The mistake that I am referring to is a mistake that I made with one of my first attempts at creating a niche website.
Looking back, it is safe to say that at that stage, I had a fairly naive approach to keyword research. Not only has my approach changed dramatically since then, I now know which tools make the whole process significantly easier.
The Targeted Niche
The site that I am referring to is in a pet-related niche; you could call it quite a narrow sub-niche because it is quite focused.
The specifics of this site, without giving away the actual niche, are as follows:
- It currently has 72 articles.
- This is fine but it could do with many more articles to round out the site.
- The site generates income from Adsense, Amazon and occasionally ClickBank.
- The primary income earner is Amazon.
- The site attracts approximately 50 to 60 visitors per day.
- Given the number of articles currently on the site, it should be doing better with respect to traffic.
- With more attention, it should be able to break through the 100 per day barrier and beyond. When it was being updated on a regular basis, the daily traffic reached between 60 and 70 visitors, with the occasional injection from an outreach campaign taking it up to about 134 visitors per day.
- There has been very little done by way of generating backlinks that really count.
My One Big Keyword Research Mistake
So what did I do wrong that has had such an impact?
The biggest problem was that I used global search volume as my metric rather than local search volume during my initial keyword research.
As to which of these 2 metrics is more indicative depends very much on your market and the products that your site is promoting. For example, if you are promoting a digital product then a global search volume might be reasonable. People from across the globe can easily download an eBook. There are no shipping costs.
Furthermore, in some cases the difference between the global search volume and the local search volume might be negligible. Not so with my selected niche!
As it happened, my primary keyword that I was targeting was indeed for a digital product. However, the cost of this digital product range is very high. These digital products are not in your usual $40 to $50 price bracket. In this case, the range was more in the vicinity of $250 to $800.
As pointed out by Tung Tran, the creator of cloudliving.com, many global searches come from large population countries that might not be able to afford the product that you are promoting. Residents from some of the more populated countries might not have the same need for a given product.
I was very starry eyed when I first discovered that my primary keyword had over 8,000 exact match searches per month (currently over 9,000), using global search figures.
I subsequently jumped on an exact-match domain name (another mistake that I expand on below) and proceeded to follow the usual steps of fleshing out the site with content and promoting it.
It wasn’t until some time later, when I noticed where most of my traffic was coming from, that I decided to check the local search volume. Lo and behold, I discovered that it is a mere 210 in the USA. What a dramatic difference from the 8,000 ti 9,000 global searches! What a dramatic mistake!
My Other Keyword Research Mistakes
My mistakes didn’t stop there. To add insult to injury, I committed the following errors as well:
- I didn’t check the top 10 search results in Google for competition. Yes this happened to be early days. Today, I always check the competition in the top 10 rankings. I now use 2 tools on a daily basis; I’d be lost without them. They are Long Tail Pro and Rank Tracker (Affiliate links) You don’t have to have both; I simply choose to use both and will soon write a post explaining why. In the meantime, you can read my review of Long Tail Pro here. Both Rank Tracker and the Platinum version of Long Tail Pro provide a keyword difficulty score and this I find an absolutely fantastic metric to have for my keyword research.
Anyway, because I didn’t check the page 1 search engine results when first creating this niche, I made the following mistakes:
- I failed to look to see how many of the top 10 sites had their own shopping carts (e-commerce sites).
- I failed to check if there were any niche affiliate sites making the top 10.
- I failed to check to see if sites in the top 10 were relatively low authority sites and therefore possible to ‘beat’.
- I chose an exact match domain. Since Google’s crackdown on exact match domains in one of its algorithm updates, this has generally been regarded as ill advised. Of course, there are some exact match domain sites that are still doing well, provided they are not thin sites. And this site has done okay despite the domain name. However, the aspects that I dislike most about this domain name are these:
- The domain name is way too long.
- The domain name contains the words that describe the digital products that I was targeting. I have since discovered other products within this niche that do sell but now I am stuck with a domain name that sounds irrlevant.
As you can see, I didn’t do my keyword research nearly well enough in the beginning. As a result, it has turned out to be way too difficult to monetize the site for the primary and secondary keywords I originally decided to target.
Salvaging a Site after Making Keyword Research Mistakes
The site did make some sales of related digital products but none of the targeted, high-ticket items.
As it happened, the site subsequently started to take off in another direction, almost of its own accord. As mentioned above, it was monetized with ClickBank, Adsense, ShareASale, Amazon and a couple of smaller affiliate programs. After a while, the site started to make some sales of products supplied by Amazon. Once I saw these sales starting to trickle in, I added more content that was relevant for those products (using Chris Guthrie’s EasyAzon plugin) and the product sales started to pick up.
Status of the Niche Site Today
The fact that the site has been generating income from other product-related areas, rather than the intended digital products, is some compensation. The income is meager but the site is more than paying for itself.
However, if it is to earn any more than its current $40 to $50 per month then it will need additional attention.
Some of the products that generate the most income from Amazon have very few local searches. But they are ‘buyer keywords’ and these can convert very well, despite their smaller search volume.
For example, the phrase “best product type‘ has only 30 searches per month. Most of these products are in the price bracket of $100 to $150 which means that once the 2nd tier of Amazon associate commission is reached (6%) each product can bring in $6 to $9. And as so often happens with Amazon, each customer often makes additional purchases while they are on the Amazon site.
It is possible that this site is just a $50 a month site, but I actually think there is enough interest in its niche-related physical products mentioned in the previous point that it could be ramped up to do much more.
For example, one physical product that is specific to this niche has 8,100 local searches per month and comes in with a keyword difficulty score of 31 according to Rank Tracker. Another has a search volume of 1,000 per month with a keyword difficulty score of 28. (I love seeing a difficulty score in the 20s.) It’s just a shame that the domain name is so unrelated.
The Keyword Research Lessons Learned
So, what are my takeaways from this niche building experience?
- Check both global and local search volumes for your theme keywords. If they differ significantly, think seriously about your target market with respect to affordability, shipping etc.to make sure that you use the more relevant metric.
Using exact match, local search volume is my preference when researching a niche.
- Choose a domain name that is brand-able rather than the name of a very specific product category.
- Choose a domain name that is not so long that it looks ridiculous.
- Check the top 10 search engine results, preferably with a reliable tool.
Do you have any keyword research mistakes to share? If so, what did you do about them?
Thumbnail image by digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net