RJ has a few niche sites making in total about $6,000 to $7,000 a month. The largest site is making about $4,000 a month.
RJ has a great story to tell, and he shares his process for building a successful niche site.
RJ recently started a blog where he shares his website building strategies at RJBryan.com.
Read the Transcript
Spencer:Hey everyone and welcome back to the Niche Pursuits podcast, I’m your host Spencer Haws from nichepursuits.com. Today I’ve got another great guest interview. Today is Rj Bryan and he does have a blog over at rjbryan.com. If you wanna follow along with what Rj is doing, you can go to rjbryan.com. It is a new blog but he’s starting to document some of what he’s doing building websites.
Rj has been a long time Niche Pursuits reader and follower back a couple of years ago. Started out with a case study with Perrin, the Niche Site Project 2 that we did. That’s when he started following along. Rj was able to implement things right away. His first site wasn’t a success as he’ll go into but his follow up site was a success. That one site is now making about $4,000 a month and he has a few other sites overall, now he’s making, I think he said about $6,000 to $7,000 per month and he’s actually in the process of selling off one of those sites on Empire Flippers right now.
Rj is able to dive in and share some interesting strategies for pillar post and doing keyword researching content and then we also dive into link building strategies and specifically some outreach and what he does for outreach and how he monitors some of his keywords that really is kind of a unique twist on things that I’ve done in the past. I think that you’ll get some good takeaways from this interview and so hopefully you enjoy it. Hey Rj, welcome to the Niche Pursuits podcast.
Rj:Hey Spencer, how you doing?
Spencer:I’m doing great. It’s great to have you on, I appreciate you taking time out of your day.
Rj:I appreciate being here.
Spencer:Before the interview, you shared a little bit about the sites that you’ve built and your niche site process and some of the success that you’ve had. I’m excited to dive into that and share that with listeners because I think you do have some good things that you can teach here on the podcast. But before we do, can you give us an idea of your background, your work experience previous to building websites?
Rj:Right after school, I basically became a professional couch hopper and then that was a couple of months after school. I got into residential real estate as an agent and then commercial under real estate developer because I wanted to own properties. I figure that would be the best way to go about it. After two and a half, three years of being in the real estate realm, I realized it wasn’t the route I wanted to go in terms of trying to build businesses. I actually started building my sites well, I was at my previous 9:00 to 5:00.
Spencer:That make sense. I know you’re in Brooklyn right now. Were you in Brooklyn when you were doing real estate and everything as well?
Rj:As an agent, I was in Manhattan in Park Avenue. In real estate development, I was in Brooklyn.
Spencer: Okay, very cool man. A lot of real estate going on in that area. It’s crazy. I watch the TV shows, I’d see what’s happening, with the prices online, it’s quite the world over there with real estate.
Rj:Definitely crazy. I think that’s one of the things that attracted me to the New York market, I’m from New York but after school I could’ve gone anywhere but I come back home because the market was looking nice.
Spencer:Give us a little bit of what was your incentive or what was your thought process for why you decided to get started building sites online.
Rj:It was kind of the same thought process when it came to me being an agent, it just was a different topic. I wanted to own properties and I didn’t have any money and I didn’t have a cloud or new people with money. The cost of entry in terms of being an investor is pretty high. I always wanted to own multiple businesses so I guess it got to a point where I started hearing things or reading things where people were saying they were making money online. Eventually, I got to see the scammer type looking information and stumbled upon some trustworthy information like you being one of them, of course, Pat Flynn, and I just started. This makes sense and let me just try this out.
Spencer:Can you give us an idea what year was it when you built your first site and how did it go?
Rj:My first profitable site or my first site in general?
Spencer:First site in general and then you can tell us about the first profitable one.
Rj:The first site in general was probably late 2012, early 2013. I’m not even sure if I still own it but it was long, obviously, it’s ridiculously long and that failed because I was in over my head, I didn’t have any kind of structure or anything to it. I wanted to do too much, it was going to be like a multimedia type platform where I wanted to do videos, written content, but I am a one man band, it was just too much. That’s that.
I was doing real estate and I was seeing these things online, my first profitable thing actually was an ebook that I just sold on Amazon called Manhattan Apartments which is still there, and I still get like $2 a month for it.
Spencer:Just like a Kindle eBook?
Rj:Yeah. PDF. I didn’t even make a special cover. If you ever upload a PDF book to Amazon, they have a cover maker and I just made it right in there. That was good for a little while because I was promoting it on my Instagram and on my Facebook but after a while, I kinda let it go and SEO took control, it’s just there. I found your site which I think it was right before Perrin or right at the time you started the case study with him and I just follow from there and then that’s when I got the main site that I have now that is basically my bread and butter.
Spencer:Awesome. That gives people a good idea. It was probably mid 2013 I wanna say to early 2014 is kinda when I was doing the case study with Perrin that you would’ve been starting to build along. What is that, two and a half, three years ago or something like that. You were able to at least you have your first taste of success with a Kindle ebook that is still bringing in a couple of bucks at least but you moved onto SEO, building niche sites. Where are you at right now? In terms of your business and your online business, how many sites do you have? Give us a sense of what you’re involved with right now.
Rj:I have my main site which I’m building to an authority site then, I have three smaller sites, one of which I’m in the process of selling and I just started a blog which I will showcase building another site. I probably, all together, have five sites.
Spencer:That keeps you busy. Again, you’re willing to share whatever you’re comfortable with here. What kind of success are you having? What sort of income are the sites bringing in?
Rj:I average about $6,000, $7,000 a month. The largest one is the one that’s bringing $4,000 a month. The one I’m selling is bringing around $900 a month and the other two are around like $300.
Spencer:That’s excellent, man. I hear about people making $5,000, $6,000, $7,000 a month with their niche sites all the time, to be honest. To take a step back and look at it, it really is impressive to be able to do that on your own as an entrepreneur with just building out these websites. To think about the income that people make on average here in the US, you’re making more, you know, with those sites. It’s something that you’re able to do on your own time, flexibility, there’s just so many upsides to be able to do that. Do you see that in the same way or do you to have to pinch yourself every once in awhile?
Rj:It’s pretty awesome. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to. I appreciate that more than anything else, to be completely honest. Especially now that I’m successful, or somewhat successful in this online business world, people are asking what I do, how I do it and I’ll tell them because a lot of things I learned in the beginning was free. They don’t follow through. They say they hate their jobs, but to me, I really did not like having to get up at 9:00AM. I don’t believe people when they say that sometimes, do you really not like it? It was times when I have my 9:00 to 5:00 that I would wake up at 9:00. It was bad, I had to go. To answer your question, yes, I pinch myself. I’m excited and I think the freedom is one of the biggest reason that it’s a passion now.
Spencer:That’s the way it should be. You should be excited to do what you do all day. I know so many people, like you said, go to their 9:00 to 5:00 and they’re miserable and they don’t like it. Things don’t have to be that way. There’s a lot of people like you and I that are able to spend our time doing things that we enjoy, working hours that we want, if you wanna sleep in, that’s fine or some people wanna get up early or whatever people wanna do, they can make that schedule. That is one of the reasons that I do these podcast interviews, to have individuals like yourself to hopefully inspire people that are listening to know that it is possible, there are people out there doing it. Whatever that route is, whether it’s specifically with niche sites or some other business, but through your entrepreneurial efforts the people can pursue their dreams. If they want to spend more time with their family or work a flexible schedule or some have other big goal that they wanna accomplish, they can do that. I do appreciate you sharing your story, very much.
For people listening, I do wanna give them specific tactics for how you got there. Now that we kinda know how well your business is doing, can you give us an idea what the process is like for building a successful website?
Rj:I’ve thought about this a lot because I knew this is gonna come, obviously. I felt like there’s different tiers to it. I would say to listen and to take action because your site in which you’ve shown has been a really strong foundation for what I’ve done. I believe that if people will just listen and take action immediately, that’s huge. When you build off of that knowledge, if you start with keyword research and you just start understanding queries and analytics, then it becomes innate in a sense. It’s like pay attention to the analyst, pay attention to what someone like you is teaching and then take action and then you’ll be successful that way.
When it comes to tactics, when I’m looking for a niche, at this point I don’t go heavy into keyword research first. I think of something I wanna get into and then I do some research behind it, not looking for how I can make money because I’m already thinking about that when I picked the niche. There’s nothing new under the sun, really. Does that make sense?
Spencer:It does make sense.
Rj:I think of something that I do wanna get into, and then I go into my research and I pick some pillar keywords so I can make some really big piece in the content, and then I make a list of the Long Tail keywords, the queries that will be really, really helpful to people even if they don’t seem like they’re going to bring a lot income, the things that are searched 50 times a month, sometimes ten, it’s just quality information people want to know. That’s the whole point of your site, is that you wanna provide value. I think as long as you have those things in mind, you will build a strong site and the monetization comes in once you figure out just what affiliates there are or what ad services you wanna try to get into. That’s it for me.
Spencer:That is a great outline. I do wanna dissect some of what you said just a little bit. You mentioned that you’re not really specifically doing keyword research to at least find your niche, rather, you’re kinda finding a market or you’re finding a niche that you’re interested in or that you have passion about.
Rj:No, actually the passion part, that was my first trial. Strictly interested. I don’t have to be passionate about it.
Spencer:Some level of interest and that interest could partly be guided by perhaps potential revenue. You said you’re not thinking about that but it always is in the back of your mind. Does that sort of sway your decision, you’re a little interested but you see that this could be a really good money maker so I’m even more interested.
Spencer:That’s perfect. The other thing that I wanted to talk about a little bit is you mentioned these pillar posts that when you first set out your site, you think about some of these pillar posts and then you fill in a lot of the cracks with these Long Tail keywords. Let’s talk about these pillar posts. How many do you do and how do you determine what keyword should be a pillar post?
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Rj:It really depends on the site but I like to find ten. When I’m thinking ten, I’m thinking for the year. I’m thinking something like one a month, once a month I put a huge post up so that I give myself time to promote that post. I could just order ten, find a great writer, order ten very in depth 2,000 to 4,000 word post and then just post it up, but then obviously SEO will take action in there after a couple of months and Google will crawl it and grab it up. If it’s that large of a keyword, if it’s 10,000 per month search or more, then obviously organic is not gonna be enough. Find ten and then give yourself time to do some outreach. In the midst of that, I may post three or four question posts or if it’s a product review, it might be a product review or a versus post, like best pencil versus best crayon, I don’t know.
Spencer:Pillar post, you say that they are anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 or maybe more and it sounds like you focus specifically on keywords with higher search volume, maybe 10,000 or more, is that what you’re looking at? If you see a keyword, a juicy keyword that gets 10,000 searches per month, you might decide, you know what, this is worth a really in depth post. Is that kinda what you’re doing?
Rj:Yeah, exactly. When I started out, if you can remember you were teaching to find 2,000 a month searches. I started out doing that, and just organically, because after awhile I started just doing more and more and more, I wasn’t even waiting for the next podcast type of thing or the next update. As I was doing more and more, I just realized that I should aim just a little higher at some point. You get to a plateau, maybe I did it for about seven, eight months and realize this site is starting to make money but I’m not getting as many clicks so it’s just not happening enough and then it kinda organically started flowing to the higher numbers instead of search. The more tactics I learned, the less I focused on competitiveness. After a while, once you start link building and adding social media to your tactics, it doesn’t weigh as much. But if you’re just trying to get organic search, then it does matter a lot.
Spencer:That make sense and that does lead me to my next question about link building. You’ve mentioned outreach and building links a little bit here, I’d like to get your take on that, what some of your strategies are. If we could, I’d maybe like to start using a real example, I know before the call, we talked about one of your sites is being sold on Empire Flippers. We’re not gonna mention the exact domain but maybe you can mention the niche that it’s in and describe how you did link building for that site. What’s the niche of that site, either what you did, maybe not exactly for that site but just general strategies that you used on that site for link building.
Rj:That site actually didn’t have much link building. That one, I mostly did profiles, I forget what the actual term is, I used a lot of directories, old school. I don’t think people talk about that anymore. Do people still talk about?
Spencer:Directory links, I know you’re talking about profile links but it is kinda old school, you’re right, it’s not really something that people talk about much.
Rj:They don’t talk about it anymore because I guess it’s not as powerful as it used to be.
Spencer:Let’s talk about some of your better link building strategies whether or not it was for that site. What are a couple of really good strategies that you’re willing to share?
Rj:I’m using two. One is very powerful, a lot of people are doing the Skyscraper. Finding really good, something that has high search value, it’s really profitable. I use HREFs to figure out who’s linking, how many links people have and if I could know better the content that’s in the top of Google, the first two or three posts, and then emailing out and asking for a link, that’s been really helpful. There’s a lot of information on the Skyscraper method. I haven’t heard anyone that has had bad results with it.
Spencer:Exactly. Of course the Skyscraper Technique, that phrase is coined by Brian Dean over at backlinko.com, if people wanna check that out. Brian’s got a lot of link building strategies there. The Skyscraper Technique can work really well. Did you have another one that you wanted to share?
Rj:Yes, I mentioned I use HREFs and if you put your site, I think there’s a little area where you could link your site to HREFs and you could put some keywords in that you wanna keep track of and they send you emails when a post comes out that has your keywords. If your keyword is best crayons, you’ll get an email saying best crayons is mentioned today. I’ve never heard someone do this but I’ll just reach out to that site. I’ll wait for the week to be over because I think they send it when it happens. They send it whenever a post comes out. I’ll wait till the end of the week to where I have maybe five emails that says, “Oh, best crayons were mentioned.” And then it has a link to the post where it was mentioned and then I’ll email, let’s say I got ten that week, I’ll email those ten people. I’ve got on average three links.
Spencer:Out of ten?
Rj:Out of ten, yeah.
Spencer:Wow. That’s impressive. To clarify, within HREFs, there’s a place you can put, I don’t know what it’s called but monitoring of keyword mentions, you put in your keyword. If you put in a really general keyword. If you put in the word Google, you would get thousands of emails. You put in your specific keyword, best crayons or best whatever, it’s only when it’s an exact match that you get that response. Cool.
Rj:What you do is you make a whole profile, it’s just like it has a tab that says add website, you add your website and then they ask you a whole bunch of question like what are your goals and such and then you could track keywords. I’m looking at the set right now to see if I could see what they ask you exactly and I don’t see it but I know that it allowed me to add about four, maybe there could’ve been more about it, I just wasn’t interested in tracking more than that. I did receive emails periodically.
Spencer:That’s awesome, that’s a great strategy, I like that. Maybe dive into a little bit how you’re sending these outreach emails or what you’re saying? If you get an email that says, “Hey, this keyword has been mentioned by this article.” What’s the process there? Yeah, you can email them, what do you say in that email?
Rj:I make sure of different things that I’ve learned from you and Bryan Dean and the guys at Authority Hacker. It’s just, “Hey, I love your site, reading this article, great resource for that.” Just like most outreaches, the hardest part is the review pages, no one wants to link to those but other than that, if it’s informational, question posts and things of that nature, it works pretty well. I’ll just say, “Hey, I love your site, I was reading this article, I have some great information on my site.” And then I send over the link and I’ve tried the other way where you just send the email to see if they’re interested and actually, I’ve been doing it for like two months, I do them once a week.
I’m not sure if I have enough information on what worked the best because I’m not using any specific tracker with it. I think the one off straight question has been working for me even though I read from a lot of places that it’s better to just say, “Hey, what’s up,” first and then see if they’re interested in seeing the information. I’ve been getting success with the straight ask.
Spencer:That’s cool, man. That makes sense, I really like that. I haven’t done that exact thing and so there’s a new little twist there, I like that a lot, that’s very cool.
Rj:I also didn’t expect that to happen. I was kinda like, I got HREFs just to mostly do the Skyscraper and to try the keyword tool because I was a user of Long Tail Pro. Let me just try this thing out since I’m using it for the Skyscraper to get the backlinks. I didn’t really know they had an add website section. It was just me trying to use something, because it’s not cheap. I was trying to use this at the highest of all these features and then it just came by, then you know what? Maybe I could do something with this email that I’m getting.
Spencer:That’s awesome, very cool. You mentioned earlier how much some of your sites are making, your top site was making around $4,000 a month. Is there anything or any reason why you think that site is doing so much better than your other sites? If so, what’s that reason?
Rj:I think two reasons. One is it’s the longest standing site, it’s the oldest one. Two is because when I started it, I had no money. I used every free thing, every free piece of information and honed in on it until I found something else, but could take months to find something else. I was on your site religiously. Every single piece of hint of this might work, I used that until I was brain dead.
I don’t know for sure but I don’t think people use Google Webmaster enough because when you don’t have any money, then you use everything that’s free. I would be on Google Webmaster just trying to figure out, did a new keyword come up, where is that keyword attached to, is it a post I already have? If it was, then I’ll go to that page and see if I could place that in there without it being weird or put it in the old text. If it wasn’t something that was written about already or if it was maybe like a mixture of things, then I’ll write a new post. I got a lot of posts from using that and my rankings went higher because I really, really synced into Google Webmaster and I was really focused on page SEO. That was link building at first, I had no idea what that was actually and everything seemed too advanced for me. I focused on on-page SEO a lot and formatting a lot. I think that is where I drove a lot of things more than anything else.
Spencer:That’s interesting, that’s some good tips.
Rj:It’s like The Foundation, you know how they say don’t sweat the little things. I think when you start it out especially for free and you have nothing, then you just sweat the little things. I hired a VA just to do posts and something tells me they thought it was gonna be easy like I just said, “Oh well, go to this site and then copy and paste it onto the page.” No, I need you to break up the paragraphs properly, I need you to link to other sources and make sure those sources are great sources and also make sure those sources aren’t competition. She will get great images, there’s places where you can get great images, I need you to put some old text in there, I need you to put the keywords in there. If I have four pictures on the page, I’m not gonna put best crayon on each picture. I might put best crayon for kids, best crayon for acrobats. I might mix it up because it you do too much, I don’t know if you get penalized, but it just doesn’t feel right if you just constantly put best crayon, best crayon, best crayon.
I feel like if you really started out and you’re just doing the free tactics or getting free information, really focus on your on-page SEO until you master it. I think formatting is really, really, really important and placement of content, like headers and all that. Maybe I’m just saying that because I spent maybe a year just doing that.
Spencer:That was your journey and that’s what worked well for you and so I think that’s appropriate to share that for other people listening. It does make sense. There’s a steep learning curve when people are just starting out and trying to build sites. A lot of times, it does require hands on experience, you just have to be in the trenches whether that’s focusing on onpage or formatting or other aspects, you almost just have to be hands on doing it to learn it properly. You can read articles all day long but until you do something, get in, dive in, that’s when you’re really gonna learn the process.
Rj:Also, with the main site, I did a great amount of interviews which I think this is another one of your tactics from when I first started. I just reached out to some influencers in the market and I was like, “Hey, I wanna do an interview with you. I’ll just simply send you these questions and you can fill them out and that’s it.” I was okay with it, maybe I got about 5 out of 25 people to respond, but they were really good people. I guess you can say I was lucky anyway because who knows, I could’ve got the worst out of the 25 but I got some really, really good ones out of the 25.
Spencer:That’s a great tip as well because then not only do you get content from these influencers but once you post it of course, they’re gonna be much more likely to share it, share it on social media or with their audience. That helps as well. Any other tips for building niche websites that you’d like to share before we wrap up?
Rj:My head is racing, I have so much. There’s so much in my head. I would say don’t be afraid to spend money because I remember when I started out being in forums, people were saying, “I don’t wanna buy this tool, or this person is trying to scam me with this course.” I think it’s imperative to invest in your education and your site. Reinvest in your site but also reinvest in your education.
Once you get to a point, whether you have a 9:00 to 5:00 or a few sites making money, put some money back into your site but also buy a course. It’s fine and it maybe more formatting and eventually like for me, I probably bought about two courses and I always take great information from them and eventually I have my own way of doing things. I think that’s what the bigger goal should be. Figure out the way you do it, how it works for you and you’ll be successful.
Internal tactics, buy courses, invest in yourself and invest in tools to help. You might see yourself getting $1,000 a month or $2,000, you might need some extra help. You need to do something to boost that and take action. A mental thing that helped me when I first started, because I was skeptical in even buying a domain. I own too many domain names for no reason. I just do it on my phone.
Spencer:I think those are great tips. Like you were saying, it’s important to reinvest in sort of your education, whether that’s through a paid course or just spending the time to learn about something. A lot of times, you have to learn from other people for a little while and then at some point you’re able to internalize it and you can just implement that into your business.
Rj:At some point, for me it feels like second nature, it’s just I think of something and then I just go. It was for me a little nerve wrecking thinking of owning a website, writing content and then eventually hiring people to write content. The whole thing, it can be a little nerve wrecking but I think one thing that helped me mentally was telling myself, especially because I had a 9:00 to 5:00 and I wasn’t depending on it. I wasn’t starting a business, this can be a little backwards but I just thought of it as a project. I’m doing this project and I know the goals so I don’t take the goals lightly, the goal is to monetize and build something on strong. When I thought of it as a project and growing a project, I don’t know, something about it, a switch flipped in my head and it didn’t seem so scary.
Spencer:That’s a great tip. I think there’s a lot of mental hacks that we can do. That’s a great idea there to maybe make it seem less overwhelming but still keep you motivated. Very cool.
Rj, I appreciate your time very much, you’ve shared a lot of great information, actually a couple of things that, like I said, there are sort of a variation of things that I’ve done, but sort of a new approach to it. Hopefully people listening have been able to take away a few things that they can implement as well. If people did wanna stay in touch with you or reach out to you, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Rj:You can contact me at rjbryan.com. I just made my site, the email is [email protected]
Spencer:Perfect. If people wanna follow along, they can go over to rjbryan.com. Hey, thanks again, Rj, I appreciate it very much. It’s been great having you on the show.
Rj:I appreciate being here. Thank you.
Spencer:Thank you and thanks everybody for listening.