Niche Site Case Study #1 – From Sandbox to First Earnings

In last month's growth report, I mentioned that I was going to be starting a couple of niche sites and I will be sharing everything here on this blog.

This post is the first of which will form a series of niche site case studies, to show you how I take a niche and attempt to rank a website that ultimately earns a passive income. With the ultimate goal of flipping these site for a 16-20x multiple.

The Plan

I will state upfront that whilst I would love to reveal my domain names so you can follow along more closely, the truth is that I simply cannot risk it. I have seen firsthand how some people cannot play by the unwritten rules and wish to hurt others.

My decision has been impacted by other bloggers in this field, such as Spencer of NichePursuits, who has certainly seen the negative impacts of revealing their domains.

Despite taking a considerable amount of time teaching others what he knows and revealing exactly how to rank a website for a particular niche, there were some who, for reasons only known to themselves, decided to sabotage his websites by using negative SEO (which is a topic I won't get started on, let's just say I despise it!).

For that reason, my plan for these case studies is to show you exactly what I do and how I do it, whilst keeping the domain name top secret. If somehow the site crashes and burns, I may then reveal the URL so that you may learn from my mistakes.

Until then I will be revealing my plans, actions, successes and failures, every step of the way.

So What's New?

A lot has changed with niche sites over the course of the past 12-18 months. With all manner of Google algorithm updates occurring and knocking out previously solid link building tactics, along with the sheer number of people getting involved with niche site building.

My Niche

My site is in the “leisure” niche and covers mostly males aged 18-40. I am a targeting UK only audience which is not something I've seen done before in any niche site case study. I know many of my readers are from the UK so hopefully this will appeal to you as well..!

This is not a passion niche, nor am I particularly knowledgeable about the market. I have simple conducted my keyword research and have discovered a good solid batch of keywords I will be targeting with this niche site.


As usual, there are 1-2 main keywords with a larger search volume, along with a few other longer tail, lower search volume keywords.

  1. Keyword 1 – 22k Exact UK – KC 30
  2. Keyword 2 – 6.6k Exact UK – KC 27
  3. Keyword 3 – 3.6k Exact UK – KC 27
  4. Keyword 4 – 1.6k Exact UK – KC 20

These keywords form the core of site and are the ones that I will ultimately want to rank for. You need to bare in mind however, that rarely do these keywords bring in the most amount of traffic. It is common for my niche sites to bring in over 85-90% of its traffic via long tail phrases (I use LongTailPro to find these).

However, the fact that most of them have a KC of 30 or less is a winner for me.

The Competition

The top 10 competition for the main 22k search volume keyword looks like this (with Page Authority in brackets)

  1. Big UK Retailer (40)
  2. Male Targeted Tech Site (27)
  3. GumTree.com (34)
  4. Wider Market Ecommerce Site (32)
  5. Voucher Code Type Site (11)
  6. Large UK Online Retailer (1)
  7. Medium UK Online Retailer (29)
  8. Product Manufacturer (15)
  9. Amazon (77)
  10. Product Manufacturer (22)

The average Page Authority (PA) for the top 10 sites is 28. This combined with the bullet points below means I am confident I can eventually break into the top 10 for this keyword.

I use PA as a guideline for my ability to rank a website based on this;

Page Authority is Moz's calculated metric for how well a given webpage is likely to rank in Google.com's search results. It is based off data from the Mozscape web index and includes link counts, MozRank, MozTrust, and dozens of other factors. It uses a machine learning model to predictively find an algorithm that best correlates with rankings across the thousands of search results that we predict against.

This is taken from Moz.com as is my metric of choice when performing my competition research. I have 2 larger guides in the works which will explain how I perform keyword and competition research is much more detail.

Other Factors That Effected My Decision

  • Sites ranking in position 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 in the SERP have just 1 linking root domain, which is themselves! It seems some are ranking based on their domain authority alone and there is very little content on those pages as most are ecommerce sites.
  • GumTree.com sat in 3rd spot is a big plus for me. These pages are simply seller created ads and are almost never SEO'd, which shows from yet again a single linking root domain.
  • The Amazon page points to a individual product that is not available or in stock – how this is Google showing the user the best content I don't know, surely this has to end at some point?

How Will I Monetize?

With this being a product related niche/keyword I will be using Amazon Associates as my primary method. I have other sites in this niche and various affiliate accounts with them for one reason…


With the millions spent on conversion optimisation, it will be my goal to get traffic off my site and onto Amazon, and let them do their job. As you will see further down, they do this very well..!

My Site

The domain was purchased back in October-13 which is when I first conducted the keyword research and decided to target this niche. I decided to go for a brand new domain, ideally I would have gone with an expired domain however I was unable to find one suitable.

The ones I did find that weren't quite suitable for a site but had some good metrics and backlinks will be used in a clever way – more on that towards the bottom of the article.

Case Study #1 - WhoIs

The Story So Far

The Google Sandbox

Never have I been more sure that the Google Sandbox exists than I am today.

This domain has confirmed what I have thought for some time now, and that is that the Google sandbox does exist and there is now a period of 4-6 months where your newly registered domain name will not perform well in the SERPS.

This means it is now taking around 6 months to see any positive SERP movements in Google for brand new registered domains. There are exceptions, however this has been the case for most of my sites and this one in particular.

I have thought for a long time that the Google sandbox wasn't something to be concerned with. However if we learn anything from this case study it is that the Google Sandbox definitely should be taken into consideration when starting a niche site.

How do I know?

Well, after purchasing the domain I did nothing other than set up a basic site and add 1,500 words to the homepage. There was nothing special about the homepage, just a couple of mini product reviews and an list of the pros and cons for these products, along with a tablepress comparison table.

I wrote the content myself, so I knew it was unique and pretty good in comparison to the top 10 competition based on word count and information quality.

The Waiting Game

I decided not to build any links to the site as I wanted to test how well a brand new domain would rank post algo update, on its own. Plus I wanted to test my sandbox theory.

Nothing really happened for the first 6 months, the site sat around 200+ position for it's main keyword with little to no movement.

Then something crazy happened. The day after the site turned 6 months old, I checked my rankings via SERPBook, and low and behold, there was my site sitting pretty at 40th position for its main keyword. This was with zero link building and zero updates in 6 months…!

Time To Take Action

Step 1 – Niche Selection

I will go into more detail on keyword research at a later stage, however here is a brief list of things I look for before getting involved with a niche;

  • At least one ‘weak' site in the top 10 – in this case it's the voucher code site and GumTree.
  • Average Page Authority below 35 – the lower the better really
  • Low number of referring domains – most of the top 10 for the main keyword have just a single referring domain, and that is coming from their own domain.
  • Med-High Product ticket price – if going for an Amazon product I look for the $50+ ticket items (tip – lower price items can help bump up your commissions rate as the more you sell on Amazon the higher your commission rate goes!)
  • Google Ads showing in the SERP results – this proves that if people are willing to spend money on this keyword its profitable
  • Plenty of content opportunities – I try to get a list of at least 50 article ideas before I build my site
  • Other verticals available – are there other related products you could cross promote and write about? This tests the depth of the niche
  • No more than 3 big name retailers in the Top 10 – this is flexible as I see Google giving less and less priority to Amazon etc over the last few months

There are others however nothing can beat gut feel and simply testing out the niche. If you can pick up an aged domain and set up a quick site you should be able to get a good idea for ranking capabilities within a couple of months, usually sooner.

Step Two – Domain Purchase

My first step was to purchase a domain name which takes the form of a partial match domain, such as: mykeywordhere.co.uk

As I explained above, I purchased a completely brand new domain as I was unable to find an expired domain with any decent history, which is something I would ALWAYS do before building on a brand new domain and also something that could potentially bypass the sandbox.

Step 3 – Website Structure

The third stage was to plan my website structure. For this I take a steer from my target keywords and plan how they will best fit into a websites category structure. For example, if we had a site about dogs, we could use the following structure;

Example Niche Site Structure

Step 4 – Website Build

The best way to tackle a niche site in my opinion is to not sweat the small stuff. Countless times, I have seen people worry about which theme to use, which plugin to use for a contact page and where to find a good cheap logo.

The simple and easy answer to all this is – don't sweat it.

I am a huge fan of cutting through all of that BS and getting straight to the point. Google doesn't care if you have a nice theme. They care if you deserve to rank and if your content and backlinks are good enough to put you at the top of the SERP.

In addition, for the first few weeks and months, you will be getting zero traffic anyway. So we should use this time to plan the content, the structure and our SEO plan of attack in order to gain those organic rankings and traffic.

Then, once we have the traffic, should you worry about the look and feel of your niche site.

Step 5 – Content

You have 3 options when it comes to content for your niche site;

1 – Write the content yourself

This is usually the go to option for most first time niche site builders. Most of us have more free time than free cash  to spend, and until you know you can make money it's often hard to invest cash into a project when you are not sure  you will see an roi.

There are pros and cons to writing your own content.

The first is that you will know you are adding great content, as you have full control, all spelling and grammar should be correct and the level of detail ad content length will generally be above and beyond what you will get from outsourcing.

Fast forward a few months and it usually boils down to either becoming a great content writer for topics you are not always interested in, or choosing one of the next 2 options.

2 – Outsource to UpWork or eLance

I have written an article in the past on how you can find great content writers for $3 per article, and whilst that is still possible, I believe that times have changed in the SEO/niche site world.

We now need higher quality content from writers that can go one step further and provide tables or data and comparisons. Almost a convergence between a writer and a VA.

I now pay my writers around $1 per 100 words, often more for the more technical niches. For this, you can get great English speaking writers who will research your topic and provide well written and thought out content.

3 – Use providers such as iWriter or Textbroker

Whilst more expensive than hiring your own writer via oDesk or eLance. These content providers offer the flexibility of not having any staff members, along with a “content on demand” service.

The biggest benefit of using this providers is the ability to choose your quality based on a star rating, along with revisions if necessary.

Personally I will be using a mixture of my own VA's and other content providers.

Planning Your content

I like to plan out my content strategy before I order any material for a number of reasons;

  1. It firms things up in my head
  2. I have at least 50 articles planned out
  3. It forms one of my validation steps on niche selection
  4. Gets my mind into the niche and the mindset of the user

You can download my content planner spreadsheet below by sharing! Thanks 🙂

Step 6 – Initial Linkbuilding

I wanted to keep track of the results of each action I took when it came to link building, therefore I decided to do 2 things;

  1. Use my PBN to build links
  2. Use a recommended external SEO package
PBN Links

I chose 2 domains that I already had built out by my VA. There had not been used to link to any other website and already had content. All I had to do was to inject my backlinks into the existing content where they made sense.

I created the following backlinks;

  • 1x brand anchor text link to the homepage e.g “The Dog Training Blog”
  • 1x exact match keyword anchor text to the homepage e.g “Dog Training”

I decided that 2 was enough and would give me a good indication of how volatile the SERP's were for this keyword.

If you want to learn how to build your own PBN, check out my course here.

SEO Package

The Hoth Link Building Package

The SEO package I chose was The HOTH, whom I have used before and have had great results with. I ordered the $60 package which gets you content, web 2.0 links and some tier 1 & 2 backlinks.

Their packages offer a nice mixture of links and you can select a few different keywords and URL's for anchor text diversity.

I used the following anchor text;

  • Exact keyword – “Dog Training”
  • Prefix with keyword – “Best Dog Training”
  • Keyword with suffix – “Dog Training Tips”
  • URL – “mydogtraining.com”
  • Brand – “My Dog Training”

All backlinks are to point to the homepage (I don't always do this but we will diversify at a later date with another package).

Link Building Results

So what were the results of taking those two simple linkbuilding steps of using a couple of PBN links and a HOTH package?

Niche Site Ranking

As you can see from the graph above, my site is now sitting in 17th position for its main keyword, which I am very happy about.

Traffic Numbers

Niche Site Traffic

So just 415 unique visitors looking at just a single page per user, combined that with a 91% bounce rate…doesn't make for great reading huh!

I guess the thing with niche sites is that I want to get the user to click my click and direct them away from my site as soon as they feel ready. Well I am pretty happy that the site is doing just that. Check out the below.

Earnings To Date

The most exciting news is that the site has already made it's first commission!

The site made a total of £47.53 ($81.54) in the month of June, which I am really excited about as the site is only in it's first month of ranking anywhere near high enough for the big keywords.

So this commission comes from longer tail keywords that the site is ranking for.

Case Study #1 - Month 1 Earnings

Next Steps….

Additional content

In order to restore some balance between product reviews and helpful information, I need to add additional content in the form of “info only” articles that answer specific questions within the niche. This will also provide some long tail traffic as these kind of articles will rank for a good number of small search term key phrases.

  • Yahoo Answers has been my first port of call, simply performing a search for your main keyword will bring up a host of questions.
  • UberSuggest is up next and this is an awesome too to get some ‘outside of the box' keywords which you can give to your writers to add to their articles for some great LSI potential.
  • Google Suggest is another free resource that I will use to gather possible type in keywords and sentences that I probably haven't thought of.

Non optimised comment links

Despite what some people say about blog comments, I think they are a great way to start a niche sites SEO campaign. A few well place, well thought out comments can bring in both traffic and a slight bump in ranking. I say slight as I don't think the benefit comes from the rank improvements as such, but more from residual traffic that will visit your site if you comment on a high traffic page for example.

The one rule I have here is to use a name NOT a keyword as the comment author.

I use this to test my niche and my on page optimisation to see what my conversion rate is. Whilst this is not super important at the start it can help with niche niche start-up blues where there is zero traffic and a very lonely niche site!

Mini 5-10 site PBN

In July I will be building out a mini 5 site PBN that will serve as a good source of powerful links that I have full control over. This will also be offered in the sale when I come to flip the site in the future, which I think add a great deal of value to a potential buyer.

I will be using a combination of Domain Brokers and finding expired domains to build my mini-PBN.

Tracking Rankings

One of the most obvious things I need to do it to track my website rankings. I use SERPBook to track all of my niche sites SERP positions and also use it for Rank Source client sites.

I will be writing a monthly update for this niche site case study, so if you have any questions drop them in the comments and I will be sure to cover them in the next post.

Key Takeaway Points

  1. A newly registered domain is now taking much longer to rank in Google – around 4-6 months
  2.  Aged domains have the potential to bypass the Google sandbox
  3. If you perform good keyword research you don't need many links to rank
  4. An average PA of around 30 is a good indicator of a keyword to target
  5. Amazon converts very well, you just need to send them some traffic!
  6. Focus on planning and content before making your site look pretty

– Lewis

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.

scott masse - 3 years ago

Wow we are utilizing the same exact strategy and my first niche site is around the same level as yours. I agree with the blog commenting philosophy and not getting caught up with the small stuff. I am anxious to see how your site progresses!

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Nice Scott, it should be an interesting few months as the site progresses!

Steven - 3 years ago

I’d have to disagree on the sandbox. I have tons of new domains that are new that hit page 1 in 1-2 months.

I do agree with Terry Kyle (An SEO Expert) which could explain this.

He says Google randomly penalizes new website (or what he calls RRF, Random Ranking Factor).

This is to throw off people from “cracking the code” of ranking websites. Basically Google randomly penalizes new websites in order to throw you off. We all know how to rank especially us SEO’ers. If it worked everytime then we would have a 100% foolproof system. However from testing he noticed some websites ranked while other didn’t using the same methods.

Also from my own result,again I have websites that are less than 2 months old hitting page 1 for the exact term I go after.

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hey Steven,

    It’s great that you are having such success, care to share any of your strategies?

    Whilst Terry is very knowledgeable, I would argue against anyone being an expert in SEO, as it is constantly changing. I have seen his material on the RRF and agree it is probable and would make sense for Google to do this, but without proof or inside knowledge of the algo it’s impossible to 100% sure in anything.

    From my experience I am seeing domains take far longer to rank than they usually did. If you are seeing success in 1-2 months its either better KW selection, more aggressive SEO or your simply a better SEO, it still doesn’t change the results of my case study.

    Chuck - 3 years ago

    How hard are you banking, Steven?

Rahat - 3 years ago

Just wanted to know your thoughts on this.

I’ve been sending batches of 30-100 high pr links to my sites and seeing little to no results.

However I recently sent only 3 links to a site and it jumped drastically.

I don’t have much proof but I’m thinking that dripfeeding links as little as possible may prove to be more powerful.

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    I guess it depends on the ‘high pr links’ and how powerful they are. Do you check the other domain metrics and more importantly do they still have the inbound links to retain the high PR?

    I prefer a slow and steady link building campaign. In my experience too much too soon results in a penalty eventually!

Sam Barnes - 3 years ago

Hi Lewis

Brilliant post, thanks for sharing.

(I totally appreciate that some discretion is necessary for the actual domain name you’re working with.)

The sandbox stuff is really interesting.

Do you think this works on the WHOIS registered date or the time that the site was first indexed?

I’ve just started my first niche project a few days ago and I’m excited about what I can achieve.

Did you use any other manual link building than comment or just PBNs and packages?

Thanks again,

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hey Sam, I’m glad you understand the need for discretion!

    I think it will be based on the WHOIS info but cannot be certain. Often they are not that far apart anyway.

    I also, for some niche sites, perform guest posts and link exchanges, allso broken link building etc. It depends how much i want to put in and in this sites case it looks like it will be worth it.

    Good luck with your niche project Sam!

Ruan - 3 years ago

Very interesting case study, Lewis! I plan on doing similar case studies on Virtual Prperty Income when I launch, on 3 niche sites I am currently working on.

Well, whether there is a Google sandbox or randomly selected new sites are getting penalized as another reader claims, I am most definitely seeing the same effects of a sandbox.

My primary keyword us getting around 9,900 searches per month and my secondary around 18,100 searches. Both have a KC score of between 25 and 30 and analyzing the top 10 for each definitely convinced me to pursue this niche.

However, after 2 and a half months since I launched this site, ordering a Platinum HOTH package on the site, did a few manual blog commenting links myself, AND linked from about 14 expired domains in a network I specifically set up for this niche, I have been bouncing between positions 10 and 20 for both my primary and my secondary keywords for a couple of weeks now, on a daily basis. Today at #11 and tomorrow at #16 and the following day back at #12 again.

It feels as If I just can’t seem to break through to the top 10 just yet. How frustrating it’s been lol!

Get this… I am ranking in the top 30’s for around 20 ling tails in total, so the potential of this site is very promising. I don’t think I’ll flip this one when it does finallt come through though.

So I’ve got around 6 more PBN links available I can add along the way, so hopefully that will do the trick.

I am wondering whether linking twice within the same article on all the other exp domains (home page and to keyword article) did maybe dilute the link juice and if I shouldn’t have linked only once from each article instead.

Anyway, it makes for a good experiment I’ll definitely report back on VPI soon! 😉

All the best with this case study, man!


    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hey man, sounds like you are having great success so far. I would try and get some slow consistency going with the links, maybe 3-5 max per week and also taregt inner pages. I think with that and just some age on your domain you will do well.

    I certainly see diminishing returns when adding more links. I prefer 1 link per post now.

    Will be interesting to read your update when you have it published!

James - 3 years ago

Great work Lewis, looking forward to following along and hopefully pick up some tips for my own niche endeavours.

Hayden from nohatseo seems to agree with your sandbox theory after launching around 150 sites in the first 6 months of 2014. His recent podcast on niche pursuits also seem to support expired domains bypassing some of the waiting period.

Keep up the good work.

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Cheers james, I actually listened to that podcast this morning and read the post on NoHatSEO. Glad others are seeing the same and Hayden seems to perform alo of testing and a large number of sites so I like that kind of evidance!

    Let me know if you have any questions that will help you with your project!

Joe - 3 years ago

Thanks for sharing this Lewis.

Its given me the boost to start work on a new site.

I regged the domain in June 2013 and put a couple of pages on but will come back to it now.

Its ranking on page 5 for its domain name ‘keyword guide .com’ but not the actual money keyword I am going after. Would you think that this means its out of the sand box and perhaps capable of ranking for the money keyword?

Its got no links yet.



    Lewis - 3 years ago

    I woud certainly give it a few links and some TLC, it can’t hurt and just a few links will give you a good idea of it’s ability to rank. Sounds to me like it’s ready to go.

Ollie - 3 years ago

Hi Lewis,

Good to see the progress. 47 quid already? Good start, shows the power of going after long-tails with awesome content.

Following along with 3 sites of my own, gunning for a flip too. Shared the content spreadsheet but the plugin didn’t allow a download. Can you send it via email?

@ offering a complete PBN when it’s time to flip, talk abut over-delivery. That should bump the price up even more. Good on you for thinking of ways to sweeten the deal.


    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hi Ollie,

    Yeah I was surprised with that too, I guess I should have shared the price point for the product is around £60-£200 so commissions are good.

    To all who shared, you can get the content spreadsheet here – Spreadsheet Link

    Yeah I was thinking that not many do this, if any at all and I know people use them to rank the site but if I was a buyer I would prefer to have control over those links…so why not provide that!

    Good luck with your sites, keep us posted.

Calin - 3 years ago

A nice idea to use Yahoo Answers for content ideas – I never thought of it so far and I will sure try to put it to good use. I also believe that the sandbox is something really random. I usually work with brand new domains only (not the best thing to do) and there’s a lot of randomness in terms of them ranking: using the same strategy, I’ve had domains that were greatly ignored for more than 4 months, and others that were ranking high and bringing in organic traffic after just a couple of weeks without any link building. There are still mysteries that we have to solve in this area :))

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Indeed Calin, SEO is a funny old game and if we knew everything it wouldn’t be half as fun 🙂

Sibo - 3 years ago

Hey Lewis,

I love all the details you shared in this post. I started a new niche site in Feb 2014. The strategy that I am using is very similar to yours. The ranking of some of my secondary keywords started to pick up about 1 month ago. I earned my first $17 last month. I will follow along your case study and exchange ideas with you in the near future.

Keep up your great work!


    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hey Sibo, congrats on your ssite starting to earn, thats the first step of many so fingers crossed it continues to do well…!

Micky - 3 years ago

I have followed spencer and have founf that a lot of the information he provides is good much similar to yours. Thanks for sharing.

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Thanks Micky, I really enjoy Spencers stuff and he’s a really nice guy. Glad you enjoyed my post!

Andrew James - 3 years ago

Solid stuff Lewis,

just watch out for over optimization penalty.. I’d suggest not using EM anchor text till you have around 150 branded backlinks.

It’s better to be careful at the start

keep it up

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Cheers Andrew, that is always something I think about and will be using brand and URL anchors for future packages. also the comments and PBN links increase the diversity too.

Nauf Sid - 3 years ago

Good to see your progress, Lewis. Are you siloing the site. It may be good for SEO purposes but not from a user’s viewpoint. After all, we are building sites for users, not googlebots. What’s your take on this?

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    I don’t really set out to do silo’s, however sometimes thay just work out that way. I generally gather all of my target keywords and plan my content and just plot it onto a spreadsheet into categories to see how it fits and then interlink in those articles.

    Like you say, it looks and flows better for the user and have never had a problem with it in the past.

loris - 3 years ago

Your analysis is the complement of the last one published yesterday or today by Greg Nunan (of Hayden Miyamoto). Together you made the point of the current situation for long-term website investment.
Thank you

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hey Loris, yeah I read that article this morning, it’s good to see others seeing the same and I trust Haydens stuff..!

Chris - 3 years ago


I tweeted this article, but the download spreadsheet link is niot active? How can I get a copy?


    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Sorry Chris, here it is – Spreadsheet Link

      Chris - 3 years ago

      Thanks, appreciate it. Great article. I’m considering your PBN Course, I’m currently doing an internship with NoHat, so I’ll look closer at yours when I’m done in a few weeks.

      How do you weigh the level of risk using a PBN service as opposed to your own? I looked at The Hoth and it seems interesting. Long term I do have some concerns if Google finds their footprint and it affects all linked sites. So I guess what is your criteria in order to use a service.

      Thanks again.

        Lewis - 3 years ago

        Wow good luck on the internship, I’ve heard great things from the NoHat team so your in good company!

        To be honest I don’t use many packages as I prefer to go after the hard to get links which puts me ahead of the competition as they don’t put as much effort in to get those links. The Hoth has worked well in the past and is obviously doing well for this niche site, however it’s not without it’s potential downside.

        The guys behind it are an SEO agency that offer so much more than The Hoth package which is a good think in my eyes. Also you have much more control over the package than any others I have used. With any SEO there is always risk, I guess it depends on what you are confortable with.

        I would go with your own PBN over anything everytime!

Richard @ TechToucan - 3 years ago

It looks like you’re having plenty of success here!

I am currently building a new niche site (update coming to my blog in the next few days) but I’m still some way off your level. I’m going after a far lower traffic keyword phrase for my homepage and some very long tail review-type phrases for my other content. I’m seeing my rankings increase healthily though until I start hitting the top spots the traffic I’m seeing is minimal.

In many ways though I see my niche site as “experimental” – it’s more a learning exercise than anything else. I’ve built authority sites and blogs for years but the “niche affiliate site” is somewhere I’m looking to expand my skills – hence my (public) experiment.

Question: based on your experience, is it wisest to plan ahead, buy a domain and hold it before serious work? In this way you’re always planning 4-6 months ahead, working on a domain you bought previously?

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hey Richard, you read my mind. I have been thinking today about buying a batch of domains based on my “niche list” of keywords that I have already found. Add some content to them and let them age.

    I can’t see a problem with doing this as the cost is minimal and you only need say 1k words on the homepage.

Raweewan M - 3 years ago

Hi Lewis
This is a very good case study. I’m building my 2nd niche site, which I’m changing with a backlink strategy to go for PBN too. I just completed your course, such a great learning course. I’ll be back to see what’s update here.

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hey thats great, I’m glad you found the course useful, I think adding a PBN into your arsenal will be a great move!

Mamoon Saeed - 3 years ago

Hey, Lewis!

I’ve been reading your blog for a while now but this is my first comment. Man, I’m loving the content so far especially this article. It’s just a shame that you can’t reveal the domain!

Is Amazon UK still capped at £7?

I’ve got a keyword that I found on long tail pro that has 4,000 searches and KC of 20-25 (haven’t got the exact details to hand because I’m using my phone!) for a keyword similar to garden furniture for sale. I was thinking about starting a blog so I can document my success and people could follow along, too.

Do you think it is a good idea?

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    I think it is still capped, although I should probably check that!

    Sounds like a good idea to me, there is only ne way to get started. Just make sure you have something different to offer so that you stand out from the crowd!

Ashley - 3 years ago

hey Lewis
Great stuff you are sharing here. You really do go to great lengths to give us all the goods (not the domain name, but totally get that).
I am slowly getting more into SEO, as it is a service I want to offer to my customers, and have recently started learning more about it via Glenn Allsopp’s new project.
In his forum people also mention Hoth, and was wondering what you thought about using it for me main site.
I am a little dubious, and thought maybe testing it with a niche I have, would be better.
I don’t want any penalties for a site I have worked long and hard on.

It is also interesting to learn that high KC is not necessarily bad (as I was originally taught in SEO somewhere) as long as you research the competition.

Thanks again for your awesome content

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hey Ashley, I wouldn’t use The Hoth for your true business site but for niche sites it’s fine. You can’t exactly control the links so if a penalty does arise you may have a hard time removing it and the links.

    Give it a try for niche sites and see how it goes. So far it’s working well for me.

    Thanks for your kind words!

      Ashley - 3 years ago

      Thanks Lewis
      That is what I suspected. Mass link sites like this are too cheap and easy to not come with penalties!
      But am interested to see if I can push the rankings of a 50 or so position site on Google.

Larry - 3 years ago

Nice in depth article on the case study.

Can you clarify a bit on the content structure (the chart).

In the category section (dog breeds, dog training, etc.) are these actual pages (like a page that lists the topic choices) or do you use this a the WordPress ‘category’ or is it just a guide?


    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hi Larry,

    I use WordPress categories and have these as my menu items. Then each item under that is a page or a post. I use pages for evergreen content (most of the time) and posts for “news” type articles. Mainly it’s pages.

    I would then list questions, reviews and “news” items in the sidebar to link direct to those deep links.

      Joe - 3 years ago

      Thanks, I will just sort out the homepage and then use a Hoth package on it and see what happens.


Allan - 3 years ago

Great post man, thanks so much for putting this together – looks like you’re better off finding aged domains with some possible authority to them to build your niche sites on instead of waiting that long for a newly developed domain.

Also what do you think, in your opinion about this keyword’s KC and top 10 results in google: http://prntscr.com/40jh63 – is it achievable to rank it high?

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    No worries Allen, I have actually thougt about buying some new domains and letting them age with just a 1-2k word homepage.

    If it was me, I wouldn’t go for that keyword based on the sites ranking top 10. Look at the domain authority, its crazy high and they are ranking due to that. I think it would be difficult to rank longer term.

    Perhaps some longer variation keywords?

      Ciprian V. - 3 years ago

      Hmm well the overall KC score is 32 I think it’s beatable, besides the the #1 result is amazon. With the proper SEO, say.. HOTH + PBN links I’d say you would easily reach top 3.

Richard - 3 years ago


What is the minimum pr for your expired domains/high quality you are selling and does it cost extra for niche specific domains?


    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hi, I’m not selling domains just yet, what are you referencing?

Matt - 3 years ago

Hey Lewis –

Was curious if you’ve had luck with other sites in ecommerce dominated serps before? It seems you’re going against conventional wisdom with this one – Spencer and Hayden both won’t go after keywords that have mostly ecommerce results in the top 10.

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Generally I don’t, however I know the UK market very well and in this instance saw some weakness.

    Allan (comment above) said this – “Also what do you think, in your opinion about this keyword’s KC and top 10 results in google: http://prntscr.com/40jh63 – is it achievable to rank it high?”

    I actually said I wouldn’t go for this as US ecommerce is a whole different ball game!

      Allan - 3 years ago

      They are not really ecommerce sites but huge department stores instead with little page links and juice page links. I think it’s doable – probably going to give it a try, or else I’ll never know and keep thinking about this niche haha 🙂

        Lewis - 3 years ago

        I guess there is only one way to find out hey! We all have different preferances and I tend to stick to what I know, so I wish you luck in this. Will be good to get an update in a few months time on your progress buddy.

      Matt - 3 years ago

      Well now that is interesting that UK Google might treat ecommerce differently – I’ll be keeping track to see if I need to hop the pond!

      Speaking of the Pond, I found you from over there – I know you’re busy with the blog and all but would enjoy chatting with you over there more!

        Lewis - 3 years ago

        Hey Matt, yeah I’ve not had much free time to spend over there recently. I’ll try to get on this week!

Robert Kirk - 3 years ago

Hi Lewis

Another interesting read, be great to follow the progress of this niche website.

I would definitely agree with sandbox theory, we have had some new domains taking months to even start showing for their company name. I would say its even slower now than it was 12 months ago, we used to see almost within month brand new domains ranking pretty fast.

Im checking out the Hoth packages you mentioned, you had good experience of using these? I’ve read so many times web 2.0 type of links just don’t work aswell now?

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    I’ve done ok with them in the past, within modration I think they are fine mixed with a few other link types.

    All I’ve used on this niche site is that package and a few PBN site links – SERP position for its main KW is now sitting in 12th so some improvement since I published this…will have to wait and see if it sticks!

      Robert Kirk - 3 years ago

      I notice on the hoth package page each package also mentions private network posts? are these tier 2 i take it?

        Lewis - 3 years ago

        Yeah it looks that way, to give your tier 1’s a boost

Larry - 3 years ago

Thanks for the the reply Lewis.

You mentioned putting pages under categories in wordpress. How is this done? I remember trying to look into it before but only posts seemed to be made into the category menus?

Hope you can clarify on how this is done.

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hey Larry, sorry that was a typo, I only use posts under the categories and pages for my other evergreen stuff. I don’t know of a way to easliy do that, there may be a hack or workaround but I don’t use any. Pages just stand alone and are for my evergreen content. Posts are placed under categories.

Tony - 3 years ago

really looking forward to updates on this, seems like a good case study.

Regarding the blog commenting. How many will you be doing? remember a lot wont stick. will you blast a few in the first few weeks then move on to other link building methods or will it be an ongoing strategy as part of your link building? will they be from sites that are in the same niche or just random?

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Hey Tony, I won’t be blasting anything, in fact they will all be done by hand and I am prettty sure 9/10 will be approved. There will be nothing spammy, just related comments that contribute to the discussion. Thats the only way to increase your approval rate and not waste your time.

    I will target related sites as much as possible and won’t be using any keywords for my username etc.

      scott masse - 3 years ago

      I find the best way to do it is to try to do 5 thoughtful comments a day by yourself—that way you know the comments won’t be spammy!

        Lewis - 3 years ago

        Exactly Scott, much higher chance of approval that way and you are actually contrubuting to the post/discussion and building some site/brand awareness as you will get clicks from those comments.

MattCurts - 3 years ago


What did you mean by KC? Is it like quality score adword campaign?
Do you mean backlinks when you say ‘referring link’ and one backlink when you said ‘one domain itself as referring domain’

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    KC is the “Keyword Competetiveness” score from LongTailPro which uses a number of domain metrics to calculate your competition.

    Yes thats exactly right.

Mike - 3 years ago

Lewis. Please contact me via email to discuss what $ you will be looking for when u decide to flip this site. Im an investor and interested. Thanks. Keep teaching us all the trade. Love it.

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Thanks Mike, lets see what happens this month and if all is well I may be in touch.

Rob Atkinson - 3 years ago

Hey Lewis,

You mentioned that you weren’t able to find a aged domain for this particular site. What is your overall strategy for an aged domain? And where do you go online to accomplish this?

Obviously, the right brand or domain name is important, but what are you looking for in a backlink profile? No history of links, so therefore you just bypass the sandbox? Or do you look for a clean history, so you bypass the sandbox, and have some helping link juice to start with?

I am looking to find an aged domain with no backlink profile (to skip the sandbox). Is that possible?

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    Of course, there are hundreds of thousands of domains that drop each day. I use ExpiredDomains.net to look for them. It doesn’t have to have no backlink profile, just a Non Spammy backlink profile.

    If the links look natural then I will use the domains for it’s age and a few natural links

      Rob - 3 years ago

      Thanks, Lewis.

      I must say the Google sandbox has to be one of the most frustrating things for someone newer to SEO.

      To tell someone that they may not earn a penny for 6+ months is challenging. But you gotta stay the course 🙂

        Lewis - 3 years ago

        Very true – either stay the course or move on to another method that doesn’t require a 6+ month waiting period…this is where mmy business is heading.

          Rob - 3 years ago

          So you’re going the aged domain route for your business?

          Or you have a link building methodthst bypasses the sandbox? 😉

          Lewis - 3 years ago

          Neither of those – it doesn’t involve SEO in order to test and validate a niche or market.

peterkizumaki - 3 years ago

Hi Lewis,
Could you please advise how many posts is acceptable for each small niche sites ? Im going to have around 10 posts for my sites. Furthermore, in regarding to PBN, I learnt that Google ban a lot of sites recently due to PBN building. Is there any chance Lewis ?

    Lewis - 3 years ago

    I just published a post on the PBN War – you can check it out here.

    As for content on niche sites – that depends on the size ofthe niche and the competition. I would say the more the better for any site. Content length and freshness are a part of the Google algo and I pay attention to this.

    10 Posts is a good start – however how about 100? obviously wait until you can prove the niche first so you know that it can make money. After that continue to build upon so you get to a point where you know how much each additional page of content is worth to you.


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