It’s been just over a year since I started building niche sites according to the Niche Site Challenge rules.
In this article, I’m going to talk about some statistics for the sites and then give you the three biggest lessons I’ve learned. I’ll then talk about what I plan to do in the future.
Did I Earn As Much As A Doctor Part-Time With Niche Sites?
I don’t like talking about how much money I make, but let’s just say of the nineteen sites I started, here’s a general breakdown:
- Most made a marginal amount of money (so were slightly profitable for outlay + the gadgets I bought to review)
- Some made good Less-than-a-handful make considerably more than I put in (so this includes time spent as well)
- Some made no money… not sure what some of these were; varying flaws; but they just didn’t happen. One of my first ones made 0 money despite being in what I thought was a good niche with a good product that I was interested in. Oh well.
- Some are too young to tell, but already exhibit the varying degrees of promise seen above.
In terms of statistics, I’m a bit too lazy to work this about, but I’d say:
- ¼ overperform and are consistent winners
- ½ perform OK but whether or not they’re worth putting time into is debatable
- ¼ underperform for whatever reason, be it wrong niche, wrong product, whatever.
Now, there are some caveats here. (Aren’t there always?)
Firstly; the Niche Site Challenge is a pretty limited-in-scope project.
I didn’t write any books. I didn’t perform any trickery and for most of the Challenge, I didn’t have any lead generation or reader retention devices at all.
Nor did I put any ads or take private advertisements from anyone else.
Those two things are both easy monetisation strategies that I didn’t use for breaking the rules, and I know one of the sites I started that underperformed would do well using this method. (It’s in the food niche, so cookbooks are obviously an easy product.)
I didn’t sell any of the sites, which would have made a lot more money.
Incidentally, I lucked into an awesome domain name for one of the sites. Somebody offered to buy one of my niche sites just for the domain… I said “no” for various reasons. Sticking to the niche site challenge rules wasn’t one of them though.
Finally, for this section, there’s always the chance that you can improve upon a site’s performance later. I’ll probably keep all of the sites for a second year – even the underperforming ones – and see if I can (without much effort) implement the above changes and see if I can turn them profitable.
However, you can always drop the losers (some will be on the chopping block next year, no doubt) and put more time into the winners.
Let’s look at some of the lessons I learned from the Challenge.
When you put in 500-700 hours into anything, you’re going to learn a lot. By necessity, this article won’t cover all of the things. (For those of you who want to learn them all, you’ve got a years’ worth of “Random Thoughts” to get through in the NSC archives.)
I’ll probably revisit some lessons in future articles, but until then, here are the biggest things I experienced and learned over the course of this year.
Too Much Diversification
Here’s the big problem with starting a lot of websites in a year.
Eventually you’re going to run into a problem where you’re working constantly but the benefit you take from each action is lower. After all, if you have a hundred sites and post one article to a site every day, you’re only going to have three articles on each site by the end of the year.
Added to this, if you’re small-brained like I am, you’ll write on different subjects with absolutely no crossover. This is a bad idea. I learned this bad idea from experience.
It’s much better to have a set of websites which are related; the amount of research you have to do is less, you can use the same affiliate program/products across multiple sites and it’s all easier to manage.
I can’t put a figure on “too many websites” because it all depends. I can tell you what I’m doing, and I will do later in this article.
Every Project You Do Makes You Better At All Of The Others
I stated above that I simply had too many projects going on at once for them all to be effective.
Whilst this is true, there was a bonus that came from this.
When you’re building multiple niche sites, it’s very rare that what works for one won’t work for any of the others. Because I can’t think of a way to describe this, I’ll just give you some examples:
- Putting an “Ad” image on the sidebar increased conversions for that product significantly
- Starting the mailing list with an exit-popup gained me a few subscribers
- Creating a “Start Here” page had many visitors clicking through to all of the links in that article
- Modifying the About Us Page so that it contained product review links increased views to those links
- Adding a button to “Click Here” as opposed to the text increased click through rates (I don’t know why, I think it looks stupid)
There are other changes but those came off the top of my head.
The point here isn’t that you should make those changes (they may or may not work for you) it’s that when you’re working on multiple sites, you can learn and adapt quicker.
Whenever I had some victory or boost like the above, I quickly swapped it into all the sites I was running. Most of the time it had a similar effect across all the niche sites, despite them being in widely different topics.
This is a bonus and it means you don’t have to keep annoying the same visitors with little changes all the time.
Niche Sites Are A Microcosm Of Online Business
Niche sites are relatively low stakes endeavours. If you make no money whatsoever, then you’ve lost $10 on a domain name and maybe some money on hosting if you only have a single site. In any case, your financial outlay is going to be about $50.
That’s not a lot of money for the education you can get, because you can learn about pretty much every aspect of online business through building niche sites:
- Writing content
- Social media
- Finding affiliate programs
- Creating quick products
- Email marketing
Now, not all of those things are in the Niche Site Challenge, but you can do all of them for your niche sites. Turn your best posts into an ebook, get a free email list popup plugin and an account with MailChimp or something and use Yoast SEO to teach yourself on-site SEO.
Jump on Twitter every so often to update the world about your site and you’re building a few skills with not much effort whatsoever. And like I mentioned in the section above; this all adds up to much bigger things over time.
I’ll probably continue the Niche Site Challenge posts to a less formal schedule.
The fact is, while building niche sites is fun and interesting, writing about them every week isn’t. There are weeks where I’ve hardly done anything and a lot of weeks where nothing happens.
I’m happy to answer your questions and I’ll post whenever I come up with some novel stuff though.
As far as what I’m doing with my niche sites:
I’m going to concentrate on a lot fewer sites. I’ll work on 5-10 maximum as a regular thing. I’ll try and make them all related to each other in some way, shape or form. Outside of that, I’ll be doing things that the Challenge rules didn’t allow me to: Product Creation, Ads and other bits and bobs to see how I can get the profitability up.
For the sites that still aren’t great, I’ll drop them after year two.
Alright, that’s a quick overview. I cut it shorter than I’d like to have but I’m going out in a minute, so if you have any questions, ask away!