FatStacks - Plan, Launch and Explode a Niche Website
Jon Dysktra is a niche site builder specializing in media-styled sites. He documents his experiments with Adsense and other content monetization strategies over at his blog FatStacksBlog.com where he dives deep into how running paid ads can be incredibly profitable for ad-monetization strategies like Adsense. Today, he is going to share how you can go about and create massive success with your niche sites by showing you how he plans out each of his own niche sites, which cumulatively does more than $20k a month in profit for him.
I’ll interject here and there, but otherwise let’s hand it off to Jon!
I’m still amazed that being a niche website publisher is a viable business. I love it. It’s a perfect combination of writing and entrepreneurship, that results in helping people through providing great information.
Not only can niche blogs generate a nice monthly income, but they are also a growing asset.
Just take a look at the niche sites for sale on Empire Flippers and how much many of the sites sell for. It’s amazing, and there are no barriers to entry. It’s a business that’s available to anyone.
Nevertheless, as it involves both content creation and financial savviness, a niche site business requires both planning and monetization.
Below, I set out my approach to planning, launching, and growing niche sites, and specifically what I call B2C niche sites.
B2C vs. B2B Websites
B stands for business, and C stands for consumer. A B2C website is a website that serves a consumer population. Examples include most mainstream magazines and their affiliated websites, such as People.com, Outside.com, etc.
A B2B niche site, in contrast, serves business owners and entrepreneurs (including aspiring entrepreneurs). An example of this is my Fat Stacks Entrepreneur website, which profiles my strategy for building a successful niche website business.
The rest of this post focuses on planning, launching, and exploding B2C niche websites (i.e., online magazine-style websites).
While hotly debated, I believe you should have some interest in the niche that your site focuses on, especially for your first site. Once you have piles of capital, you can go into other niches and hire people to run them. When starting out, though, you should be interested in the topic because you’ll be handling most or all of the work.
Once you have a list of niches that interest you, assess the following:
1. Is there a large audience?
Generally I like broad, large niches for two reasons:
- Plenty of potential traffic
- Content flexibility
By content flexibility, I mean I have plenty of flexibility when it comes to topics to publish about. I’m less likely to run out of ideas when there’s more room to maneuver.
As far as traffic is concerned, how big is big enough?
I look for niches that have the potential to attract three to 5 million monthly visitors at a minimum. More is better. Examples of such niches include fashion, travel (narrowing it down to a country or region could work), professional sports (i.e. NBA, NHL), a professional sports team, luxury, motorcycles, and trucks.
2. Can you publish stellar content on the subject?
If you’re going to be producing the content, you must ask yourself before choosing a niche, “Can I publish excellent content on the subject?”
This is a very important stage of the niche research process. You MUST have a plan on how to get and publish excellent content. Whether it’s writing text-rich content, acquiring images, or creating videos, you must know that you can generate quality content repeatedly.
Examples of what I consider excellent niche sites are:
BonsaiEmpire.com (a rather narrow niche, but still possesses a large and very passionate audience)
Greatist.com (fairly broad, but this is an excellent example of a site that produces outstanding content)
TheRichest.com (definitely the authority in “net worth” search rankings)
3. What will be your traffic sources?
Part of your niche research should include understanding which traffic sources are best for potential niche selections. You MUST have a traffic plan before launching a niche site. I typically like to have two viable traffic sources to validate a niche.
Examples of viable traffic sources include:
- Organic Facebook traffic from a Facebook page
- Organic Pinterest traffic
- Twitter traffic
- Organic search traffic
- Adwords (paid)
- Native advertising (paid)
- Facebook ads (paid)
- Bing ads (paid)
The ideal niche will have two large traffic sources you can pursue. Of course, you can add more down the road, but you want to launch your site with a solid traffic plan, obtaining traffic from at least two sources if possible.
How much traffic should you look for?
I wouldn’t consider B2C niche sites that draw less than three to five million potential monthly unique visitors. Ideally, you want to have 10 to 20 million unique visitors.
How can you find out how much traffic a niche can attract?
It’s easy. Check out the advertising pages of the biggest sites in your niche. Many large sites offer Media Kits which reveal how many monthly visitors and pageviews their site generates.
4. Can it be monetized easily?
I’m pretty open to monetization. My methods cover it all and include:
- Display ads
- Affiliate offers
- E-commerce (digital products)
- Sponsored posts
You MUST know how you’ll monetize your niche site and that it can be monetized well. Check out what other niche sites do. Always consider affiliate promotion opportunities. Just because other sites use display ads exclusively doesn’t mean there aren’t affiliate opportunities.
The best situation is one where your site can be monetized with two different revenue streams, such as display ads and affiliate offers. However, this isn’t always possible.
That said, be flexible. When I launched my biggest B2C site, I focused on affiliate monetization. I didn’t put ads on the site initially. However, one day I decided to put some AdSense ads on the site and couldn’t believe how much revenue they generated. I immediately adjusted my monetization strategy to focus on display ads, with affiliate offers becoming secondary.
5. Choose your niche
At some point you must choose a niche.
Don’t spend months researching niches. The above process shouldn’t take long. Start with producing a list of niches that interests you. Then assess content, traffic, and monetization potential. If a particular niche checks all the boxes, go with it.
6. Make a list of all sites in your chosen niche
Once you choose a niche, start a list of all sites in your niche. This will be a very useful document over the years. I have a list of over 100 niche sites in my niche. I add to it monthly.
This list will help with content ideas, SEO research, content quality, and so much more.
B. Launch Your Site
Once you choose a niche, it’s time to launch it. Launching a site for me involves three elements:
- Publishing content
- Making the website available to the search engines
- Posting about the site to social media channels
I wait until I have 20 to 30 completed posts to do all of the above.
As an aside, what I mean by “make the website available to the search engines” is going into the Settings => Reading and ensuring the check box next to “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is unchecked.
Obviously, another component of launching a niche website is website design.
My advice, and I follow this advice to this day, is keep it as simple as possible. Do not invest thousands of dollars in a custom design. Instead, use a WordPress premium theme and add your logo. That’s all you need to do.
Website design will not be the main revenue driver, especially in the beginning.
Far too many aspiring bloggers and website publishers spend way too much time and money on design. Unless you’re selling something or publishing local business websites, design is not important in the beginning with niche blogs.
Sure, once you’re making five figures per month you can invest in a better design, but until then, use a premium WordPress theme as is and focus on revenue producing tasks, which are anything that pulls in traffic and generates revenue (i.e., ad testing and/or affiliate promotions).
Just so you know, I generate five figures per month in profit with my niche sites and still use a premium theme pretty much as is.
2. Seed Content
I like to wait until I have 20 to 30 published posts before pursuing traffic. I like a full-looking site with some navigation and, of course, terrific content for my inaugural visitors.
Keyword and Headline Research
If social media and/or paid traffic will be your key traffic source, you need to invest time coming up with great headlines.
If organic search is going to be the main traffic source, you need to do some serious keyword research. When starting out, it’s best to target both high search volume keywords and long tail keywords. Do this in a way that covers topics extensively, so that you end up publishing an amazing resource.
There are many software tools to research keywords. I like Google Keyword Planner, BuzzSumo, SEMRush, and Keywordshitter.com. Those four tools help me uncover more seed and long tail keywords than I could ever expect to cover on any of my niche sites in a lifetime.
Make the Content Great
Make it great, but don’t strive for perfection. Publish content that’s as good as or better than other sites in your niche. That’s it. Striving for perfection is a waste of time. You can always go back and make it better (something I do quite a bit, especially for posts that have plenty of organic traffic).
There’s no formula for great content. In my experience, if you’re a native English writer, you know when you produce a great piece of content and when you fail to do so.
When you finish a post, read it and ask yourself if you’re proud of it. Does it deliver what’s promised by the title? Will visitors find it helpful? It’s pretty easy to know when content is great. Hopefully by this point, you’ve scoured most of the bigger sites in your niche, so you’ve checked out all kinds of content your competition is publishing. You want it to be at least as good as that, but preferably better.
If your site is image centric, ask whether the images you included make up a great post.
If your site is a video centric site, ask whether the videos are great selections.
If your site is text centric, ask whether you covered the topic sufficiently well.
(Hey, this is Gregory jumping in here, I would add the best way to know if a picture or a video works great in a post is by constantly asking yourself if this adds value to your readers. Always think in terms of how you can benefit THEM and you will have an easier time in your selections.)
While I advocate publishing great content, I’m not someone who equates great content with long content. Yes, I publish insanely long posts, but I also publish short posts.
Sometimes, too much information ruins a post. For example, while Wikipedia is an awesome site, I often avoid it when searching for something because I could end up spending way too much time on an entry looking for an answer to a simple question.
In other words, sometimes less is more. In other instances, more is more. Use your judgment. Always put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and provide what you think will best meet their needs/wants.
I’m not a very technical SEO publisher. My approach with on-site SEO is as follows:
- Include your keyword in your meta title.
- Write a catchy meta description.
- Write your post naturally. If this results in quite a few instances of your keyword, so be it. Don’t necessarily worry about “keyword density.”
- Put long tail versions of your keywords in heading tags.
- Use the Table of Contents Plus plugin on longer posts with several headings. This can create a jump-to link in Google SERPs.
- Link to other related posts on your site.
- Link to external websites if it enhances your content.
That’s about it. Nothing sneaky or manipulative.
Social Media Promotion
- Focus on the main social media channels in the beginning
You should know which social media channels are best for your niche before choosing a niche. A rule of thumb is that:
- Facebook is great for most B2C niches.
- Twitter is great for most B2B niches.
- Pinterest is great for image centric niches.
Don’t feel like you have to use every social media channel available, either. You’re better off doing really well using one social media channel than being mediocre with all of them.
(Hey, Gregory here again! Social media can be a huge boon to your business. To find out what the best social media is though for your particular site, you are going to have to test it. Pinterest might work far better than facebook for example, but you won’t know until you test it. Always be testing!)
- Post a few times per day
If Facebook is a good fit for your site, start off posting two to three times per day. As the amount of content adds up on your site, increase Facebook posting frequency. Remember, you can post old posts over and over, so as you get more content on your site, you have more content to post to Facebook.
I don’t post to Twitter as often as Facebook. For Twitter, I only post when I publish new content. I seldom repost on Twitter.
With respect to Pinterest, I pin 10 to 20 images per day. In 2016, I started repinning from other boards as well, to add variety to my boards. This is a good practice.
Repinning brings great content to an established audience, even if it’s a small audience (i.e., followers). This attracts more followers, and users with other boards appreciate being repinned. It’s part of the give and take of social sites like Pinterest. My follower growth has increased at a faster rate since I started repinning consistently.
Please keep in mind it takes time to build up large social media channels. The exception to this is if you use Facebook ads for fan acquisition, which is a great strategy if your Facebook page gets great engagement.
- Leverage content
I leverage my content like crazy. For me leverage includes the following:
- Posting content across multiple social channels. If a post on my site has 30 images, I’ll post all 30 images to Facebook and Pinterest over time.
- Repackaging content to create more content. I create videos with my content which is new content I can add to my site and social media channels. I also use images over and over in new posts if they’re relevant.
- Creating popular index pages linking to other posts on my site. For example, if I published 10 DIY floating shelves projects as 10 individual posts, I would then create an index page (as a blog post) that would link out to all 10 individual posts.
Each niche will offer unique content leveraging opportunities. Always consider how you can repackage, reuse, and repost your content to drive more traffic.
A very simple example of leveraging content is taking an image gallery, creating a YouTube slideshow video, posting each image as a stand-alone post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, and then creating galleries or partial galleries in email newsletters.
Turbo Charge Content Promotion
I think it’s always a good idea once you have a vibrant site to begin test promoting it with Facebook ads. Start with very small budgets. It may well be that it’s not worth doing, but you may discover it’s very much worth it.
Also, when you invest in paid traffic, you’ll be hyper motivated to optimize your monetization — whether it’s affiliate promotions, display ad configuration, an email funnel, etc. The fact you’re spending money will force you to improve your monetization. Even if paying for traffic doesn’t work out as a long term traffic source, the process can help improve your website with other traffic sources.
One way or another, you want other websites and social channels to link to your site. This requires some form of outreach.
I don’t care for doing outreach so I outsource this, but I still do it for two reasons:
- Link Acquisition: My link acquisition strategy involves getting editorial links in content on other websites. I use an outreach service for this because they can do it so much faster and more effectively than me.
- Content Acquisition: Because I use a lot of images, I need permission to use other people’s images. I ask for permission, so I don’t have copyright issues down the road.
Almost every website publisher should include outreach in some form or another, especially for link acquisition, social media cross promotion, and/or content acquisition.
Rinse and Repeat
This is what it’s all about. Sure, you can fine-tune monetization, add email marketing / push notifications, and tweak the design, but none of this matters if you don’t chase traffic like crazy and publish amazing content.
Once you develop a content system that works — whether it’s publishing five posts per day or only two per week — keep doing what works and do as much of it as possible over and over and over.
For example, if you notice after nine months that your organic search traffic is taking off like crazy (this happened to me with one site), take advantage of that opportunity. Invest more time and money in content to grow the organic search traffic. There’s nothing as sweet or as lucrative as organic search traffic for two reasons:
- It’s passive.
- It’s the most valuable traffic source when selling a website.
That said, if you notice you’re getting awesome engagement on your Facebook page, increase Facebook page posting frequency and invest in fan acquisition.
The key is that after six to 12 months, you should know what’s working and where your opportunities lie. Once you discover them, focus on those opportunities and do more in these areas.
Once you discover what’s working and you can break down the process of executing what’s working, it’s time to outsource some or all of it so that you can scale.
If your search traffic is growing, invest in paying writers to produce more content faster.
If your Facebook page is pumping out traffic like crazy, invest in publishing the type of content your fans like (i.e that add value to their lives). You’ll also want to invest in graphic/image production, so that you can get even better engagement (images and graphics do really well on Facebook).
The key to outsourcing is identifying and outsourcing recurring tasks. The reason for this is you only have to train a person or team once when it’s a recurring task. If you’re going to remain involved, focus on keyword research, headline writing, and monetization because this is highly customized work. The rest of it can easily be outsourced.
It never occurred to me to sell my site. Now it does because it’s pretty valuable, but I’m waiting until it’s more valuable. While it’s growing and earning more and more (especially more passive income from organic search traffic and affiliate commission), I’d be a fool to sell. It kicks off profits like clockwork and becomes more and more valuable all the time.
When should you sell?
I can’t answer that for you, but for me at this point it needs to be life-changing money, mid-seven figures if possible because that would provide financial security, giving me total flexibility as to what I do with my time. I’d very likely continue building niche sites, but the pressure to earn would be less.
That said, I’ve sold one other niche site before (the buyer was really interested in the email list), and I did it because I was no longer interested in the niche. I think I sold it for around $5,000. I was fine with that because I wanted to move on.
I’ll end with this: if you enjoy your niche site and it’s growing fast, think very carefully about when it’s the right time for you to sell. Timing could be the difference between a two-year vacation and financial freedom for the rest of your life.
Jon Dykstra is a niche website publisher owning several large websites on a variety of topics. He writes extensively about how he plans, launches, monetizes and grows websites at FatStacksBlog.com.