My introduction to niche sites was via the dinosaur blogging platform Site Build It!
Most of you probably never heard of that platform.
It was popular just before WordPress took off.
SBI was one of the first non-coding solutions for launching a website. It was either learn how to code in Dreamweaver or similar or use something like SBI.
SBI was really wonky, but easier than coding, at least for me.
It was not open source so when WordPress hit a critical mass, SBI’s days were numbered. It couldn’t compete.
The one thing SBI did right though was it included a ton of educational materials along with the platform and hosting. It was a one-stop-solution for aspiring bloggers and niche site publishers.
I learned a lot with SBI.
SBI also knew how to sell its platform. The folks running it were very good at sales. They had to be because they were charging $300 per year PER WEBSITE. Not chump change.
The sales page that sold me featured a website that was earning supposedly $2,500 per month. Moreover, it was purportedly a site started by the 14 year old daughter of the founder of SBI. The website was an informational website about some Caribbean island where they vacationed.
The irony of the privilege of being able to write about a Caribbean island vacation hot spot was not lost on me BTW… even back then.
The site was well done. At last I thought it was. It was informational. Had tons of photos. Whether a 14 year old actually built it is anyone’s guess. Same thing about the $2,500/mo. The optimist in me chose to believe both claims were true. My naivety sometimes serves me well. Had I brushed all that off as nonsense, I may never have started a niche site.
But because I believed it was all true I had it in my mind that this niche site publishing thing could actually be a good business; one that I was well-suited for. I recognized that if smallish site on such a specific topic could earn that much, there really was no limit.
All I had to do was write articles. That’s it. I could do that.
Sadly I wasn’t jetting off to the Caribbean so that topic was out. I had to come up with a different niche.
The important thing at that point was I believed, without a doubt, that I could make this work.
Looking back, I was ridiculously overoptimistic with how easy I thought this blogging business would be.
I certainly didn’t think it would be as hard as it was or take as long as it did.
I thought affiliate commissions would be pouring in after 3 months.
That didn’t happen.
But my brain hung onto that $2,500 per month revenue benchmark.
For me, an extra $2,500 per month was a lot of money. I was burdened with student loans so any extra money would help. My cost of living was low, so again, any extra revenue made a big difference. Back then I could easily live off $2,500/mo. so it was a meaningful amount of revenue.
Still is actually.
I’ve surpassed $2,500 but any time I believe something has the potential to add $2,500 to my revenue stream, I’m game for giving it a shot as long as it doesn’t come with too much of a cost in user experience or ongoing effort.
Would I do it all over again knowing how much work it would be and how long it would take?
Yes, I would.
I wouldn’t be able to help myself.
The last 10 years building this business wasn’t merely a hobby or mild interest. It’s bordered on being an obsession.
I find the entire business fascinating. Still do. If I didn’t I’d cash it all in and find something else to do such as defend criminals or something fun like that. Yeah, I did enjoy representing underprivileged folks in the courts and still miss it sometime. It’s thrilling to win a trial (but not so fun when a client is found guilty and hauled off to the clink).
Writing. SEO. Monetization. Content production. Even website design… all of it is endlessly fascinating.
I’ve spent hundreds of nights writing yet another post in the wee hours of the night. When I got too tired to type, I’d cap the already late night reading about this Web stuff until I nodded off. I couldn’t stop.
I’m not the only who thinks this stuff is so fascinating.
I suspect if you ask anyone with a moderately successful site and they’ll report a similar experience.
And that experience will include a litany of false starts, mistakes and plenty of burning the midnight oil.
And I also suspect you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought it was easier than they expected it to be.
My goal was never X number of articles.
I had no idea how many articles it would take.
I didn’t think it would take as many as it did, but back then I didn’t think along those lines.
All I knew was this: Content + links = traffic and revenue.
Which meant all I needed to do was publish content and build links.
Which is what I did.
And it worked.
In time the playing field changed. Building thousands of garbage links stopped working so I adjusted my strategy to focus on good content.
Since then I’ve constantly refined my approach to what it is now and that is targeting easy-to-rank topics and publishing good content on those topics.
Lately I’ve continued to refine that by making content even better with more and better visuals.
But that’s merely an extension of my long-standing content strategy.
As long as I’m publishing decent content on viable topics every week, my business grows.
It has ups and downs. It won’t grow every month. No business does.
But the big picture is that simple.
It all started with one article on what is now a long defunct blog.
Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever shared what my very first blog was about.
My very first blog was a blog for my law practice which was a big success. It drove a lot of new business.
My first blog unrelated to a brick and mortar business was about tech and SEO for law firms. I had done very well with building up online marketing for my law firm and incorporating a ton of new tech in document management so I started a blog about it.
Back then local digital marketing was child’s play because most businesses hadn’t embraced it.
It’s not like I was a genius.
My foray into digital marketing was out of necessity. I didn’t have the money for a two-page Yellow Pages ad, radio or TV spots. All I had was a few bucks for a website and a willingness to write blog posts which cost me nothing. Turns out being broke was a good thing because internet marketing blew up big time without having to spend much money. While most lawyers continued to rely on Yellow Pages, I built up a huge online presence. Ironically, within 18 months, we had the money for a massive Yellow Pages spread but didn’t bother.
Looking back the attorney tech and marketing niche wasn’t a terrible niche. A little narrow for my liking these days but it offered multiple revenue opportunities from an audience not shy of spending plenty of dough on tech and marketing (i.e. lawyers).
It never really went anywhere but I learned a ton about blogging beyond blogging for a local business.
Had I stuck with that blog, my business today could be very, very different. I may have ended up in the attorney marketing industry, which wouldn’t have been so bad. I had succeeded marketing my law firm reasonably well so that could have worked. But I also knew building up a service-based business was not my end-goal.
I preferred focusing on writing and cashing affiliate checks over managing clients and getting business. After all, as a lawyer I was already serving clients and working on getting new business.
I also shouldn’t make it sound like building up my local business marketing machine was easy either. It wasn’t.
I worked like a maniac on our law blog for years. Over time, I ended up launching 4 blogs; one for each practice area and tied them altogether with one parent site.
I would practice law all day and in evenings and weekends I would work on the law firm blog writing new blog posts and building links.
Back then reciprocal link building worked like a charm. I would contact dozens of other lawyers all over North America pitching reciprocal links. That worked incredibly well. Any law firm getting into SEO back then was game for a link exchange. I was building a few links every single day.
The interesting thing even when I got to the point where I had pretty much ranked for most of the best keywords for the law practice in multiple surrounding towns, I couldn’t stop. I just kept at it because I liked it.
I liked the process. I liked coming up with new blog post ideas for existing and new clients. I liked building more links. I liked watching the traffic grow. I loved hearing the phone ring off the hook (even though I don’t like phone calls but those calls meant new business). I loved having entire afternoons booked solid with new client meetings.
I had found my calling.
I had also learned the profound power of Google, not just for traffic but how a #1 ranking made the sale before I even met with a client.
On many occasions new clients would enter the boardroom wanting to hire us on the spot just because we were ranked #1 in Google.
That’s a good thing too because I’m not much of a salesperson.
It’s not that I decided I would at some point switch to full time publisher. It just kind of happened as I kept on blogging.
Fast forward to Fat Stacks
I started Fat Stacks because I had something to say about this publishing business that I thought some folks might find helpful.
Had it not been for bloggers before me such as TheLazyMarketer.com (Chris Rempel), Glen Allsopp (Viperchill.com), Shoemoney.com, and PotPieGirl.com to name a few who did the same, I never would have realized the humble niche site could be a great business.
Even if the $2,500 Caribbean Island niche site by a 14 year old was a made-up story (I have no idea, but it was an actual website), I took it to heart and never looked back.
Fat Stacks is a platform to share another of many similar stories out there. Nothing special but for some a place to realize what’s possible and hopefully a place to learn something.
This stuff can work.
Don’t take it from me.
One of the most popular threads on the Fat Stacks forum is a thread called “Milestones Thread”.
This thread is loaded with reports of new milestones reached by dozens of Fat Stacks readers in recent months. They span new revenue milestones, article count, traffic levels, etc.
I didn’t ever set out to turn this into a business.
It just happened and it just happened because it’s something I found fascinating right off the bat.
Whether it was blogging for a local business or about law firm tech or ultimately about any number of niches I’ve dabbled in over the years… I enjoy doing it and so I keep at it.