How To Build, Rank & Profit From A List Site

This article is a guest post from my buddy Nate Tsang who has a blog over at SEOFlipper and also contributes to NoHatDigital.com.

Nate has been buying, ranking and flipping sites for a number of years now and he has found a formula that has worked time and time again.

In this guide, Nate will teach you his exact formula and how you can replicate his success.

It is an absolute monster and one that I know you're going to love.

Take it away Nate.

Over the past couple years, I’ve built and sold several sites that use list articles (aka “listicles”) as the primary content format, and its still a format I use profitably to this day.

While I can’t disclose the actual URLs of the sites I sold out of respect for the buyers, the sites were similar to this one publicly listed on Flippa.

Smashinglists.com was doing $3k a month and sold for $40,000 – likely underpriced due to the seller having their Adsense account banned.

List sites are fun to build and the model for building an “infotainment” list site is very different than the traditional niche site model you might be used to seeing.

Instead of targeting low volume but highly commercial keywords with buyer intent, you’ll be targeting high volume, non-commercial keywords that other SEOs aren’t really going after.

Instead of building a site as an SEO-Affiliate Marketer, we’ll be building a site as an SEO-Publisher.

Even if you don’t end up building an infotainment list site like the one we’ll see below, I hope you’ll find some valuable takeaways that will help you build better sites!

This Is Not The Traditional Niche Site Model

The infotainment site model looks very different than the traditional niche site strategy which usually involves:

  1. Finding a small set of commercial keywords w/ low competition
  2. Buying a partial match domain name
  3. Building a handful of 500-1000 word articles around related longtails.

While those sites can certainly be very profitable, they’re basically an arbitrage play between Google and Adsense/Affiliate offers. Its the classic SEO-Affiliate Marketer approach to building websites which is under constant attack from Google.

On the other hand, the SEO-Publisher approach (or SEO-Publisher-Affiliate Marketer) is a long-term model that can not only survive in today’s SEO environment, but still has the potential to thrive going forward.

List sites are an easy way to start building sites from an SEO-publisher perspective, which requires a mindset change if you’re used to building traditional niche sites.

Because of my personal fascination with SEO, the list site model I’m sharing with you today still relies heavily on Google.

However, by taking the SEO-Publisher approach, you do have the opportunity to use other channels like social media to gain traction and grow your list site – something that’s virtually impossible with the traditional SEO-Affiliate Marketer approach.

What You Will Learn In This Guide

  • Step by step processes to find low competition keywords for your list articles
  • How I got over 100,000 Facebook likes on a $30 list article
  • How to do perfect on-page optimization for your list articles, while still keeping your articles engaging for the reader
  • How to structure your list site
  • My easy to follow linkbuilding strategy for ranking list sites


Our Strategy

Before we dive into the tactical details, let’s take a quick look at what we’re trying to accomplish.

This guide will show you how to build a list site with a broad range of informative, yet entertaining articles – think a mini Listverse.com.

Ultimately, we want this site to:

1) Drive a ton of SEO traffic

2) Earn revenue via Google Adsense

3) Encourage social sharing

Our traffic generation strategy will lean heavily on SEO. The key to our SEO strategy will be laser targeted keyword research focusing on high volume, low competition informational keywords. We will make sure these are supported by lots of closely related long tail keywords.

Our on-page SEO will be extremely well optimized, but not at the expense of readability. We will carefully choose our titles to incorporate the right keywords.

We’ll mix in a lot of relevant long tails within the content to ensure we get traffic – even if we don’t rank for our primary keywords.

Our content will consist 100% of list articles. List articles have some inherent advantages over your typical SEO article. I discuss some of these benefits in this SEO content creation guide.

For off-page SEO, you can choose your preferred method of grayhat/whitehat linkbuilding – whether it’s via PBNs, guest posting, outreach – or a combination of all of the above.

What About Social Media?

Some of the fastest growing list sites on the internet rely heavily on their social media dominance.

Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Distractify etc. all make frequent use of the list article (alongside other “viral-bait”) to drive hundreds of millions of pageviews per month.

Cracked.com is an old-school player that is exceptional for creating interesting, hilarious list articles that get a ton of social shares.

But this guide isn’t about creating articles that are engineered to go viral, or creating exceptionally funny or compelling content. We’re creating list-style articles optimized primarily for SEO.

They will get social shares as a side effect, but that’s not our main goal.

Of course, there’s also tremendous value in pursuing social media as its own traffic channel independent from Google, but we’re not going to touch on that in this guide.

Niche Selection & Keyword Research

What Kind Of Keywords Are We Looking For?

We want keywords that can be easily targeted with interesting, list style articles that would appeal to the average web browser who is just looking to kill some time.

They also need to be high volume keywords with low to moderate competition and lots of related long tails. The stiffer the competition, the higher volume and more long tails we need to make it worth targeting.

For each set of keywords, we generally want 1-2 primary keywords, and between 2-5 long tail keywords.

So how do we find these keywords?

Reverse Engineering Top List Sites For Keywords

Most people start their keyword research in the Google Keyword Planner, but in this case, starting here actually illustrates a common problem with this approach to keyword research.

How do you even begin to generate ideas for great list articles in the Google Keyword Planner? Where would you even start?

Fortunately, there’s a better approach. We’re simply going to find successful list sites that dominate search rankings and we’re going to:

1) Find out what keywords they’re ranking for

2) Analyze the difficulty of those keywords

3) Find out which of those keywords we can rank for

4) Use those keywords as the blueprint to kickstart our own list site

The more sites in your market you can run through the process we described above, the more low competition, but potentially profitable keyword groups you’ll find.

Here are 5 list sites I was able to find with a cursory Google search.

  • listverse.com
  • list25.com
  • ranker.com
  • oddee.com
  • toptenz.net

In this walkthrough, we’re only going to analyze the first 2 of the 5 big list sites we’ve identified.

If you wanted to build your own list site, just analyzing 2 big sites in your niche should be enough to get started,

However, the bigger you can make your plot of pay dirt, the more likely you are to find the golden nuggets.

The Process

When I originally built-out my list sites, I used a combination of SEMrush + another keyword tools that could bulk analyze keyword difficulty.

This let me pull in keywords that big sites were ranking for and also bulk analyze difficulty.

A lot of popular keyword tools (dating back to the old Market Samurai days) do a great job of giving you data to analyze a SERP individually, but without bulk keyword difficulty data, how can you quickly analyze a large batch of 1000s of keywords to figure out which ones are the low hanging fruit?

Getting the data to build out my sites was a pretty painful process. There was a lot of merging spreadsheets, importing and exporting, and then recalculating metrics.

To solve that pain point, myself and my partner Han built a keyword tool that will let you type in any competing website and not only pull up the keywords they’re ranking for, but also find out how competitive the SERP is for each keyword.

We can take a couple of the big list sites, run them through the tool, and see if there are any keywords with healthy search volumes and low competition we can target.

With one click of a button, we pulled 3,889 keywords that our 2 list sites are already ranking for, along with all of the metrics we need to quickly sift for golden nuggets.

If you want to see a video of AuthorityMetrics in action, you can check out the product tour here. We’re also offering a 3 day free trial if you want to jump in and give it a try.

Filtering For Golden Nuggets

If you’re mining for gold, you want to sift through as much paydirt as you can. Even if most of what you sift through is just rocks and bottle caps, the more you have to work with, the more likely you are to find gold.

As SEOs, this means using automated processes to collect data on as many relevant keywords as possible.

Now that we a large list of keywords that are driving traffic to 2 of the top list sites on the web, we need to filter through our keyword list to find the nuggets that we can rank for.

Because AuthorityMetrics has retrieved a Difficulty Score for every keyword (calculated by analyzing Moz metrics and on-page relevance for the top 10 for each keyword), we can simply use the filters in AuthorityMetrics to identify potential nuggets i.e. keywords that have a good balance of high volume/low competition.

After applying our filters, we’ve identified nearly 800 keywords we can potentially use to kickstart our list site. You can see a dozen of those keywords in the screenshot above.

Out of this list of a dozen keywords, let’s take a quick look at the keywords and see if there are any nuggets.

Selecting Our Keywords

The next step of the process is to identify keywords we can add to our “shortlist”.

Once we have a nice shortlist of keywords, we can dive deeper into each individual keyword to find related longtails and decide which groups of keywords we want to include in our initial launch.

But first, we’ll take a closer look at some of the keywords we’ve identified.

No Trespassing Signs

Volume: 6,600 Difficulty: 3.51

This keyword has decent search volume volume and high buyer intent, but this buyer intent actually means that the searcher is looking for a website that sells signs.

A little search in Google shows us that this keyword got caught up in our net because of an article called 25 Brutally Honest No Trespassing Signs on List 25.com. While List25.com isn’t in the top 10 here, it is in the top 20.

We could potentially target keywords that have higher buyer intent and count on the searcher clicking on an adsense ad to find what they’re looking for.

But when I’m launching a new list site I like to make sure the searcher’s intent is as aligned with the content I’m providing as possible.

Also, it looks like Google heavily favors e-commerce sites in this SERP, so it might be harder to rank with a list article than it appears at first glance.

Plastic Surgery Gone Wrong

Volume 22,000 Difficulty: 4.29

This keyword is perfect for an interesting list article.

A list article showing different cases of plastic surgery gone wrong is exactly what the searcher is looking for.

Even though most searchers won’t have buying intent, you could get higher than usual rPMs from Adsense since plastic surgery is such a lucrative niche.

The keyword has very high volume, which we like. But while the difficulty score of 4.29 is still under our threshold, this SERP is filled with authority sites that are also highly relevant to our query.

While the keyword isn’t something we’ll rank for quickly with a new site, there are likely a ton of relevant longtails we can identify in the next step, and it’s a perfect shareable topic for the type of site we’re building, so we can go ahead and add it to our short list.

It’s worth noting that if you have a decent volume keyword with moderate difficulty (let’s say 8000+ search volume, difficulty score between 4.5-5.5), you’re very unlikely to rank for it with a young site using the list site model.

However, it can still be worth creating an article targeting that keyword, if you have other lower competition long tails related to that keyword you could rank for.

You don’t have to rank for every primary keyword you target, at least not right away.

As you’ll see when we go over our linkbuilding strategy, we’ll be building a “flywheel” of authority we can use to rank for increasingly competitive keywords.

The fact that this keyword gets so many searches means its interesting to a lot of people, and you should still be able to drive traffic to the list through long tails, internal click throughs and social media.

Added to the shortlist.

How To Become Famous

Volume: 22,000 Difficulty 3.95

This keyword’s difficulty score seems to be skewed downwards by some of the lower competition results in the bottom half of the page, but the competition at the top means this keyword isn’t really the type of low hanging fruit we’re looking for early on.

I will add it to the shortlist, just so we can see if it brings up any interesting long tails.

Private Security Contractors

Volume: 1,600 Difficulty: 3.85

This keyword is pretty low volume, and the top two positions here will be difficult for us to outrank early on. Pass for now.

Cockroach Facts

Volume: 3,600 Difficulty: 4.13

This is another SERP where the difficulty score is skewed by positions 5-10, while the top few results could be very difficult to beat for a young, non-niche relevant site.

These “facts” keywords are also generally more competitive than they first appear. If we were a pest control site with a partial match domain we might be able to get in here with lower authority, but we’re not.

This isn’t the low hanging fruit we’re looking for to launch a new list site.

90s Shoes

Volume: 14800 Difficulty: 3.17

Looks good, there’s some nice volume, low competition and an obvious angle for a list article.

The keyword volume here might actually be skewed a bit high because some 90s shoe related quiz/list went viral at some point, but it should still be worth targeting.

The actual Buzzfeed list that’s ranking doesn’t use our keyword in the title at all. If it did, I’m confident it would be ranking in position #1 quite easily.

Added to our shortlist.

Green Boots

Volume: 3,600 Difficulty: 3.84

A quick glance shows this isn’t really going to make a for a great list article.

Most searchers are probably looking to buy green boots, but this keyword got caught up in our net because of a famous frozen body on Mt. Everest.


Cost of Mail Order Brides:

Volume: 1,900 Difficulty: 2.88

Going to pass on this keyword because, well frankly, I’m not sure I want to go down this rabbit hole.

But it does have very low competition and there are some interesting angles to explore, if anyone wants to dive into the research.

Coolest Car In The World

Volume: 1,600 Difficulty: 3.82

This keyword has relatively low volume, but there will likely be a ton of long tails we can target. The keyword itself is tailor made for a list article.

It also has fairly low competition – there are some strong domains here and the page in position 3 has strong domain authority, lots of links, and a relevant article – but our article will be a lot better optimized for the keyword.

We’ll have the exact keyword match in the title tags, the article title, within the content, and lots of closely related long tails.

Car Facts

Volume: 5,400 Difficulty: 4.03

Similar to the cockroach facts keyword, we can definitely target a keyword like this in the future but it’s not really the type of low hanging fruit we’re after right now.

Expensive Jewelry

Volume: 1,300 Difficulty: 3.65

We’re not going to unseat Tiffany’s for this term, but this seems like a very interesting premise for a list article where we could rank for a bunch of long tails.

When we dive into this keyword to find related long tails, there will probably a be a bunch of “most expensive jewelry in the world” / “most expensive ring in the world” type keywords we can really hone in on for an interesting list article.

Added to the shortlist.

Cool Fish Tanks

Volume: 3,600 Difficulty: 3.36

Another keyword that would make an entertaining list article with fairly low competition.

Added to the shortlist.

Creating A Shortlist Of Target Keywords

From these first dozen keywords, I’ve identified 6 keywords we can potentially work with.

If we kept digging, we would undoubtedly find even better keyword targets with a nice mix of – healthy search volume, low competition, and being ideal for an interesting list article.

For the purpose of this guide, I’m going to go ahead and add the 6 potential keywords we identified to our short list so we can dive into them further.

If I were building a live site, I would continue going through the keywords we generated to find more keywords to move to my short list. I’d want at least 30-40 keywords on my short list.

Gathering Related Long Tail Keywords

Now we’re going to use the “get autocomplete” and “get adwords” suggestion buttons to dive in deeper for more related keywords and long tails.

Once that’s done, I’ll do a quick filter to exclude all the keywords with high difficulty as well as the ones with low search volume.

Now I’ll go back through and remove the irrelevant keywords, and I’m left with 7 keyword groups I can transform into list articles.

I’m going to take 1 group of keywords at random – the one we built from the seed keyword “coolest car in the world”, so we can walk through the process of going from a handful of keywords, to a highly optimized article.

Creating The Content

So we now have a keyword group that we can use to craft a great list article.

Not only can we build an interesting list article around this set of keywords, but we know that we will stand a good chance of ranking for at least some of these keywords once we start link building.

But what is our list article going to look like?

Let’s borrow some ideas from the SERPs.

Headline Ideas

Our goal is to write a headline for readers as well as Google, so we want to include a keyword (or multiple keywords if possible) in the title.


The 51 Coolest Cars of the last 50 Years – This is the headline of the page ranking #1 for “coolest car in the world”.

It’s a nice list by Road and Track, but it’s not especially well-optimized on-page. It uses the slideshow format to sell more ads (page impressions), but it’s not a great user experience.

If you’re taking the “skyscraper” approach, this is the piece of content you want to beat. You want to create an epic list that’s bigger than any other list out there.

Or you could just go with a standard top 10 type list.

Coolest Cars In The World Ever – Top 10 List 2011-2012 – this is an older MFA niche site, but they include the keyword in the title. We should be able to do a much better job with the content.

Anatomy Of Our List Article

  1. There will be a title of N list items – E.g. 10 Coolest Cars In The World, or 100 Coolest Cars In The World.
  2. The article starts with a short 1-3 paragraph intro.
  3. There will be a subheader for each list item.
  4. Below each list item, there will be a full-width picture.
  5. I also like to make sure the images are cropped so they have the same dimensions, but this step is optional.
  6. I usually aim for about 75-150 words per list item, but this isn’t a hard rule. You can do more or less.
  7. Generally, the big list sites count down the items from 10 to 1, which encourages the reader to read to the end to find out what’s #1.
  8. As a general rule, paragraphs in these articles should be extremely short – 1 to 3 sentences at the most. You don’t want big blocks of text.

On-Page Optimization

List articles themselves are super Google friendly. They’re filled with relevant content and they generally have high engagement from readers – even bored readers will scroll down to see what the list items are.

They also have over-optimization protection built-in – even though each list item is going to be relevant to the original keyword, it’s not going to simply be a variation of the keyword.

Because the articles are highly skimmable and shareable, they also tend to attract natural social shares.

List articles may come with a bunch of natural on-page SEO benefits, but we have a few more tricks up our sleeve.

Title Tags vs Headline

Instead of just optimizing the headline, I like to throw another exact match keyword into the title tags as well. This is the title in your HTML <title></title> tags that Google usually shows in the search results.

By default, WordPress uses your article headline in your title tags, but you can use Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin to customize your title tags.

For example, if we go with “10 Coolest Cars In The World” as the headline, then the title tags might be:

10 Coolest Cars In The World – The Coolest Cars Ever

This lets us include an extra 1600 search volume keyword in the title tags, without making the headline look spammy.

With the extra keyword in our title tags, we’ve now got 3 exact match keywords from our list in our <title></title> tags and 2 in our actual article title.

Long Tail Keywords

You should always be looking to weave long tail keywords naturally into your content.

I try to make sure the writer include the primary keyword in the intro section of the article, along with 1 other long tail.

In our “10 Coolest Cars In The World” list article, some of our long tails we identified include the keywords “rarest car in the world” and “celebrity cars”.

Think about how you could get your writers to work these keywords in to the article naturally – they’re a hint as to what we need to include within the list.

I usually just give the writers a list of the long tail keywords to sprinkle into the article as they see fit.

I’m not worried about ensuring a certain % of keyword density – this is 2015 after all, not 2005. As long as each keyword can be mentioned naturally at least once within the article, I’m happy.

Launching Our Site

Eventually, we want our list site to grow to 100+ articles.

To start, we want to launch with about 20-30 articles. This means we need to use the process above to create 20-30 keyword groups, article ideas, and pieces of content to post on our WordPress blog.

WordPress Theme

You want your theme to show big pictures and titles in the sidebar, while having a nice block of “related posts” links at the bottom of your article.

If you take a look at our example sites, listverse.com and list25.com, you’ll see they both have this in common.

ThriveThemes.com’s Performag theme is a great theme for this style of list site.

Thrive theme club comes with Thrive Content Builder and Thrive Leads, which allows you to implement a lot of conversion focused elements down the road.

More importantly for our list site, it encourages click-through to other articles through the sidebar and below the article.

You also want nice big share buttons, which you can get out of the box with Performag.

I know Lewis uses and recommends Thrive Themes as well, so if you decide to purchase considering doing it through his affiliate link and supporting the blog.

(Lewis – thanks Nate. If you guys are interested in Thrive and want to know more you can use this link to purchase or drop me an email and I will be glad to help you out. I use it on all of my sites now and wonder what I used to do without it!)


So now we’re targeting the right keywords, we have great on-site optimization, and we’re carefully managing the content creation process. But our SEO recipe is still missing a key ingredient – linkbuilding.

The goal of our link building is to get a flywheel going so that over time we will be able to:

  • Rank for higher difficulty keywords
  • Rank for more longtails
  • Drive more internal traffic within our site
  • Build up natural social signals
  • Make it easier to gain quick traction on future list articles we publish
  • And yes, even start attracting natural links from high authority sites.

With the list site model, I’ve had writers from sites like Buzzfeed, Huffingtonpost, The Guardian, Boredpanda.com and many more link to articles on my list sites – completely unsolicited.

On a tactical level, my link building strategy is really simple:

  1. Build on an expired domain w/ existing links.

This was a really useful hack a couple years ago, but it does seem to have lost some of its effectiveness. If you do go this route, you need to make sure it was a freshly dropped domain to really get the benefit of an expired domain, otherwise the age/authority will be reset.

  1. Use a well-built, private PBN to link to the top performing articles.

If you already have a PBN, this part is fairly self-explanatory. If you don’t, Lewis has a great resource on building PBNs you should check out.

In terms of anchor text, I try to avoid having any exact keyword match anchors in my PBN links. If I do include the keyword, it’ll be wrapped in a phrase or simply placed next to the link (co-occurance).


< a href>according to natestop10lists.com</a>, Mr Bean drives one of the top 10 coolest cars in the world.


…according to natestop10lists.com, <a href>Mr Bean drives one of the top 10 coolest cars in the world</a>.

  1. Get guest posts on real sites

If you’ve tried to use guest posts for linkbuilding with a traditional niche site, you probably didn’t get many links from sites that had serious editorial processes.

With the list site model, editors and bloggers usually don’t mind linking back since your site doesn’t look overly commercial.

I try to include my exact match anchor text in guest posts (though it’s not always possible), since anchored links from niche relevant articles on high authority sites can give you a big rankings boost.

Because your anchor text profile has been diluted by the existing links from your expired domain (if you went this route) as well as your PBN links, you don’t have to worry too much about anchor text over-optimization.

You don’t need a ton of these guest post links, but these highly trusted domains will help solidify your site’s backlink profile and also give extra juice to the pages that need a bump to get into the top 3.

Track Everything & Double Down On What’s Working

Once you start linkbuilding, your attention to detail in terms of on-page optimization, keyword research, and targeting long tail keyword targeting will gradually start to pay off.

I use my PBN to give every new article a base of about 3-5 links, then I monitor the rankings to see which keywords gain traction in the SERPs.

I also monitor Google Analytics to see where the traffic is coming from. Keeping an eye on Google Analytics gives you the full picture – you can correlate your ranking improvements with traffic gains.

Once I see a few pages pop into the top 100, I build more PBN links to the pages that are gaining traction, and I supplement them with guest posts on real, high quality sites – NOT spammy guest posting networks.

That’s it. Pretty simple right?

You can experiment and supplement this with whatever tactics you want, but at the end of the day, the basic idea is to take a formula that works and simply apply it until you get results.

As a general rule, you’ll often find that 20% of the keywords you target end up driving 80% of the traffic and revenue.

You’ll inevitably pick up traction on keywords you didn’t expect to be able to rank for, and you’ll probably struggle on some keywords you thought were a sure bet. You’ll also pick up more and more longtail traffic over time.

Lifed.com as a a great example of how just a few big wins can make or break this type of site – Lifed.com only had 2 articles that really picked up serious traction, but the owner parlayed those 2 posts into a site sale worth $205,000.


Ultimately the infotainment list site model is a publishing play.

Once you have traffic, you work to optimize your RPMs as much as possible, but this model is never going to bring amazing visitor values. Your goal is volume.

While each individual article won’t be super profitable, as you continuously add well optimized articles to your site and steadily linkbuild, you’ll have a stream of traffic and steadily growing profits.

The basic monetization strategy is to insert adsense blocks within the content. This is key to achieving a respectable RPM.

I use the quick adsense plugin to insert Adsense ads within the content, at paragraph 2, paragraph 5, and paragraph 8. I then have Taboola ad units at the bottom.

This will get you to about $4-5 RPMs for an infotainment list article site, though some keywords will naturally attract higher RPMs because they’re in industries with more advertisers.

Tip – I highly recommend linking your Adsense account to Google Analytics so you can see a page by page breakdown of your RPMs.

The goal is to drive a ton of traffic, convert a certain % of that traffic into repeat visitors via email and social media opt-ins, increase your RPMs as much as possible and leverage the flywheel you’ve built to continually grow traffic by publishing highly optimized content.

As your traffic grows, you can experiment with other ad units to increase RPMs (e.g. taboola.com, buysellads.com etc.). You can also leverage your domain authority to rank list articles targeting higher value commercial keywords that contain affiliate links e.g. 10 Best Tablets Under $300 For 2015.

You can also take the same principles and apply them to markets with higher visitor values.

There’s lots of opportunities to use list style content in high value verticals like health, finance, or tech.

Wrapping It Up

Many affiliate marketing/SEO blogs will tell you to only target highly commercial keywords when you’re building out a site.

It’s not necessarily bad advice – targeting low competition keywords with extremely high visitor values makes a lot of sense from a short term ROI perspective.

But building an infotainment list site and approaching your SEO strategy like a publisher lets you build a “mini-brand” that you can either flip for a healthy multiple once it starts earning in the low 4 figures a month, or scale up into a massive evergreen site that generates millions of pageviews a month and 5+ figures a month.

Its a relatively easy way to start building sites that don’t just arbitrage Google traffic.

Instead of always taking the affiliate mindset of targeting buying keywords with highly profitable affiliate offers, with an infotainment list site you start to think like a publisher.

I hope you enjoyed this guide to building an infotainment list site.

If you want to check out the software I used to generate the keyword lists for this guide, go visit AuthorityMetrics.com and sign up for a 3 day free trial.

Do you have plans to build your own infotainment list site? Ask Nate your questions in the comments below!

Lewis Ogden

Lewis was able to take his hobby of building websites and turn it into a blueprint that enables him to build, rank and profit from niche websites. As a result of his niche site success, he now makes a full-time 5-figure income and even managed to quit his 9-5 job back in early 2015 all driven by his knowledge that he shares here on this blog.

Harshajyoti Das - a couple of years ago

Hi Lewis, thanks for inviting Nate to write this amazing article. I am creating an online course on Udemy on how one can create an auto blog and flip it on Flippa. I will surely share this article with my students.

Nate, I have already subscribed to your email list. Will go through your old articles as a part of my research in this week. Your blog looks quite interesting.

Nate, if you would want to do a quick Q&A of around 15 mins over Skype, do let me know. I could really use your interview on my upcoming Udemy course. It will give your blog some exposure as well. Reach me here: http://www.harsh.im


Ben - a couple of years ago


Lewis, nice work on getting this on your blog. Nate good job for writing it.

One part I always get paranoid in even when I’ve ranked sites is the structure. I either worry the categories and tags will cause problems. Any tips on this guys? Like pillar articles, linking between articles everything on-site. My question is kind of vague but hopefully you get what I mean.

    Nate - a couple of years ago

    Hey Ben,

    I use Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin to noindex tag/author/archive pages, but I leave category pages alone. I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over this, something like 25% of the web runs on WordPress with all its inherent seo flaws. A post excerpt here and there isn’t going to cause you problems.

    Contextual interlinking between articles is definitely recommended.


Kem - a couple of years ago

Unless you’re writing listicles targeted at lucrative Adsense keywords like finance, then this method seems like entirely too much work for too little return. Buying expired domains and ranking them with PBNs just to chase after 20 cent Adsense clicks and a non-targeted audience?

To each their own, I guess.

    Lewis - a couple of years ago

    Hey kem, I think your missing a trick here. Why would they JUST be 20 cent clicks?

    Take a look at retargeting and see what happens when you look at a product on Amazon for example. Then you head over to a listicle site and bam you see the same product advertised via Adsense….

    Basically you can drive a ton of traffic with this method and use the retargeting that other businesses use to gain higher value clicks.

      Kem - a couple of years ago

      I apologize for writing that comment in a rush and not giving it the more thorough explanation it deserved. Allow me to try again.

      I’ve experimented with many different methods of making money online, and found that Adsense monetization performed the worst out of the bunch. Part of that was my fault for choosing a keyword that routinely paid less than a dollar per click. Yes, retargeting is a thing, but most of my clicks pay somewhat lower than the Adwords “Suggested Bid” price for that keyword. Clearly, at least in my particular case, the keyword is strongly correlated with pay-per-click earnings.

      I plugged some of Nate’s chosen keywords into the Adwords Keyword Planner to get a rough estimate of how much to expect per click. Amounts listed are in US Dollars:

      90s shoes: $0.37

      How To Become Famous: $0.89

      Plastic Surgery Gone Wrong: $6.17

      Expensive Jewelry: $1.32

      Cool Fish Tanks: $0.54

      Aside from “Plastic Surgery Gone Wrong”, these are not encouraging results.

      If you’re going to dump the amount of money it would take to buy a quality expired domain plus PBN package, then it’s far safer to invest your money in a more lucrative monetization method such as affiliate programs or CPA rather than Adsense keywords that pay less than a dollar per click.

      If you really have your heart set on earning through Adsense, then use your resources to build a site with higher-paying keywords. At the very least, do more research into Adsense monetization via courses, guides, forums, etc. before taking the plunge.

      There are plenty of ways to make a decent living online. There are even ways to do it via Adsense. Investing lots of cash into a website that is monetized primarily through low-value Adsense keywords is not the soundest way to do it.

        Nate - a couple of years ago

        Hey Kem,

        Thanks for the comment, I appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts!

        I agree that in a perfect world, we would all build long-term sites that get a ton of traffic, big juicy Adsense clicks/CPA conversions, and lots of viral social sharing in ultra high paying verticals.

        I also agree that there is more growth potential in targeting specific verticals with higher visitor values – I mention it multiple times in the article.

        The goal with this particular model is to build up your authority so you can publish list articles targeting high volume, low competition keywords and rank them relatively easily over time. You can leverage that authority in a lot of ways once you have it.

        If you try to create a 10 page MFA micro-niche site around the keywords listed here (as examples), throw a few links at it, and expect to be raking it in, then I agree you will most definitely 100% fail.

        There are lots of different ways to build profitable sites and they all have different pros and cons.

        I have no way to know how you determine whether something is “too much work”, but like you said, to each his own. I’m just sharing a model I’m having success with and that I know other SEOs have had success with as well.

        “If you really have your heart set on earning through Adsense, then use your resources to build a site with higher-paying keywords. At the very least, do more research into Adsense monetization via courses, guides, forums, etc. before taking the plunge.”

        Doesn’t this count as a guide? The best way to learn imho is to build sites and test things for yourself, not take courses and read guides.

        Agreed 100% that forums can be a great place to pick up useful nuggets. I started testing this model after seeing Lifed.com sell for $205,000 on Flippa, then reading this thread on WickedFire which I highly recommend even though its 3 years old: http://www.wickedfire.com/enlightened-members/168063-flipping-website.html

        I realize the default guru advice is to build a small MFA site only targeting high commercial intent keywords. That obviously works too – but its not the only way to build profitable sites and claiming that its the only approach is vastly oversimplified way to think about online business imho.

        I’ve built a ton of sites, some worked, some failed. This is one model that has worked and still works.

        “There are plenty of ways to make a decent living online. There are even ways to do it via Adsense.

        I’ll say. Adsense earns about 12 billion a year for Google and they only take 32%. A few people are making a decent living there.

        “Investing lots of cash into a website that is monetized primarily through low-value Adsense keywords is not the soundest way to do it.”

        Some of the biggest publishers on the web right now monetize via “low value” Adsense clicks and make up for the low value on volume.

        “then use your resources to build a site with higher-paying keywords.”

        “it’s far safer to invest your money in a more lucrative monetization method such as affiliate programs or CPA rather than Adsense keywords that pay less than a dollar per click.

        How much a keyword ends up earning is a function of volume, SERP competition, ad placement/monetization strategies, and your ability to drive traffic – not just the monetization method and commercial intent.

        I mentioned more than once in the guide that you can (and should) leverage the authority and trust you build to target higher paying keywords down the road.

        Also, I’m not sure how you get organic links from authority sites and real social shares with a lucrativecpaprgoramreviewhq.com style site? There are benefits to other approaches beyond the immediate arbitrage opportunity.


      vien - a couple of years ago

      I think you speaking re-marketing tool of Google?

        Lewis - a couple of years ago

        Yeah exactly, business use a pixel to track traffic and then retarget them on other platforms later.

Julian - a couple of years ago

What a LONG, informative article. Great insights into how you choose your keywords — although i’ve never heard of authoritymetrics until now. Nate or Lewis — what is your take on ranking with expired domains today? Does it still work and do you have any proof/ways to show it works/doesn’t work?

tony - a couple of years ago

Did I miss the bit about how he got 10,000 likes on facebook with $30?

Great article by the way.

    Lewis - a couple of years ago

    That was how much the article cost ($30), this guide wasn’t about getting social shares, however this will be a side effect of producing this kind of list content. Nate paid $30 for the article and it went viral. Easier said than done, but it shows that it is possible.

      tony - a couple of years ago

      ah thought it was spent on a boosted facebook ad or something.

      So was link building done too the root/homepage to increase the domain authority or to the article itself?

Dennis Seymour - a couple of years ago

Love this! We have a list site waiting to be called up. This is an awesome guide that we can use once we start with that project.

Hung Pham - a couple of years ago

This post is very very clearly, it attract readers as me. I have an affiliate website selling product, but I don’t have enough knowledge to build a site like you analytics in this post.

I have built my site nearly a year, but the income is very very small, just around 100$/month. If you read my site, please give me your opinion.


Gregory - last year

Nate this is by far, one of the most insightful authority site guides I have read in a while. To be honest, I have personally struggled with building the right site, haven’t made much really- I could blame being lazy on this one.

Ideally, how many niche sites do you focus on at a time? I have been handling quite a few and will start using the tool so I can some of the best low competition, high volume keywords. Thank you for sharing!

    Lewis - last year

    Not sure Nate will be here to answer you question Gregory. From my perspective I have been guilty on trying to do too much at once, so now I have a rule of only 2 niche sites at any one time. Once it hits a minimum of say $300-$500 per month I will then hand it over to a VA to manage and move onto the next site.

    If you are building a large site like Nate talks about then I would say just build 1 site, make it work and build your confidence for future projects.

Osama Shahi - last year

Very interesting and infomative article. I started a list based website about a week ago and all of the traffic is from reddit. Now I will try to do things like on-page, link building and intense keyword research to get traffic from Search Engine.
Thank you so much for such an amazing post.

Muhammad Umar - last year

its very nice and information article i real all thank you lewis

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