Here is another great success story. This story is from my buddy, Ken, a soldier in the Army. (Thanks for serving!) He’s built out a great site and will be telling us all about it.
The 2 main reasons I like Ken’s story are:
- He is one persistent dude. Ken tried and failed a bunch – SIX years worth of unsuccessful ventures.
- His hard work paid off. A lot of people think you can outsource everything (keyword research, content, link building, etc..) without an expert level of understanding and pop out a Five Figure Niche Site in 6 months. It doesn’t work like that (unless you have systems set up, like my man, Rob).
Ken shares a TON of information on this post. And I want to thank you again, Ken, I know these long-form posts are time consuming. The NSP community definitely appreciates all the information about your Niche Site Process for Amazon Affiliate Sites and trade secrets.
Here are some of the things you’ll learn about in this post:
- The unlikely start of Ken’s online income.
- If passion for a topic matters in a niche site.
- The exact number of money sites Ken has in his portfolio.
- Details about the site valued at $37,000 and the 3 main steps to grow a niche site.
- Why you should do most of the work on a niche site yourself.
- The 7 Tools and Apps that are critical.
- The untapped source for finding expert niche writers.
- Ken’s stance on Private Blog Networks.
- How Ken’s site has a 12.5% conversion rate on Amazon.
- The Web 2.0 Link Building Package that get the link juices flowing.
- The top 3 things that a newbie should focus on.
Ken has a blog called Content Ken so go check it out after you read this monster post.
Enter Ken Muise
What’s your name and current job/profession?
Ken Muise. I’ve been in the United States Army for 22 years. I’m getting ready to retire. Currently, I am stationed in Hawaii.
How did you get started building niche websites? How long have you been building websites?
I tell this story on my about page. I’ll rehash it here in a little bit of an abbreviated manner.
I was stationed in Massachusetts (where I’m originally from) and I got orders to go to Fort Meade, MD.
My wife (at that time) was enrolled in school and my daughters had all grown up in Massachusetts so no one wanted to go to Maryland. So, off I went as a geo-bachelor. It was different living alone, some good, some bad. The worst thing was maintaining two households and the living expenses.
The greatest way to learn to succeed in this business is to fail a couple times
I started to research making money online and came across sites like myams.net (London Brokers), TextBroker, etc. I also wrote for revenue sharing sites. The pays sucks but it was money that I desperately needed.
Eventually I started to ask myself why I couldn’t create my own websites and make money like everyone was doing off of my product reviews and content. So, it began….
And for about 6 years nothing really happened and I went back and forth on writing for upfront money and building my own sites for a while. Eventually, though, you learn enough and fail enough that you know what works for you and what doesn’t. I developed my own method of writing, building and ranking sites. The most important thing I found out about myself is that I need at least an interest in the niches that I get into. It doesn’t have to be a passion but I do need some level of “wanting to learn” and “wanting to teach” in order to bring the right kind of content that adds actual value to the table. Not everyone is like but I am.
I started to ask myself why I couldn’t create my own websites and make money like everyone was doing off of my product reviews and content. So, it began….
I think one of the most frustrating things in this business is being “almost there”. You know you’re in a good niche. You’ve done your keyword research. You’ve built content and even got a few links. But you just can’t break that glass ceiling. It’s infuriating because you know it’s just glass and you want to shatter it to pieces. And you know that you’re almost there but a certain site or keyword just doesn’t get the traction. It’s why a lot of people quit at this stuff, I think.
What site or sites do you want to share today? You can reveal the site if you want, or not…up to you.
I was born in the morning, Doug, but it wasn’t this morning. LOL. No, I’m just playing. Seriously, I can’t give out my niches and I don’t really know anyone who does anymore. Not if they expect to keep those successful sites from being copied. I have read and watched case studies and niche site projects and competitions that people have revealed their niches, but I’m sure they all expected to be scrutinized, studied, and copied.
I’m currently operating and holding on to 3 money sites
The thing about this niche site thing, particularly a lucrative Amazon review site is that when you get a topic, product, keyword or niche that visitors are gobbling up and in “buying mode” then you really should hold that information really, really close. I’m not saying that you should never pay it forward and teach and coach, that’s how most of us get started, but if you have that gem…then it should be the family jewels. Especially if you have found the particular method of building sites that works for you. It should be protected.
I will, however, tell you that I’m currently operating and holding on to 3 money sites as well as a few more that are maturing and being linked out to see what happens with them.
How much are you making from the website right now? Or, how much did you sell it for?
From our main money site, what I’m calling “niche site 1” on earnings reports is currently averaging $1500 per month. Right now, on May 10th we’re on a track to be about $100 above that on this one site. The others make money as well, but this is our main site.
If anyone thinks that I just jumped into this niche site thing and started making money, they’d be sorely mistaken.
I don’t plan, currently, on selling any of my personal money sites. I am, however, thinking of jumping into some website investing. The girlfriend and I recently bought an Amazon Review site off of Flippa that we really liked and felt it could be a nice joint project to grow. We may flip that one in the end but as of now we’re loving building it out and seeing traffic and rankings grow.
Here are a few screen shots from Amazon of earnings. I monitor earnings often, but I like to report them like a typical business and fiscal year measurement. As you can see, we created this site in March of 2015 and by April it was making money. We kind of broke out in July and cracked $300. By November we were closing in on $1k and then December, and 2nd QTR of this FY have been great. We’re happy with it.
The site is rather seasonal so I’m still hoping on a great summer and being able to break $2k once or twice. However, it’s a great market because people who vacation during the winter months are very interested in the products that we review.
One of my favorite things about our sites is that they are all nominal in cost. We try to do as much of the work ourselves and not outsource. Not only does this keep the cost down but we also love doing it.
One of my larger pieces of advice for people just starting out is to at least build and try to rank, grow and earn from a few sites all on your own. This is the greatest way to learn and appreciate the work that goes into it.
We try to do as much of the work ourselves and not outsource.
I mean, try to do everything on your own; content, layout, logo, linking out to your affiliates, outreach, linking to your sites. As much as you feel comfortable or at least “oh well, here it goes” comfortable. If you ever have a question read or ask a question in a forum so you don’t get yourself in trouble or banned from a program. But, seriously, once you learn then you have a better understanding of what it takes, what to seek, what to ask/demand from who you outsource to, and so on.
The greatest way to learn to succeed in this business is to fail a couple times (or numerous times). If anyone thinks that I just jumped into this niche site thing and started making money, they’d be sorely mistaken. I’d actually be mad if they assumed that. LOL. I worked my ass off and failed miserably a bunch of times before I got the right method going and doing what works for me.
What tools do you use?
I use ahrefs, Moz, and Google Webmaster Tools a lot. I am obsessed with monitoring competition. I like to find out the backlinks that my competitors have and go out and try to find better ones. If they have great link from a good metric site, then I do my best to get a link from a great metric site.
Here is the Ahrefs Position Heatmap:
(Doug’s Note: Actually, I forgot that was you, Ken! Small world.)
I like to find out the backlinks that my competitors have and go out and try to find better ones.
I usually don’t outsource content but if I have to then I like to find writers on revenue sharing sites that are looking to make some money. I simply go to the say, let’s say InfoBarrel, and do a search for the kind of content I’m looking for “video games”. There’s usually a few writers who concentrate on niches within those sites. Then I shoot them a message asking if they’re interested. Also, I do use Fiverr from time to time and I still think that you can get good content from many Fiverr writers.
Lastly, the improvements that Amazon has made to their native ads is beyond an improvement to the old ones. They’re dynamic and adjust to fit the space you place them. I love them.
One “tool” that I do steer away from is the Amazon Associates forums. Some, not all, of those people are kind of toxic.
Another plugin that I use that I think comes in very hand is Dynamic Widgets. It’s a plugin that allows you control which widgets are on which pages If you want a in the sidebar on just a particular page then you can do that pretty simply.
What did you do to grow the site?
Remember, “niche” doesn’t mean small…it just means focused.
I wrote a lot of content.
I wrote a lot of product reviews.
I did a lot of outreach.
I wrote guest posts for large sites, small sites, authority sites and new sites.
I still do that as much as I can.
I always like to preach that you have to treat each site like a mini business…until it’s not anymore.
It’s either not going to make money or grow or find traction in SERPS so you kill it (sell it, abandon it, repurpose it) or you see that it can be something more and you build it out into an authority site. Remember, “niche” doesn’t mean small…it just means focused.
Some topics and niches will only need 10 to 15 pages to focus on, but most can be so much more.
The Recipe to Grow an Amazon Affiliate Niche Site
If I had to give a “recipe” for growing sites it would be similar to the one that Rob gave here on Niche Site Project a little while back. The only thing that I would consider NOT a necessity for a niche site is the email capture.
Well, I take that back. It matters on the niche, I guess. If the niche is in a market where people would come back and buy more or similar products then, yes, an email list would be great.
An example is diapers or baby/children clothes. Babies need more than once package or diapers and they’re always growing…so there’s a large follow up market for those two niches.
However, something like espresso machines wouldn’t benefit as much from an autoresponder. Yes, you could get filter replacements and the odd “oh, I might one of those espresso machines for mother this year” type of thing but it’s just not a market for recurring customer buys, in my opinion.
Add content and interact:
Always. I mean why wouldn’t you? It grows the footprint in search results, adds more value to readers, captures more clicks…but most importantly…it’s a business model. You’re supposed to be involved. This a reason why I, in most cases, leave commenting turned on even on my niche sites. People will ask questions and you’re supposed to know what you’re talking about and care about the information that you’re publishing. When you do that then you gain loyalty. People actually read comments. They can see if you’re responding and giving helpful information. Remember: Niche doesn’t mean small, lazy, minimal etc…it just means focused. I can’t stress that enough.
Steal Other Peoples Traffic and Readers:
Not in a corrupt way. Write awesome guests posts and leave awesome blog and forum comments. People will notice your awesomeness and want to read more of the awesome stuff that you have to say. Now, if they get to your site and all you have is 300 words of content with 75 of those words being linked out to Amazon or other affiliates then you lose…so your own content has to be better or as good as your guest posts and comments.
Add to or Improve Your Content:
Some of my best money making pages and sites are the ones that have surprised me the most. I might create 1 or 2 planned money pages on my sites and some end up earning but, usually it’s that post and keyword that finds traction in the SERPS and, as long as it’s linked out sensibly will start making good money and referrals to Amazon. When that happens, jump on it. Make that the most epic page on those keywords that it’s ranking for and take advantage of the traffic to funnel people to other pages.
On the other hand, if you have content that isn’t working then use this tip:
- Take a page that is ranking and do your best to add content that talks about the page that you want to perform better and link to it.
- Piggy back off of it to disperse traffic and juice throughout your site.
Some people love PBNs, others hate them. Where do you stand on PBNs?
PBNs terrify me and I’d love to say that I don’t use them. But that wouldn’t be the truth. What I will tell you is that PBNs are and should remain just that: Private.
It amazes me at how many people’s PBN’s become no-so-private once someone is willing to give them a few bucks for a link. To me, that’s stupid. I’m not saying that you can’t have a very select few of trusted partners that help each other out but if you’re selling PBN links on Fiverr or such…then you don’t have a PBN worth a grain of sand.
What I will tell you is that PBNs are and should remain just that: Private
What you have is a ticking time bomb of lost revenue and pissed-off, frustrated people. There’s a risk in everything that is attached to the idea of PBNs but to not keep a PBN as private is just compounding that risk. I don’t understand it.
However, using a PBN to help a site out that you plan on eventually growing will then allow it to gain traction and you’ll start getting natural links. Particularly if you’re doing all other smart stuff like quality guest posts, blog commenting, forum interaction. At that point you can start weaning your site(s) off of PBN links.
If you don’t have control of your links then you can’t expect anyone to care about them as much as you do.
The last thing I’ll say about PBNs is this: If you don’t have control of your links then you can’t expect anyone to care about them as much as you do. I have a very small, very private, very much in my control PBN.
Did you use PBNs on your site?
Roger. At first I didn’t and I got some decent results.
I wanted to learn more about PBN’s, though, so I caught on with a few of my favorite sites like Niche Site Project and PBNHQ and started to build a few out. (Doug’s Note: Here is more info about limiting risk for a PBN.)
There’s also more than one way to build a PBN site. It doesn’t always have to be high authority domain with 5 blog posts, some images, a video…yada, yada, yada. Sometimes, if you get the right topics then you can have a “we’ve moved” or “we’ve merged” with “if you’re not redirected within 5 seconds click here …”
Of course, visitors are redirected automatically and a naked url or other sort of link text is on the page. I have two sites that do that.
Another thing that I didn’t mention above is to not discount authority directories in your niche, paid or not. Some of those are great back links and probably a little cheaper than PBN creation and maintenance. I’m not saying go crazy but if you’re niche is Toyota Tacoma Accessories and there are some good directories then do what you can to get listed on some. It has a great juice flow and you’ll get some relevant, interested traffic as well.
How Many PBN links did you use?
Initially, for this site, I used 3 PBN links used by yours truly. Then I had someone build 3 more (only two of those were indexed, however). Then, several months later, I built 2 more. Just recently, I added one more.
I also have a total of 7 quality web 2.0 sites that I maintain and update pretty regularly from places like Medium, Yola, Rebel Mouse, Blogger, and WordPress (of course!)
Are you already phasing out of PBN’s and what is the strategy?
I haven’t yet with this site but will do so after this year’s summer rush. I think that by that time I will have really good organic links and I’ll probably phase out at a rate of 2 per quarter, starting in October. It doesn’t have many to begin with, but I don’t want to do anything too fast and drastic so that it appears that there’s an issue.
How many guest posts did you get?
I’ve done about 10 guest posts for the site in total. I started small and then went after some of the big boys and girls in my niche. I’ve also formed partnerships with others in my niche. We exchange ideas and information. I am also not too shy about linking to a few competitors. When I say competitors, I’m talking about competition in rankings. I blow most people out of the water with actual Amazon referrals and sales.
My Amazon Conversion Rate = 13.5+%
Doug sent me some follow up questions after I did the first part of the interview here and my Amazon conversion rate came up. For the year, my conversion rate is sitting nicely at 13.54% and this month (May 2016) it’s down slightly to 12.53% but I’ll take it. Here’s where I think I’m going to disappoint Doug a bit, I think.
First, it’s high because I think my niche and main products I sell are easy to accessorize. So, instead of just buying the main product people might say “Nah, I’ll get it when I get on vacation” BUT they’ll end up buying some other but very related products.
As far as another question Doug asked: “How many affiliate links do I add per 100 words?”
The answer is I don’t know and I don’t really want to go and count. LOL. That sounds like paralysis by analysis. I add affiliate links naturally and where I would want them as a buyer if I were looking to buy that item. Calls to action work great. “Get the latest price and other customer reviews on Amazon” works great for me. The EasyAzon image links work well, too.
I think I know why my conversion is so high but I don’t really want to spit it out. Sorry. I am in the process of building a “made for your Amazon review niche site” business and I know that my conversion rates can be touted and used to my advantage to set myself apart from competition.
Lastly, Doug asked if I use tables. Yes, I do. I think it’s hit or miss, though. I have one table with content above and below it that targets a keyword with 1200 monthly searches and I’m sitting at #2 in Google behind a big ecommerce site/brand. That page makes me some money. However, I have other pages with tables, built exactly the same way and targeting keywords with less competition that don’t do diddly squat. I’ve thought of changing or enhancing the content on those pages with some video and graphics and will see if that changes.
How are you doing link building now? What’s the best use of your time for link building?
I love this question. Natural links are those that come randomly but DO come. It isn’t natural for a site to get hit with 20 good links from all of a sudden new sites with authority and then not get another link for a couple of months except for the occasional blog comment. That is not natural.
By the time niche site 1 was 6 months old it was, in my opinion, one of the larger authorities on the niche online.
Also, natural links don’t come only from sites with good authority. I’m not talking about low quality sites, I’m talking about new sites or those with low authority backlinks. That stuff is natural.
If you’re using PBNs then there has to come a time when you say enough of those. And start putting some elbow grease into your business and get known around the water cooler.
One of the lucky things I fell into with niche site 1 is that not only did I find some great keywords with low competition that people loved to buy but it was so easy to actually become an authority on the internet in the niche because so many people were doing such a bad job with their niche sites and just didn’t care about the business. By the time niche site 1 was 6 months old it was, in my opinion, one of the larger authorities on the niche online.
As far as initial linking goes, I like to use a Hoth package and then gradually add some PBN links (depending on the niche you may need only 5 or you may need 20 to move the needle)…the thing to figure out here is the minimum you need to move the needle and get decent rankings and traffic and then slow the hell down.
(Doug’s Note: Here is how I order a package from the HOTH.)
But…and here’s another place where people get lazy: If you get a Hoth package they make the Tier 1 links from good, legit web 2.0s. They give you the log in credentials for going back in and readjusting anchor text etc. so why not keep adding to those web 2.0 sites?
You’ll eventually get some sort of juice if you develop those into the types of sites that you’re hoping Google sees them as. Some people rank sites based solely off of a web 2.0 PBN sort of thing. Put some effort into it and actually develop them and put them in your back pocket.
My biggest tip on linking, though, is to actually talk online with those people who are already authorities in the niche and don’t be stupid.
You never know…you might get some awesome links to those web 2.0 properties if you actually try to make them into something other than one page of content. You just need to cater to the audience. People love to link to Tumblr memes and .gifs because a lot of them are well thought out, entertaining and funny. So do it!
I only ever start off with a Hoth Mini Package for each of my sites. That’s just to get the collective juices flowing and chipping out a spot in the niche online. Just 1 Hoth Mini ever for each site. That’s all I’ve done.
My biggest tip on linking, though, is to actually talk online with those people who are already authorities in the niche and don’t be stupid. Act like a real person, running a business, who knows their shit and then ask for a chance to write a post to their readers. Or don’t get to know anyone and ask to write a guest post for their readers.
That shit still works. When Matt Cutts declared that guest blogging was dead dumb people everywhere stopped doing outreach. The smart people actually stepped back and decided if they were doing it with added value, on legit sites.
It still works, peeps, you just gotta’ do it with some smarts. Never outsource guest posting (IMO) and never join a guest posting site. Just be natural.
- I like this site.
- I’d like to meet these people.
- I’ll ask to talk to them and meet the owner at the same time.
- I’ll write a post and talk to these people.
- I’ll get a referral from a business already in the area and people will know where to find my stuff.
That’s it. That’s natural.
Get your head out of the internet marketing gutter. Gray hat happens. Unfortunately, black hat happens. But what people tend to forget is that white hat still works. It just takes longer.
How has the success of this site changed your life?
Well, it gave me a possible business model for when I retire from the Army in helping people build sites that earn or helping along, at least.
It’s put more money in my pocket to develop more sites and grow my current sites. And, of course, I have more money to save and spend.
The girlfriend and I are taking vacation and going Hawaiian Island hopping for a week here pretty soon.
Money from niche sites helps. A lot.
What are the top 3 things that a newbie should focus on to prioritized?
- Site development and content development. You might get sick of hearing it but, even on a niche site, the content friggin’ counts. It needs to be good. You need to have an opinion and put it out there. If a product sucks then it sucks. If the most expensive product is the best product then put it out there as your number one choice. Don’t be afraid that it costs more and people won’t buy. It’s the best dammit…say it. And vice versa.
- Know what a good link looks like. They don’t all have to be from a DA 30 PA 30 TF 30 and CF 30 sites or URLs. It needs to be a natural progression of links that refer to your pages and sites. Power is great. Natural is better.
- You have to love this stuff and always, always be learning. You really do. You really need to live and breathe niche sites and learn what works and then do it. The reason I’m still here today and being kind of successful with this stuff is because I went through about 7 years of failure until I learned enough to find out what works for me. Passion will get you through, yes…but passion and the yearn to learn will put you over the top, eventually.
Is there anything that people seem to think is critical that you don’t think is very important?
I’d like to answer this a little differently, if that’s okay, Doug?
I actually think that what some people think isn’t important is more important than they think: Appearance of the site.
Just like when your girlfriend’s father opens the door you better not look like crap…then when someone follows a result on a SERP, when they get your site it better have its dress pants on.
Now, I do think that some people obsess over it too much, but I tend to agree with Perrin over at Niche Pursuits.
He makes it a point to make his niche sites look good. I think it’s important.
Do you have any additional tips or advice for others that would like to replicate your success with their own websites?
Beware of people who will build you a niche site or Amazon review site and they attach a nice little AmaProfits screen shot with it.
I actually got my hand on one of my competitors sites a while back that they were selling as premade Amazon review sites…and it stunk.
My PBN sites have better content, layout and more time and care put into them. So, I guess, to plug myself because I KNOW my sites are good check me out:
The prices will go up as my service gains steam and the positive reviews roll in. (Doug’s Note: I’m not an affiliate so I don’t get anything if you buy a site from Ken. He let see one if his sites and the quality is outstanding. The site looks great and the content is way above average.)
- Most of the time you just gotta’ do what Nike says: Just Do It
- Don’t listen to anyone, even yourself, when they tell you you’re wasting your time or that you should concentrate on “real work” or a “real job”.
- Even failure is a step to success.
- If you love it then keep doing it. If it’s not your passion then admit it and move on. And Kill Your Darlings. If a site just isn’t cutting it…move on. Create another and keep chasing that dream.
Do you have a blog or other place that people can following along with what you are doing?
Currently I’m over at http://contentken.com It’s where I’m posting my Amazon stuff and earnings reports.
I offer some site building services (5 per month) and some premade sites for sale. I believe in quality over quantity. You can check my About page and learn more about my travel making money online.