A lot has changed in the world of making money online over the past 6 months or so. In fact, over the last year and a half to two years, there has been a huge shift in the way things work, as compared to when I first started getting involved in SEO and MMO. I have a very diverse portfolio of different sites – niche sites, informational sites, product review sites, full-scale e-commerce sites, portfolio sites, etc. The good thing about having a diverse portfolio is that I don’t get so heavily invested in one thing that when there’s an algorithm shift I have to start panhandling. In fact, I have survived MOST of the various stages of Panda pretty well and come out largely unscathed. I believe one of the main reasons for this is that I attempted to shift towards quality nearly 2 years ago when I had a network of PHPBay cookie cutter sites deindexed. I realized back then that while these things can work, they are very fragile at the same time and you can go to bed one night having made over $100 for the day and wake up the next morning to find your whole network deindexed.
Following that deindex, I started to shift towards making niche sites with what I considered to be good quality content. In retrospect, most of the content I was producing, while grammatically correct, was basically pretty dry and rehashed stuff that probably wouldn’t provide a lot of value to searchers. Once I started going back through my 100 EPN sites, I made changes to quite a few of them, moving them from basically just a niche site with a handful of random keyword rich articles to sites that would actually provide some value to the visitor. What I am starting to see now is that the sites that actually help the visitor and provide something of value are the ones that are going to be the cream that rises to the top. For example if I had a site about blenders, rather than just stuff it with articles on random blender related topics, I would be much better served by doing some of my own research, finding out which blenders really are the best, then writing a paragraph or two on each of the top 5 or so in a nice format for visitors to see where they can easily compare and choose the one that would suit them best. I have done this kind of thing for quite a few of my 100 EPN sites now, and this strategy seems to work very well. None of these sites have been negatively affected by Panda either. Additionally, I had a VA a while back for a few months and I had her take a handful of sites and basically perform the process that I just described above. She was able to do it OK, but the overall quality was not anywhere near the quality of the ones that I did. Formatting wise it was fine, but if I were a visitor trying to actually read the reviews she posted and determine which blender was right for me, I wouldn’t waste my time after reading one sentence. Predictably, the conversion rates for the sites that I did compare to the sites that my VA did were heavily in my favor. Meaning that by me taking the time to do it correctly, the end product is infinitely better which results in improved income daily PLUS the added benefit of having a site that is actually a useful resource to the market it is intended for.
So seeing what I’ve seen over the past 2 years or so and having personally tried just about everything, I am absolutely convinced that the best approach to establishing an online presence and making money online is to identify a specific niche, learn everything about the niche, and dominate it. If I were to have to start over from scratch, here’s exactly what I would do. I would identify a fairly large niche – doesn’t have to be super broad like “Pets” or even “Dogs”, but it would have to get a reasonable amount of monthly traffic. Ideally at least 5 digits for the top term or 2 terms. So instead of “Dogs” as that is probably still too broad, you could go with something more specific but that still gets a lot of traffic like “Golden Retrievers”. I am just guessing that that term gets a lot of traffic. Dogs is probably not a niche I would tackle at all. Anyway, the point is you want to have a nice broad enough to have decent traffic, people who are passionate about the topic, and plenty of different sub-niches to work within. Once I had my main niche ironed out I would try to come up with some lucrative sub-niches within the niche to attack. So you may find that there is a lot of traffic for the terms “golden retriever breeders”, “golden retriever puppies”, “seeing eye dog” (I think retrievers are common for this), “golden retriever clothes”, etc. What I would do is take the top say 3-5 terms that you want to go after and set up a separate website for each one. Now the dog niche would be a little different because you could really use just about any dog related keywords, but the tighter you can keep your network, the better. So instead of just mindlessly setting up a site with keyword targeted posts and slapping Adsense on it, first you should have a litmus test for the keyword and that is: Can I create a site that will have value to people searching for this term?
If the answer is yes, then proceed. I recommend that before you actually build a site, you begin with the end in mind. Figure out what questions the visitor might have, how you plan to address those questions and how to monetize the site. Since you’re going to be building several sites within the same niche, I recommend you don’t plan on monetizing them all the same way. Especially not with Adsense. So maybe one site you use Adsense, then another you use Amazon, and another you maybe sell direct advertising. Whatever you want to do, the point is you should diversify. Then go ahead and create the site. I recommend you either do this yourself or hire someone who is passionate about the subject to produce the content. In many cases, you don’t need the sites to be open-ended – meaning, if you can answer the visitor’s questions with a series of 10 articles, write the 10 articles and leave it at that. They don’t all need to be blogs that you have to update constantly. If you’re doing a product related niche, identify all the products you wish to review beforehand and cover them all, then you set and forget. If you don’t have any kind of personal attachment or interest in the niche, chances are you won’t do as well at this. You need to be knowledgeable in the niche if you want to be successful.
So ultimately you should end up with about 3-5 niche sites and then ideally you want to have 1-2 tier 1 sites. In this example, a tier 1 golden retriever site may be one that is a blog – a very well written and useful blog with social media component, newsletter, and multiple ways to monetize. OR in some niches maybe your tier one site is an e-commerce store. It can vary wildly depending on the niche you are working is. The point is you want to start out with 2 tiers in a broad, but not-too-broad niche.
The purpose of doing this is twofold. One – you will have more than one site to work on at once – I think this is important as you should never put all your eggs in one basket. Two – while working on multiple sites at once, you will still be working towards the same basic goal with all of them which is domination of your selected niche. Rather than starting one site on Forex, a site on Weight Loss and a site on Dog Training, you will instead be laying the foundation to dominating an entire niche, and every single thing you do will all be helping you move forward towards that same goal.
Now the idea here is that eventually, you can link your tier 2 sites up to your tier 1 site. Do not link all of your sites together! In fact, if you can, use private registration and host them on separate hosting accounts. You don’t have to since you are building good quality sites and there is absolutely nothing wrong with linking sites together, but it’s still a good idea if you can. You probably do not need to link your tier 2 sites to your tier 1 site right away, or all at the same time, rather do it gradually and make sure you do it in different ways on each site. The idea is to keep it as natural as possible.
Also, keep a close eye on your stats. When you start doing good with a certain keyword on one of your support sites, target the same keyword on your main site or vice versa. Eventually, you can dominate the full first page of SERPs for hot terms by spreading out across multiple properties. This is a huge advantage to having multiple sites in the niche.
Another thing you can do, and that I personally do is purchase existing websites in your niche and add them to your network. Why does the work when it’s already been done? In almost any niche I can practically guarantee that there are abandoned sites just sitting there. All you need to do is take the time to seek them out and buy them. That’s an instant new source of backlinks and traffic to add to your network.
By taking this kind of approach, you are going to end up producing better stuff, which in turn will help you naturally generate backlinks and increase traffic, and you won’t have to go to sleep every night worrying if you are going to wake up and find your sites deindexed the next day. The idea is to dominate and be an expert in your niche, and you can’t accomplish that by outsourcing your entire workday to the Philippines.
Of course, this is just one set of ideas. There are plenty of ways to skin a cat, but if I had to start over from scratch that is exactly how I would do it. In fact, I am working almost 100% of my time on the network just like this right now. I also have some other ideas about creating a product review site but getting users to generate the content for you, creating social networks and more info on buying sites. No promises, but hopefully I will get around to posting more in those areas soon 🙂