How to build a niche site – Part 1

Are niche sites dead? After the recent Google updates, does it still make sense to build a site around a single specific keywords like “Halloween costumes for kids” or “post-pregnancy workout?”

In the last two years, niche sites have been heavily targeted by Google, mainly because of their low quality: ugly templates, no more than 5 spun articles of content, and tons of poor quality backlinks were common features. They were called MFAs, or made for Adsense, and many webmasters actually wanted their users to be repelled by their sites, so that they would click back via an ad.

What about now then? Niche sites are not dead and can still be a viable source of passive income, but a few things have changed. In this three-post series we’ll explain how to build a niche site and make it rank in Google in the post-Panda and Penguin world. We suggest you start with one, and then lather, rinse repeat. Here is a breakdown of the single steps:

What’s in a keyword?

A good keyword has high potential, which means (relatively) high volume of traffic with (relatively) low competition. Finding a good keyword is the first and most important step, and I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to do your homework with diligence. I’ve seen many niche site projects fail because of people being too eager to start a website first, and see what happens later.

Finding keyword ideas

Finding the right keyword is a mix of science and art. The first thing to look at is the volume of searches per month, as there is no point in ranking number one for a term that nobody is interested in.

Can it be monetized?

To find that out, the Google Adwords Keyword tool is still the best free resource you can have. If you’re willing to pay to speed up the process however, Market Samurai or Long Tail Pro are two very solid options. The first is a desktop application, the latter is an online tool, and they can pull a comprehensive list of terms from a seed keyword, complete with search volumes.

Whichever tool you decide to use, here are three basic rules to follow:

  • A minimum of 2000 exact global searches per month is what you should aim for, but you can set a higher starting number, 3000 per month for example. In doing that, you will likely make the research a bit longer but you will end up with keywords with higher potential.
  • Always go for “exact” match type, as opposed to “broad.” It’s literally just about ticking one box instead of the other, but it will make the difference between real and useless values
  • Also, keywords should be phrases of at least two or three words, as they are normally much easier to rank for than one-word terms.

The art of finding inspiration for keyword ideas. What terms should you paste in the keyword research tool? This is the point where building niche sites become a sort of art. The first go-to places would be Amazon or Ebay, where stuff is actually sold, and if you search for the best sellers in each category, you can start getting an idea of what a popular keyword is like.

Competition analysis

However, that’s just the beginning. Remember: good profitable keywords can be hidden everywhere, and the best place to hide something is often in front of your own eyes. So look around right now, and make a list of all the objects you see: your next niche site might be right there. Once you get into search mode, you’ll find yourself more aware of the things surrounding you, as they can turn out to be a good topic.

 

Monetization

Can it be monetized? Once you have found suitable candidates, you want to check if the keyword has commercial potential: is it sold online on Amazon, Ebay, or other affiliate programs? Do ads appear in the search results? It’s a quick check that can save you time and disappointment at a later stage, as there is no point in getting to number one in Google for a term, just to find out that there is no meaningful market behind.

Small Business SEO Tips

If you own a small business and you never worried too much about SEO so far, you will soon realize it can be a fairly complex subject to master.  You can get small business SEO tips in many places – the best thing you can do is hire a good SEO agency, it’s important to know what to ask for and what to expect from an SEO campaign.

Check out these small business SEO tips

  1. It takes time. An effective small business SEO campaign won’t give you a spike of traffic overnight. These things take time, so be willing to wait at least two-three months before you start seeing any result.The good news is, building a successful website is often a matter of momentum: once you start taking off, things tend to grow exponentially, provided you keep on doing the right things.
  2. The thesaurus can be your friend. You will be focusing on keywords that are more directly related to your business, try and look for other phrases that can be included in your content. Use synonyms, and keep an eye on your analytics to see what terms are bringing you traffic, as there might be a few you would have never thought of.Using the Google keyword tool is a way many get this job done.  Another option is Long Tail Pro which will speed up the Google Keyword Tool process.  (affiliate link – which will give you a free 10 day trial, I highly recommend trying it out…it works well.)

Know who you’re talking to. Even if the site is centered on your business, keep in mind that you are writing for an audience: what are their needs and pains? What type of help would they expect from a site like yours? What can you offer them that your competitors don’t? Try to get at least a general answer to the questions above, and don’t be afraid to ask your customers directly.

Content is forever. Content marketing has already been called the new SEO. Whereas it might be a little exaggerated, it’s not far from the truth. A constant production of quality content will give your readers a reason to come back, and allow you to cast a wider net of long tail keywords for your organic searches. Never stop producing content.

Navigation, navigation, navigation. Your site must be easy and clear to use, period. Put a clear structure in place, and make it easy for your visitors to find everything that your content has to offer. A poor experience for users will likely make them leave your site, and never come back.

Don’t rule out PPC advertising. Traffic coming from search engines is normally defined as “free,” but that’s misleading to say the least, as it doesn’t take into account all the necessary resources to produce content and make it rank. So why not consider running a PPC campaign and get some paid traffic as well. You will need to test constantly, but it can still offer a good ROI.

Keep an eye on keyword trends. What is bringing you traffic now might be less popular tomorrow. Keep an eye on new trends in your business, and be ready to catch keywords with rising popularity. The best portfolio of keywords is always a mix of core terms and more dynamic ones.

Get social. Nowadays, no company can afford to stay out of social media. Whether most of your target audience can be found on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, social media are fundamental to engage with your customers, promote your business and even offer customer service.

There’s not only Facebook. Everyone is on Facebook, including your competitors. Yet, there are less known social platforms you can be on. They will have a smaller base of users, but could be more targeted for your specific audience, and free from competitors.

Stay in touch with your SEO guy. Today’s online marketing requires a tight connection between social media campaigns, content marketing and site optimization. Make sure your SEO person is connected to your marketing and content production departments. Synergy is the code word.

How to Launch an eBook

In today’s online marketing world, you can’t just hope to plaster the web with ads, and expect buyers to flock to you with the wallet in their hands. People expect to get value first, and they want it for free.m and that’s why content marketing has become so popular.

As a result, if you’re planning to make money online selling a product or a service, the process you will have to go through will be:

give value for free –> build up a need for more —> give that extra value in exchange of money

But what is value anyway?

One possible answer is: whatever fulfills a need. In this sense, even a cat meme will work, because people want to be entertained. However, the best value you can offer is when you teach something to someone, and most of the times words are still the main way to do it.

So if you have a knowledge that other people could benefit from, you should start planning to write and launch an e-book. Although it’s no longer the one and only way to convey knowledge, the written word is not out of fashion, and virtually every niche can have a related book that provides great value.

How do you promote and sell your value?

We won’t beat around the bush here: the best tool you can use is email marketing. After “content is king,” “the money is in the list” is the most repeated phrase in the online marketing arena, and every seasoned marketer would agree.

A list of subscribers who are interested in what you have to say and offer is an invaluable asset, even better than a first place in the SERPS. Think about it: even if your SEO practices are nothing less than white-hat, your site might still suffer from an algo update, and you might lose most of your traffic overnight. However, a large email list will keep your business alive even without organic traffic. The larger it is, the less you need to rely on Google.

In this two-post series we will teach you how to successfully launch an e-book using an email marketing campaign with little audience. The assumption is that you already have a website with a few RSS or email subscribers (let’s say about 100), and that you are already working on an e-book with great content.

Announce it to the world

The promotion of your book will start way before it’s launched. If you just sit quiet and write and start promoting it after it’s out, you won’t go very far. People don’t know you, so why should they buy it?

For starters, create a landing page where you announce that you’re writing something about a specific topic, with a box where they can enter their email to receive updates about the launch. Start building interest by adding a preview of the different chapters and a paragraph.

Also, promote it through different means, for example via social media, or in any interaction you have via email with your readers. By doing this, you’ll start building a list of people who are specifically interested in your book. It might not be huge, but sure it will be targeted.

ABG: Always Be Giving (value)

In the meantime, create a couple of in-depth blog posts related to the topic you’re writing on, adding a box at the bottom with something along the lines of “by the way, there will be a book about this topic very soon, drop your email if you want to know more about it.” Whenever the posts are shared, this other opt-in form will also be shared.

Lather, rinse, repeat

With the strategy so far, not only will you build your email list, but credibility as well, which is another crucial part of convincing someone to buy from you. Again, keep on reaching out regularly to your list during the whole pre-launch period. There are different ways in which you can provide more value and build more interest:

  • keep your subscribers informed about the work in progress
  • give more info about the content
  • write more useful posts on the subject

And to know about out special tactic for launch day, don’t miss the second post of the series.

The Best Ways To Attract Ecommerce Customers

You could be providing the best products available on the web. However, if there aren’t any customers checking it out, your business isn’t going to be going anywhere fast. In order to attract and convert customers, your ecommerce store needs to meet a number of requirements. If you’re not making as many sales as you’d like, here are some of the things you should be focussing on.

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Ecommerce Store Design

The first thing you should focus on is the aesthetic beauty of your ecommerce store. I know this doesn’t have a lot to do with the actual substance of your business. However, the outward appearance of any ecommerce store is an important marketing factor. It can have a pretty significant impact on your conversion rate. You should bear in mind that the average web user will decide whether or not to stay on a web page within a few seconds. A professional design and appearance should be at the top of your list if your site’s looking a little shabby. This is especially important if your business deals in aesthetic products. If you clicked on a link looking for a gorgeous formal suit, would you stick around if the site was unprofessionally presented?

Get the word out

You should also try to network a little more. As social media becomes a bigger and bigger part of all business, this is only going to get more important. Your average consumer spends hours on social media every week. When you have an active and visible social media profile, you’ll be tapping right into a huge market. If you think it would be beneficial, it might be worth liaising with other businesses, and negotiating a joint promotion. You don’t have to set up some mail forwarding and go out to meet them. However, when you build a close public relationship with another entity, it can be beneficial for both of you. True, it can be hard to find a willing business in a similar niche while avoiding your competitors. Once you get there though, your traffic can skyrocket!

Ecommerce Customer Service

Finally, make sure you’re providing good customer care. Customer service is a massively important part to any business, whether online or not. If your customers don’t feel like they’re valued, or that they’re being treated unfairly, they won’t come back. Having great customer service will not only keep your customers coming back again and again, but will help your marketing a lot. You could run all the expensive ad campaigns you want, but word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools out there. Consumers will always remember good customer care, so make sure you have it! All of the forms and carts on your site need to be fully functional. You also need to jump on any queries or issues your customers have as soon as possible. I know running a business can be stressful, but mind your manners!

Try bringing these pointers into your ecommerce business. Soon, your conversion rate will improve faster than you can imagine! Just remember to maintain your marketing efforts in order to keep growing.

 

Clever Ways To Free Up Funds For Your Business

As a company owner, you will spend more time thinking about ways of raising funds and cutting costs than you would like. Starting a business is one thing, but keeping it going is another entirely.

Cash flow problems will occur – with alarming regularity. And, when they do, you have better have some great ideas for getting yourself out of your fix.

So, with all this in mind, I thought I would explore a few ideas about raising funds for your business. There are the traditional methods, of course, such as finding an investor, or getting a bank loan. But, as everyone knows about them already, here are some alternatives.

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Beg

OK, perhaps begging is too strong a term. But, this technique has its merits. If you have a family member sitting on a large amount of savings, why not ask them to invest in your business? The chances are they will have their money stashed away earning microscopic interest. So, offer them a better deal – it will still be much cheaper for you than getting a loan from the bank. If you can write a compelling business case for them to help you out, there’s no reason they won’t invest. Give them a five-year exit plan and they will be happy – and you will have the cash you need for growth or fixing your current problems.

Use online lenders

Need some cash quickly? Then avoid going through the bank loan process, which can take weeks – if you are lucky. There are plenty of online lenders out there that will give you a decision in under an hour. Of course, you do have to be careful – quick lenders tend to have high-interest rates to counterbalance their risk. But, if you can turn that cash around into profit quickly you can pay them back before those harsh repayment terms come into play.

Presales

If you have a new product or service coming out soon, it can be a tricky time. You need to pay for the manufacture or production, but you don’t have the funds. So, think about setting up a pre-order system, and offer it as an exclusive to your loyal customers. You can give them a 10-15% discount for their efforts, and they will be pleased to be amongst the first to try out your new idea. Take the money, use it for manufacture and marketing, and with a bit of luck, you will be up and running in no time at all.

Pay less tax

If you are looking to save money to raise funds over the course of a year, then think about getting an accountant. They will help you cut back your tax bill, and you can use the money to invest in other areas. You can also think about incorporating your business if you are currently a sole trader. It means you can pay yourself in dividends from your company profit, rather getting taxed on your full income. There’s some interesting info on this over at dividendmantra.com.

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Secondary line of business

Another option is to double dip yourself into new business opportunities. There are plenty of examples of how a company can boost its income by offering a complimentary service. For the sake of argument, let’s say your business is an online tourist guide for the city you live in. All your money comes from advertising, both from banner ads and local businesses. So, a complimentary business idea could be something like offering tours to tourists. It’s easy to set up, and you can start taking bookings straight away. Have a think about the service your business offers, and see if there is anything complimentary that you can add. The simpler, the better – you are looking for quick cash wins here.

Credit cards

If you have a good credit rating, then why not use a credit card? You could go down the traditional route of a business card, but if the rates are better with a personal card, then go for one of those instead. Look for a credit card with no interest payments for 12-18 months, which will give you the time you need to pay it back. You will have the injection of cash you need, and as long as you meet the minimum payments, you won’t have any bother for the rest of the period. One thing I would say is that as soon as your good terms come to an end, switch to another card. As soon as those interest charges start to kick in, it could spell trouble for your business.

Enter a startup competition

There are startup competitions happening all over the place these days. And, if your idea is compelling enough, it’s a great chance to get hold of some funding. They tend to follow a similar format – you pitch your idea on paper, and judges will take a closer look. Then, if you get through that stage, you will face a panel of judges to pitch your idea in person. The judges choose a winner, and you get your prize – and a lot of free publicity. Not only that, but angel investors watch these award nights with great interest. They can be tough people to approach, but if they approach you because of your idea, you might well be onto a winner.

Rent out office space

If you run your business from an office that is a little big for your needs, rent out your spare space. Sole traders and freelancers are always on the search for a good home, and many will be willing to pay a good price. Not only that, but you could find yourself with a few extra skills that you can make use of on a daily basis!

Crowdfunding

Have you heard of Kickstarter and Indiegogo? There was a lot of noise about these crowdfunding businesses a few years ago. And, although you don’t hear much these days, they are alive and kicking. They are an excellent opportunity to get a product up and running, and to make a few early sales. Just be sure to read the small print so that you don’t break the rules. Checkout this guide for more info – http://www.entrepreneur.com/