Niche marketing has turned into it’s own little industry and is making a ton of money for people who really focus in on it. I like to talk about creating niche sites on the blog a lot because it’s a great way for people who are just starting out online and a way for them to potentially find success without having to put up a lot of money. While a big budget is what you need to create and drive ad campaigns, with niche sites it’s different in that you spend your efforts on finding quality niche markets with high profits and low competition, which can result in some nice earnings.
Spencer Haws has become very well known for his success in the niche marketing space and also for launching his awesome Long Tail Pro software. Being an avid user of the software and often reading his site, I thought he would make for a perfect fit in this week’s affiliate marketer interview.
1.) Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you first got started in the world of online marketing?
Well, I’m a happily married man, father of 3, and an entrepreneur!Â I currently own a portfolio of niche websites that was my first big success in online marketing.Â I now also own the software Long Tail Pro, which has been very successful for me as well.
I got started creating websites around 2005.Â I thought I was going to become the next big financial blogger, but as it turned out, I knew nothing about blogging or how to get traffic to my site.Â The site fizzled, but I began to explore the world of SEO and affiliate marketing for the next few years.Â Most of the time I just spent an hour or 2 late at night after work and after the kids were in bed.Â But in 2008, I FINALLY figured out how search engines work.Â The light bulb really went on for me when I truly understood how keyword research worked and the importance of finding low competition keywords.
This discovery and skill set of researching low competition in Google led me to building a lots of small niche websites that ranked quickly in Google and gave me the income I needed to quit my job in 2011 and pursue online publishing full-time.
2.) What is it about niche sites that drew your interest and what was your first successful niche site?
I love the thrill of the hunt with niche sites!Â I sometimes feel like a gold miner looking for some rich pay dirt.Â Researching keywords and analyzing how difficult it might be to rank in Google really has become enjoyable to me.Â I can often find a keyword and know with almost 100% certainly that I can rank in the top 10 of Google.Â Finding the right keyword is like finding a gold nugget lying on the ground. (However, this skill took a long time to develop).
My first successful site was about worm farms!Â Yep, worm farms.Â This first site (along with a second one I built at about the same time), changed my perspective.Â This was my first time to target a simple keyword that I knew I could rank for.Â The site starting making me about $20 to $30 a month whether I ever looked at it or not (passive).Â So, while it wasn’t a big monetary success, it was a HUGE motivational success.Â I discovered that these simple sites could be profitable for me, and set me on my journey to building many more.
3.) How many niche sites would you say you’ve created since you’ve started, and how many actually survive and make money long term?
I’ve created close to 300 niche sites.Â I have around 150 sites that remain.Â And some of those I may be letting go as well.Â I went through a period where I built WAY too many sites, too quickly.Â I got overly excited and actually set a goal to create 100 sites in one month and accomplished it.Â However, because of my rush to just built sites (I had outsourced help doing a lot of the work), the quality was lacking.Â Most of those sites from that month have died.
4.) The recent Google updates have really hurt a lot of exact match domains and niche sites. What have you done to continue to make money in this space and not get hurt by Google?
I was not immune to the Google updates.Â Many of the small sites that I built were not the quality that they should have been and were indeed hit by Penguin (I wasn’t as affected by Panda or the EMD update). Many of my bigger sites were not hit.Â This changed my mindset.Â Instead of focusing on number of sites, I’ve started focusing on quality of sites built.Â Rather than trying to crank out 20 sites in a month, I might focus on 1 site in a month.Â So, while I still currently have 150+ sites, this number is actually going down as I allow some of the sites only making a few dollars a month to expire and focus on building sites that can make a much higher profit margin.Â I found that focusing on quality content and quality link building helps sites to stay more Google friendly.
5.) I’m happy to say that Long Tail Pro is one of my absolute favorite pieces of software out there. I love keyword research and the stats and info it provides for me is just awesome. How did you decide to develop the software and how long did it take before going live with it?
I wasn’t satisfied with the other keyword research tools on the market.Â So, wanted to fix my own problem AND seeing that there was a market opportunity, I decided to hire someone to develop Long Tail Pro for me.Â The initial version of Long Tail Pro took about 2 months to develop.Â However, I actually went back and hired a new person (better quality) to redevelop the software – which is the version you see today.Â This newer version took almost six months to develop and is constantly updated every single month.
6.) You recently launched your own step by step case study for building a niche site. How has building a step by step process and having everyone follow along help you with the building process?
Having others following along publicly as I build a niche site has made me very cautious!Â I think this is a good thing. For each step of the process, I have to think twice about setting a good example and making sure I am doing things and sharing processes that will be the most valuable to others.
7.) Can you give my blog readers an interesting and somewhat easy and profitable niche / long tail keyword to rank for and how you might map out the content/ranking process?
I try not to make a habit of giving away my keywords!Â And I’m not going to reveal anything new here, but the keyword I’ve picked for my public project is “best survival knife“.Â Essentially, what I did for this keyword and what I do for all potential keywords/sites is decide how I can make my primary content better than other sites that are already ranking in Google.Â For this particular keyword I noticed that the sites ranking were just listing their top 10 favorite knives and essentially saying they were the best.Â Well, I felt like it would be more valuable to the end user to let them see all their choices of survival knives in one spot…then allow them to decide.Â I accomplished this by gathering all the data on 50 survival knives and creating an original chart that users could use to compare and contrast.
This is just one example of how you can make your content better than others.Â Once you do this, the link building process becomes easier.Â Others are more willing to link to you if they see value.
8.) Lots of people are wanting to get started with their own business online and hopefully make some money in the process. What would you recommend for someone who only had $100 to get started with?
My advice for someone just getting started out would be to try to learn by doing.Â I read all the blogs and forums but didn’t really learn anything until I got my feet wet.Â So, go out and do some keyword research, buy a domain and get a site up and running.Â The $100 might be spent on a unique theme, a custom logo, or original content – but overall, just get started and you’ll learn much more than if you were to just buy a course or ebook.
9.) Do you have anything else exciting in the works that you would like to share, and what’s the best way for someone to get in contact with you?
I don’t have anything to announce just yet.Â But I will say that in addition to the public niche site project that I’m doing on my blog, I also expect to do another public project.Â Something that is not building niche websites, but completely different.Â In fact, I’m going to let my blog readers suggest and vote on a public project (i.e. Niche Pursuit) for me to work on.
The best way for people to stay in touch with me is on my blog at: NichePursuits.com
On Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/NichePursuitscom/209882025692724
Or Twitter at: https://twitter.com/@nichepursuits
A special thanks to Spencer for taking the time to answer our affiliate marketing questions. If youâ€™d like to get in touch with John, be sure to do so through is social networking contacts above.
Donâ€™t forget to also check out our previous weekly interviews.