My current niche site is doing 36k organic visits per month (Stat from Jan 2023), making me $1500 per month. I posted a screenshot on Twitter and LinkedIn.
I received many messages on Twitter and LinkedIn, Emails asking me how to start a niche site in 2023. So I asked on Twitter whether I should write a mega guide and finally decided to write this.
With the announcement by Bing to integrate ChatGPT into search & Google announcing similar technology like BARD, the coming months could be very significant in the blogging industry.
Fasten your seatbelt; this post will be a mega guide you can rely on at any time. I will try to make this post evergreen so that this post will be your companion for years.
More specifically, I will discuss what ChatGPT and Chat-based search can impact and how you foolproof your site. Although it’s very early to talk about it, I can share my thoughts, and you will get an idea.
Feel free to use the below table of content to go to a particular section, as this guide is going to be huge:
So let’s get into it the nitty-gritty:
- 1. Why Start a Niche Site (Understand the WHY)
- 2. What is a niche site, its business model, and Why is it the Best?
- 3. How to pick a niche for your niche site
- 4. How to Find a niche with High EPMV or High Profitability
- 5. How to grow your niche site as a beginner
- 6. When should you monetize?
- 7. Should you use Al content or outsource or write yourselves?
- 8. Costs to start a niche site
- 9. Should you focus on building backlinks?
- 10. What is the value of a niche site, and how much can you earn on selling it?
- 11. What is 3rd Party Cookie Ban & Why You Should Bother
- 12. The Impact of ChatGPT/Bing Search AI/BARD on Niche Sites
- Final Thoughts
1. Why Start a Niche Site (Understand the WHY)
Why do you want to start a niche site? Because you see people posting their earnings screenshots?
Do you want to diversify your income sources or build a new one?
Whatever your trigger is, first understand your why. It will be difficult to keep at it if you don’t know why you want to start a niche site without clarity of vision.
Moreover, you should know how the niche site or blogging business model works.
My personal reason for starting a niche site was many. Let me share my reasons:-
- I have known SEO for the past 4-5 years & I wanted to capitalize on my skills by building something out of it.
- I didn’t want to do any service-based business since I own no assets; a niche site was the perfect thing I needed.
- I was also inspired by a screenshot of a blogger earning $20k to $30k monthly. That’s when it hit me. The potential upside of starting a niche site was looking really huge.
- Last but not least, I left my job in Dec 2021. I also did a thread here (read it if you want to know more about my past journey). So it made sense for me to build something and add that extra income to my kitty. Note a lot has changed after that thread, so some information inside it could be outdated.
These are my personal reasons for starting a niche site.
There should be a drive inside of you. Otherwise, you will be pretty disappointed and could quit in the middle when you see no results.
So make sure there is enough drive to make this happen.
2. What is a niche site, its business model, and Why is it the Best?
A niche site is a website with posts revolving around a specific topic.
Example: A niche site can be a blog on tips related to golf, woodworking, or music.
It is not a general site where you talk about anything on any topic you have on your mind.
Think of it like this: If you ever wanted to know or learn more about personal finance or credit cards, would you prefer a website that talks just about personal finance or credit cards or a website that talks about banking, insurance, credit cards, passive income?
Imagine a website that talks about dogs and also credit cards. Whereas a site that talks specifically about credit cards, in-depth with insights and experiences, you will stick to it no matter what.
That is a niche site. So, your job is to create a website revolving around a topic that matters the most to you.
Now that you have understood a niche site let me tell you why I think it is the best business model.
The Niche Site Business Model
How do you earn from a niche site?
Either via display ads, affiliate marketing, or launching your own product (eBook or a course).
The core business model of a niche blogging site is Display Ads and Affiliate Marketing.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the model for Display Ads:
- Step 1: Start a website around a niche and publish SEO-driven articles.
- Step 2: You start getting organic or social traffic to your website
- Step 3: Once you have enough traffic, sign up for ad networks like Adsense, Mediavine, Adthrive, and Ezoic.
- Step 4: These ad networks will help you get advertisers for your site, and display ads will be shown there.
- Step 5: The bidding amount, ad type, ad relevance, and advertiser are all done programmatically by the ad network. Your job is to sign up and probably customize your site so it doesn’t look messy when the ads appear.
- Step 6: Ad networks take a small cut out of the revenue you generate (because they are helping you with these advertisers), and you get the remaining revenue after 30-60 days, depending on the payout schedule.
That’s about it. This is how advertising in the niche site industry works.
Why Niche Site Business Model is the Best?
In any business, be it a product or a service, you must sell something to a customer to earn money. Then there could be refunds, too (depending on the quality of the product/service).
Then there is customer support to cater to your paying customers. I forgot the main part; there will be a lot of brainstorming and time investment to sell the product AKA (Marketing & Sales.)
You ain’t getting the money if you don’t crack marketing or sales.
Now, on the other hand, a niche site doesn’t require anything at all. All you need is a website hosted on a server, SEO skills, writing & editing skills, and interest in the topic you are writing on (or even that doesn’t matter for many)
No customer-facing conversations, no customer support, no refunds, nothing.
The best part?
Even if you go on vacation for, let’s suppose, 2-3 weeks, there will not be any significant change in revenue. It will still generate money because your SEO traffic is still kicking in.
You can call this as passive income of some sorts. A niche site is the most closest thing to passive income. Although I won’t directly categorize it as such, because it requires active efforts to maintain, optimize and scale a site.
If you think about it, you could think, is this a scam? Does it work?
Umm. Yes. It does work. There are 1000s of bloggers worldwide doing the same thing, including me.
Now you know how these bloggers travel worldwide and still make money all the time.
Okay, now enough of this. It’s time to understand the nitty-gritty of a niche site and how to start one today from scratch, no matter what.
3. How to pick a niche for your niche site
As I told you before, a niche site will require a niche (a specific topic to talk about) instead of talking randomly about anything.
This is also particularly important as per the Helpful Content Update (HCU) released by Google, which has recommended avoiding publishing on different topics.
So, you will need a topic to write on for your niche site.
Now, there are a lot of factors to consider while picking a niche for your niche site. Here are a few factors:
- Do I know the niche? If yes, how well do I know?
- Would you run out of topics soon? If yes, how small is the niche? Can you target a broader niche?
- Your niche may get a low EPMV (I will talk about this later, but for now, I think as low EPMV means lower earnings per 1000 visitors)
- Some niches get high EPMV, hence high revenue. This is one of the factors that many people are confused about while selecting a niche. They are scared. What if they choose a niche that gives them a low EPMV?
Here’s a small framework I can provide:
Choose something that you are personally interested in. Make a list of all the hobbies or interests you have.
Jot them down in a google doc.
It can be anything:
Now pick just 5 of them you like the most and plug them into Google Trends. Choose a location as United States
For example, I search “Woodworking”. If you see, there’s a lot of demand, but it’s quite seasonal. Search interests go up in Dec.
Out of the 5, you can pick that has grown or evergreen demand.
Seasonal niches are okay, too, but only choose after analyzing all the evergreen niches.
Evergreen niches are those that people search for almost all year. Avoid seasonal niches if you don’t want your income to fluctuate.
But if you are really interested & passionate, then you should not stop.
It’s not a hard and fast rule.
Next, Install Keywords Everywhere extension; you can check monthly searches to gauge demand.
It’s very affordable. Here’s a snapshot of Woodworking:
20k-25k searches/month for the broad term is pretty good.
Once you choose this broad niche called “Woodworking”,
You need to find a micro niche under it. A simple google search will help you find more micro niches under “woodworking”
Now, this is where you play your game. You won’t find much competition in micro niches.
Last but not least, if you go with any micro-niche and run out of keywords,
choose another micro-niche under the main niche.
This way, you are also building topical authority for “Woodworking”
Now replicate woodworking with other interests or hobbies.
While choosing a domain, make sure you get a broad domain name such as “woodworkingtips.com” or “woodworkinginfo.com”.
This way, you can write all the topics under the big umbrella of “Woodworking”
You have a framework that you can replicate for almost any interest or hobby.
Still not sure where to start? Here’s a list of 1000+ hobbies and interests you can explore.
I hope this strategy will help you find a niche.
4. How to Find a niche with High EPMV or High Profitability
Now that you have selected some of the niches to go with, you still doubt how much I can earn through display ads within that niche.
What if the niche I select has low EPMV (Earnings per 1000 visitors)?
Let’s discuss that.
I can see people getting EPMVs in the range of $15 and even between $50 to $60.
So a person A with niche A, getting 1000 visitors, will earn $15, whereas,
A person B with niche B, getting 1000 visitors, will earn good $50 to $60.
What determines a good EPMV?
Multiple factors go into it. Ezoic has even published an article regarding this, which you can read here.
Here’s another post by them on top categories earners in 2020.
Majorly there are 3-4 factors that go into this:
- Location (If the visitor location is from the US, UK, Canada, or Australia, you will certainly get good EPMV. On the other hand, if your majority traffic is from Asian or South Asian countries, you might not get the EPMV you expect. You could be really disappointed).
- Niche Category (Now, this is a very tricky part. No one can tell you that if you pick XYZ niche, you can get XYZ EPMV. It’s really hard to nail it down). But there are ways to determine if you could get a high EPMV; it’s just a probability but not an exact blueprint. I will talk about it below.
- Type of content (Just ask 1 simple question: Why would advertisers advertise on your site? And if they do, on what type of content they would bid more? Purely informative or Money Keywords (BOFU KWs) or both?).
Money keywords or BOFU keywords are those terms where searchers are almost in the buying mode. They are at the bottom of the funnel where they are most inclined to purchase or simply do an action.
Example: Searching for “WordPress alternative” means, that particular searcher is not interested in WordPress and is already looking for options to switch. These are money keywords or simply business keywords. Important for big advertisers.
It doesn’t imply that pure informative keywords don’t get high EPMV. It does. I have a lot of pure informative type keywords, almost 95%+.
I get an EPMV of $35-$40.
But if I target these money keywords, I could get high EPMV simply because they are competitive. Of business potential to advertisers, they would logically bid more on such topics.
Here’s a small blueprint I suggest to get an idea of whether the niche can get you a good EPMV or not:
- In your niche, how many businesses can you count? The more businesses in the niche, the more competition it can bring, resulting in high bidding on your ads.
- How many affiliate programs can you find in your niche? The more the number, the better it is. Because if a business has an affiliate program, they are already looking to recruit affiliates and spend money to acquire a customer. A sign of a good niche.
- Can you see any search ads or display ads? If yes, certainly a good sign.
- Does your niche have comparable products listed on Amazon? If yes, good. If no, there is nothing to worry about. Not a big factor, as not every niche can have physical products to sell, but it’s a good point to analyze. Because then you can plug in amazon affiliate offers too.
- What is the demand/supply ratio? This is an interesting and complicated point to analyze, but it’s a smart way to judge. If anyhow, you can understand how many businesses are in your niche vs. how many publishers are there on the Internet, and if the publishers are fewer (supply is less). There are more businesses than you think (demand is more), and there’s a simple imbalance of demand and supply.
- This can lead to higher bidding because every business wants to acquire a customer, and there is limited space to bid on (because of the low amount of publishers available on the Internet)
Note that these are some points from which you can judge that niche’s commercial interest.
Again, you can’t understand EPMV, but these could hopefully direct you to a better decision.
5. How to grow your niche site as a beginner
Now that you have selected a niche, it’s time to publish some posts and get that organic traffic.
But as a beginner, how should your approach be?
I will tell you what I did, and you can replicate it. And, well, it works for any site. Not just a niche site but also for a SaaS website, consulting site, etc.
As a beginner, you want to target keywords with low competition. Yep, that’s about it. Low competition means you won’t find bigger sites within the SERPs competing with you.
Often these keywords would have low to mid search volume.
I have devised many keyword research strategies to scale my site to 36k organic visits/month.
The core logic behind finding this keyword is this:
If you can find a low authority site ranking on those terms (typically less than 15 DA or DR), then that term is worth targeting. It can be deemed as low-competition keywords.
Another logic I use is under-served keywords. It goes like this:
If you can find that there are no pages that specifically talk about the searched query and it is still getting searched, that query is underserved. Because there are no pages that talk about it. There might be some forum discussion happening but no specific content page that goes in-depth about it. It’s an under-served query. Target those.
Now, if you want to learn more in-depth, you can read my threads below or check out my detailed course too.
I highly recommend checking these Twitter threads (& follow me if you haven’t):-
- How to pick low competition keywords
- The Job-type keyword research strategy
- A simple hack to outrank big websites
- Piggybacking event based searches
- The under-served keyword research strategy
I even have a full-fledged video course explaining many strategies and how I use AI content on my niche site.
You can enroll here today and get a complete understanding of it.
By targeting lots of low-competition and under-served keywords, you can start getting that organic traffic to your newly built niche site.
6. When should you monetize?
Well, it depends on your ad network and traffic.
Here are some requirements for different ad networks:-
- Mediavine:- 50k sessions in last 30 days
- AdThrive:- 100k page views in last 30 days
- Ezoic:- There is no requirement as such
Currently, I am monetizing it via Ezoic Ad Network. So far, it’s good for me.
I recommend monetizing your website once you hit at least 2000 visitors/monthly through Ezoic.
Once you grow to 50k or beyond, you can think about Mediavine or Adthrive or stay with Ezoic.
You will earn peanuts from 2k visits/month, but that’s fine. Atleast, there’s a start, and it will help you stay motivated throughout this journey.
I started from $1/day back then, and now I am sitting at $75 to $85/day (as of writing this in Feb 2023). It will be much more than that later on.
So there you have it: Monetize early.
7. Should you use Al content or outsource or write yourselves?
Well, it really depends from person to person and the goal you have set along with your time.
If you have enough time and don’t want anyone to tinker with your site regarding content, and if you can write well in English, you should probably do it yourselves.
That’s the best kind of scenario.
The only con I see here is a time investment. You must invest a lot of time into writing; that’s the only downside. Because time is money.
Next, if you have money and don’t want to spend time writing, you should outsource it to a good freelance writer or a content writing agency.
They can do your job. Share your topics with them; they will do the final editing, and you can provide feedback and finalize the content.
This way, you can save a ton of time and invest that time in SEO activities.
Now comes the hybrid approach of AI-content + Manual Edits or AI-content + Manual Edits + Outsourcing
This is what I personally do. Before proceeding, let me also tell you that Google doesn’t ban AI content as long as it is helpful to the users.
So you can use AI content adhering to these guidelines, then manually edit it if you prefer.
I have shared exactly how to grow a niche site with AI content + smart SEO strategies in my video course. You can check out here.
With this strategy, I have scaled my site to 36k organic visitors/month in 11 months, surviving almost 9 algorithm updates.
So it works, and you have nothing to worry about as long as your content is plagiarism-free, unique, and adds much value to the user.
8. Costs to start a niche site
Let’s talk about the cost of starting a niche site.
Let me bifurcate into things that you must have or can’t do without:
- Hosting: $5/month (Namecheap shared hosting, to begin with). Later you can upgrade to a good cloud hosting provider that could cost $10 to $15/month, depending on what kind you get)
- Domain: Yearly recurring charge depending on how brandable it is. The general cost is around $10 to $20/per year.
- Keywords Everywhere SEO Extension:- $10 for 100k credits. This is enough to brainstorm keywords that you want to target. I use it personally. Highly recommended. You can buy here and avail 20% more credits.
- Grammarly for checking spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
- Copyscape for checking plagiarism
Things that you can have depending on how you approach your site:
- Link Whisper:- Costs:- $77/yearly.
- Internal linking tool for bloggers. I use it to manage my internal links at scale. Save a ton of time. You can get it once you have many posts on your site.
- Ahrefs:– Costs:- $99/month.
- This is an advanced SEO tool for bloggers. Heavily expensive at $99/month. If you want to do heavy keyword research and are very concentrated on building backlinks, this tool is for you. Otherwise, for beginners, Keywords Everywhere is just good to go.
- LowFruits:- Costs:- $25 -> 2000 credits
- You can easily find low-competition keywords without investing much time manually. A nifty tool that I use.
- Affiliate Booster:- Costs:- $39/year.
- I personally use this on my niche site to embed good-looking product blocks for affiliates, buttons for getting good CTR, Tables of content, and so on. You can purchase it here.
- Canva Free or Pro:- Costs:- $49/year.
- You can use Canva’s free version to create blog header images or add relevant images between paragraphs. I have a pro version running, so I instantly get many good images.
- Affiliate Corner:- Costs:- $89/one-time
- If you are into affiliate marketing, Affiliate Corner can help you save time and money on your affiliate marketing research and get many niche insights, keywords to target, promotion ideas, etc.
9. Should you focus on building backlinks?
I grew my site to 36k visits/month in 11 months. It has over 200+ posts. I have not built a single backlink to my site.
This is because of the keywords I target. They are either low-competition or under-served keywords.
Such keywords don’t require any link for them to rank. Just good quality content is enough to rank on these keywords.
But once you grow and start ranking on top, you will also start getting passive links without even reaching out or actively building links.
Yes, recently, I got a DR 82 do-follow backlink from one of the top sites in my niche.
I didn’t reach out to them; if I had, I would have had to pay almost $500 to $600 or more to add my link. That’s what happens.
But once your keywords rank in the top 3, and if it’s really good and helpful, you will start getting passive links without any outreach. That’s the best kind of link-building.
Link building is super time-consuming. I have done it in my SEO job previously. It’s boring, to be honest, but yeah, it does give dividends after all. But doing link-building outreach requires a lot of money, and I don’t recommend it for beginners.
Focus on low-competition keywords initially, and you are just good to go.
So, I don’t recommend focusing too much on links at the start, but you should not forget links are also an important part of SEO, and it helps you rank better on SERP. But for beginners, you should focus on content more and finding keywords where you can rank faster.
I have already shared many Twitter threads above on how to find those keywords, or you can just enroll in my course here to understand better.
10. What is the value of a niche site, and how much can you earn on selling it?
There are many websites/marketplaces where you can sell your niche site (exit your niche site) at a good price.
Here’s how it works:-
- You start making good money but think it’s the right time for me to get some upfront cash.
- You list on one of the marketplaces like EmpireFlippers.
- The negotiation round starts, and you sell it off.
What’s the value you can sell on to:-
The average selling price is almost 30x to 40x your monthly profit.
You can take a look at the screenshot here from EmpireFlipper’s marketplace.
On the left, you can see the asking price, and in between, there’s the monthly profit along with the multiple it is being sold at.
So imagine you are making $3000/month in profit from your niche site; assuming a 35x multiple, you can sell your site for 6 figures for almost $100k
There is no proper time to sell a niche site.
If you are making $3000/month a year later, you could be even making $15k/month, which would be great, and then you can sell off for an even better price.
But if you are worried about Google and its impact, you can sell off quickly, get upfront cash, invest it somewhere to get steady returns and live a stress-free life.
It’s up to your risk appetite and how long you want to stay in the game.
Personally, I would love to hit that $10k to $15k/month mark and then decide on the course.
In the following sections, I will discuss some important points, such as the 3rd party cookie ban, ChatGPT impact, and the role of diversification for niche sites.
These factors will have a lot of impact on the blogging industry.
11. What is 3rd Party Cookie Ban & Why You Should Bother
Have you visited a website or an E-commerce store and been shown the same ads on Instagram or Facebook a while later?
It’s called retargeting ads. How does it happen?
Facebook provides the website with a pixel, which captures visitors’ data through a 3rd party cookie.
Google does the same with its advertising service.
These cookies capture the data and send it back to the original system so that the advertisers will have a good judgment on their return on spend and can allocate their budget accordingly.
After the 3rd party cookie ban, advertisers will have difficulty serving targeted ads earlier, possibly due to it. Hence, as a result, we can see a drop in revenue from advertising unless the technology is brought, which outpaces the success of cookies.
Ultimately, a drop in EPMV and hence overall revenue to bloggers.
However, there are alternative methods for targeting ads that do not rely on third-party cookies, such as contextual advertising and first-party data.
Contextual advertising targets ads based on the page’s content rather than the user’s browsing history. First-party data, such as data collected from website visitors who have opted into tracking, can also be used to serve targeted ads.
You can learn a lot about third-party cookies here.
According to the above source,
One of Google’s initiatives is to replace third-party cookies in Chrome with so-called trust tokens.
Google’s trust token API would replace third-party cookies in Chrome with non-personalized, cryptographically signed tokens to authenticate a user.
Websites can “spend” trust tokens to determine whether a user is real or a bot, i.e. ensuring a much greater level of certainty for advertisers when reidentifying users, but also ensuring a greater level of privacy for the individual user, who will not be tracked down to the level of detail of cookies described above that can be extremely privacy-infringing.
The trust token API would allow websites and advertisers to only know about users to a certain level and block attempts to know users on an individual level, unlike Google’s third-party cookies today.
So technological developments are happening rapidly; we don’t have to worry now. However, as this phases out in 2024, ad networks will develop their own solutions to tackle it and help niche bloggers.
Here are ad networks talking about 3rd party cookie ban:-
- How Do Disappearing Third-Party Cookies Affect Ezoic and Its Publishers?
- Google Moves Goal Posts Again, Delays Cookie Phase-Out Until at Least 2024
12. The Impact of ChatGPT/Bing Search AI/BARD on Niche Sites
If you follow AI news or discussions, you must know the world is going gaga over ChatGPT, Bing search AI chat and Google BARD.
ChatGPT is an interface where you can chat with the AI and get all the answers. But remember, this ChatGPT only knows about the data before Sep 2021 and not after that.
But, I will tell you, it’s the most amazing piece of tech ever. I love it.
Now comes Bing Search. Bing has already started integrating an advanced GPT model into Bing Search; remember, this model has internet access. That means it can search the entire internet and show the answers in a pretty easy-to-read and concise way.
Now the good part is it cites the sources as well. So if anyone wants to click and learn more about it, people will click on these sources and read more.
Check this query and the output from Bing Search.
Here’s another view of the citations:-
Why are people worried?
Why would anyone click on these results if the searcher can search for answers directly?
That’s the big question people are discussing on.
More concise and quick answers = Searchers are satisfied = Less clicks on original sources = Less traffic to a blog = Less impressions to ads = Less revenue
That’s how it goes.
Note that the traditional search results for BING are still there, and bing has just around 9 percent market share. So, it’s not about BING that people are worried about; it’s about the other giant – GOOGLE.
Right after Microsoft announced, Google announced that they will also integrate what they call “BARD” into Google.
Now we have absolutely no idea where this would be present. Is it going to be a separate tab like Images, Maps, or News, or is it gonna show right inside search for every query, or is it gonna show for queries where BARD makes sense?
Google didn’t clarify that as of writing this on Feb 2023.
The scariest part about BARD is it doesn’t cite the source of the answer. That’s a big thing. Check this out below.
If Google doesn’t cite the source, then for sure, we will see a huge drop in traffic to the articles and obviously less revenue to the bloggers.
Now, again, such kind of thing will automatically attract legal issues to Google, as this model was trained on the content on the internet. It’s like stealing other sources and not even citing them.
Worst situation ever. I think Google will do something about it and cite sources or do something that doesn’t negatively impact publishers.
We don’t even have an official date when this can happen, but probably this year, we will see some radical changes to search.
All the hype from ChatGPT to Bing Search to BARD might subside, and nothing crazy will happen as we think, but it can go the other way, too, or maybe we will find some middle ground.
Only time will tell. So let’s wait and watch what happens.
I am excited and can see some new keyword research strategies being invented after this AI integration happens. I would be talking about that here as well as on Twitter.
It’s very easy to get distracted by the advancements across the blogging industry. You can get confused and eventually stop thinking about starting a niche site. But let me tell you, for me, starting my niche site was the single best decision ever. Think of it as an asset.
I always consider my niche site an asset, and you should too. Always think in multiples of 35x to 40x. That’s your asset value. Everything changes once you adopt that mindset.
Talking about ChatGPT impact and BARD, it’s too early to judge how things will pan out. It might even happen that your site will show on the top for many queries because of high relevancy. After Bing integrated ChatGPT advanced models into their search algorithm, they showed the highest jump in relevancy after two decades. This can pave the way to relevancy and good content.
And if you want more information on growing a niche site, you can enroll in my video course here.