Niche Site Project: Winter Update 2017

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Welcome to the Winter 2017 edition of the Niche Site Project Update!

If this is the first NSP update that you’ve seen, you might be lost so let me tell you how this post works since it’s different than a lot of the other content. There are two parts:

  1. Personal Updates
  2. Niche Site Updates

I used to just talk about the tactical niche site stuff, but it turns out that you all (“y’all” if you’re from the South) like to hear about other stuff.

I go over a lot of stuff in this update:

  • Beer related activities – There is always something happening with beer.
  • Reading – I’ve really upped my game in the reading arena.
  • Running – I ran one and did pretty well consider the reduced training.
  • Screen-Free Time – I spent some time in the mountains with friends.
  • Niche Site Updates – Quick updates on the $500k site and one other site that I cover on NSP.
  • Guest Post & Podcasts – I’ve been making the rounds lately.
  • NSP Webinars – People seem to really like these informational sessions.
  • NSP YouTube Channel – There’s lots of new content on my channel.

Beer Related Stuff

I didn’t used to like beer. I appreciated a “nice” domestic light beer like Bud Light or Coors Light. Then I started homebrewing beer with a good friend of mine in 2007. Within 6 months, I was brewing five gallons of beer every two weeks and owned a six tap kegerator.

So, I am trying to say:

I like beer.

Here’s the beer stuff that’s been going on in the last quarter.

Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Exam

I live in a state with very few BJCP judges. There are only six including me. For reference, I used to live in Georgia and there were about 90 to 100 judges there.

One of the main goals of the BJCP is to judge homebrew competitions, and with only six judges it makes it very hard to do.

So I gave an exam since I happen to be a high ranking judge that can do that kind of thing. Once the would-be judges get their exam scores back there will be nine more judges, 15 total in the state.

Ran a Home Brew Competition

Even though the nine soon-to-be-judges don’t have their scores yet, they are “Provisional” judges and can judge in competitions.

Over the weekend of March 18 and 19, my homebrew club (Bridger Brew Crew) hosted a homebrew competition. It was on the small side with 67 entries, though the winner gets to brew their recipe on the big, pro system at Bridger Brewing company. That means the winner can enjoy their beer on tap at the restaurant.

I’ve never brewed on a professional brewery system before or won a Best of Show. The Best of Show is judging all the first place beers against each other – the best of the best.

I won second place overall and two first place ribbons! That’s really good and everything, but I sure was hoping to win it all.

Here are a few pictures of the judging process and the competition. Look for the shiny bald head and an orange t-shirt. That’s me.


A few years ago I was having beers with my brother in law and his friend. Both of them have PhDs and are very smart. I asked them how many books they read each year; the answers were about 100 and 15, respectively.

My answer: Maybe 2-3. Sad.

When I asked the question, I knew that I wanted to read more but didn’t really understand how to do it. It’s pretty simple.

Make reading a priority.

It’s like exercise – I feel better after I do it, even if I really didn’t feel like it beforehand. Here’s my reading list since January 1:

  1. Cop Town by Karin Slaughter (fiction) – Crime thriller set in Atlanta. It was fun reading about places and streets I know.
  2. Peak by Anders Ericsson (nonfiction) – About deliberate practice. This is the guy that did the studies on the “10,000 hour rule,” though Malcolm Gladwell called it that.
  3. The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King (fiction)
  4. Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (nonfiction) – Why things catch on.
  5. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (nonfiction) – About pre WWII in Germany. Really good!
  6. Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow  (nonfiction) – Interviews with comedians.
  7. The 10X Rule (nonfiction) – Sorta directed to sales, but the message of aiming higher is good.
  8. Trial by James Patterson (fiction) – An Alex Cross book but not good…it’s a “novel that Alex wrote” about his great grand dad.
  9. Invisible Influence by Jonah Berger  (nonfiction) – Hidden influences that shape behavior.
  10. Grit by Angela Duckworth (nonfiction) – All about working on things for a long time and trying hard.
  11. Pop Goes the Weasel by James Patterson (fiction) – An Alex Cross book, a good one.
  12. A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage (nonfiction) – Good idea but a boring read. Beer, wine, spirits, tea, coffee, coke.
  13. At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson (nonfiction) – Great read. It’s a tour of history going through one room at a time.
  14. Contagious by Jonah Berger (nonfiction)
  15. Deep Work by Cal Newport (nonfiction)

I even bought a few hardbacks that I already read just because they are so good.

new hard back books

Here’s my last tip about reading and making it economical:

Use your public library if you have one.

They have more books than you could ever read, and most of them have eBooks & audiobooks that are easy to download.

Aside: All the members of my mastermind group are reading more this year and we have shared list of the books we’ve read.

Ran a Half Marathon

There’s a race in Bozeman called “Run to the Pub” held around St. Patrick’s Day. Guess where it ends.

That’s right! At a bar.

Right after you finish the race you get a pint of beer, and I had a thirst-quenching, black, creamy pint of Guinness. Yum.

Let’s talk about my lack of training now.

I was training over the winter at the gym because it’s quite snowy and cold in the winter in Montana. It’s legitimately cold, too. Here are the average temperatures over the last few months:

  • Dec 2016: 14º F (-10º C)
  • Jan 2017: 10º F (-12º C)
  • Feb 2017: 25º F (-4º C)

I don’t mind the cold at all but it’s too cold for a Southerner like me, and for most all people, to run outside, and it’s really slippery, too.

Weather aside, I was training on a treadmill which I really don’t mind, but I caught a cold twice. If you have been attending the free weekly webinars over the last couple months you probably heard my voice have it’s ups and downs due to the slight bug I was nursing.

All that to say that my training sucked. The longest run that I did was 6 miles and that was in December. In early March, I made it 5.5 miles, hardly adequate preparation.

My main goal was to not get injured, and for that goal I was successful. I didn’t make any sort of goal about finishing time because at this point in my running life I don’t care.

I finished in 2 hours, 08 minutes, 36 seconds, which isn’t bad considering my terrible training. That’s a pace of 9:49 per mile so not bad. The timing company published a video of all the finishers on YouTube, so you can see my cross the finish line. I’m wearing a white shirt and white hat.

One of the main reasons I finished faster than expected was that I found a running partner along the way. After three or four miles, the pack of runners thinned out and I saw a lady holding the same pace. We chatted for a moment about our likely finish times, then decided to run together.

It was her first half marathon and wanted to finish in under 2 hours, 10 minutes, which was perfect for the pace that I settled on. After we finished, we both agreed that we would have missed the goal and walked if the other wasn’t there. By the way, she beat me by a second or so!

I know there are some runners out there so here’s some data from my GPS watch.

run to the pub summary Garmin Connect run to the pub Garmin Connect run to the pub split time Garmin Connect

Went Off-The-Grid: Red Lodge, MT

Some of our friends have a house out in the middle of nowhere and invited my wife and I (and Brodie, our dog) to hang out one weekend. It was great there, and I really got to relax.

red lodge

Red Lodge, Montana is a picturesque small town set in the Rocky Mountains at the foot of the Beartooth Range. It’s one of the gateway towns to Yellowstone National Park, through the northeast entrance.

brodie red lodge

You may have heard of the Beartooth Highway as being one of the most beautiful drives in the U.S. Here is a video by

I wasn’t really off the grid, but I didn’t carry my phone around like normal nor did I bring my laptop. The most high tech thing we did was stream Netflix programming. The cool thing is that they do have very high speed internet even though the closest town (Red Lodge) is 10 miles away.

Niche Site Updates

I’ll go over two niche sites that are both monetized with Amazon Affiliate links, the ones that I’ve been covering in the last updates.

The change to the commission rates of Amazon Associate program was a huge blow to both sites, amounting to about a 35% reduction in revenue. Needless to say, the $500,000 goal for Project Go White Hat will be harder to reach!

Niche Site #1

Let’s take a look at the recent earnings for this site over the last few months.

  • Dec 2016: $14,820
  • Jan 2017: $6,067
  • Feb 2017: $4,677
blank blank blank

The traffic really improved heading into the retail season and remains at the elevated level.

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The bounce rate is higher than what I would like, closer to 70% would be great. But if you dive deeper into the data, you’ll see that the visitors are spending a decent amount of time on the pages. That’s a good sign that they’re finding what they are looking for.


Project Go White Hat – Selling a Site for $500k

I’ll do a whole update on this project soon, but for now I can share the last three months of data.

  • Dec 2016: $32,767
  • Jan 2017: $14,017
  • Feb 2017: $10,469
amazon Dec 2016 Earnings 5 blank blank

What’s causing this drop in revenue?


There has been a massive decline in traffic since the retail season ended. This site is tracked with Clicky.

It’s still a lot of visitors, but it really stings to see a drop off like this.

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In fact, let’s compare January through February with previous period. This is where you can really see the decline.

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Look out for a full update on Project Go White Hat.

Niche Site Project

I started Niche Site Project in the fall of 2013 after I started seeing some success with my Amazon Affiliate site. I remember writing some of my first posts and how nervous I was to hit publish. It was a struggle to write, and my content was insanely derivative of other bloggers I was reading.

Eventually, I developed my voice and started reading higher grade content (i.e. books not blogs), which I hope is reflected in my content now. I’ve dedicated more time and effort for NSP over the last several months so I’ve been able to publish a new blog post or YouTube video every week.

Guest Posts & Podcasts

One of the best ways to grow a blog (or niche site) is guest posting, even after all these years. Here are a few posts that you should check out:

  1. Genius Link Blog – How to Boost the Conversion Rate and Income for Amazon Affiliate Sites. I go over 17 tactics and strategies to help increase the earnings for Amazon Affiliate Sites. The post covers a wide range of tactics, and I provide examples of “best in class” affiliate sites to support the ideas.
  2. Charles Floate Blog – Project Go White Hat. If you’ve read this far, then you know what this case study is about. Charles Floate is a premier Gray Hat SEO so his audience is very interested Gray Hat tactics. This post is oriented to the Gray Hat niche site owner that wants to maximize the selling price of a niche site.
  3. Content Champion Podcast with Loz James – How To Get Rankings & Traffic Without Backlinks. I talk a lot about how I’ve been able to skip a lot of link building and still get targeted, high converting traffic for my niche sites. Loz is a great guy, and I had an awesome time speaking with him.

Weekly Webinars

I’ve done eight webinars since the beginning of the year. These webinars have helped to bring on new members to the NSP community and build the community feeling.

In fact, some of the same attendees are on every week and know each other. It’s pretty cool when I recognize people’s names.

I’ve covered a range of topics, all around the skills needed for niche sites. I use Webinar Jam and it’s pretty good most of the time, but there have been 2 major issues.

  1. One week Webinar Jam servers went down in the middle of one of my Five Figure Niche Site Inner Circle Sessions. The system was unusable for about 90 minutes. I was literally about to send out a cancellation email to all the people that signed up. But miraculously, the WebinarJam system returned to working order minutes before the scheduled starting time.
  2. Another week at the start of one webinar, no one could hear me. Everyone could see me – you could see me trying really hard. Eventually, I rebooted my laptop and everything was fine. It was a struggle for about 20 minutes, but it taught me a valuable lesson to ALWAYS reboot before a webinar. ALWAYS.

I’m doing a couple unique things for my webinars:

  1. I’m not pitching any products or selling anything. Most webinars are filled with offers and mine aren’t. I sell things sometimes, but the nine precede webinars were content rich with nothing to buy.
  2. I’m not running ads to get people to sign up. I tried to run some ads, but they are expensive and didn’t seem to convert well. Since I wasn’t pitching anything, I got permission to mention my webinars in some Facebook Groups that my friends run. I’m grateful to them to let me use their platforms.

Here are the webinars so far and you can watch the replays by clicking on the links:

  1. $500k Niche Site: Project Go White Hat
  2. Content Plan, No Backlinks
  3. Why Your Guest Posting Campaign Is Failing
  4. Keyword Research for Niche Sites
  5. Amazon Associates Changes Commission Structure in US
  6. The Perfect Amazon Review
  7. SEO Plan for Niche Sites
  8. Boost the Conversion Rate for Amazon Affiliate Niche & Authority Sites

I’m changing up the time for the webinar this week so it’ll be on Wednesday, March 29 at 7 PM MT. It will be on “The Niche Site Content Plan That Attracts Traffic Without Backlinks “. You can sign up right here.

YouTube Channel

I said I wanted to do more YouTube content for years, but always found an excuse. Turns out I just needed to focus. If you want to publish more on YouTube, then you just need to publish more videos.

If you’re not subscribed to my YouTube Channel, please click here to subscribe.

If you want to check out my person commentary on NINE profitable Amazon Affiliate niche sites, watch this playlist here. Several people told me that could charge for these tear-downs, but they’re free. I have about 10 more sites on my list that I haven’t shot a video for – leave a comment if you’re interested in more niche site tear-downs.

What’s Coming Up?

I have a few things ramping up that I can tell you about.

Enrollment will open for Five Figure Niche Site in April. If you’ve been waiting, and I know a lot of people have been emailing me about it, then in the next few weeks you’ll learn how you can start your niche site journey the smart and effective way.

I have a big, juicy update for the $500,000 Niche Site Case Study called Project Go White Hat. Lots of activities have been going on behind the scenes. Read the parts 1-4 here.

In April, I will publish a guest post on a pretty big blog, and a podcast which I was a guest on will come out. I’ll send out links for those when they go live.

I plan on adding several more YouTube videos in the next quarter as well. If you want to see anything specific, just tell me in the comments.

Don’t forget to sign up for the webinar on “The Niche Site Content Plan That Attracts Traffic Without Backlinks.”

Let me know what you think about the last quarter in the comments.

  1. If you have questions about the niche sites, just ask.
  2. If you have questions about the $500k, Go White Hat Project that you want me to include in the update, let me know.

About the Author: Doug Cunnington is the founder of Niche Site Project. He shows people how to create Affiliate Sites using project management and a proven, repeatable framework. Doug loves creating systems, using templates, and brewing beer (but usually not at the same time).

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Nice update. I know I need to read more books but I’m such a slow reader and I don’t make the time to read. 15 is a lot of books to have read so far. Are you physically reading these or listening on audio? Any tips here as far as how much you are reading each day? And what’s the top 2 best non-fiction books you have read so far this year?

    Also, I’m loving the content you are putting out on YouTube this year. Thank you.

    • Tony, Thanks for the comment!

      I’m physically reading the books, mostly on a Kindle. I haven’t been listening to audio much, not even podcasts and I’m spending time thinking instead. 🙂

      I’m reading 30 mins to 2 hours a day and most of that is right when I wake up or before I go to sleep. It varies a lot and mostly depending on pressing deadlines, real or imagined, and how “into” the book I am.

      The 2 best? I don’t know – it’s probably the most recent stuff so I bet it’s biased. I thought about it and narrowed it down to these:

      1. Deep Work
      2. Peak

      Great to hear about YouTube content, Tony. I really appreciate you saying that!

  • Marouane

    Beautiful update Doug, I can see that you’re progressing in your personal and financial ( well not a great progress especially after the changes at Amazon ) life.
    Can’t wait to join the community of five figure niche site this year. By the way, I’m planning up to saving some money to enroll in your program but I can’t see it price since it’s not opened yet. It would be a great help if you can share with me the price so I can plan out my savings before July.

    Thanks Doug and keep up !

    • Hey Marouane, thanks for reading the update.
      I’ll shoot you an email about the Five Figure Niche Site…And enrollment will open up before the end of April. 🙂

  • You’re telling interesting things, dude. Do not feel sorry for sharing information?