If we’re being honest with ourselves, the value our sites were providing to their visitors when we were getting started wasn’t very good. Worse than that…it was pretty horrible. This was likely due to being new, wanting to keep costs down, and an understanding that if the content wasn’t great we’d probably get a better CTR on the sites.
This has changed quite a bit 18 months after we’ve started. Over time, we’ve found better writers at a decent price point and have been forced to continually improve the content on our sites due to an always-changing search landscape. While our content on the sites has significantly improved, there are a couple of areas where we’re still missing the mark when it comes to providing significant value to the searchers who come across our niche sites:
There is one other problem with some of our niches that I’ll address: They’re hyper-focused and not in the best position to be scaled out. I don’t mention this point above because I see it as being less important…if you’ve really put the research in, have a great layout, and your design is clean, it doesn’t hurt to have the BEST site about “tall ski boots”. It’s a hyper-focused site, but that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing if you include the other components.
Our problem with implementing the steps above is that it means each site requires a level of detail that keeps Joe and I from leveraging our best resources and skillsets. If each new website we create has to be extremely customized…Joe and I would end up having to build out quite a few of the sites ourselves. Not something we’re looking to do. Our main issue has been coming up with a process that addresses the customization issue but leaves room for the standardization required to really scale out the process, leveraging our core advantages. Good news: I think we’ve solved the problem.
Most of the customization lies in three areas: keyword research, design, and content research. Our plan involves having around five different “process templates” to use, depending on the keyword and type of site that we’re looking to create. To put it very clearly: We will have completely separate and different processes for several different types of sites we’d like to build.
While doing keyword research, Joe and I will have to find the keyword to target, pick the “process template“ and then perform additional secondary keyword research ourselves, depending on the path we plan to take with the site. Depending on the “process template” chosen, we will also include reference material for the content writers to use to pull valuable information for the site. This will most likely include information from government sites, other authority sites, or even offline information in some cases. Once that’s done, we should be able to standardize the rest of the process for our agents and push the specific content research off to higher-level outsourced content writers.
Let me give just one example and a description of a “process template” we intend to use, but I’ll include a brief description of some others at the end of this post:
You’ve seen this before…consider Pat Flynn’s Security Guard Training site. The idea is that there’s some specific knowledge or requirement for the site that requires research, based on a geographic condition. Want to get your guard card in California? Would you like to be an armed security guard in Florida? There are specific requirements you’ll have to meet based on what you’re looking to do and where you’re looking to do it.
Hardly limited to security guards, this type of site has practical applications in a wide range of industries. Here are a few examples:
The plan includes paying for higher level content for the home page (introducing the site and directing visitors to the appropriate content) and for the pillar posts. This would be well-researched and well-written content with an expected rate of $15-25 per article and a total cost of around $100-$150. The geographical content would have a specific format used and would require researched information, but would probably be shorter and not as well written as the home page and pillar posts. We’d be looking at around $10 per article or so at $100-$200 to start.
We’re looking to have 2-3 WP themes to choose from for this particular “process template” and a set number of plugins. We would spend some time and effort on custom headers, buttons, and design changes. We’d do this in-house and would estimate $40-$50 in site build-out costs. The site would be setup from the beginning to be social friendly. Our monetization from the beginning would be AdSense, but we could add additional monetization as we maintain the site over time.
Our linkbuilding will be non-spammy and include original content posted in article directories and Web 2.0’s. We are planning to limit the amount of created links and instead rely on “pillar” links that we can later promote. We’re estimating costs of around $50-$70 for initial linkbuilding.
This should put our total costs at around $300-450 per site for the initial build of the sites.
Unlike our set-and-forget niche sites, we’re planning to provide continued maintenance to these sites to see how much further we can build them out. We’ll invest in the site proportionally, depending on their success along the way and our best guess at a positive ROI.
High-End – $50+/month and growing – We’ll add more geo-specific content to the sites, consider adding another 1-3 pillar posts, create social media profiles, add additional pillar backlinks, and add opt-in email capture. Estimated cost: $200-$300 per site
Mid-Range – $20-$50/month – If the sites are ranked well but not earning or have a low CTR we’ll consider changing the monetization. If they are not ranked well, we’ll promote with additional backlinks. We’ll add more geo-specific content to earn more long-tail traffic. Estimated cost: $50-$150 per site.
Low-End – Less than $20/month – Leave these sites alone for another four months to see if they improve.
High-End – $100+/month and growing – We’ll add additional pillar content, finish out as much of the geo-specific content as we can to stay on budget, and continue to build out the social media profiles and promotion. Estimated cost: $300 per site
Mid-Range – $40-$100/month – Review each site with a checklist and have specific actions to take depending on the reasons for under performance. Estimated cost $100-$150
Low-End – Less than $40/month – Sell the sites at auction, most likely.
Every site will be reviewed at the 12 month mark and the vast majority will be sold. We may end up hanging on to a few of the sites that we feel particularly attached to or have an interest in building out even further on a case by case basis.
This is our rough outline for a geo-targeted information site, but there are other “process templates” we’re considering as well:
I’m really excited to start testing this out and yet I’m worried as well because there’s quite a bit more risk with these sites. They’re much more expensive to build, require significantly more customization per site, and take much longer to see a return. Still, I think this serves us quite well in the following ways:
Does this mean we’re moving away from the niche site model? Definitely not! We’ve recently heavily expanded the team and plan to pull from that expanded crew to create these sites rather than taking away from our current niche site model. We’d rather not pull from one and give to another…we’d simply like to add this as a sort-of new product line to our brand.
So…what do YOU think? Do you like this addition? Do you think we’ll be able to take customized sites and standardize the process? Any other ideas for sites or “process templates” we can target? Let us know in the comments below!