Hello everyone, Spencer here with a brief introduction.Below you'll find a post by Heidi Bender, a longtime Pursuits niche reader.Heidi has been a part of Niche Pursuits Insider (which is no longer available) and I have exchanged a lot of emails and chats with her over the past couple of years.
As a result, I LOVE seeing how his site has grown and how well it is doing.Heidi is a great example of someone who got stuck with her site and worked on it continuously and improved over the years.And Heidi shares the actual URLs of the sites she runs below, so feel free to visit them.
Hello.My name is Heidi and I am a blogger, author, organist, gattara who lives with my husband and our cats in Michigan.In 2012, I discovered Pat Flynn's podcast and discovered that people were making money online!
In 2013, I took an online course on how to choose a niche and make money on the Internet.I expected to quit my daily job within a year!It turned out not to be so easy for me and I still have one day to work.
I choose thank you writing as my niche since I have had a lot of experience writing thank you notes.You might think, "No one writes thank you notes anymore!" It's a boring niche, but millions of people search for thank you notes by writing help on Google every year.So far in 2019 (through October 2019), my site has had 1.8 million visitors and earns about $4,500 per month, mostly from ad revenue.
The trip was slower than expected, but I'm so glad I got stuck!I learned a lot of things about what works and what doesn't for my site.
The graph below shows the increase in page views from 2014 to October 2019. As you can see, 2019 has already surpassed 2018!
ADDING CONTENT AT THE BEGINNING
In May 2014, I launched Tons Of Thanks and wrote a few articles.My mom and friends visited the site.It wasn't getting instant traffic.My expectation was to write it and they will arrive the next day!
My mindset explained The Google Sandbox Lag.What???I would have to wait months for Google to rank my site!
Meanwhile, the site needed more content.I didn't want to hire writers, and then I couldn't realize that taking on content was one thing.So, in October 2014, I signed up for a challenge to publish a new blog post every day in October.I didn't know anything about keyword research or SEO.Through the Facebook group for the writing challenge, my site started to attract some visitors.
However, my motivation fell after the challenge as traffic was not increasing rapidly.I published new articles less than once a month.
In October 2015 I heard about keyword research from the Smart Passive Income podcast (which is what I learned about Spencer and Niche Pursuits).I signed up again for the 31-day writing challenge; This year alone I did keyword research and made a content plan.I focused on long-tail keywords for the first time, finding long-tail keywords using Google's auto-suggest and other free tools like Ubbersuggest.
Slow growth is not motivating. Again, I didn't publish much after the writing challenge.
In October 2016, traffic was steadily increasing, but my site wasn't making much money (more on that later).So, I made the challenge of writing for my new cat blog.
And then, in December 2016, the views of one of the very first posts had a sharp increase in traffic!For the first time, I thought my site had been successful.And I've learned that people write more thank you notes in December than any other month!
Page views doubled between November and December 2016 for my post "How to thank someone for money," which for the first time pushed page views for a moth over 100,000.Apparently, money is a popular gift in December!
CONTENT STRATEGIES THAT WORK!
It was time to take the site seriously!What has worked best for site growth since 2017 is to focus on long-tail keywords for which my site has a chance of ranking.I learned how to find these keywords from the Insencer Niche Pursuits Insider and Organic Traffic Formula programs.New posts started ranking within a month or two (sometimes faster) instead of not at all!
No more written posts that only my mom would read!
Updating old content to be longer, targeting more keywords (better SEO), and adding more internal links has also significantly increased traffic.
Here's an example: In October 2018, I increased the length of the post I wrote in 2015 and improved SEO.Traffic from Google increased almost immediately.The keywords for this post are searched in October more than any other month.Traffic to the post office in October 2019 is 5 times higher than in 2018.
I found more keywords to add to articles by looking at WordPress search terms.I can locate keywords that referred someone to my site but it wasn't exactly what they were looking for.When this happens, I add a new post for that keyword or update an existing post.
Google Search Console also revealed keywords where my site was already ranked for them, but not on the first page of Google.With research, I was able to find enough related keywords to write a new post.
I wanted my site to be an affiliate site as it was one of the first online strategies I had learned.
The course I took in 2013 advised me to use Amazon affiliate links to sell related products.The formula was traffic + Amazon links = $$$.But even after my site had decent traffic, very few people clicked on the links.I was mostly recommending thank you cards since people come to my site for help writing the thank you note.Thank you, cards are not an expensive product on Amazon, so even when people bought a deck of cards my commission amount was very small for each sale.
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Affiliate links for a couple of other companies that sold thank you cards did not result in an increase in sales.
I had to adjust to have a profitable site.
The site earned $511 from Google AdSense in December 2016, the most so far in a single month from 140,000 page views.I had upgraded to better hosting and was paying for a mailing list, so after the costs there wasn't much profit.
And then I discovered that there are other ad networks with higher payments than Adsense, including Ezoic, Media.net, and AdThrive.
I was encouraged to apply to AdThrive by an acquaintance as my site had reached their requirement of 100,000 monthly page views.AdThrive accepted my site in May 2017.
In December 2017, the site earned $3,600!Six times more than in the previous December.
Currently, the site earns around $4,500 per month.With ads accounting for 99% of revenue, the amount earned each month can feel like a roller coaster as RPM and page views change throughout the year.
STUFF THAT DIDN'T WORK WELL
- Defining my avatar to understand how what people wanted to buy was useless.I did this exercise several times in different courses.But it did not lead to tangible results.The people I'm helping, they want one-time free help and aren't trying to buy anything.
- Writing a book to become an authority – On my website I mention that I am an author, but I don't think most people care because the "buy the book" page gets very few views.When I was writing the book, I thought 3 people a day would buy the book on Amazon!This did not happen!I thought it was just a numbers game (more viewers = more book sales), but this book proved once again that visitors to my site wanted free help once.I self-published the book on Amazon in May 2016. It didn't make a profit until May 2019 because of the amount I spend on editing, covering, formatting, etc., Assuming the site would drive book sales.
- Sale of PDF downloads directly on the site.First I did a survey with my little mailing list and people didn't buy it!PDFs didn't go to waste, as I give them away as free guides in exchange for their mailing list.
- Money is on the list.It's not my list!All my attempts at affiliation and selling PDFs failed when I promoted material in my newsletter lists.The auto-reply series may favor some book sales.My email activation rate is similar to .000001%.I felt sick and horrible and like I had been doing wrong email list marketing for years.I finally managed to let him go after hearing Jon Dykstra talk about his list without making much money in the Niche Pursuits 145 podcast episode.
- Affiliate sales I have Amazon links, but it's rare to have a month with over $50 from Amazon.Thank you, note-taking papers are a low-cost product, so the commission amount is quite small (less than $1).About once a year, someone will make a big purchase from a high-end notecard company that I recommend.
LINK BUILDING STRATEGY
Pinterest generated consistent traffic to the site and accounted for about 1% of monthly traffic.And having Pinterest links can help with site authority.I use Tailwind to planning pins and earning followers every month even when nothing new is pinned.Maybe I should try affiliate marketing on Pinterest.
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For a while, I made comments on the blog.I don't know if this helped or not with the domain authority and didn't get many (if a few clicks) from others who saw my comment.However, I published a guest post after the site saw my comment and contacted me.
For one post, I did the exercise of finding a site that might want to link it as a resource for their site.Writing outreach emails was time-consuming.Even though I knew in advance that the response rate is generally low, I still had higher expectations knowing that my content was a great asset to them.The result was two guest posts and a site linked to the page as a resource.
Through the HARO (Help a Journalist) service, I also got some links.
I also answer relevant questions on Quora.The links are not followed, but they send some visitors to my site every day.
Link building is not a task I enjoy as it takes a lot of time and right now I'm not outsourcing.Instead, I'm focusing on adding more content and hope to eventually get more natural links.
You can make money online without affiliate sales, even in niches considered a boring topic.As long as people are looking for help or information, the site has the potential to make money from advertisements.
Ads can also be suitable, if your site doesn't have many buyer intent keywords or if you don't want to write product reviews.
Significant ad revenue can take longer than affiliate sales ads since ads depend much more on getting higher page views.More page views usually mean higher ad revenue, but with ads the RPM changes daily and is influenced by other factors (desktop vs. mobile views, quarterly ad budgets, etc.).
My site would have grown faster if I had learned to do better keyword research earlier.
Thank you for reading my story!If you have any questions, feel free to ask in a comment!