2 Year Update – Brad’s Niche Site Portfolio (Income, Lessons, & Outlook For 2018)

Niche Site Portfolio Update 2 Years Later

I wish you all a happy and successful 2018!

2017 was an incredible year for so many reasons, and 2018 is shaping up to be a great one as well. While some aspects of Internet Marketing are becoming harder, the training available is becoming better and the industry is massively maturing. I believe it is just as easy to succeed in 2018 as it’s ever been!

2017 was my first full year of working full time for Human Proof Designs in the role of Chief Operations Officer. You can read more about this move to work full time for HPD here.

Last year, I set some goals for my site portfolio; if you’ve read my previous posts, you know that my wife and I partner together on our portfolio, so some goals reflect that:

1. We closed down our joint site so we could focus on sites that required less of our time; these sites don’t depend on us being the people behind the site; we wanted sites that people would follow whether or not it was us doing the writing. In short, we wanted something we could more easily outsource.

2. We added 3 sites to our portfolio; the original plan was to do one site each, for a total of 2 sites added, and looking back we should have stuck to it 🙂

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    We had opportunity to buy a well-priced, and somewhat established HPD Site as well – let’s call this Site 2 (Since the original HPD site I bought back in 2015 is Site 1). Looking back, I should have passed on the sale. I bought it because it was built by HPD, so I trusted it, and the site is fine, but it just ended up over-extending things like focus and budget; it had some PBN links built to it, and that was fine with me; there were some page 1 rankings, so it was making 4-8 sales per month. I figured adding links + content would get me on the road to higher earnings sooner.  More details below!
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    I added a Premium Done For You HPD site in February – I will call this Site 3
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    Site 4 – this is a site where my wife does most of the writing and layout, and a VA helps with promotion

3. Add 10,000 words per month to Site 1 – I ended up adding articles throughout the year, but not in a linear 10K per month fashion; a lot of the content was added to Site 2 instead.

4. Upgrade old posts to include more images, videos, internal links, comparison charts – this was successfully completed and since my VA is now trained we tend to do it right at the beginning now

5. The last goal was time-based: Put less than 36 hours into Site 1 for 2017, VA will do the work. This was definitely met. My time contribution to this site was pretty much only advisory. I do enjoy keyword research, so I did a bit of that, maybe 4-6 hours worth this past year.

The idea behind this was to show that with proper training you can do very little of the work yourself, and have a VA grow your site for you. “I only have limited time to work on my site” is no longer an excuse!

Site 1:

To give a quick snapshot of the progress for the year on site 1, here’s the end of 2016 snapshot:

Brads 2016 Affiliate Site Update

Here’s the same stats, but at the end of this year (2017):

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    8516 keywords picked up by Semrush
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    523 page 1 keywords
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    1433 page 2 keywords
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    Semrush is showing 563 total backlinks (Some organically gained, some through outreach, some paid links)

As you can see, the number of page 1 keywords has increased 5x, and page 2 keywords even more.

For 2018, the goal is to get a significant number of those page 2 keywords to page 1!

How about earnings?

Last year:

  • Oct. > $50
  • Nov. > $80
  • Dec. > $250 – this is at old rates though, so equivalent to $95 today

The big news for 2017 was Amazon changing the commission structure; I went from 8% to 3%. I was glad it happened at the beginning of the year so I didn’t have too much structure in place dependent on an 8% commission level. It did mean that I could expect 63% less income per sale though.

Jan to September > hovered anywhere between $10-$70 per month, then 4th quarter hit:

October > $139

November > $453

December > $485

4th Quarter affiliate earnings

The average conversion rate for the site for 4th quarter was over 12% - that was awesome!

The other positive about this site was the traffic:

This level of traffic earned $200 via Google Adsense for the year, so that was a nice bonus on top 😊 I’m hoping to top 25K sessions in 2018 and apply for Mediavine since the payout rate is 6x that of Adsense or more. (More on this under the Site 4 heading)

I noticed this site was beginning to rank for some keywords in UK/Canada, so I checked earnings there and made a little extra there too (Less than $100 on all sites combined). So, not much to get excited about, but it is all something!

Even though it didn’t quite hit the $500/month mark with Amazon alone (including Adsense it did), I’m still very happy with the progress. A $500/month site is more of an achievement today than it was a year ago, and all things considered, this site is a success I can keep building on.

My plan for 2017 is to concentrate on link-building only for the first part of the year; gotta get those page 2’s onto page 1. 

Site 2: 

This is the HPD site I bought from someone else. I got it quite cheaply (only reason I went for it, lol) and it earned $225 this year with basically dumping on a bunch of KGR/traditionally researched content (30,000 words) and not much else.

Which isn’t bad of course, and I’m hoping it plods along and makes the same amount for the next couple years - unless I end up being able to build a bigger team that would allow me to have capacity to focus on it as well. Not a bad investment still, but looking back I would have preferred to use the cash on my other sites instead of splitting my focus.

Site 3:

This site has done very well, and was a total surprise. The idea was to regularly produce content based on KGR keywords, and let it age throughout the year so 2018 could be focusing on link building.

I wanted this site’s first bit of content to be my experiment with KGR keywords. It worked very well.

This shows the KGR Keywords that are ranking in the top 3 positions, plus Ahrefs is showing over 13,000 keywords for this site:

This is KGR keywords with a bit more exciting search volume:

For those of you who might be familiar with the KGR method, you might be wondering “Isn’t KGR only supposed to work with 250 search volume or less??”

In most cases, yes, but it can also work with higher search volume terms; if you’re a site buying customer, see the training section where I explain this in detail.

The site was started in February, and I wasn’t sure what I was seeing when there were a few clicks in March already, and then even more in April. I wasn’t sure how the traffic was showing up already! I was searching in Semrush to find out which keyword was ranking already and bringing in the traffic, but it just wasn’t showing up.

In May and June product sold, so I could see which article was getting the traffic but still Semrush wasn’t picking it up on page 1.

July earned $36 and by September the site was just under $100. I hadn’t built a single do-follow link to the site yet. The only thing my VA had done was about 30 blog comments over March and April. I figure this might be where the traffic was coming from as well.

About 50K words were added to the site over the summer, and then in Oct. and Nov. I ordered a total of 20 links.

My plan is to have my VA spend Jan/Feb on link building for site 1, and then focus on Site 3 for March to June – Keyword Research, ordering articles, and then uploading/formatting posts once they’ve been written.

Since the site is now a bit heavy on the info side of things, I want to add another 50K words to this site in HPD Top Level product (similar to Revenue Oriented Keyword style), Second Level Product, and Product Review style and then revisit where the site is at and plan out the second half of the year.

Here’s the site’s progress for 2017 (Site was started in late Feb 2017):

Site 4:

This site was getting a lot of traffic (25,000-80,000 page views per month), but wasn’t converting very high on Amazon. Someone dropped us a tip: monetize via display ads with Mediavine.com.

Two things went through my mind:

  1. Ok, I’ve monetized with Adsense and display ad income is peanuts.
  2. Plus, I’ve already tried that.

Actually for point 2, I hadn’t; I’d tried Media.net and it was a nuisance. I’d heard a couple people recommend it as yielding double that of Adsense, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Plus, they said, you’d get a personal rep who would assist you through the setup process and even set up a Skype call! That sounded decent, so I gave it a whirl – and it was a confusing mess. I did get a rep, and he sent me some stuff to look at, recommended 3 ad insertion plugins, and gave a bunch of other “tips”.

I couldn’t get a clear answer to whether I needed to install all 3 plugins, or just one, and I had to try to figure out ad sizes and shapes, and for the $.30 per day I *might* make…my time was better spent elsewhere.

Then, I realized that Mediavine.com and Media.net are two separate entities and a friend mentioned $8/1000 visitors (Adsense was $2/1000 visitors on a really good day). Ok, this is a little different, let’s give it a try. (For the record, the only time earnings with Mediavine.com were $8/1000 visitors was in the first 2 weeks when things were being tweaked for optimal earnings; They’ve been over $10/1000 visitors since then! Way over expectation).

This has proved to be an interesting venture, and there are a couple things learned from this site.

1. Applying for Mediavine.com requires proof from Google Analytics that in the previous 30 days there has been more than 25K sessions; I hadn’t installed it, so we had to let 30 days pass before we could reapply. Install Google Analytics ASAP! That little step cost us 30 days worth of revenue, easily equivalent to a few hundred dollars.

2. 25K sessions is a decent amount of traffic, but this isn’t all organic search traffic. In fact, it is mostly not search engine traffic.

Facebook Groups and a social media following (mostly gained by participation in Facebook Groups) are the largest traffic generators.

3. Facebook Groups

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    We found a very large Facebook Group (over 250K followers), and periodically they will allow people to share posts. This has proven to be a goldmine – every time a relevant post is shared in the group, traffic will be anywhere from 4,000-10,000 sessions in a single day.

    In December, the earnings per 1K visitors for ads was $15 or higher, so that’s $60-$150 per day on the days when we’re able to share a post. Before doing this in a group, make sure you’re allowed to!
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    Don’t just selfishly join the group to drop links; that’s not going to fly. Spend time in the group, answer newbie questions, interact.

    Don’t view this as: How can this group make me money?? But view this as: “I want to gain a reputation for being an expert in this space; my participation in this group is my online reputation and I want people to respect me for what I know and contribute.”

    Doing this also helps build relationship with group admins, since by answering newbie questions you’re actually doing their job for them (who wouldn’t like someone who does that!). Just make sure you’re giving accurate info.
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    Being active in groups is also great for content ideas.

    Is there question or group of questions that are asked all the time? Write a post that goes really in depth and is the perfect answer to the question – with any luck, admins will pick up on it and even use the link themselves when answering the question.

    Don’t monopolize other people’s pages, but just step in and provide a friendly, concise, and well thought out answer. Think of the people you appreciate in the Facebook groups you’re a part of, and be like them.
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    Want to make friends with other bloggers? Ask in the group (make sure you’re allowed, consult the rules, and if it isn’t stated, ask an admin first) for blog posts about a certain topic b/c you’re going to do a roundup post on the topic; mention that you’ll post the final product when you’re done. This is great b/c you’re offering other bloggers a chance to share a direct link to their site, so they’ll love you for that, but you’re also getting an opportunity to share your own post once it is complete.

    Once you’re done, tag the bloggers who contributed and thank them. The idea here is that they’ll chime in and thank you for the mention; this increases engagement on the post so more of the group will see it, while keeping it bumped to the top of the feed.

    Bonus: Others might catch on, giving you opportunity to share your own link in the group for someone else’s roundup, ideally gain a backlink, plus traffic and followers from the group and the article itself.

4. Blogger Facebook Group: Upon invitation, the site’s page was invited to be part of a Blogger’s Group. This is a great idea that you could implement yourself if it doesn’t already exist. The person who contacted us set it up this way: 

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    Contact 23 other bloggers in the space; ideally ones with a decent size Facebook following
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    Present them with the plan; each blogger is allowed one self promotional post per day in the group, at a pre-arranged time of day, constantly rotating; 24 bloggers = 1 post every hour, around the clock.
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    Sometimes your post will be going live at 2AM, and not many people will see it, but other times your post will be going live at prime time, and lots of people will see it.
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    The idea is that each of the 24 bloggers will promote the page to their own audience, and in this way, people are put in touch with other interesting pages whom they might then follow.
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    The admin time for a group like this is minimal, since each blogger schedules their own posts on the page in the assigned time slot, and when people comment on their post they can chime in to answer questions. This has also been a good source of traffic.

This site is earning more than the other 3 combined, and even though it wasn’t converting well via Amazon at the beginning of the year, 4th quarter brought the average up nicely and the site still did decently enough:

Big takeways:

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    Add Google Analytics to your site now, while you’re thinking of it
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    Don’t underestimate the power of Display Ads! Monetize via Adsense until you reach the minimum threshold to apply for Mediavine.com, and then use MediaVine (Not to be confused with Media.net!)
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    KGR method works very well; I used to not spend a lot of time on info content because the best I could hope for was for someone to click through to a money article and then one of my affiliate links. Now, I know serious money can be made from display ads too, along with affiliate commissions. This means that money can be made from any useful piece of content just by getting traffic to the page.

    What does this change? It changes my ROI calculation big time. I used to write off info content as a loss, and do minimal amounts of it. Now, I just do what is best for the site where it is at, and don’t get overly concerned about trying to cram only buyer keyword type content onto the site.

    Definitely do both, and HPD lays it out clearly inside the training, but don’t neglect info content because you’re chasing the money.
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    For ROI calculations, consider the cost of an article and what needs to happen for that article to pay for itself and the question “should I add more content?” becomes an obvious yes.

    For example, what does it take to pay for an article that costs $25:
    At 5% commission level, you only need to sell $500 worth of product through your affiliate links; or, you need 2000 pageviews at $12.50 per 1000 pageviews. 

    Everything after that is pure profit.
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    Don’t underestimate the power of helping people in Facebook Groups. It will feel good, you’ll be learning tons, but it will establish you as an expert as well. Plus, it is something you can do on your lunch break.
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    Hiring a VA can make a huge difference in keeping things rolling right along. If it wasn’t for my VA, there’d have been entire months where I wouldn’t have gotten a single thing done on my site. I found mine at OnlineJobs.ph.

As the new year starts, I'm sure many of you have big plans for your site like myself. Those are my best lessons from last year that I thought were worth sharing, if you have any comments please leave them below and if you're looking to build amp up your site, let us help you!

Much success to you all in 2018.

11 Comments

  1. Thanks, Brad. I always enjoy reading a site’s (or multiple sites) progress like this article.

    I have had good luck with KGR as well. Not only do they tend to rank quickly, but simply finding those keywords gives me a lot of informational posts to write about.

    I have a couple questions: Have you considered starting a facebook group on your own? I can see some benefits in running it yourself (although the moderation and getting people to join may be a pain). Also, have you been collecting emails with an opt-in on any of these sites?

    • Hi Ty,

      Thanks for the good feedback on KGR. Agreed! Great topics, rank quickly, I’m very happy with it.

      I have considered starting a FB group on my own, haven’t made time yet and my VA is pretty tapped out too. One day! 🙂

      I haven’t been collecting emails yet, but that and pixeling are on the to-do-soon list now that we have staff here at HPD who are good at creating email sequences.

  2. Great article Brad. The insights into Media.net vs Mediavine.com, plus the Facebook tactics are just killer. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for the sincere endorsement of Mediavine!
    We’re here to help you monetize all your sites where we feel we’d be able to earn well for you. Many of our publishers have multiple sites with Mediavine, so reach out to [email protected] and ask about the requirements for additional sites.
    ~Jenny, Mediavine Marketing Associate

  4. What a great piece! Glad to see that portfolio growing 😀

    Mediavine is definitely the best finding of 2017 for me lol.

  5. Nice portfolio of sites Brad! Great work. Awesome tips on how to utilize FB Groups for traffic. This is something I want to do more of this year – except that I KNOW I don’t have any personal time to do it myself. Definitely need to find a VA to do that stuff for me. Now I’ll be able to show them THIS article as a reference!

    Q: Any tips or tricks on how you find your KGR keywords? KGR is something I’ve known about for a long time (even before Doug popularized it by calling it KGR) – but it’s also something I refuse to do because the process is too time consuming and manual.

  6. Great article! I appreciate the transparency.

  7. Nice update Brad. I have started using KGR type articles more over the past couple of months and have seen a nice increase in page one rankings. Each article hits 1st page after a couple of weeks. Yes the search volume is low but a combined number of articles utilising KGR is much easier to rank that high volume competitive keywords. Nice find also on using mediavine – another handy income stream to add to the pot.

    Any tips on finding a decent VA – nothing but nightmares for me to date on this…

    Cheers.

    Gary

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