As you might know, there are hundreds of ways to set up a niche site. While it is an easy process, if you’re doing it for the first time or if you don’t know what to setup, it could feel like a challenging task and even very confusing. But, don’t worry, I’ll outline below a step by step on how to properly setup a niche site. (a long post, but detailed!)
Before starting the niche site
1. Keyword study
You MUST do a proper keyword research in order to have better chances of succeeding with your niche site. Keyword research is one of the most important steps in this process and I recommend using Market Samurai to find the best keywords in an easy and fast way. If you don’t do a proper keyword research, your whole niche process will be frustrating since you will not see the expected results. See how I do my keyword research.
2. Search affiliate products and monetization strategies
This step will be brief since we will revisit it later in more detail, but it’s good to know from the beginning what affiliate products and monetization strategies are available for the selected niche.
3. Buy for a proper .com domain
As mentioned in the Keyword Research post, selecting a keyword rich .com domain will help you rank better in search engines. Avoid using hyphens (ie. site-domain.com) and if possible look for the best .com domain possible before selecting a .net, .org alternative. Domains with .com have more value for search engines. I use GoDaddy to buy all my domain names, but any domain seller will do fine. Also, buy the domain for more than one year. This tells Google that you’re not here to spam for a quick buck and then throw the site away.
4. Buy a hosting plan (if you don’t have one already)
While it doesn’t matter where you buy your domain name, when it comes to hosting servers it does have a great impact in your site’s performance. Your hosting service will affect your site’s speed and overall capacity. Look for a reputable hosting company with a reliable service. I personally use HostGator for my sites and I am very happy with them. Great service, extremely reliable, cheap, fast, and good customer service. I totally recommend them.
5. Change domain name servers if the hosting and domain are not from the same company.
This is very easy to do. Name servers tell the domain where it will be hosted. It is like matching a home address (domain) with an empty lot (server) where you will build a house (site). Your hosting server will have two name servers (ie. ns2087.hostgator.com). Copy those, and replace the ones your domain seller appointed originally.
Niche Site Set-up
1. Install WordPress
WordPress is great with SEO (search engine optimization), so using it will help you considerably. Again, I recommend HostGator since they have an easy “one click” WordPress install.
2. Install Theme
What theme you select will depend on how you approach your niche and what will you do with it. I personally like and highly recommend using Canvas Theme from Woothemes. It is literally a highly customizable blank canvas. (This site and my niche sites use Canvas, and they all look different.) Customize as desired as a last step of the set-up. Look is not that important now.
A few positive things about Canvas… It already comes with a redirect template, so you can “mask” those ugly affiliate links into a better looking one. (ie. www.yourdomain.com/affiliate). It also comes with a good contact form, related posts feature, breadcrumbs, social networks subscribe, and more highly customizable features. That’s why I love Canvas so much!
3. Install the following plugins (they are all free)
- WordPress SEO – This is one of the best, if not the best, SEO plugins out there. It combines various plugins that take care of your permalinks, sitemaps, indexation, robots meta, rss, internal links, and more. This plugin is very important since it will help structure your site in a way that makes it easy for Google to crawl and properly index your site, and it helps you create a keyword rich Home Title and Description, among other things. Since this is an extensive plugin, check out this post on what it does and how to set it up.
- Akismet – This will reduce the Spam comments in your blog or niche site.
- Google Analyticator – This plugin helps you connect your site to your Google Analytics account so that I can see all of the traffic and keyword data right on your wordpress Admin panel. (you need to first setup a Google Analytics account)
- Jetpack by WordPress.com – I like jetpack to keep track of traffic too, but it also has a combination of social share buttons, embed codes, shortlinks, twitter widget, and more.
- W3 Total Cache – Google likes fast sites and this plugin will help you achieve that (if properly configured). I admit it is somewhat difficult to setup and it can even screw up your site if done wrong, but it’s good to install it. Check this post on how to configure it.
- WP-DBManager – Good to keep a backup of your site.
- Advertisement Management – Makes it really easy to insert ads in different parts of your site.
- Conditional CAPTCHA for WordPress – Akismet is good at fighting Spam, yet a lot of them squeeze through. This plugin puts a CAPTCHA only to comments that look as spam, thus not bothering your real commenters. (you need Akismet for this plugin to work)
- Widget Logic – This plugin helps target your widgets according to posts and pages. Great to target your ads.
4. Register with Google Analytics (put code at Google Analyticator)
Set a Google Analytics account to track your users, where your traffic is coming from, with which keywords, what do they see, how long they stay in your site, what do they click, and more. A good study of your analytics will help you target your users with the correct content and will also tell you what works and what not.
5. Register the site at DMOZ
Dmoz is the internet’s largest directory system and is maintained by human editors. Being listed in Dmoz can give your site a boost to rank well in Google, because Google uses Dmoz results in its own directory. Submit you site just once, it might take months or years for them to list you. Do it once and forget it. If they don’t list you, don’t worry.
6. Register the site with Google, Yahoo, and Bing webmasters
Register your site at the main three search engines webmasters area to improve your site’s visibility. It will help them recognize your site faster and will tell them to crawl it. Put each search engine code at your WordPress SEO plugin.
7. Customize Theme as desired (do concurrent to backlinking and content creation)
Relevant Content Creation
1. Produce Home Page content
I’ll talk more about content in the next Niche Site Challenge post, but in general, create a keyword rich and readable homepage that gives your visitors an idea of what your site is all about. Keep it short, but give relevant and useful information that will entice them to stick around or give them a call to action.
2. Create more content pages and posts
Create the rest of the content in time, as you expand the site. It can be done concurrent with the backlinking process and theme customization, among others. Some pages you should have from the beginning:
- Sitemap – Helps spiders crawl your site.
- Disclaimer – Protect your tushy.
- About Us – Let people know what you’re about.
- Contact Us – So users and advertisers can contact you.
- More content pages and/or posts that target your different keywords in the title and content body.
Backlink, Backlink, Backlink…
1. Link from external pages and sites
Perform backlink strategy of choice (with your keywords). My strategy is explained in detail in my previous backlinking strategy post.
- Link Wheels with Senuke
- Social Bookmarking with SocialMarker (free)
- Spin your articles with Content Professor (free version)
- Spun article distribution with Unique Article Wizard
- High quality backlinking with Linkvana
Note: You don’t need to use all these tools, but they all help make the process easier and faster.
2. Link internal pages
Link between internal pages to have good navigability and to provide more relevancy in your site’s content. It also helps increase page views.
3. Rinse and repeat
Repeat backlink strategy of choice or alternate between strategies a few times for a couple weeks and monitor your rise in the search engines for each keyword you target. (target different keywords to look more natural under Google’s eyes). I personally use Market Samurai to keep a quick track of all my keyword rankings.
I will talk about this in more detail in a future post, but in general, this can be done concurrent with the content creation and backlinking.
- Signup for the applicable affiliate programs. ClickBank, Commission Junction, and Amazon Associates are three good places to look.
- Signup with Google adsense and put code in site (ie. Advertisement Management plugin)
- Add affiliate links in your content and sidebar
Last but not least, rinse and repeat the content creation and backlinking strategies once every few weeks or every few months depending on your competition and current ranking.
This process might look tedious, but most of these steps are done only once and are quick to do and setup.
In general, between keyword research, niche site setup, and monetization strategy you could spend maybe 5-6 hours (one time only). The rest, content creation and backlinking, are 2-3 hours tasks that can be repeated once every few days or once per week as desired.
Doing all these things properly, will help you considerably to rank high in any niche you wish to target. Some will rank quick and other will take months, but the key is to not give up and keep a consistent pace.
Quick update: On the niche site I’m working for the Travel Niche Challenge, I’m already ranking #3 for my main keyword and for secondary keywords, and the rest of my keywords are sprinklered through the first and second page of Google. Now I’m targeting more competitive, higher traffic keywords. I’m also working a few more niches, so I’ll let you know more about those soon.
What steps or plugins do you use for your niche sites, or have found that work great? Add your comments and suggestions below.