How I Made $32,000 in 12 Months with Amazon Niche Sites (And Why They Still Work)
Over the past 12 months, I have made $32,860.02 in affiliate income with Amazon niche websites.
I decided to start this website to document and share my strategies, tactics, and resources that helped me earn that (mostly) passive income by building and growing Amazon niche websites.
Here is how I did it.
First, Some Results
A lot of gurus tell you how to make money online without actually making any real money online themselves. So before I get to my thoughts on why Amazon niche sites are the best way for someone to get started making money online today, and how exactly I've been able to do it, I wanted to provide just a couple of screenshots from my Amazon account.
What you're looking at here is my Amazon sales from this past December, my best month ever (thank you, Christmas season). After accounting for a few minor wedding registry sign-ups that aren't represented here, my total actually hit just over $5,000 for this one month.
It's not just the Christmas season when I've been able to earn decent income, either. This screenshot above is taken from last month, March 2015, where I earned over $3,500 with Amazon niche sites.
- Why I prefer niche sites to authority sites.
- Why Amazon is the only affiliate you need.
- How I select a niche.
- How I research my keywords and competition.
- How I select a product-category to promote.
- How I build-out my sites.
- What I use for backlinks.
Why Niche Sites Still Work
Before I outline the steps I took to building a successful Amazon niche site, I need to discuss niche sites specifically, and Amazon as an affiliate partner.
Niche sites have lost their appeal a bit lately due to the massive PBN de-indexing by Google back in September. Spencer Haws, the first niche blogger I really started to read religiously, wrote this soon after his PBN was de-indexed:
"So, what kind of niche sites will I build going forward? Well, to be honest, I probably won’t be building many niche sites. Perrin and I stopped building new small niche sites almost 6 months ago. About 2 months ago, we started a new site and that will probably be the last one we start new in a long time."
I think a lot of website builders feel the same way. Google is always making things harder on us. But I’m here to tell you that building niche sites to rank in Google to earn Amazon affiliate income still works.
Is it without risk? Of course not. (More on that below). But as far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a better way for someone who is just getting started out online and looking to make a little passive income. Why am I such a big fan of niche sites?
Authority Sites vs Niche Sites
So-called authority sites are very popular these days, and I think they certainly have their appeal. But I still think sticking with smaller niche sites, monetized with Amazon affiliate links, is the way to go, especially for people just starting out.
Niche Sites Are Easy to Set Up
You can set-up a fully-functioning niche site in literally one day if you wanted to. I don’t recommend moving that fast, but it’s possible: all you need is a domain and hosting provider, a WordPress install, a theme, some plug-ins, and maybe five pages of review content to start off with.My best performing site which currently brings in around $2,200 per month in the home appliance niche has exactly 7 total pages that are indexed: 4 money pages (one is technically a "post"), the home page (which isn’t monetized), an About page, and a Contact page. (The Privacy and Terms pages are set to not be indexed). Seven pages. That’s it.
Niche Sites Are Cheap to Set Up
It’s possible to start a niche site right now for as little as the cost of a domain name and hosting. You can use a free WordPress theme, write your own content, and try to attain white-hat backlinks, which won’t cost you a dime. Do I recommend taking that route?
No.I believe in spending a little money up front to get better (and faster results). This means doing proper keyword research with a tool like Long Tail Pro, purchasing a premium theme like Thrive Themes so your site looks professional, hiring writers to create your content, paying for links (or building your own PBN) to rank your site, etc. Even with those costs, you should be able to get a site up and running with a couple hundred dollars.
Niche Sites Are Lean
When you’re managing a niche site, or a portfolio of sites, it can largely be a one-man operation (you). There are no full-time employees to pay and look after (like you have with an authority site).
You will hire-out for certain tasks, especially content creation and maybe link-building, but those are one-off jobs that don’t require much oversight, and you’re paying only for individual tasks, as opposed to a salary or monthly retainer.
Niche Sites Are Mostly Passive
Don’t get me wrong, setting up a successful Amazon affiliate site requires a LOT of work up-front.
But once you have the site built out, and once you have your systems in place, you can enjoy a truly passive income stream. That site I mentioned above in the home and garden niche making $2,200+ each month? I haven’t added any new content, or pointed any new backlinks to it in over six months. All of the revenue over that time has been completely passive.
Niche Sites Are Agile
There are definitely risks that come along with building an affiliate site using gray-hat link-building tactics. The fact is that your site has a very real, decent chance of getting hit with a Google penalty.
Sometimes you can recover from the penalty: my $2,200/mo. site was hit by both a Panda update (September 2014) and a Penguin Update (October 2014, which completely knocked it out of the SERPs), and I was able to recover it using a 301-redirect technique. (This was back when I still really sure what I was doing, in terms of risk mitigation).
But sometimes you can’t recover. And when that happens, you have to know when it’s time to pivot to a brand new site and start from scratch. The thing about the niche site business is that it’s very agile, meaning when one thing (or one site) is no longer working, you can quickly move on to the next.
What about Authority Sites?
These days, authority sites all the rage. And I can certainly see the appeal. I’m not here to crap all over the authority site model, not at all.
There are a lot of great authority sites out there today, such as Nerd Fitness and Survival Life, which have tons of content, teams of writers, and their own products and services that they sell. It’s a ton of work, but potentially very profitable.But right now, they’re not for me. Why not? Here are some things to keep in mind about authority sites before you go out and try to build one.
Authority Sites Are Time Intensive
Building out a website using purely white-hat tactics takes a TON of time. You have to flood your site with quality, engaging content -- and a lot of it. If you’re starting out from scratch without any networking in place (i.e. you’re starting a fitness site but don’t know any other fitness bloggers), it’s going to take a long time to build relationships and get your content out there. Spencer has been working on his authority site since July of last year.
And, if you're like me, with a full-time day job and a wife/family, finding the time to devote to an authority site is extremely difficult.
Authority Sites Aren’t a Magic Income Bullet
Just because you build out a great authority site with lots of helpful and engaging content doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be making money off it. Again, Spencer is more than 9 months into his authority site, and how much website-related* income did it generate in March?
Let me be clear here: this is not meant to bash Spencer and Perrin in ANY WAY about their site.
Spencer is a pioneer in the niche field and I read all of his content. He knows more about this stuff than I ever will.
My point is that even if you put in all the hard work that he and his team have done, you aren’t necessarily going to make a lot of money. It takes a lot of hard work and time, and I'm sure Spencer would be the first person to tell you that.
*I write “website-related income” because that’s how much the site itself made from Adsense in March. They made much more selling Kindle books ($900+).
Authority Sites Require a Lot of Capital
Think about it: if you want to be a true authority in your field, you must product a LOT of content.
Take NerdFitness.com. They have 144,000 pages indexed in Google!
Of course, that doesn’t mean that they actually wrote 144,000 pieces of content, but that gives you the idea of the type of scale they operate on. And content costs money.Here’s what Perrin had to say about the type of resources required to launch and operate his and Spencer’s authority site:
So, around three months after the launch of their authority site, Spencer and Perrin had added 160 articles, of which 55 of them were ~3,000 words each. And they were paying their writer $1,000 per month to produce the content necessary to operate a site of this size.
UPDATE: It looks like Spencer has decided to pump the brakes on his authority site project.
Also, he reveals in more detail how much money and resources they were spending to maintain the site: $3,000 per month.
Authority Sites Require a Team
Which leads to this next point. Do you think you can pump out 160 articles over three months just by yourself? Of course not: you would need to hire a writer, or more likely a team of writers, just to handle your content. And this is not just a one-off hire to write your product reviews; these are effectively part-time employees that you must pay and manage.
Now, if you feel like you can handle all of these tasks, and have the required start-up capital, then that’s great. I’m not here to tell you to never start an authority site. If you can execute it well, it can certainly pay off.
I just wanted to draw the distinctions between Amazon niche sites and authority sites, and why I much prefer the former.
Before I bought this domain and gave my site a name, I wondered if I should really limit the scope to simply covering Amazon affiliate sites. After all, there are tons of affiliates out there, so why not write about them too? And the answer is because I’ve never used them. Amazon is the only affiliate network I’ve ever used, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Why is that?
Amazon is Trusted
When someone does a Google search and then lands on your product review page, think about it from their perspective: they’ve never seen your site before, have never heard about you, and know nothing about your brand. In short, they have no reason to trust you. Google, by ranking your site high in the SERPs, has effectively told them that your site could be helpful, but that’s the extent of it.
So if that is the mindset of your reader when they hit your site, and you try to sell them something, you have to be very cautious. Personally speaking, I don’t want to send them off to some shady ClickBank product that no one has ever heard of. Why would your reader trust that entire buying process, from clicking your unknown website over to a random affiliate product that’s trying to get them to buy something?
Amazon changes that entire dynamic. When you send a reader off to Amazon, your job is done.
The fact that your reader may not have necessarily trusted your site is irrelevant once they land on Amazon, because Amazon is the single most trusted online retailer in the entire world. When a customer hits Amazon from one of your affiliate links, they have all but forgotten about your site. And that’s a good thing.
Amazon is Huge & Familiar
Amazon did nearly $30 billion in revenue in Q4 2014. Every single person who shops online is familiar with Amazon. They’re huge. But you already knew that.
Amazon Sells Products Other Than The Ones You're Promoting
Amazon’s commission are considered low in the affiliate space -- I consistently hit either the 7.5% or 8.0% commission rates -- but this is partially offset by the fact that when you refer a customer to Amazon, you are eligible to receive a commission not just on the product you sent them there for, but on any other product that they may purchase (within the 24-hour cookie period).This means that if you’re selling a $100 stroller on your site and a reader clicks your link over to Amazon, and that reader also purchases a $300 crib, you get commissions for both products.
I haven’t done the full analysis with my own portfolio, but I estimate that a full 20% of my earnings come from products that I don’t even promote on my sites.
Amazon Knows What They're Doing
You don’t do $30 billion in a single quarter without knowing how to sell. You know how all those marketing bloggers spend so much time talking about how to master conversions and upsells?Amazon has this down to a science.
They upsell better than anyone. Which means that once you get a reader over to Amazon via your affiliate link, you can leverage the knowledge and expertise and scale of their entire sales funnel to your advantage.
How I Went from Zero to $32,000 in 12 Months
I am not an expert.
I had never even heard of niche sites until sometime around 2010 when I somehow came across Pat Flynn’s well-known SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com case study. I read Pat’s blog for a while, without taking any action on my part. Pat then led me to Spencer over at Niche Pursuits, and it was then and there that I eventually discovered his and Perrin’s Niche Site Project with APennyShaved.com.
In January of 2014, I decided it was time to take action.
In the beginning, there was much confusion and frustration. When I first started out, I had no idea what I was doing. Outside of watching some of Pat’s videos, I had no clue how to register a domain with Bluehost or install WordPress, let alone know anything about creating content and building links. SEO was a term I was only vaguely familiar with.
I did a LOT of things wrong.
For my first site, I didn’t spend nearly enough time on keyword research (a common mistake) and picked a niche which, on the surface, was much too difficult to rank for. I didn’t want to spend any money, so I didn’t invest in a premium theme, I didn’t outsource my content, and I didn’t want to pay for links.
So my original site ended up looking like crap, the “reviews” were a joke since I had written them myself and had no interest or knowledge about the niche, and my links were all forum spam-type junk (which I believe eventually led me to receiving a Penguin penalty).
But I also got extremely lucky.
Yes, my very first niche site is the same site that is currently my biggest earner, the one in the home and garden niche that has made more than $27,000 of my overall $32,000 in revenue over these past 12 months.
I remember being two months into the site, it wasn’t ranking anywhere in the SERPs, it wasn’t getting any traffic, and it certainly wasn’t earning any money. I was ready to give up on it entirely, and then I read a post on some random blog (I wish I could remember which blog) that mentioned buying backlinks on Fiverr (bear with me here) -- not one of those “I’ll send 2,000 links to your site for $5” jobs, but people who owned actual “blogs” with real Page Authority who would offer up “guest posts” in exchange for $5 and a link back to your money site.
And it worked.
Important: This was back in January 2014, when I was a beginner and had nothing to lose. I no longer use Fivver for buying links and do NOT recommend that you try it either. It will likely result in a Google slap down.
Over the course of 2014, I ended up spending more than $500 on Fiverr, mostly on these types of links. I launched the site in January, and here is the trajectory of the Amazon affiliate income I started earning:
Now, this wasn’t all due to Fiverr links. Sometime around May I started experiencing with PBNs (more below) and those certainly helped. But if I had never bought those first set of Fiverr links, I probably would never have earned a dime.
As I mentioned, this site was (predictably) hit with multiple Google penalties, but I’ve been able to recover most of the earnings, and just this past month it did over $2,400 on its own.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves talking about link building. As any affiliate site owner knows, it all starts with niche selection and keyword research.
My Portfolio of Niche Sites
I currently have only four niche sites that I am actively trying to build out. I started my first one, as I mentioned, in January 2014. It started earning money, and I got so excited that I immediately launched three more in June 2014 thinking I could duplicate its success.
Here's what my current portfolio looks like, with March 2015 earnings for each.
March 2015 Earnings
Niche Site 1
Home & Garden
Niche Site 2
Niche Site 3
Niche Site 4
A couple of notes here:
- Niche Site 1 has been running on auto-pilot since it recovered from the Penguin penalty in October 2014; no new content or links since then. I honestly think it could get hit in the next Penguin refresh.
- Niche Site 2 is the one I've been spending the most time and resources on lately. In October, this site earned only $47.22. I believe it's the one with the most earning potential.
- I had been neglecting Niche Sites and 3 and 4 for a while, but have started devoting resources to link-building to them recently. Just in the past couple weeks I've started to see a nice bump with NS4.
I wish there was some magic formula I could give you to pick your niche, but it’s more intuition and brainstorming than anything else.
The general idea is to take a broad niche, and try to narrow it down to a specific type of product or group of products that you could promote. For example, in Spencer’s survival knife series, he targeted a large community of people who are passionate about a hobby (the survival lifestyle), and he then zeroed in on a specific product (the survival knife) that he could promote.
Or take Perrin’s electric razor example. The shaving and beard market is huge; all guys need to shave, and there is a community of people who are very passionate about growing beards. So Perrin zeroed in on a couple of specific products (safety razor and electric shaver) that he could focus on.
I’m not going to reveal my own money sites (or niches) here for obvious reasons, but this is a similar tact that I take. Think about a potential niche, and then see if there’s a community of passionate people who will spend money on products.Reddit is a great place to check. Their Survival page has more than 63,000 members.
Survival Life’s Facebook page has nearly 800,000 likes!
Speaking of Facebook and finding other online communities, Glen from ViperChill has an excellent post about identifying these niches, where he examines the magic niche.
But this isn’t the only way to select a niche. Not every product category that sells well has a community of people that want to engage in discussion around it. I can’t image there are many people passionate about toaster ovens, for example, but that doesn’t mean that tons of people don’t buy them.
And that’s exactly what happened with Niche Site 1, in the home and garden. This is a product category that does NOT have any community of like-minded people who love to talk about it, no Reddit groups, no Facebook pages. But it’s a necessity that people need in their homes.
So both approaches can certainly work.
UPDATE: I wrote a post here about how I go about finding a niche to enter by checking out the listings over at the Empire Flippers Marketplace.
Keyword Research & Competition
Once you have your niche, you need to focus on keywords. I wouldn’t call myself an “expert” in this area, I’m just going to tell you how I go about it, and why it works for me.
I only target two very specific type of keywords when I’m doing my research: “best [type of product]” and “[type of product]” reviews”.
For example: “best survival knife” and “survival knife reviews”. Are there dozens of potentially other keywords that you could target? Probably. But part of my success has been my ability to focus only only a few things at a time. So I like to stick to researching only those two types of keywords.
I’m not going to try and reinvent the wheel when it comes to KW research. I plan on doing a full post on it eventually, but for now take a look at Tung Tran’s post on his method.
UPDATE: I've published my review of Long Tail Pro and how I use it to do keyword research. You can read it here.
What it boils down to is that you should buy yourself a copy of Long Tail Pro, and start playing around with different keywords.
Generally you want to target a keyword that has a Keyword Competitiveness score of 30 or under. This number is a calculation that the software makes to give you an idea of how difficult it will be to outrank your competition.
I'm not breaking any news here when I tell you that Long Tail Pro is the best keyword research tool on the market today. It's what I use EVERY single time I even think about starting a new niche site.
I also like to simply run my search into Google. Who is currently ranking in the top 5-7 spots? Are they all authority sites, like Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping? Or are there other niche sites ranking in there too?
I’ll be honest, I used to only look for KWs where other niche sites were ranking somewhere in the top 5 spots. I figured that would mean that I could rank there, too. That’s still the case, but now I’m not afraid of a more authoritative competitor. For Niche Site 1, two of my most profitable KWs, I am outranking Consumer Reports and TopTenReviews.com. With a well-optimized money page and the right backlinks, I’m convinced that a niche site can outrank any true authority site.
Let’s go back to Perrin’s shaving example, for “best electric shaver”.
What’s that you see? Oh, just an affiliate site outranking both Consumer Reports, and AskMen.com, two real authority sites.
You also want to take a look at search volume. Just because you have a low KC score doesn’t mean it’s a winning keyword. Are people actually typing your phrase into Google? I don’t have a hard and fast rule for this one, but I prefer that my main keyword have at least 1,500 local monthly searches to make it worth my while, and preferably 3,000 or more.
Here’s a screenshot for Niche Site 2 showing my current SERP rankings and the search volume to give you an idea for what I like to look for:
But you can’t judge a winning keyword just on competition search volume either. You also need to know how much the products in your niche are selling for. You could sell 50 items a month but if that product only sells for $10 and you receive a 7% comission, you’re only going to make $35. If you have an item on the other hand that sells for $100 and you sell 50 of them in a month at a 7% rate, then you’ve just made $350.
With Niche Site 1 (4,000 - 8,000 LMS), most of the products range from $50 to more than $300, with an average sale I’d say of around $150-$200.
For Niche Sites 3 and 4, the products are more in the $40-$80 range, but their search volume is much higher (12,000 -18,000 LMS).
Let me show you what I mean.
What you’re looking at above is a snapshot of just part of my Earnings Report from my Amazon account from March of products that I sold through Niche Site 1.
For those of you new to Amazon, here’s what the columns represent, from left to right: Item Price, My Commission Rate, Number of Units Sold, Total Revenue to Amazon, and then My Total Commission.
You’ll see for that month, for that one site, I had several items sell for $130 or more. That is the key to having a profitable site: selling high-priced items!
You’ll also notice in the middle of that image one particular product that sells for $200, of which I sold 20 units: so for just that ONE product, in one month, I earned $320 in affiliate income.Here’s another screenshot, this time from that same health niche alluded to above:
This is also from March, but it’s for Niche Site 2 that currently does around $600-800 per month. Right now this site doesn’t do a lot of volume in terms of total units sold, but you see that the products themselves are priced quite high. This is a strategy that I have found works quite well: target a product category that may not do a ton of volume, but whose products are expensive.
- The best way that I've found to find ideal Amazon products, however, is with the AmaSuite 4 software. It helps you identify Top 100 products on Amazon for you to promote. I plan on doing a full review of the software in a later post, but I've found that it's definitely been worth the investment.
UPDATE: You can check out my full review of the AmaSuite 4 software here.
You can then take your product ideas and plug them into this resource from Steve Rendell and one of his buddies, who put together this really cool tool that lets you estimate how much money an Amazon site could potentially earn, based on things like keyword search volume, long-tail search volume, SERP position, conversion rates, and product prices.
Creating Your Site
UPDATE: I've written an entire post on how I structure and write content for my niche sites.
Now that you’ve selected your market, niche, and products that you’re going to promote, it’s time to build out the actual site. I’m not going to walk you through how to sign up for hosting and install WordPress in this post (maybe another time), but once you’ve got that setup, it’s time to design and get your site set up.For me, it boils down to two things: your theme, and your written content (reviews).
Some niche site builders don’t believe in spending money on premium themes, and I’m totally fine with that. I'm not going to tell you that you NEED to buy a premium theme.
But for my sites, I like them to look good. When a potential buyer does a search on Google and lands on my page, I want them to trust the look and feel of my site. I truly believe that makes the reader more comfortable with what I’m trying to convey to them. And if they trust your site because it looks professional, they’re more likely to stay on your page, read your content, and click on one of your links.
- I have used other premium themes in the past now, but right now I have been using Thrive Themes and I’ve been very pleased. It's what this blog is running on. I plan on doing a full review of Thrive Themes and their excellent Thrive Content Builder (which is how I'm creating this very post) in a future series.
Of course, you could have the most elegant theme on the entire internet, but if your content sucks, it doesn’t really matter.
Amazon niche sites are built around the idea of proving great product reviews.
Again, I build my sites with just two keyword-constructions: “best [product category” and “[product category] reviews”. This means that when a reader visits my site from Google, they are expecting a great review of the product they are thinking of buying.
When I first started out, my product reviews were only 250 words each! Now, I aim to produce a page that has at least 4,000 words, reviewing a handful of products in a single product category. The absolute Holy Grail of product reviews right now is from the guys over at The Wirecutter; pick any random review of theirs, like this one, and you will see what I’m talking about.
Of course, chances are you won’t be able to produce content of that length and quality. I certainly can’t, but it’s what I strive for, and it’s how I structure my reviews on all of my sites. Not only do I believe reviews like this are beneficial in regards to your readers, but I feel the same way with Google as well. You want to make your niche site as “natural” as possible, and in-depth content certainly helps that cause.
How do you write a review for a product you’ve never actually used? See Human Proof Designs for this great post.
- Personally, I hate writing product reviews, so I pay someone that I found on Textbroker to write them for me. I pay him .24 cents per word, and he typically writes between 600-1200 words each review for each product. It makes my process much more efficient.
Update: I've made a guide for getting traffic to niche sites. Download it here.
Getting Started with The Hoth
Link-building is a hot topic in the niche site field, but people make it far more complicated than it was to be. For me, it is a two-step process. And it all starts with building a nice set of layered backlinks from The Hoth.
Instead of trying to explain exactly what The Hoth does, let's first look at their product visually.
Your money site, your niche site, is way up there at the top. What The Hoth does is create a number of Tier 1 properties, such as WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogspot blogs, and puts unique content on them relevant to your niche. These properties are set to link back to your money page.
Then, they create web 2.0 articles and point them to the Tier 1 properties, to infuse them with some link juice.
Then they create another layer of links, such as social bookmarking and forum profiles, and and blast those at your Tier 1 level properties as well.
They slow-drip these over several weeks, making it appear more natural.
When I start out with a new site, I will typically order The Hoth Platinum package with Filipino content, which gets you eight Tier 1 properties, each with three unique articles, for a cost of $250.
UPDATE: My full review of The Hoth is up.
My Experience with PBNs: They Still Work
The Hoth will definitely get you started on the right foot, but they won't get you all the way there. For that, you're going to need PBN links.
UPDATE: My semi-private PBN is open for e-mail subscribers.
As I mentioned, when I first started out building niche sites, I had no idea what I was doing, and I used Fiverr for link-building. And it worked. I did this for maybe 3-4 months. But since my site was starting to earn real money, I became worried about a potential Google penalty (which eventually came anyway) due to using the Fiverr links. So I stopped. And that’s when I pivoted to using PBNs.
Here’s the truth about PBNs: they still work.
UPDATE: I've written a full post on how I use PBNs to rank my sites.
Do a search in Google for nearly any product-niche keyword, and you will likely find a site ranking near the top of the SERPs that got there by using a PBN.Let’s look an an example. Go ahead and type “best digital piano” into your Google search. This is a keyword with 1,900 LMS (and 1,600 for “digital piano reviews”) and products on Amazon that sell for hundreds of dollars. As of this writing, here are the SERPs that I see:
That’s three niche sites in the top six results. Let’s take the second result and head on over to Moz.com and type in the URL.
Here are the backlinks that we see:
The top three domains, all PA44 or higher, are PBN links. And this just shows the few domains that this webmaster hasn’t hidden from the backlink crawlers. He surely has many, many more PBN links than this.
Again, you can do this for nearly any applicable keyword, and see the same thing, over and over again. Bottom line: PBN links still work great for ranking niche sites.
My Experience with PBNs
How have I used PBNs to rank my own site? At first, I used a couple of services. One was a private service from Doug over at Niche Site Project.
These were top-notch services, where I purchased posts on their sites for around $30-$50 per post (no, they’re not cheap), on domains with PAs between PA30 and PA45 or so. I was definitely pleased with the results, as it helped my sites rank even higher. Once Google slapped down on PBNs, however, I stopped using them.
That is to say: I stopped using public PBNs.
When you’re in the niche site game, you’re always competing with Google. So in an effort to decrease my risk, I decided it was time to start building out my own PBN. I’m not going to go over everything I did in this post, but I’ll outline what I’ve been doing, and what’s been working.Right now, I have over 40 domains in my PBN portfolio. Here’s a screenshot of just the ones hosted with Namecheap.com.
Finding expired domains is definitely a little tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing. So at first, I used a service to find them for me. Dan Thompson, who now does local SEO, ran a service (along with his friend Curt) called Domain Colosseum, where they would find the expired domains for you, register them, and then push them to your account. I was paying on average $40 for each domain. I ordered some domains from them as a private client as well. They provided an excellent service.
Now, I have been scraping my own expired domains using ExpiredDomains.net. It definitely takes some getting used to, and it’s a bit of a process, but I like how I can control exactly how many domains I need, and I can control my costs (just the registration and hosting fees).I plan on doing a future post where I dive a little bit deeper into how I use PBNs, so stay tuned.
It Takes Time to Rank
If you think you can get a domain, throw up some reviews, buy some backlinks, and start ranking and making money in a month, I've got some bad news for you: these days, it takes a LOT of time to rank well in Google.
How long? These days I'm finding that it's taking at LEAST 4-6 months to start ranking, and sometimes even longer to start making real money.
So, patience is key here. When you're just starting out, you should be focusing on the look and design of your site, and building out great, useful content. I wouldn't start worrying about building links at least until you're three months into it.
Google Penalties: The Risk Factor
You knew this was coming.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: building niche sites with gray-hat link-building tactics comes with very real risk. I’ve only been building and operating sites for 15 months or so, and I’ve certainly grown a lot smarter along the way, but I’ve been hit with every Google penalty imaginable: Panda and Penguin (in back to back months for the same site), and the dreaded manual “thin content” penalty which is really a penalty (I believe) for using PBNs.
As I mentioned, the Panda penalty sapped about 40% of my earnings from my highest-earning site, while Penguin (which I recovered from; a post for another time) knocked it completely out of the SERPs. The manual penalty was on a site that was only six months old and had just started ranking and earning, but I find manual penalties MUCH harder to recover from, so I took that one as a loss.
This is by far the biggest downside to the niche site game. One day, you can be earning an average of $100 every day, and then, the next day, out of nowhere and without warning, you’re earning $0. You can be as cautious as humanly possible in your link-building, but there’s no guarantee Google won’t catch you.But that’s the game we play, and if you’re going to be a niche site builder, you have to accept it as part of the rules. Just be aware of the risks going into it. Besides, even white-hat sites trying to play by all of the rules can get hit with a Panda update.
Tools I Use
One last piece of advice that I alluded to above is that in order to make money, you’re going to have to spend a little money, too. No, you don’t have to go crazy like you would with an authority site, but in order to find a profitable niche and then build out a well-designed, well-written content that’s going to convert well, you would be wise to invest in some high-quality products. Here are just some of the tools I use when I’m building my sites.I plan on creating full reviews of all of these in the coming months.
- Bluehost: domain and hosting provider I've been using since Day 1.
- Long Tail Pro: the best keyword research tool on the market today, hands down.
- Thrive Themes: beautifully designed themes, like the one you're reading now.
- Thrive Content Builder: content editor that creates beautiful pages, easily.
- AmaSuite: must-have software for quickly finding profitable Amazon products.
- Elf Links: completely hides any trace of affiliate links on your site from Google.
- The Hoth: great first-line link-building service that I use with every site I build.
This has been a very long post (more than 6,000 words, if you’ve made it this far), and I don’t want to give off the impression that I think I know everything, or that I came up with these ideas all on my own.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
What is true is that I read TONS of blog content to learn every aspect of my approach. I’m sure I’m forgetting some people, but I just wanted to give a public THANK YOU to the following people/sites, in no particular order, for pumping out all the great content that they do that inspired me to get started with building Amazon niche sites.
THANKS FOR READING: As a special bonus for this post, I have created a 21-point tips & tricks checklist to building a profitable Amazon niche site. Click the button below for your free copy.
Note: you will be sent a confirmation email to confirm your email address. You must click the link in the confirmation email to complete your sign-up process.