The Wonderful World of Niche Websites
This article is intended for two types of people. First, for newbies to the world of online passive income who are considering their first niche website. Second, for those who have tried to make passive income online from niche websites but did not succeed.
For the first, may it save you countless hours of work that will ultimately earn you less than your neighborhood kids selling lemonade (I use this as an example because I myself made more money selling lemonade as a kid than I did from my first niche website).
For the second, may this book assure you that you’re not alone. Successfully making passive income from niche sites is NOT easy. This article will help you identify your past mistakes and avoid making them again.
This article is brutally honest. Before my own attempts to make online passive income I read many wonderful books, blogs, and articles on what I now call the “allure of online passive income.” While reading, I often thought “this sounds too good to be true!” And while yes, plenty of people are making money from their niche websites, the sad reality is that the vast majority of those who attempt niche websites fail. If you’re one of these people, I morn with you. If you’ve yet to try, kudos for being wise enough to first do your homework, to read an invaluable booklet before spending heaps of time, work, and money on something that may never succeed.
In short, knowing what not to do will allow you to spot dangerous pitfalls and mistakes before it’s too late. Knowing what not to do will save you LOTS of valuable time and money, and – most importantly – it will nearly assure your success (nearly because there are, of course, tons of factors involved in succeeding with any niche endeavor – remember: brutal and realistic).
Step 1: A Healthy Mindset
Somehow you’ve learned of this intoxicating world, the one that keeps many “wantra-” and “entre-preneurs” up late and working hard. Perhaps you yourself are one of the “-preneurs.” Or perhaps you’re interested in joining the force. Maybe you’ve just begun your first site, or perhaps you’re on your twentieth. Regardless, there’s always a beginning stage to every niche website project.
The beginning stage of any endeavor has the potential to begin on the right foot – or the wrong one. Striving to create a profitable niche website is no different. The key here is to establish a healthy mindset from the very beginning. By doing so, the necessary work will seem less painful and, in the end, bear greater fruit. How does one do this? One does this by being patient. Nearly every stage of a niche website project requires work – tiresome work. Impatience will surely contribute to making bad decisions. It also risks burnout.
The initial stage to any niche site likely differs among their creators. For those with experience creating niche sites, do your projects first start-out with an idea that you then decide to develop into a site? Or does the desire to create a niche site come first and the idea follow? Experience suggests both approaches to be common. Veterans likely see a profitable niche first and then try to capitalize on it in as many ways possible (which includes a niche website). For newbies, the desire for a niche site likely comes first and is then followed by the challenging task of researching and choosing a niche. Perhaps you’re such an individual and have learned about niche websites from a friend or blog and are now trying to find your first niche?
Regardless, rule number one is arguably the most important to remember when beginning any niche site:
Rule #1: DO NOT RUSH!
In the beginning, there’s a temptation to do too much research too fast.
Most agree that this temptation comes from the overwhelming amount of research needed at the beginning. And certainly, faced by so much to do, who doesn’t want to get it done as quickly as possible? After all, every minute you spend researching is time you’re not spending on the actual building of the site itself. The temptation is to forget that proper research is the beginning of your niche site.
Let’s think about important initial research. The core chunk of research when beginning a niche site for passive income is, well, deciding on a niche! Simple, right? If only… Niche research requires important consideration of the demand, competition, keywords, and – most importantly – profit potential. This last point – the profit potential – is at the core of the initial research; it’s what the other questions (demand, competition, etc.) are really trying to answer.
This research is important, even crucial to the success of a niche website. Thus, it’s important to view this stage as the actual beginning of your site. But of course you haven’t yet started on an actual “site,” right? For this reason, I suggest thinking in terms of projects. Project-based thinking is key. It lets you group all necessary tasks into one “mental compartment,” a project.
Despite the importance of adequate and thorough research in the beginning, there’s a great temptation to want to do too much too fast. Seriously. I’ve spent countless hours in this phase. No, more specifically, countless consecutive hours. A wiser approach is to divide and conquer, one hour here, another there (with sufficient time in-between, and coffee breaks don’t really count, though they might do in a pinch). This approach allows for better critical thinking and ultimate decision making. How much time in-between? It’s hard to say, though of course everyone works differently. At a minimum, I usually think in terms of fifteen minutes or so. But beyond the amount of time, also consider the type of time. Intervals between your research that help to clear your mind are best. I find that walking outside works particularly well. Even better, a nights sleep.
Generally, this temptation towards unwise research habits puts our “protestant work ethic” in front of our brains. “Too much research too fast” fools us into thinking that working harder (rather than smarter) is our key to success. Such mindsets nearly assure eventual project failure. How do we avoid this trap?
Rule #2: DO NOT DO TOO MUCH RESEARCH TOO FAST
In the beginning, there’s an incredible temptation and pitfall of being fooled into thinking, believing, and even spreading the word about certain tools that will “without a doubt (!)” lead to success. Many fall for purchasing subscriptions and downloads to these tools and services under the pretense that they’re necessary for success. More times than not, this costly mistake results in no more than a loss of money.
Why is this temptation so alluring? First of all because the Internet is literally overflowing with amazing tools and services. Tools for keyword analysis, website ranking, website monitoring, analyzing, collaborating, email marketing, and on and on. It seems there’s a new one every day (if not every hour!). Why so many? Partly because they’re so cool and lucrative to create and own. Software as a service (SaaS) is a big and growing practice (think of these services as Internet-based vending machines). And of course they’re also incredibly useful to us niche website folks. But let’s remember that those at the top of the Internet marketing pyramid (or those trying to get there) succeed (or try to succeed) in promoting (with affiliate links, of course!) an entourage of tools and services to us minnows in the shallows. Though there are exceptions, we generally don’t need these tools. Certainly in the beginning, nearly all of these tools are unnecessary and serve more as fun and expensive distractions than sources of significant value.
One particular area of tools worth saying a bit about are those in the arena of email marketing. There’s an old and dark myth here that’s important to debunk. Remember these words, you DO NOT need to sign up for AWebber or any other non-free email marketing service. There are better services, ranging from free to very inexpensive. One alternative approach is to host your own email-list system. Another is to find and use the best free plan available (and free forever, not for one month). I share everything you need to know about getting setup with your own self-hosted email system, and which free services are best, in my book Email Marketing for the Broke and Not Famous: Tools and Methods for a (Virtually) Free Email List System
I believe that it’s entirely possible to build a successful niche website with virtually no cost to the creator. Domain registration and helpful Kindle ebooks (each of which cost virtually nothing) are two exceptions. There’s also the possible exception of hosting (though there are free hosting options, only they often require a bit of tech know-how – such as GitHub’s repository hosting service). Otherwise, don’t be tempted! Later, after you’re site has begun to generate some revenue (or at least traffic), you can benefit from some of the amazing tools available (like Crazy Egg… incredible – http://www.crazyegg.com/). But even then, the verdict is still out for us small folks. Be wise, only subscribe to tools that will give more value than they’ll cost.
In the beginning, keep it simple. Don’t go overboard on the tool subscribing and buying. It’s a distraction and time-drain. Remember, this is only the beginning.
Rule #3: DO NOT GET DISTRACTED BY ALL THE SHINNY TOOLS.
In the beginning, don’t do too much work too soon.
“What in the world!” I can hear you exclaim. That’s right! Don’t do too much work too soon!
Now certainly, of course(!) it takes tons of work to create a profitable niche site (run fast from any who say otherwise!). But at first, in the initial stages, work incrementally and analytically. Why, to avoid the rabbit holes.
Always allow time for your gut to communicate to your brain. As we all know, this takes longer for some folks than others. For some, it takes one or two days. For others it could be a week (or longer!). Regardless, always allow at least one night’s sleep before jumping into the beginning of any project. The task during this one night or more is to “ruminate” on your idea and its general execution. That’s right, I want you to think like a cow eats – ruminate on your thoughts. Think about your project like a cow eats its grass. Bring it in, let it digest, spit it up, chew it around, swallow again, and repeat as necessary.
I consider this is an invaluable life skill to posses and practice. In the least, it’s a helpful analogy. Too often, words and thoughts come in and go out without us being patient and diligent enough to really think them through. Who isn’t guilty of simply “nodding their head” in response to mother, wife, or another without having heard half a word spoken? If we can learn to “ruminate” on words, thoughts, ideas, research findings, and all the rest, the wheat and chaff effectively separate. In other words, we can make good decisions about which niches are worthwhile and which ones aren’t. Even beyond helping us choose a profitable niche, applying this “rumination” practice to each step along the niche-site path will help us work smarter than hard, make the best decisions possible, spot any hidden gems along the way, and generally keep from falling into any rabbit holes and other traps. In other words, it will aid in the all aspects of developing a profitable niche site.
Niche website creation, and generally the entire world of online passive income, is overflowing with enticing snares that seemingly lead to success but in reality only lead down. Thus the effective rabbit-hole analogy. When settling into your niche site idea and execution, do be wise. Follow the cows, not the rabbits.
Rule #4: DO NOT ACT LIKE THE RABBIT AND DIG DOWN, DOWN, DOWN…
NOTE: I’m not speaking here exclusively of validation. While validating an idea is extremely important and certainly part of the “rumination” process, the idea here is more widely about general project mentality. This more broadly incorporates things such as: deciding on the best keywords to optimize your site for, choosing the best WordPress Theme (or other web platform to utilize), or maybe deciding on the best model of site monetization.
In the beginning, don’t become too emotionally attached. Sure, months and even years of working on a niche site will of course lead to emotional attachment, and this is a very good thing, but don’t become emotionally attached at the very beginning. Not even a little bit. AVOID EARLY EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT AT ALL COSTS!
“Why?” you ask?
Because emotional attachment at the very beginning will cloud your judgment and your reasoning abilities. And these are important with niche websites, crucial even. No, this is imperative. What for? For choosing a good niche and discerning the best overall project approach.
Here’s an example:
In your search for a profitable niche, you have the idea of stuffed animals. You quickly decide that this will be an awesome niche because your lifelong dream is to have a small business making and selling stuffed animals. For now, you settle on simply promoting the best stuffed animals to blog readers and email list subscribers (you have plans to start the business with profit you make from the niche site, so in actuality this is a great step towards fulfilling your lifelong dream). You initially do some quick research to make sure it’s a profitable niche (though of course you already knew it would be profitable), and throughout the creation of the site you settle on keywords you think potential visitors are using. You also base the site’s design on exactly how you’ve always dreamed it should (since you were young). After a year into the project, you have 7 people on your email list (including family members) and $3 from Google Adsense clicks (and if you’re entirely honest with yourself you do know where those clicks came from). Reality hits, perhaps even despair.
(note: This example is wildly over-the-top for illustration purposes only. It’s based on no actual research into the profit potential of a niche site on stuffed animals. This topic could in actuality be a worthwhile niche.)
The synopsis: Emotional attachment too early will likely handicap your ability to fully evaluate and validate the idea before committing to it, thus resulting in failure.
Rule #5:DO NOT INITIALLY BECOME EMOTIONALLY ATTACHED.
Goals and Expectations
In the beginning, be realistic about goals and expectations. This is incredibly important to your ultimate success. Here are two essential guidelines:
Don’t set time-based monetary expectation
Do set general expectations (make your first $1, then your first $100, then your first $500, etc.)
Why? Because saying “I’d like to make X amount per month” dooms you from the start. Yes, setting an unrealistic initial goal of $10,000 per month will get you excited and it will motivate you – at least in the beginning. But when you don’t reach $10,000 in that first month (and you more likely won’t even reach $100 in the first month) gloom may surely overwhelm you. What can only be run and won as a marathon will have been lost as a sprint.
Set attainable and realistic goals at the beginning. Small and incremental goals continually inspire you every time you reach them. And you will reach these small and attainable goals. Trust me. If you don’t, you’ll be forced into re-evaluating your model. You’ll consider every aspect of your project and try tweaking different aspects of it until you begin to see some real results. Think to the tortoise and hare…
How low should one’s monetary goals be set? Everyone and every niche site is different. No blanket value can be given. Many people like to use increments of $10, then $100. Determine your initial and unique goal. Determine it by honestly assessing your previous experiences and understanding of Internet marketing and other related skill-sets and knowledge-bases useful for passive websites. In other words, how much do you already know about your niche, do you know how to build websites, do you understand SEO, how well can your write, etc.
Regardless, do set goals (I’m certainly not advocating otherwise). They will provide valuable motivation and help you document your progress. Just make sure they’re realistic. After all, have you ever heard of someone complain about reaching their goals too quickly?