If you are familiar with my blog, you will be aware that I am a big exponent of ‘learning by doing’. And with my internet marketing efforts to date, I have taken my own advice. It has been about four months since I first started, and I can state confidently that my most valuable lessons have come through experience.
Having said that, studying certainly has its place – especially when you can look to the successes and failures of others as markers for how you should go about things. In this article, I am going to give you a roundup of all the important lessons I have learnt so far from my niche site, Modeling For Kids.
Please note that Modeling For Kids is no longer an active site. If you’d like to know why I shut down the site and started up a new one, click here.
This is certainly an area in which I feel I made plenty of mistakes, and yet I think that I did pretty well. Why? Well, there are plenty of ‘killer’ mistakes that you can make when carrying out keyword research, and I managed to avoid the major ones.
Prevent Terminal Mistakes
If you were ever going to do a lot of studying before moving forwards, keyword research would be the best area in which to do it. However, there is a lot of advice out there, and a lot of it is conflicting. There is a good reason for this – keyword research is more of an art than a science. The best method of evaluating and analysing keywords is wide open for debate.
There was a point at which I decided that I would have to go ahead and make some mistakes to determine what I found to be the best method. After all, the way in which you value keywords could be different to the next guy’s.
So whilst I would recommend that you should be aware of the major mistakes to avoid, beyond that, I definitely recommend that you dive in and start making some decisions.
Cast Your Net Wide
If there was one error that I made when first starting out that I could go back and correct, it would be targeting just one keyword. It took me nearly three months to realize that I should be targeting more than just one keyword. In my opinion, an authority niche site should focus on two or three major (i.e. relatively high traffic/competition) keywords, and then build up content that is focused on related long tail keywords. I did none of this for two months – I just built a site (and content) that focused on one keyword. When I started to learn about the huge potential of long tail keyword traffic, I understood how powerful writing content specifically for those keywords could be.
Bearish Betters Bullish
One more thing when it comes to keyword research – always be conservative in your estimates. There are so many different ways in which you can misinterpret data. It is best to err on the side of conservatism so you don’t get a nasty shock.
There is something that a lot of people don’t seem to grasp when they are creating authority niche sites – that content is by far the most important thing. If you are not building a site that aims to be a good resource to its users, then I do not think you should be building a site at all.
Research Doesn’t Have To Be Intimidating
When I first started planning my site, I knew absolutely nothing about child modeling. So how did I go about creating a useful resource? The old fashioned way – lots and lots of reading. Nothing more complicated than that.
I trawled through Google and read up as much as I could on the topic. I also bought two books and read them both whilst taking notes. I visited forums and started to build up a picture of what my audience were looking for in terms of content. This research led me to feel confident that I could provide an authority site that was far more useful than anything else out there.
I think anyone concentrating on a niche that they have no prior knowledge of should consider themselves as an investigative journalist. Look to immerse yourself in the niche, soak up all of the information you possibly can like a sponge, then start to craft that freshly-earned knowledge into long tail keyword targeted articles.
When it came to content creation, I had one rule that I stuck to religiously – consistency. I set out to produce three articles per week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I never missed a deadline. I follow the same rule for Leaving Work Behind. I believe it is important to be very strict with yourself when it comes to content creation. It is all too easy to miss one deadline, then another, and before long you’re not doing anything.
So you can approach content creation in two ways – you can write up articles in advance and ‘queue’ them for publishing, or you can finish each article close to your deadline. I tend to follow the latter method, but the first is certainly what I would recommend. It is good to have some articles in reserve, in case for whatever reason, you are unable to write for a period of time.
Consistency Is King
Although I have no direct evidence to back this up, I believe that Google loves consistent content creation. I certainly think it does no harm. I wouldn’t recommend that you launch your site with 20 articles – instead, have a ‘soft’ launch with no more than 5, and queue the rest to be published periodically thereafter. I do not think that Google likes to see articles released in sporadic clumps.
Love The Long Tail
As previously mentioned, each article you write should target a long tail keyword. Having said that, you should always remember to write for the end user, not for the search engine. Forget about optimum keyword density – just bear your chosen keywords in mind, and write naturally. If there is a particular topic that people in your chosen niche seem to be interested in, but it doesn’t seem to reference a particular keyword that you can hang your hat on, go ahead and write that article anyway.
Photos are key to grabbing the attention of the browser and drawing them into your content. As much as possible, you should try to show images that create intrigue, and compliment your content.
Always remember to credit the owners of the photographs you use on your site. I personally do this by including “photo courtesy of (owner)” at the bottom of the article.
On-Site Search Engine Optimization
We’ve already discussed how you should tailor your content to specific long tail keywords and not write for the search engines, but what else should you be doing?
Keep It Clean
Make sure that your site’s design is clean and functional. I hate clutter – it confuses users and turns them away from your site. So keep it simple:
- Newsletter signup form
- Summary biography
- Search box
- Newsletter signup form
- Summary biography
That is my template setup for any new site. You may wish to add one or two extra features (such as a ‘popular posts’ widget), but keep your site minimalistic and uncluttered. Don’t throw so much at visitors that they can’t decide what to do and click away instead. This is extremely important when it comes to either earning money from AdSense, or trying to convert a browser into a paying customer. For each additional choice you give them, you dilute the chances of them performing your desired action.
Conversion Is Key
Take Leaving Work Behind as example of how to present your site. Below is a screenshot of my site:
Links that lead to a conversion are highlighted in red. Links that lead to pages that focus on conversion are highlighted in orange. And links that lead to pages that aim to engage with the user and eventually convert them are highlighted in green.
If I had to distill my authority niche site advice into one sentence, it would be, “over deliver on content in both quality and quantity, and use every opportunity to convert your reader without overwhelming them”. There doesn’t have to be a conflict between your aims and the user’s. Provide quality content, and extract value from your efforts in turn.
Nail The Basics
Finally, there are the usual things you should be looking to do:
- Target the chosen keyword for any given page with the H1 tag.
- If there are any relevant sub headers that might provide context for search engines (and your visitors) then be sure they are enclosed with H2 tags.
- Spend a good amount of time crafting your site’s meta title and description – I cannot understate how important this is. It is what searchers see when your website comes up in their results. If the title and description do not seem relevant and/or intriguing, they will be far less likely to click on your site, and all your hard work will be for nothing.
Off-Site Search Engine Optimization
This is by far the most difficult part of building an authority niche site, but only when you are first starting out. Content creation should always be the most difficult part of what you do (as you are trying to produce content of the best possible quality), but at first, the sheer weight of conflicting advice makes off-site SEO an absolute nightmare.
I did a huge amount of reading on the topic. There is an awful lot to take in, and definitely a huge amount of flawed advice.
I tried most methods that you could name:
- Link wheels
- Directory submission
- RSS submission
- Mass article submission
- Article syndication
- Social bookmarking
- Blog commenting
- Forum commenting
- Link requests
- Press releases
- Private blog networks
- Web 2.0 sites
- Software creation
Trust Your Own Experience
The most important thing I learned was that there is a lot misinformation out there. It is best to learn from your own experiences. Whilst I will be publishing my own recommended backlinking strategies in the near future, I will always urge you to try things for yourself.
Having said that, I have a few key pointers for you to bear in mind:
- Target several keywords
- Vary your anchor text
- Vary the URLs that you link to
- Keep it consistent!
Do Not Poke The Beast
And finally, I’ll give you what I consider to be my most valuable piece of advice when it comes to building backlinks – bear in mind that Google does not like what you are doing. Whether you accept it or not, in artificially building backlinks to Google, you are not acting in the spirit that they would prefer. So be cautious in what you do, and don’t take it too far. When building backlinks, always ask yourself this question: “does what I am doing seem natural?” If the answers is no, then seriously consider whether or not it is worth the risk.
Staying motivated is arguably the most important part of creating a successful authority niche site, and yet it gets nowhere near as much attention as SEO or keyword research. Why is it so important? Simple – because if you are not motivated, you will not do the work. If you don’t do the work, then you have no chance of succeeding. You could have the best backlinking strategy in the world, but if you were not motivated to implement it, it would be worthless to you.
Accept The Inevitable
When building your niche site, you must understand that there will periods of apparent stagnation. Your site will sit in the rankings, and not move for days, and possibly even weeks. You have to accept this and work with it. Do not get discouraged – just keep adding more content and building links – it will come good eventually.
When you look back to your frustration over the two weeks where your site did not move in Google, you will realize how inconsequential it was when considered as part of the big picture.
A great way to ensure you keep motivated is to set both short term and long term goals. I would urge you to do this. Check out my article, “How To Succeed”, for more information on giving yourself the best possible chance of succeeding. And remember – goals can always be adjusted, depending on how you are faring. Any initial goals you set are likely to be rather arbitrary, so don’t be afraid to adjust them.
Beat The Hump
One more thing – always bear in mind that when you are starting out, you always have to get over the initial ‘hump’. At first, you will be doing a lot of work for little or no reward. After some time, you will begin to gather some momentum, at which point, it becomes a lot easier to drive yourself to do more. Be patient, and wait for momentum to build.
My Biggest Mistakes
Overall, I am pretty happy with how I have fared so far. Having said that, there is plenty that I would go back and change if I could. Learn from my mistakes!
- Always be conservative in your estimates of traffic and income
- Target 2-3 main keywords at first
- Build long tail traffic with keyword-targeted content
- Do not poke the beast (keep Google onside)
Despite my current predicament (I have been temporarily penalized by Google), I am extremely confident that my niche site will be a long term asset for me that will produce an annual four or five figure net income. I recognize that these things take time, and I know that the process shouldn’t be rushed.
The Time Is Now!
If you already have an authority niche site, I hope this article has been of help to you, and I trust that you can take some of my advice and apply it to your own efforts.
If you are new to internet marketing or just to authority niche sites, then what are you waiting for? You have everything you need to get started! How do I know that? Because I started with nothing, and I have made progress already. It is all out there, waiting for you.
If you do find yourself stuck, then do not hesitate to contact me. And if this article has been helpful for you, then please share it with your friends!