Niche Website Journal: Month Two Summary

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Welcome to the second monthly update in my niche website journal series.

This update follows pretty much the same format as the first, except I won’t be re-covering the steps I took to create my ToolCrowd niche site, and I won’t be repeating the things I did in the few weeks before it went live (you can read about these in detail here).

Instead, now that ToolCrowd has been up for a couple of months, I thought it would be worthwhile to do a bit of an audit to show you everything that I’m happy with and to mention where I think I can make improvements going forward. Not only will this be useful for you in that it’ll potentially provide some pointers for your own niche site, but, selfishly, I’ll be able to use the results to form my monthly goals and to-do list for the next few months. Win-win!

Unfortunately, as you’ll see below, this month hasn’t been anywhere near as productive as the last. I’m not usually one for excuses, but the Christmas break fell right at the start of this month, and I had a week-long snowboarding trip about halfway through, both of which cut down on the number of articles I could write.

As you’ll see though, I still made progress overall, and I’m more than happy to put in some extra work in the coming months to make up for my temporary dip in productivity!

So without further ado, let’s get stuck into the detail…

Niche Website Journal – Month Two Results

December 25th 2018 – January 24th 2019

As I mentioned in the last update, I think it’s essential to provide 100% transparency in these progress reports, and that’s why you won’t see me hiding any of what I did this month, or ever.

To continue to achieve this, you’ll see that I’ve included multiple screenshots below to back up my month two results, and you can even enter the site’s URL into services like Ahrefs which makes what I’m showing you completely verifiable.

Do I need to provide the level of detail that I have below? Perhaps not, but then I hate bullshit as I discussed last month. I hate when people fake their income reports to get more views, and I hate scammers who show you that everything will be easy provided you follow the get-rich-quick ‘secrets’ of their latest $297 course.

Basically, I hate that there’s so much fake crap out there when it comes to making money online.

The content below is my way of fighting back.

So, before I get even more side-tracked, let me show you where I get my data from.

How did I track my results?

I don’t just wait until I’m compiling these reports to check my progress – I use a combination of both free and paid software pretty much daily to see how my niche site is performing.

Firstly, when it comes to tracking the content itself, WordPress tells you the date that you published each article, and the Yoast SEO plugin includes a handy word count function as shown below.

I keep both of these pieces of information in my ‘niche site tracker’ spreadsheet.

image showing the article word count feature from the Yoast SEO plugin for my niche site

The spreadsheet is also used to tally monthly expenses, and I’ll be entering income data (once I earn some!) which I’ll take directly from the affiliate portals of the various affiliate programs that I’ve joined (currently only Amazon Associates).

When it comes to tracking hard data, for example, traffic, backlinks, and rankings, I use the following:

Ahrefs is probably the tool that I use most (usually several times a day, in fact), and it provides a handy tracking dashboard for my ToolCrowd niche website that I can use to gauge performance quickly.

Here’s a screenshot of the dashboard at the end of month two:

image showing the stats and data from ahrefs for month two of the niche site journal site

So now that we’ve discussed the process I follow and the tools I use, let’s look at everything in detail…

Content:

I consider content to be the backbone of any niche site, authority site, or niche blog, and so that’s why I’m discussing it first.

The table below shows the high-level stats for the content produced both this month and to-date:

Month Two Content Stats
Number of Articles Published4
Number of Infographics Created2
Total Article Wordcount12,722
Average Wordcount3,181
Longest Article Wordcount3,276
Shortest Article Wordcount3,001
Overall Content Stats (End of Month Two)
Number of Articles Published17
Number of Infographics Created4
Total Article Wordcount43,640
Average Wordcount2,567
Longest Article Wordcount3,709
Shortest Article Wordcount1,211

My previous comment about my dip in productivity this month probably makes more sense after looking at this table, as a quick calculation will show you that I created thirteen articles last month, yet I only published an additional four in month two.

I did mention in the last update that I didn’t expect to be anywhere near as productive this month, though, so I’m not going to beat myself up too much.

One major positive is that each of the four articles created was above 3,000 words, which shows that I’m sticking to my commitment to creating long-form content (longer content has been shown to rank better). There are still a view shorter articles on the site (two in particular that are below 1,300 words) which I haven’t had a chance to update as yet – it is still the plan to lengthen these.

I also created an additional 2x infographics to help with my SEO-boosting backlink strategy.

The plan for next month is to write between 6-7 articles and to create one more infographic.

Income:

ToolCrowd generated zero income in month two.

As with last month, I’m not surprised by this, and I don’t expect things to improve until organic traffic starts to grow significantly.

Thankfully, I’m confident that this is a question of when rather than if.

Expenses:

I mentioned last month that I wanted to keep expenses as low as possible going forward, and I’m happy to report that I managed to keep them at zero for month two.

I’ll be keeping a running log of everything I’ve paid to-date for ToolCrowd, and here it is as of the end of this month:

  • Domain Registration: $31.61 – I registered my domain for 12-months with Siteground, and this cost includes domain ID protect (price billed in GBP and converted to USD at the correct exchange rate at the time of logging this expense).

  • Hosting: $0 – This wouldn’t usually be free, but I’m using my existing Siteground GrowBig account (from OnePercentIntent) which would normally be $5.95 per month.

  • Avada WordPress Theme: $60 – This covers a lifetime of use of the Avada theme for one website, plus six months of support. (Click here to check out the Avada theme – I thoroughly recommend it).

  • WP Rocket Plugin: $39 – An easy-to-use plugin that helps make your WordPress niche site load as quickly as possible. You can check out WP Rocket here.

  • YotuWP Plugin: $14.25 – A plugin that lets you quickly and easily integrate YouTube videos into your WordPress website.

  • Infographics Promotion: $75 – This cost covers the submission of the infographics created in month one to premium infographics databases.

Total Expenses up to and Including Month Two: $219.86

One other expense that I haven’t added above, purely because, as with hosting, I use it primarily for my OnePercentIntent website and so it isn’t directly attributable to ToolCrowd, is the monthly subscription cost for Ahrefs.

I use it for things such as competitor analysis, keyword research, finding backlink opportunities, and checking which keywords I’m ranking for. It isn’t cheap (I use the $99 per month Lire plan – ouch!), but I see it as a worthwhile investment given that I use it multiple times a day to track various websites.

Again, while it isn’t wholly attributable to ToolCrowd, I wanted to be as open and transparent as possible hence I’ve mentioned it despite it not being included above.

Traffic:

As with last month’s update, Google Analytics is showing some hugely uninspiring organic traffic figure for month two.

While I had five pageviews previously, this has grown to 23 for this month only.

Yes, I’ll admit, 23 pageviews itself doesn’t sound great…but it’s actually a 460% increase versus last month – and that’s something I’m delighted with.

I don’t know I can keep that kind of momentum going, but if I could, that would be upwards of 10,000 pageviews per month by month six! Pretty awesome and inspiring.

As I mentioned in the last update though, it can take a HUGE amount of time to rank on Google, and even though I’m actively targeting keywords with lower difficulty scores (I monitor this in Ahrefs) and lower overall competition, I’m under no illusions that it’ll be quick.

That doesn’t really bother me though, as this is a long-term commitment (although higher traffic numbers and the benefits this brings would definitely make for more exciting monthly updates, so I can live in the hope of some short-term wins!).

Here is a screenshot of the Google analytics results for organic traffic only for this month (December 25th 2018 – January 24th 2019)…

image showing the organic traffic data for the niche site journal site

…and here are the total organic traffic figures to-date (November 24th 2018 – January 24th 2019):

image showing the overall organic traffic data for the niche site journal site to date

As with my last update article, you might have noticed that the Ahrefs traffic figure posted above is entirely different from the one shown by Google Analytics.

So while Google Analytics shows sessions from twenty-one users, Ahrefs shows the following for this month:

image showing the organic traffic data for the niche site journal site for month two according to ahrefs estimate

The Google figure is the one to pay attention to as it’s formed from actual data, as opposed to Ahrefs’ figure which merely shows an estimate of a site’s organic traffic based on whatever keywords it’s ranking for and how much traffic it predicts those keywords brings in.

Backlinks:

Obtaining high-quality backlinks is still my number one priority when it comes to boosting ToolCrowd’s SEO.

I mentioned in the last update that my backlink strategy primarily revolves around infographics, and this has continued to be the case in month two.

My goal ahead of this update was to get 3x additional backlinks from 2x new referring domains, and I’m happy to say that I’ve taken this even further by getting 11x links from 3x new sites. In all honesty, though, this probably exceeds what I want to achieve each month going forward, as I’d prefer to rely on a slow and steady approach to building backlinks to help avoid any Google penalties.

Here are the updated figures in terms of backlinks:

image showing proof of the number of backlinks and referring domains for the niche website journal niche site at the end of month two

I also mentioned in the last update that I was a little concerned with the fact that all of my backlinks were dofollow, as while these provide the most significant boost in terms of SEO, it can appear somewhat unnatural to have an entire link profile built from dofollow links only.

Thankfully, as you can see from the image below, I’ve now received some nofollow links which balances everything out to make it look a lot more natural, and this should drastically reduce the chance of a Google penalty.

image showing proof of the number of backlinks and referring domains for the niche website journal niche site

A problem that has persisted from last month is the fact that my backlinks are still from URLs with a pretty low rating, as indicated from the ‘URL rating distribution’ chart in the screenshot above.

Going forward, I need to make it a priority to target higher-rated websites to achieve as big a boost as possible to ToolCrowd’s SEO and Google rankings.

Ranked Keywords:

According to Ahrefs, ToolCrowd is ranking for 358 keywords as of the end of month two, an increase of 108 versus last month.

(A keyword will only show if it’s within position 1-100 of the search engine results).

image showing the organic keyword ranking data for the niche website journal niche site according to ahrefs for month two

As I mentioned last month though, while this sounds great, it’s worth remembering that results outside of Google’s top-10 get hardly any traffic.

ToolCrowd is yet to rank in the top-10 for any keyword, so I won’t get too excited by the keyword increase just yet!

Month Two / Overall Stats Summary:

Month Two Progress
Overall Total
(End of Month Two)
Number of Articles Published+417
Total Article Wordcount+12,72243,640
Income+$0$0
Expenses+$0$219.86
Traffic (Sessions)+2126
Traffic (Pageviews)+2328
Ahrefs Rank-14.6m40.3m
Ahrefs URL Rating (Homepage)+48
Ahrefs Domain Rating+1.12.1
Number of Backlinks (Homepage)+1117
Number of Referring Domains (Homepage)+28
Number of Ranked Keywords+108358

A Critical Review of My Niche Site So Far – What’s Good & What Isn’t

Here’s what I’m happy with so far…

  • Article Lengths

    As shown above, the current average article length on my ToolCrowd niche website is 2,567 words, which is ideal as far as I’m concerned. I mentioned in a previous post that a direct link was found between how long a piece of content is and how well it ranks (see here), with approximately 2000 words being shown to be best.

    I’ll be aiming for around 2,500 words per article going forward (although some may be shorter if justified). Six of my seventeen published articles are below this length, so I’ll aim to lengthen these at some point.

  • Permalink Structure

    I changed the default WordPress permalink structure to something that is a lot more descriptive (I show you how to do this here). The aim is to ensure that a potential reader can tell what an article is about from the URL alone, and I think this is easy enough to do with my ToolCrowd permalinks.

    To boost SEO, I’ve also ensured that my permalinks include the keywords that I have a realistic chance of ranking for.

  • Keywords Targeted

    I’m happy with the keywords targeted so far on ToolCrowd. Aside from ensuring that I target keywords with a high enough search volume, I’m also choosing keywords that I have a reasonable chance of ranking for to try and grow organic traffic as quickly as possible.

    Aside from analyzing competitors to identify popular keywords, I’m also using a particular keyword strategy which I’ll discuss in detail in a future post. Basically, it involves paying close attention to my Ahrefs domain ranking (currently at 2.1 as of the end of month two) and keeping the difficulty of the majority of my chosen keywords within twice this value (so ideally below 4).

    Obviously, as my niche site starts to rank between and the overall domain ranking grows, I’ll be able to tackle increasingly difficult (and competitive) keywords. Using this strategy helps to limit any time wasted writing content with keywords that are out of reach in terms of ranking – it isn’t perfect, but it definitely helps.

  • Website Design

    I’m happy with the overall design of my ToolCrowd niche site. I’ve chosen as clean a look as possible that’s also easy to navigate around.

  • Mobile-Friendly Design/Content

    The theme I’ve chosen (Avada) is inherently mobile-responsive, but I’ve taken the extra step of regularly testing each article as I write it to make sure it looks as planned on all device sizes.

  • Choosing HTTPS

    As discussed here, Google indicated in August 2014 that sites that use HTTPS would receive a minor ranking boost versus standard HTTP sites because of the extra trustworthiness associated with sites that use it. Knowing this, I chose to use HTTPS from the outset with my niche website, and while the extent of the ranking boost probably isn’t that much at all, every little helps as far as I’m concerned.

  • Providing Genuinely Informative Content

    I’m satisfied that the content I’m creating and publishing is genuinely helpful and valuable to my target audience. I’ll probably change certain aspects as I learn more about what my audience wants and needs, but in the meantime, I’m happy with it.

  • Proper Use of On-Page SEO

    I’ve actively optimized the on-page SEO aspects of each of the articles I’ve published over the past two months in a bid to try and influence Google’s rankings or click-throughs from the search engines as much as possible.

    So, for example, I’ve made sure that I’ve updated meta descriptions on each, always included H1 tags, and remembered to include as informative alt text as possible on every image.

    You can learn more about on-page SEO when it comes to a WordPress niche website here.

  • Choosing to Use a Visual Page Builder

    Besides hard work, I credit my ability to create quite a lot of in-depth content relatively quickly with my choice of the Avada WordPress theme.

    Avada’s visual page builder has drastically sped up content creation for me given that there is little to no coding needed to form various layouts or for advanced formatting, as the majority of requirements can be handled using a simple menu system and a drag-and-drop editor. Simple!

And here’s what I’m not so happy with…

  • Category Pages That Aren’t Optimized

    The Yoast blog mentions that “Your category archives are more important than individual pages and posts. This is true regardless of whether your site is a blog, an e-commerce site or something else. Those archives should be the first result in the search engines.

    When it comes to my category pages on ToolCrowd (and OnePercentIntent now that I mention it), there is pretty much zero chance of the category page appearing first for a specific keyword versus my articles.

    I need to add descriptive, keyword-rich text and perform other on-page SEO to optimize these pages as a priority.

  • Not Enough Internal Linking

    I don’t underestimate the importance of backlinks when it comes to SEO, as I realize that Google views each dofollow link to ToolCrowd as a seal of approval, and that this has a significant impact on ranking.

    The tool area as a whole isn’t the easiest to gain backlinks in though, so while I’ll continue to create highly shareable infographics in a bid to bring in more backlinks, I’ll also be looking to take advantage of the benefits of internal linking.

    Currently, there are nowhere near enough internal links on the site, and this means that I’m missing out on the ranking benefits that comes from passing link juice from higher to lower authority parts of my site. I’ll be fixing this as a priority.

  • Not Enough Varying Types of Content

    Currently, every article on ToolCrowd follows a single format – providing as much information as possible on a specific tool.

    Once I’ve published 25 items, I’ll start mixing in different types of content to appeal to different kinds of reader, for example, articles addressing common questions/issues when using specific tools, and how-to guides for completing certain types of DIY task.

  • Content That’s Too Wide

    While I’m happy with the design of my niche site as a whole, one aspect that could be improved is the width of the text on the screen. I think it’s potentially too wide when viewed on a desktop which could affect readability and put visitors off, so I’ll be looking to make it narrower in the coming weeks.

Niche Website Goals for Month Three & Beyond

My short-term and long-term goals for my ToolCrowd niche site are shown below.

Like with last month, I haven’t chosen any income-related goals for month three, as I still think it’s too early to be worrying about this.

I’ll be continuing to focus my time and energy on writing new content, creating new infographics, and finding new backlink opportunities in month three, as these will be the things that will help grow my organic traffic to the point where I can hopefully realize my longer-term goal of $500 per month by month six.

Month Three Goals:

  • 6x 2000+ word articles written.

  • 3x additional backlinks.

  • 2x additional referring domains.

  • 1x additional infographic created.

  • Wider promotion of existing infographics.

Longer-Term Goals:

  • $500 per month revenue by month six.

That’s it for the second monthly update in my niche website journal series.

Aside from posting regular updates, I’ll also be providing advice and answering common questions when it comes to starting a niche website (for example, how much does it cost to start a website?) going forward, so be sure to bookmark this page and check back regularly for updates.

Feel free to let me know in the comments section if there’s anything else you’d like to see too…

As always, if you’d like to learn how to create a niche website of your own, you can see how to do it step-by-step by clicking the banner below.

Cheers!

– Jonathan

See also:

icon header image for the ultimate guide on how to start a niche website
icon header image for the ultimate guide on how to start a niche website

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