The appeal of Adsense micro niche sites comes from the idea that the targeted keywords of a micro niche blog rank better in Google than any authority site. Theoretically, if you can create a small site that has your keyword in the domain and write high quality SEO-optimized posts, then you have a chance to rank your blog quickly.
The trick is you have to find a keyword that will rank high very quickly. There used to be a keyword tool called Micro Niche Finder that you could use for finding long tail keywords with a fair number of monthly searches and low competition.
Then, with a matching domain and specific SEO articles on the topic, you can get some organic traffic from search engines. Once you have traffic, you can start monetizing with Google AdSense or affiliate programs.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Theoretically you could set up multiple such sites in a single day. There are guides out there with step-by-step instructions on how to build micro niche sites.
So the question is, what’s the story? Do micro niche sites work? (It the subject was still so profitable, the tool probably would not have been discontinued.)
Another example of a site I managed to locate is WinterCoatsforWomen.org.
The search volume is high and so is the competition. On top of it, it’s an e-commerce keyword dominated by Nordstrom, Kohls, etc. A one-page micro niche site doesn’t stand a chance. Not the right topic to start a site on.
I managed to locate a case study and I am going to share the edited version with you.
Both the actual micro niche site (MovingInTogether.net) and the site that published the case study on October 24, 2011 are now offline.
Could this site work? I believe it could, but it would take more than a couple of articles.
AdSense sites definitely have a negative image, in general: crappy design and spun, barely unique content, slapped together with a blanket of ads. Many of these sites add no value to the internet, which is a disappointing reality.
With Google’s recent changes, do these micro-niche sites in general have a real future, from an SEO perspective? I think these sites (when created properly) can “fly under the radar” due to the fact that they target low traffic, low competition keywords. Now when I say “fly under the radar,” I’m not implying that we’re doing anything malicious or deceptive.
What I mean is, these sites are so insignificant in the grand scheme of the internet that they will often maintain high rankings simply because there is nothing better in the search results (i.e. extremely low competition). And if there is, the creator of the site didn’t do a good job of making the site or page clearly relevant to the keyword.
Now, don’t take this to mean that these sites will always succeed, or even that they will usually succeed. There’s no set success rate that I can quote, but it wouldn’t surprise me if 50% or fewer of these sites actually get good rankings and earn enough to be worth the time and money invested.
With that in mind, the reason I like micro-niche sites is because when you do fail, your cost is minimal. My hope is that by repeating this “exercise,” I’ll become quicker at creating sites and will find ways to reduce costs.
Remember, the ultimate goal is to make money. In order to do that, however, you still need to create a quality site with unique content. These aren’t going to be the most glamorous sites that you’ll instantly bookmark, but in my opinion, if the site’s content reasonably addresses and provides accurate information related to the targeted keyword, it adds value to the internet.
Because I don’t consider myself a guru or expert internet marketer, it would be silly for me to run this blog as if I’m one. I’m just like most of you – I have a day job, but I like to work on internet projects like these to build some “side” income that could one day grow into something substantial.
With that said, the purpose of this case study is to show the exact, step by step process used to build a site like this, with nothing left out. I won’t be shooting video, but I will be using screenshots when appropriate. If you’re following along and you feel I’m writing about something you already know well, then just skip it and move onto the next section (I won’t be offended).
There’s no one way to do this. There are going to be a lot of steps in this process, many of which you may choose to handle differently. For example, I may outsource the writing of an article, but you may choose to write it yourself.
Also, I don’t care if this site turns out to be really profitable. As I said before, micro niche sites can be hit or miss, for a variety of reasons. I’m more focused on creating a process that can be replicated easily and learning new things along the way. Realistically, I’ll be happy even if this site only earns $10/month. The next one may earn $50/month or only $1/month. Each one will be different, but the key is to keep moving forward and building new web properties.
What about my authority site? Don’t worry, I’m still working on it. Even though I think authority sites have much greater long-term potential, I still want my portfolio to contain a good amount of micro niche sites too.
These are the basic criteria for which I’ll evaluate keywords for micro-niche sites:
1) Low keyword search volume – There will be exceptions to this rule, but generally micro-niche sites will target low search volume keywords. I will generally focus on keywords with 1,200-6,000 exact searches per month for local monthly searches. I’ll go for keywords that have more than 6,000 exact searches per month if I come across good ones, but most likely the volume will be less than that. I’ll avoid keywords that receive less than 1,200 exact searches per month, but I’m willing to make an exception if I find one that’s particularly appealing.
2) Cost-per-click (CPC) of at least $1.00 – This isn’t necessarily what I can expect to earn from someone clicking an AdSense ad (it could easily be more or less), but I won’t target keywords that show less than $1.00 for the CPC listed in the Google Keyword Research Tool.
3) Low competition – This can be defined in many different ways, but for me, I will look at the top 10 sites on page 1 of Google for a given keyword, and evaluate a few different characteristics (I’ll explain how I do this, later in this post):
4) Exact match domain available – At some point I could make an exception to this rule, but for this project, I will be looking for a domain that matches my keyword exactly, with either a .com, .net, or .org extension. I will avoid hyphenated domains unless I think the keyword is exceptionally appealing.
Meeting all of these criteria may increase the time I spend on research, however if I stick to them, I should have a greater chance of being able to create micro-niche sites that will rank on page 1 of Google with limited SEO/backlinking.
I’ve long been a fan of Market Samurai for niche site research in general, but have recently started using Long Tail Pro (affiliate link, 30% off), which I think is a better tool for researching keywords for micro-niche sites (and I’ll show you why). Because I own both tools, I’ll use each tool for different things, but you don’t need to purchase both. They can both accomplish what you need, however each has its own strengths (in my opinion).
The nice thing about Market Samurai is that you can try the full version for free, which really means there’s no reason to not try it, since it won’t cost you anything.
As I walk through my research further down in this post, you’ll see which functions I’m using Market Samurai for (vs. Long Tail Pro).
[Note: Not sure how the current version of MarketSamurai works.]
I’ve been using Long Tail Pro since it became available months ago in beta testing, and has recently been released to the public. The reason I (and many others) immediately jumped on this tool was because it was created by Spencer from NichePursuits.com. If you’re not familiar with Spencer, he has quickly made a name for himself in the “niche site world” as someone who is absolutely dominating AdSense-monetized, micro-niche sites.
He initially developed Long Tail Pro not to turn it into a business – but to use it himself, for his niche site research. He specifically designed the software to help himself build micro-niche AdSense sites extremely efficiently, because he couldn’t find a tool that could do exactly what he wanted. Now, he earns over $12,000/month with his micro-niche sites, having built over 200 of them.
To me, the best testimonial for a product is that its creator designed the product for himself. It doesn’t even require hype, because you can just read about the personal success he’s had with it. Anyway, I highly recommend it (yes, this is an affiliate link) and you’ll see how I use it below.
As I’ve said before, this is probably the most critical part of the niche site creation process because your chosen keyword is going to affect your search engine ranking and the traffic your site will receive, which will drastically impact your site’s earning potential.
Before we can start evaluating keywords, we need a starting point. Sometimes this is difficult because you may not have any good ideas off the top of your head. To get ideas, I like to browse article sites such as Info Barrel or Hub Pages, because these sites contain tons of content, much of which has been researched by internet marketers. To be clear – we’re not looking to rip off content. We’re just looking for seed keywords to get the ball rolling. This may take some trial and error at first until you settle on a good keyword. Feel free to try several seed keywords at once.
The seed keyword I started with was “moving”.
Normally, this wouldn’t all be one step, but Long Tail Pro allows you to do it all at once, which to me is the most valuable feature of the software. Because you can do step so quickly and all at once, I will typically do my search for exact match domains before I’ve even evaluated the competition.
This seems backwards, but it works better this way given the speed of this step in the process. In other words, I first gather my keywords and identify available domains based on the filters below, and then I evaluate the competition to decide whether or not I should buy the domain.
Now, it’s time to let the software do all the hard work! Click on Generate Keywords.
Long Tail Pro will begin processing your request – it usually goes pretty quickly, but the speed will depend on the number of keywords it returns, and what kind of filters you place on the search.
Although I really wasn’t targeting the “dating” niche with my seed keyword, it looks like the keyword “moving in together” fits my criteria. Granted, the local search volume is on the low end of what I want, but the CPC figures to be decent given the fact that the dating niche is a lucrative one. We’re not ready to buy the domain yet though – we need to check out our competition.
This is something that can easily be done in Long Tail Pro (in fact, it can be done very quickly in Long Tail Pro by simply clicking on your keyword in the keyword research results), but for whatever reason, I like to do it in Market Samurai (not because it’s any better, but because it’s more visually appealing to me).
Here’s what the keyword “moving in together” looks like with respect to its competition on page 1 of Google (click to enlarge image):
Looks like we have a successful keyword to target! As you’ll notice 4 of the top 10 ranking pages have a PR of 0. Even better, 5 of the top 10 pages have no backlinks pointing at them. It appears that it should be reasonably easy to get onto page 1 of Google for my target keyword with a bit of SEO work. Nothing is guaranteed, however. It’s possible that, despite meeting the “easy competition” criteria, this keyword could still be difficult to rank for.
Looks like we’re definitely off to a good start here!
My micro-niche site – www.movingintogether.net – doesn’t figure to be a high traffic site initially, but with low competition and a reasonably high cost-per-click, I should be primed for a profitable site.
[Note: When I got to this point, I decided to give it a try and replicate the original experiment. Let’s see what happens in 2020.]
No article about content creation would be complete without mentioning the obvious, yet often overlooked, fact that good content is very important to a site’s success. With micro-niche sites, things get a bit hairier. The same principles apply, but your objectives are slightly different. On an authority website, you absolutely need great content and it needs to be executed well – otherwise, no one is going to return to your site or bookmark/share your writing.
With micro-niche sites, we’re less concerned with that. While it would be great to have content shared and bookmarked, we’re not relying on it. That doesn’t mean we ignore the goal of “good content,” but it does mean that we aren’t interested in making it to the front page of Digg. For micro-niche websites, these are the most important content-related “rules”:
1) Content must be unique – This doesn’t require much explaining. If your content isn’t unique, you’re not adding value to the internet. Value aside, you’re most likely plagiarizing someone else’s work, which is illegal (aside from PLR content, which I won’t be going into).
2) Content should give the reader the information he or she desires, or at least point them in the right direction – You can never expect to be comprehensive with your content, but it’s important that you’re adding value. The reaction you don’t want is, “What is this crap? This has nothing to do with what I’m looking for.”
3) Content should be written with the reader in mind, but structured with Google in mind – Never forget that you’re writing for people. Good grammar, spelling, and sentence structure are extremely important and should never be overlooked. That aside, you need to be sure you’re doing all of your “on-page” things correctly, so that you maximize your chances of ranking highly on Google and other search engines. This will be covered in more detail in the SEO section of the case study.
Before we can actually create the content, we have to figure out what the heck we’re going to write about and how much we’re going to write (initially). For my site, I’ve decided to begin with 3 articles, but ultimately I plan on adding more as time goes on. My primary article will be 750+ words, and my two supporting articles will each be 400+ words.
There’s no real reasoning behind this – I think 400+ words is a good minimum point for article length, but I’m sure many people will tell you that you need more, or that there’s an amount less than 400 that is sufficient. Here’s the truth: No one knows with absolute certainty, but more is generally better, provided the quality is there.
[Note: These word limits have moved up in the past 8 years…]
This is an area where some people struggle. Should all articles be closely related to your primary keyword? Should they be drastically different? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, provided it’s logical. If you’re targeting the keyword “coffee mugs” you probably shouldn’t write an article about polar bears (unless it’s a polar bear coffee mug – then by all means go for it).
The primary article is easy – write about your target keyword. For my site, the primary article will be titled “Moving in Together” and it will discuss the implications (challenges, pros, cons, etc.) of a couple deciding to move in together.
The supporting content can be a bit more challenging. To help me with this, I usually like to use Google’s Keyword Tool [Ubersuggest]. I start by typing in my primary keyword and looking at the results. Usually, I’ll find a couple things that give me ideas for the supporting articles. This is also a nice way to approach it because it allows you to see the keyword search volume of the keywords that your supporting articles may target. I don’t put much thought into search volume for these, however. My main goal is to focus on ranking for my primary keyword – anything else is icing on the cake. As you develop a site and bring it beyond the point of being a micro-niche site, you can focus more on secondary keywords.
Based on the results I found, I’ve decided to have my supporting articles be closely related to my primary article. Here’s what I’m going with:
I could have easily had my supporting articles be about “how to compromise in a relationship” or something similar, but I decided not to. Again, it isn’t going to make a huge difference provided it makes sense.
With the several sites I’ve created in the past, I’ve experimented with a number of different outsourced writing. Here’s what I’ve used before, and my brief review of it:
TextBroker – This is what I currently use. The reason I like it is because they have their own internal system that helps to ensure the quality of the writing you receive. You may pay a bit more here, but it’s worth it. You pay per word, and the cost per word is dependent upon the quality of writing you choose (from 2 stars to 5 stars, 5 being “professional”).
The cool thing is, a 3-star order can be written by 4 or 5 star authors, but you still only pay the 3-star price. In general, 3 stars is the quality I select – sometimes I need to make edits once I receive the completed article (somewhat due to the fact that I am picky), but overall it’s good. The other nice benefit is that if you have a large order of articles, you can still get quick turnaround times because they are all being written by different authors. Finally, Textbroker automatically checks the article with Copyscape to make sure it’s unique (at least, per the criteria Copyscape uses).
Upwork – I like Upwork, but I like it more for larger orders/projects. The advantages with Upwork is that you can usually get work done less expensively, and if all of your articles for one site are written by the same person, it may appear more consistent (as far as writing style goes) across your entire site. The downside is that you don’t necessarily know how good the writing will be, especially if you go with a less expensive author.
Fiverr – In my opinion, this one comes with a bigger “buyer beware” sticker. I’ve used Fiverr for content before and had very mixed results. Because you generally can’t read as much feedback about a provider and there is less incentive for a provider to do good work, the quality is often questionable. I’d prefer to use content acquired via Fiverr for article marketing (backlinks) than for content that actually gets published on my niche sites.
Once I receive the written articles from the writers at Textbroker, I review it for grammar, spelling, structure, and overall logic. This typically doesn’t take long, unless it’s terribly written, in which case, I can send it back for revision. For this site, I’m not crazy about the direction my writers took for these articles, but as long as it’s logical, I’ll go with it. Obviously, a topic like “moving in together” invites some opinionated content. In this case, my writers seemed to focus on stereotypes along with a level of cynicism.
For these types of sites, I like to publish the content as pages (instead of posts), and then I set the “main” article as a static page on the front page with the following selection:
Outside of adding the actual content that I’ve outsourced, I usually also add the following pages, both with the help of plugins:
This step is particularly important because ad placement will directly impact your earnings by influencing an ad’s click-through rate (“CTR”). Although there are many tips out there for how and where you should place ads, the only way to truly determine what works for your site and your niche is by testing different ad placements. Unfortunately, this exercise won’t do you much good until you have enough traffic to obtain good sample sizes for different ad placements.
For now, I’m going to go with an ad placement that I think is effective, but I’m fully prepared to change it later based on testing. The screenshot below shows where I’ve placed my ads.
The ads within the content are generated by a plugin. The other ads were inserted manually, within the code of the theme and with a sidebar widget. The only reason why I won’t go into that now is because every theme is different – showing you where I pasted the AdSense ad code in my theme is just as likely to confuse you if you aren’t experienced with playing in the code within WordPress. Also, I probably don’t know it well enough to properly teach it.
A couple important notes about ad placement:
If you’ve tried to learn about SEO, you’ve no doubt found that there are literally hundreds of informational products, software, and other tools available, all claiming that they will help you “reach page 1” on Google. If you get caught up in this SEO hype, you could find yourself spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars before actually doing something productive.
Here’s what I tell people: Lots of products work. The key, however, is that you put yourself in a position for your SEO efforts to be effective. In more competitive niches (or with more competitive keywords), there isn’t a whole lot you can do – your SEO efforts will need to be strong, and it will take quite a bit of time. For micro-niche sites, however, the secret is very simple: Do good keyword research and find keywords that are not too competitive. If you follow this one piece of advice, you won’t need to stress about which link building software to use, or which informational product to read and follow. Go ahead and read my article about keyword research to see exactly what I mean.
I will tell you about which link building products I’m using for my site’s SEO, but don’t feel like these are the only products that work.
[Note: UAW is an article spinning software and since the Google updates we don’t use such tactics any more. I am just going to include this one paragraph to show the amount of recommended backlinks, which is 15 backlinks per day for 100 days.]
Then, once the article is all set up (i.e. you’ve provided rewritten versions of each section the article), UAW will automatically submit your article (that is, “unique” versions of your article) to 500-1000+ article sites (varies depending on category). To make sure the process looks natural in Google’s eyes, I set mine up to to distribute 15 per day, for a given article. Assuming it’s going out to 1500 article directories (the # of directories will vary), this means I’ll be automatically building about 15 backlinks per day, for 100 days. Now, Google will take its time in finding these backlinks (or may never find some of them), so it will actually look more natural than it may seem.
Anchor text variation is extremely important if you want your backlinks to appear natural to Google. With that in mind, I generally vary the anchor text 6 times for each URL, with each article I submit to UAW. Only 1 of those 6 is my target keyword, and 3 of the 6 aren’t even keywords at all. To show you what I mean, here are the 6 anchor text variations I used for this particular niche site:
The purpose of #2 and #3 are to help me rank for a couple of my secondary keywords (for which I have written articles) and #4-6 are thrown in there to make the backlinks appear more natural. I just started this process in UAW a few days ago, so I wouldn’t expect to be ranking anywhere yet.
Although on-site SEO is far less time consuming than building backlinks, it’s still very important. There are a lot of WordPress plugins out there that will make this even easier for you – the one I use (it’s free) is WordPress SEO by Yoast. There are really 3-4 key items for on-site SEO (and then a bunch of other factors that are important but not as critical)
When I first started out trying to make money online, I remember someone telling me something to the effect of, “If you can find a way to make $1 a day, all you have to do is do that 100 times and you’ll make $100/day.” Whether or not $100/day is your goal isn’t the point – the point is, if you can be successful with something small, you’d ideally like to be able to scale that same success into something much larger.
I’ve gone through the process of creating one niche site (the site for this case study) which I believe has the potential to earn at least $1 per day. My goal is to have 250 niche sites created by the end of 2012. If I can indeed average $1/day for each site, that would net me $250/day, or about $91,000/year. I think we can all agree that this amount would be great. Now, I can’t expect every site to be successful, but I still think this is an achievable goal.
Creating 250 niche sites is no small task (although I already have 70+ created, so really, I have about 180 left to build). To be successful, I need to find a way to work more efficiently. Although I outsource content creation, I still do most other things myself. To me, the key to efficiency with these sites is batching – grouping similar tasks and doing them all at the same time (not necessarily simultaneously, but within a relatively short period of time).
I’ve found that a good number of sites to batch (for me) is 20. For each of these sites, I will batch everything I can – even something as minor as installing a plugin. In other words, I will install plugins for all 20 sites before moving onto another step in the process. Certain steps of the process take longer than others, of course. For example, I can’t research 20 keywords/domains all in one sitting, and I can’t backlink all 20 sites in one sitting. I can, however, focus on that one step before I move onto anything else.
I may write a more detailed post about this in the future (going in-depth on what tasks I batch, along with some tips for better batching), but the basic logic behind batching is that by grouping together similar tasks, you gain some efficiency.
Repeating a task causes you to become better and quicker at performing that task. When I’m doing something for 20 sites, I guarantee you that it takes me longer to perform the task for site #1 than it does for site #20. The amount of efficiency gained will vary by task, but when you combine the time savings from all the different tasks you can batch when creating 20 micro-niche websites, it’s substantial.
When you’re trying to test the effectiveness of an ad or a landing page, the primary thing you need is traffic. Traffic allows you to split-test different components, like titles, colors, images, and more. With enough traffic, the results become significant, and they allow you to implement changes that lead to more conversions – i.e. more money in your pocket. But what about testing other things, like backlinking tools? It’s impossible to do it with one or even a few sites, because there are too many variables. Each website and keyword has a unique competitive environment, so one backlinking strategy will affect different sites in different ways.
But what if you could test out different backlinking tools across 20 sites that target similar competition keywords, have similar quantities of content, and in general, have very similar characteristics (aside from niche/target keyword)? What about doing this across 40 sites or more?
While I will probably ultimately use multiple tools to rank my sites, I still want to know which tools are more effective, so that if one is significantly more expensive than the other, I can evaluate if it’s worth keeping one or both tools, or maybe get rid of them altogether and try something different.
The value of creating a large portfolio of sites goes beyond just hoping to earn $1 or more per day from a single site. For example, of 250 sites, I’m sure I will look to build up at least a few of them into more “authority-style” sites. Obviously, this will require a lot more work, but it’s still something I am keeping on my radar for the future.
What do you think of my plans for these micro-niche sites? Are there other things you can think of that I can do with these sites? Share your thoughts in the comments![Note: You can look up the 2020 version of the original experiment if you are interested.]
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