My Backlinking Strategies for Niche Sites

My Backlinking Strategies for Niche Sites
Image from Flickr by Gina

I’ve been dabbling with building niche sites for about a year now. I’ve got to be completely honest and admit that backlinking strategies were something I tried to avoid like the plague. I wanted nothing to do with them, as most of the stuff I was reading about at the time revolved around black-hat tactics. Luckily for me, the first Google Penguin update hit right around the time I was starting out. Many of the tactics I had been reading about became obsolete, as sites that were using only those methods for backlinking got wiped out. I was relieved because I had neither the time or money to do some of those crazy tactics. Things like tiered link-building and using spun content on article directories and web 2.0 properties and things like that. I wanted no part of any of that. It seemed too complicated and risky and definitely too time consuming. So what did I do? I started to build niche sites with a zero link building strategy in mind. Has it worked? Let me show you…

Zero Link Building for Niche Sites

I got lucky with the very first niche site I built. I published only 4 pages of questionable content on it. I did absolutely no link building whatsoever. Within a month, it had quickly climbed to #1 in Google for its primary keyword. Sweet! The site was an exact match domain (EMD) – which added extra value at the time. EMD’s got a boost in the search engines and were somewhat artificially rewarded just because the domain name matched the keyword exactly. So naturally, and just like most every other niche site builder out there, I was always searching for keywords that had EMD’s available to purchase. Given how I ranked my very first attempt with relative ease and zero link building, this was a no-brainer. So I purchased a bunch more exact match domains. I continued to build out these niche sites and even tried a few case studies on this blog. Because yeah, I knew what I was doing…. Here are results for all of the sites I’ve built over the last year and did zero or very little link building for.

Niche Site #1

  • Keyword: not revealed
  • Domain: not revealed
  • Current monthly searches: 480 US – 1000 global
  • Monetization: Adsense
  • Current ranking in Google: #6 (Highest #1)
  • Earnings: Lifetime – $165 (May 2013 – $64)
  • Thoughts: The very first niche site I ever attempted is still my only site that is steadily earning. It lost it’s rankings after the Google EMD update in the fall of 2012, but made it’s way back to page 1 on Google – probably due to the good natural backlinks that it acquired (including one from Wikipedia).

Niche Site #2

  • Keyword: election day 2012
  • Domain: electionday2012.net
  • Current monthly searches: 60500 US – 60500 global
  • Monetization: Adsense and Amazon
  • Current ranking in Google: 500+ (18 in Yahoo and 13 in Bing)
  • Earnings: – made about $4 in Adsense on actual election day in 2012 – that’s it!
  • Thoughts: This was a site I started doing my very first case study about, mostly due to my inflated ego and over-confidence because of the success with niche site #1. I quickly realized how stupid it was to spend all that time creating a site that would be dead right after the election, so I quit and moved on to the next site.

Niche Site #3

  • Keyword: getting rid of fleas
  • Domain: gettingridoffleasnow.com
  • Current monthly searches: 4400 US – 5400 global
  • Monetization: Adsense and Amazon
  • Current ranking in Google: #77
  • Earnings: Lifetime – $5 (May 2013 – $0)
  • Thoughts: This site was my second attempt at a case study, after I realized my first attempt was stupid. This site has never ranked high in Google for the primary keywords, but gets trickles of traffic from some long tail keywords and has generated a handful of clicks over time. Now that the site has aged, I think it will be worthwhile to go back and work on it a little more and put some effort into getting it to rank.

Niche Site #4

  • Keywords: how to make laundry soap, how to make laundry detergent
  • Domain: howtomakelaundrysoap.net
  • Current monthly searches: soap – 880 US – 1000 global / detergent 2900 US – 2900 global
  • Monetization: Adsense
  • Current ranking in Google: 500+
  • Earnings: Lifetime – $0
  • Thoughts: This is a site that I didn’t put very much effort into. I built it only because my wife actually makes her own laundry soap and I put together I nice tutorial with pictures. But that is all I did – basically. If I actually added a little content, it might rank pretty easily – but it’s not exactly a big money niche, so I’ve been focusing on other things.

Basic Link Building for Niche Sites (and Blogs)

So, I did zero link building for the sites listed above. I started to experiment with some link building tactics for the sites listed below. Although manual link building was something I still wanted to avoid, I was beginning to understand and realize its necessity. I’ve pretty much stuck to basic link building strategies that are considered white hat. I still had no interest at all with any of that black hat stuff.

Niche Site #5

  • Keyword: pay off credit card
  • Domain: payoffcreditcard.net
  • Current monthly searches: 720 US – 880 global
  • Monetization: Affiliates (CPA)
  • Current ranking in Google: #230
  • Earnings: $430
  • Thoughts: This domain I actually purchased originally with the thought of building a small niche site on. After the Google EMD update, I shifted my focus and decided to turn this site into something much bigger. Something I called my niche blog project. I did incorporate one effective backlinking strategy that helped this site quickly gain Page Rank. It became a PR2 after only 4 months! I made a few high dollar affiliate sales then got burned out and decided I didn’t want to run another blog. I recently shifted my focus back to niche sites and am letting this site just sit. I may go back sometime in the future and try to build it out some more.

Niche Site #6

  • Keyword: how to make dishwasher detergent, homemade dishwasher detergent
  • Domain: howtomakedishwasherdetergent.com
  • Current monthly searches: “how to make” -480 US – 590 global / “homemade” – 4400 US – 5400 global
  • Monetization: Adsense
  • Current ranking in Google: “how to make” – 82 / “homemade” – 84
  • Earnings: $2
  • Thoughts: This is one of the domains I purchased before I owned Long Tail Pro. I decided to build it out as kind of a follow-along to Spencer’s Niche Site Project over at NichePursuits.com. I started yet another case study that I called the Mini NSP. I didn’t exactly keep up to date with that case study and didn’t do much with the site. But, the main article on this site is a product of my very first experience with outsourcing content! I’ve also been experimenting with some different backlinking techniques on this site, including: using a version of my curated content method, directory submissions, social bookmarking and blog commenting.

Niche Site #7

  • Keyword: not revealed
  • Domain: not revealed
  • Current monthly searches: 1900 US – 3600 global
  • Monetization: Adsense
  • Current ranking in Google: #94 (Highest #36)
  • Earnings: $0
  • Thoughts: This is my most recent niche site and one that I feel has the most potential to rank easily and to earn some good money. Sites 1 thru 6 were all pre-Long Tail Pro domains that I purchased. They were all learning experiences. This is the first site that I am building around a keyword that I actually found using Long Tail Pro (the Platinum version). I now think I have a handle on exactly what I need to do to build links to this site. I have a plan and I am working on implementing it now (detailed below).

Focus on Relevant and High Quality Links

Going forward, I’ve come to accept and understand that some form of link building will be necessary if I want my sites to rank high quickly. I’ve been reading and studying up on what others have been having success with recently. Here are some of the most influential posts I’ve read lately:

Based on everything I’ve learned from these posts, and the proof within them that this stuff works, I have come up with my own customized plan for link building for my niche sites. My plan incorporates what Jon Cooper talks about as far as building links slowly over time. Some of the basic things I am doing are much of what Spencer talks about and does for his niche sites. I’ve just begun to dabble with expired domains a little bit. Jon’s post on this topic is by far the most detailed and easy to understand tutorial for how to find and use expired domains that I’ve come across yet. With these things in mind, here is a list of the things I am currently doing to build links to my niche sites:

  • Blog commenting – I do most of this myself – I tried a Fiverr gig to have this done for me for one of my sites
  • Directory submissions – Got a Fiverr gig to do this once and now I use the list of directories from that to do these myself – I’ve also found high PR directories on this site that I’ve submitted to before
  • Social bookmarking – I use SocialADR (affiliate link) for ALL of my bookmarking – I used the free version for the longest time, but recently upgraded to a paid account
  • Curated Content – I am currently testing a modified version of this method that I wrote about in detail here – I am currently saving my results for people who sign up for my e-mail list – but that might change in the future
  • Creatable links on other sites – publishing articles on Yahoo Voices with links – uploading presentations to Slideshare that include links
  • Expired Domains – I’ve only just begun to experiment with this method – following Jon Haver’s step-by-step instructions – more thoughts below

This is pretty much all I am doing to build links to my niche sites. I’ve created a customized spreadsheet that documents all of these methods and spreads them out over time. Currently, I have a 12 week schedule template that I can use for any site. For example, I might do 5 blog comments and 5 directory submission in week 1. In week 2 I might do 5 more of each, plus submit an article to Yahoo Voices. In week 3 I might go down to 3 blog comments and 3 directory submissions and start looking for an expired domain. Social bookmarking submissions can be set up whenever in SocialADR and set to be automatically submitted over a period of time.

[ois skin=”SocialADR 20% Below posts”]

I copy my link building template and start a separate spreadsheet for each niche site. As I complete my weekly tasks for link building on each site, I highlight them within the respective spreadsheets to show that they are completed. As you can imagine, these tasks can be quite time consuming. This is why I am setting up systems like this and documenting exactly what I do. After I perfect my system and have proven results, it will be that much easier to outsource these tasks and hand them off to a virtual assistant. That is the ultimate goal – to not have to waste my precious time doing mundane tasks like these. I would love to be able to use the profits from my current niche sites to pay an assistant to do these tasks for me to build links to my newer sites.

Thoughts on Using Expired Domains

Before I really understood some of the methods involved with using expired domains, I perceived it to be a totally black hat link building method. It seemed scammy and unfair. I first heard about this method last summer when Spencer, from Niche Pursuits, interviewed Hayden Miyamoto on two consecutive podcast episodes:

I was a little bit intrigued by the method, but was just starting out with niche sites and felt it was far too advanced for me. More recently, several of my contacts and fellow niche site builders have talked about using this method. I still didn’t give it serious consideration until I read Jon Haver’s post (linked to above). Jon talks quite a bit about using HIGHLY relevant expired domains – and he shows exactly how to find them and analyze them. I had no idea that so many expired domains were available in just about every niche.

I’ve been playing around with this method, and have recently found and purchased 3 great expired domains that are highly relevant to 3 of my niche sites. All I had to pay for each domain was the registration cost like you would typically pay when you purchase a brand new domain (about $10). As of the writing of this post, I have yet to point them to my sites – so I don’t have results to share yet. But I am excited to continue my experiment with this method and share my positive results in a future post.

Formerly, I would have frowned on the method of using expired domains to build links to niche sites. It just seemed unfair – like people doing it were somehow cheating the system. But now that I understand it much better, I think it is totally legit – especially if using only highly relevant domains. Look at it this way – all of those links are out there but are pointing to nowhere. Why not pick up a domain for a relevant site and get all of those links pointing to your site? You win by getting all of that link juice. Sites on the other end win by having all of those broken links unbroken and pointing to a different but relevant site (your niche site). Even the end user wins by getting redirected to your site rather than to a blank page or 404 broken link error message type page.

I am very eager to implement this method and report back with my results in the future.

Until then, remember that there are several dumb ways to create passive income online, but only one site that is blogging about it! Dumb Passive Income… dot com.

-Matt

36 thoughts on “My Backlinking Strategies for Niche Sites”

  1. Well done on the pay off credit card site! Maybe the key is to focus on a lucrative niche!

    No wonder why there are so many PF blogs out there!

    • This was an unexpected comment based on one very specific portion of my post… given that the overall theme has to do with link building. You’re right though Sam – had I stuck with the credit card site, I probably would be making more money – but it just wasn’t passive enough for me. I’m seeking to create more of the set it and forget it type sites.

      Some of my future sites that are in the works are actually in more lucrative niches – but they will be built as stand alone niche sites rather than blogs. These new niches were found using Long Tail Pro and I am confident that they will be much more successful than anything I’ve tried in the past.

  2. I clench my jaw when I read about the lengths people need to go to to get pages to rank: buying expired domains, hiring VAs, spinning articles, purchasing software, submitting to directories, etc., etc. It is just all so inauthentic. Search is clearly broken. No doubt I need to get over my frustrations if I want to explore the niche site space.

    I didn’t realize that you had moved past the credit card site, either. I think that remains a real possibility for nice earnings and potentially useful content.

    Anyhow, looking forward to this new direction!

    • Yes Mike. Unfortunately, search engine results pages will probably never be able to authentically display the “best” sites at the top. Aside from every single site being manually reviewed, their processes for ranking sites will never be perfect. For internet marketers and webmasters like us, it’s all about figuring out their algorithm and staying on top of all the changes.

      I also don’t like that some of this stuff has to be done – but I’m willing to do it if that’s what it’s going to take to have success. I’m too determined.

      This expired domain thing has me really intrigued. Searching for good expired domains is kind of like searching for low competition keywords (which I really enjoy). I’m hoping that this strategy will provide me with the most value so that I can do less of (or even eliminate) the tedious things like blog commenting and directory submissions.

      Credit card site was becoming a much too “active” project for my taste. Passive income is the goal – so I put that project on hold. I do believe that site still holds value, so I am keeping it to potentially do something with in the future.

  3. Love the post…the honesty is refreshing. It seems like everyone feels they need to be bigger and more successful than they really are to be noticed these days. I have been doing research for my podcast about bloggers “in my shoes” who are honestly working to create passive income (love the name of the blog too) and add value to the internet.

    The fact that you reported $4 in AdSense revenue for the month Gives you credibility in my eyes. I’ve got you beat though…by .13 cents haha!

    Cool blog!
    Dale

    • Agreed. Having struggled with this a bit myself, I wonder all the time about the authenticity of many of the great successes out there. Matt is the real deal.

      • I hope that my authenticity doesn’t come into question when the numbers that I report start to grow larger and larger. Luckily – I’ll always have those first pathetic income reports filed away in my archives as proof that I wasn’t always successful.

    • Hey Dale – glad you like the blog! Since you say that we are “in the same shoes,” I had to give your blog a visit. I really like it! And now I have another podcast to check out (yours) – I’m a bit of a podcast junkie!

      Credibility and authenticity are two of my main objectives with this site. I’m really glad that you recognized this and took the time to comment and let me know. I appreciate that.

    • Thanks Matt, My goal is to connect with people “in the same shoes” and tell the story about how we are building businesses on the internet and take them along for the journey…on our way to becoming the next Pat Flynn’s of Corbet Barr’s of the internet world (big dreams right?) Honestly I don’t need that kind of infamy or money, enough to support my family and not have to go to work would be great…Plus I would be like 45 by then.

      Also, If you could I would appreciate your feedback on the podcast, I’m new at the pod casting thing and some honest feedback would be great (an iTunes review would be too lol)
      Thanks again Matt

      • We are definitely in the same shoes Dale! I’m with ya in that I don’t care if I get super rich from my internet marketing efforts – but the potential freedom that it can provide is what keeps me motivated. In fact, I don’t even hate my day job – so I’m good still working it and doing this on the side. But I won’t complain when one day I am making so much online that I am able to quit the trucking gig.

  4. The new wave of the future is if you are not pushing your blogs in social media, you will be left behind. I’m building up followers through Twitter, Pinterest, and doing blog link ups. I’m averaging about $25-$30 with Google Adsense and really starting to get more into affiliate marketing. It’s hard work.

  5. Outstanding post as usual, Matt. I knew you had a number of niche sites, but this is quite the portfolio you’ve got built up. I’m sure that within another year or so you’ll have a number of them all bringing in significant amounts of money.

    I’m like you: Article directories, press releases, spun articles, – forget it! I haven’t had any luck with them and probably won’t ever. I’m just going to stick to natural link building and focus more on the keyword selection.

    Spencer’s posts were extremely helpful in seeing what works. I’ll have to try out some of the other ones.

    I’ve always been skeptical about the expired domain trick. But people really seem to talk it up so I will be anxious to see if it works out well for you.

    • MMD – I look forward to sharing how the expired domain thing works. I’m pretty excited about it, as I’ve already purchased three different domains that are relevant to three of my sites. Now it’s just a matter of which strategy I am going to use to point them to my sites.

      Now that I understand them better, I hardly think of it as a trick at all. I think of expired domains kind of like vacant real estate. It still has value, it just needs an owner to take care of it and do something with it. If we can pick it up cheap (like a foreclosure), why not do so and improve on what somebody else let go for our own benefit?

  6. Focus on building a small network of expired domains. Those will help you more than anything else. I promise.

    You can build other types of links too but they are mostly to round out your overall backlink profile and to give you lots of anchor text diversity.

    • Thanks Scott. Your promise is all I needed to hear 😉 – I’m pretty stoked about the expired domain strategy and hope that it’s about all I have to do in the future. For one – I enjoy the hunt. It’s kind of like doing keyword research, which I really enjoy. For two – of course it’s better to “own our backlinks” and be able to do whatever we want with them.

      Thanks for the promise. I’ll take your word for it, as it provided me with just a little bit more reassurance.

      • Cool man, that’s great!

        Just want to clarify because I see that expired is being used interchangeably with dropped. They are very different things and those long time ago dropped domains that Hayden uses aren’t as powerful as an expired domain or even one that was just dropped.

        I’ve used both and have had much more success with expired domains. I do have all three types in my network though. For the amount of work involved hunting for those domains that were dropped a long time ago I found it to be a better use of my time to use GoDaddy to buy a couple expired ones with a good backlink profile.

        Good luck trying it out and let me know if I can help in any way.

  7. im recently getting back to building Niche sites, I lost the content on my blogs and the only niche sites i had as well. I have been hearing a lot about using expired domains.. I may have to find the room for it in my budget to give this a try with my next attempt.

    Quick question regarding long tail platinum. I already have pro, but after looking at your posts regarding the benefits for platinum I want to upgrade. do you still get commission for my subscription to platinum if i already own pro?

    • Hey Bryan! Sorry to hear you lost all of your content. But glad to hear you are jumping back in!

      Yes – I would still get credit for your Platinum upgrade if you click through via any Long Tail Pro link on my site. Simply scroll to the bottom of the sales page and find the Upgrade to Platinum button. I really appreciate you asking this and thinking of me, and I thank you if you do decide to upgrade via one of my links!

  8. It would be very cool to be in the NSD2.0 mastermind group and I will be
    following it every step of the way – I still want to carry on with this
    challenge on my own just to see how I get on but would jump at the
    chance to work in Pat’s mastermind group. Pat Flynn has an excellent
    blog over at SPI and it has helped me a great deal over the years. howtogetridofcankersoresfast.com/

  9. Matthew, I just recently started blogging again about finances, one of my newest topics is passive income, and I think your blog is an amazing source of information. You truely inspire me. I would appreciate it if you could give me a little constructive criticism. I’m at http://1milreasons.blogspot.com
    Thanks, I would love some feedback!

  10. Hi Matthew,

    Thank you for this great post and for your honesty about your unsuccessful niches sites!

    Like you! I now have four unsuccessful niche websites and i’m starting to give up since I have spent almost $400 on buying articles, links, domains, hosting and other stuff for absolutely nothing.

    But seeing you start with many unsuccessful websites and Now your Successful, makes me feel a little bit better and encourages me to be patient.

    I liked the way explain things with details, I hope you make a tutorial about link pyramids and other link strategies.

    Thanks.

    • Rashid – even with all the failures, I never gave up because I KNEW I would find success. Too many others online were still experiencing success and I knew that all I had to do was pay attention to what they were doing. Eventually, it paid off! And I know it will for you too!

      As far as more tutorials… I’ll just say this. Keep watching my blog later this summer. I’ve got something epic that I’m planning. Sign up for my email list if you want to be notified.

  11. Matt, awesome post! Very inspiring for newbies like me. Looking forward big time to your “epic stuff” later this summer. Any previews yet?

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