want to read.

Point number 4 I believe is key.  Notice that I did not preach the “content is king” montra – simply “what they need”.  I don't have to spend hours and hundreds of dollars to write about which vacuum is best for hardwood floors.  I can pay a virtual assistant to scour Amazon for product rankings from consumer reviews and then include this information in a “top 5” type post.  Quality content can be very beneficial but just remember that it isn't doing you any good if nobody can find it! 🙂

niche-vacuum

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.

I used Long Tail Pro as my primary research tool to find the niche.

Once I found the niche that I liked I used a lot of Google Suggest data to further build out the website.  Using this information helped build out the website a bit more and helps with trickling in additional long tail traffic to the website.

I've also done some backlinking to the website.  The most valuable links probably comes directly from my personal blog but a few others have been acquired through guest posting and tiered link building.  I'm working on a few expired domains to help get back to the top of the SERPS soon.

This website exclusively makes money from the SkimLinks affiliate program.  For those not familiar with the program it is an affiliate that works out an agreement with thousands of merchants and receives a premium commission that is forwarded to SkimLink users.

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The only downfall is that SkimLinks takes 25% of your earnings each month.  For those that aren't selling thousands of products each month you'll notice that the difference between your commission being at 8.5% and the 25% they take is actually to your benefit.  Of course, run the numbers yourself before committing to the program yourself.

7. What link-building tips can you offer?

Link building will always be the most difficult part of making a website profitable.  I'm big on guest posts.  You can typically reach out to a few people in your industry and secure them fairly easily.  I know its not really discussed much here on nichepursuits.com but buying links is also a fairly productive way to gain rank quickly.  There really is a “good” way to do this and a “bad” way of doing this.

Buying Links … the right way and wrong way. 
A simple disclaimer.  Google frowns upon buying links in any capacity.  By taking any of these tips or tricks and acting on them you are acknowledging that you may or may not be stretching Google's terms of service (TOS) and risk the overall health of your website.   Buying links is one of the best yet most expensive ways to jump up in the SERPS so if your going to do it its important you do it right.  Below are just a few ‘basic' rules to follow when looking to buy links.  Let's start with the “what not to do” first.
  • Avoid buying links from big name networks or anyone who outwardly advertises link sales. My rule of thumb – if anyone can sign up that means Google can too which makes it a ticking time bomb before the entire network get's de-indexed.
  • Avoid any links around text that states “sponsors” or ” our partners” etc.
  • Relevancy is key.  If you're buying a link for your insurance website you don't want to have the link sandwiched between healthcare or legal content.  Make sure the entire theme of the site is relevant to the type of website you want to link back to.  IE a baking blog linking to a wedding cake business website.
  • Who else are they linking too? If you see outbound links to non related sites then you don't want your link there.
  • Was the domain dropped at any point in time? If so look to see what topic the site was about previously. You don't want a link on a website that was about used cars but now has content about baking supplies.
  • Avoid buying links that are on the same IP or c-block as other sites linking back to you.  This can be an issue if you're buying links from multiple websites from the same owner.
  • You do not want to buy links from a website that is linking out to other ‘network' sites.  This is a common strategy of individuals that build cheap networks to increase their pagerank.
These are just a few of the larger items to avoid when buying a link. The theme you should take away from the above points is to simply make each link LOOK natural.   People have the misconception that buying links is easy work.  In reality it can be just as hard as earning them naturally.
You want to reach out to relevant websites that are interested in making a few bucks on the side but aren't willing to compromise the integrity of their entire website by accepting dozens or even hundreds of paid links.  So with that said some tips for buying links the “right” way include but aren't limited to…
  • Buying websites / blogs outright.  Simply look for an outdated website and see if you can contact the owner and buy the website from them.  You can easily go in after transferring ownership and add links where appropriate.
  • Find guides and tutorials where you can offer to pay the sites owner to allow you to add some new content that would make it “updated”.  Of course your willing to compensate them for their time and effort in order to add the new content and add your website as a resource.  **Hint Hint**.
  • Find a resource or links page that's relevant to your niche.  Instead of risking that they MIGHT add your relevant website — offering them some money to make sure it happens.
  • Buy expired domains that use to have relevant content and quality backlinking profiles.  Resurrect it and add some new content with links back to your website.  GoDaddy auctions is a good place to find expired domains. (make sure to follow IP & c-class rules if you do this).
  • Pay for a negative review of your website. WARNING make sure you have a solid grasp on your branding and reputation management here.  The last thing you want is for this to pop up under your website in the SERPS when people search for your brand.  The idea here is that you can get someone to “complain” about your sites service or product and easily slip a link into the content.  Who “pays” for a negative review right?  You see where this is going right?
Those are some of my better tips.  Let me know if you want me to elaborate on this.  These techniques are definitely more grey/black hat but I'm a huge advocate for mentioning what works in the SERPS these days.  This includes the good and the bad. 🙂

8. How has the success from this website impacted your life?

This particular website hasn't made or broken my life.  However, its the entire strategy of making money online that has made a huge impact on mine and my families life.  My wife and I have one son and are expecting twins any day now so it's very important that I try to keep things as stable as possible right now.

This particular website has made enough money lately to support the little extras we've needed to buy with 2 more on the way.  Cribs, Diapers, and even some cash for a new SUV.

Professionally, this website (and a few other niche websites) have allowed me to take on less SEO clients.  This has resulted in less stress for me and more time with my family.  Many of the websites that make me money are fairly passive and include only a few hours of  directing content writers what/how to write and maybe a few links I personally build here and there.

9. Do you have any additional tips or advice for others that would like to replicate your success with their own websites?

Staying motivated is hard.  I always preach on my blog to aim for $100.00 first.  $100 pays your cell phone bill and is a noticeable reward for your hard work.  If your go into building a website with the idea that you're going to make thousands or millions of dollars then it's very likely you'll get frustrated and give up.  Take the small wins.  Earn $40 and take your girlfriend out for dinner on Google's / Amazons dime.  For me, knowing that I can provide the little extras to my family by “simply” building some websites is enough motivation to succeed.

10. Do you have a blog or other place that people can following along with what you are doing?

I blog about my niche website and website monetization strategies at http://nickleroy.com.

Thanks Nick…And Your Thoughts

Thank you Nick for sharing your success with us!  Its always interesting to read about the success that others are having with niche websites or SEO in general.

I hope we can continue the discussion in the comment section below.  So, if you have something to say or a question to ask…please do!  Nick and I will both try to jump in and respond to as many comments or questions as possible.


Success Stories

By Spencer Haws
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Nick LeRoy

Thanks for sharing my story Spencer! I’m actually feeding one of the girls while typing this response on my phone? #win!

Spencer Haws

Thanks for sharing your story Nick! And congrats on the new twin girls…best of luck!

Josh @ Form Your Future

Hey Nick, great post! I’ve read through your site before and I really like where you’re going.

I relate with you on being frustrated with large companies and their ability to execute. I help major autodealerships with their marketing and I’ve noticed that they have a really hard time pushing through some of the simplest tasks. If you can’t provide the simple numbers that show their profit growth, they are quick to strap on the earmuffs.

That’s incredible that you were able to turn your site around after you lost the amazon affiliate network. How is that site doing now? I read on your blog that the site saw a bit of a drop, has it picked up at all? I know you were going to sell it on Flippa, so I can understand how tough that is especially having lost my sites in the past :s

Nick LeRoy

The site has been jumping all around the SERPs. Not exactly sure what is going on but I’m still pumping in a few new links here and there that I believe hasn’t quite yet been counted by google.

Rick

Breaking news today: Google “Hummingbird” algorithm update. They say it was rolled out over the last 30 days. That could explain some moves up and down the SERPs.

Andy

Very cool post! Thanks Nick!

If going the expired domains route, would you recommend registering the expired domain with a different Internet Service Provider than the ISP you use to host you main website (i.e.) the website that is going to be linked to from the expired domain?

I am thinking that would look much more natural?

Nick LeRoy

Yup, definitely go with a different hosting provider. Also buy who is privacy or simply change the who is data so that its different then your money site.

John Gibb

Wow, didn’t know Nick was an old SEO cat like me… 🙂

I like the buying links approach. Particularly the negative review idea. First time I hear about that, awesome!

Did any of you guys try it yet?

I wonder what other niches is Nick tackling, could you make that public?

Nick LeRoy

I’m in quite a few niches. I started a Public “niche” site in the car insurance niche that you can follow along with in my site. 🙂

Lex phumirat

Congrats Nick, like you I have a son and another one on the way.

I had a question regarding link building. Would it be a good idea to hire someone to rank your site for you. So it will give you more time to build more sites. Is it worth it in the long run to have some one else do it. I’m trying a service out right now, its about 300 dollars to have one my sites rank on the first page in about 3-4 months.

Thanks Nick for info, and thank you Spencer for sharing Nick’s story.

Nick LeRoy

Congrats on the little one on the way!!

Honestly I wouldn’t pay someone to build links. Someone who will build you quality links is going to charge you high hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Services for +- 200 are going to be lower value links which are fine for smaller niche sites but aren’t going to get you anwhere with a competitive niche.

For smaller niche sites I rather buy a few links or buy some expired domains which you can control the links. Better bang for the buck in my opinion… But of course it has its risks.

Jye @ Full Volt

It depends on the link pricing for the small niche sites as well.

I see so many people throwing money towards link services offering, for example, 6 links for anywhere between $100-$600. Most of those links are lower value so I don’t see why people wouldn’t just spend that $600 on 1 or 2 high quality links instead, it benefits you more than multiple lower quality links.

The expired domain method is of course a better method as well, if deployed correctly.

Nick LeRoy

Very well said. Agreed 100%

Bas

What are good places to buy links?

I’m hired a cheap linkbuilder from India as a test to see if he can rank my site in a very low competive niche. Only paying 2,78$ a hour and looks like all low quality links and he has trouble to do what I ask but it’s just an experiment 🙂 my site wasn’t ranking anywhere so worth the shot.

Glenys @ Website Tips 4U

Very interesting post.
Great to see that you were able to bounce back after Amazon.
Do you think your site has reached its monthly potential or is it still growing?

Nick LeRoy

I recently saw a dip in ranking. Last month I was ranking top 5 for some of my primary keywords which meens I still have some port unity IMO 🙂

Tuan

Hi Nick,
Could you let me know more details on how Amazon kicked you out of its affiliate network? I think it will be a good lesson for us.
Thanks.

Nick LeRoy

Unfortunately amazon kicked out affiliates from certain states that wanted to collect sales tax. I didn’t do anything specific to get kicked out accept for living in one if the states requiring the tax.

Jamie

Good to know about skim links. I am a fellow Minnesotan that grew up in the twin cities currently living in Tennessee. If I move back I would have to rework my niche sites to be prepared for this.

Lindsay Collins

I’m surprised you are making so much when I can’t see you ranking in the top 10 for those keywords in Long Tail Pro. Are the ranking I see wrong or is it mostly long tail traffic?

Nick LeRoy

I just recently dropped off the first page for my primary keywords. I’m looking into it right now. Hoping its just a fluctuation in the SERPs.

Lindsay Collins

Possibly the Hummingbird Google update?

Nick LeRoy

Possibly. I’m still playing around with some potential issues with the site. I just recently removed 95% of the no-follow links on the site and decreased the amount of outbound affiliate links. I think it will help out. We’ll see. 🙂

Samuel

Hey Nick,

I work with SEO clients also and I can definitely relate. I’m also working towards building a portfolio of niche sites. Are you thinking of replacing and firing your clients once you can replace the income from your niche site portfolio?

Nick LeRoy

I’m not firing clients but as they choose to move in a different direction or budgets dry up I simply don’t replace them every time 🙂

Lucian

Some really nice tips and approaches I haven’t thought about yet. I am about to dip my fingers into the world of expired domains because this seems like the thing to do right now, but contacting owners of blogs that are no longer updated… that is a time consuming, but really interesting idea!

Nick LeRoy

The links that are super valuable aren’t typically easy to obtain. Expired domains take a lot of time but offer you high quality links. Good Luck!

Paul

I asked Skimlinks if they would be honoring the Amazon ban for the states that are collecting sales tax. They replied a few weeks later saying they would. So I’m afraid that source of income will be short lived.

Nick LeRoy

Yup your right. In fact I posted last week the email I got saying I can’t use amazon through skimlinks anymore. I’m in the process of updating my links through skimlinks to their affiliate relations with Kmart, Walmart, overstocked.com and target. I imagine ill see a little but if a dip but nothing massive.

Dan

I live in one of the “banned” states as well and was able to earn Amazon commissions through Viglink until the same letter was sent to me a couple months ago.
Like you, I also just link to different sites incl. buy.com (rakuten.com). They have a lot of stuff similar to Amazon.

Blograzzi

Where and how to buy links?

MMD

Thankfully I noticed one of Nick’s comments a few weeks back and started following his site. His success with Skimlinks (before they gave him the boot) inspired me to give it a shot on a few of my niche sites. We’ll give it a month and see if we get better results than Adsense.

Pay someone for a negative review of your site – that’s both crazy and clever ….

Nick LeRoy

MMD – great point and best of luck to you with SkimLinks!! I’m still playing with SkimLinks as they offer relationships with Kmart, Walmart and Target.com too.

Jon Haver

Nick congrats on the success. What a pain with Amazon and SkimLinks. Best of luck with keeping productive when the twins arrive! Congrats

Nick LeRoy

Thanks Jon – I agree that Amazon has been a pain in my ass. It’s really put a sour taste in my mouth. I personally have stopped shopping on their website.

Matthew Allen

It’s not Amazon’s fault – it’s the ridiculous state laws! According to Amazon, these sales tax laws are actually unconstitutional and they are fighting to get them reversed.

Nick LeRoy

Matthew, I do agree. I just like to pout LOL

Alex

Hello, Nick

Great post and success story. I also build my own niche site but the ranking is not very good. I’m still waiting for the ranking to climb up since I purchased a link building SEO service. They said my backlinks portfolio is completed.

I would like to ask how long does your niche site to rank on page 1 of google?

Nick LeRoy

Right now the site isn’t ranking page one :(. However, this was likely effected by that new algorithm update. Originally, the site was ranking at the top of page 2 immediately. Within a month I was ranking top 5 with some limited link building.

As Spencer preaches – its all in the research!

Link Development

Friends.I have shear some new information’s with you.I Hopefully You like it this information’s.Friends,If you target “buying” keywords.Just because you get traffic doesn’t mean people will buy. Go after keywords that are product specific like a make and model number, or things like “buy blue widget” rather than any keyword or even a “researching” keyword with high counts.Take care.
Link Development

Matthew Allen

Nick – I live in Michigan and our lawmakers just recently voted on and passed a similar tax law. It isn’t in effect yet, but I’m being proactive and getting ready for when Amazon shuts down Michigan.

I got a brand new online checking account using a relatives address in a state that isn’t banned (they allow me to still use my real address as my mailing address though). I changed my address on Amazon to that address and removed all payment options that are associated with my real address. I switched my payment options on Amazon to my new debit card associated with my new checking account. As far as Amazon knows, I don’t live in Michigan anymore. Although, I can still buy products and have them shipped to my Michigan address.

I’m actually not even certain I had to go through the trouble of opening a new checking account. Just changing my address in Amazon may be sufficient – but if they do decide to verify I will be covered.

Matthew Allen

To be clear – I did all of this just to stay in the Amazon Associates program. I don’t even make a lot of money with it yet, but I have plans and I don’t want to lose the option.

Travis

So…this site is making $500 per month even though I am unable to find the site anywhere in Google when typing in all of the keywords that you seem to be targeting?

Wow! If this is true then I am ready to slap up about 10 sites and make some quick $$$

Nick LeRoy

Travis. If you read some of the comments you would have seen that it just very recently ran into some issues ranking. I was to 5 for all keywords when spencer and I originally chatted.

It will be back. Give it a little time 🙂

Lindsay Collins

How worried are you guys about Google hiding 100% of keywords? It’s coming. If you look in Google Analytics now you will see up to 76% of keywords as “not provied” or something like that, and they are going to 100%.

Doesn’t that basically mean no keyword research? No Long Tail Pro and so on?

http://moz.com/rand/first-existential-threat-seo/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rands-blog+(Rand's+Blog)

Travis

If this is true, then this will be the end of Google.

Greed is the #1 reason why big companies fall and this move will leave the door wide open for Microsoft and Yahoo to take over.

Iain

Thanks for bringing that Whiteboard Friday to my attention. I hadn’t got a chance to check it out, but I see now how important it is.

I wonder how this will affect people who rely so heavily on Google.

Also, I it gives people yet another reason to diversify assets.

Mark N.

Keyword research has nothing to do with how many keywords you can see in Analytics software.

Spencer Haws

lol, don’t be ridiculous! Of course you still want to know what you should try to rank for in the search engines! It sucks that Google isn’t showing stats in Google analytics, but you can get keyword stats in plenty of other analytics programs, including Piwik stats which is free.

People are still typing keywords into google to find websites; as long as that doesn’t change, then keyword research is vital to building websites.

lindsay collins

If Google secures all searches then how does Piwik get their stats? As far as I can tell it’s not that they are just cutting it out of analytics, it’s that all keyword data will be secure and hidden.

Spencer Haws

Lindsay – You are right! I’m going to have to eat my words. You are correct that now stats/analytics program will not be able to show keyword data from Google because they have secured it. Here’s a reference from Piwik about that: http://piwik.org/faq/general/#faq_144

However, in my opinion, because we can’t get keyword data on the backend, that just makes doing keyword research on the front end even more important. And it will probably make tracking your rankings in google more important too. That way if you do great keyword research – and know how much search volume certain keywords get…and where you rank in Google; you can make some pretty educated guesses as to where your search engine traffic is coming from.

Lindsay Collins

Yeah, it’s not going to kill us. Really sucks for people with really big sites though. As long as we can find keywords, look at competition and so on we should be okay.

Travis

Im slapping up sites all over the web! Yeah baby!

Steve

That moz.com video was well worth a watch.

Stuff like this (and read the first few comments after the moz video) always takes me back to the Fraser Cain method (see Spencer’s nichepursuits.com interview with Fraser Cain)….of no link building, and even further than that…a Corbett Barr (Think Traffic) attitude of “screw SEO”…(for the most part)…

Of course, that’s totally contradictory to the KW research emphasised by others (such as Spencer) and I totally get what they say as well. I like being challenged by different points of view!!

However, in the final analysis, I DO think that for those who have an *actual* idea for a business (i.e. a product or service of your own) that the whole KW research / SEO thing should only be a small part of your thinking and your activities online. There is so much more to building a real online business than ranking in google.

Iain

Yeah there will be an opportunity for those people now who don’t care about SEO more so now.

It make it more common to see people do more market research now, and so they really know their audience.

Jay Dorsey

Great story Nick, and thanks for sharing the URL _and_ how you overcame the Amazon setback with Skimlinks.

Iain

Great to see another case study.

It’s interesting to see how you based some more grey/black hat stuff.

Everyone has a different approach so it’s cool to see how you made your site successful.

Great work

Pramod

This is an interesting and inspirational story . One thing that really amazed me is how long tail pro software helped the blog to reach 1000 UV day in just 2-3 months . I’ll need to get this software for me . Thanks for sharing the info .

-Pramod

Michael

Nice article.

I sympathise with you falling off the front page. One of my sites that survived all other Google updates, has lost 90% of its traffic since 25th September. No messages in webmaster tools or anything. I can only put this down to Hummingbird.

I started collecting success stories a while back. It always fascinated me how people quit their jobs and setup affiliate sites.

Got a few of them here:

http://defylife.co.uk/blog/lifestyle-design/generating-passive-income-success-stories/

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