When you were in high school, did you enjoy your English writing assignments? I know I didn't. What if an “expert” niche website builder came into your 10th grade English class, and made writing fun?
Well, that's exactly what Jake Cain did, and is the success story that I'm sharing today. I absolutely LOVE the fact, that Jake was able to get in front of a high school English class and teach them all about niche websites and writing online. Boy, if I knew about the possibilities of the web when I was in high school, I could have skipped YEARS working at a boring old corporate job!
As you know, I share success stories from readers from time to time. You can read all the past success stories right here. If you would like to share your own, please follow the instructions right here.
Overall, I'll let Jake share his story below. He's built a nice little site, and he has taught and inspired a few teenagers as well. Really makes me think I should contact my local high school…hmm…
Jake's Success Story
1. What is your name and current job/profession?
Jake Cain – Currently I work as a consultant in higher education for a technology company.
2. How did you get started building niche websites? How long have you been building websites?
I got started in 2008, with little method to the madness. I am a big baseball fan and that year my dad and I took a week long East Coast baseball trip. While planning the trip, I wasn't finding the kind of “insider” information I wanted to know about the stadiums we were going to. So I got the idea to start www.ballparksavvy.com which was my first “niche” website. The idea was to focus on ways to save money, with a guide to each Major League Baseball stadium. It still gives some decent affiliate income during baseball season, although I spend virtually no time on it these days. (We've had 3 kids since 2011, so “free time” doesn't exist anymore)
3. Tell us about one (preferred) or multiple of your successful websites. What is the URL and what niche are you targeting? If you are not willing to publicly share your domain or niche, that’s just fine.
More recently, I've tried to start a few other niche websites following a similar process to what Spencer teaches here on the site. With some marginal successes under my belt, I had a fun idea this Summer. As we all know, content writing is one of the most time consuming parts of building websites. However, without high quality content, link building and other efforts are going to bring very limited success.
My sister is a high school English teacher and I approached her about doing a website project with one of her classes. She was thrilled about the idea! She said one of the challenges with writing assignments is making students see the connection to the real world. Obviously doing a class niche website was very much a real world application. You are helping solve problems and answer questions to “googlers” around the world.
In September I went in as a hyped up “mystery guest” and was able to teach the entire class for 10th grade English. There were 20 students, so I had gone in prepared with 20 keywords, which would ultimately be the writing assignments. Much of what I covered was the basics you could read in Spencer's E-book on why websites rank, how you can research keywords, finding low competition, etc. I also laid out very specific quality guidelines as far as article length, citing authoritative sources as a quality indicator, and using the keyword in the title, description, and throughout the content naturally. At the end, I revealed our URL and specific niche (pest control).
The great part was that I offered a cash prize to the top 3 traffic-getters at the end of the year. The writer of the page with the most traffic wins $50! The contest lasts through May 1, 2014 when I'll go back in and award the winners. I think an assignment with a potential to win money was a big hit with the students.
4. How much money do you make from this successful website(s) each month?
Monetization was secondary on this project. I was more worried about finding a topic where the students could see their hard work move up the rankings and get traffic than a “profitable” niche. The site does have Google Adsense and we get about a 3% CTR. While traffic was basically zero in October, we are now up to 500-650 visitors per day.
5. What is the reason for this website’s success?
The main reason is the amazing student writers that have contributed! My goal in this whole project was to do something mutually beneficial. Obviously I was getting great content, but at the same time they are learning a new skill and writing style that can pay off for them in the future. Another benefit is that the class did peer editing, and actually sent revisions based on feedback. For instance, if their title and description didn't include the keyword I made a note of that and they sent an updated version. This process helped ensure that the articles were the best they could be.
I remember asking for a show of hands on “how many people love to write?” while in their class. A few raised their hands and I reminded them that technology has changed the ways that you can make money as a writer. When I was their age, your best option was to send book ideas to a publisher and hope for the best. Now you can start a website and get paid a number of different ways if you know what you are doing.
So throughout the process I've sent video updates on traffic leaders, who is ranking in the top 10 for their keyword, and answering questions that students have had about niche sites in general. I really hope it has been an eye-opening experience for many of them. Four students are currently in the top 3 for their primary keyword. At our current pace, we should have well over 50,000 visitors to the site by May 1st. That is quite an accomplishment.
6. Please briefly share your overall strategy for finding a niche, getting traffic to your site, ranking in Google, and making money from niche sites.
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I pretty much found the niche randomly, using some brainstorming and then evaluating the competition for various keywords like Spencer teaches. Once I had enough that made sense to put together on one site, we were ready to go. I did want to make it something school-friendly where students could do research and write in a factual way, as opposed to something like Spencer did with “best survival knife.” I did go with a “branded” domain and paid for a logo on Fiverr. No keywords are in our domain name.
7. What link-building tips can you offer?
I've done very little link building for this site. I basically didn't want to risk any penalties by doing something stupid. The best thing I did was find a pretty solid expired domain that I've 301 redirected to ours. It had several nice links and was in the same niche.
I found this domain doing some manual searching and following the method Brian Dean laid out in #11 on his list of 17 untapped back link sources. http://backlinko.com/17-untapped-backlink-sources. I did a quick evaluation of the back link profile on Ahrefs (I just have the free account) to make sure it was legit. I also checked Archive.org to make sure the old site was was what it sounded like.
Besides that, once I had some decent articles on the site I submitted to AllTop (which I also heard about in this same article) which is a really high quality directory. I was approved in their home improvement category, so they linked back to my last 5 posts.
Outside of that, some of our content that has done well has been naturally shared, liked, etc. on social media.
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8. How has the success from this website impacted your life?
Because of the great success of this project, it may well become an annual tradition for the 10th grade writing class. Each class will get its own site, and they can compare their total traffic from October to May against the classes of years past. I could really see the “Niche Site Project” becoming the most popular assignment at school! Something like that beats the pants off of a boring term paper in my humble opinion.
I really enjoy the teaching aspect of it, and I think niche sites are a cool way to make extra money. I believe this will open the eyes of students to a world of possibilities. Maybe the next Spencer Haws is sitting behind one of those desks!
9. Do you have any additional tips or advice for others that would like to replicate your success with their own websites?
I think the on-page quality signals have been critical. I asked students to write at least 1,500 words, link back to a few .edu sources (search “keyword” + site:.edu in Google). Neil Patel at QuickSprout writes a lot about the importance of content length and has a number of other great insights I try to follow: http://www.quicksprout.com/2013/12/04/11-seo-changes-that-will-give-you-big-results/
Finding low competition keywords is one thing, but you've got to produce quality that is clearly better and more authoritative in order to pass them in the rankings.
10. Do you have a blog or other place that people can following along with what you are doing?
Not really. If you want to contact me, you can use the form on www.ballparksavvy.com.