Niche Site Case Study: Building A Meme Site
- The Primary Goal
- Why This Niche?
- How Will It Make Money?
- How Will It Get Traffic?
- Initial Strategy (First 90 Days)
- Site Stats (Running Tally)
- Short Term Goals (First 90 Days)
- Medium Term Goals (90-180 days)
- Long Term Strategy (Post 180 Days)
- Site Tracking
- As Of 2/4/19 (27 days in):
- As Of 2/21/19 (44 days in):
- As Of 3/9/19 (60 days in):
- As Of 3/18/19 (69 days in):
- As Of 4/14/19 (97 days in):
- As Of 5/19/19 (131 days in):
- As Of 8/21/19 (225 days in):
- As Of 9/14/19:
- Random Learnings
I recently started a new site in the internet culture/social media niche. Basically, memes. Like the one above that I’ve always resonated with.
I’m not sure that I’ll reveal it, but picture it as Urban Dictionary meets Buzzfeed. It’s a fun experiment that I hope will provide an additional layer of income security going forward.
The site grants me wide content latitude. I can publish on a variety of obscure, but highly searched topics, enabling me to achieve some quick traffic wins and enduring ad income.
In a nutshell, a good portion of the site curates the finest memes on different topics, like this one that parodies affiliate marketing:
Below, I’m going to provide running commentary on my site’s growth and achievements- paying particular attention to the short (90 days in), medium (90-180 days) and long-term (180+ days) time frames.
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The Primary Goal
Create a website with big traffic and earnings potential as an additional layer of income security.
Why This Niche?
- Huge keyword search volumes
- Low competition keywords
- Doesn’t require expensive content to rank
- It’s fun to write about
- Fun for visitors to read- which means more engagement and more ad revenue
- The content plays well on social- I hope that social can at least be 5-10% of traffic someday
- Another layer of income security
How Will It Make Money?
This will be a display ad play. I hope to add it into my Mediavine account once it hits the 30k visitors a month mark.
How Will It Get Traffic?
Primarily through organic search and hopefully a moderate trickle from social.
These are my somewhat conservative traffic estimations/ambitions at the end of 90 days and at the end of 180 days:
- By the end of 90 days: An average of 60 Sessions a day or greater for the last 7 days from the 90-day end date.
- By the end of 180 days: An average of 250 Sessions a day or greater for the last 7 days from the 90-day end date.
So, I’m hoping that by the end of 60 days, for days 84-90, I’ll have an average of 60 Sessions a day.
Initial Strategy (First 90 Days)
- Bombard the site with 50 high-quality, keyword-targeted content outsourced to HireWriters.
- Track the site and keywords using Ahrefs.
- Create MissingLettr social media drip campaigns for social signals and recurring social traffic.
- Acquire 10+, high-quality, editorial backlinks.
Site Stats (Running Tally)
I’ll keep an ongoing tally of significant site achievements below:
- 1/8/2019: bought the domain
- 1/8/2019: first Post published
- 1/15/2019: first keyword detected by Ahrefs
- 3/9/2019: published 50th post
Short Term Goals (First 90 Days)
At the end of 90 days, I’d like to be getting at least 60 Sessions a day.
Goal: 60 Sessions a day or greater.
I’m aiming to have 50 posts published in the first 90 days- I feel like this is a solid foundation. It’s pretty doable, even though I am doing a lot of the formatting work myself early on.
Goal: 50 Posts published.
I don’t expect to run ads on the site until I’m getting at least 500+ visits a day. My income expectations are pretty low in the first 3 months.
My other sites bring in a healthy amount, so I have the luxury of patience when it comes to the site’s earnings. Plus, it’s hard to project what the ad CPM will be on this content until Mediavine, which I use to manage my ads, begins running them. In terms of earnings, then, I’m going to say that I don’t expect to earn anything within the first 6 months.
This might change as it progresses- perhaps the site acquires traffic a lot faster than anticipated, or maybe I get curious and decide to insert some ad units myself when I’m only at 60 visits a day.
Goal: No income.
Medium Term Goals (90-180 days)
Hopefully, I’m getting at least 250 Sessions a day by this point.
Goal: 250 Sessions a day or greater.
After the 90 days is up on April 8, 2019, and certainly, as I approach that point, I’ll have a better sense of the content that I want to create. I’ll see what keywords have achieved organic traction. Perhaps I’ll see what social media posts get social traction. This will orient my content creation going forward.
Goal: 25 more posts for a total of 75.
As I’ve mentioned, my goal is to get the traffic up to 1,000 visits a day. At which point, I’m confident that Mediavine will accept it into their managed portfolio.
I have no idea what sort of CPM I’ll be earning. If I’m earning a $20 CPM, with 1,000 visits a day, that’s a $600 a month site. Going from 1,000 visits to 2,000 visits in this niche won’t be that hard considering how uncompetitive the SERPs are- so that would be a realistic $1,200 a month if I could double site traffic say ~3 months after achieving 1,000 visits a day.
Understanding the site’s earning potential will help me decide how much more effort I should put into it.
Goal: No income yet (unless traffic exceeds expectations).
Long Term Strategy (Post 180 Days)
Goal: 500 Sessions a day or greater.
Goal: 25 more posts for a total of 100.
Assuming I’m getting at least 500 Sessions a day, and I’m able to get turn on the Mediavine ads, I’m hoping for $15 a day for a $465/month earnings.
As Of 2/4/19 (27 days in):
As Of 2/21/19 (44 days in):
17 days after my last update, Organic Keywords have increased from 206 to 1,219. It’s a nice increase, but you can see that the majority of keywords are in the #11-100 range, so I’m not seeing a lot of traffic, despite the seemingly dramatic increase in keywords.
That’s expected, however. I expect to see some keywords eventually hit the #1-#10 range as the site ages.
Especially because so many of the top 10 results in this niche are so low quality- duplicate content, Twitter & Instagram hashtags, etc.
As Of 3/9/19 (60 days in):
After another 16 days, Organic Keywords more than doubled to 2,896:
I haven’t been as active with the site in the last couple of weeks, but all the content that I published has slowly been saturating the Search index. I currently have 50 posts published- so I’ve already hit my goal of 50 published posts in the first 90 days within the first 60.
Traffic still isn’t that great- and I’m not sure I’ll be getting 60 Sessions a day within 90 days, which is 30 days from now. Below, I’ve screenshot my traffic for the past 30 days from 3/8/19:
I’ve got 448 sessions over 30 days- which averages out to 15 visits a day. However, the last 3 days from 3/8/19 I’ve been averaging 30 Sessions a day. I’ve got 30 days to double that to reach my target of 60 Sessions a day.
There are also a ton of ‘scraper’ sites that are linking to me. I’m not sure whether this helps- if Google factors them in positively, negatively, or indifferently. In a lot of cases, these scraper sites are linking to image upload URLs.
Overall, I’m fairly pleased with how thing are going. Probably the biggest positive is that the site content is amusing to me. At this point in my site building career, that really matters to me.
I don’t have the intellectual stamina to rank and bank some lucrative but boring niche. The priority for this project was to work on content I find interesting and amusing.
As Of 3/18/19 (69 days in):
After another 9 days, Organic Keywords surged from 2,896 to 5,202. That’s an increase of 2,306 keywords in just over a week. That’s an 80% increase:
I’ve also had a surge of traffic in the last several days:
One post, in particular, has really taken off- you can see below that’s accounting for almost 50% of all traffic:
While the traffic is great- I’d prefer to see a more distributed traffic pattern. But, it’s still really early days and I know that eventually some of the other content will rise to first-page rankings.
The last 3 days I’ve been averaging 117 Sessions. If that traffic pattern holds, I’ll have almost doubled my goal of achieving 60 Sessions a day by the end of 90 days.
As Of 4/14/19 (97 days in):
I was inspired to post an update after checking out yesterday’s Analytics stats:
As you can see, there’s a huge surge of traffic, primarily Organic, on the 13th of April.
When I saw it, I immediately knew why. It’s because one of my top posts shows people how to stream NBA games on Reddit (a social platform, hence the tie-in) for free.
And, if you’re a basketball fan like me, you’re probably aware that the NBA playoffs started yesterday. Viewership is surging and everyone’s trying to watch these high stakes games- especially with some exciting endings on the first day:
The traffic spike is awesome- though it’s obviously very seasonal traffic.
To accommodate that, a while ago I did similar streaming sports posts for all the major sports. So hopefully when baseball picks up I’ll see similar traffic numbers to that post.
Regarding my Organic Keywords, I’ve seen large surges there, too:
Since my last update 28 days ago, I’ve acquired 4,004 more Organic Keywords. The numbers might look gaudy, but it hasn’t translated into amazing traffic figures until yesterday’s massive, seasonal traffic spike.
That’s mainly because most of my rankings are idling a bit too far down in the SERPs:
The image above is from Ahrefs and, according to their brief explainer, “shows how frequently the keywords that a target website or URL is ranking for change their rankings over time.”
You can see that a glut of my keywords are rankings are sitting at the bottom of the 1st page of Google in position #10 and beyond.
That’s not too distressing, though- I anticipate with more site age and link acquisition I’ll see those rankings rise.
Some Bad News: AdSense Rejection
This case study wouldn’t be any fun if I didn’t experience any adversity along the way, right?
I had decided to get the site approved for AdSense and begin monetizing a bit. I knew it wouldn’t be a big earner with such modest traffic numbers, but it would incentive me to keep plugging away at the site if I had some earnings rolling in.
After almost a week, I received the following rejection inside of my AdSense account:
It’s a “Valuable inventory: Scraped content” rejection. Apparently, when they reviewed my site for AdSense approval, too much of the content looked like it was scraped.
I’m not sure if this was a manual or automatic review, but I can definitely see how it would look that way.
While I’m not scraping content, I am doing large, embedded listicle posts, and sometimes there’s not a ton of content beneath each image embed.
I always make the content fairly text heavy at the top and bottom of the posts so I acquire the Organic Keywords I’m targetting, but there are middle sections of the content that have very little text. Just image embeds with H3 headers.
I take a lot of inspiration from Buzzfeed- and you can see a similar format on one of their posts “These 15 Kids Are 100% Smarter And 100% More Clever Than You’ll Ever Be“:
The rejection was deflating/annoying. I was reading through the Google Product Forums that AdSense is rejecting a lot of sites these days.
I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to do about the AdSense rejection. One thing I could do is significantly beef up the image embed listicles with a lot of text and then reapply. I could also find an AdSense alternative- I’ve heard good things about Monumetric, but I would need more traffic before I apply there.
Their traffic requirements start at 10,000 Page Views a month and I’m at 4,085 for the last 30 days, so I would need to triple my current Page Views to even be considered.
I used the Ad Inserter plugin to insert some top-performing Clickbank ads into my content, but that hasn’t yielded any results yet and I’m considering removing them.
Going forward, I think I’m going to target some more sports-streaming keywords and keep building links to the site. It has a lot of content already, so I think my time is best served acquiring some high DR links to push existing keyword rankings up a bit in the SERPs.
As Of 5/19/19 (131 days in):
It’s been over a month since my last update. I haven’t done much with the site in that time. I keep track of its progress within Ahrefs- it gained ~500 keywords since my last post, so a bit of a plateau:
and every so often I check in on Google Analytics to see how many daily sessions I’m getting:
My goal was to hit 250 Sessions a day or greater by 180 days- and I’m averaging 313 over the last 30 days. So that’s definitely good.
The only concerning thing, though, is that the bulk of my traffic is coming from one very seasonal (NBA-related) post. When the NBA season ends in a few weeks traffic figures are going to drop like a rock.
I recently trained one of my writers how to produce content for the site, so I now have a dedicated contributor producing content.
While I like the site and the concept, I’d like to have ads running on it so that I can see the revenue rolling in, which is always exciting.
It’s almost at the point where I can contact Monumetric, but once NBA basketball stops and my top post loses traffic, I’m anticipating that the site hemorrhages a good deal of users.
The Clickbank Ads that I manually inserted haven’t yielded any results. I removed those and instead joined the Fanatics affiliate program. I created a product feed inside of Shareasale and embedded that on my NBA basketball post that gets all the traffic:
I haven’t earned anything from that either. I’m not necessarily discouraged, I knew that going in this is a long-term investment.
Especially when it comes to display ads and organic search, I’m going to need at least 25,000 sessions a month for three months in a row just for Mediavine to run ads on my site. And I knew that going in.
If the site was monetizing with affiliate marketing, I would definitely have seen some earnings by now. However, I made the decision to monetize with display ads early on, which require a lot more traffic.
I already have a pretty big affiliate site, so I wasn’t as interested in going down that road. I was really mesmerized by the huge traffic opportunity in this niche, but some of the keywords I’m targeting, I’m just not ranking high enough to be getting traffic. You can see some of the keywords I’m targeting below:
I’m not even in the top hundred for some of them. This doesn’t make much sense to me- this should improve with time as the site ages and becomes more authoritative.
It’s a good lesson, though, for novice site builders. It might be that if you’re looking to make money online, you can definitely learn faster by doing affiliate marketing. You don’t need as much traffic to see some earnings as you do with display advertising. I can’t even get an ad running on my site right now until I’m able to demonstrate higher traffic numbers.
As Of 8/21/19 (225 days in):
Some Depressing Stats
(Last 28 Day Stats)
As well, Ahrefs shows some big keyword dropoffs:
It’s been a while since I updated this case study. The site hasn’t grown as well as I would have liked in the past couple of months.
It also suffered some big keyword losses for ‘streaming’ keywords. For example, I was profiling where you can watch certain sports on Reddit- so ‘NBA Reddit streaming’ type of keywords.
Many of those keywords have large volumes and long tails, but Google seems to be demoting my rankings for these types of searches on this and another of my sites.
Poor Content Quality?
As well, reviewing some of my content, it could be a bit longer and robust. I also think that instead of using embeds, I’m going to experiment with switching to pasting in images.
Since many of the images are memes, I don’t expect there to be copyright violation issues. I’m thinking that with more images on the page, it might be better overall for on and off-page SEO.
- More new content
- More social signals
- Improve old content
I’m going to take another run at the site this current week- I’ve been hiring some new writers over on UpWork, trying to get them at a $10 for 500 words (or less) rate.
I’m also going to activate some MissingLetter social media drip campaigns.
On top of that, I’m going to go back through some of the content, supplement it and republish it. I found a writer who’s fairly decent and is currently $6 for 500 words.
It’s hard to believe that the site is 225 days old. It has definitely underperformed…
As I’ve touched on a little bit above, some of the keyword losses were only for specific types of ‘streaming keywords’. But some of the other content just doesn’t rank for some reason. I also think that I rushed a lot of the content, overestimating how easy it would be to rank.
In addition, some of the seasonal, sports-related content doesn’t get traffic in the offseason. It’s likely that when basketball, for example, picks up that I will see a resurgence in traffic to page. When I created one of my other sites, a DIY site, eventually I got kind of bored of it.
The content took so much time to create and I wasn’t seeing fast enough to pay off for my effort so I basically abandoned it.
Over time, however, the site began to slowly acquire some decent organic traffic and now it is my third most profitable website. I’m hoping something like that happens here.
This week I’m languishing some love on the website, Adding new content and enhancing old content.
I have so many different projects and tasks on a day-to-day basis that my focus will sometimes shift for too long from a site like this that isn’t earning any money yet. But I have not given up on it I’ve been I think it just needs a makeover.
As Of 9/14/19:
True to my word, I have been doubling down on this website the past couple weeks. Here are some things that I have done:
- I hired a writer to add more content and images to published posts. I then republished the posts with a new publication date.
- I bought the Link Whisper Plugin to do some manual internal linking.
- I set up SocialBee to auto post from my site’s RSS- so there are continuous social signals.
- I hired a new writer to produce more long-form content.
- I finally got around to adding a logo to the website.
- I’m also planning on having my virtual assistant convert Instagram/Reddit/Twitter embeds and replace them with actual images. I think that this will help with on-page SEO.
Overall, I’m somewhat frustrated with progress so far. My instinct is to keep publishing content on the site, maybe 5 posts a month. and I think I’ll let the site sit for a while. Sometimes when it comes to organic traffic, a watched pot never boils.
I’m also going to share some scattershot learnings and observations as I go along.
There are so many anime and pornography keywords- it’s absolutely stunning. I’m talking massive six-figure search terms for weird fetishes and other bizarre terms. I see massive brand websites that position themselves as hubs of high-minded content ranking for the lowest, most base keywords.
Sometimes it’s incidental. For example, an article incidentally mentions a weird keyword term or concept and it ends up ranking purely because they have a huge Domain Rating.
Other times, they’re outright gunning for these weird terms just for the traffic- no shame in that. Just an observation along the way.
I’m a big fan of Reddit. I’ve subscribed to 100+ subreddits. Every day I get a curated feed of random interests. It spans from pictures of cool BMWs:
To dogs practicing ‘barkour’:
My social site enables me to write about fun and interesting content- like what I’m already reading on Reddit.
It’s a lot different than some of the other sites that I own. One of the primary ones is a general product review site. It was my first big earnings and traffic win, but a lot of the content is somewhat dry.
Another site is in a technology niche. While I’ve enjoyed the process of content creation and the income its generated, the content is really dull.
This social site provides some interesting new opportunities. As I’ve matured as a site publisher, it’s become more important to me to expand beyond the traditional rank-and-bnak content model.