How to Grow Your Niche Site: A 6-Month Strategy Guide
Have you just launched a new niche site, but are unsure what steps you should be taking next to grow out the site?
Oftentimes with a niche site, after it's been launched, there's no clear strategy guide to follow to ensure proper growth, both in terms of adding new content, and acquiring new links.
Well, in today's post, I'm going to show you my six-month strategy guide that you can follow to make sure that once your niche site is on the right path after it's been published.
Since launching my Custom Niche Sites service two weeks ago, one thing that's become incredibly apparent to me is that one thing a lot of people are interested in is taking a new site and growing it out.
With my Custom Niche Site offering, what I'm doing is taking care of all the niche and keyword research, all of the content creation, and packaging it together with a highly-targeted and conversion-focused mega-homepage, in addition to some other standalone reviews, and some other goodies as well.
But once you have a new niche site with the homepage and some individual product reviews built-out, then what? What are the next steps to grow and rank the site?
New Sites Are Taking Time to Rank
Ranking new niche sites used to be quite easy. Spencer ranked his survival knife site from nothing to #1 in ... 62 days! That's how easy it used to be, and that was only two years ago, which shows you just how much has changed with Google since then.
Nowadays, after two months, there's a chance you won't be ranking at all. Take my Shower Specialists site.
This site was launched two and a half months ago ... and it's still not ranking (for it's two main keywords).
Now, there's an important caveat here: I haven't really tried to rank this site at all. I did use a Hoth package on it at the beginning, but outside of that, I haven't built a single link to it, and certainly no PBN links.
UPDATE: Thanks to one of my readers, Tim, for pointing out that Shower Specialists is actually ranking for some long-tail keywords. Here are the top 5.
But the point is that the days of simply throwing up a thin site, pointing some Web 2.0 links and blog comments at it, and shooting to the top of the Google SERPs after a couple of months are long over.
Ranking new niche sites takes time these days. And, really, when you think about it, that's a good thing.
Patience Pays Off
Why is it a good thing? Well, two reasons for me.
One, what Google has done by creating the infamous "sandbox" of making new sites wait anywhere from three to six months to rank is that it's gotten rid of all the people who were looking to rank sites by "churning and burning".
What these people would do is throw together a very thin site, rank it quickly with spammy methods, generate some income, and once the site inevitable got penalized, they started again with a new site and were up and ranking within a month.
Since Google has introduced the sandbox, these churn and burners have moved on to other affiliate marketing endeavors ... which means less competition for you and me. These days, one of the most important skills to have when building out a new niche site is simply having the patience to see it through.
You Now Have Time to Focus on Growth
Here's the other benefit of the Google sandbox: since you know that your new niche site will take anywhere from three to six months to start ranking, then that's one less thing you have to worry about.
Yes, obviously, you want to eventually rank your site; but when you're just starting out, that's no longer your #1 focus from the outset. No matter what you do, you won't be ranking on page 1 after only a few months.
And that means you can use that time in the sandbox to focus on other things, such as content creation and link-building. And since you have so much time to play with, this also means that if you want to, you can do a lot of these tasks manually, saving you quite a bit of money (if you want).
So, what should you focus on in the first six months of your new niche site? Let's get to it.
As I mentioned in this post, I typically like to launch a new site with about 6,000 words of content. This includes a 3,500 homepage plus five individual product reviews of about 500 words each.
But then what?
The next type of content I like to add next are "informational" articles. What do I mean by informational? Well, these are simply articles relevant to your niche that are not monetized; so, they are NOT more product reviews.
For example, if you had a niche site reviewing spin bikes, you may write an informational article about training tips, like this one.
Or, if you had a niche site reviewing electric shavers, you may write an informational article explaining how to grow a thick beard, like this one.
Obviously, some niches make this easier than others. If you have a niche site reviewing toaster ovens, for example, it may not be as easy to think of informational-type articles. However, you could publish some recipes focused on toasted sandwiches that would work. Just be creative.
How Many Pieces of Content?
In the first three months, you really don't have anything to do on your site besides creating content (and building links, which we'll get to). So you really should make it a focus.
There is no magic number on how many pieces of content to publish on your niche site, but a good number to target is 10-15 articles per month. This means publishing a new article every other day, or every third day, and that by the end of month three, you should have anywhere from 30-45 articles on the site.
Where to Get Your Content
There are two ways you can get content written for your site.
The first, of course, is that you can simply write it yourself! This is a great option because the total cost of adding all these articles to your site amounts to $0.00. Obviously, if your budget is tight and you are a halfway decent writer, then this makes a lot of sense.
If you don't mind spending a little money, then you can certainly have the articles written for you. This is what I do.
I was all set to write up an in-depth tutorial on how to order cheap articles for your niche sites, but Chris Lee beat me to it.
Definitely read this post if you are going to order content for your niche site: How To Get High Quality Articles Written For Only $5 on iWriter.
I've followed Chris's advice for iWriter and it works great. Chris orders 700 word articles for $5, but I've found that 500 word articles are fine for a niche site. And you simply cannot beat a 500-word article for $3, it's a ridiculous value.
Are they the best written articles on the internet? Of course not. And chances are, you'll have to do a little proofreading before posting them to your site. But that's fine.
Since these articles are informational and not designed to convert visitors over to Amazon, then the quality is not nearly as important. Chances are, not many people will be reading these anyway.
These articles are basically only for Google, so you are showing them that your site offers more than just affiliate product reviews, and that you are consistently adding fresh content to your site, which Google loves.
So don't stress about the quality of these articles. The most important thing is that they are 100% unique; no spun garbage.
People always ask me, "where do you get articles for your niche sites?" Well, that is the answer.
Again, these are for informational articles, not your product reviews (that's coming soon). While you certainly can if you like, I don't worry about adding any more product reviews during the first three months, simply because the site isn't ready to rank.
What kind of links should you be building to a new niche site? Well, there are two approaches: a paid option, and a free option.
When I launch a new niche site, or a new money page on an existing site, I will usually order up a Hoth package to build a nice layer of initial links. What I love about the service is that it's fast, efficient, and powerful, and takes care of pretty much all my non-PBN link-building in one shot.
That said, I realize that many people are operating on a stricter budget, and don't have $250 to spend on a Platinum package. So let's discuss some free link-building methods that you can do in the first three months of your site.
Free, Manual Options
The thing to remember about these free link-building methods is that a lot of them (or maybe all, really) are not really designed to give you a rankings boost. And that's fine.
Their purpose is to diversify your backlink profile, both from an anchor-text standpoint, and also in terms of what types of domains and sites you're getting links from.
For anchor text, you should really only be using generic and/or brand name with these links.
- Blog commenting. An older method for sure, but one that I'm still using with my NS2. Two things to keep in mind with blog comments: one, make sure they are on relevant sites; two, make sure they are "genuine" comments (don't simply spam the blog-owner). Here's a good guide on blog commenting.
- Web 2.0s. Again, these won't increase your rankings a whole lot, but it gives you a nice diverse backlink profile from some truly authoritative domains. Read this guide for more info.
- Social bookmarking. Another older tactic, but effective for diversifying your anchor text. Here's Matthew Allen's approach you can check out.
- Social media. If your niche is social media-friendly, and you have the time, then build a couple of profiles for your site, and start following influencers in your niche and sharing their content, along with your own. Read this for some Twitter tricks.
So that gives you some good free ideas for back-linking if you're not going to use The Hoth.
As I mentioned, one of the benefits of the Google sandbox is that we now have three to six months of "free time" to play with, so you might as well make use of it building manual links if you're looking to go the free route.
So after three months with your new niche site, you should have a mega-homepage of 3,500+ words, five product reviews of 500+ words, and between 30-45 informational articles of 500+ words.
That's a good amount of content and should keep the Google bots happy, knowing that your site and content are fresh.
In months four through six, I don't focus as much as adding new content. At this point, you've given Google a good amount of articles, so you can scale it back now.
In terms of informational articles, you can add one per week and be fine, or more if you like.
In terms of product reviews, you can definitely start adding more; how much exactly will depend on how many products are in your niche.
So how do you get product reviews written for your site? Again, there are two options, and they're the same as before.
If you're looking to cut back on costs, and you're a pretty good writer, then there's no reason you can't write your own reviews. This will save you a decent amount of money, and make you intimately familiar with your niche: it's a win-win.
If you'd rather pay for your articles, then there are a couple of different places to order your content. Instead of writing a massive guide on this, I'm going to link you instead to No Hat Digital, because this is basically the same process I follow anyway.
Greg recommends using iWriter, while I use oDesk for my product reviews, but the process is effectively the same.
I will say this about hiring writers: it takes a LOT of trial and error to really nail down a writer that you're happy with, at least that's been my experience.
I've had to "fire" my share of writers, but that's mostly been due to poor communications and lack of meeting deadlines on their end. Really, the written product has rarely been the issue.
One additional tip I'll add is that you should give very specific instructions to your writer, so they know exactly what to expect.
What you should do is write one review yourself, so that it's exactly to your standards. Then, when you're ordering your content, you can send the writer a link to your review and basically tell them, write your reviews like this one. This gives them a template to follow and really helps a lot.
How much can you expect to pay?
Since these reviews are for my "money pages", i.e., they're the most important words on my niche sites, I don't mind paying my writers a little more, because I want a good product.
Right now, I'm paying around $16 per 1,000 words.
Anyone who's been following the blog knows that I'm a huge proponent of using PBNs to rank niche sites. Why? Because they still work incredibly well.
I wrote an entire post about using PBNs so I'm not going to repeat that here; you can check out the post if you haven't read it yet, as the same advice still applies.
One thing I will call out specifically is that several people have asked me "how many" PBN links do they need to rank a site.
The answer is that there is no definitive answer, unfortunately. Personally, when I was at this stage with NS1 and NS2, I was adding five new PBN links per month. I addressed this issue here.
The bottom line is that at this stage, PBN links are the way to go. Yes, I do run a service that you can check out here if you're interested. And yes, these links can get you penalized by Google, obviously.
Think guest posting can only work if you run a real site, and not just an affiliate site?
With my NS2, I've been experimenting recently with trying to get guest post links. It has not been easy, but I've been able to secure a DA32 link and a DA24 link with my efforts thus far.
The best part about these links? They are natural, relevant, editorial links that Google loves!
While I would love to take credit for coming up with a new, brilliant outreach strategy for acquiring these links, the truth is that I simply followed this guide by Brian Dean. Give it a read.
So that about does it: my six-month strategy guide for how to grow a new niche site.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.