One area of starting a niche site that is not explored in great detail across the web, is the process of taking all of your niche validation and keyword research, and putting that into a content plan.
It's an overlooked stage which isn't exactly dismissed, but definitely needs a bit more attention. The usual niche website guide might say something along the lines of:
“OK, so once you've done your research and found your keywords, you now need to go and get that content written and upload it to your site”.
What You'll Learn Today
The thing is, I've always spend way more time on this stage than just getting a list of keywords and sending them to a writer would suggest you need to spend.
I'll always find myself thinking..
- Should these two keywords be combined into one post?
- Should I do a silo?
- Which posts should I build links to later?
- How long should each article be?
While there are generic answers and rules of thumb that can be applied to those questions, I still think a more in-depth analysis will benefit everybody here.
So let's dig deeper and look at exactly how you go about turning your niche research into a content plan. How you make that transition and “bridge the gap” between research and content.
Step One – Know Your Content Types
Before you can really put a plan together and decide how to attack your list of keywords, you should familiarize yourself with the general content types that we use as affiliate marketers.
While you can vary from this, there are generally five types of content you'll want to create for your site:
- ‘Best of' posts (ex. Best straight razor)
- ‘Review' posts (ex. straight razor review)
- Info posts (ex. Are straight razors safe?)
- List posts (ex. 10 reasons why list posts are awesome)
- Ego bait posts (ex. Top 15 blogs about shaving)
Each of these posts is necessary for a successful niche site, though you will not want to have an equal amount of them. The general rule I follow is to try and have about 50% commercial posts (review and best of) and 50% info/list posts, with a few ego bait posts thrown in.
Understanding the different post types will help when you are coming up with a plan. It will make sure you're not focusing on just adding a bunch of commercial posts and no info posts, and it will also make sure you're not just adding a bunch of great information without the ability to monetize it.
As an aside, you don't necessarily need to use keywords for ego bait or list posts, which can be useful if you want more content but have run out of keywords (not that this would realistically happen).
So when looking at your niche research and your keywords, you should be thinking to yourself “Ok, so I need a decent split and balance between commercial posts and informative posts, got it..what next?”
Know Your Keywords
So by now, you'll have a rough idea of which keywords form what content types, but there's more to keywords than this. Say hello to the concept of long-tail vs “main” keywords.
In general, I like to build a niche site around 3-5 main keywords. These are the ones I focus on and want to rank for waaaay down the line. Ok, I'd love to rank for them right off the bat as well, but not likely to happen.
Being able to focus on just a handful of keywords is advantageous, as it means you can build links to just a few URL's and maximise your efforts.
A lot of people misunderstand this though.
Just because I like to focus on a few keywords, it doesn't mean I'm recommending building an entire site round a handful of keywords only.
It doesn't mean I'm suggesting you build a small site in a narrow niche.
That “micro site” strategy hasn't worked effectively since 2012.
So please take the time and re-read this part if it doesn't sink in immediately.
You want to focus your link building efforts on a handful of posts only, but you want to build out your site with at least 40-50 posts.
Google isn't going to rank a tiny site with small content, so you need to flesh that site out and add a lot of useful information to it before you can think about ranking for those juicy main keywords you're focusing on.
At the same time, if you try to focus on 50 awesome keywords at the same time, you'll dilute your success.
If I could, I'd only focus on ONE article to rank, but since you can never say with 100% certainty that you'll rank an article, it's best to have a few backup articles, which is why I arrived at the 3-4 posts ideal.
So What Do We Do With All Those Other Posts?
Great question. We're not just going to turn them into filler articles just created to make up the numbers. Instead, we're going to target long-tail keywords.
These are the types of keywords that have low search volume and much weaker competition. The kind of keywords you can rank for just by building links to the rest of your site and ignoring these particular posts.
When you use long-tail keywords in combination with your main keywords, you get a much stronger overall strategy.
- You build links to your main keywords, the ones you're focusing on ranking in the long-term.
- Each built link strengthens your site as a whole.
- Gradually, your weaker long-tail keywords start to rank by themselves.
- Your site gets traffic and sales from the long-tail articles while you're still working on those main keywords.
Doug Cunnington used this strategy with several of his niche sites (and I've started using it too, with great initial results) and ended up with a site that got 50% of its traffic and income from the main focus keywords, and 50% from the combined long-tail keywords.
It's a great strategy, which allows you to scale your site, increase its earnings, keep adding new content, but still focus on just a handful of URLs.
The best part is, you don't need to worry about over-hyped strategies like siloing.
How To Find Long-Tail Keywords
Despite what people often believe, long-tail doesn't mean it's just a long keyword. You can find keywords with 4 or 5 words that aren't long-tail, and you can find ones with 3 or 4 which ARE long-tail.
What long-tail generally means is, “the less frequently searched keywords, with less competition”. In other words, they only get about 250 searches a month or fewer, but that's offset by the fact they aren't that competitive.
I like to use a couple of different strategies for these keywords.
1.) Semrush & Forum strategy <— Read more in the link
2.) Keyword Golden Ratio strategy <— I interviewed Doug Cunnington about here on the podcast
To avoid repeating myself for a few thousand words, I suggest you read/listen to the links above to get up to speed.
I've also created training videos for both of these as part of my over-the-shoulder case study in our membership.
The point is, you want to find keywords that you can rank for without building links directly to those articles (you'll still want to build links to your site in general of course).
Once you've got them, you should start to see your content plan coming to life.
What About The Other Keywords?
You'll probably also have a bunch of other keywords that don't qualify as weaker, long-tail keywords, but also aren't going to be your main focus.
Maybe they're too competitive to rank without any link building, but the search volume isn't high enough to justify the long-term plan with them.
Or maybe you're just not sure if you should focus on them or not.
So with these keywords, it comes down to a judgement call, but fortunately there's no real wrong answer.
If you think it will be beneficial to your audience to have them on your site, then write content for them. Interlink them with your other content so that your site structure becomes more solid and people spend more time on your site.
Plus, you may find out they were easier to rank than you realized.
So I would definitely think about adding them to the site when you can, but don't focus on them too much or worry about whether or not they rank, at least in the beginning.
For example, let's say you are doing a shaving site.
You're main focus keyword is going to be ‘best straight razor' or ‘best safety razor' or one of those ones.
But you've also got this ‘best electric shaver' keyword.
No way does it qualify as long-tail, but it's also pretty competitive and you don't think you'll ever rank for it. Should you still write that article?
Well yes, but don't sweat over it too much.
First of all, you can add internal links from that article to your straight razor or safety razor articles, which is part of a good on-page SEO strategy, but also, you can add links to the electric shaver article from other posts. Maybe those posts WILL rank, and you'll be able to send traffic to the electric article anyway.
It's not always a case of getting traffic directly from Google.
Either way, do you see how it would still be worthwhile to add this article?
Just don't put all your effort into it or send a bunch of unnecessary backlinks to it.
So by now, you should have a few “focus” keywords, a bunch of “easier long-tail keywords” and some “miscellaneous but probably still useful” keywords.
If you've been paying attention, these are balanced between buying keywords like “best of” posts, and informational keywords.
At this point, you're almost ready to start getting your content added. The only questions you may have are about your site structure and word length. So let's jump into that.
Let's Talk About Word Counts
It'd be great if there was a defined word count that would guarantee you to rank higher, but in reality there isn't. Still, people want guidelines and there is definitely a lot to be said about word counts, so I'll go into it a little bit here.
Generally speaking, longer content ranks higher than shorter content. On top of that, it ranks for more keywords too. Makes sense so far right?
As a very rough general rule, I aim for 1,000 words minimum. You can probably get away with shorter content, but you don't really want to go much lower than 700 words, and if you do, you'll want to have other articles that are closer to 2,000 to balance it out.
That said, you don't want to be arbitrarily writing content for the sake of word count and you don't want to just think “Oh, this article didn't rank very high, I'll add another 500 words”.
A better way to approach it would be to see how many words the top 3-5 articles in Google have, and aim to beat them.
It's not necessarily practical to write 5,000+ words for every article though, so my suggestion would be to aim for a minimum of 1,000 words for most articles, and for the ones you know in advance will be your main focus articles, try to beat the existing competition.
It's also perfectly fine to go back to an article and extend it later, so you could start if off with 1,000 words and then add to it after you see it starting to rank well. Doing it this way will also help you avoid writing too much content.
Since you never know if an article will really rank, it could get quite expensive to write 3,000 words for EVERY keyword in your list, which is why I like to do a minimum viable product first (1,000 words) and then once I see positive progress (which could mean, the article ranks on page 2), I think about adding more later.
Let's Talk Structure
Site structure is something that you don't need to overthink. You don't need to spend hours working out an over-hyped silo structure, and you don't need to worry about whether something should be your homepage or whether you should have a blogroll. Most of these things really come down to personal preference.
In fact, I'm going to argue that siloing isn't even the best way to spread link juice around your site, especially if we're going to have a few “focus” keywords, which we are.
When you silo (read more about siloing here), you are spreading all your inbound link juice pretty evenly around your site. This is great for helping every single article rank a bit better.
Wouldn't it be better to instead just focus on an internal linking structure that sends most of your link juice to a handful of posts instead? Those posts will be stronger and will rank better for it.
And to do that, you don't need to worry about convoluted menus or page hierarchy. All you need to do is make sure your key pages have internal links to them from other posts. It's really just a case of following standard on-page seo practices and leaving it at that.
This kind of thing is much easier to understand, and is much easier to follow.
As an example, let's say there's a particular article you want to rank. Every time you add other articles to your site which are relevant to that one (and many of them likely will be), you just add an internal link to the focus article. As long as you don't use exact match anchor text every time, you won't be causing yourself any issues, and your article will rank higher over time.
This is just as effective as a silo structure, if not more so, and is so much simpler.
Putting It All Together
Now that you understand the different types of keywords, how they fit into article types, and the kind of structure that is necessary, you should be able to put that all together into a blossoming niche site.
Just remember, you don't need to overcomplicate these things, and if the worst comes to the worst, you can adjust your site as you go.
It's much more important to just get something launched than to spend hours (or weeks) trying to get it perfect.