Why Micro Niche Sites No Longer Work (and What You Need to Focus on Instead)
By Ophelie Lechat
You know the websites that cover a small topic in only a few pages?
If you haven’t, check out Winter Coats for Women. It’s a great example of a micro niche site. It’s micro because it has just a handful of pages and it’s niche because it focuses on a specific keyword.
Creating micro niche sites has been one of the most popular ways to make money online. That’s because they are extremely easy to make. All you have to do is pick a specific set of keywords to target, find and purchase a matching domain and set up a WordPress site in 5 minutes. You then populate the site with a few pages of content related to the topic you have chosen.
The trick is you have to find something that will rank high very quickly on a search engine. With Google’s Keyword Tool you can find long tail keywords with a fair number of monthly searches and low competition. Then, with a matching domain and specific SEO articles on the topic, you can get some organic traffic from search engines. Once you have traffic, you can start monetizing with Google AdSense.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? You can set up multiple such sites in a single day. There are enough and more guides out there with step-by-step instructions on how to build micro niche sites.
So the question is, what’s the catch? Do micro niche sites work? Did they ever? Let’s dig in and find out.
Can You Really Make $1,000+ a Month from a Micro Niche Site?
You may come across people who claim they make over $1,000 a month on a single micro niche site. It’s hard to determine the accuracy of these claims because they are made on various Internet forums by anonymous people. There are, however, some well documented micro niche sites that have done well.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
Tung Tran of cloudlivingjourney.com started a micro niche site and made it rank #1 on Google in 38 days. He ended up making a loss on it but he documents how he did it and what his next steps might be. Edit: Tung’s post was amended to detail his eventual profits after this article was published.
Maneesh Sethi talks about how he makes passive income from his micro niche sites in his video. He makes enough money to live a nomadic lifestyle and donate time and money to the community.
While all these guys have made money off micro niche sites they really don’t make a lot from a single site. There may be the odd example of a $1000 micro niche site but that happens once in a blue moon. The average earnings one can expect from a micro niche site is $1 a day. If you do it well and target the right keywords you might even make $100 a month.
So to make a decent living off micro niche sites, you need more than one. If you are looking to earn $1000 a month, you’ll need at least 30 sites to get you there.
From $0 to $1000 in 30 sites
You can see why micro niche sites are tempting. They are very easy and inexpensive to set up and manage. You can buy a domain for less than $10 on GoDaddy and decent hosting for $3 – $4 a month. WordPress is free and takes 5 minutes to set up. The only ingredient left is the content.
Content might seem like something that could take awhile. Don’t you need to be an expert on the topic? It turns out that for micro niche sites you don’t. Because you are picking a keyword with low competition, even mediocre content can get you a good rank. In Maneesh Sethi’s video he pulls out a random keyword and sends it to his writers, knowing nothing about the topic or what’s eventually written for him.
With a quick search on oDesk, eLance or any other freelance site, you can find writers who will produce decent 500-1000 word articles on a given keyword for just 1 cent per word. $20 will get you 2-4 SEO articles, which is all you need for a micro niche site.
Maneesh Sethi wasn’t the only one to automate the entire process. With enough experience, anyone can batch and automate this, outsourcing all but the most important task of picking out the right keywords. Work a couple of hours a week, pick out some keywords you know nothing about, send it to writers and marketers in the Philippines and India, and sit back and enjoy the moolah coming in. Sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it?
Well, let’s look at an update that changed everything…
From $1000 to $0 in 30 seconds
Before the first Google Panda upgrade in 2011, it was very easy to build a site and get it to rank #1 on Google in a short time. You could do exactly what Maneesh did and see some quick returns.
There were people creating hundreds of micro niche sites and earning a few bucks from each site through AdSense every month. When Google Panda hit them, those earnings literally vanished overnight. People went from earning $1000+ in a month to $0.
With subsequent Penguin and Panda releases, Google continued to crack down on these low-quality micro niche sites and started favoring authority sites.
You see, what these people didn’t realize was that their entire income stream was dependent on Google’s algorithm. The moment that algorithm changed, they started floundering. Google even cracked down on AdSense accounts associated with micro niche sites and blocked them.
Now, in 2013, if you try to do what Maneesh did, you’ll only get your AdSense account blocked.
The Shift to Authority
Pat Flynn, widely regarded as the guru of online passive income, started securityguardtraininghq.com as part of a challenge. It started off as a micro niche site but grew larger and started earning more than $1200 a month in less than a year.
In Eric’s case study which we saw earlier, he discusses growing his micro niche site into an authority site and increasing his earnings from it.
Authority sites are simply larger sites with quality content and real backlinks. No spammy articles, no black hat techniques. As Google keeps updating their algorithms, it’s clear that they are moving towards these types of sites.
Authority sites can still be niche. Nerd Fitness targets the niche of nerds who are into fitness. However, Steve Kamb spent months building it up, writing quality, well-researched articles himself, and using the right marketing techniques.
We are seeing a shift from micro niche sites towards authority sites. Pat and Eric still started off with micro niche sites, but not with the intention to quickly monetize it and jump to the next one. They started small to test the waters, and when they found a market they decided to invest more time and money growing their sites over a period of months to become successful authority sites.
The great advantage about authority sites is that you aren’t dependent on a single source of traffic. You can tap into social media and build a fan following and you can create e-mail lists and harness the power of e-mail marketing. Building your own assets protects you against sudden changes from Google.
You can also diversify your earnings with authority sites. AdSense and affiliate marketing are just the beginning. Many authority sites develop products like e-books and courses, subscriptions, tools, consulting and other services.
Sure, it isn’t a quick win like the golden days of micro niche sites. It will take you months before you start seeing even modest returns. It’s a long-term plan but if you do it right you can see huge returns in the future. Over a year, one authority site can make more money with less risk of going bust than 100 micro niche sites.
As Spencer Haws of Niche Pursuits says, you can still rank with micro niche sites, but with all the time and effort you need to do it, you might as well make it an authority site and collect larger returns.
The Verdict: Play for the Long Run
So the verdict is, forget about building multiple micro niche sites with minimal effort. If you want to earn money through a site, you have to be willing to put in the time and effort. You can’t expect quick returns, but if you do the work you can expect large returns.
The new model is to pick the keywords that you are interested in but also ones that don’t have too much competition. Setting up the site is still very easy and cheap but you need to invest more in quality articles. You can still outsource articles but make sure they are excellent and add real value to your readers.
You also need to spend more time building quality backlinks and optimizing your site for search engines. Integrate social media into the site and interact with your readers, building a consistent fan following and traffic source.
Follow Pat’s journey to see how he grew, and still grows, Security Guard Training. Spencer also has a live project where he details how he intends to create a niche site from scratch and grow it into an authority site that can earn him $500 a month within six months.
The possibilities with authority sites are only limited by your imagination. Just remember, with great authority comes great responsibility!
Over to You
How are you building authority online? Do you know of any good case studies that talk about how to build authority sites? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Photo credit: Mouin M.