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Our AdSense Authority Site Failure

Justin Cooke Updated on February 29, 2020

Our AdSense Authority Site Failure

It’s much more common in Internet Marketing to talk about your successes rather than your failures. (Although that’s probably true OUTSIDE of IM as well.) Everywhere you look you have someone telling you how great they’re doing or, even worsebeing vague about how amazing their lives are while trying to convince you to buy an eBook so that you can find the success they have. While there are notable exceptions, this shelving of failures does seem to cheapen the value of a “real win”, making it seem so much easier to be successful than it really is.

While we try not to sugarcoat the amount of work that’s been required to set this thing up, we do tend to talk quite a bit about what is working for us. In part, we do this to share with you the actual “nuts and bolts” that go into exploiting successes and to help motivate and show you that it IS possible.

The problem (as I see it) is that it might come across to you as easy or as if we have it all figured out. We dont.

I usually find a ton of value when I read about people who are successful in their niche and they’re sharing their failures, mistakes, and struggles with their business. Running a business isn’t easy…and the simple fact that they’re acknowledging that tends to make me feel more connected with them and lets me know they struggle with some of the same things I struggle with.

While we’ll have more of our failures or flops detailed in future posts, I wanted to share with you our attempt to create authority sites, lay out actual numbers and data we’ve had so far, and provide some insight as to why we think the sites haven’t worked out as well as we’d hoped.

The Authority Site Plan

We’ve had a fair amount of success at creating mini-niche websites that are highly targeted and were hoping to parlay that success into larger authority sites, similar to what Pat Flynn and Chris Guthrie have done.

We know that our mini-niche sites cost around $50 to create and, on average, will sell for around $200. Could we simply build larger sites that cost $500 and flip them for $2,000? $1,000 and flip for $4,000? We wanted to find out! Not that there’s anything wrong with our current model…we just thought it would be prudent to branch out a bit and see if we could diversify the “types” of sites we were building.

We decided to test out the creation of two sites (Which I’ll refer to as Site A and Site B) and see if we could replicate our current model on a larger scale.

Selecting The Authority Site Niches

As part of a larger package of domains we purchased from a domain broker, we ended up with (what I thought were) two pretty amazing exact match domains:

Site A:

  • Food Niche
  • 4 word phrase exact match .net
  • 40,500 Global exact match searches
  • 22,200 Local exact match searches
  • $0.44 CPC (Low, I know…but an INSANE amount of searches to make up for it!)
  • Advertiser Competition: Low

Site B:

  • Eye/Vision Niche
  • 4 word phrase exact match .net
  • 5,400 Global exact match searches
  • 880 Local exact match searches (Quite low, but those searches are generally made up in the UK, Canada, and Australia and the other numbers were compelling enough to try it out)
  • $8.61 CPC
  • Advertiser Competition: High

We particularly chose a high search/low CPC and Lower search/high CPC pair for variance. The plan was to silo Site A through categories and posts, but to leave Site B a bit more open when it came to content. We were looking to keep costs for both sites at right around $500 each in terms of actual spend (and NOT including my time) and I went through the process myself (mostly) without the use of VA’s so that I could better understand and document the process.

Setting Up Authority Sites

Once we had the niches selected we chose to use the Clickbump/Xfactor Authority WP theme for Site A and the original theme Pat Flynn had used for his authority site (Simplefolio) for Site B. (We had to modify this a bit to get it to work)  We had an eBook written and edited as an opt-in giveaway with Site A on oDesk for around $100 that included a nice format, pictures, etc. and I researched and wrote a “Top Tips” handout for Site B opt-ins.

For Site A, I selected 7 keywords to be used as category pages that had 1.5K-4K exact match searches and wrote the content for those pages myself. I then ordered 3-6 content posts from TextBroker for each category based on long-tail KW research. For Site B, I ordered an 800-900 word researched 4-star article for the homepage and 25 or so articles from TextBroker to be used as posts. For all of the content, I edited, checked, and uploaded the content myself, adding relevant information, optimized images, etc.

For linkbuilding I mostly followed our usual process and just did a bit more of it. I ran each site through OnlyWire early to get them indexed , submitted 3 articles for each site to SubmitYourArticle, and submitted a total of 60 BuildMyRank posts over time to both Site A and Site B. I had an agent comment on 25 do-follow blogs with links back to the sites and I also set up 3 Web 2.0 links to both Site A and Site B with unique content. I then purchased a couple of Fiverr gigs to create a bunch of links to those 2.0’s I’d created.

Authority Site Results

Site A:

  • Visits: 2,367 Last 30 days
  • AWeber Signups: 18 (20 signups, 2 unsubscribes)
  • AdSense: 5,272 Pageviews, $4.35 earnings Last 30
  • Primary Keyword Google Ranking: #3
  • % of traffic from Primary KW: 54%

Site A Authority Site Analytics



Site A Authority Site AdSense

The good news with this site is the traffic. (Although it stands to mention I still would have expected much higher traffic based on the rankings and search volume for the KW) It’s also interesting to note the extremely low bounce rate. (Which I think has to do with the theme…it has snippets of the category pages with the “Primary Content” way below the fold, causing the users to click through and check out the various categories)

The embarassingly bad stat here is earnings. While the CPC is low compared to our average site, it’s the fact that the CTR is at 10% of our average that’s really dragging this site down. To give a comparison, if this site had our “averages” for the mini-niche sites, it would have earned approximately $108 the last 30 days. I knew that with an authority website the CTR would be lower with less aggressive ad placement, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as low as it is.

Site B:

  • Visits: 785 Last 30 days
  • Aweber Signups: 8 (9 signups, 1 unsubscribe)
  • AdSense: 899 Pageviews, $10.98 earnings Last 30
  • Primary Keyword Google Ranking: #4
  • % of traffic from Primary KW: 40%

Authority Site B Analytics


Authority Site B AdSense

While I expected less traffic with this site, the current rankings for the primary KW and some of the longtails made me think we’d have much more traffic than we currently have. With the mile-high CPC and advertiser competition I was also surprised to see an actual CPC that was just a bit over our mini-site average, unfortunately. The CTR is significantly better than it is for Site A, but still well under our average for our mini-sites.

AWeber Stats for Authority Websites

Authority Site Takeaways

With a sample size of 2, both Joe and I don’t think we’ve given this a fair enough shot to really see whether it’s something we should pursue. We definitely feel this particular investment isn’t going to pay off for us, but we’re trying to remember that our first mini-niche sites were a bit of a disaster as well before we caught and corrected our mistakes.

We’re quite pleased with the fact that we were able to ge these sites ranked against Google first page competition that we would NEVER go against with our mini-niche sites. (Would have ranked a 2 or 3 on our 1-5 scale for KW research) It’s MUCH easier to do that when you have a budget with some flexibility and can adapt for changes as the site moves along.

Thoughts on Site A:

The fact that the site “would” be earning over $100/month if it were one of our mini-niche sites is encouraging. I think the MUCH less aggressive theme and ad placement would either require a TON more traffic or it would require us getting much more aggressive with the ad placement. I’m going to see if I can tweak it a bit and add more ad blocks and shift things around a bit. If that doesn’t work I might scrap the theme altogether and go back to something we’re more familiar with.

Thoughts on Site B:

I think the low Local exact match searches didn’t help and my guess is that we’re not currently ranked well in the other countries that make up more of the search volume. I was quite nervous about getting this site ranked specifically…the first page competition looked quite rough and I’m happy to see we broke onto the first page. The fact that it’s ranked and getting clicks that aren’t even close to what I was expecting is discouraging. I don’t think I’ll be doing anything to this site, but will report back if traffic from other countries seems to pick up or if anything changes.

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Final Thoughts

Learn from our mistakesEven though I know we need to test more in this area, it’s discouraging for these two sites to be “duds” so far…I was really hoping to report back with something better here so that we could confidently move forward.

One of my problems as it relates to AdSenseFlippers and our team is that, it seems to me, each particular site will require various levels of love and attention that we don’t offer to our mini-niche sites post-creation. If we were to scale this, I think it would require a site-creation team as we have now and a “fine tuning” team that comes along a few months later as a clean-up crew. (To tweak ad placement, add links if needed, change themes, etc.)

An even larger problem boils down to this: Where should we be focusing the most amount of our time?

This took quite a bit of my time as I fumbled through it. Should I really stick with another batch of testing or would it be better for me to focus on our known universe…that which is making us an increasing amount of money with fairly large margins? With a $500 spend…I’d need these Authority sites to be making $100/month on average to match up to the mini-niche sites, pound for pound. Honestly, I’d even take $60-$70 per month on average. (While it would have lower margins than mini-niche sites…having a selection of higher value sites would bring in higher-end buyers as well)

And now…over to you! What do you think about our stumble into authority sites? Any tips, suggestions, or ideas?

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  • Glenn says:

    Hey guys. I got an idea, why not make a small team that specialises on Authority site development? Then after 6-12 months, sell it with a profit? IF this works out, you will have another division in your business making large sales through Flippa.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Excellent idea, Glenn!

      In fact…we’re going to do this! Right now, we have some of our team working on larger/expanded sites…but we don’t want to lay out the process or recommend anything until we have some results, and that can take months.

      Something else we’re working on – we’re going to take 10 readers/listeners and fund them to create niche sites. We’re going to cover the costs, give them access to a small team of VA’s, etc. We’ll help guide them on building the sites and help them flip them (and split the profits) at the end of the “course”. Cool, eh? We’ll have more info on this in the next few weeks/months.

      • Glenn says:

        Wow that’s an even better idea! I like the fact that both you guys and the participant earn $$ together! (not to mention the valuable education that comes with it) I would love to be a part of this project. Although I already have my own Odesk team setup, It would be nice just to have some guidance. By the way, i hope you guys are not affected by the killer typhoon that just past,, but the fact that you replied to this post means that you’re all still alive! 🙂

  • Nathan hibbs says:

    hey guys, i got a email from you that brougt me to this post. judging from the comments this post was done in the past. Any update on what happened would be awsome. Thanks.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Nathan!

      Ultimately, these sites didn’t turn out very well for us. Our guess is that our problem combined the use of BMR links and the possibility that the domains were tainted from the beginning, possibly. We went the other route and stuck with niche sites and haven’t gone back to “authority” sites since then. (yet)

  • Andy German says:

    I’m sure you’ve considered this, but why not monetize in a different manner for these sites instead of Adsense? You’re getting good traffic and low bounce rates, so why not try affiliate products on one and see how it goes?

  • Matthew says:

    Great debate…Bravo…I am always a believer of Authority Sites and now I have gotten more firm with my beliefs.

    Just to make it (more) clear, what do you guys think about the width of authority site? I mean, how much pages of quality content should a site hold to be considered as an authority site? I know there are many other factors to see if the site is authority or not, but just wondering about the number of pages…

    Good day,

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks, Matthew!

      I think it’s a bit difficult to define an authority site by the number of pages. It’s one of those “you’ll know it when you see it” things, I think. Ultimately, I think it has more to do with the quality of the information and helpfulness to the end user more than anything else.

      Still…I should say something about the size, eh? I’d say 20+ pages, an “active” community (in the comments, on the FB page, etc.) and a tool or directory of some kind is a pretty good start…

  • Ryan Patrick says:

    I think it’s still full of potential. You could probably comb through the analytics data and find some trends to capitalize on. Keep going with it!

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks, Ryan!

      Will definitely leave them up and see how they turn out…will probably put a bit of work into them, but might just try it again with new sites in the future…we’ll see!

  • Joe says:

    Interesting. What is a category page?

  • dano says:

    Hi guys,

    Got something bit offtopic, I was doing some estimates of how much sites I would be able to setup if I did everything alone (except for the content). And I came down to about 10 sites a day, assuming I work 10 hrs a day. Quick overview for 1 website :

    – Finding longtail keywords for innerpages max 10 minutes
    – Registering domain + pointing it to the hosting max 10 minutes
    – Outsourcing the content max 10 minutes
    – Installing the site / adding content max 20 minutes (basic template)
    – Spinning some article a 100 times and submitting them to high pr society max 10 minutes

    If I would work 7days a week I could launch 300 sites/month (if I had the cash obv.)

    Then when I look at you guys, I think you have 6-8 employees or more right, plus the 2 of you and also launching about 300 sites/month, maybe double. So am I missing something here in the big scheme of things? It looks all so damn easy lol so why need a whole crew of people cause I believe you also outsource the article writing right?

    Feel free to slap me hard in case I’m way too optimistic about this 😀

    ps did the keyword research for >3000 emd’s in the last 3 days by reverse IP other peoples MFA sites (bad me 😉 ), and using a pdf that I got somewhere of 5000 emd’s with min 1000 exacts and $1 cpc with some Seomoz score so I could easily pick the easyer ones.

    ps2: convinced my outsourcer from Pakistan to write free content for me, the quality ain’t that great but well, Adsense is banned in their whole country so we’re in it for 50/50. He does the content and I do the linkbuilding/kw research/setup the site. Can’t scale it up as in my above example as he is pretty slow with the writing though.

    • Rich says:

      way way to optimistic….Why don’t you try 3-sites and then see how long it takes you?

      Here are some questions for you:
      1) How are you not going to get your adsense account burned? Do you really think Google wants spinner sites with crap content. You can get away with it for a bit, but they will burn your whole network.
      2) Good luck not spending money on link building. That is what is going to cost you money and time
      3) Content? You are going to spin and get free content? good luck

      • dano says:

        I do know how long it takes me to complete each task of setting up a site, with more sites it would only get less time consuming, as registering 10 domains and pointing it to the hosting won’t take a 100 minutes for example.

        1) I think you misunderstood about the content for the site, it won’t be spinned but originally written. The quality depends on how much money I’m prepared to spend on it. In case of the 50/50 deal with my Pakistan the quality will be pretty low, but 100% original.

        2) I guess you read a bit to fast, Joe and Justin use 5 BMR posts, a few dozen SubmitYourArticle and SocialBookmarks, I choose 100 article posts at High PR society (average PR3 where they land), I have experience with these and it works out great for me. Might have to add some bookmarking as well for faster indexing though. The intention is to get the sites indexed naturally first and then dripfeed the 100 articles at 10/day.

        3) Thanks for the good luck wishes 🙂 No I am not going to spin and get free content, only the articles with the backlinks will be spun.

        Next time read before replying first 😉

        • dano says:

          Btw, as mentioned, this is just an example, I dont have the funds to register 300 domains /month, spend $7.50*300 for the linkbuilding and spend around $15*300 for the content to be able to scale it up.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Dano!

      While Rich was a bit harsh in his reply and I’m hoping this is a bit less so, I DO agree that you’re extremely optimistic in the amount of sites you feel you’ll be able to create in such a short period of time.

      With our outsourcing company, at times we’ve been asked to provide quotes on a per-task basis. Early on, we would “estimate” how long it would take to do a particular task. (either by doing a few myself or just having a general idea about how long it would take to do the task) If we were aggressive in how quickly we said we’d be able to do it, we’d make less money…if we were too conservative in the time it would take…we probably wouldn’t get the project!

      Ultimately, my point is that the BEST way to determine how quickly you’ll be able to build sites is to BUILD them! 🙂 Simple right? lol

      There are a TON of ways to cut corners when creating niche sites…but we have a formula that’s DOWN, that’s proven, (for us!) and we try not to vary from too much.

      If you REALLY want to speed up site creation, there are automated tools you can use that will automatically do a TON of what we do to create the niche sites. If using the right automation systems, I don’t think it’s unbelievable for one person with 1.5-2 VA’s to be putting out over 1,000 sites PER MONTH!

      Still…would that be a good mix? Would those sites make money? My guess is that approach would be less effective…but remember what I said about making estimates…you’ll never know until you try it!

      • dano says:

        Haha, thats what I like to hear yes. 1000 sites/month with 1-2 VA’s 🙂

        I did build quite a few sites but these obv always took a lot longer, customizing the theme, finding a good outsourcer, spending a ton of time on kw research, wasting time on useless linkbuilding with automatic softwares and the list go’s on. But with proper preparation, pre-themes where I only have to copy/paste the content, mass registering multiple domains etc it should be a fairly easy, though boring, task.

        My proces seems to be pretty proven on small scale though, the kw research is done in such way that we picked out other emd’s that rank at page1 with minimum ammount of backlinks or page 2 with zero backlinks. These sites DO rank already so easy to copy their succes. Though it will always be a surprise how much money they will bring in.

        I’m busy with another partnership with someone who asked to rank his site for “electronic cigarette” 😀 a close to impossible job so I convinced him to get into this micro niche stuff with me and he was very interested so now we have to put the points at the i, and we’re doing a test sample of 5 sites right now to see how fast we can get these at page 1, if its a succes we intend to scale it up bigtime asap.

        Oh about my other partnership on the authority site, we chose an outsourcer from 2 people and decided to pump out 100 posts a month and not do any linkbuilding just to see how the content would rank on itself. 35 posts are posted and most of them aren’t indexed yet but we did get 1 truelly unique visitor from Google Images so far 😀

        Right now involved into 3 small-partnerships based on trust, lets see how this works out 😉

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Hey Dano,

          Yeah, it’s (always) all about results, right? In the end, that’s what we’re all looking for!

          Your partnership where it’s 50/50 for the person that’s only providing you the content for the sites sounds WAY too generous, if I’m being honest. There’s no WAY we’d give up half of our revenue to content writers…that would, ultimately, be EXTREMELY costly…even if we got the content for free! Have you listened to our podcast on partnerships? Also…there’s a new podcast coming out this week on LifestyleBusinessPodcast that’s an interview with us where we talk about partnerships that might help you too. IMO, you’d be MUCH better off just paying a flat fee for that content if your sites are ultimately valuable…

          On partnerships in general, having 3 different partnerships going sounds like insanity to me! I’d compare business partnerships to marriages in many regards…and having 3 “spouses” would KILL me! lol On a serious note, it sounds like you might be partnering as a way to mitigate your risk by spreading it out, but it means you’ll need THAT much more success to make it work, too.

          Best of luck!

          • dano says:

            Thanks, thing is I dont have more then a couple 100 a month to invest at this point and I want to make a fast start, thats why I chose for multiple partnerships.

            Partnership 1: with a friend of mine, its outsourced in a 100% hands off way so no time invested and we talked anyway cause of the pokerbot partnership we already had.

            Partnership 2: is with the outsourcer company that we use for the partnership1 authority site, he has a little team of writers, why 50/50? he has some trick to register domains for free so the only cost I have are the backlinks and setting up the sites, if I had to register myself + outsource the content it would cost me around $25,-, now it only costs me $7.50 + 1 hour for each site at most.

            Partnership 3: a new person involved, the content will be outsourced to partnership 2, he will invest all the money for content+domain+backlinks, I will do all the work/organizing.

            So all together I think I’m doing it pretty well, my risk is close to 0 and it allows me to grow fast, a partnership might break in the meanwhile but the experience is irreplacable 🙂

          • dano says:

            Btw if a site fails we plan to sell it as a microniche site on the warriorforum or flippa and we’re willing to sell for as less as $25,- just to recoup the investment, time will just be wasted then but I don’t consider my time very valuable at this stage.

          • JustinWCooke says:

            Hey Dano,

            Definitely check back in to let us know how it’s going I obviously have some reservations about your time estimates and partnership situations, but what do I know, lol! It may work out quite well for you as it’s something that just “works” with your situation. Either way…I’d be really interested to hear how it works out down the road!

          • dano says:

            Will definetly post an update now & then, I also have my reservations about it ofcourse but got nothing or little to lose and in worse case we run break-even and an experience richer. Little side fact: It took me 3 years and 2500 euro testing money before my bot was profitable, at a certain point everyone started to say: Oh give it up! But I am persistant and never give up till it works, and now it works for 1.5 year already 😀

          • JustinWCooke says:

            On that note…have you ever read Seth Godin’s “The Dip”?

            I just finished reading the book (I know, I know…I’m WAY late to the party here!) and found it fascinating in that it talks on the courage to continue further than most people to be the “best in the world” in your niche. It also talks about how it’s smart to NOT start most things…and really focus in on those that you do. If you haven’t read it, totally worth picking up!

          • dano says:

            Yeah someone at an IM forum suggested it to me as well sometime ago but haven’t got it yet. Why everyone advises me to read that book 😀

            The botting stuff is dieing and its’ semi-illegal 😉 so I must start new things.

      • Marcus Shields says:

        Please, can you let me know where I can find these automated tools? I do not want to create 1000 sites in a month, maybe in a year… but I do like the idea of automation.

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Automation is great in most instances, but not when it comes to creating niche sites, we think. do a search on Google for “niche site automation” and I’m sure you’ll find a ton of tools from guys who sell those services. Again, I would say it’s not something we would do.

  • Hi Justin and Joe,

    I have spent a very interesting two days combing through your blog posts, podcasts and some of the stuff from the LBP – its amazing what you have put out there for consumption, Thanks!

    I was wondering with this experiment how old the domains were, and what the existing authority was on them. I expect the outlay on them was more than a $10 new domain. I assume at this stage you only use new domains with the micro niche model, to keep costs down?

    Do you think you would have achieved the same results with a new domain?

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey, Duncan…thanks, man!

      Great questions!

      1. The domains were a bit aged, but didn’t have any real authority to speak of. As I mentioned, these domains weren’t brand new…they came as part of a bunch of domains we received from a broker. On average, those domains cost us $30 each…I’m thinking the total cost for these two was $80, but I don’t remember exactly. (NOTE: We believe we had less-than-desirable results on those older domains we purchased. We don’t know for sure…we’re going on feel here…but we think there may have been something wrong with some or all of the domains we picked up in that batch. Still, though, due to the fact these sites are ranked and looking good…we don’t think it had a negative effect on these sites specifically.)

      2. Yes, almost all of the domains for our niche sites are brand new…mostly for cost purposes. (And efficiency…don’t have to track down domains we want, just order in bulk!)

      3. I DO think we would have received the same results in terms of ranking with a new domain. Hard to say for sure, but I don’t think we had much value out of these particular “aged” domains…

  • stevewyman says:

    Hi Justin and Jo

    Thanks for continuing to share your journey its always enlightening.

    Well it’s a small planet! Reading the section on site B above set off some bells in my head, it turns out I own the .com variant! (Had it since 2010).

    So here are my thoughts –

    I do think people are looking for free info on the subject to be reassured and they are less inclined to click on ads for this subject. That’s supported by the data below I think.

    The thing I’ve been looked at a lot more recently is the CPC through different parts of the Adwords tools – the Adwords keyword tool is indeed around $8 but if you look at the figure you get from the contextual targeting tool section it shows a suggested bid price nearer to $2

    From the traffic estimator section its suggesting on average 2 clicks a day for the USA in 1st place and probably near 1 per day in 5th place.

    So the EMD is fine for a small niche site but I don’t think warrants the investment (in itself) in a larger site.

    However I would have though the longtail would have helped get the overall income up a lot more.

    It’s also true that for the EMD the traffic is not in North America but other countries.


    • JustinWCooke says:

      Ha! Small world is right, Steve…that’s really funny!

      Totally true that it’s not hot in the US but, as you mentioned, I was hoping it would get ranked and get some action in other countries and I was hoping the longtail traffic on this site would hit and give me a great cpc overall. Unfortunately that just doesn’t seem to be the case!

      • Info says:

        Hi Justin

        Hence my comment about using different pasts of the adword tool to find the real cpc.

        I think you finding roughly what i estimated for the cpc its about right.

        Whats not so good is the CTR. that sucks 🙁

  • Wootpile says:

    Thanks for a, as usual, generous post. I find the stats of site A interesting and even though this experiment is too small to make any definitive decisions, it confirms my feeling that the xfactor authority theme does not work as a Adsense earner. It actually works a bit too well as a authority site / organisational frontpage – something that counteracts the objective of building an Adsense earner. Keep us posted if the experiment continues!

    • JustinWCooke says:


      Your comment on the theme potentially working “too well” was something that crossed my mind too. With the low bounce rate, the increased pageviews per visit, etc…maybe it would be better for a VERY high-traffic and detailed authority site instead of our mini-authority site as it is now…hmmm…

  • Dave Starr says:

    Informative. A couple thoughts that spring to mind. Getting to the first page of Google in a competitive niche is an accomplishment which I don’t consider a ‘a failure’ by any means. Congrats.

    My own experience indicates the first page of Google is hardly the nirvana that many think it is … and all those formulas that promise to tell you how many vistors you will get based on percentage of search volume are estimates, at best.

    My opinion only, of course, but calling a site an ‘expert’ site just because it has x amount of articles on it (especially purchased articles, from people with (perhaps) good writing skills but no interest in the site’s subject).

    I have also followed Scott for along time now, I like his writing, I have been helped y him personally and am a Clickbump theme owner, but frankly it has never performed well for me.

    I follow you guys with interest. I like your writing style, your friendliness and openness and your upbeat attitude. Next time I am in Davao I will certainly be by for a visit, lunch, whatever. But I find, more and more, that the idea of AdSense sniper-style sites loses its appeal to me more and more each day.

    My personal advice (and, of course, my opinion only) is, ask not why people aren’t clicking on your ads, but instead ask what your site is actually providing for the visitor. I think so many people out there who have disappointing results have failed to answer that basic question.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Dave…thanks! Getting them ranked was definitely a silver lining I guess, heh.

      I agree that simply adding more content doesn’t make a minisite an authority site. I would say that these sites do a much better job of answering a searcher’s query than our minisites…probably somewhere in between as useful as our minisites and Pat Flynn’s “Security Guard Training” authority site. We’re not quite at THAT level when it comes to user value…but somewhere inbetween.

      Definitely come hang out next time you’re in Davao…would love to meet you!

  • Tony says:

    Thanks for sharing your authority case study with us. I was surprised that you ranked on the first page that fast. That’s good in itself, but the CTR is dismal. Comparing it to your niche sites they are not a very good short term investment.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Definitely not a good short-term investment, Tony. It stands to see whether they’ll pay off long-term but we definitely haven’t had a great start!

      If we could spend $500-$600 on a site and it took 6 months to make $100/month, 12 months to make $150, etc..(on average) it would still be worth pursuing, I think…but we’d have to see a return that was worthwhile….

  • Anshul says:

    I actually blogged about similar stuff happening to one of my top earning niche sites although for different reasons as it was fairly well established site but then earlier this month got the Google slap and it disappeared overnight.

    My course was action was learn from the mistakes, dismantle the site, get it de-indexed, have the the content re-written for $3-$4 on TCA and then re-launch a bigger and better brand new site which is already back in the rankings!

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Interesting, Anshul.

      In September, we had some of our top-earning sites get “tanked”. For those that haven’t popped back after we put them through our improvement process, we’re thinking of starting from scratch, creating new sites, and targeting those same highly-profitable keywords. It would be a shame to let them go…they were earning quite a bit for us!

  • Ben says:

    Hi Justin,

    At this point, I have a fair bit of experience with niche sites and authority style sites. I can’t comment as to Site B, but I am 99% sure that the reason Site A didn’t do well is because of low advertiser competition. Most of my sites that have failed have had keywords that had low advertiser competition. I no longer target a keyword if it has low advertiser competition, or even medium advertiser competition.

    Just my two cents.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Ben, thanks for the thoughts!

      Yeah, Site B is a bit more frustrating as there’s heavy advertiser competition there. My guess is that it’s the low local search volume in the US and still isn’t ranked in the other countries yet. No idea as to why our CPC is so low for the traffic we ARE getting, though.

      Totally hear you on Site A…that’s my worry as well. If that’s the case, more aggressive ad placement isn’t likely to make much of a difference…adding more ad blocks when there simply aren’t enough advertisers isn’t going to cut it, eh?

  • P.K.ARUN says:

    Even I have 1 authority site, the thing is it won’t make much money as made by Niche sites…

    • JustinWCooke says:


      While ours definitely haven’t worked out yet, I know plenty of people with Authority sites or mini-authority sites that are KILLING it! Definitely something I wish we had down…

  • Kev Storrs says:

    Hi Justin… Really interesting post.. On the sites I own for private businesses, what in IM would probably be described as “authority” sites, Google earnings are extremely low. For example on one site with monthly traffic of around 40k uniques, the earnings are only about $50. I put this down to 2 things. Firstly, they are getting the information they need on the authority site (they don’t need to go elsewhere) and Secondly, the advertising is often not as in-your-face and less likely to be clicked. Because our sites are for offline businesses advertising is not the main concern.
    However, we have managed to monetise it in a different way. We have one guy on commission selling ads to businesses in our sector. Because of the high traffic, targetted niche and authority/credibility of the site, it is able to command a higher price. For example on the site mentioned above we take in 800e a month (about $1000+) in advertising revenues (all non-Google).

    This may or may not be the right fit for you, and certainly it would be very hard to scale. My conclusion would be that I think that authority sites may not be the best play for Adsense, though there are certainly ways to monetise them and that could be something for you to think further on.


    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Kev…really interesting posts/insights.

      It does make sense to me that, with large amounts of a specific type that’s interesting to others, you might be better off with offering ad spots rather than AdSense. And, as you mentioned, that is much harder to scale. If we were KNOCKING out those types of sites with large amounts of traffic, it might be worthwhile to build a sales team to sell the placement…but that’s another layer of complication we probably wouldn’t want to add, heh.

      You don’t sell your own products/services on your “auth” site do you? I’ve thought about that…would never offer private advertising or AdSense in a niche I was looking to monetize directly with my own products/services. I would think keeping that traffic would be more valuable than the pennies/dollars I’d get for sending them somewhere else…

      • Kev Storrs says:

        Hey Justin,

        You hit the nail on the head there. As I said, the advertising isn’t our main concern. While the primary aim of one of the sites is a news website, we sell places on our DJ courses and tickets to our shows. So for example, over the course of a week the website might present 3 dj school bookings ($450 a pop), maybe about 50 ticket sales ($15 a go) and possibly one outreach dj programme ($1000). So for us, you are definitely right – it is more valuable for us to keep returning visitors on the site and build their loyalty rather than to send them elsewhere. However, we do still sell the ads, but place them subtly so as not to distract people.

        I think you are right again about the scalability and complexity of adding a sales team. Your best bet, as a few others have said, could be the approach of “selling your own products/services”, i.e relevant affiliates. In some niches you could probably really knock out some serious earners.


    • gugu says:

      Interesting insights there Kev, appreciated, to add my 2 cents, I think authority sites can work with adsense when they have been built to be authority websites for adsense e.g. make the site an authority resource in terms of the information it offers- yet avoid making the site a destination resource- this means you can put those ads right at in-your-face positions (this is your bottom line so you do not have a problem with putting ads where they can get the highest CTR)– the look and feel has to be top notch , content must be of great quality and quantity too – yet the content thrust and theme must be such that the visitor still feels the need to click on towards the ultimate solution (destination website) addressing their needs, such a strategy can cut it with adsense, .. thats my 2 cents

  • sellingputsforincome says:

    Great stuff. We learn much more from our failures.

    Keep us updated as you change the ad placement and tweak everything else.

  • Aleshia Green says:

    I do have a question. I am just getting into building niche sites and was just wondering if judging your first 30 days against a website’s potential is valid. Shouldnt it take search engines longer to show your websites making the potential traffic flow better later? Or is this how niche site builders are judging their potential?

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Aleshia,

      I should have pointed out that the last 30 days worth of stats I’m mentioning are from sites that were created at the end of August…so these sites have had some time to “mature”.

      If you look at the included screenshots you’ll see that I’m giving some data over the last few months…

  • Cam Collins says:

    @Justin – As usual the open and honest approach you guys take is such a breath of fresh air. I was especially interested in this post when I saw that one of your authority sites is “foodie” related.

    As we discussed in the DC, we are developing an authority food video site with cooking contests, user generated content and content we create filming pro chefs. We are in the process of supporting each of these videos with a 150 word (or more) posts.

    I am wondering what you or your readers opinions might be about taking @Kevin’s idea and working it in reverse. In other words, creating micro-niche sites about each of the food videos (assuming they meet CPC/Page View minimums) and adding the appropriate backlinks to the authority site. We would use BuildMyRank, SubmitMyArticle and OnlyWire on all of them. Do you think tangible benefits would be gleaned by growing out the other way (e.g from “hub” to “spoke”)

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks, Cam!

      Adding the written content to the video posts is definitely a good idea…any reason why you’re limiting to 150 words? (Cost per post, I’m guessing?) Something you might want to try is (if there’s plenty of talking in the videos) having transcripts made and including them in the posts as well. That will give you additional unique content and give you search traffic via keywords that are HIGHLY relevant to the video. (hopefully) You might be able to use Mechanical Turk, another microtask service, or any high-volume transcription service to get them done. (You wouldn’t even have to do it from the get-go…could back-fill later, of course) We SHOULD be doing the same with our podcasts, I think…

      We have a friend here in Davao that keeps talking about building authority-mininiche hybrids…taking an authority site and building out 8-10 mini-sites and having them all link and feed into the authority site from different c-class IP’s. (I’m not sure that’s required…Google says they don’t have an issue with you linking to relevant content on other sites that you own as long as they’re RELEVANT…but might be better for linkjuice…) Each new auth site + 8-10 minisites would be a “project” on it’s own and you’d scale them out that way. That might be applicable to your situation as well?

      • Cam Collins says:

        Yeah – 150 words because of the cost. But I am going to write the first 10 myself so I’ll see what fits the topic the best. Transcripts are something we definitely need to do. Mechanical lTurk is a great place to start.

        I will have to check into the unique IP issue. I was operating under the assumption that (as you state) Google doesn’t care as long as the content is relevant and unique. But I should dig into this deeper. Thanks!

      • Hey guys, any chance you’ll add transcripts of your podcasts?

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Hey, Charleen, absolutely!

          I wanted to create transcripts from the start…I was thinking it would be quite a bit more content on our site and give us more search traffic, but haven’t got around to adding yet.

          Know any quality transcription gigs on Fiverr we could use? 🙂

  • Paul says:

    Quick question… How do you guys allow all the different kinds of comments? I have disqus set up on my blog, but I’d love to be able for people to comment however they want.

    Is it a plugin or something?

  • Halfdan Timm says:

    A very interesting read as always. I’ve tried a similar experiment on the danish market with similar results – creating small sites and letting these stand passive is better in terms of final payout than putting the required time in needed to create an authority site. Glad to see you confirm that – keep doing what you do best!

    Looking forward to next status report! 🙂

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Welcome back!

      I’m telling you…I REALLY wish this would have been a success at this point. I was fully prepared to build a team and for us to start scaling up “authority” sites too as a parallel project to the mini-niche sites. For now, it’s back to the drawing board until we get them figured out and profitable. We got time, though…no worries!

  • Charles says:

    From what I have learned about authority sites, they take longer to mature. Give them 4-6 months and you might be surprised at your results. I read about these results and my one authority site, which I do all of my own writing and most of the backlinking, took 4 months with little traffic and then it took off.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Charles,

      It’s been around 4 months now. We’ve got time, though, that’s not an issue…they’ll stay up and we’ll definitely report back as to how they’re doing. I think I’ll spend a bit more time tweaking Site A but will most likely leave Site B alone for now…

  • Carloadriancanon says:

    I have been following your site. All of your posts are very much helpful. I enjoy reading them.

  • Paul says:

    I’m sure you guys have thought about this, but have you compared your visitor CPC, and apposed to the adsense calculation. Could be your visitors are viewing more pages, skewing your adsense CTR, but you might be converting the same amount of visitors.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Paul,

      I didn’t look at visits as compared to earnings…only pageviews. What you’re saying makes sense, though…what if they’re simply viewing more pages and giving more pageviews (lowering the CTR) but end up converting later on another page anyway…will have to give that a look.

      Still though, for Site A it’s MISERABLY low…I can’t imagine they’re viewing THAT many pages on the site and still converting!

      • Paul says:

        Yeah, hard to say. I just know on my bigger sites my CTR is lower, but I convert more visitors. Also, you may get more repeat visitors, which could cause ad blindness. Maybe rotate the ads weekly or something if you get a lot of repeat visitors. Just a thought.

        • JustinWCooke says:

          CTR Theme is decent for that…if my more aggressive ad placement doesn’t work, will probably switch to this theme and include ad rotation…

          • Don says:

            I am wondering why you wouldn’t just use unique visitor count to calculate CTR?

          • JustinWCooke says:

            Hey Don,

            It’s a stat worth looking at, but not one that’s automatically given to you in AdSense, Analytics, etc. Since we don’t track this on a LARGE scale with our mini-niche sites it would be more difficult to make the comparison between these Auth sites and our mini-sites.

          • Don says:

            Well maybe I am going about it wrong, but I just take my unique visitors from awstats and then the clicks that Adsense gives me credit for and there is my CTR.

          • JustinWCooke says:

            Hey Don…

            No…you’re exactly right! It’s easy to get that number on our authority sites. BUT…with our over 1,000 mini-niche sites, it’s more of a pain in the ass…I’d have to go through all the traffic we had across all of our accounts…know what I mean?

  • Truly one of the best and most educational posts I’ve read on any IM topic.

  • Great report guys, love the honesty!

    I have both Adsense niche sites and a few authority sites.

    All I can tell you is my authority sites crush it for affiliate programs and sucks on Adsense. My niche sites (microsites) crush it on Adsense and simply don’t drive affiliate sales!

    So what does this mean? Try affiliates for your authority sites next time. With the long-tail keywords you can target it really does well! I know that for every blog post I write for my authority sites it will earn me an minimum £100 in its life time.

    Hope this helps.

    • JustinWCooke says:


      It’s an additional level of complexity with affiliate sales, but I think I know why it would work better…will have to check this out in the future…


      • Dave says:

        Great post. It takes a lot of guts to call attention to your less successful efforts — especially in the IM world.

        I’ve noticed the same thing. My larger sites do well with affiliate offers but pretty much zero on Adsense. Smaller sites do well with Adsense but affiliate offers just don’t get much traction.

        I’m not sure why or how to test to find out.

        Keep up the good work.

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Thanks, Dave!

          I wonder if it’s because mini-sites are so much more laser focused on a particular keyword or two, while authority sites get much more traffic from longtails? I dunno…

  • VictorPidkowich says:

    Hey guys great stuff here!

    I think its about time I chime in on this authority site stuff since thats where I started and then niched out over the years.

    Authority sites just take a hell of a lot longer… I wouldn’t say those sites are duds, they just need more time. For some reason in the 6 to 12 month window is where Iv seen these authority sites go from zero to hero. The only way Iv seen sites pick up in less time is via social buzz where the content just gets eaten up and the site goes viral. Other than that, strap in for the slow and steady race with authority sites.


    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks, Vic!

      We’d considered the length of time it takes to prove whether an authority sites is “viable” or not…that’s one of the difficulties in working with “authority” sites, I guess.

      A benefit of a mini-niche site is that you can check the effectiveness in 3-4 months…less in some cases. The best thing about that is it lets you test something out and (in a much shorter period of time) make changes to the process to improve and expand on an idea.

      I think that when we were starting off…if we would have had to wait 9-12 months to see if it was “working”…I’m not sure we would have stuck with it. Still…we DO have the time now…we’re in this for the long-haul and so we have the time to stick it out and test various things as we continue to expand.

  • Shaeyi says:

    Its good to give something a try at least you did not only own 2 authority sites but you have learn something in return which means if you launch another site, you might win.

    I like authority sites so much and if Ii have my way, I will do much of them. Since you are successful with niche sites, then you should be able to know the type of KWs that authority sites will work for.

    Keep doing the right thing.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks, Shaeyi!

      I LIKE authority sites too, which is one of the reasons we wanted to get some started. Ultimately, I think they provide even more value to the end user. The safest way to keep yourself strong in the “eyes of Google” is to respect and deliver for users/searchers, of course.

  • Guys,

    I’d be interested in how you go about finding EMDs with longtail pro. I can easily find EMDs with 880 or 1300 searches, but 2900 and above are really hard to find.

    How do you go about doing it? Also, how are you outsourcing this? I know you have your guys find about 200 EMDs a month, but how???

    • Patience. Try a lots of different seed keywords including women’s consumables like perfume, or blue collar items like power tools and home improvement. They are out there, you just need to keep looking.

  • dano says:

    Interesting post.

    The thing that I was afraid of seems to be true. The lower CTR. Personally I am busy with much (to become) bigger sites that should really get into the 1000’s of pages. The thing that I am seeing and which bothers me is that the Adsense ads are not targetted enough. I’m working on a review site that reviews ANY kind of products and Adsense is HUGELY failing to deliver relevant ads on the right pages. Many times I see some freaking Forex advertisement on my rocking chair cushion page/post cause just before that I visited one of my IM product page. That seriously frustrates me pretty big time and is something that I haven’t thought about before obv.

    About the less visitors. I’m doing keyword research for every single post so each post has a minimum of around 1500 exact/searches and I rank every page indivdually like it is a seperate website to make sure each and every post will rank at page 1, thus getting more visitors.

    My money goal? An absolute minimum of $1/post/month. I’m outsourcing 100 posts/month and automated the linkbuilidng in such way that it hardly requires any time of my side. The investment is around $5 for each post ($2.50 to my outsourcer and around $2.50 for articles at high pr society). Apart of that I run some sitewide scrapebox blasts with a highly filtered list and some AMR article blasts.

    After 6 months I expect to have 600 posts and the site to make $600/month. Total investment by then would be around 2500 euro and expect to be able to sell the website for at least $6k so that would be nice. Let’s see how this go’s.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Dano,

      Are you sure you’re not seeing Forex ads on your site because you’re logged into Google and it’s personalizing the ads you see? The more people are logged into Google while cruising your sites, the more you’ll see this happen. It can be a benefit, actually, but I know some people that turn it off…

      Getting $1/month on every post on average seems like a realistic goal…and a great return if you’re keeping your posts at $5 per…keep us updated on your progress!

      • dano says:

        No I’m logged out, even tried from VPN. Example: got a page about fitness equipment, enough Adwords competition you would think, and it only shows some stupid stuff about losing weight and sports in general while it could easily show some fitness equipment, especially at this time of the year (peaktimes for fitness/equipment)

        • dano says:

          Btw must admit the posts aren’t very well written in English, no spelling errors but it reads a bit weird, I got a Pakistani working for me. You think that downgrades the site a lot when trying to sell?

          • JustinWCooke says:

            I’m not sure, Dano.

            We have our Content Managers try to clean that up a bit when they get the content back from the writers and they try to avoid writers that cause them too much editing! heh

          • dano says:

            Yeah that would be best I guess.

            Btw those wrong ads are a result of those damn tracking cookie’s lol, just browsed from a vpn and got much more relevant ads. Problem solved 😀

  • aldo says:

    Like you can remember i also have a site on that niche and is the site i have spent more time and money i ranked it to the top 1 and this is the worst site i ever had.

    I have tried changing ads places and stuff like that but the people on this niche dont like to click ads or the find what they are looking for on those site that they dont need to go any where.

    My site also have an excellent bounce rate so for me this means the information they are looking for is provided there and much more so they dont need to go else where for information.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Aldo,

      It’s definitely frustrating when you get a “win” in terms of ranking and the site STILL doesn’t seem to be working. Much of this comes down to whether you’re in the right niche or not if you’ve got everything else taken care of (right theme, ad placement, etc.)

  • Matt Hagens says:

    Hey Justin,

    Awesome post. Love the screenshots and really appreciate all the time and effort you guys take to provide your readers with the BEST information.

    I noticed your link building strategy, have you guys started to implement this for all your smaller niche sites? Do you build 60 BMR posts and submit 3 articles for each site? I’m always trying to keep up on the latest tactics that are working.

    Thanks again!


    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Matt!

      Thanks, man…appreciate the love! We didn’t apply this much linkbuilding to all of our mini-niche sites across the board…just these two authority sites. I thought I’d add more of the same to these as the first page competition for these keywords was a bit more aggressive than we’d usually go for AND the fact I had a larger “budget” for these sites…

  • Jenni says:

    At first I was intrigued that you consider sites that made money to be a failure, but then I remember you invested a lot in them in the first place. My sites generally cost me nothing beyond reg fee, so anything above $5 is a profit.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey, Jenni…thanks for commenting!

      Yeah if we’re investing that much we really need the site to make a decent return for us. Remember, though, that if you’re doing all the work for yourself…you’ll need to be paid back for your time too! While I didn’t count my hours or time, it was because I was assuming it’s something I could hand over to our agents for a much lower $ per hour…if I were to continue doing it myself I’d have to factor in my time to make sure I was making enough money for it to make sense.

      Just for example…let’s say all I had to pay was $10 to register the domain and I did ALL of the work myself. If I spent 40 hours (as an example) over 4-6 months on creating and building out the site, got it to $10/month, I could sell for $200 or so…but that puts my per/hour at under $5 per hour…ouch!

  • Kevin says:

    What about taking some of your best performing micro niche sites and expanding those out into authority sites? I haven’t started doing it yet, but my plan is to take my top 20% or so of micro niche sites every month (after letting them “settle” for 3 or 4 months) and building out an extra 1 to 5 articles per site every month for those sites, depending on their earnings.

    I like the MNS approach because of the “shotgun” mentality, and I think the success rate would be much higher using a top performing niche site and expanding it out into an authority site.

    You guys rock! Keep up the good work!


    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Kevin,

      You’re speaking our language! We’ve put building the sites off because we thought we’d stick with what we were good at (and had the time to do)…building more sites and scaling up!

      The first project for the Intern…once he’s got the process down…will be taking out and separating the sites that seem to have the BEST chance for improvement and working on improving their rankings, traffic, and earnings through additional content, links, etc.

      Here’s the big question: Which sites have the BEST chance for success when it comes to expansion? Is it:

      A) The well-ranked sites that are earning quite a bit? Add a bunch of content and a few more links and let them grow?
      B) The sites that are at the bottom of the first page or top of the second page that are earning well but have tons of potential?
      C) A link blast to all of the low-earners with decent CTR that are poorly ranked, getting them up the rankings and taking LOTS of sites from $2/month to $20/month?

      That’s what we’d like to figure out…

      • Kevin says:

        Options B and C never crossed my mind. Might have to try those options out too before I start selling off potential “contenders” in those categories.

        My thinking was almost like a micro micro niche plan, meaning there are soooo many related keywords out there that may only get 200 or so searches, but are super easy to rank for. Plus, an added bonus would be solidifying my rankings on my top sites, giving me some “Panda insurance”.

        Will definitely stay tuned in to your findings, thanks for all you guys do.


      • Guest says:

        I was just going to say, seems like a perfect project for your intern to do – identify, build, and test authority sites.

        Gotta keep the kid working in paradise 😉

      • Guest says:

        I was just going to say, seems like a perfect project for your intern to do – identify, build, and test authority sites.

        (I wonder if there’a market for this…hmmm…)

        Gotta keep the kid working in paradise 😉

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Absolutely, Johan! I’m sure there is a market here.

          If you can get successful at taking $5-$30/month sites and improving them 2x, 3x, 5x, etc…you could make a LOT of money…

      • Danavidar says:

        I would say go for that success will come with low effort, which means choose the tpsite that are doing the best, and has lots of more keyword to rank for..

        I just bought two site at x10 and I am trying to get make them earn x10 each month, so far they almost x2 with less than one month of investment, so I think I will succeed..
        I am just improving seo on page sending more links, and adding more articles

        I think taking site who earn 70$ into 800$ in few months is achievable in most cases
        Because in the first placce you gave very little attention to the site..

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Cool…good to hear!

          If you can get the process of expanding sites down and easily get them earning 2x, 3x, 5x of what they did previously…you’re going to make quite a bit of money!

      • It seems like mass production is a strong suit of yours.
        Maybe your best chance of success would be by starting out with option C?

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Hey Gabe,

          You’re the second person in a week to mention option C as potentially being the best choice. My personal opinion is Option B > Option A > Option C. To be clear, though…I’m just looking for the best ROI for our efforts…we’ll most likely try out all three and see which is more worthwhile!

      • stevewyman says:

        Hi Justin

        a) is the best approach i think to “bulk” out a niche site. What sometimes is missed is that there i sno reason you can move up the longtail towards the shortend.

        So if you have an 4 word EMD tahts working theres no reason why you can add content with greater potential but thats targetting say 2 or 3 word related higher search volume keywords. This uses the “authority” thats already been established!

        c) is way to angerous a way to spend you money in post panda 3.2 link blasting is not going to produce the link diversity you need long term.

        just my 50c 🙂

        • Dave Starr says:

          Hi Steve. Well hre goes a little sidetrack, but only slightly, and you kinda coined a phrase there the way I which I had done myself.

          I think many people are focused too narrowly on very specific keywords. A site may be a long way from ranking for “Paydirt keyword X”.

          But it may not be all that far from a number of long tails that contain the precise Paydirt keyword.

          Climb the longtail‘.

          I like that. I’m doing that myself, with some success, on a few sites. Find out what the site ranks for already, and then build content that gradually leads from the “accidental” ranking phrase to the one you really want. There is really no downside, because all the ‘climbing’ style posts will also rank for something. Certainly makes more sense to me than looking for cheap links and other trickery.

        • JustinWCooke says:

          @Steve @Dave – Hey guys….GREAT points about “climbing the longtail”…that’s a great way to put it.

          We’ve had quite a few niche sites that end up getting a ton of traffic for a high-volume, shortened version of the longtail they’re targeting. This may come through images searches or the site actually being ranked for that higher-value keyword.

          Targeting or exploiting that is a fantastic idea for expansion…love what you’re thinking there.

          @Steve – Good point on Option C…I think we will test it all the same just to be sure it’s not as valuable…but your thoughts are mine there, for sure.

  • Pauljordan says:

    interesting post.. i am currently building an authority site in the travel niche but thankfully mine is going a lot better rank first page for quite a lot of searched terms with high traffic.. gradually increasing earnings

    what would you class as a high ctr because this site is getting me 10% on average.. but my other small sites are only getting 2-4% is this low for mini sites?


    • JustinWCooke says:

      Great to hear, Paul!

      As mentioned in another comment, CTR seems to vary widely across different niches. It’s going to depend on your sample size, but I’d say it sounds great for your authority site and a little weak on the mini sites…

  • Matt_at_NSB says:

    Great post as usual Justin,

    I have a few sites running the SimpleFolio theme and found the CTR to depend heavily on the niche; one site that has a very specific product range gets a great CTR but another that is a bit more vague doesn’t perform that well.

    Bad luck with the authority sites but it’s great that you talk about things that didn’t go well because that’s when you learn the most!

    Good Luck,


    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Matt,

      Totally agree…CTR seems to depend heavily on the niche. Still…with Site A it’s EXTREMELY low…lower than 98% of our mini-niche sites.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Guest says:

        Why you won’t change your theme to ctrtheme or this kind of theme may be ctr you increasing?

        • JustinWCooke says:

          I’ll keep the theme and simply see if we can improve CTR by changing around the ad placement. If that doesn’t work, I’ll switch to CTR theme for the site.

          The reason I haven’t done that yet is the theme Site A is using is better setup for Siloing…CTR theme is not and the content wouldn’t fit/flow as well, that’s all…

  • Thanks for the in depth report. I’m going to continue making little sites and I’m quite happy with my return on investment.

    Quick question: I noticed that there are no more sites to buy. Are you going to post any more in the near future?

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Mike!

      We’ve gone through quite a few sales in the last few weeks. Joe and team are frantically doing their post-sale procedure for the new buyers and we’re waiting for some of sites that have just started “popping” to have a bit more stability before selling.

      We’re expecting to have more sites available in a couple of weeks and will probably have another Flippa auction here soon as well. We’ve increased production, but won’t see the results for that for a couple of months, of course.

      • Artur Ciesielski says:

        “We’ve gone through quite a few sales in the last few weeks.”

        That is an understatement.

        I tried buying one and it was snapped up before I could get it, then it seems like all the other ones got swooped up in no time at all.

        Seems clear that there is a lot of demand out there, even at 18-20x monthly earnings.

        • Brian says:

          I’m working on an authority site in the investing & business world I notice that the blog wasn’t getting traffic that much but after a few months I’m finally seeing some traction. $3.10 so far, and about 25 page views with about 12 visitors.

          I’m passionate about the subject and I know that’s why the site will be successful. I can appreciate your blog, this is an inspiration

          As far as tips, I just recommend to keep going for a few more months.
          I noticed that I took my 300×250 ad from the top of my posts and pages and BOOM a boost in traffic.

          Google made an algorythm that punishes websites with ads at the top of the page. I recommend visting google’s blog.

          • JustinWCooke says:

            Hey Brian,

            Yes, with authority sites, it helps if it’s a subject you’re passionate about and interested in…but ONLY if it’s still a good niche and has valuable keywords, of course!

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Hey Artur,

          🙂 It was a pretty crazy month, for sure. We had several people purchase sites that had been purchased less than 60 minutes before and we simply hadn’t had time to remove them from the page. Unfortunately, that’s still a manual process and can cause duplicate sales…ugh…refunded everyone right away though with apologies. We should have that fixed within the next couple of weeks, hopefully!

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