First of all, what is a micro-niche site, exactly? Quite simply, a micro-niche website (or blog) is a website that focuses in a very specific market. For example, if you were to build a micro-niche site in the weight loss industry, you might choose to develop a site that focuses specifically on one particular fad diet. Many micro-niche sites will also focus on travel destinations such as Door County, Wisconsin or Telluride, Colorado. In other words, micro-niche sites usually go after very targeted areas that have limited competition, but still have a fair amount of people searching for information about that particular niche. This enables a marketer to develop sites to rank for lower competition keywords.
Unfortunately, while there are still some micro-niche sites that are profitable, this tactic has become a bit outdated and no longer works as well.
How Micro-Niche Sites Used To Work
Prior to the Google Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, micro-niche sites were extremely popular because for a while, they were very profitable and relatively easy to build. Here’s how the process would work…
Buy An Exact Match Domain Name – The first step of building a micro-niche site used to entail finding an exact match domain name. If I were to build a website about the regional tourist destination of Door County, Wisconsin, I would ideally find the domain name DoorCountyWisconsin.com. Several years ago, the mere fact my domain name was DoorCountyWisconsin.com would substantially help me rank highly in Google for the search term “Door County Wisconsin”.
Create About 25 Keyword Focused Content Pages – Once the domain name was registered, I would start creating some keyword focused content pages for the site. I would use keyword research tools such as WordTracker.com and find out what people are searching for as it relates to Door County, Wisconsin. Some pages I would set up would include:
- Door County Wisconsin Hotels
- Door County Entertainment
- Restaurants in Door County Wisconsin
- Door County Wisconsin Night Life
- Door County Wisconsin Airport
- Driving To Door County Wisconsin
- Go-Karting in Door County Wisconsin
…And as many other tourist / travel centered keywords that are specific to Door County, Wisconsin. Once I had around 25 of these keyword focused content pages live on the site, I would be ready for the next step.
Link Building – Prior to the Google Panda and more specifically, the Google Penguin updates around 2011, a very common method to rank a website highly in search engines was to purchase links from a link building service. These services would go out and publish thousands upon thousands of links across different websites, commenting sections, and other areas. These links would also contain the exact words I wanted to rank for in Google (like Door County Wisconsin Hotels). As these thousands of links were rolled out over a period of a few weeks, the pages on the site would begin to rank well in Google.
Place Ads And Affiliate Offers On The Site – Once the site began to rank well by using the above methods, it was time to monetize. This is where the website owner would place display ads or affiliate marketing advertisements on their site to capitalize on the traffic their micro-niche site was receiving every day. Affiliate programs in the travel industry are very profitable, so in this example, a website owner might partner up with the many travel affiliate programs that are out there and start collecting commissions for referrals.
Get Penalized – Eventually, whether it was a few weeks, a few months, or even a year, Google would penalize the micro-niche site for violating Google’s search policies. Building artificial links has always been considered black hat SEO and once Google would find out about it, the site would be delisted from the search results. Several years ago, this was expected and was just a part of doing business.
Rinse & Repeat As Necessary – Now that the micro-niche site was delisted by Google, it would be time to start all over again. You could choose the same exact micro-nice, or you could choose another one and just repeat the same process all over again. This was known as the “churn and burn” method and it was very profitable for several years.
Are Micro-Niche Sites Still Profitable Today?
Sadly, no, they are not. I say “sadly” only because they were extremely easy to get up and running. Someone could start a site today and be making thousands of dollars monthly in just a few weeks. The more micro-niche sites that were built, the more you would learn, and the faster you could build them.
The reason Google finally cracked down in 2011 is because micro-niche sites started to harm the search results due to the spammy nature of these micro-niche sites. Most owners of micro-niche sites didn’t really have the website visitors best interests in mind. They were providing low quality information and used many tactics to just get people to click on their affiliate links or advertisements and make a profit. It reached a point where something had to be done, and Google dropped the hammer down.
Can micro-niche sites still be profitable at all? Actually, yes they can. There are still a lot of people with micro-niche sites that are still extremely profitable, but a lot of luck comes into play and most of them no longer use some of the methods above such as link-building tactics. You just have to find the right micro-niche at the right time and have the right affiliate promotions that convert well. However, the number of micro-niche sites that are profitable is falling every year and if you want to build a micro-niche site, you are going against the trend.
The Best Alternative To A Micro-Niche Site
The real winners today are those who have build what are called “authority websites”. These are websites that may go after a smaller niche segment, but still provide real value to those who visit the site. Take this website for example. I am competing in the extremely competitive “make money from home” niche, but I fine tuned that even more. This could be considered a micro-niche site as I specifically target those who want to become affiliate marketers.
However, instead of simply building a 20 page site and focusing my efforts on link-building, I have written hundreds of articles on this site over the past 18 months and I now reap the rewards of a profitable site by bringing in a lot of traffic from Google and other search engines. Most of the search engines will track a users behavior once they are on the site. They find out how long the visitors stays there, how many pages they viewed, the amount of time spent on the site, and other factors to determine if visitors really are happy with the quality of the search results. If the metrics are good, Google will send more traffic over time. If they are bad, I will start to see a decline.
While there are still some link building methods and other outdated methods that still work, the best way to build a real asset and business online is to truly develop a site that provides high quality, free information that both people and search engines love. You must give before you can expect to receive.