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Podcast 133: How Jake Cain Built a Portfolio of Sites Making Over $20,000 a Month

I'm excited to bring you an interview with Jake Cain!  Not only is he one of my full-time employees, he also has his own portfolio of sites that he's built on the side.

I think you'll enjoy hearing Jake's story as he shares his journey from working in banking as his first job to where he is today with his own business.  He's gone from not knowing anything about building sites a few short years ago to now owning one that is making over $20,000 a month!

Go ahead and listen to the episode to get all the details.

Jake is also one of the coaches inside of Organic Traffic Formula, which was just launched last night.

Read the Full Transcript

Spencer: Hey everyone, before we jump into today's episode, I wanted to tell you about something that I have just launched just in the last day or two, I will have launched a brand new niche site training course. In fact, it's geared specifically for driving Google organic traffic to your website. So I’ll teach you step-by-step, how to build your site, get traffic from Google, make sure it runs well and do all of those steps in between so that you can start making money from your website. To find out more about this in-depth training course that I've created, you can go to nichepursuits.com/training. 

In today's episode, I actually interviewed Jake Cain. He is one of the coaches as part of organic traffic formula, the course that I've just created. So you can hear his story, but also know that if you want to hear more from Jake, you can go over to nichepursuits.com/training and see the video modules that we've done together to get that in-depth training on how to build your own successful website. Thanks a lot. 

Hey everyone, welcome back to the Niche Pursuits Podcast. I'm your host, Spencer Haws from nichepursuits.com of course. Today I'm excited to bring you an interview. It's not an interview with just anybody but it's actually our very own Jake Cain. He's been on the podcast as a co-host a number of times. But we have not dug into his history, his background, his success that he's been having very much during those podcasts. But today, he's in the hot seat and we're going to do that. So Jake with that, welcome to the podcast. 

Jake: Thank you for having me on. I'm humbled and proud to be in the seat across you being interviewed. This is great, thank you. 

Spencer: You are very welcome. You need to deliver and because you are a co-host, we're expecting good things from you. So no pressure. 

Jake: Alright, of course. 

Spencer: No, I'm teasing. Jake and I are on calls all the time. We know each other very well. So of course, I know his background and his history of building sites. But I don't think a lot of listeners here on the podcast do know what that is. Having said that, what made you start building your first site. What made you start dabbling and building businesses online? 

Jake: I think I draw it back to a book that a lot of people in our space are familiar with and have probably read which is The 4-Hour Workweek with Tim Ferriss I read that shortly after I got married in 2007. It really just messed up my whole thought about what I was going into. At that time I was sort of getting started with a career and headed down the I guess traditional path. That kind of ruined it for me. It just sort of opened up a new mentality. He talks a lot in the book about outsourcing things in your life, and things like that. From that point on, I just sort of became committed. I didn't know it was going to be niche websites and things like that at that time. 

That got me on the journey of trying to figure out okay how can I escape the rat race. How can I do something other than go work at something for 40 years and retire? That kind of became my mission. In 2008, somewhere in that timeframe, I think I came about Niche Pursuits. That's when I started my first website, it was 2008. I may have come upon Niche Pursuits a year or two later when I was figuring out why nobody was coming to my website. But that's sort of what got me started man, The 4-Hour Workweek, and living the big dream. 

Spencer: Yeah, that's interesting that when you see a different perspective or a world that you've never experienced before, it really can set your mind, get the wheels turning and make you think of what if I did this, or what could my life be like if I did that. I think that is the case for a lot of people that either read that specific book, The 4-Hour Workweek or I know for me it was just I think reading a lot of things online. I don’t even remember what I stumbled on for the first time but just reading about people building websites and how does that work. It really led me down the rabbit hole of making things work and building a business for myself. Back in 2007 or 2008, you're building your first website. Were you done with college at that time or are you still going to school, and what was your first job after college? 

Jake: Yeah I graduated in December of 2005 from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. I'm a proud Lee University flame. I was out of school. I got married in 2007. At that time, I was working at Citibank here near Cincinnati in northern Kentucky fielding phone calls when I got married. It was horrible doing customer service for a bank. Everybody is just calling in to yell at you about their overdraft fees and stuff like that. It was miserable so I think some people can relate to if you're in a job that's miserable, that's very motivating. Just figuring out how can I get out of this as quickly as possible and still survive. 

I was doing that, and then, fortunately, I found a better job around the beginning of 2008 working for an education technology company that was very good to me. I worked with them for I guess the next six or seven years up until I started working with you. That was a better job and was decent, but it's still like I said, I kind of have that bug inside of me that I wanted to ultimately work for myself and sort of control my own destiny. Three weeks of vacation was great but I wanted to be able to take a vacation when I wanted to, you know what I mean. That was my ultimate goal, always has been and still is, was freedom and control more of time and doing the things that I want even more than money. The money I saw was I guess a means to get to that end but to me, that was never the primary focus. 

Spencer: Right. So very good, let's go back to that initial site that you built and I don't know if you have shared or willing to share that publicly and I think you mentioned in other places so if you want to share it, we can talk about it specifically. But if not, that's okay too. But sort of that first site that you had. How long did it take before you started to see some attraction and was that first site really the one that sort of made you think, “Okay, this website building stuff can be a big deal.” 

Jake: Yeah, so the first site that I did I have mentioned it in Facebook groups and stuff is ballparksavvy.com. It's still out there, it's like the website that all my friends and stuff know about. People that know that I did this it's like what they ask me about. But it is essentially a guide to every major league baseball stadium with the slant of helping you save money, save time, find free parking and stuff like that, like ways to cut corners when you're going to a ballgame. I had the idea this was kind of pre Niche Pursuits. I had that idea organically because I did a big baseball road trip with my dad that year. 

In planning that trip, I found a lack of those kinds of resources. So that's what gave me the idea to do the site. it took at least a couple of years probably more like three years before I really saw it was making any amount of money. It was more of the thing that I really enjoyed. I went to a lot of games and so it's more about I guess a passion project at that time. What really got me a kick start in the early days, I remember getting excited when I would see one or two people come to my site in a day which is kind of funny to look back on now. You could see like these first real people who aren’t you that’s reading your website is a pretty cool feeling. 

I got on a local radio show here in Cincinnati, sports talk on the big job local talk radio station, after a couple months after I started the site. That was just like a cold email. I knew the host's name, I didn't know him. I just sent him an email, I just finished my Great American Ballpark Guide. I knew they kind of talked about random stuff on the site and I said, “Hey man, I just finished this up, and got some really cool tips about how to save money going to the Reds game because people are always complaining how expensive it is. 

He emailed me back and said, “Hey, yeah. When can you come on the show?” and I was like, I fell on the floor. That was my first like big surge of traffic. It was a really cool motivating moment. I don't remember the numbers but you know I went from having five people on my site a day before to 600 or 700 and so I was like, I thought I was going to die. I probably made $0. But it was still really cool. As I started to see some momentum there, I started to make a few bucks throwing up AdSense, that’s where I got a little bit deeper into it. I started finding sites like Niche Pursuits and then got a little bit more serious about it and thought about starting some other sites too. 

Spencer: Alright. So to kind of bring at least your first site full circle. It took a couple of years before you start to make a little bit of money. Where's that site now roughly in terms of earnings? Has it ever been a huge earner for you? Maybe you can give it what the peak was and what sort of it's doing now. 

Jake: Yeah it's really at its peak right now honestly. It's doing better than it ever has. The last few years have been really consistent. Obviously, it's seasonal so it's April through October when baseball is being played. Outside of that, you could hear crickets on my website because nobody's coming to it. So it's got that aspect to it. In the height of the summer, it'll make a few thousand bucks. 

Spencer: That’s awesome. 

Jake: Yeah, it's kind of diverse. I know that's a significant amount of money but I also think of it as sort of a fun site because I use like my Airbnb refer a friend link on there in every city. Airbnb will give you like $20 credit like if you refer a friend and then they go stay somewhere. So I would just mention it as like an option if you're traveling to the game. So I've had like thousands of dollars in Airbnb credits. 

So we've traveled and stayed in places for free. But I use like ticket affiliate websites and parking affiliate websites. So kind of unique stuff there that I don't do on any of my others. But yeah it's a nice little site man. It's truly passive like last year I hired a lady who was very knowledgeable. Her husband works for Major League Baseball and she did a thorough update of the site. But it's just kind of a matter of going through maybe annually and just kind of keeping things fresh. But it's pretty evergreen content overall. So it's been great. 

Spencer: Yeah, I love that story of that site. I love that it's sort of at its peak right now, I think that's great. I know that you've done a number of other things of course. You built that site you know let's call it 2008 right, it's been 10 years since then. I know you've built a number of sites. What do we want to talk about? We can talk about your most successful site right now maybe when you started that, or is there any anything sort of in between you think that's useful for your story? 

Jake: Yeah, there's a good one that's in between. This is a site that is doing pretty well these days. I started it in 2011, so this is probably my next site I guess. it's in a very boring topic that would be I guess we can categorize it as like home services and this site—I had started out and it was going okay. I had some content up on the site. I had this idea one day, my sister teaches English, here locally, in Cincinnati for high school, I had this idea, we were talking over the summer and she was kind of lamenting how much students hate their writing projects or writing assignments and stuff like that. At this time, I was all in on the Keyword Research and Long Tail Pro, when I was in the Niche Pursuits mentality in the stuff that we teach all the time, I was really a student of this and learning this stuff. I was telling her a little bit about that, I said, “You know, what will be cool, is if you let me come into your high school English class and teach a bell on how to rank in Google.” 

I was like, “Because these kids are writing this pointless stuff that you make them write, whatever,” an autobiography on Alexander Hamilton or whatever. I said, “Why don’t you let me come in and I've got this site that they can kind of relate to and I'll give them like an actual assignment and explain the whole why and how the whole deal,” and we'll track it throughout the school year. I'll report back and give them stats on how many people have seen their content. She loved the idea. She's like, “Oh, I would be a huge hit.” 

Anyway, I saw it as a cool opportunity to kind of spread the word and share but also get some free content for my site. I was like, “Hey, this will be a win-win.” Sure enough, I did it, like the beginning of the school year, it was around this time of year, September, I went in, total full bell on Spencer Hall's 101, like how to rank in Google, long tail keywords, the whole thing and they're really eating it up. I mean it was pretty cool and at the end, there were 20 kids, they were 10th graders. There are 20 kids in the class and I have pre-done keyword research, I found 20 good long tail keywords in my niche and I handed a different one out teach kids, like a writing prompt at the end. 

It was like a class assignment, “Email this back to Jake within two weeks or whatever,” I've given him instructions just like I would give a writer. They did, and I sent feedback, sort of them are great, some of them were not so great, class clowns and such. I sent a feedback and they sent revisions the whole deal. Ultimately, I ended up publishing it under their name and then I used Google analytics of course. I would send video updates throughout the year and tell them who was leading as far as the much traffic. 

The biggest part of it was I promised when I was leaving that day, “I'm going to come back at the end of the school year. In May or whatever and whoever has the most traffic only give you $100 cash, and whoever is second place I'm giving $50 and third, I'm giving $20 or something like that.” to a high school student that's like… 

Spencer: That's a big deal. 

Jake: It's like a million dollars right? So they're freaking out. So anyway, they were super excited and did a really good job. So I put that content up and some of it did really well. They started ranking really well in Google, and so some of these kids had like 60,000 or 70,00 0 page views or something like that by the time I'd come back. For a kid who'd only written yet again kind of dumb term paper type of stuff at this point in their life to see that that many people from around the world had seen their content, they were pretty blown away by it. It was a pretty motivating thing. That was really big for the site. So from there I took it and of course, since then, I've not been using free student labor, I've been like paying writers and that whole thing. It got me to recommit to the site to kind of take it to the next level. I really went all in on content. That site still today does really well. 

Spencer: I love that story. It's got to be super interesting from a high schooler's perspective. To be able to hear from somebody that's using Google. Having the site rank in Google, and having the content work and have them actually write that content to be able to see the results hopefully was motivating for some of them. It would be interesting years later to follow up with some of those students to see if any of them have sort of built their own sites and do that sort of thing, I'd be kind of curious. But you don't know that there's a way to track them down. In terms of that site, did you do any type of link building at all or did you just literally put up the content that the students wrote? 

Jake: Yeah, I just put up the content they wrote at that time. I don't think I had done any link building. Since then I've done a few different campaigns here and there and I built a few links. But certainly, if you pull up the metrics on the site, it is not a powerhouse by any means. It's just the content and the keywords that have really driven the path for their on that one for sure. It's interesting man, when I did that and then even since then, I've done career days and stuff like that. When you get into our world, you assume that most people generally understand why stuff ranks in Google because you just get so used to it. 

I talk to educated people all the time who are smart with it people. I'm not talking about grandma and grandpa, high school students, right? They use the internet constantly and the answers range so widely. They have no idea why stuff ranks in Google. I would say for the people out there listening, if you're just getting started and you feel overwhelmed, I guess take some heart knowing that you're already ahead of 90% plus of the population in understanding this kind of stuff. Most people are just clueless about it which is just really interesting. 

Spencer: It is really interesting. I actually had thought about doing a miniseries maybe on YouTube where I essentially ask people that question on video, just common everyday people, just ask them, “How do sites rank in Google?” and just get their thoughts. I think it would be really interesting to see what everybody thinks about how a site ranks in Google and then see if you can maybe explain to them, “Hey, this is how it actually works.” See if that clicks but anyways, that's a little side note there. A win for long tail keywords on that site, the student site that you built there let's maybe touch on that a little bit. Are you still for the most part focusing just on long tail keywords and great content? How important is a link building strategy in your overall sort of big picture of your business? Just to give people an idea and then I do want to dive into your biggest site that you have now. 

Jake: I'm not a great link builder, I don't think. I say that because I've never been systematic about it. Over the years I've done some help a reporter out links which is something I mentioned in different places but it's just like a free email list that you can get on, and you get emails every day from journalists who are looking for a source at the last minute, or maybe somebody to quote in a story. I'll get on that list for different sites and kind of pretend to be an expert I guess and chime in. sometimes I get published. I picked up some really powerful links doing that, but that's just when I feel like it. I don't do it every day by any means. 

Other than that, sometimes I'll just think of a really creative idea like, “Oh I bet people would link to this.” and so I'll do infographic or something like that and just send some emails. I've done a little bit of that but it's certainly not been the core of any site that I've built at all. 

Spencer: That's kind of an interesting perspective as well I guess me just thinking about, we're just talking about people that are totally clueless about how sites rank in Google, right? You kind of get the other end of the spectrum or at least people that start diving in a niche site or SEO, they immediately think well, you have to build links, that's the only way. It's all about the links. that's sort of one thing people have no clue that links even matter to rank something in Google to somebody that that's all they care about and they think you have to daily be building a bunch of links. 

I'm with you in terms of, I have not always been a huge like builder. I focus more on finding those long tail keywords, producing great content, and then sort of sprinkling in some links as needed and picking up great natural links. Of course, as your site starts to rank, people just find that and reference that anyway. I think there's kind of a happy medium there. 

Jake: Yeah that's the thing, the sites that I have, probably the best links that I have on almost all of them are links that I didn't seek out. They just kind of found me and I just discovered one day that somebody linked me. I kind of think of it the other way. If I can rank for enough long tail keywords and I start getting the traffic, that's more eyeballs on my content. As more people, when they go Googling something on their own to look for something to link to or to reference in their article, they're going to find me because I'm ranking. I picked up a lot of good natural links along the way but I can't say it's through any intentional effort on my own. 

Spencer: It's kind of interesting, just yesterday actually I was looking at my own site nichepursuits.com HR-ESS, I don't do this often at all. I don't look at the links hardly ever that are pointing to Niche Pursuits but for a particular reason, I was looking at them and I was surprised, I got some really great links that I had no hand in playing whatsoever. neilpatel.com, forbes.com, entrepreneur.com, semrush.com. Anyway, several others like that have just mentioned my website. I wasn't a guest interview, I didn't write the article. 

Stuff like that happens. It really does. So for whatever particular niche that you're in, if you are producing great content, and it does help that if you're getting up towards the top of Google, people that are writing articles are just researching stuff, they see you and they just link to you because they figured, “Hey, he's near the top of Google, he must deserve a link. I should reference him.” it sort of put perpetuates itself once you do get up near the top of Google. Okay, now I would like to jump into your most successful site that you have right now. 

Jake: Sure. 

Spencer: Let's maybe give people an incentive to listen to this. Maybe you can first tell us, how well is this site doing? Either in terms of traffic or income numbers. People, of course, do love to hear. Give us an idea, how well is this niche site that you have done. 

Jake: The site right now over the last couple of months has been growing really quickly. It's been doing what I would consider pretty well for the last two and a half or three years, but over the last two to three months, it's really taken off. The last two months we've had over $20,000 each month in revenue for this site and getting just a rough idea, over 10,000 sessions a day on the site. I guess that’s over 300,000 or so per month just as far as traffic numbers. On pace to do, about that again this month as we're near the end of August, it's going really well. 

Spencer: It's huge, congrats man. 

Jake: Thank you. 

Spencer: It's a great site and of course I've been able to have the inside scoop. I knew when you started this site and have seen it over the years just continue to grow. What you've done with the site is phenomenal. You deserve that success that you're having there. 

Jake: Thank you, I appreciate it. 

Spencer: So why don't you tell us the story why did you build the site, when did you start the site? 

Jake: Well I started it I guess a couple of years after the last one that I mentioned. So I'm going to say around 2013 or something like that is when it came into existence. Like the other site, it came out guns are blazing, and writing all the content myself. It didn’t make any money in the first month and so I got bored with it and started doing other stuff. Anyway seriously, I have put up maybe five or 10 keyword focused articles. I went into a space that had some items that were sold on Amazon that were really pricey. So that was sort of my reasoning for going into it. 

I said, “Oh, if we could rank some of this stuff, we'd make a lot of commissions on some of these items.” and so, that's where it started. Then I let it sit dormant. One day, I logged into my Amazon associates account which I was probably monitoring like for the other site and I saw a really big bump because at that time I was making a few bucks a day. I saw a really big like $70 commission or something. I was like, “What the heck happened?” and so I went in and I realized, it was one of these expensive items from the site that I hadn't thought about in four months. 

That reenergized me and I was like, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Maybe we should redo that.” and so at that time, I was a little bit overwhelmed just with a lot going on and all that. My cousin is actually on this topic as much more of an expert than I am. I knew he just naturally knew a lot about it and might be interested in learning. He'd never done a site, he didn't know anything about this. He'd be one of those people like I mentioned before that's a smart person but if you said, “Hey, how does a website rank in Google?” he would have given you some really stupid answer at that time. He knew nothing. I had him over to my house and kind of pitched him on this idea of, “Hey, I've got this thing. I know how to do the strategy part and the marketing part. If you'll do the content, we'll be like 50/50 partners.” I remember this actually I told him I laid out this whole strategy, we watched these training videos together. I was like, “I really think we can get this to something where it could make $10,000 a month.” and he was like, “Okay.” and kind of walked out. He confessed to me later like a year or so later he was like, “I remember when you said that and I went to my car thinking, ‘he's out of his mind.' Like that’s impossible.” 

Spencer: Jake's lost it. 

Jake: Yeah, exactly. That’s what he was thinking but nevertheless, he was like, “Yeah, I'll do it.” it was really helpful because we had accountability to each other. We were both chipping in and both kinds of had our things we were doing. In those early days, it was super helpful. We got things done faster, and we were on a really tight budget. The site just grew and grew and started doing some interesting things I've never done before as far as, I got a Pinterest account because there is a side to this site that fits really well with Pinterest and certain audiences there. 

I kind of picked up that skill and learned it a little bit and drove some traffic that was not Google traffic which was a first for me. That was the approach we took with the site. We kind of had like, I thought of it almost like divided in two. We had stuff that was affiliate content. A lot of buying guides for these things items that we're talking about. Then we had more of the shareable social media side of it where did fun topics and a lot of big lists of ideas and stuff like that we thought were very shareable and just saw that as a way to get traffic into the website. That's kind of how we were building it out in the early days. It really picked up some steam. 

Spencer: So to recap a little bit here, it sounds like you started the site, put five to 10 articles may be up there in the first month and then forgot about it for four or five months, just let it sit for a while. Then you saw that nice bump in commission. So you came back to it reenergized with effort. Do you remember how long it was before the site was making let's say $500 a month on a regular basis or hit that milestone? 

Jake: When we go back into it, what we committed to was we're going to publish I think it was 30 articles in the next 30 days. So we're going to 15 a piece. One every other day. We hit that mark, and we were using at that time mixing in the content what we watched was the digital marketer lab videos that got a little course out there about great content you can create quickly or something like that. We were sort of mixing, giving a variety of content, just trying to get it up and going. They gave us a nice little influx of contents. Really I would say, within about the next five or six months, we were up to those kinds of numbers, $500 a month or something like that. It didn't take too long because I think we were kind of already out of the sandbox and that sort of thing. So when we came back and hit it hard, I think stuff started to rank fairly quickly. 

Spencer: Okay, so maybe let's call it 10 months after creating the site or something like that, right? 

Jake: Yeah, something like that. 

Spencer: Okay, hitting about $500 a month and you're probably not going to remember any of these numbers but, do you remember, I mean was it a big jump after that? Do you remember when you hit like $1,000 a month? Kind of give us how it snowballed from there. 

Jake: Yeah, I remember it must have been I think it was around the end of 2015. We were doing $1,100, $1,200, $1,500 like kind of throughout mid 2015. I think in December we hit our first $3,000 month of that year. It was all just Amazon affiliate commission. That was like a really big deal. That's a big amount of money. We were super excited about that. That was more than I'd ever made from any site at that point in a month. But it just kept growing from there. I kind of expected a little bit of a December fall off but I remember in January it dipped by just a couple hundred bucks or something. We did like $2,800 and then from then on out, we did over $3,000 every month throughout 2016. 

Once we got to the holiday season in 2016 it kind of doubled again and it went to $6,000 in December of that year, the following year. It was the same story. Again, in 2017 we got up to where we were over $6,000, $7,000 like all of last year. Then by the end of the year, we did $13,000 or so in December of 2017 which was a phenomenal number, $10,000 a month by the fall time last year. Based on the numbers I just gave you a minute ago, you can see how it's kind of snowballed from there. 

Obviously, we've been reinvesting a lot more content and stuff like that and really just trying to grow a little bit more aggressively. So far in 2018, we're way outpacing 2017. Needless to say, I'm excited for Christmas. 

Spencer: See what level you can get to this Christmas, I agree. 

Jake: Right, I don't even want to tease my mind with this thought. What I basically just told you was that over the last three years, December has always been about double what our typical month was that year. If that's the case this year, I'm just going to take a trip to Hawaii. 

Spencer: Yeah, it just buys your own island over there somewhere. 

Jake: Yeah, I don't know where that stuff is. I don't want to put the cart before the horse. But obviously, as you know, the holidays are always a good time to be sending traffic to Amazon. 

Spencer: Yeah, absolutely. Give us an idea of how much content you have on the site. I know that first month you sort cranked out 30 articles. Did you guys get on a consistent publishing schedule at that point, like a number of articles per month that sort of thing? 

Jake: I would love to say that we did but we didn't. We actually really pushed through that 30. We were a little bit here and there. I bounced around from having—we went through a really nice stretch there. I found a great writer on Upwork. A guy who was a substitute teacher down in Florida. I don't know, every once in a while, Upwork can be a little bit hit or miss but every once in awhile, you find somebody who is just perfect. This guy really got the tone of the site that we were going for. He wrote it better than we could have done ourselves as far as just really capturing who we wanted it to sound like. We started sending him our content but it wasn't like a service or something. He was kind of doing it as he could. I was like, “Hey, whatever pace you can is great.” so we're probably adding some months two articles, some months five. You know what I mean? A pretty slow pace, but it was all really good stuff. 

We were growing kind of slow and steady. Like I said, we have pretty consistent numbers like $3,000 every month. I was like, “Okay, I'm happy with that.” spending whatever, $150 or $200 on new content. It's obviously a great profit margin there. Then over the last year or so, we've really gotten more serious about doing bulk orders. We've tried a couple of content services with mixed results. We try to just sort of scale it up because at some point, you get so many keyword ideas and so much content that you want to do that it's really nice to have somebody who you like, who's doing one or two a month. When you start projecting that out you think, “Oh man, I'm going to get through all these ideas in a 2054 or something.” and the numbers just don't work. You got to start scaling up. We were making enough to warrant that. We started taking on bigger expenses for content. It's really been paying off. 

Spencer: Do you know the rough number of total posts that you have on the site now? 

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Jake: It looks like we've got 367 articles on the site right now. 

Spencer: Okay. It gives people an idea. That’s a lot of content. 

Jake: Yeah, and I have to say probably half that has been in the last year. 

Spencer: Okay, you really ramped it up in the last full months. 

Jake: Yeah. 

Spencer: Good. So what do you think, rather than sort of beating around the bush, what's the secret of the success? What's the secret sauce for the site? 

Jake: I really do think that there's magic in—at the time I didn't know there was magic in it, but now I believe that there's a reason for this. In the idea of not just thinking of your site as an affiliate site. I did a post on Niche Pursuits awhile back about I think I called it the, “Incognito affiliate.” Basically, being an affiliate site without just screaming that I'm an affiliate site. I think those are what the best guys do. You really feel more like a brand or like a media site where being an affiliate is part of what you do but it doesn't define the site. 

For our site, we went into it thinking, “Okay, we're going to use Pinterest. We're going to use these really shareable topics.” where at that time, we weren’t using an ad network or anything like that. We literally weren't making any money from this post. The pages that we're getting the most traffic on our site were making $0. If somebody just happened to click over to an affiliate post afterward or something and go buy something which I'm sure was extremely rare. But, I thought it was worthwhile because I felt like it was helping us in Google. We were ranking for stuff really well. I was like, if we can just keep getting more and more traffic, maybe eventually we'll figure out a way to build an email list or something to make money off of this. 

As I said, I didn't have this really well thought out strategy at the beginning but I'm glad we did it that way. I would really encourage people to do that when possible. Don't do just affiliate content. You want to look legit, you want to build a real readership, you want to have stuff that people are happy to share on social media. You need to have a steady diet of that type of content too, I think to really kind of take your site to the next level. 

Spencer: Yeah, I know. That's a good point. Do you have a ratio of this is how much affiliate content versus other types of content shareable or informational type stuff that you'll do? 

Jake: I kind of do everything by gut feeling, to be honest. I'm not big on ratios. Jason, if you ask Jason that question, he probably has some kind of mathematical formula that he put up he'll say, “Well get out your calculator.” just teasing Jason. Anyway, so not really I would say like, for a long time, maybe about half of our content is affiliate content maybe. We did a lot of affiliate content this past year but right now, we got this big order of we're getting 75 articles that are more instructional type articles, how to type stuff that's a fit for our audience. 

We're trying to balance that out a little bit because I feel like we got a little affiliate heavy over the last six months. Prior to that, I'm just going to say maybe a half and half mix. But again, our non-affiliate stuff which drives the most of our traffic. Our affiliate stuff did really well because we were breaking off really expensive stuff. So you make money. The other thing to kind of turn the corner for us honestly like we would never be where we are today. In October of last year is when we first eclipsed $10,000 in a month, and the only reason we did that is because I found out about AdThrive. 

I think we all kind of jumped on to these more premium ad networks like AdThrive and Mediavine here in the last year. It's really been a game changer for the site because as I said, in the olden days we had those Pinterest type posts. I used to have some AdSense ads on them and nobody ever clicked on them. I was making whatever, we make $3,000 from Amazon and make $20 from AdSense. I was like, this is stupid. I just took it down. It's just in people's way. It's not even worth it. When I heard some people in Niche Pursuits insider group and things like that were kind of raving about AdThrive, I was like, what the heck. I'll give it a shot. 

They told me that they could just put their ads on my non-affiliate content. I was like, “Hey, I don’t want to mess with the Amazon stuff.” but if I can figure out a way to make some money from the stuff where I'm making $0 right now, that'll just be icing on the cake. In October, I tried that out. I remember after they installed their ads and they sent me the dashboard for the first time, we were making an extra $70 a day at that time off of stuff we were making nothing. 

Spencer: That’s awesome. 

Jake: Yeah, I was sitting right here on where I'm talking to you now, I almost fell out of my chair. I just couldn't believe it. Then I felt like an idiot because it wasn't like this stuff was invented yesterday. My mind immediately goes to cheese, how much money did I leave on the table this whole year. But needless to say, it's grown significantly since then because our page views are way up since then. That's become a huge spoke in the wheel of what we are today. The numbers that we talked about, that's probably, I don't know, AdThrive makes it more than a third of that. 

Spencer: That's huge. 

Jake: Yeah, it's big time. We wouldn’t have been even close to where we are without adding that in there. That's a great way to like, I don't know. If you're thinking affiliate site, if you think this other stuff that I'm talking about the high traffic stuff, the Pinterest all that, it definitely can pay off. I've learned a lot about that over the last year. We've seen some of these mom bloggers, and food bloggers, and some of these groups. I'm just blown away. They pretty much do all Pinterest. They don't know anything about Google. They do all AdThrive and make insane amounts of money. I'm blown away by it. My eyes have been opened there. 

Spencer: Yeah it's been really eye opening for me too. Seeing the mom bloggers that you mentioned. Of course, I bought a mom blog in March of this year, five or six months ago. Just seeing the strategies that they use, it's a completely different world. The person I bought the mom blog from, she essentially never thought or cared about Google whatsoever. Not one iota. She just worried about Pinterest, is our stuff shareable. She's getting loads and loads of traffic and it's just monetized with AdThrive. For these ad networks for people listening, AdThrive, and Mediavine, of course, you do have to have a certain number of page views before you can be approved to use those. It's like 25,000 a month I think for Mediavine and then maybe 100,000 a month for AdThrive. 

Jake: Yup, that’s right. 

Spencer: You do need to reach a certain level before you can do that. It's a great option to look at. Continue to dive in just a little bit more, I mean are we missing anything else? We haven't talked about link building for this specific site, maybe give us an idea of how important is that based on your previous answers I think I already know that but, link building or anything else that you feel has really helped the site do well. 

Jake: Yeah, I really don't have this big time case study data to prove it. but I really do think that when we started pinning stuff on Pinterest and getting repined or kind of getting somewhat popular on Pinterest that really helped our Google rankings. Stuffs are ranking better and started ranking faster and that'll just, it definitely happened at the same time. I guess one could argue that's coincidental. I know of other people that have seen the same. It's not really link building because those are no follow links. There are a lot of no follow links and I think there's a lot of like credibilities that comes from that because it was real. 

It wasn’t like we were out there buying followers or anything. We were getting pinned by people that have influence on Pinterest. I think that was really helpful. Outside of that, we really haven't done I'm going to say, any intentional link building on that site. We've picked up some nice links along the way and most of it is to that type of content, stuff that's really shareable because it gets shared. People just kind of discover it. Then I'll find out that somebody mentioned it in an article. It's turned out to be great for link building too but that was just a byproduct really of the original strategy. 

Spencer: Yeah, absolutely. I know people are probably listening and they're like, “Man, he's got a site that's making over $20,000 a month. what's the secret sauce.” what we're sharing I guess is the secret sauce but there's no super secret thing you're doing other than, you have been building this site for five years, been putting a lot of consistent effort, producing content, doing some shareable content, working on Pinterest. It's all of these things combined, it works. 

Jake: Yeah. I would say another maybe element of secret sauce if you will that works well for this site is it's fairly wide. It's in a niche. It was wide enough to allow us to logically expand. When I wanted to do new keywords and find more keywords that we can go after, I didn't have a problem this past year finding 50 more buying guide affiliate style keywords to go after that fit with our site. If you start out too narrow, you're just talking about water heaters, or I'm just talking about whatever, bike tires or something that's really specific. What you have to think about is, you're going to get to a point, even if you rank number one for everything that you're thinking, there's still a pretty limited ceiling there. 

We were at that point for awhile with the site where it was like okay, we were doing fine. Making a few thousand bucks a month which is great. But, I was like, well we're already like sitting at whatever the top five of Google for everything who want to be sitting at the top five of Google so like, how do we improve. The only answer to me was, more content. We were in a wide enough space to where we were able to do that. If you get tapped out too early and you can't do that, I'm not saying that anything's wrong with having a site that makes $1,000 or $2,000 a month. That can be a life-changing amount of money. 

But if you want to get to a site that's making big money, it’s going to have room to grow, room to expand, and that's a decision you make upfront when you're picking a niche. It's really important that you don't pigeonhole yourself too tightly. 

Spencer: I agree with that. The other point that I should make is sort of saying, it just takes consistent effort, write the content and things will happen. There is a very specific process I know that you follow for producing the content in terms of how long should it be, what sort of sub keywords, additional keywords are you also targeting throughout the article. What sort of subheadlines are you using in the structure? I don't know if you want to touch on that a little bit but, I know that's definitely part of the process. 

Jake: Yeah, I can touch on that a little bit. The first thing is I try to find well, most of what we've done, the keywords that I find, and we talk about this all the time, doppelganger sites and stuff like that, is I almost always start by looking for weak websites. What I mean by that is just sites that don't have a huge history, don't have a lot of authority. Whether you're looking at the domain rating and HR-ESS or the domain authority for MOSS, numbers like that. They score pretty low on that. However, they're still ranking for a lot of the stuff that I would want to rank for. I just look at those guys and SEMrush is my tool of choice. I just go down and just pull every keyword that looks interesting to me. I just put in a spreadsheet and you kind of go down that rabbit hole and you find several of those. All of a sudden, you look down and you've got 7,500 keywords to go after. Now, you're busy for six months. 

That's how it started. I've kind of just done the same things with growing it. You kind of go back, look at that with new eyes six months later. I just do it big binges like that. From there, that's the biggest thing. If you're targeting stuff that’s way too competitive, we would have never ranked to start with. I don't think it would really matter how great the content was personally. We started by doing the right keywords. From there, you kind of develop a tone of voice of the site. I think something that's really important when you're hiring writers, again, this is something that I've gotten better at but I'm still not great at is, really explaining to them. Giving them a template of like, “Here's roughly how long the intro should be.” If we're talking about products, “Here's how many products you want to cover, five to seven.” Or whatever. 

If you want to have them answer specific questions inside the article, tell them that. Give them really specific instructions because if you don't, if you just say, “Hey, go write me an article about whatever. The best tree fertilizer.” Who knows what you're going to get. Even if they are a great writer, you've got a set out what you're looking for. We've gotten a lot better at getting a really consistent output there. I think that's helped us kind of—we don't have a whole lot of duds most of the stuff we put outranks which is great. 

Spencer: Absolutely. Great information, I appreciate you sitting down with me, sharing what's working well for your site and the success that you're having there. Hopefully, people listening in have found some value there. We didn't really have a chance to talk about it but most people are aware that you are working for me and have been working for me full time for the last few years. With the site making as much as it is now, I mean when's that going to end? I mean at some point, right? I would assume you're going to go out on your own and sort of do that full time, right? 

Jake: Well that's the hope. Probably everybody listening to me right now is listening to this because they're hoping to do that too at some point. the good news is like I mentioned before when I got married, I was working at Citibank and you're completely miserable, and you wake up every day like wishing you could just go back to sleep. I don't have that situation anymore. When you do something that you enjoy, there's a lot less urgency. Obviously, we have a good time and we work on some fun stuff. I've kind of got or a rough goal in my mind to be in that position around the turn of the next year, just the beginning of 2019. I think I'm in a place now where I could probably do it right away and be okay, but I'm trying to be ultra conservative. I've got a mortgage and I've got three kids and a wife and all that. I just want to make sure that things are buttoned up. 

I think everybody in our space is always a little bit paranoid, “What if Amazon bans my account tomorrow? What if Google does their next update tomorrow and my site disappears?” and all that sort of stuff. You want to make sure that everything is—you’ve got some money saved up before you do anything too risky. I'm working that way. We will get there. 

Spencer: Absolutely. I mean, of course, you're able to work flexible hours and work sort of the schedule that you want. Of course, we talked about when that will be. I'm super excited. I love that both Jake and Jason are doing well with their sites and are able to grow that business on their site, sort of on the side of what they're doing full time with me. Eventually, you guys will be able to go out on your own and continue to grow those. Any final words for Niche Pursuits listeners before we close the podcast here? 

Jake: I would just say hang in there guys. I know we say that a lot, pretty much every site that I talked about today, there is a period of time either months or years where I started it and then forgot about it and then just something came about. In one case it was a conversation with my sister, another case it was a random sale on Amazon something like that brought my attention back to it and kind of reenergized me. I think even those that see some success have had periods of time where they got bored with it, or got discouraged or whatever. The biggest parties just following some kind of system like the stuff that we talked about has worked well for me obviously. Sticking with it is the biggest thing, that's what most people won't do. That's what's going to separate you and help you be successful for sure. 

Spencer: I think that's a great advice. It's something that's worked as well for me just being able to stick with different projects and see the results that come as you put forth the effort to do that. Jake, I appreciate you coming on, sharing your story, sharing your background. You'll be on future podcasts of course as a co-host. It's good to get your story in here about your site as well so I really appreciate it. 

Jake: Yeah, thank you. I had a good time. 

Spencer: And everybody listening, thank you and you can follow along at nichepursuits.com thanks a lot. 

Hey, thanks again for listening to this episode of the Niche Pursuits Podcast. If you want to hear more from Jake and get some additional tips, I've actually created an in-depth training course called Organic Traffic Formula where Jake, Jason and I all sit down, have created in depth video training modules given our standard operating procedures, spreadsheets, checklist, and a whole lot more. You can find out more about that training course at nichepursuits.com/training. I hope you'll go ahead and check that out at nichepursuits.com/training. Thanks a lot. 


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By Spencer Haws
September 05, 2018 | 10 Comments

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poot

Hi Jake and Spencer,

Thank you for this motivating podcast.

Im doing my keyword research now and i’m wondering something. If I find a good keyword like “best cotton shirt” with a good monthly searches number. Then in my article is it dangerous to use an H1 like “best blue cotton shirt” in order to target a wider number of keyword but still the core one. I know that “best blue cotton shirt” has 0 monthly searches but i will still probably rank for “best cotton shirt” and maybe “blue cotton shirt” too right?

Thanks!

Marc McDermott

Thanks guys. @Jake what was that digital marketer lab you mentioned that helped you crank out content quickly? Can you post a link?

Cheers

Jake Cain

Hi Marc,

Yes, it was some of the content ideas here: https://www.digitalmarketer.com/blog/blog-post-ideas/ – they also have a paid “lab” product which includes training videos on this and many other things. We were paid lab members at the time.

Eliana

Hello! I found it very interesting … Thank you.

Mark

Hi. I only just found the niche pursuits podcast and this was my first episode. Very interesting. But you never did mention the URL or any of the sites you spoke about. Where can we find them?

Thanks!
Mark

Spencer Haws

The one site he is willing to share publicly is https://www.ballparksavvy.com/

Mark G

Jake, is your big site in a tightly focused niche, or is it made up of several related niches? Do you think one of those is inherently better?

Jake Cain

It’s probably two very closely related niches combined. Kind of like if you had a recipe blog then also had a lot of content on kitchen gadgets that you use to make the recipes.

Jae Jun

Cool stuff guys and Jake especially. I still remember the first time you were introduced and started working on the razor blade and guys shaving site.
So awesome to see how far you’ve taken it.

Jake Cain

Thanks!

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