A question that gets asked a lot in affiliate marketing is whether or not niche sites still work.
A few years ago, there were lots of products out there that claimed that if you picked a topic, got something close to an exact match domain (BuyBlueWidgets that kind of thing) and put up a few short-ish pages of content then you’d get traffic and make affiliate sales.
Of course, there were the usual “gotchas” – you needed to pick quite low competition keyword phrases, there couldn’t be too many big authority sites in the results, that kind of thing.
Which often meant that you’d spend more time searching for the perfect niche than you would creating the site itself.
That’s a big clue in itself.
The problem with that kind of formula is that it sounds precise and researched but it probably isn’t.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but there are several issues with finding a success formula:
- If it was good, the vendor would likely keep the idea to themselves and profit from it, ploughing some of the profits back into creating more of the same
- If the numbers become public knowledge, lots of people will start creating content that matches the criteria (including people with the cash and the programming skills to scale it up into the thousands of sites kind of number) and the metrics change because the competition has changed. Matthew Woodward did a study between Ahrefs and Majestic to check which was better at finding backlinks and he analysed a million sites to get reliable numbers.
- To reliably test to come up with those numbers, you need thousands of sites including a large quantity of ones to act as controls. That’s expensive to do (I met one marketer a number of years ago who did this but he didn’t release the results publicly)
- Google reacts to things. Its algorithm goes through minor updates day in, day out, major updates less frequently. That includes it’s Google Brain project and various other artificial intelligence programs that attempt to understand what we’re searching for better than we understand it ourselves and deliver increasingly personalised search results
All in all, if you’re sold a formula for success in affiliate marketing – especially if the price tag for that formula is less than 5 figures – chances are that it’s old news or speculation.
But that still leaves the question to whether or not niche sites work…
Sometimes the best research is just a few quick web searches.
Drill down in your chosen niche (don’t use a search like “football” for instance) and look at the search results.
Scroll down to the related searches and open a few of them in a new tab in your browser.
Play around with the phrases suggested by Google as you type.
Then look at the first page of results for each.
Are they all sub-pages of big sites?
If so, there’s a high chance that niche will be difficult to crack unless you spend a lot of time and effort creating masses of content and generally promoting yourself until you’re hoarse.
Or are they sub-pages of smaller sites or pages on communal sites such as YouTube, SlideShare, etc.
Those should – at least in theory – be good targets for your new niche site.
Because they’re typically one-off pages that may or may not be targeting your chosen keyword phrase.
Again, the search results will give you a good clue as to whether or not the phrase is being specifically targeted.
Google bolds the words you’ve searched for.
It does that primarily to give you a quick visual clue that it’s done it’s job of finding relevant pages.
But that also means it’s an at-a-glance result that shows you whether or not a phrase was found – if it was, all the bolded words will be clumped together. If it wasn’t, they won’t.
You could just scroll down the results to check that – it’s something I often do when I write a new page for my sites.
The results will likely have changed by the time you read this but when I searched for the phrase “do niche sites still work” there was only one result with that precise phrase and that was a forum post, close to the end of the first page of the results.
That’s once out of 10 titles and snippets.
Which means no-one is really targeting this phrase.
In turn, it may be that no-one is searching for it but I doubt that. It’s currently the top suggested phrase when I type “do niche sites” into Google.
Apart from whether or not niche sites still work, people are also asking whether or not niche sites make money.
Which is another way of asking the same question and is something you need to think about when you’re creating content.
Not everyone uses the same words or phrases – English as a language can be very precise but more often it’s quite vague. Big, large, gigantic, enormous can mean near enough the same thing for different people. Sure, they have relatively precise meanings but equally they’re relative: to a mouse, an elephant is pretty large. To another elephant, it’s just normal size.
And, of course, your definition of whether or not a niche site works could well be different from mine.
For some people, if it makes back more than the cost of the domain and hosting, it’s working.
For someone else. their definition of working could be $100 or so per month.
Or $1,000 a month.
It’s down to your definition of the site working.
Once your site has started, you can tweak it to get the most from it.
But you need to start.
I’d suggest something along these lines:
- Pick a niche, preferably one that you’re interested in
- Drill down the search results until you don’t get too many big sites (your definition of too many, not mine and definitely not a fixed formula)
- Get a site and hosting – make the domain name reasonably relavant but also allow for future growth. So I wouldn’t pick a domain name such as DoNicheSitesStillWork.com as that would be too restrictive but something related to niche websites would be OK
- Create content for your new site – lots of content, reasonably regularly.
Weave in affiliate links to help monetise your site.
And keep working at it – websites are taking longer and longer to rank. That’s unlikely to change in the future except that it may stretch from the current “it’s a long time” to something like “it seems to take forever”.
No-one knows for sure.
But you can be certain that if you do nothing, nothing is likely to happen.
So pick a niche and dive in.
Then keep your new site reasonably active with new content on a reasonably regular basis. And, yes, I’m being vague about precise numbers because you need to work out what’s best for you. If once a week means you do something, that’s good. If it’s once a day, I personally think that’s better. If it’s once in a blue moon then that’s almost certainly not enough unless you’re creating epic pages that stretch into the tens of thousands of words and would rival a Kindle book.
But above all else, start.
Because – despite what they hyped up sales pages and emails will try to convince you – that’s the only way to find out whether niche sites and affiliate marketing (or anything else) will work for you.