24.2% of people who start a blog do so to eventually become self-employed.
The good news is that blogging is a legitimate way to make income.
The bad news is it can be a difficult, lengthy process, especially when it comes to growing a blog that’s profitable enough for you to quit your day job.
But the other good news is we are here to help. Today we are talking about how to build a profitable niche site.
In this article, we look at four different niche site examples that are doing it right to help guide us. Plus, we’ll brainstorm niche site ideas for your next blog and go over the main ways to monetize your content.
If you’re just here to see our niche site examples, skip ahead.
Otherwise, let’s get started on the basics.
What is a Niche Site?
Most sites you visit are niche sites. Niche sites denote specificity, narrowing their focus on a topic and its various subtopics.
Niche sites exist within larger markets.
For example, a site about SEO hacks is a niche site that exists within the marketing industry, which itself exists within the larger business category.
Niche sites are a popular avenue for aspiring bloggers.
It’s arguably easier to master a niche topic. That shouldn’t be too controversial an opinion – the smaller your scope, the more detailed you can get.
Think about it.
If you get introduced to someone at a networking event who markets themselves as a “guru for all types of businesses and marketing strategies,” you’re likely to roll your eyes and throw away their business card when they aren’t looking.
But if you’re introduced to an “experienced business leader who excels specifically in top-of-the-funnel PPC marketing strategies,” your BS detector is less likely to go off.
And if you need help with PPC marketing strategies, then your interest is piqued.
Finding a niche topic is the first step in starting your next site. While you want a niche that you can make profitable, you really want to focus on finding a niche that you can do justice.
We are going to go out on a limb and make this bold statement: you’ll have a better chance of making a niche site you care about profitable, no matter the topic vs. just picking a topic because of its supposed profitability.
Micro Niche vs. Niche
There are a lot of different definitions out there, but for our purposes, it’s easy to think of a micro-niche site as a site that goes after one or two main keywords.
A site about coffee is niche because you can have the subtopics of how to brew coffee, the best french press coffee makers, the best espresso machines, and so on.
A site that’s just about french press coffee is a micro niche site.
It’ll take fewer pages for you to have a comprehensive site. You will eventually (pretty quickly, actually) run out of things to write about on a micro niche site.
And since it’s going after fewer keywords, a micro-niche site will almost always have less traffic (or potential traffic) than a niche site.
Less traffic, no matter if you’re monetizing with affiliate links or through ad streams, signals to less revenue.
Do Niche Sites Still Work in 2020?
SEO is fluid. SEO is an art, not a science. What works today in SEO won’t necessarily work tomorrow.
All of those statements are true, but there are four nearly permanent principles you should hold close to your heart.
Content is King. This gets repeated a lot in content marketing, but the meaning is often obscured. Just because you have good content doesn’t mean your page will rank in the top ten for a specific keyword. When we say content is king, what we mean is content is the foundation by which all other marketing aspects of your site will be judged.
Backlinks do matter. As of now, 90.63% of content gets no traffic from Google, and over 66% of pages don’t have one single backlink. We don’t think that’s a coincidence.
- It’s easier to accomplish link building if you embrace #1. People want to link to good content, not bad content.
It’s easier to embrace #1 if you’re focusing on a niche topic that you understand. Whether you outsource content production or write it yourself, it’s best if you have a solid understanding of what you’re selling. This is easier with a niche topic.
The graph above is one niche site’s case study. Look at the time it took to get going, but once it started to grow, the revenue drastically increased.
We are not saying you can start a niche site today and within six months walk into your boss’s office and quit.
Just because you care about your topic, produce quality content monthly, and have a WordPress site hosted with a catchy domain name, doesn’t mean you’ll be making big bucks every month.
Your social media presence matters.
Your specific niche topic matters.
But the concept of a niche site (a site that focuses on a specific topic) is solid and likely to weather any SEO storm.
How Do You Come Up with a List of Niche Ideas?
Coming up with niche site ideas is easier than you think. You’ve probably already thought of one, but dismissed it because you weren’t sure it’d work.
Either way, right now, together, we are going to help you come up with 50 ideas.
Take a pencil and paper (or open a doc on your computer) and just write out 100 ideas. We know, easier said than done. But we are surrounded by products, services, and industries.Think of the things you have in your kitchen, such as coffee maker, juicer, steak knives, dishwasher. You can do this with any room (bedroom, office, bathroom). Think of your morning routine as you get ready for work. Think of the items you use the most at your office. Give yourself 30 minutes to do this task.
Did you get your 100? No? Well, head back to Step 1 and add 15 minutes to your clock, but this time think of all the things you need when you go on vacation: luggage, tour guides, hotel bookings, credit cards.Then think of all the things you bought in the last two months: books, a vacuum cleaner, tires. Then think of what you’d do with your free time if money weren’t an issue. Keep going, you’re almost there.
Now you got your 100. Take those ideas and throw out half of them. Disqualify items that you only added to meet your quota, but you know absolutely nothing about or have no interest in writing. Even if you’re not going to physically write all your content, you’ll need to edit it and be able to tell if your outsourced freelance writer knows what they are doing.
From there, you can take the 50 remaining ideas, and then rank by interest level and competition level. To gauge how competitive a niche market is, do basic SERP research.L et’s say you want to gauge the competitive landscape of “espresso machines.” First, do a Google search for “espresso machines” and see how many results you get (we are showing 61,500,000 results).Now, do an intitle search – intitle:espresso machines. This shows you how many results are actively going after the keyword “espresso machines.” What you’re looking for is a topic that has high search volume, relatively low competition, and captures your interest.
For reference, here is our list of what remains after we went through our list of 100 with a fine-tooth comb:
Our Final Niche Website Ideas
This will always be a profitable yet challenging niche market.
These sites can be more difficult to rank, especially the more health-focused your topic becomes.
Google’s algorithm updates signal that Google wants to make sure that if it’s providing users with content about their health (from diet recommendations to mental health advice) that it’s coming from experts, not just bloggers looking to make a buck.
Start with your personal experience and work your way out. Do you have a specific diet or eating style? Sometimes the most natural fit is working with something you handle on a daily basis.
Plus, it adds to credibility.
Nobody wants to take advice on how to be a vegan from someone who eats meat twice a day.
That disconnect signals a lack of trust because your expertise and authority are going to be questioned.
Some niche health and fitness ideas:
- Keto Diet
- Vegan Diet
People love to use Google to find out how to make a dish or a cocktail. Also, the coffee market is growing (and showing no signs of slowing down).
Some niche food and drink ideas:
With most Food and Drink topics, you can monetize with ad space, but if you take on a topic like coffee or tea, you also have a natural segue into product guides.
Just think, you can write a guide to the best french press, the best espresso machine, the best drip coffee, and so on.
Niche sites can benefit from videos, and this is especially true for the Food and Drink market.
YouTube is the second most used search engine after Google, and having a video of how to make a Cosmo on your Cosmo Recipe page is a great way to capture a wider audience.
You might think of the great outdoors as an area removed from marketing and affiliate sites.
You drive a few hours up north, escape the city life, let your body reset to its natural circadian rhythm, waking up with the sunrise, and falling asleep after sunset.
But outdoor life is varied, expensive, and made up of a tight-knit community. It’s a great niche market to get into.
- Camping Tents
- Hiking Trails/Camping guides
- Outdoor Wear
- Mountain Climbing
- Tiny living/Van Life
Don’t stress if any of the above topics (or the topics you came up with) don’t feel right.
The important part is to get your creative juices flowing and to start looking at topics with a marketer’s mindset.
You want to think: is this topic interesting to me, and can I make money with it?
We are going to help you answer the second question in a minute. But first:
Wait, How Important is SEO?
The good news is you don’t need to be an SEO master to run a niche site, but you do need to understand what SEO is and how it works.
You’ll need a strong understanding of on-page SEO and an understanding of E-A-T.
On-page SEO, in addition to building backlinks and establishing E-A-T on your site, is a major focus for niche sites.
The reason is on-page SEO, as the name suggests, is SEO for each individual page. It’s your content’s SEO.
On-page SEO deals with title tags, headers, the URL, META description, internal links & external links, alt texts, and more.
As you can see in the graph above, most SEO experts agree title tags are the most important part of on-page SEO.
The rule of thumb is: search engines should be able to look just at the title tag of your page and know what keyword you’ve optimized your post for.
Here’s an example. If the post is titled “Best Water Bottles for Cold Water”, the search engine bot knows you’re targeting either “Best Water Bottles” or “Best Water Bottles for Cold Water” or both.
That means you have a good title tag.
But if your post is “Keep your Water Cold with these New, Trendy Water Bottles,” then it’s a little less clear. Your title tag isn’t going after the main keyword for which you’re trying to rank.
What is E-A-T?
Google puts a lot of emphasis on E-A-T (expertise - authority - trustworthiness).
And it’s easier to have E-A-T, from an SEO and content perspective, if you’re focusing on niche topics that you understand or are passionate about understanding.
The graph above shows a site’s ranking as it drops after a Google algorithm update that focused strongly on verifying E-A-T on YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) sites.
For a crash-course in all the SEO that you’ll need to know to get started, head over to our post on SEO for beginners.
Monetizing Your Niche Site
There are several ways to monetize your site, from affiliate links to selling ad space to selling Ebooks. For this section, we will focus on two monetization methods:
- Ad Revenue
- Affiliate Links
Ad revenue is a major contender when it comes to deciding how to monetize your site.
There are several ways to get ads on your site, but Google Adsense is the most popular (note: that doesn’t mean it’s the best way).
If you already know you want to make money with Google Adsense, jump to the section where we explore a site that’s using Adsense the right way.
Google Adsense crawls your site and tries to match your display ads to the kind of content your site is producing.
It’s a great way for niche sites to start getting ad revenue, but as your traffic grows, you might want to consider more lucrative ad revenue streams, such as:
- Selling Your Own Ad Space. This is more time-consuming than using the automatic Adsense process but allows you to go after more profitable advertising and to create more custom content for your users.
- Using a middle-man like BuySellAds.com. BuySellAds works as the middle man between your site and advertisers. It takes a lot of the leg work out of it for you (hunting down advertising, negotiation rates), while still delivering (on average) a higher CPC than Google Adsense.
There are cons to using ads to monetize your site, such as:
- Disrupting the user experience. Some people consider ads unflattering to a site. To avoid this, don’t plaster ads all throughout your site but pick areas where ads complement the user experience.
- Low click-through rates. How often do you click on ads? Ad blindness is a real concern. In 2019, the average CTA rate for ads on mobile was 0.28%.
But when your traffic grows, ads should become a given.
Let’s look at some average numbers.
If a site is getting 1000 pageviews a day and you get $.50 per click and have a CTR rate of 0.25%, that means by signing up for a mediocre ad platform can start your site making $125 a day or almost $3,750 a month.
Whereas ads work for any site, affiliate links only work when you’re recommending or mentioning a product or service.
If your niche site isn’t something that can be tied back to a product or service, then affiliate links won’t work for you.
Here is an example.
Say your niche site is about shoes. In some of your posts, you’ll be trying to rank for high-intent keywords, such as “best running shoes of 2020.”
These are high-intent keywords because the customers typing this into Google are near the bottom of the sales funnel. Someone googling “best running shoes” has a buyer’s mindset.
They don’t just want to end up on a page with affiliate links – they are expecting it.
When a reader clicks on an affiliate link, goes to that product page and makes a purchase, then you get affiliate commissions.
But there are three uphill battles for making money through affiliate links.
- The first battle is getting customers to your site.
- The second battle is getting your customers from your site to Amazon or merchant site you’re partnered with.
- The third battle is getting your customer to make a purchase while on said site.
Paying for Your Niche Site
Are we forgetting something? Oh yeah, before you get started on building your niche site empire, how much is this going to cost you?
Of course, the answer depends on your time-frame, your niche topic, and how you plan to create content.
The main costs are domain name + hosting (which are minimal) and content production (which can be substantial).
Domain Name + Hosting
- Buy a domain name. This is the cheapest expense for starting your niche site. It will usually run you a few dollars. Use domain name sellers like Namecheap.com or Domain.com.
- Set up web hosting. This is relatively inexpensive as well, but it’s a consistent cost. We like BlueHost.com. See below for a snapshot for their pricing plans, ranging from $3.95 to $13.95 a month.
This is where things can get costly, either financially or in terms of labor hours.
The first thing you need to figure out is if you’re paying for content, or if you’re writing the content yourself.
If you’re writing the content yourself:
- It’ll cost you less dollar-wise, but it’ll take up a lot of your time.
- You’ll have good quality control (after all, you’re writing the content!)
- You’ll be publishing less content, which could mean slower growth.
- You’ve greatly reduced the cost to run a niche site, but don’t mistake that for choosing the easy route. We’d argue it’s easier to outsource content production (that’s why it costs more!) than to write your own content.
Research from HubSpot shows that start-up blogs will want to publish 3– 4 times a week if they want to maximize their organic traffic. That’s a lot of work for one person, especially if you’re still holding down a full-time job.
If you’re outsourcing content production:
- It’ll cost you. Content is expensive. Even if you use cheap content mills, you’ll pay for those savings later as you edit and optimize for SEO and CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) elements.
- You’ll get more content up faster, which could signal quicker results.
- Your niche is going to be in the negative for a solid year before it begins to make up the costs. See the spreadsheet below.
Remember that graph we showed you in the beginning? Of the niche site growth? Well, here’s its documented expenses.
In this particular niche site project, content writers and editors accounted for nearly 75% of its annual operating expenses.
If you want to make money from your next blog, be prepared to first invest some time and money of your own. Especially if you’ll be outsourcing the content.
Now, let’s move on to examples of niche sites that are killing it.
Amazon Niche Site Example - RoastyCoffee.com
If you know anything about affiliate sites, you know Amazon runs one of the biggest affiliate programs available, called Amazon Associates.
There are some obvious pros of running an Amazon affiliate website.
Pro #1: Most of us use Amazon. When we go to Amazon through your affiliate link, we don’t need to worry about making an account or filling out our shipping address.
Chances are we can get the product you're referring to shipped to our home in two days.
Pro #2: Amazon has a huge collection of user-generated reviews. These reviews work in your favor when you recommend a customer a product that 1) has a high star rating and 2) has a significant number of reviews on its profile.
However, there are also some cons.
Con #1: Amazon, by no means, has the highest commission rates for each niche. Do your homework before committing to just one affiliate program.
For example, if you’re an affiliate website for books, you might want to consider a site like Bookshop.org that has a strong presence in the publishing community and offers a 10% commission (compared to Amazon’s 4.5%) on book sales.
If a customer goes from your page to Amazon and then comes back two days later to confirm the purchase, you don’t get credit for the sale.
Now that we have a basic understanding of how Amazon’s Affiliate Program works let’s look at an example of an Amazon affiliate niche site that is absolutely killing it.
Roasty Coffee is a fun, informative, well-designed niche site aimed at coffee lovers everywhere. The tagline of its page says it all: Brew Coffee So Good It’ll Make a Hipster Cry.
They have informational content, such as how to brew coffee and how to clean a coffee maker. They also have buying guides for coffee makers and coffee subscription services.
But let’s look at the site in more detail.
Here’s a snapshot from Ahrefs.
Does Roasty Coffee Get Traffic?
As of now, Roasty Coffee’s organic traffic is at 324k, with a traffic value of $412k, making it one of the most impressive niche sites on our list.
Let’s drill down into why.
You can see above that Roasty Coffee has content that is in the top ten SERP for high-volume keywords.
Roasty Coffee’s post on macchiatos is the third post you see when you google macchiato, as roughly 58k people are doing each month.
That’s great exposure.
Let’s look at Roasty Coffee’s backlink history
Roasty Coffee has nearly 3,000 backlinks. Some of their backlinks come from high-authority sites, such as Wirecutter.
Roasty Coffee also has a strong backlink footprint with a high-number of their links coming from contextually relevant sites, such as this one:
This is a link from another coffee blog, using an anchor text to signal to Google that Roasty Coffee knows what it’s talking about when it comes to the coffee roasting process.
That is a relevant link, which Google loves to see.
Okay, Roasty Coffee has traffic + backlinks, but is it converting?
Roasty Coffee has done a great job incorporating CRO elements into its post.
Let’s look at their post on the Top 5 Picks for Keurig Coffee Makers.
First, you get an “At a Glance” with a tag qualifier for “our top choice.”
This means, for the real bottom-of-the-funnel customers, customers who have their credit card out and just want to pay, they can click that, go to Amazon, and checkout.
After the At a Glance, the next CRO element is a table.
The table has 1) images, 2) information in easy-to-digest bullet points, and 3) a CTA button.
Plus, like all good product tables, it’s responsive and looks great on mobile.
Finally, Roasty Coffee really shows its skill set by incorporating ads naturally in-line.
These Amazon ads mirror exactly the “Shop Related Products” feature on Amazon product pages, making this feel less like an ad and more like a friendly suggestion from your favorite coffee blog.
Roasty Coffee does so much right that it’s worth studying while you create your affiliate blog.
Ready to start your own Amazon Affiliate site? Check out our post on Amazon’s Affiliate Program.
Affiliate Niche Site Example - OutdoorGearLab.com
Amazon isn’t the only way to monetize your affiliate site. Perhaps Amazon doesn’t work for you because of a number of reasons, such as:
- Their commission structure isn’t competitive for your niche.
- Amazon’s cookies only last for 24 hours, which may not work if your customer is one who needs to do a lot of “let’s wait and see” shopping before making a purchase.
- Or maybe you’ve been subject to one of the many easy-to-trip infractions that can get an affiliate site blacklisted from Amazon’s program.
We are going to focus on a niche site – Outdoor Gear Lab – that uses multiple merchants to increase its affiliate revenue.
Does OutdoorGearLab get traffic?
Let’s look at OutdoorGearLab’s backlink history
Outdoor Gear Lab has over 120k backlinks and has a history of steady growth over the past year.
Okay, OutdoorGearLab has traffic + backlinks, but is it converting?
Outdoor Gear Lab does use product tables, which is great.
But they are a little crammed with information, and the tables don’t seem to be responsive on mobile.
However, they do have a compare option, where you can select a few different shoes and compare features.
So, while there is room to improve, the site does show it is intentionally using CRO elements to drive revenue.
If you’re ready to make money through affiliates, head over to our post on affiliate marketing for beginners.
Micro Niche Site Example - BestRoofBox.com
As we discussed above, a micro niche site is really going after one to two primary search keywords and has a limited amount of web pages dedicated to the topic.
Let’s look at Best Roof Box as an example of a micro niche site done right.
Best Roof Box is a niche site that is going after the roof box car market.
Pretty niche, right?
On the site’s About Us page, they write that they are “passionate about getting the most from your car when it comes to going on adventures and road trips. When you take one of these trips, you often need more room in your car. This is when we come in, to help you find the best roof box for your car and needs.”
Does BestRoofBox get traffic?
As you can see below, they started getting traffic in April 2019, and now, as of March 2020, they are getting 1,278 visitors a month.
Let’s look at BestRoofBox’s backlink history
Yes, as of now, they have 567 live backlinks.
Looking at the number of referring domains over the course of the year, you can see their backlink growth mirrors their search traffic growth.
But more importantly, they have some backlinks that:
- Come from a credible source
- Use SEO-friendly anchor texts
Here’s an example below.
It’s clear by these numbers that Best Roof Box is going in the right direction.
It’s organic backlink growth, and organic traffic shows a niche site that is utilizing content and outreach to build its audience.
Okay, BestRoofBox has traffic + backlinks, but is it converting?
What we really like about Best Roof Box is how they are approaching the second battle – getting users from their page to Amazon.
Best Roof box utilizes responsive comparison tables.
Below is what the table looks like on the desktop.
Notice the CRO elements.
- There are qualifiers on the product reviews, including “Best Overall” and “Best Wide Range” options.
- There is a button with a CTA -- “Buy on Amazon”
And then, when you go to mobile, the table is responsive.
In mobile view, the columns collapse on one another, but none of the information or overall structure changes.
Adsense Niche Site Example - Antique-Prices.com
Writing reviews for products isn’t the only way to make money off your niche site. You can also bring in revenue from ads.
Here is how that works:
- You apply and create an Adsense account.
- Google puts a line of code on your site.
- Ads begin to appear throughout your site, reflecting the type of industry your users are likely to be interested in. For example, if you run a blog about house cleaning, there might be ads about vacuum cleaners.
- When someone clicks on an ad, you get paid.
But this isn’t a get rich fast scheme. After all, most sites have ads, but when was the last time you clicked on them?
Let’s look at some numbers.
Let’s say you get $1 per click (how much you’ll actually get depends on a few things, including the niche you chose).
If you get 2000 clicks, you’ll make $2,000! But wait, how do you get 2000 clicks? The only sure-fire way to increase clicks is to increase traffic.
A modest CTR (click-through rate) is 0.2%. So, let’s say your site gets 30,000 pageviews a month.
30,000 pageviews x .02 = 600 clicks
600 clicks x $1.00 per click = $600.
$600 a month isn’t an amount to scoff at, but it also isn’t enough for you to quit your day job.
Also, depending on your level of experience, you may be at (or past) 30k pageviews a month or far from it.
And if you want to get $2,000 a month, you’ll need to be at 100,000 pageviews a month.
For our AdSense niche site example, we are going to look at Antiques-prices.com.
Antique Prices is dedicated mainly to antique and collectible price guides. Pretty niche, isn’t it?
Per the About Us page, it looks like the site is run by two different writers, and they offer a newsletter.
Does Antique-Prices get traffic?
Yes! Who would have thought antique guides were so popular.
But that’s the beauty of running a niche site. Nearly everything has an audience.
Let’s look at Antique-Prices’s backlink history
Yes, you can see the growth of referring domains above.
And as of today, the site has 567 backlinks.
And, do the links from relevant domains? Here is one link we found on a dedicated blog for mothers, on a contextual link from a blog post about having a vintage baby nursery.
Okay, Antique-Prices has traffic + backlinks, but is it converting?
We chose Antiques Prices for a few reasons.
First, it isn’t the world’s prettiest niche site. And the data above show it doesn’t have to be. Second, the ad placements are a perfect fit.
Just look at this ad below in the blog post on finding vintage Rolex watches.
It looks less like an ad and more like a call-out box or table.
We’ve reached the end of the line, are you ready to build a niche site?
Remember, as a site owner, no matter if you’re monetizing through affiliate links or ad streams, you want to focus on:
- Getting your site traffic.
- Getting your site backlinks.
- Optimizing your site for conversion.
To set yourself up for success, take the time to research niche topics and decide on one (or two or three) that captures your interest, create a content plan, a content schedule, and begin publishing.
From there, you can focus on monetization.
If your niche is product or service focused, you can set up affiliate links through programs such as Amazon or ShareASale.
If your niche can’t be tied to a product or service (or you want more than just affiliate links as a source of income), focus on ad revenue.
If you have any questions, reach out to us below in the comments!