I know I struggled a lot when I first started, and if it wasn't for WF I might not have made it. Hope this helps and motivates everyone a bit.
*Disclaimer: I am no IM expert/guru, this is just a quick story with a little bit of data and information I used to reach $40/day after just 160 days. Also, this is probably going to be a looooong post.
My First Sites
When I first started I was a tad bit obsessed with creating Made for Adsense (MFA) sites. I didn't understand creating a bunch of crap on the internet isn't the way to go. Nor did I really understand that Google is actually trying to return quality information to their users.
So, from the advice of a couple people I met on WF, I started in a very shady niche. Unfortunately, at the time, I had no concept of copyright/trademark laws and ended up purchasing about 10 domains that all contained some form of a copyrighted name, like "Nike" or "Reebok".
I can tell you right now, regardless of how great the CTR is, or how easy it may be to rank DO NOT BREAK COPYRIGHT LAWS. It's not a good business practice and it's really not worth it to put in a lot of time and effort just to receive a C&D letter taking the site away from you, or worse. Google "DCMA" if you want to learn more.
After I got out of the that niche I finally figured out about keyword research, whereas I had previously created sites based on almost no research and just what a few people had told me.
Tools in my Arsenal: Long Tail Pro (LTP), Google Adword Keyword Tool (GAKT), Soovle, SEOBook Toolbar, SerpIQ, My Sister and My Wife, My Brain, My Passion, My House
There's not exactly a shortage of information on keyword research, so I'm not going to get too far into the details. How you do keyword research will depend entirely on the types of sites you are looking to build. I personally build a mixture of sites at varying competition levels.
For low comp sites I use methods very similar to Spencer at Niche Pursuits. I primarily use LTP and GAKT. A quick tip, I use SerpIQ to double check my research. I usually don't proceed unless I get a SerpIQ less than 40. I've been able to rank some sites with a SerpIQ of 32-35 with 0 backlinks and they've stayed top 10 for 3-4 months.
Here is my criteria for low comp sites:
- 750 exact/local/monthly searches
- $1 CPC (though I'll go lower if searches increase a bit)
- EMD available in .com, .net., .org
- PR average of top 10 less than 3, prefer less than 2 and at least 1 PR 0 and hopefully a PR N/A
- Prefer to see a few sites with 0 backlinks to page, and a few with less than 10
- No more than 1 root domain in top 10
- Visual inspection of On-Page SEO. Is the keyword in the title? description? all over the site? Basically is the site optimized to rank for that keyword or not
- At least 2,000 total exact/local/monthly searches for ALL the keywords I'll be targeting. I don't listen to what everyone says about how you need 10,000 searches to profit. I've made sites with only 320 searches a month that make $2-$5 a day.
- Am I passionate about it? These are my long term sites that I'm going to build up over time, so I want it to be about things I'm passionate about. If you struggle here, think of off shoots. For example, let's say you love fishing. Obviously ranking for fishing is going to be tough. But what if you had a product site around "the best fishing shirt or hat" or "the best fishing gps", these may be less competitive and they still allow you to write about something you like. You can also add a ton of great quality content by just adding some general fishing articles to the site.
You may still be wondering, but where exactly do I come up with keywords?
In order to succeed you've got to get in this mindset: EVERYTHING IS A KEYWORD. Everyone talks about looking at the Amazon Best Sellers, or looking through Flippa Auctions or at high gravity items on Click Bank. Well, I do none of that crap. Instead I find seed keywords by using the resources around me.
First off, I look in my house. If I own something it's likely other people own it. The other day I made a site based on an item sitting on my countertop. I've made about $10 in 20 days, which isn't a lot, but I haven't done anything but put up a few product reviews.
Secondly, I ask my mom and sister. Laugh all you want, if you're not targeting things that women do/buy then you're missing out. I find out all the things my sister buys at Publix, Walmart, the mall, etc. I'll talk to my mom (who is retired) about what she does during the day, etc. It's unbelievable some of the great keywords that come out of them.
Thirdly, I talk to my wife. Like I said above, women are your money makers. They're absolutely click happy. I ask my wife what are things she would buy. Sometimes I'll just pick 10 items on Amazon and simply say, "Would you buy this online?" I'll ask her why or why not and from there I usually find even more keywords.
Fourth, I use my brain. Finding keywords is more common sense than anything else. People make it way, way too difficult. If it seems like a stupid keyword, it probably is (though that's not always the case). I'm an engineer and I see the numbers behind everything. So, when I'm walking through the mall or in Walmart or at the movies I now see the numbers behind keywords. I look at what old people are doing, why kids are crying, what are dads wearing, etc. I look at EVERYTHING. If it's even a possibility I jot it down or put it in my wife's iPhone to analyze later.
That's typically how I find my seed keywords. From there I'll go to Soovle or use Long Tail Pro to really narrow down my seed keywords to either long tails I can target or build a site around.
A lot of my sites fail. My methods are not flawless. I've purchased 48 domains in the past 4 months. Of those 48 I am working on around 10-12 sites. And of those 10-12 90% of my income comes from 3-4 of them. You are going to fail, you just need to keep at it.
For my lower comp sites they're typically only 4-5 pages and 4-5 posts and after ranking them I don't touch them much.
For my higher comp sites they're getting to be quite large. I think my largest site has around 15 pages and over 100 posts (300-800 words long).
I currently write all my content. However I just hired my first writer, who will be writing around 20,000 words a month for some of my link building. I thought outsourcing was overrated, but what everyone says is right...you can't do it all yourself, and it's just going to be painful if you do.
I'm still learning a bit in this department, but I can say from experience optimizing your site for your keywords is HUGE. I've moved up entire pages in rankings after optimizing. I put my first priority here on every site I make.
My keywords are always in the title. Even for my newer branded sites I have the keywords in the title. I use All in One SEO and regardless of what everyone says I still fill out the meta description and meta keywords. I'm fairly confident this helps rank in Bing/Yahoo a bit faster.
I'll also try to link back to my home page and to another post with each new post. I don't force this, but if it makes sense and helps the reader I'll interlink.
I used to monetize entirely with Google Adsense, and that's where most of my income comes each month (about $900/mo just from adsense). I keep it simple and usually just place a 336x280 or 300x250 block in the top right of each page/post. I test out text only versus image/text and after about a month will just go with one and leave it. I've found more luck with text only, but I know that's not the case with every niche.
I've also recently been creating a lot of Amazon sites. I have about 5 Amazon sites up and running and in my first 2 months have made around $300 with Amazon. I'm on track to do about the same this month. My Amazon sites are usually based around a general product, such as "basketball shoes." On the site I'll do product reviews, product accessories, product articles and product tips. My product articles and product tips usually don't contain affiliate links, so I can balance out the site some and it doesn't look like total crap.
I currently use a combination of themes. My lower comp adsense sites all use CTR. My long term sites use Pagelines, and my Amazon sites mostly use some themes from Themeforest.
I don't use free themes. I probably should, and I've wasted A LOT of money on "premium" themes, but I can't stand having my sites look like crap (though CTR isn't exactly beautiful).
I knew nothing about css/html when I started, but I'm slowly learning some. I highly recommend everyone learn the basics...at least.
Here's a quick list of plugins I use:
- All in One SEO
- Contact Form 7
- Pretty Link Lite
- Related Post Thumbnails
- Backup Buddy (not free)
I hate link building, absolutely hate it. But unfortunately it's necessary for most niches. Here is a basic breakdown of what I do:
- Week 1: social bookmarks
- Week 2: submit to top directories, a few blog comments
- Week 3: forum comments (not profiles), Web 2.0 sites or free blogs
- Week 4: article marketing, just a couple to ezine, goarticles, etc.
- Week 5: private blog networks
- Week 6: guest posting (if I can find any)
- Rinse and Repeat weeks 3-5, including blog comments
I don't pay a lot of attention to PR and prefer to post on sites relative to my niche. Though I can say that if you can find a handful of PR3+ sites to get some quality in text links, you're golden.
With my newer sites I've had a lot of success by spending month 1 publishing 1 quality article per day. I've been able to ride the new content bonus wave and usually rank quicker after it drops off with some posts on private blog networks.
I'm also starting to look heavily into Guest Posting and I really think this is the single best form of link building. I recently joined The Keyword Academy and their Post Runner system is pretty awesome. I recommend everyone check them out.
One thing I've been doing a lot lately is responding to questions in forums. I've found a lot of people search the forums for "Best Keyword". So I'll go into them and respond with "I think the best keywords is blank and here is why. I also found this great site www[dot]mysite[dot]com. Some of my Amazon sites are getting 20-30 visitors a day from just a few forums. And I can tell you that these people ending up in forums are ready to buy and convert very well.
I'm focusing less and less on my lower comp/thin adsense sites. They don't add a lot of quality to the internet and I'm not sure they'll make it through many more algo updates.
My focus is on quality sites in niches that I like. While I'm making good money from Adsense I'm leaning more and more towards Amazon, only because it seems to be more conducive to the kinds of sites I enjoy creating.