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When to Start A Niche Site: What I've Learned from Article Writing
MY ANONYMOUS NICHE SITE
My blogging journey started a few years ago with websites devoted to some of my passions: music, finance, humor, and more. I also created and maintained a couple websites which supported offline products, and a live concert series. Without focusing on either really building an audience of followers (except for the live events), or earning any significant ad revenue, I only learned the basics of HTML, developed some photo editing skills, and got a chance to practice my writing of short blogs. I have mixed feelings now that my time blogging was both wasted AND valuable. Wasted because I should have been more consistent in my efforts, and valuable because today I use many of the skills that I casually learned during that period.
Now back online writing, and still blogging a bit -- I am very focused on article writing -- specifically for revenue sharing sites like this one (Hubpages) and InfoBarrel. But when I joined, I decided that when I learned more about content, search engines, ad revenues, affiliate marketing, and more -- I would create my own sites again. So even though my InfoBarrel (40 articles) and Hubpages (13 including this!) are less than 2 1/2 months old -- I think it's time for me to diversify my writing (and revenue possibilities) to include a niche site. Yes, it's too soon -- there's so much more I could/should know if I wait, but I feel that end of the year web traffic dictates that I take a shot now (late September/early October).
WHAT I HOPE TO ACHIEVE WITH A NICHE SITE:
I want to create a niche site with content based on long-tail keywords that drives direct targeted traffic for Google adsense, Chitika, and Amazon Affiliate revenues. I have chosen a relatively narrow niche based on products that I think can sell and where the competition seems tough, but a bit scattered. I want the site to be fun, interesting, and enjoyable -- with rich fresh text, great images, humor, and more -- and not just hitting people over the head with selling and marketing!
I started my niche site last Friday (9/30/11) on blogger, Google's free blogging platform. I may decide to upgrade to more premium hosting later but part of the experiment was to limit my initial costs. Some online hosting is obviously quite cheap monthly, but I wanted to be very basic in my startup and avoid what I like to refer to as the internet marketer's 'semi-gloss' look. Some niche sites, with basic hosting look nice, but a little stiff... I wanted something that looks raw, but with upgrades and modifications to seem nicer than a simple blogspot (custom header graphics, etc...) It's a gamble, I admit it.
CHOOSING A DOMAIN NAME
The next decision was my domain. Some niche sites try to just catch traffic with the keywords in their freebie sites (I see them in my competition!). Keywords.blogspot.com might make some money but it's probably not going to win over the crowds!
The primary domain I wanted was my keywords.COM or .NET. Those were not available (singular or plural). Only .ORG and .INFO seemed to be available - with others I won't consider .CO/.TV/etc. I investigated some other possibilities that were available like KEYWORDShq.com ("headquarters", like Pat Flynn's Niche Site Duel site! -- I listen to some podcasts!!) or KEYWORDSstore.com, but I couldn't decide. I noticed that my three main keywords were available as KEYWORD-KEYWORD-KEYWORD.com, and I did a great deal of research over the weekend trying to decide. I felt I had to have a site I could get behind with linking but that would stand out in the results!
THE PROCESS: I had help weighing my "issues" from some wonderful online writers Andrew (AJ) Walton (his site Renegade Writer - lots of great stuff) and Danielle McGaw (check out her site: Making Money with Residual Income) with some helpful emails/messages through the weekend. The online community of writers and entrepreneurs is amazing - these two included! They both are really skilled at writing content, the workings of niche sites, SEO, and so much more!
THE DECISION: Sites with top-level .INFO have a spammy reputation that I'm too small of a fish to try to fix, sites with .ORG have a non-profit/association vibe which might confuse my potential commercial traffic. I finally found that I could get KEYWORDKEYWORD-KEYWORD.com and limit my exposure to often fatal hyphens (just kidding!). I chose that last one, and spent $10 Sunday morning for the first year registration buying it direct through blogger/Google. They linked it directly immediately after the sale! In the end, after struggling with the decision I went with a domain name that "felt" right! (We'll see!! Pick your battles, right!))
I submitted my niche site to SubmitStart to speed up the indexing, and I've also started the process of backlinking to help Google move my niche site up the index faster. (A few backlinks had to be changed with the domain purchase!) I've set up the two ad programs, and Amazon (which I will continue to tweak), and I already track the site through my Google Analytics account so I can see the traffic patterns.
UNDERSTANDING THE COMPETITION
My main keyword competition seems to have a very generic revenue site with some broken links and some other design issues. My plan is to update regularly with fresh content related to my topic, but not just content about selling it. This is how I will differentiate my niche site from his/hers. The other competition I've seen seems less targeted on the long tail keywords I have chosen - with some effort I should be able to move up through the search results. Note: there always seems like more competition AFTER you proceed!
I wanted to get the site up before the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping commences because I need the end of the year traffic to see if my experiment will work, and I'm hoping seven weeks of backlinking and content will improve my standing.
HOW I'LL BE MEASURING SUCCESS
- Step One: I'd like to quickly earn back my $10 for the one-year cost of the domain name.
- Step Two: It would be nice to make an Amazon Affiliate sale (haven't yet at either IB or HP).
- Step Three: If this works, it could add some passive income to my monthly totals (still meager!).
- Step Four: Eventually I'd like to earn enough on the niche site from Google Adsense, Chitika, Amazon to continue funding the site past October 2012. (OK, $20 target!)
- Step Five: Decide with my success, or not -- what to do with the site: Maintain as-is; upgrade to more professional hosting, and considering adding other affiliate marketing besides Amazon, or just shut it down and consolidate the content elsewhere. Either way I'm sure I'll learn a lot!
So why didn't you tell us the name of the site, you ask? I don't want more competition while I deal with the competition that I already have! I wanted to just share the experience and the decision-making process. Based on everything I have read online -- content is king -- so if I write a lot of quality, targeted posts for my site, it should work out! I'll keep you updated on the progress.