I’ve been discussing the topic of niche websites since the beginning of the year. Actually, if you read any “make money online” site, it seems that niche websites have been the buzz words for a while now. To be honest, I clearly feel that I am a bit late in getting into this game. And the problem when you are late is that it’s hard to establish yourself. On the other hand, you have the chance to learn from many others.
So if you want get into the creation of niche websites in order to create an additional income; you are not too late. However, you better be good! I’m learning this as I create my first niche websites since the beginning of the year.
My Niche Websites Overview
We currently have 4 niche websites that are live (I have put their nicknames in brackets to simplify the rest of this article):
Smart Financial Analyst  (SFA)
This was our first project that was launched last year (mostly by my partner). It is a website that provides information for those who want to pass the CFA exams. My partner is a CFA so he is a good resource to give tips on how to pass these important exams.
Secondhand Saddles HQ  (SHS)
This is our second attempt at a niche website. It was created after a brainstorming session with one of our VAs who is passionate about horse riding. We are talking about how to choose secondhand saddles and horse riding in general.
Home Security System Canada  (HSS)
It is our third iteration of what we call a niche website. This one was created based on some interesting home security affiliate programs. We found that we could rank for a few keywords and that the payout was interesting.
What is Dividend  (WID)
“What is Dividend” is our latest and our best creation so far. Born from the knowledge we have in dividend investing, we wanted to teach and encourage young investors to use this strategy. The purpose of the site is clearly to provide high quality information regarding dividend investing basics.
Niche Website Mistakes
While building these 4 niche websites, we have learned a lot about niche website creation. This is why I want to share my mistakes and success so far:
#1 Money Focus
When I first started HSS, I had only one thing in mind; make a quick buck out of a profitable topic. Security system topics are quite profitable in term of affiliate programs and Adsense clicks. I thought of making a simple site with decent information but including a lot of ads to make sure I was making money right away. Very bad move. Focusing on money did 2 things on the site:
a) It discourages readers from staying on the site
b) Visitors don’t click much on ads when there are too many
I have since modified it to make it more visitor friendly and less cluttered but it will be part of my tasks in the upcoming month.
#2 Building Without a Plan
Here again, I was so excited about the idea of building static content websites that I had completely ignored planning with SFA, HSS and SHS. We did a little bit of brainstorming but nothing solid. This generated 2 results:
a) Sites without a clear direction (where you start your topic and where you end it)
b) We spent a lot of time working on them since we are continuously tweaking and improving the work we did
From now on, I start my niche websites with a clear plan. I determine each category I want to cover and the number of articles per categories to be written. It has helped us to delimit the scope of each site. If we realize that we need more articles to cover sub-topics, we take good notes and we will start other niche websites in the future instead.
#3 Ignoring the Difference between a Blog and a Niche Website
If you look at our first 3 niche websites (SFA , SHS  and HSS ) they are all built the same way; like a blog! There are no intro pages (beside an about section) and there are “continuously” updated content. Therefore, there is not much of a difference between these sites and a blog. The problem with that is that static websites are not operating with the same link structure and should capitalize from internal links between articles instead of adding fresh content on a regular basis (such as blogs). So this mistake creates:
a) An important lack in the backlinking structure
b) Confusion for visitors (is it a blog or is it a content website?)
#4 Not Performing Proof Reading
This has been a major challenge since we first started our company; we are not Anglophones! We are slowly getting people to edit and proof read our articles on our blogs (I’m sure long time readers will notice how poor my English was at the beginning of this blog 😉 ). For some reason, we didn’t use editors for our niche websites… big mistake! It’s even worst to not proof read your stuff for a static content website because:
a) You lack of credibility with first time visitors
b) First time visitors may leave pretty quickly in order to find well written articles elsewhere
From now on, we will use more editors from Odesk  in order to have “better” websites ;-).
#5 Over Estimating Keyword Research Performance
Since we are at our very first attempts to use Market Samurai , we had made some beginner mistakes. The most obvious was to think that we could easily rank for “low competition” keywords. It’s not that simple! When I read articles from Smart Passive Income  on niche websites, I thought it would be relatively easy to rank #1 in Google.
While I know that my articles and each site are pretty well optimized for Search Engine Optimization, my backlinking strategy is not as aggressive as Pat’s. The results have 2 main consequences:
a) I don’t appear in the first spot for any of my keywords (however I have reached the first page for some of them)
b) I don’t have a clear structure of all the “good” keywords I’m looking to rank for
I have realized that a more aggressive backlinking strategy (e.g. combining The Best Spinner  with an article submission software) would definitely help me to “master” keywords optimization and ranking with the Big G.
I also plan to do more intensive keyword research with Market Samurai in order to have a short list of keywords I want to rank for each site. Therefore, I’ll be able to create specific pages with some other keywords that can help me to boost my traffic efficiently.
Niche Website Successful Techniques:
Even though we have made several mistakes, we still have a few things we are doing right ;-):
#1 Start with a Complete Keyword Research
A lot of what we do well comes from our learning experiences of our niche website mistakes. The first thing we started to do well is to start our new niche websites with a complete list of keywords. This enables us to have very specific topics to write about and concentrate the internal backlinking strategy towards these pages.
It’s hard and it requires a lot of time to go back into your articles in order to include links and ensure Search Engine Optimization. However, when you do your keywords research before you even write your first post, you will be in a better position to optimize all articles as you go.
We tried this technique with WID and it worked very well. We noticed that there were a few keywords we had a chance to rank for. This is why we decided to write articles on these topics and we tried to link back to these pages from our other articles. While the content is very useful for readers, it is also strongly optimized to show Google which pages are the most important.
#2 Doing a Mindmap
I think that the most challenging part of doing a website is to determine where it starts and where it stops. The main purpose with a niche website is to create a source of passive income. The very last thing you want is to get into a 500 article project that is constantly updated. We call this a blog ;-). We had a hard time establishing the limits with HSS and SHS as we basically started writing as we felt it. This was not completely bad but it clearly creates a lack of direction for each website along with incomplete sections.
In my article on how I run my multiple blogs , I explain how I use the mindmap technique to generate content for each of my sites. I didn’t use this technique initially with niche websites. I thought that creating niche websites were relatively easy and didn’t require a lot of planning; I was obviously wrong! I, now, go a little further with my mindmap.
Once the mindmap for my niche website is completed I separate each sub-category for my main topic into a section of the niche website. Then, I make a clear list of each article I want for each category. I make sure that:
a) Each category is complete and easy to understand/read
b) Each article includes a keyword I would like to rank for (obviously, some keywords have a smaller impact but each article must be SEO optimized)
c) I can link from one article to another and from one category to another
#3 Optimizing Back Links
I’ve realized that getting external links requires a lot of time and effort. You obviously have to create content (either through “guest posts” or article marketing) and have your links published on other sites. This is very effective but also very time consuming.
However, there is another aspect of backlinking strategy that you can explore: internal backlinking strategy. After playing with a few parameters with our main blogs and our niche websites, we realized that internal backlinking can create some very interesting results.
This is why we have increased the number of internal links from both our homepage and existing articles for our latest niche website: What is Dividend . You will notice that there are tons of internal links that lead you from one page to another. We tried to include about 2 to 3 internal links per articles. This actually gives 2 very interesting results:
a) It helps ranking in search engines (as crawlers appreciate the thick spider web you are building with your niche website)
b) It makes people stay on your site a lot longer (our average pages views with WID is 3 to 4 and our average time spent on the website is over 3 minutes)
#4 Using Your Network for Promotion
Over the past years, we have built 2 very powerful networks:
a) Internal network (we currently have more than 200,000 visits on all our sites combined per month)
Therefore, instead of simply using article marketing submissions to create external back links, we can use our networks in order to promote our websites. We advocate several strategies such as:
a) Offering guest posts on high quality websites
b) Doing link exchanges (with specific keywords)
c) Using our related websites to send more traffic
d) Promote our niche website through our newsletters
The Results of Our Latest Niche Website Creation
WhatIsDidend.com  was started in March of 2011. We purchased the domain and started on content creation right away. After 2 months, we have about 50 articles and a complete website. While we are still missing the dividend calculators and the broker reviews, the site is deemed to be fully operational.
We didn’t use much of our resources to do promotion. To be honest, we simply linked a few times from our main blogs (The Financial Blogger, The Dividend Guy Blog and Intelligent Speculator). We also used our newsletter but nothing was done with our external network. Here are the google analytics results for April.
On top of that, after only a month of operation (while we were still publishing content in April), we made a total of $82.67 with this site only. We expect WID to reach our $100/month target at a stable clip by this summer. We can say it’s quite a success compared to our previous niche websites!
Final Thoughts On Making Niche Websites
The internet is all about sharing great resources. This is why we have decided to increase the level of quality of our niche websites. We are lucky enough to have a high level of competency in finance so we should use it and share our experiences with you.
I heard this quote somewhere: the internet is about making the world a better place. I think that this is definitely what you need to do if you want to be successful with niche websites.
image credit 
image credit#2 Google+