I also alluded to the desire I had to jump right in and start a brand new case study, so I did.
This is the first of what I hope to be many updates on the progress of a brand new website I started at the beginning of June.
I am by no means a ‘guru' and I am always learning just as much as the next guy. This case study is not here to show you how great I am (or not!), but to see if I can succeed at this challenge, whilst showing you exactly what I do. It will also hold me accountable.
To build a niche site from scratch that targets a large niche and generates organic search traffic via long tail keywords.
Niche = House & Home
Site/Domain = Unspecified
Income goal = $2k per month
What Is My Definition of a Success?
Success in this challenge could be measured a number of ways. We could target a set number of unique visitors, how many followers we get on social media or how many email subscribers we get.
The trouble is, none of those mean anything.
The only thing that does matter is that this site makes money. Period. We don't do this for the fun of it, although I really enjoy what I do, it's money that drives us.
So I will set the bar higher than the last site.
The goal is to have the site pulling in over $2,000 net, each month. Once/if I hit that goal, it will be decision time.
Do I continue to build and improve or sell and take a nice payday? After all, a $2k /month site can fetch anywhere from $40-$60k.
But lets not get ahead of ourselves, this is going to be a lengthy case study, but it's good to have a goal from which you can measure your progress.
How Will I Do It?
First off, I won't be revealing my domain. After some issues with the previous site and the nature of some people in the SEO industry, I have chosen to keep the site a secret.
The fact that I will look to sell the site further down the line is also big reason not to reveal the domain.
Zero Backlinks (for now)
My first major goal is to achieve top 10 rankings with ZERO BACKLINKS.
Why you may ask? Well, what with my SEO business and various other projects, link building takes a lot of time, energy and record keeping (I like to learn from my SEO as I go to continually record what works and what doesn't).
Therefore if I set a goal of building zero links, or at least very few outside of the usual social profile links etc, then we can learn how possible it is to rank for super targeted keywords with nothing more than On-Page SEO.
It won't always be like this, I suspect once the site is well established I may have to do some outreach and possibly some guest blogging in order to improve the sites authority and make the push for the top spots.
I may consider some PBN links at a later stage, which are still the best form of link building out there. I will probably use a package from Rank Source for that.
I have a confession. I have a new favorite keyword research tool.
Actually I have 2, they are both paid and also offer a free ‘limited' account. They have been the backbone of my keyword research for this case study and will continue to provide nice juicy keywords to target.
Tool 1 – KWfinder.com
KWFinder is my go to keyword research tool after falling out of love with Long Tail Pro. It simply isn't reliable and I know many of you have had issues in the past. There doesn't seem to be any development or improvements and since I have used the software (almost 2 years) I have never been truly happy with it.
The trouble was, there was nothing else out there that had what I needed. The best thing about LTP is the KC score, which shows how competitive a keyword may be.
KWFinder has it's very own ‘SEO Score' and I have found it to be accurate and most of all saves me a ton of time analyzing the competition and produces a score in seconds.
There is another great feature and that is the use of ‘Lists'. Essentially you can save any keyword you find into a list, which makes it easy to come back to at a later date and continue or just pick a keyword to target.
You can add to existing lists or create brand new lists of keywords, right from the search results. Which is another reason I really like this tool, there is no messing about switching screens and changing settings.
Everything is controlled on one screen and it is very quick. I have spoken to Peter the owner of the product and there are some great new features coming out and even some extra features I myself have suggested – so I am looking forward to those!
Tool 2 – Jaaxy.com
I can't take credit for finding Jaaxy, I have my friends over in The Pond to thank for this gem.
If you've not heard of The Pond you should check it out. It's a premium forum (just $10/month to weed out the spammers) filled with niche site builders just like you and me. It's free from ads and sellers peddling their wares and it's a place where we talk shop and discuss what's working right now.
So, onto Jaaxy. Basically what this tool does is help you to find ‘hidden' keywords that you won't find in the Google Keyword Tool.
Think of it as an idea generator, it works similar to UberSuggest, however Jaaxy also provides a search volume using their own algorithm and also a KQI or Keyword Quality Indicator.
This indicator provides a guide to how easy or likely it will be for you to rank for the keyword. Jaaxy is very unique and a lot different that many of the tools you will have used in the past.
It also uses the “allintitle” search modifier to provide the number of “Quoted Search Results”. For example, if you perform this search in Google.com:
You can see there are over 6million search results indexed in Google for this keyword. That's quite a lot.
Now in the second image you can see there are just 29,100 search results that are using the exact keyword in their title. Which means that there millions of pages ranking for they keyword by some other way, perhaps LSI keywords or a small mention of the keyword in the article or description.
So, whilst this is not evidence that we will rank, it is a good way to see just how many pages are targeting the keyword.
This is not new, in fact it is what I used to do back when I first started SEO. As I learnt more, I dropped that tactic for more advanced stuff.
The thing is, this stuff still works and there are people in The Pond to prove it.
Want to see Jaxxy in action?
Just enter a keyword into the box below and hit search.
So this brings us nicely onto the content. In my last case study I outsourced everything but the homepage. However I understand that this isn't an option for everyone and if you are just starting out you will be looking to prove the model first before putting too much money into it.
Therefore, I will be writing 100% of the content myself. No outsourcing will be used, just hard, consistent effort from me.
What kind of content will I produce?
Most of the content will revolve around product reviews, with some informational ‘buyers guides' thrown in for good measure, and to form the category pages which will link out to my various individual reviews.
This content will not be your typical 500 word review article that tried to get the visitor to buy the product. Each will be at least 1,200 words, 2,000 where possible and they will be both informative and helpful.
However, I will be using a new strategy which will entail creating 500-600 word small review articles for keywords I am not more than 90% sure I can rank for.
What I will do is track hundreds of keywords, and those smaller articles that start to do well will get some focus and additional content which will bump it closer to 2,000 words.
This strategy will save a lot of time as I will only be writing 2 lengthy article per day, so I can probably knock out 3-4 shorter ones on some days too.
Also, I will not be ‘selling' in the reviews, if a product is crap I will say so. Likewise if it has great reviews or I have used it myself and was happy, I will let that be known.
Obviously we want to make money and I don't expect that to come right away. Primarily as the site is new and needs to earn trust and rankings/traffic.
Secondly, because I have yet to add affiliate links to the content. This is for a number of reasons, the main one being I want to see how the content performs without affiliate links.
If/once a piece of content starts to show signs of hitting page 1, I will then add my links and buttons etc and track it's performance.
With that being said, I should clear up how I will actually make money. There are 2 primary sources I will be targeting.
Source 1 – Amazon Associates
I have always been fond of the Amazon Associates program. They convert well and offer a huge range of product verticals you can get involved in. It was how I monetized my previous site and it will form a large part of the strategy for this site.
Source 2 – CPA offers
I will be joining various affiliate networks that will allow me to join various programs to promote products. These will generally have a higher commission rate, we're talking $30 – $125 per sale and will open up the range of products I can promote.
My strategy with these will be to find super long and targeted keywords to use to drive a trickle of traffic from each. it doesn't take many $50 or $100 sales to make some nice commissions on these products, so it's a great addition to the overall strategy and I may even find a few big winners along the way.
The Process – The Slight Edge
To combine the above into a process, here's what it all looks like in bullet form:
- Use Jaaxy & KWFinder to perform keyword research
- Find low hanging fruit that will consist of long tail keywords
- Create a content planner and keyword spreadsheet that will help me locate the ‘easier' keywords
- Write content – one article, everyday at least.
- Use SERPBook to track keywords (Jaaxy also has one built in)
- No grey/black hat link building such as PBN's etc for the first couple of months
So what is this SLIGHT EDGE?
There is a book by Jeff Olson, funnily enough, called The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness. I read it once, absorbed a lot and then read it again.
It's simple really, and I am paraphrasing here but…
Doing the small things everyday will amount to big things further down the line.
So whilst writing one article per day is no big deal, in 12 months I will have 365 articles. A site with that much content will get a ton of long tail search traffic.
On the flip side, if I decide to skip a day here and there, that will compound and the site will not be as successful as it possibly can be.
I suggest you read the book as I can't explain better than the author. The book has helped thousands of people become successful in business, life, health and relationships.
Each small step creates momentum which spills over into other areas of your life. Pretty powerful stuff.
Ok, enough of that – onto the update and how the site has performed thus far.
Steps Taken So Far
Choosing a Domain
My favorite way to help bypass the Google sandbox is to purchase an expired domain. There are a few good places to pick these up, such as SnapNames, NameJet and GoDaddy to name a few.
The domain I choose was super targeted for the niche I have chosen and also very brandable.
These days I tend to stay away from keyword rich domains as the resale value for branded domains seems to be much higher and they also allow you a wider scope when it comes to topics you can write about in the niche.
So I picked up the domain for just $69, which admittedly is more expensive than you can get elsewhere, however here are the metrics for the domain:
This is absolutely key to the progress I have already made (which I will explain later). Having a domain with decent backlinks and good metrics is a great way to get early traction.
Of course, having a high Domain Authority (DA) from Moz and a high Trust & Citation Flow (TF, CF) from Majestic doesn't mean you are going to rank well. Simply put, they are not Google.
What they do tell you however, is that the domain has some decent and well trusted backlinks, and the algorithms they use are smart enough to detect a spammy link profile when they see one.
So this is as good as we can get to knowing if a domain will perform well of not.
There is some work to do on the existing backlinks. Most of them are branded or naked URL anchors, however these is one site wide link that I would prefer to be removed that is accounting for a large number of links.
I will write all of the content myself, for no other reason than to use the Slight Edge as mentioned above. Essentially my challenge would be to write 1 piece of content for the site, every day.
Now if you remember back from the niche site 1 challenge, I outsourced all but the homepage. The reason being is that I hated writing reviews and I sucked at it. Plus I thought my time was best spent on other things.
Well it turns out that;
- It's pretty easy to write reviews, in fact most of them I have written so far are 1,200 – 2,500 words long.
- I think they are pretty good and early signs show that they are liked by Google.
- Whilst it does take time out of my day to write these, it has had a positive effect on the rest of my day.
I am back to enjoying my keyword research and using the two new tools I mentioned above, and I find that writing an article first thing in the morning, sets up the rest of my day to be nice and productive.
I will be coving this in detail in the coming updates where I will be sharing videos of how I conduct my keyword research using both KWFinder and Jaaxy.
They will also cover how I assess the competition and provide an over the shoulder view of how I do it on a day to day basis.
With that being said, to date I have compiled a spreadsheet of over 600 potential keywords. I have a unique way to ‘score' each keyword based on the competition and the search volume.
Again, I will share this with you in the coming videos and also provide a copy of the spreadsheet for you to use.
Results To Date
As you can see above, I have not rested on my laurels and I have jumped into this challenge with both feet.
This is a snapshot from SERPBook, my preferred rank tracker which provides a neat dashboard and also allows PDF reporting.
From the image above you can see I am ranking top 3 for just a single keyword, which is the brand search term. I am ranking 2nd to a blogspot blog which has a similar name. I should be able to take the #1 spot with some social media presence.
However it gets low search volume so i'm not too worried abut that just yet, they are most likely looking for the blogspot blog anyway!
A total of 6 keywords (that I am tracking at least) are in the top 10, which is very exciting when we are only just a month into the case study.
Even more crazy is that of the 28 keywords I am tracking, 22 of them are in the top 30. So that's 22 top 3 page rankings after just 30 days.
THIS is the power of a good domain and well chosen keywords.
Now onto the keywords themselves, and whilst I can't reveal them I can show you how I am targeting them and where my rankings are.
I have highlighted those that are showing promising early signs. Notice how low the search volumes are, some even show zero searches per month.
This is why I use Jaaxy, because I simply do not trust nor believe that search volumes reported by Google. Some of these keywords actually come up in the Google Auto Suggest…but show no search volume…what a joke.
So the moral of the story is, go with your gut – if a keyword feels right and Jaaxy shows some search volume it's probably a good idea to target it. Its only one article and an hour or so of your time.
Don't do what everyone else is doing and ignore them, write an article and see what traffic it gets after a month or two. You will be surprised.
You can ignore the green and red percentages, the domain was picked up in late May and as such there is no stats to compare it to.
So we had 401 unique visitors who each spent around 2m 42s on site. I think I can get the time per visit up as well as reducing that bounce rate of 28%.
As for traffic, well organic will hopefully take case of that as I publish more and more content.
As of the end of June, the site has 35 posts, I got a little carried away in the first couple of days and wrote a few more articles.
Some of the keywords have not been added to SERPBook yet and some are more informational keywords that I felt should be added. These will turn into the “buyers guides” eventually, as I plan to add to them each month as I learn more and review new products.
It's important to note here that the content doesn't not yet have affiliate links. This is a strategy I am testing to see if/how well the pages rank without affiliate links.
I have included some authority links to help explain or enhance the articles, such as Wikipedia, YouTube videos and also links to brand and manufacturer sites.
So far the site has earned a big fat ZERO.
Which is fine, considering the speed at which the articles are being indexed and that this is a marathon not a sprint. Plus you need affiliate links to make money 🙂
I like to lay out the next steps for you each month. Firstly if you are following along and are building your own niche site, it makes it easier to set up the following month.
Secondly, it keeps me accountable and helps me to look back and see what I wanted to achieve. It's easy in this game to get distracted, however, if you find yourself going off on a tangent, you can look back on what you wanted to do and change course.
- Produce 30 pieces of content over the next 30 days
- Complete social media channels and add links back to the site where possible
- Find 30 more keywords I can target next month
- Research competition and find out what they rank for
- Start to add affiliate links to articles ranking in the top 10
Overall I am very pleased with the SERP movement considering the site is just a month old and has 22/28 of it's keywords in the top 30. Obviously page 1 is where I want to be and the top 3 is where the action happens, so I won't count my chickens just yet…but so far so good.
The income side won't happen until I start to add affiliate links, and they will be drip fed into articles as and when they appear on the first page of Google.
I think the biggest challenge for me will be to keep producing the content myself and not outsource it, considering I have a team of writers who I can use at any time.
This is both important for me to keep focused and accountable, it is also good for those of you doing this by yourself, without spending a lot of money. Especially if you are new to niche site building.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this case study, if you have any questions please get involved in the comments.