In my first post titled, Why Leave A Six Figure Corporate Job For Internet Entrepreneurship?, I provided a brief background on who I am, what I do, why I know what I know and so forth. In my next two posts, I discussed just one of the several gigs mentioned in the initial post, which discussed how I started, grew and sold an e-commerce business for $250,000.
In this post, I will discuss how to build a profitable niche website from scratch. I love this topic because anyone can do it in any subject or niche. No matter what you are involved with today, you can easily establish a niche website to add yet another passive stream of income to your portfolio and further diversify your risk across several income baskets. I hope you find it helpful in your own entrepreneur’s journey.
What Are Niche Sites?
Niche content sites, as I call them, are static websites that are rich in content that are well optimized so that they attract heavy natural or organic search engine traffic for free. The traffic is then converted into revenue through several possible monetization methods.
Niche websites are targeted, or focused on one particular subject matter, often that in which the author has experience, expertise, knowledge or interest in learning and developing.
The business model is simple. Build a website that has a ton of quality content, optimize it well, and implement several monetization methods that you can financially benefit from. What are those methods?
How Do Niche Sites Make Money?
I don’t intend to go into detail on each possible monetization method. I will do this in a later post in a more practical manner. As a brief overview however, consider the following few ways to make money from a niche content website once it is developed and attracting a decent level of recurring traffic:
- Contextual advertisements such as Kontera, Chitika and Google Adsense
- Private advertisements by advertising other vendors / businesses
- Referral or lead generation – you pass on qualified visitors to your business partners
- Affiliate marketing – you promote products and services owned by others
- Sales of digital products such as eBooks, DVDs and audio
- Automated memberships / subscriptions through a newsletter or password protected area
This is not a comprehensive list by any means, rather some introductory ideas on how you can potentially monetize (or make money from) a website or blog.
What Does It Take To Create A Niche Site?
It doesn’t take much to create a niche content website. Some of your time and a couple hundred bucks (over estimate) will usually get you there.
To be successful however, you must take your time and conduct the necessary due diligence up-front when selecting a topic or niche. This initial step often makes or breaks people who attempt to make money from this business model.
Why? Because many new entrepreneurs want to jump into the game quickly, often wanting to sell what they think is the best thing on earth. They may be passionate about the topic they have in mind, but they often forget that in order to be successful selling something (in this case information), you need to sell what the market wants and demands, NOT what YOU want to sell.
With that said, a good topic with market demand, your willingness to invest your time and a handful of online tools such as a domain name (URL), a hosting package where you host your website for the world to see, and a website building platform (such as WordPress or Adobe Dreamweaver) are sufficient to get started.
There are some turn-key solutions available today that I discuss heavily on my blog which have dropped all barriers to entry. A 16 or a 60 year old can get online just as easily and have a website up in a jiffy. Absolutely no HTML or programming skills are required, although learning the basics can give you a marginal advantage over your competition.
Below are the steps to create a niche website in order of occurrence. The list below is a mere introduction to each step. I plan on talking about these in detail in the future.
Brainstorming Topics For Your Niche Content Website
As I mentioned, this is one of the most important steps in the process which often make or break a niche website’s success. But what is that right topic for your niche website? It is a topic that has a significant enough demand, or search volume, yet not as many competitors, or search results.
How do you find such topics? The Google Adword Keyword Tool is one free resource you can use to guestimate the search volume generated by various keywords within a topic. Simply type in any word relevant to the niche you are contemplating and hit enter or click the relevant button to generate results. The results will show you various attributes, including monthly local and global search volume for various relevant keywords.
Remember that what you will see is only Google’s data. I usually multiply the search demand by 3 to account for the other two big engines Bing and Yahoo, as well as the several other smaller ones in the online space.
To get a sense for the supply, or number of competitors, take a few of the keywords obtained from the exercise above and plug them into the Google search bar in “brackets”. The number of results you see on the top left is the number of websites on the internet competing for that keyword / key phrase. Do a simple ratio of keyword supply and demand and you will be able to rank keywords and topics in order of most favorable to least.
Many go wrong right about when they have found a topic with a high demand to supply ratio. Why? Because they feel this is the be-all end-all of the prep work. However, this is just the beginning of your research stages. I highly recommend researching this topic further to see whether actual demand for products and services pertaining to your topic exist.
Here is an example. Spirituality and religion is one of the most demanded and supplied topics online, probably only next to sex, money and weight loss. Try typing “god” in Google’s search bar. You will see close to a billion results. But how many sponsored ads do you see on the top or right hand side of the screen? Maybe a couple at most.
This tells you that vendors are not spending money to highlight products and services in this niche, at least from an advertising perspective. So if your website’s goal is to generate income from Google Adsense, you can forget about this topic right about now.
Some other avenues to scour to ensure there is true monetization potential of your topic:
- Amazon’s bookstore and regular online store (Are there books and guides being sold in your niche? If so are they generating heavy user reviews or are they duds that are simply sitting on the bookshelf?)
- ClickBank marketplace (Same as Amazon. Are there products relevant to your niche? Are they active?)
- Ebay auctions (Is activity level high?)
- Blogs and Forums – only those that are receiving heavy traffic (What are the popular topics of discussion? What do folks need help with? Can you address the need?)
- Existing magazines and journals (i.e. Men’s Health)
- Existing major websites online that are going to be your competitor
- Take clues from traditional media such as Television and Radio (What’s hopping and popping these days?)
What are you looking for exactly? You are looking for products, services and advertisements that fit your contemplated niche or website topic. These represent the flow of money that people exchange to deliver and receive items and services of value in your niche.
Conducting Keyword Research And Targeting
Once you are settled on a topic you need to start narrowing in on the keywords that you will use to build your website. Why? Because search engines like keywords.
How do search engines work? Web surfers type in key words and phrases, and Google goes out to scour the world and provide you with links that contain those words and phrases, ranked in order of most relevant to least.
The entire internet is one big game of keywords and phrases. If you want to be found online, you want to ensure that your website contains keywords and phrases, which web surfers are searching with. Use the Google Keyword Tool mentioned above to determine this.
The disadvantage in using free tools like Google is that the process is very much manual, cumbersome and tedious. Not to mention that you have to search for keyword supply and demand separately. Depending on the size of your website (the bigger the better in my opinion), this activity alone can take you hours, days, weeks and can bore you to death.
There are more automated tools available online that streamline the process relatively easily. These tools not only give you the best keywords in terms of demand within your niche, but they also tell you the supply and profitability ratio. You can read more about the tools I use here.
Building Your Website’s Blueprint – The Architectural Layout
After you have collected a set of profitable keywords to target when you build your website, the next most critical step in the sequence is to plan your website’s architectural structure or blueprint. This is another step where many go wrong because they don’t know about it and therefore don’t execute it. Many simply jump into content creation and start building their website with no rhyme or reason.
Just like an architectural blueprint matters when building a home, a site structure matters when building a website. Why? Because the various web pages within your website each serve a purpose and can help each other gain higher search engine rankings if interlinked correctly.
Website blueprint is a topic that can be talked about quite extensively on its own to answer the questions why do it and how exactly to properly plan and build a website. I plan on discussing this in depth in the near future.
For now, think about your website as a pyramid, where the pointed tip (top) is your home page and all underlying pages make up the base. Now there is a big space between the top and the bottom, so what goes in the middle? What goes on the bottom? How deep should the pyramid be? Answers to all those questions will be provided in future discussions either here or on my blog.
Building Your Website
Building the website is actually the easiest part of the process in my opinion. It is however the most time consuming.
If you have done your research well, have gathered the right set of keywords to target and have laid those keywords out in a sound website blueprint, executing on the website can be done relatively easy.
This discussion assumes that you are familiar with basic search engine optimization. If you are not, I highly recommend you visit my blog and familiarize yourself with what SEO is and come back here to resume this post.
Building your website entails just a handful of steps. Using any HTML editor, open up a blank HTML file, start typing out your keyword optimized content, add the bells and whistles such as pictures, files, etc, include the proper links to other websites and webpages within your website and you’re done. Rinse and repeat the process for the rest of your webpages and you have yourself a website.
That doesn’t sound like anything extraordinary, so what are we doing so different when building a niche content website? The answer is the keywords we use, the way we use them in each webpage, as well as the linking and interlinking we do within each web page is done in a very specific manner consistent with the niche content site model.
When building a niche content website, each webpage is targeted for one main keyword. This means the webpage is all about that one main keyword, which is used in a specific way in each of the page’s meta tags, headings, and anchor links. Each webpage also has four additional supplemental keywords (totaling five keywords) which are sprinkled within the content of the webpage.
Specific instructions on page creation is also a topic that can be talked about for days. I will be breaking this topic down into several sub-topics that go into the step-by-step detail in the near future. This is probably the most important step in the entire process. Well optimized webpages equates to a well optimized website, which is guaranteed to attract free, organic search engine traffic growth over time.
Check For Broken Links & Conduct HTML Validation
Many skip this step amidst the anxiety of getting their website up and running on the internet. Truth is nobody likes a lemon. There are varying opinions on whether or not search engines penalize websites with stale or broken links. Frankly, I do not care.
If I am to put out a product on the World Wide Web for the WORLD to see, I want to ensure the product is of the highest quality and reliability. The little bit of additional effort you put up- front today can yield heavy dividends down the road. Remember, no one knows what and how search engines think. So do the best you can to provide a high quality product.
Take some time and search your website for missing images, broken links and convoluted HTML code. There are several free resources online that will help you do this. Just type in “broken links checker” or “HTML code validation” in a search engine and play around with the resources.
There is more than enough garbage on the Internet. Please avoid contributing more to the pile.
Submitting Your Sitemap To Search Engines
Although search engines will eventually pick up a highly optimized website, why not expedite the process if you can? Building and submitting a sitemap takes five seconds.
Google “xml sitemap creators” and download yourself an xml sitemap. Take this file and upload it to the root directory of your server. Some would debate an HTML sitemap does you no good. I’d argue otherwise. Why not? It takes another five minutes to do it. Include a link to the HTML sitemap on your footer or navigation menu. What’s the worst that can happen? Absolutely nothing!
Beware of scams that charge you to submit to 4,545,897 different search engines. None of that matters as long as you submit to Google, Yahoo and Bing, the big three which make up close to 90% of the search engine user market share. If the three have you indexed, it’s just a matter of time before the 4,545,894 others will as well.
Each of the major search engines have instructions on how to submit your sitemap to them. When in doubt, Google “how to __ “. The process is relatively easy and straightforward.
Submitting a sitemap to search engines is not a mandatory step, but because it doesn’t take long and the rewards are so much more significant, I highly recommend you proceed with this task. I’d be more concerned and recommend this as a mandatory step if your website wasn’t content heavy and highly optimized.
Since this is a one and done business model, you don’t have to keep updating your sitemap. However, for those who have websites and blogs that are updated frequently, a BIG inherent challenge that you face is that your sitemap is not automatically updated each time you add new content. I have found a solution to this BIG problem which I talk about on my blog in more depth. Just search for the topic and you will find it.
Create A Digital Product Easily To Sell
Once your website has been submitted to search engines, give it some time to soak and gain traction on search results. Search engines take their sweet time in evaluating, trusting and indexing or ranking websites.
While they do this, take the opportunity to put together a digital product for sale and distribution through your website or blog. Having your own product is not a mandatory step in this business model, but is one that I am highly in favor of that I use in most of my niche content websites.
Having your own product guarantees that you have something to sell, and not rely so much on affiliate programs that you have very little to no control over. Your product can be as simple as an eBook, online video series, hard DVDs, or anything else for that matter. You can either create this yourself, or outsource the process. As long as the product is quality and delivers value, you will be just fine while selling it.
Distributing digital products is also very easy. There are turnkey platforms available such as ClickBank that will streamline this process for you quickly and easily.
Develop A Short Newsletter Series To Build Rapport
Because a niche content website model is a one and done model, a newsletter series is important to capture your visitor’s email addresses, build relationships with them automatically over time, and push your digital product and affiliate products for sale.
Draft a 10 to 12 issue newsletter series that is brief in nature but delivers high value to your readers by including some tips, strategies, educational facts, etc. Entice them to sign up for your newsletter by promising a free 12 week email course, free daily tips for two weeks or something similar in nature.
For example, have a look at this Bamboo Plant Care niche website I developed. Notice the email capture box on the right side? Notice how it offers a free Mini Course? Scroll a bit below and you will find that digital product I mentioned above. Now click on any other page of this website other than the homepage and notice the ads on the left and right columns?
Scroll to the footer and notice the Donation button? This is a highly optimized niche website that generates free, organic search engine traffic and monetizes that traffic through advertisement, digital product sales, donations and affiliate sales (affiliate links are embedded within the various webpages and newsletter series).
Once your visitors have signed up for your newsletter, course, etc, you have your chance to wow them with free information that builds relationship and trust. You can then push your product and other affiliate products in latter issues. If you do this step right, your visitors will already be presold, or warmed up for your offer. It will be that much easier to execute the sale when the offer comes around.
Sign Up For Advertisement Platforms
Right about now your website should be indexed, or relatively close to it. You will start getting one or two visitors every few weeks, or even months. Yes, the progression is very slow initially until you kick off marketing initiatives (discussed below).
Now is the time to sign up for advertising platforms such as Google Adsense. It takes time to get accepted into their program, and you want to be ready to slap ads on your website once it’s ready for it. Sign up early and let the platforms take their time to get back to you. The ads you saw on the website above were Google Adsense Ads.
This is how I usually kick-off my marketing campaign. Directory submissions are simple to execute, and one way to quickly build some back links to your website to stabilize its place in search engine indexes.
I recommend using a submission tool or a paid service to expedite this process and submit to hundreds of directories over time. Don’t overpay for this services. It’s not expensive and has become a commodity today. Check out my blog for more info on this.
Don’t submit to a thousand and one directories all at the same time either. You need to spread out your link building efforts over time to appear as natural as possible to search engines.
If you are not going to do anything else after you build your niche website, make sure you engage in article marketing to ensure each of your webpages is indexed with search engines. This is also a good way to start building back links not only to your home page, but also to each individual webpage within your website (a concept called DEEP linking).
Here is what has worked for me very well each time. Instead of the age-old advice of linking to your home page using anchor text, link instead to a webpage within your website using anchor text that is relevant to that specific webpage.
For example, say you have 35 webpages, create 35 articles and submit them to a top article directory like Ezinearticles. Make sure each article is linked back to one of the 35 pages on your website. When you’re done, each webpage on your website should have at least one back link to it from a top article marketing directory.
As far as anchor text is concerned, say you have a website on Kitchen Cabinets, and one of the webpages is about bamboo cabinets, make sure that the article that links back to this webpage has the phrase bamboo cabinets in the anchor text link.
This step is optional, but if executed can quickly build a ton more back links to your website, therefore further solidifying your place in search indexes.
You can either manually bookmark several pages of your website, or use one of many automated tools available online that not only bookmark quicker, but can also bookmark on several social bookmarking websites at once.
This strategy can be very powerful if used the right way and spaced out over time. Your marketing efforts must look natural to search engines, so take your time. The more you rush, the more you will raise a red flag.
Monetize Your Website
After you execute the steps above over the course of a couple months, your website should be ripe at the point where it is ready to be monetized. It is just a matter of time before traffic starts picking up, so take the time now to implement monetization methods that you are comfortable with. You can always tweak and experiment over time so do not be afraid to try a combination of various methods.
Personally, a killer combination that has worked very well for me on all my niche websites is the following: contextual ads, private placement ads, sales of my own digital products, affiliate marketing, donations. Yes, I do get trickles coming in from kind souls who enjoy the material on my websites.
Monetization is a heavy topic and one that I will discuss in an entirely separate series of discussions.
There is much more you can do depending on your appetite, capacity and interest level. The steps above however as sufficient to get your website to a point where it can deliver a decent amount of passive income on a residual basis.
When your website gets to that point, you will have a bona fide income producing asset on hand, one that has a value and can be sold or kept to generate cash flow. In fact, I recently sold one of my niche websites. The website was generating a consistent $800 a month or $9,600 a year.
I sold my website for around $28,000, or 3 times the annual earnings. As you can imagine, the more your income producing asset’s annual earnings, the more money you can demand when you sell it, a concept call multiple of earnings. In this case, I sold my website at a multiple of 3 ($9,600 times 3 = $28,800).
In my next post, I will attempt to take one of my niche content websites and dissect it so that I can discuss each of the points mentioned above in more detail and share with you the results of each step.
Of all my side gigs back then and now, this is a topic I am extremely passionate about because this is how I generate most of my income online today. Niche content websites are also the reason I laid off the pedal on real estate investing. The ROI is simply much more, with almost no down side to it.
From my perspective, why fork out cash and expose part of your investment to risk when both can be avoided by generating passive income from niche websites online? I invite you to join my passion and read more about this topic on my blog.
For now, I’d love to hear your questions about any of the material discussed above. What would you like to see covered in more detail? What is missing from the recipe above? Some Sugar? Salt?