I was lucky enough at a young age to get started on the Internet when it was just starting to reach consumers. It was the wild west and I had the opportunity to experiment through the years with all sorts of online business models.
I bought and sold domain names, had a digital marketing business, did affiliate marketing and built and ran a niche site that made me six figures a year and sold for more than that.
Rewind to 1996. I was working on my Masters degree in Psychology. I went back to school at the suggestion of my Mom because she saw I was a little lost after college.
Her philosophy was that getting back to school would get me into an environment where I would be exposed to a lot of different opportunities and from there could grab one of them and run with it.
That was not a hard proposition to agree to, given I was working long days doing manual labor making $8/hr.
Yea, I was making $16,000/year. And, over $100,000 in debt from my college school loans.
At the time it felt almost impossible that I would get out of debt.
Fast forward a few years. I had discovered the internet and had started a niche site in the recreational fishing market. In fact, I was one of the first fishing sites on the commercial Internet.
Before I go through the keys to building a niche site, I want to clarify something for you.
My fishing site and all the niche sites that I have built, rely on organic SEO.
For the fishing site I managed to build an organic presence that organic search keyword tracking tools estimated I had $505,000 worth of traffic coming to the site/month.
That means if I had no organic traffic it would cost me $505,000/month to get the same amount of traffic via paid ads.
I was getting all that traffic for free. It was a great moat to keep competitors out. And…
I’ve been able to repeat it over and over. How to do that is a whole other blog post.
I wanted to mention this because you can build a niche a few ways, pure organic search like I did, buy ads and drive traffic and/or a hybrid. Depending on your approach will significantly effect the site design and flow you guide users through.
Keys to Turning a Niche Site into Big Money
1) Quality Content
The key to building a niche site that people want to frequent is quality content. My test if the content is quality is if I felt like I was giving too much away and should be charging for it.
If I had that feeling when I was done an article, post or email blast, then I know I am delivering real value to people. That value will attract viewers to the site.
2) Frequent Content
You have to publish regularly because you want an excuse to reach out to your audience to let them know about new information you are posting. The more time they are reading your stuff, the more you build your brand and the more they trust you.
For niche sites that I run today, I publish at least once a day on the site and alert people to the content via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sometimes Reddit.
3) Get Users To Leave Content
After reading key #2 above, you are probably saying to me something to the effect, “Publish once a day, that’s a lot of work.”
Yes, creating content is a lot of work. But, like anything, as you do it more it becomes easier. And…
You can get your users to help you. Set up a forum of some sort and get the conversation going. I build a community around fishing and by the time I sold the company I had users leaving more content then one could go through in a day.
All I had to do was nudge people and participate from time to time.
People will tell you that getting a forum started is hard. In the beginning it takes some heavy lifting, but once you prime the pump, it goes on it’s own.
To get the pump primed you are going to have to be interacting on the forum every single day. When you get someone posting, you need to be responding, answering their question or asking a follow up question around what they posted.
I would allocate at least an hour a day to it. If you are getting it going as a side hustle, reply on your lunch break and after dinner. An hour adds up fast and will do the trick for you.
4) Multiple Streams of Revenue
Conventional wisdom about niche sites will say to do affiliate marketing or put banner ads on the site. Both of these are good ideas, but where I made my real money was on membership, selling branded merchandise and classifieds.
I was helping people catch more fish. That cut people’s time down on learning it themselves. So when I came out with a membership to support the site people stepped up. I had memberships ranging from $12 -$399/year.
Each tier gave them access and the ability to do different things on the site. It was a recurring revenue steam that helped keep everything going. And, selling people on it was easy since the people already knew the value.
Classifieds are a model that everyone knows and will pay to get more exposure. Every niche can make this model work. It was the backbone of the newspaper business back in and day and a model people are familiar.
Branded merchandise like t-shirts, hats, and mugs have high margins and people will pay for it when you have a brand they trust.
5) Build a Brand
There is a difference between selling a product and building a brand. A brand has value because it can not be build overnight and is something people will talk about.
I built my fishing site into a brand. People felt part of the community, it stood for something, it was a tribe.
The beauty of a brand is that if/when you go to sell a site for a payday, you will be able to get a premium above just a multiple of your EBITDA. I know, because I was able to get a premium because of it.
Do these five things and execute on them daily and you’ll find yourself making real money with your niche site!
About Brandon C White
Brandon is a serial entrepreneur with two exits under his belt, angel investor and former venture capitalist. He teaches Build A Business with Brandon, a business success formula, that walks you through step by step how to easily build a successful business plan. A must have for any business. You can reach him via email at B at BrandonCWhite dot com or Build a Business with Brandon .