16 Ways to Grow Your Niche Site Once it Has Legs (Next Steps)
Realizing that your niche site/blog is gaining momentum and has real potential is extremely exciting. Getting to that point is not easy and usually takes a while, but once you get there, your brain will start spinning with ideas and excitement.
I’ve hit that stage several times with various niche sites over the years. In fact, even though my biggest B2C site gets 700,000 to 1 million monthly page views, it still has a ton of growth potential and so this article is as relevant to me as to anyone else with a site that starting to gain some traction.
How do you know your site has legs and is worth putting your all into?
It’s a mix of traffic growth and revenue growth. You don’t need to have astronomical metrics to have reached this stage. Instead, you need to have reached a point where a site is growing and earning low four figures per month. Even $1,000 or so per month is a significant milestone. That means the site is definitely viable and has real potential.
That said, each niche is different. Some niches have more growth potential than others. Also, some niche sites will be a run-away success at 50,000 monthly page views, while other niches need to hit 500,000 monthly page views to be considered a moderate success.
Generally, a B2B niche site doesn’t need all that much traffic to be a viable business. B2C sites typically need a lot more traffic.
For example, my biggest B2C site gets 700,000 to 1 million monthly page views. It earns well, but the growth potential is massive and so I’m really just a mediocre site swimming with whales. I have my work still cut out for me.
On the flip side, Fat Stacks gets 20,000 to 25,000 monthly page views and is probably at the same level as my B2C site within the niche. Fat Stacks ain’t the biggest, most successful site of this kind (far from it), but it definitely has legs and a readership that will likely grow nicely over the next few years.
Same thing with my other B2B site… it’s in a very narrow B2B niche and gets maybe 3,000 monthly visitors, yet earns very good monthly revenue. In fact, I’m considering expanding it topically in an effort to grow it.
Anyway, the point of this post is to set out various steps you can take once you realize you have a small hit of a niche site on your hands that you deem an opportunity to blow up into something spectacular.
16 Ways to Grow Your Niche Site Once It Has Legs
1. Analyze Everything
A lot of decisions I’ve made over the last 18 months to grow and improve the site were made based on analyzing traffic and revenue of many posts.
For instance, it worked out that my site ranked really well for a specific topic within the niche. Fortunately, those articles were fairly lucrative too. Based on this data, I created a dedicated category to the topic and published another 12 in-depth articles. I have a few more in the works at which point I’ll have exhausted that topic more or less… but it’s performing better than ever.
Analysis also helps you figure out what you should stop doing. For instance, I published a lot of a certain type of posts during the first 1.5 years of my site. I then analyzed traffic to those posts and it was pitiful. I lost a lot of money on those posts. Hence, I stopped doing those types of posts.
The problem is that you need some traffic and revenue to do analysis. You can’t make decisions on 40 visitors per day. Therefore, in the beginning you’re kind of flying blind, but once you start seeing some good traffic and are able to determine which posts do better than others on an RPM basis, you can make decisions as to any specific directions you want go.
2. Put more into what’s working
Once you figure out what’s working, focus on that especially in the early days of your site just beginning to get traction. You need to grow revenue to reinvest.
For example, with one of my sites, after about 18 months I noticed two types of posts performed well; way above average. One type was a keyword concept I stumbled upon which could be applied to a lot of content. I’m still capitalizing on that opportunity to this day.
The other type that did well was a particular topic. I subsequently published about 12 in-depth articles on that topic and they all perform well now.
Unfortunately it takes a bit of time to discover any patterns, but once you do pursue what’s working with unwavering focus.
Once you have solid revenue, you can do more experimentation and add to your offerings, but in the beginning, once you discover something that’s working, do more of that as fast as possible to beef up revenue.
3. Improve User Experience
This has been a focus of mine for the last 18 months. I have spent countless hours testing 50 to 100 plugins and various technologies to improve user experience. I’m fanatical about this.
Shortly after I launched my site, I knew the various user experience features I wanted, but I didn’t know enough then to implement them. Fast forward 3 years, I’m armed with loads of data plus I’ve invested a lot of time and money testing all kinds of site features.
Just this month I set up the final user experience feature and so now my site’s infrastructure, navigation and user experience features has everything I envisioned (and more). There are a few additional features I’m considering adding, but I’m not so sure they’re worth it.
What are these features?
The point is once your site has some legs, it’s time to check out what some of the bigger competitors are doing to make their visitors happy. Get ideas. You don’t have to copy them; instead pick and choose and if you’re really lucky, you’ll come up with something nobody else is doing. I’m doing that on a few fronts which I think will help me grow quite a bit over the next couple of years.
What do I mean by features and user experience?
Some niches don’t lend themselves to anything fancy. Fat Stacks, for example, is pretty plain Jane. However, some niche sites can be set up to offer amazing tools, navigation, gamification, post formats, faceted search, directories, interactive features, etc.
CAUTION: Don’t add features gratuitously. You want to ensure they’ll enhance the user experience and that it’s something they’ll appreciate and that will make your site better for and in your niche.
For example, I like the idea of gamification on websites; however, no matter how hard I attempt to dream up some way to use it effectively, I come up with nothing. Yeah, I could add some gamification feature, but nobody would care. In fact, they may find it annoying.
4. Tackle Seasonality
This particular item is what inspired this post. Seasonality affects a lot of niches. However, once your site has traction, you want to put your mind to figuring out how to improve the slow season(s).
For instance, many niche sites do worse in Summer; not because people lose interest, but because traffic typically goes down as people do more outside and go on vacation.
What you can do to tackle this is to publish content related to your niche that is popular in or related to Summer. Many niches can be covered from a Summer angle.
On the flip side, if you’re in a niche that does well in Summer but loses some steam in the Fall and Winter, see if you can publish content that will be in demand during your current slow times.
5. Diversify Revenue Streams
Often this is harder than it sounds. Historically, my biggest B2C site earned the lion’s share of revenue from display ads. However, just last month I earned more affiliate commissions with my biggest B2C site than I ever have. In fact, the commissions were double the normal amount.
This was a result of some intensive testing and putting effort into promoting relevant products as an affiliate to my existing audience.
This success has inspired me to continue growing affiliate commissions, hopefully to the point where they match ad revenue. It’s not that I have anything against ad revenue; I don’t. I love ad revenue for these reasons. But I like the idea of having at least 2 viable and significant revenue streams more. If one stream dips, the other helps stabilize overall revenue.
Because I started my online career as an affiliate marketer, I’m biased toward affiliate revenue. I have a soft spot for affiliate revenue and so I get excited seeing those commissions.
Adding a new revenue stream may require adding different types of content. For instance, if you currently monetize primarily via affiliate promotions, you can expand your content topics that are less promotional (or not promotional at all) and monetize with ads. Ads give you content freedom to publish on any topic you like. That’s one big reason I like it.
6. Build a List for the Long Haul
I’ve been luke warm in my enthusiasm for building up an email newsletter readership with my B2C niche for the past 3 years. Revenue has never really panned out despite growing it to 34,000 subscribers. Granted, I never did much testing or any segmenting at all.
However, recently I made some changes to my email newsletter and the results have been good. The main changes I made are:
1. Use my site’s RSS feed to automatically create the newsletters:
I used to spend time manually formatting email newsletters. It was time-consuming, and so more often than not, I didn’t bother creating the newsletter. I had a long 150 email message sequence, but open rates were always disappointing.
By using the RSS feed to create email newsletters automatically, I always have a few in the queue and all I do is tweak the subject line and blast it off. Total time spent per newsletter is 30 to 60 seconds.
2. Send an email almost every day:
Now I send an email every day and open rates have done well. I’m getting a nearly 10% open rate which is great considering I send an email every day. That’s 3,000 to 3,400 opens per day. At 30 days per month, that’s almost 100,000 opens. Since the email newsletter just provides a snippet of the content, the click through to my site is decent amounting to some decent monthly traffic on almost autopilot.
I don’t promote much so readers know it’s not a pitch fest. They know the email will be links to most recent content. I would promote more, but past promotions fell flat.
In fact, sending an email every day has been so successful, I’m contemplating testing sending even more. I know that sounds excessive, but I though one a day was excessive, but apparently not because open rates improved and and unsubscribe rates are reasonable.
7. Diversify Traffic Sources
Chances are, when a site is gaining some momentum, most of the traffic is from one source, be it Facebook, Pinterest, guest posting or Google search.
Regardless of your traffic source, at this stage it’s time to add at least one additional solid traffic source.
TIP: Do not expect every social channel to work for your site. Different social channels do better in some niches than others. It’s a good idea to test of course, but if you spot a clear winner as a second source of decent traffic volume, focus on that channel.
For instance, G+ and Twitter is terrible for me. While I post to G+ and Twitter occasionally, it’s not a focus. Pinterest is my second best traffic source so I pin a lot.
My Pinterest traffic is about one-half of my organic search, which means it sends me between 1/4 and 1/3 of my overall traffic.
The downside to PInterest, is it’s terrible for ad revenue. Pinterest traffic in my niche earns a fraction of what Facebook traffic earns per 1,000 visitors.
8. Systematize Everything
A very important step to growing any business, including a niche site, is developing systems so things happen more efficiently and hopefully some of it can be handled by other people.
Here are 3 areas I’ve been able to successfully systematize:
1. Content Production
Since a niche sites’ “product” so to speak is content, if you pursue a high-volume content production strategy (like I do), you need to turn content production into a system.
Ramping up content production is a lengthy topic on it’s own. I wrote about it in step-by-step detail here.
If, however, you focus on publishing less often and then invest time in promoting that content by attracting links, social shares and direct traffic, you also need to systematize those post-publishing efforts. For instance, the guys at Authority Hacker have practically master the art of scaled outreach link building.
2. Social Media Posting
Fortunately systematizing social media isn’t difficult with software (I use this software exclusively now) and/or outsourcing. It’s a pretty tedious process so outsourcing it is viable. The key is developing various styles of social posts that work and then instructing someone to do it that way and/or winding up some social media software to do much of it for you.
The best combo is having a VA use the software.
3. Email Newsletter/Push Notifications
This was a huge change for me. For years I manually created email newsletters. I outsourced it but that cost money.
My B2C niche newsletters are snippets of posts that link out to the website. Therefore, this format is perfect for automating the newsletter with an RSS feed.
Fortunately my email autoresponder provider (AWeber) is able to do this. It’s not the prettiest, but it works.
I set it to insert 3 post snippets along with the featured image (you need this free plugin to get featured images in an RSS email newsletter) for each post in each newsletter. Therefore, as soon as I publish 3 posts on the site, a newsletter is created.
Now all I need to do is go in and edit the subject line and click “send”. It’s awesome and it makes it viable to send an email every day.
At first I thought daily emails would be poorly received, but surprisingly open rates have improved since I switched to an RSS feed newsletter and have now stabilized to just under 10%.
9. Start Outsourcing
The first thing you want to outsource is content production. This is easier said than done. I’ve literally tried most article writing services with mixed results.
I have fairly exacting demands so it was hard finding the best services for my needs. FYI, the best service for me isn’t necessarily the best for you. It really depends on your niche and the content you want produced.
Anyway, currently I’m using Word Agents for higher quality content and Human Proof Designs for round-up styles stuff.
IMPORTANT: It takes time to get into a rhythm with writers and writing services. The first batch may not be exactly what you want. Let them know what to improve and hopefully after a few rounds of orders, you’ll get into a nice flow.
TIP: I find it’s really helpful for you and the writers if you have a recurring style or type of content with similar formats. For instance, I have Word Agents handle 5 types of content, Human Proof Designs one type of content and then I get guest posters to do another type of content.
Now all I need to do is give topics and mention which type of article it and it’s delivered exactly the way I want it. But this took a couple rounds with both writers and getting into a flow with guest posters also took publishing 15 to 20 guests posts for me to develop guest posting systems.
Other time-consuming and tedious tasks
If you have any time-consuming, tedious tasks, consider hiring a Filipino for that work. Not all sites have such work, but mine does such as outreach for image use permission, image taxonomy tagging, image uploading, etc.
10. Update top performing content
It’s awesome to achieve top rankings with content, but don’t rest on your laurels. Once there, you want to stay there, so go back and make it better. I do this weekly, especially since I’ve implemented some better technology such as parametric search, Content Views Pro, quiz software… all of which I use in concert to create even better posts.
FYI, parametric search, Content Views Pro and/or quiz software may not be a good fit for you… when it comes to updating and improving top performing content, just do whatever it takes to make it better or more timely.
11. Leverage existing content
I really should do more of this, but the problem with publishing more content is there’s more content to leverage.
There are many ways you can leverage content. I set out a number of solid ways to leverage content here.
12. Research topic expansion
Most niche sites start out small and likely focused on a narrow set of topics.
If you’re having success and it makes sense, you might consider expanding your site topically to related topics.
I don’t advise you aspire at this point to be Huffington Post and cover every conceivable topic; instead look at topics closely related to what you’re covering. Likely your audience will appreciate it.
13. Increase Brand Exposure
I remember the first time I noticed that my biggest B2C site had 1,600 monthly searches in Google. That meant people actively sought out my site and that I was developing a brand.
Building a brand takes years. My sites are Huffington Post or Forbes, but it is somewhat known and is growing in popularity.
Admittedly, there is much more I could do to bolster the brand, especially on Instagram, Quora, YouTube and guest posting… four channels I’ve not been as active lately as I should be.
However, keep in mind that all the social media activity and participation is meaningless if your site is not very good. My focus for the last many months has been on dramatically improving user experience and content so that it attracts visitors on its own as a site to not just visit once, but to visit regularly.
14. Buy traffic to popular content
I used to do this a lot more than I do now, but I should continue doing it because it helps with revenue, exposure, SEO, optins … it’s a real win/win. However, you need to choose the very best content or content that earns really well for this to be worth it.
In most cases you’ll lose money up front but the exposure and traffic may pay off in the long run.
I’m not talking about spending $100 per day. I’m talking about small Facebook boosts of $5 per day for a few weeks.
15. Speed up your site if it’s slow
For 3 years my biggest site was slow. It wasn’t for lack of trying to speed it up. Over time I learned how to optimize my site, but in the end, I improved my site the most with three simple changes. They were:
1. Cloudflare and Kinsta hosing
I knew about Cloudflare, but for a long time I was with WPEngine who had their own CDN. Their CDN, while it seems to work well for other sites, didn’t work for me. I figured there was nothing I could do until WPEngine told me they were going to double my monthly fees at which time I jumped ship and ended up at Kinsta. Kinsta helped me get set up with Cloudflare and my site has never been faster. It’s been a couple of months and I still marvel when I go to my site.
2. AMP (Google Accelerated Mobile Pages)
I’ve been banging my head against my desk for about a year trying to get AMP to work on my site. I used the plugins to no avail.
And then one morning I thought maybe there’s a WordPress theme that is built for AMP. I did some searches and lo and behold I found Publisher theme.
The developer of Publisher theme also developed the Better AMP plugin and so it works flawlessly with Publisher theme. I installed both, went to an AMP url and it looked awesome. It loaded almost instantly. I was elated.
Within one week I switched every site I own except my local marketing sites to the Publisher theme with the Better AMP plugin.
I didn’t switch my local marketing sites because they’re built with a rather complicated local business theme which would require a bit of time to switch and I’m not sure it’s worth doing.
16. Do NOT Start another Site
The taste of success will have you wanting more. By all means go for more, but do so at this point with the site that’s successful. If there’ s room to grow it, focus on growing it.
The thought of building another niche site is alluring, but you’ll have forgotten about all the work it took to become a moderate success. Juggling two projects at this time will hurt overall success.
One exception to this suggestion is if you’re going to start another project, launch a how-to-blog niche site (like Fat Stacks). If you have success in a real world niche, blog about it… you have the credentials to do so.
For me Fat Stacks is a personal blog in a business niche. I enjoy it and it doesn’t take up too much time. The time I put into it is very much worth it because I enjoy it and it’s relatively lucrative (a real win/win).
That’s it. Hopefully this post applies to you because that means you’ve hit some good milestones with your niche site.
16 Ways to Grow Your Niche Site Once it Has Legs (Next Steps)
16 Ways to Grow Your Niche Site Once it Has Legs (Next Steps)