Why All of You Are Wrong about What It Takes To Build and Rank a Niche Site

This post is for those who are relatively new to building and ranking niche websites. I’m no expert by any means but I have been having a lot of success lately and I want to share my thoughts about what I’ve learned. I try to help out as many people as I can over at the Niche Site Duel forum, and I answer a lot of questions beginners have.

The point of this article is simply this, to get you thinking differently.

The number 1 thing I notice is that most people just starting out tend to take what the “experts” such as Pat Flynn, Spencer Haws, and other say as law. They look at the numbers in Market Samurai or Long Tail Pro and take the numbers as being indisputable. They copy the public case studies using the same themes, plugins, and content strategies. They don’t even have a site up yet and are stressing about page juice links, social metrics, and keyword density. They are overwhelmed with information, strategies, and data. They are concerned too much about whether this is right or that is.

Now I completely understand this train of though … when you’re inexperienced you have to rely on what others tell you since you have not built up your own experience yet. I was there too, which is why it took me over 2 years to feel confident in my niche site assessments and skills. It’s okay to start out mimicking other’s success … but you have to grow from there before you find true success.

But let me also say that my latest site has proven to me that the numbers make great guidelines and help to make educated decisions about whether to enter a niche or not, but they are ONLY GUIDELINES. I don’t put too much weight in them and it’s paying off for me.

Are you familiar with Spencer Haw’s Niche Site Project #2 Case Study? Perrin followed Spencer’s advice but HE DID HIS OWN THING. he made his site original and did things his own way. He experimented. He found success. (largely because of Spencer’s help, he wouldn’t have found the success he did so quickly without that). He’s an “outlier” in the industry … in the right place at the right time. That’s not the only way though …

You truly have to gain your own experience to make the best decisions when building and ranking niche websites, and only then will you start to see the possibilities.

My latest successful website proves that there’s more to it than the numbers.

To illustrate this, I am going to compare my site to my top competitor. I easily passed him in the rankings and I’m still ranking #1.

Here’s some facts about my website:

  • My Niche has over 5600 local searches per month
  • Domain Authority: 18
  • Page Authority: 30
  • Indexed Content Pages: 18
  • Total Backlinks on Moz: 330
  • Most of my backlinks are just blog comments, mixed with only 5 keyword rich anchor text links (3 dofollow, 2 nofollow)
  • Linking Root Domains in Moz: 23
  • I’m ranking #1 for my main keyword for about 6 weeks straight now.
  • I had a Google Penalty (not manual) and overcame it just by de-optimizing my site and temporarily removing all affiliate links on my homepage, then I quickly
  • I have over 18oo keyword queries in Webmaster Tools and I am on page 1 for 80% of them
  • My site is not easily copy-able at all – it would take an experienced developer to do so.

Here’s some facts about my #1 competitor:

  • Niche has over 5600 local searches per month (same niche obviously!)
  • Domain Authority: 27
  • Page Authority: 39
  • Indexed Pages: 40
  • Total Backlinks on Moz: 150
  • At least 20 of his backlinks have keyword rich dofollow anchor text
  • Linking Root Domain in Moz: 43
  • Has been on page 1 in top 3 for over 8 months
  • His site is easily copy-able. Anybody could rebuild it with minimal effort.

So as you can see, my competition has me beat by the numbers on everything except total backlinks,  his site is about a year older, his domain and page authority are a lot better than mine, he has a lot more keyword rich anchor text links from private blog networks, yet my site easily passed him by in the rankings and has stayed #1.

On top of that, almost all of the pages and sites ranking on page 1 for my main keyword have much higher domain authority and page authority, backlinks, and are much older than mine, yet I have them all beat.

If I just used the numbers for my keyword to base my decision off of, I would have stayed away form this niche. Yet I have the top site in the niche in the US now because I took a chance and did it my way.

So why is my site dominating on my niche?

I believe that the key to my success comes down these things.

  • I only add 100% original USEFUL content to my site. (I believe that my content is BETTER than my competition’s in value to my visitor)
  • Most of my pages have over 800 words on them, my homepage has about 2000 words on it. (more than any of my competitors)
  • I have a 100% original WordPress theme that I custom coded myself, so there is not a single website out there that is similar to mine. (All my other competitors have sites that are basically clones of Spencer Haw’s Survival Knife site)
  • I have a custom one-of-a-kind buyer’s guide that I coded myself, and my visitors use it like crazy. ( They all use the tablepress plugin for their buyer’s guide.)
  • My average time on site is close to 3 minutes. (I don’t know what theirs is, but I bet it’s not that high)
  • My bounce rate is about 48%. (no clue what my competition’s bounce rates are)
  • About 40% of my site visitors click on an affiliate link, then I have about a 7 – 8 percent Amazon conversion rate, with 90% of the items purchased the ones I review. This shows me that I am attracting the right audience and giving them what they want. (I bet my bounce rate would be even lower but I push my visitors to my affiliate links, I want them to leave my site!)

My Final Words

So my whole point here is that:

  • You shouldn’t take the numbers that a software program spews out as law
  • Every niche, website, and situation is different. What works for one site may not work for another.
  • Don’t be scared of competition! Competition is a GOOD thing and you CAN beat them!
  • Don’t just read the advice from the “experts” and copy everything. They don’t know everything.
  • Don’t just mimic the successful case studies you read about, learn from them and get creative. Do your own thing.
  • A unique design and functionality on your site can go a long way
  • You should only put out your BEST original content, and it has to be actually unique and provide value to your visitors.
  • You need to put a lot of time/work into your site before you can judge the results – at least 6 months I think.
  • I only use the free Google Keyword Planner Tool, it’s all I need.
  • I don’t care about keyword density, domain authority, this trend or that trend.
  • Maybe I’m small-time and should be concerned with these metrics more – but this small-timer is growing fast doing it MY WAY. And it”s working. And it wasn’t until I started doing it my way and being original that I found success.

My Final Disclaimer

This is all just my own opinion based off my own results, maybe I’m wrong about all of my insights. Decide for yourself.

12 comments on “Why All of You Are Wrong about What It Takes To Build and Rank a Niche Site

  1. Tim on

    Well done for going your own way Dave and finding what works for you. Like you say, copycatting doesn’t always work.


  2. Tri on

    Hi Dave,
    Very nice report. You said that your site was got Google Penalty because of many affiliate links on the homepage. So could you please tell me how many affiliate links on the homepage is safe enough?

    • Dave on

      Thanks for the comment Tri!

      I wish I had an answer for you about how many affiliate links on the homepage is too much, but there are way too many factors for me to speculate. I don’t think my penalty was only because of the affiliate links on my homepage, but it was probably part of it. I’m sure there were a lot of other factors involved too.

      I did have about 15 different affiliate links (a slider with my top selling 15 products) above the fold on my homepage, so I removed the affiliate links when the penalty hit. I figured it was likely part of my problem, and it couldn’t hurt to temporarily remove them.

      Once my penalty was lifted, I added the affiliate links back and haven’t had a problem since.

  3. Adil on

    Hi Dave,

    What do you think of my website that balance between page 4 and 5 after 5 mounth I only use blog comment and directories do you think that PBN boost the ranking and how many link s from PBN do I need?


    • Dave on

      Hello Adil, thanks for stopping by!

      I’m sure links from a PBN would help a lot. As for how many? I couldn’t say because I do not know anything about your website or how competitive your niche is.

      Keep me updated!

  4. Babatunde on

    Dave… I must say, you are really creative. I came over to your site via Josh’s Form Your Future. Being creative makes the difference between you and existing and even upcoming competitors. You have triggered me to create my new niche site in a creative way. Thanks. Before I fly away, I must also say I love these final points of yours. “I only use the free Google Keyword Planner Tool, it’s all I need.
    I don’t care about keyword density, domain authority, this trend or that trend.”
    You got a new regular visitor on your web now. More of interesting post like this I seek. Keep earning more at the speed of light!

    • Dave on

      Hay, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment! That’s awesome that if inspired you to take create action and break the mold. Just remember that when you get creative, don’t totally ignore proven techniques and methods, use creativity to improve on them. That’s what I find very powerful.

      I hope to see you around my blog a lot. I won’t be posting very much until I finish my Amazon Affiliate Theme is finished and launched, but I’ll be back with a ton of content this fall.

  5. Jon Tolentino on

    You have some nice writing skills. I don’t know why but your content in this blog do not bore me but still very informative. I hope I can have some success to with niche sites 😀

  6. Shakd on

    Hi Dave,

    You got PM. Lookimg forward in comnecting with you and digging deeper on your successes.


  7. Ibrahim on

    That was a really informative and an insightful posts!

    My question is, do you use your own name in the About Pages of your niche sites? Or, you make some random avatars?


    • Dave on

      Thank you!

      I only build sites about topics that I am really interested in, so I use my own name. If I’m not an expert in the niche, I put a spin on it and be “the guy who is learning everytihng and documenting what i learn and discover”. Often, people don’t care if you’re an expert (depending on your topic), they care that you have a well put together professional website, and are going to save them time by researching products for them.

      That being said -If I was building websites in niches I knew nothing about and didn’t care to – I would probably use a pen name, and not use a photo.


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