Niche Site Duel 2.0 (NSD2) – Progress Report

Niche Site Duel 2.0 (NSD2)

My Personal Niche Site Duel 2.0 Project

I’m writing this post to keep track of my progress, so that others can hopefully learn from it and get an up close view of how one person’s niche site is progressing. Unfortunately, I am not comfortable with sharing my exact URL, there are just too many lazy fools out there who would just copy my work and try to take the easy way out. While that rarely works, I’m not even gonna open that door … not even gonna crack it … I hope you understand.

Back in June of 2013 I decided to take part in the Niche Site Duel 2.0, created by Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. While the duel is moving quite slower than everybody expected, I am expecting a TON of great information to be put out by Pat when he finally gets going. That being said, there is a great community over there at that I am an active member of. If you’re interested in joining us over there building income generating websites, click the link and get signed up, it’s 100% free. Once you’re there, find me and say hello. My username there is David. The forum is great for newbies and everybody in it is extremely helpful and friendly.

My Traffic History from July 23, 2013 through October 31, 2013

Okay, here are the statistics. It might be kind of random, because I’m keeping this post published while I work on it.

LAST UPDATED: January 1, 2014 – This will be my last update on this post. I’ll be starting a new post that will track my progress from here on out.

Overall Traffic from site launch on July 23,2013 until October 31. As you can see, my site was going great, my traffic growing fast – and then on October 30 my site got penalized by Google … oh no!!


Here is the breakdown of my month to month organic search traffic and earnings.

I will update this table each month to keep track for myself and for anybody else who wants to keep tabs.


Month  Visits  Avg. Visit Duration Page Views Bounce Rate # of Commissions 
July 23 – 31 105 unknown unknown unknown 0
August 181 00:04:04 576 54.70% 2
September 349 00:03:18 936 58.45% 2
October 1,423 00:02:59 3,401 48.77% 28
November 323 00:02:16 793 60.37% 2
December 1,346 00:01:58 2,802 56.09%  21



Month Monthly Amazon Earnings Monthly Adsense Earnings Cumulative Amazon Earnings Cumulative Adsense Earnings Cumulative Total Site Earnings
July 23 – 31 $0 $0
August $1.62 $1.62 $1.62
September $1.28 $2.90 $2.90
October $48.92 $3.32 $51.82 $3.32 $55.14
November $3.32 $0.21 $55.14 $3.53 $58.67
December $40.56 $0.96 $95.70 $4.49 $100.19

Man … just when my site was really starting to take off I got a Google penalty! (Good news – the Google Penalty was lifted on December 19, 2013!)

My Niche Site Timeline – Pre-Launch

This section will outline my overall progress. I’ve been keeping track silently from the beginning, but now it’s time I share my progress.

6/1/2013 – 6/4/2013
4 hours

I started my keyword research on the afternoon of June 1, 2013. When I started I had no idea at all what the topic of my website would end up being. I already have a few camping related websites, so I used the keyword “Camping” as my seed keyword. I decided that I would like to keep the topic for my new site loosely related to my current sites so I could cross promote them in the future if I wanted. Over a 4 day period, I spent about an hour each day using the Long Tail Pro Trial Version, and finally found a keyword and topic I would center my site around.

I didn’t really even care about ranking my homepage for my main keyword because it seemed too competitive for me, but there were SO MANY subtopics and products I could write about, it made sense to build a site around. I’m counting on the long tail traffic mostly. I wrote another post about how to find a topic for your website without keyword research, if you’re interested or stuck.


10 minutes

I bought my domain name for $9.99 at 1&1. I’ve used 1&1 Internet for my domain names because they were very inexpensive and came with free domain privacy. Recently however the prices have went up from $10.99 to $14.99, so I will be reconsidering who I renew my domains with next time around. I also like how easy it is to manage your domains and they give you easy access to all settings and the Auth Code too.


4 hours

I started my content strategy and overall plan. I didn’t want to go into this project without a plan, because I find it a lot easier to get the work done and see it through when I know my end goal and the exact steps it will take me to get there. I wrote down in a notebook (yes, pencil and paper!) a very detailed plan of all the pages and content that my site would have initially, and also made sure to include the content I would likely add at a later stage if the site proved worthwhile. I created a wireframe drawing so I could clearly visualize my site structure.


6/6/2013 – 6/9/2013
12 hours

Over these 3 days, I spent 4 hours each evening designing my website in Photoshop. I like to see exactly how my website is going to look before I start developing it (I’m a web designer/developer by trade). I designed the homepage, a standard inside page, a product review page, and my interactive buyer’s guide page. By having all of these pages designed as flat images, I could see exactly how my site was going to look and it made it much easier to develop. My vision was coming to life!


2 hours

Today I installed WordPress on my server, installed my usual plugins, installed a few jQuery plugins, and tweaked a bunch of settings. The plugins I have installed are Gravity Forms, Advanced Custom Fields, Askimet, Botnet Attach Blocker, Custom Post Type UI, Google Analyticator, XML Sitemaps, Gravity Forms, Gravity Forms Placeholders, Pretty Links Lite, and TinyMCE Advanced. The jQuery plugins I use are Cycle2 for my slideshow and Cloudzoom for my product zoom view, and TableSorter to create my own dynamic TablePress like data tables. Over all it’s a really powerful system, and I’m only able to do it because of my WordPress Development Skills.


6/12/2013 – 7/14/2013
75 hours

Here’s where the bulk of my work took place. Site Development. I’m building a rather complex backend for a product review site, so my development is way more than I would usually do for a single niche site. My plan however is to get one successful site up and running on my custom system, tweak and optimize it, then clone it for my other sites. What took me 75 hours for this first site, will take me 25 hours to convert into a clone-able theme that I can use over and over again for multiple sites. (and who knows, maybe develop it into a theme that I can sell) I have all kinds of awesome things baked into my theme.

For example, when I add a new product review, all I have to do is add the new product information and I can pull any parts of the product data, specs, and information into any part of my site that I want. For the images, I upload one 1000px by 1000px image and my backend creates every size i need to be pulled into different parts of the site. I upload one image – it gets displayed in 5 different sizes depending on where it is in my site. Pretty powerful stuff. It makes my site SUPER dynamic and is extremely easy to manage and add more to now that it is all set up. 

I also developed a unique buyer’s guide. I see that tons of people are using TablePress sortable charts like Spencer Haws used in his public niche site – but I decided to tread where nobody else has before. I created a fun interactive unique buyer’s guide that is like no other I’ve seen to date. Who knows … maybe a plugin someday? first I have to prove that it works though! The initial data from my first 200 visitors suggests that it will work great, after a lot of tweaking of course.


6/26/2013 – 7/22/2013
18 hours

About 2 weeks after I started developing my site, I started writing my content for it. I wrote two 2000 word buyer’s guides, six 800 word pages for six of the brands I’m promoting, a 600 word about us page, and a short contact us page. I also added 25 product review pages with just the main product specs (the full reviews will come later). The reason I did this was because I needed at least 25 products for my buyer’s guide, but I didn’t want to hold up the launch of my site by writing all 25 full reviews on my own, I just don’t have the time or money to outsource them right now. I did create a few long detailed product reviews, you can read how to create in depth product reviews to see how I went about creating mine.


15 minutes

The big day has finally arrived … LAUNCH DAY!! I want to stop here for a moment and say thanks to my awesome wife for putting up with my hours of working through the evenings. I couldn’t do it without her support. Thanks baby, you’re awesome!!

On July 23, 2013 at 6:54pm EST I pointed my DNS Settings to my new website, and about 45 minutes later my site was live. And I waited for my first visitor and my first commission. It was such a great feeling to know that all my hard work had come together and my website was live and working. Damn it felt good.


7/23/2013 – Present

  • Ongoing – Backlinking! This will be one of my top activities until I get at least 100 visitors a day from the 31 keywords that I’m targeting.
  • 8/23/2013 – Earned my first Amazon Commission.
  • 9/5/2013 – Earned my second Amazon Commission.
  • 9/9/2013 – Organic Traffic and rankings start to pick up and improve.(49 days after launching my site)
  • 9/30/2013 – Debuted on page 1 / rank #9 for my main search term!
  • 10/2/2013 – Added Adsense to a few select spots on site to test CTR since I’m averaging 25 – 35 unique visits a day now.
  • 10/3/2013 – Made first Adsense earnings.
  • 10/7/2012 – Penguin 2.1 update bumped my site up to rank #5 for my main search term, and 2 of my 3 main competitors got knocked off the board by the update.
  • 10/8/2013 – Earned 8 commissions today, 4 items were the product that I review, and 4 were related products to the overall niche. I also earned a bit of Adsense revenue too over the past few days
  • 10/22/2013 – hit #4 for my main keyword
  • 10/23/2013 – hit #3 for my main keyword
  • 10/30/2013 – got hit with a penalty and lost almost all of my traffic!
  • 11/5/2013 – made a bunch of on-site SEO changes
  • 11/23/2013 – removed Google Adsense due to low CTR, sticking with Amazon Associates
  • 12/19/2013 – Google penalty was lifted! Earnings and traffic came right back to where it was. You can read more about my Google Penalty and how I beat it.

Ranking My Main Keyword

Old Google Keyword Tool: 2400 exact local searches
New Keyword Planner Tool: 4900 exact local searches

I actually didn’t plan on even ranking for my main keyword, I was gonna focus on the longtail traffic, but it turns out my site is quite competitive for the main keyword!

Here’s a chart of my ranking for my main keyword from 8/22/2013 through 10/1/2013. I started tracking this on 8/22/2013 when I realized I might rank this keyword. You can see it started out at rank #140, improved a bit, dropped off completely, came back in the hundreds, and on 9/30/2013, I made my debut on page 1 for my main search term!



Current Thoughts on my Niche Site and My Progress So Far

Updated on 10/8/2013

While I wish things were moving a little faster with my earnings and traffic, I’m overall pleased at the way things are headed. I’ve passed through the Google Penguin 2.1 update with better rankings and more traffic than before so that’s a good thing. In October, I’m expecting at least a 400% increase in my unique visitors, if things keep going the way they are now, I’m already over 200 uniques within the first 8 days of October. I’ve also already set a new monthly income record, I’m at $7.14 for the month and since my traffic is way up and there’s still most of the month to go, I expect it to be higher than that by the end of the month. How much higher? I haven’t the slightest clue!

Is there next other stats you would like to see me report on monthly? If so just let me know in the comments below.

So why did my site pass the Penguin 2.1 filters?

UPDATE 11/13/2013 – Bad news – my site got hit by a Google Penalty!

Truthfully I don’t know for sure, but I think it has to do with a combination of different things.

    1. First of all, my site not only has 100% original in depth content, but it’s not overly optimized. I took the less is more approach to try to avoid an over-optimization penalty. I even have about 3 or 4 pages that are not SEO optimized at all. I did this purposely to try to make my site seem more natural, since many, maybe even most websites are not properly optimized due to the fact that many people writing content for the web do not even have an understanding of SEO.
    2. My site design is 100% original. There is not a single other site out there with the same WordPress them as me, since I developed it myself. Is this a factor? Maybe, I’m not sure about this one
    3. I’ve been extremely careful with backlinking, trying to create quality links, and following Neil Patel’s Backlinking Guide.

Here are some of the types of links I’ve been getting:

    1. Blog Comments from highly related posts. These are good comments that add value to the discussion. Most comments use just my pen name, and a handful use my main keywords along with my pen name.
    2. A handful of comment body links from related blog posts, mostly using generic anchor text like “learn about” or “what I would do”, butu a few use my exact match keyphrase.
    3. A few high PR web directory submissions
    4. 1 laser targeted dofollow exact match directory link from an authority website in my niche
    5. High PR dofollow links using my full website url as the anchor text on sites recommended in Neil Patel’s guide I linked to above.
    6. I link to my homepage about 80% of the time, and inner pages 20% of the time
    7. I have one .edu nofollow blog comment link, and one .gov ofollow blog comment link too.
    8. I have links from about 40 different domains, almost all related to my site but a few were unrelated

How has your site fared through Penguin 2.1? Do you have any thoughts on why or why not you got penalized?


Thanks for reading, take care, and I hope to see you in the discussion below!

10 comments on “Niche Site Duel 2.0 (NSD2) – Progress Report

  1. sesambrot on

    Hi Dave, nice article 🙂

    You are really getting your stuff done, I like that you write down all actions you did take. I am planning to do this for my next niche site, so I can check the progress I made and to start my personal blog as well.
    Keep up the great work, looking forward to new stuff from you!


    • Dave on

      Thanks Ben! It’s definitely helping me keep things in perspective and keeping me moving forward. I like to see my progress like this .. .especially since the Leaderboard in the NSD2 isn’t up – and quite frankly, I couldn’t care less about it. The types of things I’ve documented up above are the real measure of how well I’m doing. The forum over at the NDS2 hub is great though!

  2. Nicolas Daudin on

    Hi Dave,
    I arrived to your site through one of your comments on NichePursuits.
    Very interesting post you made, and you really made me curious about your buyer’s guide… any chance you reveal your niche site at some point, or any way we can see your buyer’s guide in action??

    • Dave on

      Hi Nicolas,

      I may someday reveal my site but not for a while. I just cam back from a Google penalty and I’m putting in a ton of work on this site and want it to be as successful as possible, so I have o protect it for now until it’s more established. I’ll most likely show it someday. I can’t show my buyer’s guide either right now because the only version of it is on my site, but I’ll post about how I do that once I have a version I can show people.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Nicolas on

        No problem Dave, I totally get it.
        Today Spencer released a post about the compaision chart plugin, but IMHO these plugins are not that pretty, you know? And seeing how sweet your design is, we might expect a greatr thingy 🙂

    • Adnan on

      I agree with Nicolas.

      Sounds like you have created an awesome website design for a product reviews site. I would love to be able to look at it and possibly get you to clone the design on my site.

      Currently, I have not found a great Product review theme. Any suggestion?

      • Dave on

        Someday I’ll reveal my site … some day!! I really wish I could now but I’m sure you understand that I want it to be very well established before I do. I’m not like these other guys yet, making a lot of money on niche sites and building them publicly. To them if they make a site public, it earns a few hundred a month, and then fails – it’s no big deal. To me a site that earns a few hundred dollars a month then fails would be bad!

        As for product review themes, I don’t really know of any because I always build my own and I only have 2 sites that are product review sites.. I know Perrin used a really cool theme for his public niche site he’s building over at Niche Pursuits that sounded like it had some great features. I would recommend checking that out over at

        • Adnan on

          I understand you. I’m not revealing mine too for now. =p It’s just too risky in this starting phase, imo.

          I knew about Perrin’s site and the theme that he used but judging from this site (and that it is a custom designed) your’s sound much cooler and awesome!

  3. Dave on

    Hi Dave – just discovering your blog now, reading every post. Quick question on this one. You mentioned you use Advanced Custom Fields and Custom Post Type UI. Do you create a custom post type for your reviews? I was thinking that might be valuable, along the lines of how The Wirecutter (a WordPress site) does it, a CPT for reviews that allow you to structure the content. Thanks!

    • Dave on

      Hey Dave, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      That’s correct, I use ACF and CPT UI to create a custom post type for my reviews. The real power comes from being able to pull all of the data in my custom fields into various parts of my custom theme templates.

      I’m actually working on a new Amazon Affiliate WP theme that utilizes custom post types and custom fields. The theme will let you create you create reviews extremely fast, and pull the data into sortable tables, sliders, etc… with the click of a button.

      If you want to be notified once my new theme is finished, just get on my list! Everybody on my list will get my new theme for a better deal than anyone else.

      Stop by again!


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