I started dabbling with niche sites in May 2011 and so it seems fitting that I write an update for the year to say how things have gone and most importantly how much I’ve earned in that time, and also how much I’ve spent.
It’s also worth noting that this will be my last income report for a while as I’m going to take a bit of a break from niche sites and won’t be focussing too much on the money made from them. Obviously it’s great to get revenue from the sites but with the constant changes to Google and the web, I really don’t know how my sites are going to fare in the future and I’ve got too much ‘real life’ things to concentrate on. Did I mention I’m selling a house, buying a house, and getting married in the next 3 months?
In the beginning
So I started my first ‘niche site’ in May 2011 and didn’t really know what I was up to but it’s nice to know that the first site has been my biggest earner and earns me a couple of hundred pounds each month. I think that if that site hadn’t been a success then I probably would’ve given up a long time ago but as soon as it started earning a few £s then I was hooked and had to build more and more sites.
I’ve never really been involved with SEO previously, and so I will admit that I did undertake some dodgy linkbuilding activities at first as that was what I saw everyone else doing, and it seemed to work. That’s how Google worked, more links=better ranking. And then a few months down the line my site got penalised by Google and I had to rethink my strategy. I cleaned up, put more focus onto the content, and haven’t had to rely on links. If you get a good EMD (Exact Match Domain) and write good quality content then you should rank well. That’s the way it should work, but it seems that Google is even changing that now, so even completely organic sites are getting punished and one can’t help but think there is some ulterior motive from Google to make more money from paid advertisers. Of course there is as they’re a business like any other, so if you’re in niche sites then be prepared to constantly change your strategy to keep earning.
How I’ve made my sites
I make my sites very cheaply with minimal outgoings. I see some people spending hundreds on outsourcing to put a site together but I’ve done most the work myself. I’ve only used free themes, written most content myself, and manually created links. That’s about it really. The only essential costs have been my hosting which I’ve had for years and the domains. Here’s how is usually plays out when I make an AdSense site:
Finding a niche
- Brainstorm for an idea. It really is that vague, but I have a think about what people are looking for, and from this I will have a keyword.
- Go onto Google Keywords Tool. From here I can get numbers for searches per month as well as other suggested keywords linked to my initial keyword and also the average Cost Per Click (CPC). I ideally want a search term above 1000 local searches and with a CPC of at least £0.50.
- Next is checking for available exact match domains (EMD). I only buy .co.uk or org.uk as I know the market for the UK and they are also cheaper than .coms and more likely to be unregistered.
- If I find a domain I will then have a look at other sites ranking for that search term. If I think I can break onto the 1st page of Google then I will buy the domain.
Setting up the site
- I only use WordPress so I get that installed along with the usual set of plugins. XML Sitemaps, Google Analytics, Yoast SEO, etc.
- Next is the content. I will always set up ‘about’ and ‘contact’ and will also put one page of original content on there. I will either write that myself or sometimes get an article from iWriter.com for only a few dollars.
- Then I add a free theme and customise it so it has some individuality.
- Finally I will add AdSense onto the site, usually using the Quick AdSense plugin.
Getting the site to rank
- The most important thing for this to happen is content and a page of content will start giving you indicators of how the site will rank. Using Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics will show how the site is doing. This will also give you indicators of what future content to produce.
- It always helps to have a few links back to the site, so I will set up twitter, and use a plugin like Tweet Old Posts to get them automatically on the twitter account. I may also try and answer a few questions on Yahoo Answers. But generally I don’t worry too much about links until I think the site has started ranking and I know it has potential. Link building is the poorest part of my skillset but luckily it looks like Google is reducing the impact links have so that will probably work in my favour.
That’s just a brief outline of what I’ve been doing. Some sites have kick-off straight away, some have taken months to get any traffic, and some are just dead in the water with no chance of ranking.
I have of course got a few affiliate sites but their earnings don’t even compare with AdSense so I won’t go into them.
How much did I earn this month?
I made just over £600 this month and would’ve made more had Google’s ‘Penguin’ update not come into play and disrupted the past weeks earnings but I’m very happy with that total but think it will be a while until I see those figures again. I predict that next month I will be lucky to earn £300 but I’ve had dips like this before and managed to come back. The income breakdown for April was
- AdSense = £567.93
- Amazon = £26.23
- Ebay Partner Network = £6.87
- Total = £601.03 (US$973.80)
The eBay Partner Network (EPN) is new this month and I have a basic RSS feed running on a couple of my sites and I’ll see how this goes. You can read more about EPN here.
How much did I earn this year?
So from what started as an experiment I’ve managed to make £3772.38 of extra income in one year. That’s just over $6100 for anyone who wants the figure in USD. This is obviously not ‘take home’ as there are expenses and tax to take into account but it will still leave me with a tidy sum for something I consider a hobby.
As you can see I’ve had my dips, built the revenue back up, and I expect to have another dip next month. You can read individual monthly reports here.
Regrets, I’ve had a few
It wouldn’t be a review without some negatives and so I thought I’d put some in here:
- Bought worthless domains – Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away and I’ve bought some domains which have got zero value. Just because a domain is free to register doesn’t mean that you have to buy it! Luckily these only cost me less than £8 each for 2 years registration so it’s not a big loss but I wish I’d took more time thinking about what I would actually use them for rather than buy first, think later.
- Wish I’d got involved in making niche sites a lot earlier – This is a big regret but there is absolutely nothing I can do about this.
- Bought WSOs from Warrior Forums – You know the stuff that promises to let you in on the secret to making thousands. All a load of bull, and even though I only spent about $50 in total on a few offers early on I see it as money wasted. There is no ‘secret’. There are lots of ‘experts’ on there actually make their money just from promoting these offers and not from actually using the product they are promoting.
As I explained at the start, I’m going to be taking a bit of a break from my niche sites to see how the dust has settled after the latest Google updates, and I’m also moving houses so there is bound to be some time without internet etc, and then I’m also getting married so that will take priority over everything else, as will my super honeymoon in Bali.
My overall plan is to have a bit of a cull and get rid of the dead sites and domains that I don’t want anymore. That will leave me with a handful of sites that have the potential to be a lot bigger and so I will concentrate of them. In the end I want to have websites that I’m proud to show off and ones that I’m happy to put my name against.
This leads onto my big idea for a local listing site. Yeah, I know it’s been done before, but I think I can make something different and earning money will not be the overriding force behind it. Crucially I won’t be relying on Google for the success of the site and am aiming for people to be reaching the site directly. This may take a year to get going but I am looking to create a BIG site with big visitor numbers. Not huge ones but ones where businesses will want to advertise on my site.
It’s been a pretty wordy post so I’ll end it here, but please leave a comment and get in touch with me on Twitter @Adem.