Niche Site Case Study Update – Q1 2016

Growing an Existing Website from $1k to $3k /month Income

After what turned out to be a pretty passive 2015 when it came to the niche site building side of my business, I wanted 2016 to have a bigger focus on building, ranking, and profiting from these small-medium websites.

We’re now at the end of February and it’s time to pick up the pace a little and ramp up my efforts and time investment on these sites.

The Goal – $1,000 to $3,000

The ultimate overarching goal of this journey is to gain more experience with growing an existing website, in order to increase the value for a future sale. This will in turn give me a skill set and a team capable of investing in websites and bringing them up to their full potential.

I have chosen one site in particular which has shown great promise, which is also the focus of my niche site case study.

In this post, you will learn:

  • The strategy I will use to grow an existing website
  • My goals for the next 90 days and beyond
  • Why website investing can be a profitable strategy
  • Why niche sites ARE NOT DEAD

Why Niche Sites Are NOT DEAD

I want to cover the last point before we get started on the meat of this article.

You have likely seen many niche site builders running for the hills lately and shouting all kinds of craziness, such as:

“niche sites don’t work”

“Google doesn’t like them”

“you will get a manual penalty eventually”

Most of those making these statements don’t have any actual proof or first-hand experience. They are basing everything on hearsay and gossip on Facebook and other crappy forums.

I personally know of a number of people who use niche sites as a way to provide a very stable income for themselves. These guys are doing upwards of $100,000 annually, all from the building, ranking, and either holding or selling of niche sites.

The trouble is not that niche sites don’t work, but more people’s understanding of a niche site.

You see people still believe that 20 pages of content and a ton of backlinks to the homepage of a site that is trying to rank for a single keyword is how to “do” this niche site game.

They are short-sighted and it’s no wonder their sites get found out and they lose their shirt because of it.

There’s a new breed of niche site builder in town.

These guys build 100+ page sites, built for both the user and Google.

They take advantage of multiple traffic streams and create content that’s so good, Google has no option but to rank it highly.

These people know that a niche site is simply a site built within a subset of a larger niche. It IS NOT and DOES NOT mean “small”.

A niche is simply:

A specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service (source)

This is why I advocate “niching down” into a smaller market. For example;

Dogs –> Dog Beds

Internet Marketing –> Content

Lego –> Star Wars Lego

You get the idea. The whole point of a niche site is that you cater to a smaller subset of a larger market.

These subsets can still be HUGE in their own right.

When you go into a niche, you need to go in with the mindset of domination.

You want to be THE guy/gal with the best site, the best information, and the place where others want to guest post on. They look to you to see how they should improve their product or offering.

If you go in with the idea of scraping a few crumbs from the pie, sure you may get a few hundred quid per month, maybe a thousand…but you will never get to the big money and you will always have an asset that can be crushed at any time.

Ok, so rant over. As you can see I am passionate about this topic and I hope that the community starts to catch onto this bigger & better niche domination attitude. The world and our pockets will be a better place for it.

So Why Website Investing?

Investing in websites is something I have wanted to do for a while now. So far, I have primarily been on one end of the process…the selling. (I have picked up a couple of smaller sites along the way).

In order to progress into investing, I need to build skills and a team that can take a site with potential, and realise that potential in a short-medium time frame.

Sure, I could invest in brick and mortar property, however, I see website investing and developing as a more lucrative strategy and one that I am already well-positioned to dive right into.

Brick and mortar property would need a considerable upfront cash investment and would see on average a 12% annualized ROI. Whereas websites have the potential of a 60+% ROI. The risk is greater but so are the potential rewards.

In addition, I am substantially better with WordPress than I am with Power Tools…!

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Website Investing & Developing

Pros

  • Higher ROI – As mentioned above a return on your investment of 60% is not uncommon
  • Plays to my strengths – I know websites, I could learn property but I’d be starting from scratch
  • Quicker gains – You can literally buy, improve and flip a site within a couple of months – this is much harder to do with property as you are subject to market pricing and rental yields
  • Greater control – You can control your web asset, which is not subject to outside influences like stocks and shares
  • Flexibility – Ultimately YOU own the asset and are the CEO. If you want to make a change, you do it whenever you choose

Cons

  • Uncontrollable factors – If the site relies primarily on organic traffic you are subject to the mighty Google being kind to your site
  • Technical knowledge required – This can be a con if you are just getting started or the site requires some programming knowledge etc
  • Time investment – Whilst websites CAN be passive, they do take time to improve and grow both traffic and income

I think it’s important to point out here that I do not want to be a “passive” investor. I want to be inside the business, directing my team, and getting my hands dirty. I also do not want to be a “sit and hold” investor/developer. Once I reach a set target income goal for each site I will start the sales process.

It’s in my nature to look for, think up, and start new projects. It’s what drove me to this game.

More About The Target Site

With my goal of getting into website investing in the near future, there is no better way to learn than to just do it. The site I have chosen ticked all of the boxes for what I would look for in a web property to invest in:

  • Growing monthly traffic
  • Good SERP placements
  • Is already earning and has good growth potential
  • Currently under-monetized
  • Site design is poor
  • Little to no conversion optimization isn’t great

It is hard to admit that all of the points above are true of my site, some are positive but others are seen as an opportunity. I’m a huge advocate of learning on the job and there are always lessons to be learned no matter how long you’ve been in the industry.

Plus as you will see further down, the site is doing pretty well without all of the things that would make the site great. So there is hope.

To recap, why did I choose my own site vs. investing in a new site from the likes of Flippa etc?

Well, a number of reasons, primarily I see that many of us (myself included) often leave money on the table when it comes to our online projects. I find myself willing to take on new projects and be happy for the existing ones to “tick over” in the background…I guess you could call it the “passive income lifestyle” everyone talks about.

BUT. I’m not happy with doing that any longer.

I’m taking the GO BIG OR GO HOME mentality.

I want to build and sell properties in the 6-figure range and not the 4-5-figure range. Whilst, there is nothing wrong with selling a site for 5-figures, I’ve already done that and that is where I am comfortable.

In order to grow you need to be heading into areas where you feel uncomfortable, as that is a sure sign you are on the right track.

So let’s take a look at where the site sits currently and what my plans are to grow this into a BEAST!

Traffic Stats

As you can see from the chart above (fancy eh!), traffic has been growing month-on-month with very little focus or indeed effort. There is a drop in Feb as I screwed up the tracking code on the site for a few days.

Income Stats

Income for Dec/Jan was very good and was expected for the health niche.

In February, we see a dip which was expected as at the start of the month our best-converting CPA offer was taken down and we are still trying to find an offer that converts as well.

Email

I have placed ZERO attention to this side of the site and I know it is one way to increase the value for potential buyers. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • Find a plugin that integrates with GetResponse
  • Add a widget to the sidebar

That is literally all I have done. No enticing lead magnate, no fancy offer, just a simple form with an email submit box and a button offering “free updates!”.

We have 12 email subscribers thus far.

Social Media

Facebook – 1,321 likes

I grew to this stage by using a cool tactic I will discuss in another article soon.

Twitter – 13 followers

Twitter is not huge for this niche so not sure how much focus this will get from me. I did, however, use a cool tactic to grab the previous twitter account for this domain, which I will also share in a later post.

Pinterest – 0 followers

I literally just created the account and plan on using this strategy to grow my followers and reach.

My 90-Day Plan – $1,000 to $3,000

I am a big fan of using a 90-day plan when it comes to project management. It’s long enough to make some serious progress, but not too long to seem out of reach or too far down the road.

So for the months of March, April, and May of 2016, I will embark on a solid 90-day plan that will aim to take the site from earning $1k /month to $3k. This will happen by applying consistent effort to 4 core focus areas:

  1. Content – New & Existing
  2. Site Design – Authority & Trust
  3. Traffic Sources – Organic, Social Media & Email
  4. Optimization – Clicks, Sales, Shares, Signups

There are obviously other categories I could have included here however, the goal is to focus on those areas that will provide the best ROI for our time/money invested.

Stage 1

The first stage of the “website improvement challenge” will be to focus on what we already have, research the competition, and improve the overall look and feel.

Focus on what we already have

By looking at the existing content and traffic, I will be able to understand what the highest-trafficked pages are and where the biggest impact can be made. I will also be using SemRush to find pages that are ranking on page 2-3 of the SERP’s (as Josh talked about here) to find easy opportunities to add content and grab a page 1 spot.

I will also optimize these pages for my calls to action (CTA) which is usually an affiliate link click.

How, exactly will I do that?

Nothing fancy, just change buttons, links, placements, copy and CTA’s and view the results.

I will also be adding additional content and internal backlinks to pages ranking on page 2-3 to try and drive them up to page 1. This will include text, images, and video.

Research the competition

There are lots of websites in the health niche and it covers a wide variety of sub-niches. From weight loss to muscle building, Paleo to Vegans. However there are very few that are done right, most are looking for that quick click over to Amazon and a sale so they earn their commission.

This was previously my strategy, however, there has been a lot of talk lately of people having their Amazon Associates account closed down for the slightest of infringements…most of the time they don’t even tell you what you did wrong!

So in order to diversify, I will be looking at what my competitors are doing in order to see what they do best and incorporate those elements into my site. Which means more than one method of monetization and added features to stand out from the crowd.

New Design

I have mentioned this in a previous update, the fact that the site looks very amateur and could do with a better design. With WordPress, this is as easy as choosing a new theme, which I already have and perhaps some plugins to improve functionality and add that certain Je ne sais quoi.

I will be adding schema markup to show the star rating of products and make the products and reviews stand out from the other “informational” content.

Ultimately, I want the site to look like a legitimate source of information and not a standard Amazon affiliate site.

Conclusion

I have set the 90-day’s as a target that I think will be a stretch. To bring this site from earning around $1k to $3k per month will be a real challenge and one that I think will help others who are looking to make more from what they already have on the table.

To achieve this it will take more than simply changing the theme and sprucing the site up, it will need a lot more content that is ‘informational’ in nature and not just “best” or “review” articles like it currently has.

There are also added benefits of doing this:

  1. By creating additional content that is “info only” with zero affiliate links. It will drive additional traffic, which will mostly be long-tail
  2. The content will link internally and drive traffic to my affiliate articles
  3. As they are reading the info and not being told to click on affiliate links, this will result in more email sign-ups
  4. It will enable us to start using outreach for guest posts in order to get higher quality and relevant backlinks

I will keep these updates coming so you can follow along, but I want you to get involved. Gone are the days of small niche sites, it’s time to up your game and get on board.

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