In today's episode, I bring Dave Fox as a guest on the podcast to discuss his growing niche site business!
Dave has been a long time follower of NichePursuits.com, and although he has the background of a musician, he decided to dive into the niche site business. Over the past couple of years he's done very well. His sites are now bringing in about $5,000 a month!
In the podcast today, we discuss Dave's background, how he got started online, and the strategies that are working best for him right now.
We dive into one of his sites that is making about $3,000 a month and the keyword research and link building strategies that he employs. Dave shares how he uses scholarships to link build.
He also shares things he learned about using Google Search Console to help improve his site.
Overall, I really enjoyed doing the interview and I think Dave shares some great tips for niche site builders. If you would like to read the full transcript rather than just listening, please expand the transcript below.
If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing and leaving a rating on itunes right here.
Read the Full Transcript
Spencer:Hey everyone! Welcome back to the Niche Pursuits podcast. I’m your host Spencer Haws from nichepursuits.com and today I’ve got another guest to interview for you. This is actually a regular niche pursuits reader and podcast listener that has had some success with his niche sites. His name is Dave Fox. He doesn’t have a blog that you can go and check out. He’s just one of those guys kind of under the radar if you will building his own niche websites and has built up a decent little business.
His sites bring in about $5,000 per month that he shared with us and along the way he shares a lot of the specific tactics that he employs to enjoy some of the success that he is, some of the link building strategies, keyword research strategies and other things. He has an interesting story because of his background and how he got started building niche websites and of course it’s always just great to hear from a reader that is finding some success in their own niche website business. With that, I hope you enjoy the interview. Alright, Dave, welcome to The Niche Pursuits podcast. How are you doing?
Dave:Not too bad Spencer, how are you?
Spencer:Doing very well! Thank you! I’m excited to have you on the podcast because you shared a little bit of the success that you’re having with some of your niche sites and so I do want to dive into that and what’s working well for you in particular. But before we do, can you give us a brief idea of your background, business, and work experience previous to building websites?
Dave:Sure. I’m still a music teacher but I’ve been teaching music like guitar and singing for about 15 years so that’s what I’ve been doing around my area here locally and that’s been my job for the last little while. Before that, I did those fairly crappy jobs that nobody likes or maybe some people like them like factory, temporary work, just sort of like milling about trying to make some money before I figured out the music teaching thing. That’s about it.
Spencer:Do you teach just private lessons or do you teach like at a school or something like that?
Dave:Yeah, there’s this school that I taught at for about 5 years around, here then it closed down. I just went to private lessons and kept growing my student base. That went ok for a while. I also paint so I sell my own paintings. It’s all the kind of artsy kind of thing, but at the same time that wasn’t. After a while, that didn’t bring enough income, I realized. I tried to make it work and started to look for something new after 10 years.
Spencer:Give us an idea then of how you went from the shift of being a music teacher and an artist to having your first sort of online business venture and what was that?
Dave:It’s a good story but maybe wasn’t so fun for me to actually live it but I had this girl who lived in Turkey and I met her on Facebook, sort of a lot of information but I met this girl. I was kind of planning to marry her and going to move to Turkey and teach English there, this was like 3 years ago, and then it all fell apart. I was sort of sitting around kind of depressed and trying to generate some ideas. I was fairly depressed actually so I had this music thing and wasn’t doing that great. I just broke up with this girl. Things kind of sucked at that moment and that’s when I started digging around online, I stumbled on some videos and started watching and learning stuff so that’s how I got into it.
Spencer:Right, quite the adventure like you said. Maybe not fun for you but it is an interesting story. Maybe you were at a low point looking for something else, can you give us an idea what sort of, not what videos you were watching but what business ventures were you looking into at the time?
Dave:I wasn’t actually looking for anything. I was just literally just spitting in the basement, came across it was a lazy ass stoner guy. I don’t know if you know who that is.
Dave:He’s actually kind of cool. He helped me out a little bit. His videos are pretty funny. They’re very enthusiastic and it’s just like, “Yo! You want to master Pinterest? This is how you do it, it’s easy, bam, bam!” That sort of a high energy. Yeah, he’s a stoner so I guess that’s his theme and it’s a little laid back too. I was like, “What is this guy talking about?”
He still has his YouTube channel up, but he hasn’t posted anything in a while and he was one of the first guys that I watched his videos and he was like, “What’s he talking about?” And then started to get into it slowly and thinking like, “Is this a real thing? Can you actually do this?” That was the first thing that I looked at down in the dumps there. But then yeah, it started to slowly catch on and I sort of started to see more and learn more about it.
Spencer:That makes sense, I think a lot of people have a unique way of how the light bulb moment goes on when okay, you can actually make money using the internet. This is a real thing. Can you take us from that leap of you’re watching these videos of whatever, how to get traffic to Pinterest, etc. to where your business is today. Maybe you can give us an idea of where is your business right now.
Dave:First year was kind of like pretty much, I’ve listened a lot of your podcasts and a lot of podcasts in general. There is a certain thing where it’s like there is going to be sort of a lot of failure at the beginning and your first few sites might not do that well kind of thing. That was the case for me too. The first year I got into it, I just thought, “Wow, this is amazing. I got to try this.” I started making websites that were based on things I was more interested in, I’m interested in comics, I did a cellulite site, a how to domain that was “getridofcellulitefast.com” type of thing.
Spencer:Good old exact match domain era.
Dave:None of that works really because I kept those domains around for like a year and a half or maybe two years. Last year, I got rid of them, all of them basically because they weren’t getting anything and I realized at one point jeez! I really did these backwards, I didn’t do them properly according to the way that I do things now. I really had to get rid of them at a certain point.
It came from the fact that I was with Hostgator and Hostgator was telling me that I had an overage on my eye nodes, you have too many eye nodes, 20,000 too many eye nodes and I was like, “What’s an eye node?” They tried to explain it to me and I’m like okay, I just have too many files so which files should I get rid of? They’re like, “We don’t know.” I’m like maybe I would just tap off these three or four websites that aren’t doing anything and that’s what I did. I bailed on Hostgator because I didn’t really like their service. That’s when things actually picked up because I had a couple sites that I was doing properly at that point. This is a year and a half later and then those sites are the ones that I focused on so I’m glad that I got rid of the ones that were kind of not working because they weren’t doing anything.
Spencer:You’ve built some new sites, things have started to work a little bit better. How many sites do you have right now and are they mainly Amazon affiliate type sites?
Dave:Yeah, I have eight sites and they’re all Amazon. Pretty much if they aren’t, they’re becoming more Amazon based. I have this one music site that’s sort of my oldest site and it had nothing to do with Amazon at first but then I’m like I’d like to monetize it so I switched it over to being Amazon based. They’re all pretty much Amazon based and so there’s a few that are more new that are just coming up this year, in the past eight months, and then there’s four other ones that I had for a year or two and they’re basically already sort of going along so yeah, that’s where I’m at.
Spencer:Awesome! That sounds good. I’d like to give people an idea of how much or how well your business is doing so if you’re willing, can you give us an idea of how much revenue your sites are making right now or whatever you’re willing to share?
Dave:Yeah, basically right about now they’re about at the 5k mark for all of them all together. Because our dollar in Canada is not doing so great, it actually makes it out to be 7,000 by the time the money comes in America and then if I convert it to Canadian, it’s 7,000.
Spencer:That’s $5,000 a month or so. That’s a solid business. That’s more than a lot of people make at a full time job for sure.
Dave:Yeah, it’s decent for sure.
Spencer:Now that we kind of know how well your business is doing, I would like to dive into how you got there. Can you give us an idea of the process you used for building a successful website? And of course, this could be a really long discussion, you know, sort of what’s the general strategies that you employ?
Dave:Yeah, as you know, the learning curve can be pretty steep. If you’re just stacking in all the information, then there is quite a bit you can look at. I guess I’m still learning a lot of things, right now there are certain strategies that are working in the past two months for instance. In general, it’s just a process of kind of keeping it simple.
If you made a few mistakes in regards to you make a site that is too broad, I don’t think Google necessarily likes it when you make a site that is, like you make an authority site and you are not willing to back that up, then that’s going to be pretty slow going I guess because it’s actually very broad, the topics and what not. The sites that are working better are basically just one specific type of thing. It still can be a little bit broad but it’s about one topic, say it’s about boots. It’s all about boots and you just keep writing about boots and you keep doing the typical top ten or the best review type stuff, just the typical niche stuff, right?
Spencer:You’re doing nothing out of the ordinary as far as keyword research, you’re just looking for low competition keywords then you’re writing a review article or a comparison article where you’ve got your comparison chart that has affiliate links in it.
Dave:I met this guy a little while ago. He was one of the guys that mentored me. He’s a British guy and he was doing well with the UK program with Amazon and he had a different outlook on it to what I was doing at that time. When I started making some of the sites, he was saying to me, “Just do it. Don’t look any of the stuff up, just do it.” I’m like, “What do you mean don’t look it up? There’s rules.” He was like, “I don’t follow these rules. Just do what you think is going to work.” I’m like, “I don’t understand.”
Anyway, that actually kind of helpful because I find it sort of limiting to just follow all the rules all the time. The way I do it now for instance, if I have an idea, I just go with it. I think you probably have to have a solid core of the keyword research and all that stuff, that stuff has to be internalized. Beyond that, once you internalize it I guess, you’re not supposed to overthink it too much right? Just kind of roll with it a little bit.
Spencer:When you say don’t follow the rules, do you mean like you don’t worry too much about finding specific keywords that are above a certain search volume that meet certain criteria? If a topic seems to make sense for your website, you go ahead and write about that?
Dave:Yeah, for sure. If it seems like it should be part of the website, I don’t want to ignore it. I want to actually write about it and have it on there. It seems like a very natural. The best policy is the website should actually be good and it should actually be helpful.
There’s something kind of counterintuitive where I think a lot of niche people overthink it. I was overthinking it and just sort of ignoring the fact that you do actually want to help people. For a while, it think I had a guilt complex about it maybe, I was thinking this is a low brow thing that I’m tricking people into doing this. I’m writing fake reviews about things. And then at some point, I’m like I don’t have to write fake reviews about things, I can just make it as helpful as I can and that kind of thing.
Because of the way people reacted to it when I got into it, they were like, “What are you doing? This is not a real thing.” I don’t know if you ever experienced this at all but certain people look at this sort of business and they don’t understand it so they just think that it’s sort of under the radar kind of thing, right?
Spencer:Right, I totally understand. How much is your biggest, you have about eight or so. Do you have one that’s bringing in the bulk of that income?
Dave:Yeah, pretty much. I have one that’s doing about $3,000 a month.
Spencer:We don’t want to reveal that domain but let’s sort of think about that one website that’s the most successful. Is that one a large website, how many articles are on there? Is that part of the reason for the success of that one?
Dave:I think so yeah, it’s large and I just kept cranking out articles. It was kind of hell or high water for me. I’m like I’m going to just keep cranking articles until I just drop. This site, I’m going to make it work. It’s got at least 200 or 250 posts on it right now which is a lot, right?
Spencer:Yeah, it is. 250?
Dave:Yeah, at this point. It’s a 2 year old site, it’s got 250-ish post. I’ve slowed done a lot recently because I literally did fry my brain trying to keep going with it. I feel like there’s still lots to write about on this site, the topic is very something that everybody loves, you can just talk about it forever but.
At the same time, there is a lot of content creation and not only that, but I did all these posts and then I had to go back and re-do a lot of them because I just realized how weak the content was. It was just driving me nuts so I have been over that state with a fine tooth comb and just going like, “This site cannot suck, it has to be good, it has to be perfect.” I go through it and go, “Oh my God! Why did I put that?” I put like five different colors, like color of the header is purple for no reason and things like that.
Spencer:You’re still writing all of the content yourself or you did in the past, pretty much all those articles you wrote?
Dave:I did a lot of them I guess but at a certain point I was able to hire some people to keep it going. That’s another big part of it too is that I put a lot of money back into the business and I don’t even really think about it like it’s a real money maker for me right now, it’s more just I want to reinvest and I want to be doing better down the road, I guess. I’m not so hung up on wow, I’m making like $5,000 or whatever. I I make $5,000 and right away I pay people, that pretty much eats lot of that out. That’s my choice, it’s something I like to do.
Spencer:Right, you’re investing in growth of the site so there are some on-going expenses. How important is link building in your niche website strategy?
Dave:It’s gotten to be a lot more important because I think that was my weakest point for a long time. You have that one podcast, I forget what her name is but the no links lady.
Spencer:Yup, Claire Smith.
Dave:Yeah, Claire Smith. For a while I’m like Claire Smith, she did it, that kind of thing. That’s sort of inspiring in a way because if you don’t get the whole link building thing, that’s sort of what I did, I kept writing content and I was getting better at watching how it’s ranking and sort of learning about search console and analytics and that stuff. Eventually, I was like you can only get so far without–maybe it was parents said something at some point like in one of the things where it’s like, I don’t know what he said actually but he said something along the lines of link building, it really helps to get on board with that. I’m like “Yeah, maybe he’s right.”
Spencer:You started doing more link building and you’ve seen that that’s helped your sites. Can you give us an idea of one or two of your best link building strategies that you’re willing to share?
Dave:Okay, The scholarship one, right? That one is working well for me right now.
Spencer:Maybe just give a brief 30 seconds summary of that, just for any new listeners that are not familiar with that.
Dave:The scholarship one is not that old, it’s not that new anymore, I don’t know. It’s sort of in the past year I guess. I’ve seen a lot of stuff about trying the scholarship method, right? Basically, Universities offer scholarships, Universities like EDU domains and the domain authority on them and the page authority is usually really high so it’s quite beneficial to get them and it’s actually not that hard to get them because you just have to basically make a scholarship and then offer it and email them and they’ll link to you. On the one hand, it seems like it’s super easy. On the other hand, you might actually have to give someone a scholarship.
Spencer:Right, yes. I would say you would definitely need to give them the scholarship if somebody does apply, right?
Dave:That’s the idea but the thing is like I only started doing this maybe a month ago. I have a little team of people that I work with here that we do have some people that I pay for outreach. Those guys, we’re all kind of working together and the scholarship thing is something that we’ve been working on lately. It’s just been in the past month that I’ve tried it but we got a few links back and then also got a few submissions for content because you say submit your content on x-topic and then we’ll post it and we’ll give you credit. You’ll be entered into the contest and on deadline, we’ll let you know if you won or not.
Spencer:I see, so it’s part of the scholarship, you actually of course ask them to submit an essay application or submit a writing sample or whatever you’re calling it, right? You’re actually using that content on your website?
Dave:Yeah, that’s also cool. I think if you’re just totally legit about it and you’re willing to front the money for the scholarship and you’re not doing this as a scholarship scam. The thing is a lot of these scholarships, some of the universities seem like they’re desperate for money, right? They accept any scholarship which works in the favor of people like me but then I think you have to not just front on that whole thing, you just have to actually do it.
My intention is there’s going to be winners and that would come up in the next four months or something, we’ll have to pick a winner for certain because I’m doing it for a couple of sites so there’s two sites that are going to have winners and that’s cool. When you think about it, your students need money and schools want to help students. That makes sense.
Spencer:Yeah, I mean at the end of the day it’s a win-win. Somebody really does got a scholarship. They get some funds that they can use for their education. Great strategy, do you have another one that you’d like to share?
Dave:Before that, we were doing some kind of spotlight. In terms of content plan, a lot of the times with these sites, it reviews the yang yang kind of thing then you try to mix it up with some information. One thing you can do is basically you can write a spotlight on someone else in the industry and just let them know that you wrote it and they can share it and you can also connect with those people too. That’s one I have been doing lately as well.
Spencer:Yup, I’ve seen that work before as well. That’s a good one.
Dave:It’s not bad. When you compare the scholarship one to whatever you want to call it, the spotlight article or something, they both sort of have different function. I guess the EDU back when it started, you’re getting a huge link versus if you’re just talking to a blogger. It might even take more effort to hook up with that blogger. You got to weigh the pros and the cons of all that stuff. If you’re spending a lot time trying to hook up with a blogger who’s on Blogspot so you can get a DA1 or 2 like you know, a non-existent kind of authority thing, you gotta figure out your strategy there. I hope that makes sense.
Spencer:It makes sense. There are pros and cons to that. Very good. I love sort of picking people’s brains on what’s working well for them building their website, link building strategies can be a big part of that, it kind of depends on whether people want to go the Claire Smith route of just writing great content and getting traffic which quite frankly can work and does work, but link building can certainly speed up the process sometimes. In general, it doesn’t have to be related to keyword research or link building. Are there any other tips on building niche websites that you’d like to share today?
Dave:I would say the stuff that I learned about using Search Console and analytics in the past six months has been very helpful because if you think about it, you’re trying to make friends with Google here. You’re trying to work with Google and Google is your best friend. If you’re paying attention to Search Console for instance, Search Console has a lot of data to give you in regards to keywords, where you’re ranking. You really should use Search Console because there’s so much in there and to ignore it just seems, I couldn’t possibly do without it now because I think a lot of my keyword ideas comes from Search Console itself. Do you know what I mean? There’s a lot of stuff in there.
Spencer:Yeah, there is. Let’s maybe flash this out a little bit for listeners. Go into Search Console, you can see the queries that are coming to your website, I assume that’s what you’re looking at. How are you generating the keyword ideas? I’m sort of unfamiliar with that. What specifically are you doing to get those new keyword ideas?
Dave:The thing about Search Console is instead of giving you an idea on what you could do, it’s giving you information of what you have done so it’s a different kind of way of looking at the data. Say you post, you do a blitz of 20 or 30 posts, and then you sit back and you wait for a month or something and then Search Console starts collecting data because you hooked up properly, that’s another thing too. There’s a few things you want to go in there and make sure you’ve got Search Console working properly. If it’s not working properly then it’s not working properly and you need to fix it.
Anyway, you’re in there and it’s working properly and it starts giving you data back. You’re looking at the queries, you’re also looking at the page. The thing that I do that’s super helpful that my buddy told me about is you basically look at the page. Instead of looking at the query view, you go to the page view and you see what pages are ranking and then you flip over to the query view in the page view which I didn’t get that for a while, I’m like what are you talking about? What does that mean?
But you’re in the page, you have the page, selected the post specifically. Pick one specific post and then you switch over to query and then it shows you the queries that are bringing traffic to that page. You’re looking at those keywords and half the time, depending on how good you are with your on page stuff, it might just be a completely predictable list of exactly what you think it would be.
Often there’s at least one or two things in our world that would say let’s say you’re doing something where it’s somewhat mechanical and there’s instructions on how to fix this thing and it will suggest something else in there. You could either throw that into the post because it’s not there or you can make a whole other post about that topic because it’s sort of suggesting that people are searching and finding you in relation to that query but you’re not necessarily properly like SEOd for it because you don’t have it in the header tags or haven’t really included it in the content. I’ll just get ideas for specific products straight from Search Consoles and they’re like, “Oh, we thought you meant this.” I’m like “No, that’s not what I’m talking about here, but that’s a good idea, thanks.” And then I’ll go on and look that thing up.
Spencer:Great. That’s exactly right, I find that Google, you start ranking for certain themes, if you will. Sometimes, your post targets that keyword or that theme exactly. But sometimes like you said, there’s things that aren’t quite right that aren’t necessarily in your article that you’re ranking for and that’s a great opportunity to either put it in your article or write a whole other article to start driving traffic to a new page.
Dave:Yeah, totally. I have some friends that maybe know a little more than me or they’ve been around doing this longer. One thing that someone pointed out was that maybe you haven’t even put the main keyword in. I’m the kind of person that will just, I’ll have this post and it will be like “something versus something,” but that wouldn’t be the title for some reason. I’ll be like, “Wait a minute, that should be the title, in fact that should be the permalink, in fact that should be the main header.” That’s the top keyword and it’s not even the topic necessarily. It is the topic but I have found a way to not phrase it that way and then I’ll be like oh shit, how did I miss that? I have this one site that I’m going through a bunch of posts and looking at Search Console and going like ,“okay did I do this right? I’ve looked at this before but I guess I have to look at it again now.”
Spencer:Search Console really is a goldmine for a data. I do recommend that people check that out. Overall, Dave, I appreciate you coming on, we’ve covered a lot of stuff here. I’m sure there’s a lot more that we could, obviously, but sounds like you’ve got a nice little business going there. If people wanted to reach out to you and somehow get in touch with you, how would they do that?
Dave:I guess just find me on Facebook, I’m on there. Cambridge is where I live, I don’t have a website that’s like my business or anything. You gotta find me on Facebook I guess or skype. I think Facebook is fine, just drop me a line. I like it actually when talking to people about this stuff, it’s very interesting to me.
Spencer:Sounds good. People might take a little extra work to get in touch with you but that’s fine. If they want to do that, they can. I know you do pop in over on the Facebook group for Niche Sites project three. Maybe people can catch you there as well.
Dave:Oh yeah totally, that’s one of my favorites. I’m there a lot too and few other little Facebook groups that are kicking around. That’s the main one that I chime in on, I guess.
Spencer:No, very good. Like I said, I appreciate you coming on, I think you’ve given a lot of great advice here. Any final motivational words or any additional thing you wanted to share before we sign off?
Dave:No, but I just would like to say thanks to you because you were very influential to helping me figure some of these stuff as well. I’m a dedicated fan of the podcast and all that good stuff. Thanks.
Spencer:Absolutely, I appreciate the kind words so thank you Dave for coming on again, and thanks everybody for listening.