Perhaps the most popular topic that I've ever covered is Niche Sites. In the past, I've discussed how I built not just a few small niche sites, but LOTS of niche sites.
But that doesn't mean that everyone has stopped building niche sites. In fact, in my podcast episode today I interviewed Claire Smith that is doing VERY well with her niche sites. She is making over $10,000 a month with her niche sites.
However, what makes Claire's story interesting is that she has NEVER built a link to any of her sites. In her words, “I just never got around to it.”
Because she has never even tried to build a link to any of her sites, she doesn't have to worry when Google changes how the value links because well she doesn't have any!
Some of her sites do have links (that came naturally without Claire's involvement), but many don't. Claire is focused more on great keyword research, and targeting super long tail keywords that other sites are not targeting very well.
That's it. She produces regular contact on a WordPress blogging platform based on her keyword research and does not do any outreach or link building.
Claire doesn't blog very often, but when she does you can read her updates at SkefflingsMakeMoneyOnline.com.
Podcast Interview Notes
Below you will find most of the questions and answers given during the interview. However, please realize that these are very abbriviated notes. We covered much more in the podcast than what you will find below. Please listen to the entire podcast to hear the entire interview.
What were you doing professionally before you ever started building niche websites?
I was a dentist for 12 years. The first 5 years was in one office, and I kept asking myself “is this it?”. I got pretty bored with in, but managed to stay on for another 7 years just filling in at other dentist offices.
During the last few years as a dentist I had some spare time and starting working online on the side.
What got you started working online?
It was actually an acquaintance during dental school. She was an antique dealer and was selling on eBay. I then started shopping on eBay, and eventually started buying stuff at local auctions to sell on eBay. This was back in about 2000.
We started with breakables, then moved onto books and other non-breakable items. I also bought and sold linens and related items.
Finally in about 2011, I started reading about other avenues of making money online.
What was your next step in the evolution of your business?
I started doing monthly income reports in August 2011.
I eventually realized that I didn't want all my content on other people's website, so I started building my own. I also realized that writing about hobbies isn't the most profitable. I started targeting more commercial products.
What kind of financial success are you having right now with Niche Sites?
Right now we are doing low 5-figures per month. Most of that is coming from Amazon affiliates. We have sold over $4.3 million worth of Amazon products on our own sites. If you include our Squidoo stuff, we've sold over $7 million in Amazon products.
And of course the earnings vary from month to month.
How many sites do you and your husband have?
We have about 40 sites total. I have about 30 sites and my husband has about 10.
How much work does it take to manage that many sites?
I have a really good spreadsheet that tracks everything for each site. I include things like the keywords targeted, the bounce rates, and more. It really becomes an economy of scale, more sites do no mean a ton more work.
Some of our sites have a couple hundred articles on them already.
Why aren't you doing any link building for your sites?
I have no idea, I've never tried it! It comes down to laziness. I just found when I was first starting out, I knew I wouldn't make money if I didn't have content published. So, it was a matter of resources at that point, pay money to get links built or spend money creating more content.
The other point is that if everyone is building links then surely the effect would get diluted.
Financially, it just didn't seem to make sense to me.
Why are your sites ranking without links?
The biggest thing is choosing the absolute lowest competition phrases possible. If Google is starved of content at that level, then I know its fair game. The odds are much higher of your content showing up when no one else is writing about.
The other part is just making sure that your content is really useful. Our articles are usually 600 to 1000 words in length.
I also don't try to analyze my rankings very much.
How do you determine competitiveness of keywords?
I've done search volume of 10 or less. The competition level is much more important than search volume.
For competition, all I'm looking at is the “All in title” query in Google. If its below 20 title competition on the entire internet, then I know that my odds are pretty good for ranking.
What's the highest All in Title that you would go after?
Usually I try to stay below 1,000; however, lower is much better. I use a tool called I love page 1. I think they do pagerank, but they also do All in Title for that phrase.
The google query is: “allintitle: your keyword”
How are brainstorming and coming up with keywords to target?
I often go to the Amazon best sellers list and see what kind of products are there. After picking a niche, I go to the Google keyword planner with keyword volumes. Then I get the all in title on those keywords; then I start to do ratios of them and sort by the ratios.
Ratios is Title competition above search volume. A ratio of under 1 is pretty good. The lower the number, the better.
Do you have a specific search volume?
Typically, I only do keywords with a search volume UNDER 500 searches per month. Typically keywords with higher search volume just have too much title competition.
I will sometimes modify the keywords: instead of “best blenders” I'll add “What is the best blender” to come up with a less competitive keyword.
How does your content process work?
My articles are pretty much self-contained. I usually review between 3 to 5 products on each article. We find that 5 products will get a better click through than 3. And I find that individual product reviews don't do very well.
As far as keyword density, I just have them write naturally. I don't ask them to use the keyword a certain number of times. We have a couple of VAs add links and images after the articles are written.
When you structure and article, are the product reviews right up front?
I think an intro about what they are going to buy is important; however, you don't want to make it too long. I found that people bounce more when there are no images up front or a really long text only intro.
I do find that having an intro at the top is useful.
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What bounce rate is good, and what tips do you have to improve bounce rates?
Many of my bounce rates are 70 to 80% and that starts to make me uncomfortable. On Squidoo, my bounce rates were closer to 40%.
Some niches just have a higher bounce rate naturally. Also, certain WordPress themes can have a big impact as well.
I tend to look at my highest traffic pages and see what I can do to improve those pages. This could be adding menus or more images.
I've found that category pages tend to have a lower bounce rate. I don't worry about tags, but categories work well because the bounce rates are low.
If images are too small at the top; bigger images make your bounce rate goes down. Make sure your images are clickable. I bold any anchor text.
Having related article plugins can also help.
Are your sites actually getting any links?
A few of them do, but not very many. We don't even put social sharing plugins on our site.
I don't think we get very many back links, but we do get some. I don't really check for them.
What other tips do you have for building niche sites?
You need to interpret the keywords that you are targeting. Meaning, try to figure out what they are really looking for. If someone types in “best high end microwave”, you should really include the high end microwaves. Don't think about what you can afford, just try to interpret what the intent is behind the keywords.
This is like magic that we get to do this.
I often find that working on my next site gets me to stop worrying about my previous site.
I still use EMDs and PMDs. I just try not to narrow it down too much.
What's happened to your sites when Google updates have come out?
For the most part, my sites tend to go up (particularly with the Penguin updates) when there are updates. There have been a couple of times where there may have been duplicate content updates with categories and tags.
Do you have any projects in the works that you would like to mention?
We actually started selling our first product on Amazon recently. We are part of the Chris Guthrie mastermind group.
I've been doing some domaining as well. Its a good game, but I'm just not prepared to email people to sell my domains. I'll also probably sell a few sites this year.
Do you have any final business advice?
The main thing is to be aware of the Pareto principle; the 80/20 rule. You need to be smart about how you are spending your efforts.
With every decision that you make there are going to be a good side and a bad side.
Where can people follow along with what you are doing?
My blog is: SkefflingsMakeMoneyOnline.com
People can contact me there or leave a comment and I will respond.
As always, I would love to hear any comments or questions that you have below. Claire will try and stop by and respond to any specific questions that you have for her.
If you enjoyed the podcast, please consider leaving a rating on iTunes right here. Thanks!