It's hard for me to believe but Niche Hacks turned 1 years old this week.
I can't remember the exact date of the official launch but most of the launch content went up on the 9th of December 2013 and I think I 'officially' launched either on the 12th or 15th.
This is actually one of my proudest moments online as a lot of the sites and projects I've previously ran have been short term.
This is the first one I've planned to be a very long term project and be in it for the long haul.
History of the Blog
For anyone who wasn't here with me since the beginning let me give you a little history...
I'd wanted to launch an online marketing blog for some time but I didn't want to create another generic "internet marketing" blog for you where I covered pretty much anything and everything on the topic of making money online from blogging to SEO to freelance writing and beyond.
This is something I see often in the IM blog niche which is ironic considering we should know the importance of picking a super specific niche more than anyone.
So my plan was to "niche down" and pick an online marketing sub-category.
The original ideas that seemed the most promising were affiliate marketing, email marketing, blogging and traffic.
Most of these could have been niched down even further than that.
Eventually I realized that "niches" were a niche in themselves and could make for a great blog.
Other aims included helping YOU to live out your dreams whatever they may be just like I am.
Online marketing allows me the freedom to travel, live in tropical countries, do as I please from day to day and keeps me away from the 9 to 5.
I also wanted to put out the sort of content you don't find on most blogs. Epic big posts. In-depth guides. Tutorials.
The sort of stuff people would pay good money for but could find here free.
I was inspired by blogs such as Matt Woodward, Backlinko, Viper Chill and Quick Sprout.
Another major point was to avoid the typical spammy income claims and promises of getting rich overnight without doing any work that's so prevalent in this industry
I've been clear to tell everyone from the start that this IS hard work, it's not easy, and you do need to invest a lot of time in it to work.
How do you think I did at meeting those initial aims?
I wanted to create a memorable brand for the site.
I brainstormed for days to come up with the 'perfect' name even though whenever anyone asks me for advice on picking a domain name I tell them there's no such thing and they should just pick something and get on with it.
Your brand IS important and a good, memorable name, does help but I've heard of people spending WEEKS or even MONTHS on it which is just crazy.
Your content and promotion is FAR more important and will give you much bigger success than your domain name will.
In the end I was torn between two names.
NicheHacks and NicheShortcuts
I preferred NicheHacks but I was worried the 'hacks' bit could be misunderstood - and it has a couple of times that I know of.
So I almost went with NicheShortcuts even though I didn't think it was as powerful.
At the very last minute I changed my mind and went with NicheHacks.
I think I made the right decision, what do you think?
A Slight Shift In Focus
One of the most difficult thing for most aspiring marketers is doing niche research so my idea was to create a blog that showed different ways that you could do niche research
So I started planning out topics such as "The Ultimate Guide To Niche Research", along with other topics I thought were important such as how to create content in niches you didn't know much about, how to become an authority in any niche, and 101 different ways to find niche ideas and more.
It quickly dawned on me that your end goal wasn't to learn how to do niche research BUT to find a profitable niche and it became clear a major focus of the site should be to actually reveal profitable niches
The first major niche I revealed and 'hacked' apart was Paleo.
Literally no one else was doing that at the time as far as I knew and I still don't think anyone else is, not to any significant level anyway.
Since then I've literally revealed thousands of profitable niches on the blog for you.
As well as the niche research topics and revealing niches I knew I had to also cover other aspects of online marketing like traffic, SEO, blogging and email marketing which I've done but the core topics are on the niches.
I think this is very important for anyone trying to make a name for them in this busy industry - don't try and cover everything "online marketing" but focus on something very specific and nail it.
You CAN include other related topics but always have a main topic you focus on.
Look at some of the biggest blogs in the field they all cover specific topics:
- Jon Morrows BoostBlogTraffic (Blog Traffic)
- Brian Deans Backlinko (SEO)
- Derek Halperns Social Triggers (How Psychology Relates To Marketing)
- Spencer Haws NichePursuits (Niche Marketing)
- Rand Fishkins MOZ (SEO)
You see the pattern here?
They all focus on one core topic and have mastered it but occasionally branch out into related topics which their audiences enjoy.
You should too.
Be known as the authority in a very specific topic.
Like NicheHacks is known as the place to go if you want profitable niche ideas.
On The Right Track
I knew I was on the right track early on when within the first few weeks some affiliate commission started rolling in.
And not only that I received a fair bit of praise from some big names in the IM niche who before I'd launched Niche Hacks had no clue who I was.
Not bad for a new blogger on the scene, right?
The likes of Neil Patel telling you that you're doing a great job is a great feeling.
Confusion About What Niche Hacks Is About
There was, and still is, some confusion even from long time fans about what Niche Hacks is about.
People misunderstand the "niche" part of the domain.
The site is NOT about creating small, product review, style sites to rank in Google and make Amazon commissions.
See if you can find many, if ANY, topics on the blog on that subject?
I've said it often enough but a lot of people seem to miss it - that is NOT niche marketing.
It's just ONE of many different types of business models that you can follow as a niche marketer.
Almost every site has a niche. A niche is basically just a topic. The more specific the topic the better.
A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focused. For example, sports channels like STAR Sports, ESPN, STAR Cricket, and Fox Sports target a niche of sports enthusiasts.
As you can see even a huge channel like Fox Sports has it's niche and that's by no means small.
You can use your niche topic to create product review sites, blogs, info-products, "authority" sites, ecommerce sites or whatever.
There's no limit to what you can do.
Just because you have a specific topic (your niche) doesn't mean you must create a small 10 page review website.
Niche is not the opposite of authority which is what so many people seem to think.
I'm asked nearly daily "should I create a niche site or an authority site?".
A niche topic but be the authority in your niche.
It's niche is preppers / survival yet it's an authority site as it's the #1 site on the net about the topic and generates $1 million p/m in sales.
Niche AND authority.
I certainly don't see the point in limiting yourself to a small single product review site that can only really get traffic from Google, cannot be expanded or grown, has a limited earning potential and a lifespan of less than a year, not anymore anyway.
It's been a doomed business model for sometime and increasingly difficult (though by no means impossible) to make sites like this work
Were you clear on what Niche Hacks was about or did you have this belief too?
Big Events In Niche Hacks History
- Launched in December 2013
- First viral piece of content posted February 2014 - The Ultimate Guide To Blogging - with over 200 social shares
- Second of many pieces of epic viral content posted March 2014 - 31 Ways To Promote A Blog Post
- (Probably) The biggest list of niches ever published online in April 2014 - 1109 of them
- April saw the blog have it's first technical issues going down for days on end causing me to move hosts
- In the summer, June to be exact, the World Cup kicked off and that saw the posting of this link bait post which received huge attention in the blogosphere
- Shortly after saw NicheHacks turn 6 months old, seems like a lifetime ago, and hit the 48,000 visitors mark
- In July I posted one of my favourite pieces of content to the site - 5 Ways To Create A Profitable Affiliate Site
- That same month I published the first ever guest post, about the Google Sandbox, by Dan @ DomainColliseum.
- Later in September I finally, after months of procrastinating, launched some info-product onto the site
- October marked another important date as I started hiring freelance writers to help create content for the blog - this helped take the workload off me, bring in fresh ideas and content to the site, and make sure you never did without content.
- In October I also launched the Niche Hacks membership area which now has over 150 members.
- November I released a new product, 65 High Paying Affiliate Programs, and it made $2K in 4 days without any affiliates.
- Later in November I carried out a little experiment to see whether I could place #1 on the leaderboard of an affiliate launch competition and beat some 'super affiliates' and well known product vendors with. I was #1 all the way until the last few hours and ended up being beat by just 1 sale, still netting myself around $3,000 in commissions, prizes and bonuses.
Side note on the affiliate launch experiment:
The reason for this was to see whether a blogger, with a mostly "freebie" list (most people on my list have never bought anything directly from me just signed up for my blog list) could beat all these product vendors with proven buyers lists, many of which are much bigger than my list.
It's always said that a buyers list is worth 100x more than a freebie list and in mostly instances I agree. However it's about the relationship you build with your mailing list that is most important.
Just because someone joined your list without being a customer doesn't mean they wont go on to buy something that you recommend or sell later IF you build that relationship properly through good content, value, and problem solving.
Most people have the ability to buy something and WILL if they believe you can be trusted and are providing something of good use to them.
And it was good to see if I could beat these "super affiliates" and experienced product vendors, some of who sell several thousand copies of their products per launch so have HUGE lists of buyers compared to my smaller, non buyers, list.
Progress & Growth
So let's take a look at how the blog has grown over the past year and what lessons you can learn from it...
- Total Traffic: 198,421
- Unique Traffic: 108,486
- Page views: 421,916
- Pages per session: 2.13
- Average Duration: 00:03:10
- Bounce Rate: 64.74%
- New visitors: 45.3%
- Returning visitors: 54.7%
- Number of posts published: 117
- Email subscribers: 5,862
Yesterday, exactly one year after adding the initial launch content, NicheHacks had it's busiest day with a whopping 1797 visitors. Incredible!
I'm receiving over 30,000 visitors now a month and growing every month despite not doing any real marketing or traffic generation methods for months now.
Overall more than 198,000 unique people have visited the blog.
This is where they are coming from....
As you can see Google sends the bulk of my traffic which is ironic really as I've done nothing to chase it.
I have done absolutely no keyword research, barely do on page SEO, and haven't built a single forced backlink.
All links are natural links from other bloggers gained through content marketing and networking.
The second biggest source is 'direct'. This is people who type the URL into their browser or have it in their favorites for example, i.e. people who know the site.
This number is massively skewed however as any traffic coming from email, i.e. my email list, counts as 'direct traffic'.
Email probably counts for about 75% of that number on my estimates.
You'll see After Offers is #3 but this isn't relevant.
After Offers is a service that allows you to make more money out of your email leads by offering them a chance to download an offer from a related advertiser / blog when they join your list
So anyone who opts into my list is redirected to AfterOffers before coming back to the blog, they don't directly send me any traffic.
The rest is made up of mostly social media and forums.
I don't spend much time on social media as I've always been pretty bad at it but more recently I've stepped up my Facebook efforts and seeing some good returns on that with a nice increase in traffic.
I used to be quite active on Warrior Forum until they temp banned me for 'spamming' which was a joke.
I was a great contributor to that forum always answering peoples questions in-depth and being helpful.
When relevant I'd link out to additional information from around the net, sometimes that happened to be my own.
If they can't differentiate between someone who adds value and a spammer they can forget about me spending any time there.
I've never really been active on BHW but did post a couple links to my content and the sites been mentioned there a few times by others.
Matt Woodward is the only blog that's made it into the top 10 traffic sources mostly thanks to my recent guest post, where I called him out on his own blog.
Are you diversifying your traffic sources?
Lessons You Can Learn
- Google is NOT the internet - there's plenty of other traffic sources out there from email to social to forums to blogs
- Email traffic is fantastic and if you don't have an email list you're missing out, in fact if you don' t have a list you don't have a business.
- Diversify so that your site isn't 100% reliant on a single traffic source
Don't Rely On A Single Traffic Source
I'm continually reminding everyone not to be reliant on Google (or any other 1 source), they are not the internet, yet we can see that they send me more traffic than any other single source.
This is something I want to work on in 2015.
Even though I'm not 100% reliant on them, and the other traffic sources combined send me more traffic than Google do, they do send a huge chunk of the overall traffic
If a Google algorithm was to wipe out any rankings I have I could see a lot of traffic disappear which has a knock on effect on email sign ups and income.
It would be interesting (though I'm not keen to find out) what effect that would have on the blog.
Most of my income currently comes from my email list so maybe it wouldn't be effected too much but it's hard to be sure.
So in 2015 I want to work on matching the amount of traffic the big G sends me with paid traffic.
It's much more reliable and once mastered can be scaled up indefinitely as long as you're getting a return on your investment.
So if you're reliant on any one source of traffic right now focus on changing that in 2015. Diversify.
Is Guest Posting Effective?
I'd also like to do more guest posting but it's time consuming and sometimes feels like you don't get a good return on investment in terms of initial traffic sometimes.
A well placed blog comment or a link from another blogger can actually give you just as much, if not more, traffic for little to no effort.
A single guest post on Matt W's blog is all I've done for the whole year NicheHacks has been online.
One thing it is good for however is exposing yourself to new audiences and establishing authority.
I'd say overall that whilst guest posting might not give you as much initial traffic as you originally expected it IS useful and can be a great way to establish yourself especially as a new blogger.
There's 117 posts live on the blog. Works out at 9.75 per month. Not bad.
You may have noticed but I haven't been writing many posts recently.
I got really burnt out with it after going on a content blitz a couple of months back.
So I've been hiring freelance writers and accepting guest posts to keep up with the content demands.
I like this model because it frees up more time for me
to party focus on other areas of the site like traffic, the info-products, the membership site and more.
Most popular content
The screenshot below shows the most trafficked pages on the blog.
The home page is number 1 by a long way then #2 in the lead is about profitable niches for affiliate marketing which ranks well in Google (by accident - wasn't created to rank and I don't think there's any external links pointing at it).
The other pages are a selection of my most popular content, no major surprises there.
And the screenshot below shows the most popular content by social shares using BuzzSumo....
Don't ask me why one of the posts shows twice with wildly different social shares, I've no idea.
How You Can Use BuzzSumo To Grow Your Blog
BuzzSumo is a great tool for finding out the most popular content on your blog or on other blogs.
You can use it to find out what content in your niche / on your competitors sites performs well then create something similar (and ideally better)
Simply enter a competitors URL or your niche into the search box and see what's already gone viral.
Looks for ways to improve it.
It can be as simple as going more in-depth, creating some that looks better or answering unanswered questions from people in the comment section.
Email List Growth
Your email list is your most important asset.
If you're doing business online and you don't have an email list you don't really have a business.
Every successful business has a customer list.
Online your email list is your customer list.
It allows you to communicate with your audience, build a relationship, send traffic back to your site, make more money and endless other benefits.
Otherwise a high percentage of people who land on your site will never come back and you'll lose them forever.
Make capturing emails your priority.
Total number of email subscribers: 5,862
Conversion rate last month: 10.93%
You might be thinking that with over 30,000 visitors a month my email list should be bigger.
But remember you have to factor in that it hasn't always been at the 30k mark, unsubscribes, inactive emails AND I clean my list aggressively every month to remove anyone who's not opening emails.
This can remove several hundred emails every month.
The list size is not important it's how active that list is.
Lessons You Can Learn
- Make growing your email list your #1 priority and everything else will fall into place (traffic and revenue will increase)
- The more ways for people to opt in the better - look at how many optin forms you can find on NicheHacks.
- Offer an irresistible "lead magnet" i.e. something that solves your visitors #1 problem and they won't be able to help themselves optin in.
- Clean your list regularly removing unsubscribes, inactive emails and anyone not opening.
Supporters of the Site
NicheHacks wouldn't be half the blog it is today without support (in the form of advice, links and tweets) from other bloggers.
I guarantee I'll forget some people so please don't be offended if you should be on this list and I've missed you...
Matt Woodward - for linking to me, giving me some great advice, and publishing my first guest post
Marc at ProfitBlitz - for continually linking to me, sharing my content, commenting on post and supporting the site
Jason @ DoSEOYourself - linked to me several times
Dom @ Human Proof Designs - a huge supporter of the site and always active in the comments
Spencer @ NichePursuits - for tweeting my content
Dave @ SelfMadeBusinessMan - he's been there from the beginning sharing content and commenting on posts
Justin @ EmpireFlippers - I interviewed him and he shares and links to my content
George @ LinkOdy - for featuring me on the LinkOdy blog
Steve @ WorldIsMyOffice - for his awesome guest post helping keep the blog fresh
Lewis @ CloudIncome - another awesome guest post from Lewis
Tung @ CloudLiving - for supporting me from day 1 when the blog first launched
David @ Top5SEO - he's shared my content and inspired the legendary Guru FC vs Rising Stars United football (soccer) match
Ana @ TrafficGenCafe - for linking and sharing my content
Ramsay @ BlogTyrant - for tweeting out my content to his followers
Shoemoney @ Shoemoney - again for tweeting out my content
Brian @ Backlinko - he's been a supporter of the site from day 1 regulary sharing my content
Codrut Turcanu - for featuring me in all his awesome expert round up posts and being a supporter of the site
Honestly sorry to anyone who I've missed, I apologize.
I think this shows the importance of networking though.
If you never get in touch with any fellow bloggers how do you expect them to know about your stuff?
There's much more chance of them linking or tweeting your new post if they have a relationship with you first.
This is something I'm not overly comfortable talking about in public and I'm not even sure why but I've never liked discussing income.
But I feel like you'll want to know how well the blog is doing.
For the first 6 months the blog made no profit and broke even just around the 6 months mark.
That was fine and I expected it, it's a long term project and not a quick money maker. It also shows the importance of sticking with something and being determined rather than giving up after a few weeks, don't you think?
Since then it's went from strength to strength with profits rising every month.
Blogging is Expensive
A lot of people won't realise this but running a blog like this costs money.
Quite a lot of money actually.
I have expenses for hosting, autoresponder, research, design work, content, tools to run the blog, products to review, premium plugins with monthly subscriptions and so on.
On average the monthly expenses for the blog are around $1,500.
I won't go into detail about what costs what as it's not that exciting to read but paying for content is making up the bulk of that cost and then stuff like hosting and autrosponder.
The rest is just smaller bits and pieces that eventually add up.
Like I said earlier I'm now paying freelance writers for the bulk of the blogs content so I can focus on other areas and for good quality content it's not cheap.
There's no $10 writers featured on the blog (most cost more than $100)
The Juicy Parts: PROFIT
I won't bore you with a month by month break down but on average, over the past 3 months, the monthly profit after expenses is about $6,383.
That breaks down as follows:
Total profit: $6,383
Affiliate sales account for approx 61.99% of all total sales
Info-product accounts for 24%
Membership site accounts for 6.22%
AfterOffers.com accounts for 7.79%
So affiliate marketing is bringing in the bulk of my income but I plan to change that and release more products and grow the membership site going forward.
It's just not sustainable to be promoting affiliate launches week in week out and you also have no control over what the product vendor will do - bad support, ignoring refunds, spamming his customers etc which reflects bad on you.
I'm now being much more selective about which vendors I promote for because of bad experiences recently where a vendor has then done something which has reflected bad on me because I recommended their product.
The Importance Of Having Your Own Products
It's with getting guest writers on board I've had time to work on things like info-products and the membership site and they've really helped the income grow over the past few months.
If you're a blogger and don't have some of your own products, courses or membership site then consider it.
In fact, get it done.
Your audience love to buy your stuff more than anything else as they are a big fan of you.
You can see that it now accounts for around 30% of my total income and I expect it to grow over time as I cut down on the amount of affiliate products I promote.
Final Thoughts On Income
Overall the income isn't too bad but considering it's a full time job and the blog has been live for a year now it's not mind blowing either.
If you worked out how many hours I've put into the site you might find I was working for less than minimum wage on a per hour basis but that's not really the point.
The point is to build a long term and sustainable business that I put the hard work into now and reap the rewards later.
However I think it really hits home a point I'm always making - online business should be long a long term game.
It's not quick and easy money. It does take a lot of hard work.
If you expect to be rich within 30 days you'll probably be disappointed.
Don't even count on making any profit within the first few months.
Plans For 2015 And Beyond
Going forward into 2015 I want to start to turn Niche Hacks into a real authority site.
I can't do that alone so I will continue to work with guest writers to fulfill the content demands.
You seem to be enjoying the info-products I release so I'll continue to work on those. trying to keep up with a schedule of 1 new product per month as I already have all the ideas in place.
As I mentioned earlier in the post I want to not only grow the traffic but start to focus on paid traffic so I can scale it up to match and then surpass the amount of traffic Google sends me every month
I don't like that they can take such a big chunk of my overall traffic away at any time.
My aim initially will be to get the site up to 50,000 visitors per month.
I also want to keep on growing the email list.
I've already hit my target of getting the blog to convert at 10% but I believe I can reach 15% by the time I'm finished split testing and experimenting - something almost unheard of in the blogging world where 5% is considered really good.
Wrapping Things Up
So this is 1 year of NicheHacks. It's gone by so quick.
Were you here from the beginning?
Tell me what your first remember about Niche Hacks in the comments section below.
If you weren't when did you first discover NicheHacks and what was your first impression?
Would again love to hear your thoughts below.
What would you like to see happen going forward?
Let me know in the comments.
And for anyone else with anything to add or say then please do below....