UPDATE July 10, 2017: Dave is still making about $5,000 per month and has been for over a year.
I talked to Dave a few days ago about his outstanding portfolio of sites that provide him with a full time income.
Dave updates us and shares his:
- Revenue numbers for the last few months
- Tips for ON PAGE SEO (so he doesn’t need many backlinks)
- A surprising take on Guest Posting
- Scholarship campaign and how well it worked (including how much the scholarship was for)
*There’s a text summary below if you’re not a video person, but Dave is super handsome, so you should check out the video. Seriously, check it out!
Looking for more inspiration: Here are examples of Amazon Affiliate Sites with traffic data…AND 15,000 Keywords.
Here’s the Summary of the July 2017 Interview with Dave Fox
(Thanks to Steven who helped me take notes on the interview!)
I’ve known Dave for about 2 years and started working with him in early 2015.
Currently, he owns a portfolio of sites that he built himself…And he was featured on the Niche Pursuits podcast which is awesome.
In the interview, we catch up on a few things that happened in the last several months. We also talk about his:
- Content strategy
- Link building
- Additional tips for other niche site entrepreneurs
He has about 8 to 9 sites live, but only a couple sites are profitable. It’s the 80/20 rule in play:
80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the sites.
Dave mentioned that some sites are somewhat forgettable because he didn’t prioritize them.
He did focus his effort with a select few sites, but these are not profitable ones. I called Dave out on that a bit…
He admits to being stubborn on these sites—trying to make them work, make them profitable. The sites have been around for around a year without much results.
The other sites that Dave owns are much more profitable. Like most niche sites, once it’s set up it doesn’t require much effort at all.
During the summer of 2016, Dave was earning between $4,000 to $5,000 and he was optimistic about scaling up the Amazon Affiliate income over time.
During the Christmas season, he earned around $9,000 per month which is awesome. After that holiday month, his income was at the $6,000 per month level.
Then, the big change happened. Amazon updated their commission structure which pulled down Dave’s income by about 35%.
Dave had a real but brief period of depression for 2-3 weeks when it happened.
The Amazon update impacted me quite significantly as well. My overall income went down by 35%, and the update reduced the value of our site in Project Go White Hat.
It was definitely one of the type of news that I could do without. However, these things do happen, and we’ll just have to make the best use out of it.
Dave talked about his highest earning site, where traffic was still pretty much at the same level, but his income went down due to the Amazon update.
But fortunately for Dave, another of his niche site experienced an increased commission rate and overtook the previous highest earning site in terms of overall income.
He believed that if it wasn’t for the Amazon update, he would have consistently earned a healthy $7,000 monthly revenue. Dave maintains a $5,000 income, and it is steadily going higher.
I predict that Dave will hit $15,000 to $20,000 income at next December, just by looking at how he’s creating a lot of content for his other sites. They are close to getting out of the Google Sandbox by now, so those pieces of content alone to rank highly simply because of the timing alone.
When it comes to content creation, Dave put together his own content team mainly through hiring freelancers at Upwork. He believes in getting only writers to really know about the article topic.
If you hire writers that are not knowledgeable with the topic, the article may end up seeming as not authentic. This is also supported by the fact that your readers are people who are passionate with the topic, so they will notice if the article provides solid information or not.
Dave also had some problems in the past when he hired too many writers. It was fine at the beginning, but eventually he realized that it was getting too difficult for him to manage. He used to have 15 to 20 writers at one time.
He experienced several issues such as the writers submitting their work at various times, with differing qualities and he also had some problems with paying the writers on time. Right now, he intends to get only 1 writer per site.
Dave tried some scholarship link building. It worked particularly well for him, much to his surprise (even for sites with names that are not too professional).
He has one tip where if you can find one or more colleges that accept scholarships from smaller sites, chances are you could have your own scholarship published over there as well. A college’s main objective is to just help the students and provide them with some funding for their school.
Dave has been putting up a $500 scholarship for his own sites.
Something to note with this strategy is that its effectiveness is unclear as you get more links Google as you gain additional .edu backlinks.
Since implementing this strategy, Dave got an additional 100 visitors a day but most of them went to the scholarship page anyway.
My take is that scholarships may not be full solution for link building, but could be a positive set of links to get as part of a more wholistic link building and outreach plan.
I’m considering with making a small multi-series of scholarship link building. I’ve done some of this in the past as well, and got some positive results from it. Leave a comment if you’re interested in seeing that on YouTube.
Other Link Building – Dave’s Secret Strategy
In terms of outreach for link building, Dave hasn’t really done anything significant. He prefers to implement more of an organic process of interviewing other figureheads in his niche.
This proves one point where you don’t need an intensive link building process to be successful with niche sites.
Final thoughts from Dave Fox
Lastly, some advice from Dave for other niche site entrepreneurs are:
- Make sure that you put in the time, effort,and money required to make your sites a success.
- Depending on your monetization, your strategies and methods must be consistent with that particular way of making money (Amazon, Adsense, Clickbank etc).
- Your first 6 to 12 months is going to be very hard, but just keep at it. Eventually, you will see positive results from your hard work.
Here’s the update from Sept 2016:
I received an email that got my attention last month.
“I should hit $500 by tomorrow I think (sent you a screenshot). That’s been my goal for a while now is to get there so I’m pretty psyched about that…”
I’m psyched about this success story, too. Dave Fox came out of the comments of this blog and at Niche Pursuits – asking some great questions and making observations.
We exchanged a few emails and then ended chatting on a Skype video chat. It was a good fit for coaching and I showed Dave what you have to do to create a profitable Amazon Affiliate Site. I worked with Dave for a few months in the first quarter of 2015.
Things started happening for Dave, but slowly. Gone are the days when you can rank #1 for a large volume search term in 2 months.
Anyway, Dave went from $0, nothing except a WordPress install and a free theme, to $1,000 a month.
It was NOT easy or fast.
Dave worked his ass off & this is his story.
Check out the interview, plus all of Dave’s responses below. We get into a lot of the details in the interview.
Here is Dave…
1. What’s your name and current job/profession?
Private music teacher
2. How did you get started building niche websites? How long have you been building websites?
Its almost my two year anniversary, come February 2016 of me getting into niche sites.
For me I was at a low point at the time, things weren’t going great, and I was kind of at my wit’s end for what to do with my life.
I actually was in the process of taking a huge ESL course that took me a year to finish, because I planned on going overseas to teach and take a break from life here in North America.
I forget what I was watching online, but some video on YouTube caught my attention (could have been the Lazy Ass Stoner lol) talking about making money online.
I remember I was house-sitting at the time at my parents place here in Canada, and I ended up getting sucked in, watching video after video, and started taking notes.
I was thinking at the time, “Is this for real? Like seriously, people do this?” Being fairly OCD, and hard-headed, I decided to make it my mission to figure all this stuff out.
At the time I’d never even set up a website, so I was totally green here.
Had no idea what I was doing. Two years later, I’ve got about 20 domains but only 4 or 5 I focus on.
Some of them even make money, with one in particular starting to gain traction.
This month (Dec 2015) I’m on course to make about 1K, which will blow my mind if it happens.
3. Tell us about one (preferred) or multiple of your successful websites.
I’ve learned from guys like Spencer on Niche Pursuits that it isn’t a good idea to share urls on a public forum for this kind of thing.
I totally understand now why 95% of people just can’t get the hang of this. The number of times i think “ARE YOU F*&KING KIDDING ME?” in regards to some little detail I missed or whatever .. just too many times to count, and most people would definitely lose their shit over this stuff, no doubt.
Actually, the site that I have now that’s making money didn’t take long before I noticed copycat websites popping up, and I didn’t tell anyone about it.
I had no one to tell really, but also I didn’t post the url anywhere. These copycat sites looked exactly.. EXACTLY like mine, so I figure someone out there must just have seen mine and thought “Cool, I can do that” and did it.
It could be a coincidence also, but I doubt it.
Anyway, the niche I’m talking about is food and beverage related, and its actually in a niche that is perhaps more competitive than I expected.
That said, a good idea is a good idea and there’s room for quality content in every niche i believe so if you really want in on that niche, don’t give up on it.
Of course, you do have to look at the competitive landscape so you don’t do what I did walking into “weight loss tips” thinking it would be no biggie to start.
Let me just say that howtogetridofcelluliteinahurry.com didn’t really get me anywhere and I wrote quite a bit for that site before I realized that maybe it wasn’t the best idea, and the domain (keyword) was ridiculous. LOL.
Anywho, I’ve got websites in a wide variety of niches, and let me tell you, it isn’t easy to just jump into a niche and start writing. Do you realize you actually have to research this stuff?
Maybe ten years ago you could post a bunch of bologne and get ranked for it, but today its not that easy.
Oh, how I wish I’d learned about this in say 2002. I think I’d be rich right now, but at the same time I’m glad I’m doing this niche site stuff now, because it forces you to actually know a thing or two about what you’re doing and not rely on the spam tactics of old.
For instance, say you decide to go into “microscopes”, don’t think you can blog about that with any authority without getting sucked into that world.
Just be prepared.
I have learned this, and its making me much more knowledgeable but its hard work too.
You can’t outsource knowing stuff. YOU have to know it.
4. How much money do you make from this successful website(s) each month?
Well, this month I’m looking at $1,000, which is amazing to me still, but I’m not ignorant.
I know its Xmas time, and I’m already preparing myself for things to wind down a bit in January. Since I’ve only really been earning a significant amount (to me I’m talking $200+) from Amazon in the past 6 or so months, I have yet to see the trends over time, so I need more time to pass to say what I’m earning on average really.
I’d say right now I’m at about $500 a month.
Not bad, but to actually call this a living I want to earn a bit more for a longer period of time. Then I can stop sweating it so much.
5. What is the reason for this website’s success?
I gotta give props to Doug here, who coached me last year when I launched my first “big” site. Without that coaching, seriously, I don’t know if I’d have found my groove.
Big help for sure. In taking that coaching, I think that was when I realized that if I was going to figure this giant rubics cube that is niche websites out, I was going to have to invest in some help.
I had spent my first year trying out all sorts of ideas, but it was time to focus and after a year of having sites that didn’t work, that was enough for me. I really wanted to do it right.
You have to add value, and that can be challenging when most people get into niche sites to make money and they feel like adding value is optional. I’ve found its not really optional to add value.
And now I feel like I’m on track, but there’s still so much to learn. Of course many people have heard of “shiny object syndrome”, and I am prone to this too.
But you really need to be organized, and have a strategy. Keyword research is crucial, but even I forget that sometimes. There’s a lot of writing involved, and I manage a number of VAs now, for different jobs.
This is an expense, but worth it I find. For example, I can’t code.
I can write well enough, but I don’t always want to write the articles. At some point I heard about a guy (forget who) who only posted once a month and made all this money, and I was like “What? That doesn’t make sense”.. but more and more, it does.
I want my articles to actually be good. This takes serious amounts of time and effort. Spam articles are annoying, even if they are going to make you money. In fact, they probably won’t help your site because they’ll just be annoying to everyone.
You have to add value, and that can be challenging when most people get into niche sites to make money and they feel like adding value is optional.
I’ve found its not really optional to add value. You should always try to. The guiding principle is adding something to people’s lives, whatever it is, even if that means guiding people to a purchase. That presents its own challenges.
6. Please briefly share your overall strategy for finding a niche, getting traffic to your site, ranking in Google, and making money from niche sites.
Ok, for this part, you do have to put your passion in the backseat sometimes, or that’s what I’ve done … for now. I mean, I’ve always loved music, but when you’re doing your keyword research, I try to focus on “the rules”.
What rules? Well the Amazon niche site rules of course:
- Do people buy it on Amazon?
- Lots of reviews?
- Lots of different related products?
- More than a $5 price point?
- How’s the competition out there?
- Is it all ecommerce dominating the SERPs?
Remember, you’re only going to get 6% of your sale, and that means if people buy a toothbrush, that is going to pay you $0.25, and that’s only if the product delivers.
You might have that toothbrush order get cancelled and get nothing. I plan to bring my passions more into my niche site business, but not until I’m satisfied that I’m making the money I want first, and that means following the “rules”. Can’t follow the rules?… well, that might present a problem.
Of course, you might have a passion that coincides with making money, but don’t count on it. Let the keyword research guide you primarily, and you should be fine.
Start messing with the “formula”, and who knows what will happen. If we’re talking about organic traffic, choosing the right keywords to base your site on is critical.
Let the keyword research guide you primarily, and you should be fine.
In terms of conversion on page, just make sure you don’t do some of the stupid things I did, like mislead people (links to Amazon that don’t identify themselves), make things hard to find, write a bunch of crap.. like, be knowledgeable, but get to the point.
7. What link-building tips can you offer?
Link building has so far been my hardest nut to crack. I remember in the summer, I came across ahrefs and I was like “What is this???” Super cool, same with Moz.. I just didn’t get it for a while.
Same with Webmaster tools and Analytics.
Every month or so, this tool would pop up and I’d be like “What is THIS?”. Now I use them all a little more naturally, because I get what they’re about.
Anyway, these are all just tools for helping you see the bigger pictures. For links, besides the good old blog commenting tactic, the thing I’ve been playing with lately is Wikipedia.
Took me a while to get into that groove, but now I find it do-able and those links seem to have an affect on things. Still, if you haven’t been on the other side of the wikipedia curtain, just know its a warzone in there, and getting links is touch and go for the most part, particularly with niche sites.
PBNs are a bit beyond me, and after listening to Niche Pursuits podcast where Google’s PBN smackdown decimated their earnings, it was even harder to want to get into them.
Still, I’m sure it still works. People still seem to be making them work, but all that C class IP stuff? Not something I’m focused on right now.
The point here is that link building is not exactly my forte, but i’m still doing ok without pursuing that actively, but I want to get better at it. You can’t beat outreach, if done right. I’m a bit antisocial though…
8. How has the success from this website impacted your life?
I’m pretty hard-headed, so until I’m earning what I want I’m not going to fully acknowledge my “success”. Still, I do give myself the odd “here, you’ve earned this pizza” type of reward or whatever.
Once I start earning $1000 consistently every month, I can start saying goodbye to that fear that I will one day be working at the gas station, with no way out.
Even though this is supposed to be “passive” income, its really not and if you want it to really take off you better not treat it that way. Hard work, as not fun as it can be, is the way to do it.
The way I look at it is like this – once I start earning $1000 consistently every month, I can start saying goodbye to that fear that I will one day be working at the gas station, with no way out.
And, to me, that’s a big deal.. because that fear is real. I’ve got friends that do jobs like that and they aren’t going to be doing anything else any time soon. Sad, but that’s not going to be me.
9. Do you have any additional tips or advice for others that would like to replicate your success with their own websites?
One thing I’ve learned from listening to podcasts by IM’s, reading comments sections, youtube videos, etc, is that there is a great community of people out there who are looking for a different type of life.. they’re friendly, go-to, and they’re open to talking with you. I’m like that too, I think.
Quick story – I took this marketing class recently to get a leg up on some social media techniques, and when I was introducing myself, I said to the other students, “Hi guys, really I’m here to connect, so if anyone wants to stay after class and talk marketing, I’d love to do that.. that’s why I’m here!”
I was expecting my classmates to be like “Cool, lets get together and plot out how we’re going to take over the world!”.. but guess what, it was more like a joke to them.
They just want to sit in class on their phones and gab about facebook posts. I mean these aren’t bad people, but neither do they strike me as too ambitious.
I think to do this kind of work you have to be ambitious. That’s how to succeed at it.
If you’re just some person that wants to make a few bucks online and doesn’t care that much, I don’t know, you’re probably not going to make it.
My one buddy lately has been like “Gee, I’d really like to do what you’re doing” and I’m like “I can help you” but he just doesn’t have the focus.. he likes dicking around too much.
People that can’t get down to business are NOT going to make it. Which is fine with me, actually.
10. Do you have a blog or other place that people can follow along with what you are doing?
Yeah I sure do. I run an indie music label here in Southern Ontario called Fauxtown Records, and the url is: http://youtubemusicsucks.com
I also have an art website: http://davidcharlesfoxexpressionism.com – I really gotta work on this more, but maybe next year.. Like I said gotta put this stuff on the backburner til I get the hang of all this IM stuff.
If anyone wants to chat, look me up on Facebook. I love talking IM, and I love meeting new cool people. Just throwing it out there.
If you have any questions for Dave, you can ask in the comments below.