Welcome to aaron chua make money blog

Hi, welcome to my blog. In this part of my world, I talked about how to achieve financial freedom by learning how to make money online through creating sites and earning from them.

Below are some current and past make money projects that details my learning journey.

My current experiment in making 50 amazon site niches. If you have not been following this challenge, best place to start is this resource page for the amazon challenge, that lists all the articles that I have written so far.

My experiment in making 1000 a month through adsense in 9 months.

If you came here looking for low cost startup ideas, here are 140 startup ideas that you can browse through.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

How to build quality niche sites after Panda

A lot of people search for this answer as I was looking through my search referral logs. It is something that I want to talk about as well since this thing has been on mind for long periods of time.

Niche sites do not mean crappy sites. They just cater to a smaller group of people, which actually makes it easier to create a good quality site. In this post, I hope to drag everyone who is still doing the 'non spam' content sites into this area so that you guys have a shot at creating something that will last and not be penalised by algorithms or  the whim of third party ad or affiliate networks.

This is what I will covered in this long winded post. If you liked it, please share it so that I can finally see those so called natural links that matt cutts always talked about. If they exist, they must be hiding in somewhere that even Indiana Jones can't find them because I sure don't see them appearing in my backlink logs : )
  • Benefits of quality niche sites: going beyond Google
  • Types of quality niche sites that you can learn from
  • How to find new topics that lack information so that your niche site has a role to play
Before going into the content, do note that what you will be reading is just my experience so far. They are not the holy Bible where everything inside must be the truth. I am not God so I am allowed to be wrong : )

Benefits of quality sites

The obvious benefit is a good site is that, hopefully, it will be less prone to any algorithm changes. This might not always the case. Sites will good content still needs exposure to attract natural links. For those who are not social in nature, that means you need to reply on those long tails to bring you those early exposure and fans. Without the quality, any amount of exposure will not have a compounding effect for the site.

I hate saying the obvious so now, I will touch on other less known benefits of having quality sites, using aaronchua.com as an example.
-Creating your own keyword query space that is stable: Despite all the changes in the algorithms, you will find that  'branded' queries don't change much. aaron chua is a small example of a branded query. Despite all the panda changes, I still ranked number 1 for aaronchua because google knows this is my brand. Beyond names, you can also create your own search queries such as "amazon site challenge". If these topics become popular in your community, your site will suddenly draw in a large number of search traffic because you own this query space.

With a quality site, you are in a position to tell readers about new keywords terms because they will listen to you. Let's say Frank have a gardening blog and he decides one day to try a new gardening technique called "frank's secret tip" or "soil ecology treatment" or whatever. The point is he can use a unique, and newly created term and keep on repeating them in his content and to his audience. Over time, if his technique works, people will know and will start searching about it. This is a powerful way to draw traffic that few IM folks are taking advantage of.  You don't always have to chase generic and known keywords. With a quality site, you can invent your own branded keywords and be king of that hill.

-You cut off their dependency on one traffic source. With a quality site, you can create traffic funnels from the communities that you serve. It is not uncommon for quality sites to have about 30-40% of their traffic from referrals. That is a major traffic diversification benefit that you should think of.  Aaronchua.com for example has only 40% search traffic. The rest are direct navigation and referrals. Even if i lost 100% of search traffic, I still have 60% of traffic that is independent of what Google or other search engine thinks.

- Sell your products: only a quality site can earned the trust of readers to open up the most profitable revenue source, which is selling your products. "non spam' content sites can only let you reply on third party networks. Any change in their policy that is not in your favor and you are toasted. Owning your product is the only way to minimize this risk and you need to have a quality site to do this. Without real engagement or trust, it is impossible to sell your own stuff. On this site, do you know how many people have emailed me to try and give me money so that I can coach them? This happens because I try my best to provide info that is missing from other make money blogs, which happens to be quite a lot of things. If I want to start selling my own stuff, I think there will be buyers from this site but I am too lazy for that : ).

Types of niche sites

Now, we are getting into the real meat of the post.
One reason that people resist or struggle with quality niche sites because the definition of quality is loose. What is quality content? Must it be personal? Must it be written by the owner of the site? Blah blah blah.

To me, quality niche sites can be manifested in different forms. As long as you know what is the value you are bringing to your targeted community, there is no single way to build a niche site. So, below are what I think are different models for quality sites and the kind of value that they bring to their audience.

- News niche site: Any industry needs a news type of site where the latest happenings are reported. There is no need for original reporting as the value it brings is aggregation and awareness. People are lazy to search all the news so they want a single place to browse through what is happening in the markets they care about. General news site will not be able to compete with a niche news site because they serve a much wider audience.

Even within news sites, you can break it down further to a couple of different models:
  • An analytical news site: For any niches, there will always be people who wants a deeper analysis of subjects and topics. For the technology scene, there is business insider which takes in all the news and analyse their impact on the current industry or players.
  • Hand curated news niche  site: The druge report is a classic case of hand curated news. Another example that I liked is http://fragerfactor.blogspot.com/. This is a domain blog where the guy curates the best news that is relevant to the domain industry.  Most tech and gadget sites also fall into this category as they merely take the hottest news from different sites and put them in one place. The difference separating a 'news driven content farm' and a quality site is that the latter takes a lot of editorial effect. The perspective and the message that the editor wants to share to the audience becomes an important part of the value creation. 
  • Algorithm based news niche site: Techmeme.com is the best example in the tech scene. For the domain industry, there is domainville and domaining.com. These sites display the latest news and stories from sources that they trust. Presentation here is important as well as being able to use filters and rules to surface the most widely read news of the day. Again, the focus on creating meaningful filters and presentation separates these sites and a spammer that merely pulls in content.
  • Community drive news niche site: Reddit, Hacker new etc represent this group of sites. All the latest stories and news are submitted by the community and the most voted ones surfaced as the top news.  I actually try to buy a site called the designbump.com which also works in this model. Again, the value, despite having no original content on its own, is in bringing out what the reader should read for the day. The work involved here is being able to attract enough users to make it interesting. At the beginning, you probably need to do all the work yourself and hopefully over time, there will be other members of the community to help you in submitting the stories and curating them. 
- Aggregation sites: Beside news, there are also sites out there that aggregate resources for their readers. Design blogs, for examples, typically aggregates tutorials, free resources and examples from across the web and present that to the readers. You can do this for any niche. A collection of relevant resources is always welcomed by a reader.

- How to sites: Behind any market exists a need for how to do things. These sites are well appreciated by the community as they solve the problems faced by the community. The biggest how to site includes the likes of lifehacker but there is one in every niche. From design to home making to gadgets to marketing, there is always a site that serves the informational needs of people.

Hence for any niche sites you are building, think about all the how to problems that people will face. In my mini cupcake maker example, I could write articles such as how to clean a cupcake maker, how to oil it so that the mini cupcakes don't stick, how to repair it etc. All these how to content might not lead directly to sales but they established trust with the users, which in turn might make them more likely to buy from your site.

- Reviews sites: This the favourite model behind many affiliate niche sites.

- Personal experience sites: A site filled with personal examples and experiences is always welcomed. The make money market is the most obvious example of this as bloggers will share how they make money online. Below are some tips that you can use if you want to use such a  strategy.
  • Create a goal or a challenge. These are always interesting to read and they give you materials to have a regular content series. People like series. Once they are hooked. they will always go back for more. Why do you think I create the amazon 50 niche site challenge? The power of this technique is applying in to niches that are not used to seeing such public goal setting. For example, "tasting 50 different Indian curries" if you are in the food niche, "accumulate 100k of air miles within 2 years" if you are in travel, "create 50 looks with the same jeans" if you are in fashion, "throw away 50 items to reduce clutter" if you are in home making etc. See? It is easy to create such challenges that other people will find relevant, interesting and even inspiring.
  • Share bad experiences: In this strange world of ours, bad news seem always to get more responses from the audience. I don't know why that is so but it is what it is.
  • Interview the experts: Domainsherpa.com has used this tip to great effect. One of the most common complaint about starting quality sites is that you don't have enough expertise or experience with that niche. This tip will allow you to create quality content even when you are not the expert. Just start interviewing people who have done it and you will be perceived as a valuable source. At a good hard look at domainsherpa.com and apply that in your niche. Domain blogging is a very crowded industry but this tip still works. Imagine applying it to boring industrial niches. If you want to try this, always go for the second tier experts first because they are more likely to accept your interview request. 
A final segmentation you can do is to take the model above and sub divide them into different segments such as beginners vs experts, women vs men, kids vs adults, rich vs poor etc. This will leave you with an even great option of creating a quality niche site that is unique.

The models I have listed above is not exhaustive by any means but they can be a start. You can also combine them to create your own unique voice. If you just take the time to think about it, niche sites can have its own appeal as well even if you don't have the resources that other companies have.

How to find new niche ideas or topics

To be really successful, you need to marry the format of the site with a niche that has not seen such a format being applied. Unfortunately, for established niches, most of the format will already have an established site. The easier route is to look for new niches whereby many of the formats have not been established. This is when you niche site can become a quality site for the new market and might even have a chance to grow into an authority site.

Below are some of the ways that I used to look for new niche ideas:

- Technology startups:
Startups at always at the forefront of technology. They aim to disrupt existing markets and pioneer new ones. This is why I enjoy looking at startup launch events such as Ycombinator demo days, the 500startups demo day etc. Of course, my aim is not to create a competing product but to look at the areas that they are pioneering and what kind of information needs that will arise. I will then try to use one of the format I mentioned above to create a quality niche site that meets such needs.

I think this example will make this clearer.
Peer to peer loans startups such as prosper.com, lending club etc: These companies pioneer the peer to peer market. Currently there is at least 2 sites that use the news approach called sociallending.net and p2plendingnews.com, an aggregator site called peer-lend.com/ that collects all the different loan rates from different companies, a how to site called peerlendingnetwork.com and lots of personal finance sites that talked about their goals of making money with peer to peer to loans.

If you apply the above logic to any new niches that are created by startups, the opportunities to create quality niche sites are quite plentiful.

Off my head, I am already thinking of the following niches that I 'stole' off startups:
  • Sharing niche: pioneered by all the peer to peer sharing companies such as zipcars and what ever not, there is this whole talk of how sharing will transform the economy. So, in light of such changes, you can create all sorts of quality niche sites to serve this market. How about a personal site to show how sharing things can save more money? Or a new sites that tracks all the performance of the companies in this sector? How about a review site that rates the service level of each company? There are really quite a number of great opportunities to create quality niche sites here. 
  • Motion control niche: with Kinect being so popular, the notion of motion control is getting more widely known and desired. I expect motion control to be applied in more of our daily products and hence makes for a great new niche to create sites for. 
  • Light field photography: A new form of camera that can possibly provide a radical different phototaking experience, similar to how Polaroid is entirely different from digital camera. Again, this is going to spur a lot of interest, epecially if the big manufacturers start to come into this niche.
- Google News
Learn to use Google news to hunt for the next big thing in your niche. I have done this numerous times and is now one of my favourite ways to look for new and unexplored areas. Let's see a few examples.
  • Wine & Beer: I have a wine site in the amazon challenge that is making me good money. I wanted to see what else is new and typed in beer making into google news. Just glancing through the results, I saw a new approach called one gallon beer making. This came about because it is challenging for a beginner to make the typically 3-6 gallon of beer. It also helps to save space. Hence, one gallon beer making is going be a trend as it has practical benefits. Although there are some sites covering this, you can use one of the models above to create a new value for this growing community.
  • Wireless: I have an amazon site that targets a certain wireless product. I then realised that wireless will become more and more common for new forms of devices and this in turn will create a whole new range of wireless + product keywords. I shall not mention any specific ideas because Google news will give you so much more. Same with the keyword "touch screen"....
- Industry news site
Every niche has a news site. Learn to hunt them out and see what new things are being covered in that industry. I did this for my cosmetic surgery niches and the result was a 5k adsense cheque. This technique is very useful in identifying things that people in the niche will search for but people outside will have no clue on. This means very little competition from other IM folks.

These 3 sources are my favourite ways to learn new niches. There are of course other ways but I never use them so I can't comment on them.  Whatever your source is, you must be able to tune in to what is the latest so that you are not chasing a competitive field that leaves you no choice but to build links.

To summarise, here are the main takeaways from the article:
  • Benefits of quality niche sites: going beyond Google
  • Types of quality niche sites that you can learn from
  • How to find new topics that lack information so that your niche site has a role to play


Anonymous said...

hey aaron,
most of your posts are full of good insights. I'm surprised there are not a lot of visitors commenting your blog posts. I like to think that the images you used in your posts are some kind of related to my dreams, like visiting those beautiful places, owning those fancy houses and having a night or two with those hot girls, lol!

aaronchua said...

Ha, like you liked them! LOL