I’m currently on the verge of leasing a 2021 BMW m340xi.
I’ve been driving the same hand-me-down, 2007 Camry XLE for over 6 years now.
I’ve been deliberating on pulling the trigger for a year at least- hesitating on a somewhat extravagant purchase.
Naturally, I’ve pored over tons of car blogs and instinctively evaluated their keyword rankings and monetization.
So, if you’re interested in starting a car blog– this niche report demonstrates how I’d approach building a profitable, automotive authority site.
Top Car Blogs
To give you an idea of the big players, I used Ahrefs to extract Car And Driver’s top organic competitors.
|Target||Domain Rating||Total Backlinks||Total Keywords||Total Traffic|
Edmunds sits atop the organic traffic heap- but there’s a ton of traffic to go around.
What I’d Do
If you’re obsessed with cars and want to start a car blog, the first thing I’d do is perform some keyword research.
Below, you can see I extracted 1,000 of Car And Driver’s top-performing organic keywords:
Car And Driver Keywords
Examine The Themes
You can see that they rank for types of cars (“tesla truck”), styles of cars (“best midsize suv 2019”), and informational queries (“what is a hybrid car”, “how much does it cost to paint a car”).
Choosing A Niche
Eyeballing the keywords, here are several different type of sites I’d consider building:
- Focus on a brand: BMW, Mercedes, etc. and target all brand-related keywords
- Create a general site specializing in automotive queries like “how long do tires last”
- Specialize in a type of car like SUVs, classic cars, or supercars
- Publish an image-based, destination site ranking for things like “bmw car pictures”
- Hyper-specialize in something like car tires, windshields- you can potentially target lucrative lead-gen deals on things like windshield replacement
You can see there are some interesting directions.
For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re really into the BMW brand like I am.
Using Ahrefs, I can filter Car And Driver by the keyword term “BMW” to see all of the different BMW keywords that they rank for:
Again, it’s mostly car types.
Using Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, I double-clicked into the “BMW i8” keyword:
You can see a (1) huge Global Search Volume with a massive, international long-tail. 22% of the search traffic is from America- but the rest of the searches come from non-U.S. countries.
BMWUSA.com (2) ranks for the top 3 spots, followed up by huge car blog brands like Edmunds.com.
You can also see (3) that 83% of clicks are organic, with a pretty high proportion of paid traffic clicks (17%).
Behind The Scenes Of A BMW Blog
Luckily, at the time of this writing, there was an actual BMW blog up for sale on Flippa. This provides a lot more data about the car blog niche:
You can see some interesting earnings and traffic information (1 & 2); traffic channels (3); seller information (4); and a comments section (5), where I’ve chimed in, wondering where the imagery comes from:
The site has some pretty decent rankings. Earnings aren’t huge. Looking at the AdSense revenue in the included documentation, it’s making $10.61 RPM per page.
If the site was in Mediavine or AdThrive, it’d be making a lot more. Amazon is doing well, converting at 17%, which is a really big number- but not a ton of clicks.
But the site could do a lot more with affiliate marketing- perhaps experimenting with TrueCars’, AutoZone’s or eBay Motor’s affiliate program.
Social is pretty neglected as well- it’d be easy to curate BMW car content across Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest and get some decent traffic.
Starting A BMW Blog
Say I wanted to start a general BMW blog, I’d spend some time examining how other sites structure their blog posts.
Over on Driving.ca, you can see that they have a dedicated i8 ‘overview’ page, with links to other categories like News & Reviews, Pricing, and Specs & Safety:
So the structure of their site is:
- a big BMW category page
If I was running a BMW blog, I’d build an i8 Overview page with a Category feed of i8 content at the bottom.
That would be an easy way to start building out silos of content. And I’d link to the i8 Overview page from the site Menu.
You could build out silos of BMW car content like that.
Here’s another, more modest example of car blog site structure:
It’s important to really think through site structure because it is going to inform your content creation, traffic acquisition, and influence user experience on your site.
Staying with the i8 example, you could have an i8 Category in WordPress with subcategories for i8 news, rumors, pictures, etc.
Car content has viral social media potential. I’m not suggesting you compete as another struggling car vlogger.
Instead- it’s actually pretty easy to create slideshow videos like the one below using Animoto:
I’d experiment churning out fun, viral listicle videos like this- if just one of them hits, you’re looking at a ton of traffic you can siphon back to your site.
Or even monetize with YouTube if your subscriber base and view count get large enough.
Pinterest is another social media traffic source that can light up your Analytics with sessions overnight.
Which is great because SEO traffic to a new site takes forever.
Check out BMW Fiend on Pinterest. There aren’t a lot of BMW accounts on Pinterest- it’s pretty wide open:
Search Engine Optimization
Of course, there’s SEO.
Staying with the i8 example, to start, I’d target really low competition keywords like “bmw i8 interior”, which has a Keyword Difficulty of 1 with a volume of 2,100 Google searches a month.
I’d begin filling out the i8 content silo with articles- you’ll need to use your best judgment about which keywords should be standalone articles, and which ones should be folded into a larger topic.
You just want to be careful you don’t ‘cannibalize’ your keywords by publishing overlapping content. Try using something like Surfer SEO to optimize your content for Google search engine discoverability.
If you’re running an car enthusiast site, I’d expect a pretty high email opt-in rate.
This is especially true if you’re publishing timely news content.
Buying or leasing a car is a highly deliberative process- so pushing traffic to Carvana or Autotrader is going to have a really low conversion rate.
That said, it’s definitely worth capturing emails, if only to increase the sale value of your site should you decide to divest at some point.
When it comes to monetization, it will be a mixture of display ads and affiliate marketing.
Ads are simple enough. Once you’re generating some decent traffic, you can apply to Mediavine or Adthrive. Those two networks have relatively large traffic requirements, so until you meet their criteria, you can apply to Google AdSense or Ezoic.
On the affiliate side of things, the opportunities will vary depending on the angle of your car blog. For example, if you are reviewing cars like Top Gear does, you can see that there are three different things they promote in the sidebar:
One is a used car Marketplace, the second is a car financing solution, and the third connects users to car manufacturers:
Autoblog.com promotes TrueCar. For example, on this BMW i8 review, they serve this pop-up ad that redirects to TrueCar.
And you can see that MotorTrend promotes State Farm:
It’s not important to have your affiliate monetization figured out from day one. The first focus is getting traffic.
Once you have some traffic to play around with- then you can begin integrating affiliate offers.
Other Car Affiliate Programs
- Carvana affiliate program
- Autotrader affiliate program
- Goodyear affiliate program
- CardsDirect affiliate program
There are a bunch of automotive affiliate programs- this isn’t an exhaustive list. If I were in this niche, I’d build out a Google Sheet documenting all of the different offers, their payouts, and my application status with them.
Once you have some traffic to play with, you can experiment with running offers using Convertbox, using popups, fly-ins, and banners to push traffic to different offers.
What I Like
- Fun, visual niche with lots of traffic potential through SEO/social
- Great passion project- you won’t get bored publishing car content if you’re an enthusiast
- Great for ads- though, the less non-U.S. traffic, the better
Read More Of My Niche Reports
What I Don’t Like
- Affiliate opportunity is somewhat scattershot- I’m not seeing the big players consolidated around one single, stellar affiliate program
- I’d do some due diligence regarding images before I jump into a particular car niche- you want to have free/cheap access to legal pictures. You can use Instagram embeds- but the embed code is messy + the embed images disappear if it’s deleted from Instagram
- It can be pretty competitive- especially if you don’t make a legitimate effort on social and only prioritize SEO