A Beginner’s Guide to Niche Websites

Raise your hand if you have created a successful niche website! Neither have I!

In this article, the purpose is to research and create content for a newbie website. At this point, I am a true beginner, mostly regurgitating niche words found on the internets. That’s ok! We will learn together. Inspired by r/JustStart – here I go writing!

If you are like me, you are seeking knowledge to create a website and begin generating passive income.  Many of us think that it is impossible to create something from nothing by ourselves, especially something as difficult as translating your own words into income. I’m here to tell you to just do it, to give it a go!

Contrary to some beliefs, there is still money to be made on the internet, and you can start today with minimal skills. It’s never been easier to create a great, modern website that people will visit.  I have spent the last few weeks researching about website creation and niche websites, and will draw upon some basic business knowledge to present a guide here outlining how to get started – create something inspiring today.

An Overview of Niche Websites

Tracking Website Statistics
What is a Niche Website?

In business, a “niche” is a specialized segment of the market. In the real world, we see examples of niche businesses everyday: the vitamin store, the dollar store, the pizza store – these exist to serve a particular customer and not every customer.  Many businesses exist and thrive serving customers with very specific information or products. However, “niche” is just a buzz word and overused when describing a business, as it can describe pretty much anything.  For our purposes, let’s just think of it as drilling down on a topic.

A niche website is a website created with the intent to serve a very specific audience, a certain type of product or service, or just informational content and written articles. These websites are generally created with the intent to make a profit indirectly or passively, and can include:

  • Pay Per Click Advertisements like Google AdSense
  • Affiliate Marketing Sales like Amazon Affiliates or Commission Junction
  • Lead Generation and Customer Referrals
  • Sales of personal services or digital products
  • Private sales of advertisements or product placement

Generally, Niche Entrepreneurs target particular keywords and longer phrases with fewer competition, so that through effective content and search engine optimization (SEO), they can rank higher on search engines like Google or Bing! This high rank and visibility on a search engine will drive traffic to their blog or product review site, and a small number of individuals will click an affiliate link to purchase a product, or click an advertisement link–thereby creating value and wealth for the niche entrepreneur.

Be your own Boss!
What Makes a Good Niche Website?

This question is difficult! A good niche website satisfactorily serves it’s purpose. A website on caring for fish should have original, well-written content, and perhaps a few ads or a link to sell you aquarium products. A good website is ranked front page in Google, when you search for long-tail phrases and keywords.  Additionally, a good niche site should have 20 to 200 articles of engaging content, with an emphasis on good quality content versus blatant sales agendas.  It also depends on how you define success: whether success means turning a profit, personal contributions to a particular community, or perhaps even a springboard to further career success.

However! Always be mindful to create a good website in general.  That means following typical conventions on writing, creating content, user experience, proper formatting, great pictures and media, and informative content.  If you would not spend a significant time on the website, others probably would not either.

Conversely, it is easier to determine what makes a bad niche website! One that is poorly written, too many or spammy ads, plagiarized articles that won’t rank in Google, unfinished design choices or execution, or one that is obviously geared for product placement over quality content.  Whatever you create, will be, so try your best and keep editing until it is polished.

No one is buying our product!
Repolished!
Choosing a Niche

For me, this is similar to choosing a research paper topic in grade school. Remember when your teacher suggested to pick a topic that isn’t too broad or too narrow, to trim away a large topic to the point where you can write about a pointed topic for a few pages. For example, “the universe” may be too large a topic, too broad and ill defined for a paper. But to narrow it down to the milky way galaxy, or the moon, and you have increasingly manageable topics.

For a website, a good niche is one where you can easily think of a few dozen article ideas, and it isn’t too broad to confuse the reader. Other websites suggest to use tools (such as LongTailPro or SEMrush) to choose keywords & phrases to view keyword rankings on Google, and choose a niche based on long-tail phrases like (such as: best camping gear for subzero temperatures), but in reality, I suggest an easier approach.

For the beginner, I would create a website based on some direct knowledge, experience, or passion. If you don’t have a passion or in-depth knowledge, writing the articles and creating necessary content may be extremely difficult, require additional research time, or encounter procrastination and lost interest.  If you can think of a dozen article or content ideas for your niche, and have the moxie for follow through, you may have a good niche.

Brainstorming a Business Plan

Great! Sounds like you are also writing a blog! Well chosen! Whatever you decide for the niche, it is time to brainstorm and create a business plan. A niche website is a business, after all, if you intend to create income rather than play at a hobby. This doesn’t necessarily need to be complicated. A business plan can be as simple as “I will write a few articles and hope Google pays me through AdSense“! However, at this stage, you should reflect for a bit before embarking on a journey of wasted time.

Think of this like a business.  Evaluate your competition, or at least websites that seem most similar to your niche idea.  Analyze professional websites or blogs.  Do you have the capacity to create content that people would want to read?  Do you have the extra unknown hours to troubleshoot formatting issues or WordPress errors?  Creating good content is obviously difficult.

Write the Articles

At this stage, you have decided on a niche! I recommend writing a few articles before any purchases, to see if the enthusiasm for the idea lasts. Writing a few articles before continuing further, and you may consider to broaden or restrict your topic and niche, or perhaps decide writing just isn’t your thing.

Perhaps, writing is not my strong suit.  Writing articles is difficult, especially if you are a pixel perfect obsessed type of nervous wreck.  From typefaces, font, use of pictures, normal internet formatting, or fist-fighting your WordPress theme: keep going, that’s my advice.  Just do it. Write a few words and edit it tomorrow!  Here are a few links to become a better writer, focused on writing for the modern internet:

Choosing a Domain Name

Time for excitement! At this point, you will want to choose a URL that is available.  You can search for these by going to a webhost and goofing around for a few hours. Personally, I use GoDaddy.com to check available URLs, typing in test names for a few hours to come up with a workable idea. Here is some key advice when choosing a domain name:

  • Generally, only purchase a .com extension.  The others are more expensive and many would argue seems less professional.  If you are considering purchasing an extension other than .com, you should know what you are doing.
  • Keep it simple with only a few words. Keep it easy to remember. Don’t use crazy numbers or misspelled words. Try to avoid the hyphen (-). Keep it under three words or 15 characters.
  • The best, highest trafficked websites have one or two word names, and are easily brandable.
Choosing a Hosting Plan

For the first time website creator, it’s probably best to purchase the URL and the Hosting Plan at the same time, to capitalize on any deals or savings (don’t forget to Google coupon codes!!). For this particular website, the first year cost $12.  Generally, it costs about $15 a year to purchase a domain name .com, and approximately $10 a month for web hosting to a small website.  I would recommend searching for deals on web hosting through Google, such as “GoDaddy coupon codes”, or search directly on their site.  Personally, I use GoDaddy because I found a great deal for $1 hosting for the first year, and a free domain.  Mileage varies.

If you intend to monetize your website, it probably is not a good idea to create a site through WordPress.com or Wix.com, or any other free website building resource – as there are limited and restricted option and design choices, typically unless you pay a free. It probably costs more money for a less professional product if you go this route.  For the free users, typically the domain is tied to the parent site, so you will see .wordpress or .wix in your URL domain. Additionally, I have heard of problems with advertising and placement issues using affiliate or contextual advertisements, so it is just an additional set of problems.

Building the Website

Great. You have purchased a domain name and a web hosting package! Now what? You can either custom code your website with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript – to create a responsive website that changes form factor depending on screen size (making things look good on both phones and computers = responsive design).  Coding from scratch you can get exactly what you want: and don’t have to wrestle with WordPress or plugin challenges, or deal with unresponsive formatting issues, or being stuck with theme limitations.

Obviously, web design is a professional job. Coding is difficult for the uninitiated, and can take years to master at a polished enough level for presentation.  In my experience, I spent about six months learning HTML; and can even hack together some stolen navigation menus and jQuery plugins, but, I find myself going crazy in a pixel perfect world.  Something is always off, something needs to be tweaked, it never looks right for me.  In my experience, WordPress themes can get you close enough, most people can’t tell the difference.  With the proper content, a WordPress website can generate the same as it’s handwritten counterpart. By using a theme, many choices are streamlined for the author, so this certainly saves time.

In today’s world, there is probably a wordpress theme for that. It’s probably free also. It has responsive design built right in! I recommend using WordPress.org, finding a theme store, and choosing a free WordPress theme. WordPress is specifically made for the inexperienced in web design and coding to quickly change the layout, upload content and personalization, and call it a website.  Here are some resources to familiarize yourself with WordPress:

Monetizing your Website

Earning money online has never been easier, with many choices for partnerships and ways to make an income. Generally, most web developers have two primary methods of passive income: Google AdSense and Amazon Affiliate Marketing.  Assuming you have written content, these systems are streamlined to onboard new users.  Both programs will give you a block of code to insert into a sidebar or within the content itself, to provide a dynamic ad tailored for the user. This is probably the only easy part.

If you build it, they will come; perhaps will not hold true.  To earn money from any method, you need a fair number of visitors, whether they are attracted by great content, or a random keyword trail led them to your page.  To maximize your earnings, you will need to engage in Search Engine Optimization.  Basically, this means to conform to certain standards for Google and other search engines to rank your page well, or first page, for a number of keywords and phrases.

SEO is a difficult field to master, and many people are confused by using outdated practices, or spamming keywords within the articles, making them unreadable.  While there are tricks and tips to rank higher, the number one rule is to write high-quality, added value writing, that people actually want to read.  Once this bar is met, you can then fiddle with settings and descriptive keywords to maximize traffic.  There are many aids available such as Yoast SEO as well as Google’s own PageRank algorithm explained.    Here is a Wikipedia article discussing more information about PageRank. Google’s site discusses the primary ranking factors in the algorithm:

  1. Relevance
  2. Quality of content
  3. Usability
  4. and user specific settings such as location, search history, and search settings.

Create good quality content, and it will rank well on Google, especially for low competition keywords.  You may not score in the first 1,000 for “reviews”, but you may well land on the front page for “reviews for best organic soap”. Context and specificity matter, that is the purpose of a niche website.

However, search engines are not the only way to drive traffic.  Social media and direct networking can also generate considerable traffic.  Consider the “Reddit effect”, where trending posts can send enough traffic to a website to crash the servers!  So too, can you experience volume by building a Twitter or Facebook following, and effectively converting them to click your tweet for a redirect to your website.  Social media is a tool, that if used properly, is a powerful way to maintain a presence for your brand.

It’s All About Mindset

Deciding to quit your day job and go full blown internet entrepreneur seems like a risky endeavor for the skeptical.  If building a brand, constant tweaking, writing for quality are difficult propositions, and potential disappointment does not deter you, I highly recommend just getting started and put pen to paper.

In my experience, trying twice and being a prolific content producer are the keys to success in any business.  Creating a niche website is easy; but creating something of value requires a well oiled machine.  Keep trying, improving, learning new techniques, and by frequently posting new content – enough people may visit to pay the bills.

Good luck on your website!  Tell me about it in the comments!

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