In 2022 I distilled my strategy into the following simple formula:
Lots of content targeting low competition keywords + Display ads = fun, lucrative online publishing business.
Let’s break that down.
Low competition keywords: While many people work hard to rank for competitive, high-earning keywords, I take the opposite approach. I prefer seeking out keywords with little competition but some search volume. This way I don’t have to spend time and money on risky link building.
Lots of content: In order to get significant traffic, I publish a lot of content. While no single piece of content I publish gets a ton of traffic or generates all that much money, when you add them all up, it’s a decent amount of traffic.
Display ads: I find that these days display ads pay very well. More importantly, display ads give me the flexibility to publish on any topic. I don’t have to worry about ensuring visitors will click affiliate links and buy. I just have to worry about getting visitors to my sites. Display ads handle the revenue.
That’s what I do in a nutshell.
Let’s dig in further.
There are 3 main components to how I publish niche websites. They are:
- Niche selection
Once you choose a niche, all you need to focus on is traffic and monetization. In fact, once you pin down your monetization, nearly 100% of your focus going forward is growing traffic. It’s that simple.
1. Niche Selection
I like big, broad niches because they have huge traffic potential. While some of my niche sites are more narrow than others, all of my niche sites have the potential for 1 million+ monthly visitors.
What’s so important about high traffic potential?
As you’ll see under the “Monetization” section below, I mostly monetize my sites with display ads (AdSense and other ad networks).
In order to make decent revenue from display ads, you need a lot of traffic.
Go Broad, Dig Deep
What I do is I pick broad niches (they’re really sectors) and then start publishing content on a couple of sub-topics. When starting out, I’ll test a variety of topics within the niche.
Here’s the magic… if one sub-topic starts getting above-average traffic, that’s where I hone in and cover the topic in-depth. For every site I own, one or two topics tend to outperform in time and that’s when I publish large clusters on those topics. Once those topics are exhausted, I look for other decent-performing topics and rinse and repeat.
Why don’t I focus on affiliate revenue?
I earn plenty each month from affiliate revenue, but it’s secondary for me. I used to earn 100% of my online revenue from affiliate commissions, but I became sick and tired of focusing on content that effectively promoted products.
Don’t get me wrong, I still publish plenty of articles that have affiliate links, but it’s not the focus of any of my sites’ monetization.
By monetizing with display ads, I’m free to publish content on any topic I like (as long as it doesn’t violate AdSense TOS). What this does is allow me to go after literally hundreds of thousands of keywords for which I have a reasonable chance of ranking without investing time and money into building links.
The fact is content that focuses on affiliate marketing typically targets more competitive keywords. That means in order to rank and get traffic for this content, you need to invest time and money into building links. It’s a great model, but I prefer avoiding the risk involved with link building (as well as the cost and/or tedious work involved).
Moreover, because I publish all kinds of obscure, non-promotional content, my sites attract links naturally, which grows the authority of my sites over time on auto-pilot. The fact is, that other sites don’t link to content that blatantly promotes products with affiliate links. However, other sites will link to interesting, novel, and informational content.
Examples of broad niches I like:
Examples of niches that are too narrow for me:
- Hatchback cars
- Carp fish
- How to Train German Shepherd Dogs
Aren’t broad niches too competitive?
Not at all. In fact, broad niches are less competitive because you have far more keyword and topic opportunities.
While I do go after some high-traffic, more competitive keywords, it’s not a focus for me. I take the tortoise approach by publishing lots of content, most of which targets low competition, and lower traffic content. This way I get traffic flowing to newer sites faster and traffic grows consistently over time as I rank for more and more keywords.
Moreover, and this is important, I find other sites that link to content that covers very specific topics. Once you publish plenty of obscure, novel articles, other sites will find your content and link to it because it’s unique and helpful for very specific topics and information.
My first niche sites only monetized with affiliate offers. I did well, but I didn’t skyrocket my revenue until I started monetizing with display ads.
I’m not saying affiliate marketing is bad. It’s very good, but for me, it’s a secondary revenue source. I do plenty of it, but most of my content is published with the intention of solely monetizing with display ads.
Making GREAT money with display ads
Focus on traffic from higher-paying countries:
I earn by far the most revenue from display ads from website traffic in the USA. Canada, Australia, and the UK also earn well. However, most other countries aren’t nearly as lucrative (on a page view basis).
I’ve spent hundreds of hours testing ad placements across my sites to figure out which configuration (i.e. ad networks and location on the web page) earns the most.
💡TIP: I was able to dramatically improve my website revenue and speed up my ad placement testing using the very popular ad-test platform Ezoic. Zero requirements for access. You will earn far more with Ezoic than just AdSense and many other ad networks.
Use the right ads in the best locations (critically important)
My courses include an extensive module explaining exactly how I currently configure ads across my niche sites. It includes a graphic illustration as well as a detailed list of all the ad networks I’m currently using.
I also provide a detailed video on how I set up and deploy Ezoic for maximum results. I’ve used Ezoic for years and know the system inside and out.
The fact is which ads you put where can make the difference between earning $.50 per 1,000 visitors and $15 per 1,000 visitors. If you monetize with ads, you must test ad placements because it makes all the difference in the world.
I do use AdSense but on a very limited basis. I earn more from some higher-end ad networks.
Once you have a niche and have optimized your monetization, your only focus is growing traffic. Keep in mind that traffic is the focus from the start because you can’t optimize monetization until you have traffic. However, at some point, once you have a few thousand visitors per day, you will more or less be able to figure out the best arrangement for maximizing revenue per 1,000 visitors.
At this point, you solely focus on growing traffic.
While there are many traffic sources, my favorite is organic search traffic from Google. I get plenty of traffic from other websites and Pinterest, but the amount doesn’t come close to what I get from Google.
My favorite free Google traffic strategy
I do very well with this strategy. I enjoy it. It’s the least risky as well.
I do not put time or money into building links like so many other websites. I could and probably would grow my traffic, but when I weigh doing so with the risk (Google doesn’t like sites that build links artificially) and the time/money required, I prefer to go about getting Google traffic differently.
My approach is to focus on publishing content that targets lower competition keywords that will rank on their own. Ironically, a lot of this content also attracts links naturally, which definitely helps.
Many bloggers suggest going after keywords with a certain minimum monthly search volume so that IF you rank, you’ll get plenty of traffic.
I prefer finding obscure, low-competition topics with little or no competition so that it ranks quickly and in the long run.
I will go after keywords with only 30 searches per month according to SEMRush or Ahrefs. 30 is very low. I’ve even gone after keywords with no reported search volume.
On the flip side, I’ve found many low-competition keywords with 3,000 to 6,000 monthly searches.
It’s a range. The point is I focus on low competition.
How do I know if a keyword has low competition?
I largely rely on the keyword difficulty scores for keywords generated by SEMRush or Ahrefs. For the Ahrefs score, I like anything under 10. 0 to 3 is awesome.
For SEMRush, anything under 50 is very good.
How do I find low competition keywords?
I deploy several keyword research strategies which I teach in my course. I’ve developed methods that nobody else teaches which works great for me.
I also come up with topics using my brain. I’ve published many articles on topics that I figured were a good fit for my blog. Usually, I’ll quickly check the best phrasing of the topic for the highest search volume potential in Ahrefs, but other than that, if the topic makes sense for my site, I’ll publish it.
I’m a stickler for publishing good content.
Since I don’t build links and don’t do outreach and don’t put much effort into social media, the bulk of what I do to grow my niche sites and blogs is publishing as much excellent content as possible. I typically publish 100 to 200 articles per month across my fleet of sites.
While I write a few articles per month, 99% of it is written by other people.
I use a variety of writing services for my content. They include:
- WriterAccess (higher-level content – I pay mostly $.04 to $.08 per word)
- In-house writers: I have several writers that write directly for me to avoid paying services a fee. I hire them on the Problogger job board.
- Textbroker (for lower-level, simple content – I order the 4-star level).
Can you write the content yourself?
Of course, you can. If you’re starting out and don’t have much money, write it yourself. I did for a few years. It’s a lot more work, but once you start making money, reinvest that into more content. As your revenue grows, so too will your content output.
How long is my content?
Length is determined by the topic. I seldom publish something shorter than 1,000 words. I like to thoroughly cover topics. On average, my articles for all my sites are 1,800 words. Some are 5,000 words while on rare occasions, 750 words.
Without question, I’ve noticed that longer, more detailed content ranks better in search engines.
What’s my current involvement with my niche sites?
While I’m largely out of content production, I’m still involved in running my niche sites. Here’s what I do weekly.
a. Keyword research/topic generation
My primary job is to find keywords and topics for all of my sites. I then put them in spreadsheets for my writers. I do not outsource keyword research or topic generation.
b. Content review
I also review most content before it’s published to ensure it meets my quality standards. If there are problems, I’ll fix them myself or get my VA to fix them.
c. Image selection (1 site)
I also put time into image selection for one website where images are critically important. This takes more time than I’d like, but the gains from doing this properly are enormous, so I do it weekly.
d. Split testing blog post titles (BIG gains with little effort)
I’m making some outstanding gains by improving my blog post titles. I’ve been using some software that allows me to split test titles in Google search results. I’ve come up with new titles that increased clicks from Google search by 50% or more. This is the fastest and simplest way to increase traffic for existing content.
While it doesn’t take long to set up tests, I do invest 1 to 2 hours managing all this testing across all my niche sites. This is one task where the gains from a little work are considerable.
e. Improve older content
I also review older content to assess how to improve it. I do several of these updates weekly. Sometimes, I do the updates if it’s not too involved. If it needs a major overhaul, I’ll order new/revised content for it.
This can be a time-intensive process, but it’s well worth doing since it’s leveraging existing work for great gains. I also strive to publish high-quality sites which means improving old content on a regular basis.
f. Test stuff
I’m a tinkerer and like testing new software. I avoid spending too much time on this, but once or twice a month I find myself checking out new tools and software to see if anything is worth using.
Pretty much everything else is outsourced. I have a VA to handle all kinds of odd jobs on the site (she’s instrumental in updating content with better images, fixing broken links, publishing some content… whatever is needed). Most content is generated via a variety of writing agencies.
Rinse and repeat
What I set out above is what I do across all my niche sites. All of my sites are at different stages, but several earn 4 figures per month. In time, all 7 will earn 4 figures per month (probably more).
Why am I so confident?
Because I deploy a proven system, which I set out above, on all my sites. It’s only a matter of time.
I keep it as simple as possible focusing on the one thing that makes money, and that is publishing as much content as possible that stands the best chance of earning revenue fairly quickly.
In other words, my focus is on growth page views every month. When page views grow, revenue grows. It’s that simple.