About My Niche Marketing Journey

This is a brief overview of my journey as an online niche publisher.

Back in 1996, I received a CD in the mail for an AOL trial which began my fascination with the World Wide Web and all of its possibilities.  After a few months of exploring various sites, I had the urge to try to create a web site myself.

Now I had no design or programming experience and didn’t have the slightest clue what a server was, so my first foray into site development was using the AOL member space and their AOLPress program.   It used frames and those ugly twirly gif’s, but I was pretty proud of myself.    For the next few years, I just played around with hobby and family sites.

In 2001, I came across an Ebay listing for a “turnkey ecommerce business.”  It was some really low price like $59 and then $39 a month.   Not knowing anything, it sounded like an awesome deal.  What it was, was a stock install of OsCommerce (it was the bees knees then but DON’T go with it now . . . it’s horribly outdated.) with some tweaked code and a custom header.  They provided a source for low cost products (not resale though) and some instructions on how to use the shopping cart.

Now it wasn’t as easy as they made it seem in their sales letter, but from there I began to learn more about hosting, HTML, CSS, and PHP.  I learned how to edit the themes, install script modifications (I still shudder when I think about the mess that platform is) and addons.

I also began stumbling around the internet, looking for ways to rank higher in this newish search engine with a funny name, Google.  I started building backlinks through directories and old style link exchange requests and I gradually started building up traffic and generating a few sales.

Looking back and knowing what I know now, I actually was on the right path and starting to gain ground.

The thing about online marketing is that if you’re new, sometimes you don’t know what the start of success looks like, and that was true in my case.  You think, “Well, if I’m not making $X,XXX per month already, I must not be doing it right.”

You don’t building an online business in a day, or even a few weeks.   It takes time.

Sometimes the beginning of success doesn’t look that different from failure.

But one thing I did learn from that first site is that I hate fulfillment.  A straight ecommerce site just isn’t for me.

The benefit of that experience is that I learned a lot about what goes into creating a web site and also about database driven web programs.

So about a year later, I created a web site for a nonprofit group.  By this point, I had progressed quite a bit from my AOLPress days.  Everyone loved it.  I was already doing some contract marketing work and I thought, “Hey, I could do this as a business.”

So I did.  I started my own marketing services company targeted towards small businesses.  It wasn’t only web development, but the whole package.

At the time, the community I live in really didn’t have a good online resource of information.  There was one site that had been registered in 1995, but it hadn’t been updated in about 4 years.  So I decided to create my own and started looking for a platform to base the site on.

I came across a content management platform called “Mambo” and fell in love.  After fighting with the unwieldy set-up of OsCommerce, Mambo’s XML installer was like heaven. (The site has since been converted to Joomla after the fork from Mambo.)

I launched my community site in 2003 and went to town.  It was a perfect pairing with my business because it gave me a platform that I had control of to promote my clients’ press releases and events.  It was also a good source of new business since a number of people contacted me after seeing the site.

For the next six years I worked on my community site.  I learned about how the pages should be structured to get the best results.  How to structure clean loading pages and the best way to interlink them.  I worked on developing a list.

But in my neverending quest to learn more about developing better and higher ranking sites, I kept coming across sites of internet marketers talking about making obscene amounts of money with affiliate offers . . . and they had tens and even hundreds of sites.

I couldn’t quite wrap my head around this.  I had this site that had really good traffic for the market I was in.  When Google Adsense came out, I slapped the code on it, and it made some money, but not anything like what these people were claiming.  I tried affiliate offers on the site, and it really didn’t convert.

I made money from the site, but it was largely from direct ad sales and there was nothing passive about it.  I could not understand how someone could keep up with all these sites when it was a challenge for me to handle my one plus my regular business.

I just didn’t understand what I was missing.

There were two things that helped me get through my paradigm shift.

The first was when I took an online blogging course given by Andy Wibbels and Darren Rowse of Problogger called “Six Figure Blogging.”  It went over the basics of blogging, how to get it set up, how to make money, etc., etc.  A lot of this was old hat to me, but the one thing that Darren said that really struck me was when he said that some forms of monetization will work on some sites while others don’t.

The strategies I had been reading about that all these affiliate marketers were using just weren’t a good fit for my community site.

So I stopped spinning my wheels trying methods that wouldn’t work for that site and spent my time focusing on what does work.

I created my own promotion packages and focused on selling those.  There are two things that give me a competitive advantage in this.

First, I work with small businesses on a daily basis so I know where most of them have gaps in the marketing, I know what they need, and I then create a product that will fill it.

Second, I am very familiar with all the advertising options in my community . . . in all forms:  print, web, TV, and online.  If a new magazine, online service, etc., comes out, I get the details.  This is necessary to be able to advise my clients on their marketing spends, but it also helps with my offerings for my own site.

No one offers exactly what I do.  It’s not just about the ad, it’s what I know and how I promote it.

I often get people asking for advice on how to launch a site in their own community.  My answer is that you have to look at it as any other sort of publication.  It is not a business model that is passive where you can just sit behind your computer and collect Paypal payments.  You have to get out there and be a part of your community.  Go to networking meetings.  Join the Chamber.  Participate and sponsor community events.  The business owners have to know that you are their partner in promoting themselves and that you care about the success of their business.

So my community site had its focus, but it wasn’t something that was easily scaled and as I mentioned before, it definitely wasn’t passive.  If I stopped promoting, the money stopped coming in.

Discovering Niche Marketing

So I was going along with my marketing business and community site and I had a Godaddy account full of parked domain names that I had a great idea for but didn’t have the time to develop.  The common factor with all of these “great ideas” is that it would take a huge amount of development time as well as quite a bit of manpower to maintain.

Just what I didn’t need . . . another job.

In June of 2009, I came across an interview with Adam Short on his training course called “Niche Profit Classroom.”  The concept behind it was that you created small highly topical web sites that made money through information products, used a 21 day marketing plan to build up the traffic, and then repeat the whole process again.

Multiple little streams of passive income . . . that was what I was looking for.

They have a 10 day free intro course with free videos.  I must not have even watched them all because when I signed up, I didn’t even realize that they provided you with the information product, articles, and site graphics (a niche pack) as part of your subscription.  I signed up solely to see what the 21 day marketing plan was.

And that was my second paradigm shift.

I realized that I didn’t have to create a monster authority site and that actually the smaller ones were more effective at conversions.

So that opened up whole new horizons.  I’ve learned about keyword research, exploring a topic indepth, how to write relevant content that will pull search engine rankings on its own, and the importance of structuring your content correctly.    I’ve learned how to create backlinks with more punch and how to compete . . . and rank for . . . even competitive terms.

I still have my marketing business, and this education in the battle for #1 in Google has provided a whole new level of services that I can offer.

But while gettting a new marketing client is cool, I get really excited about getting a new website in my own little portfolio to rank.

Is Niche Marketing Right for You?

If you are looking for a way to make money working from home or want to know how to make money online, niche marketing may be an option for you.  It may be a good fit for you if you meet the following:

  • You are willing to invest time into building your web properties until they are generating an income. I don’t care what anyone tells you, there is no “buy this and you will make X” program out there.
  • You have the ability to keep yourself on task. This will be your own venture and no one will be sitting behind you cracking the whip.
  • You have an entreprenuer mentality. One thing that I see often among people that have always worked for someone else as an employee is that they feel like they have a “right” to a paycheck. Sometimes the correlation between business coming in and the ability of their employer to pay them completely escapes them. No one owes you anything and you will not be successful in online marketing unless you look at it as your own business and you are willing to bust your butt to make it a success.
  • You aren’t afraid to put words to a page. You don’t have to be an amazing writer, or even a good one. But you have to be able to put content out there. Once you get an income coming in, there are a number of ways to outsource it, but unless you have a ton of money to burn, I wouldn’t recommend it
  • You have to be a lifetime learner. The online game is constantly changing and you need to keep a finger on the pulse of what is going on out there. Otherwise, you may get some money makers and wake up one day to the stream being shut off.

All of this is my personal opinion, others may not agree.

I think that money making web sites are great way for an additional income, if not a primary income source. If you are a mom looking for a way to make money from home while stay with your kids, or if you’ve been laid off and need to find a way to pay the bills, it is easy to get started. It is low cost and low risk.

Even if you currently have a job, one thing that we have seen in this economy is that anyone can find themselves without a job in an instant. Having a secondary income is always a good idea.

About This Site

This site is based on WordPress and it is using a custom designed theme.  The newsletter service is Aweber and the little bottom networking bar is a free tool called Wibya.

Google Profile