This is one of the most enjoyable Fat Stacks posts I’ve ever written.
Because it delves into some really interesting numbers about my niche blog business which has enabled me to scale very quickly and will continue to scale for years.
In fact, after crunching these numbers (I’ll step you through below), I was really excited about the future potential of one of my niche blogs. The potential is awesome because as long as I keep doing what I’m doing, it will earn more at a faster and faster rate.
This post sets out the 2 simple ways I scale up my authority niche websites.
The Key to Scaling Fast
The key to scaling any business is developing a system or model with which I invest $1 and earn a positive return such as $2. That’s it.
Yes, you can scale by leveraging time by outsourcing, but when you boil that down, leveraging time must result in a positive ROI. Essentially, leveraging your time by outsourcing or hiring people to help you is investing $1 hoping to earn a profit on that $1.
Fortunately with niche sites, I’ve been able develop 2 systems for scaling profits. This post sets out both.
1. Scale by Publishing More Content that Pulls In Google Search Traffic
I’m not in any way suggesting you attempt to game rankings with your authority site. I certainly don’t.
What I do suggest is publishing engaging content based on some long tail keyword research. Publish lots of it. Then determine what types of content tend to rank well and earn decent revenue (whether revenue is from display ads, affiliate promotions, direct sales etc.).
Once you see a trend in the type of content that works well with the search engines for your niche site, scale by publishing more of it… a LOT more.
This is exactly what I’ve been doing in year 2 of my B2C authority site. I now have loads of data and plenty of organic search traffic on which to base new content concepts for publishing.
Outsourcing the writing is pretty important (in most cases)
For most niche sites, especially online magazine sites, in order to scale content production (and therefore scale organic search based revenue), you’ll need to hire writers. At first, with no budget, write it yourself (I did for months). However, as soon as you can afford quality writers, hire them (but don’t settle for less than excellent writing).
The one exception for hiring writers is if you publish a more personal blog. For example, Fat Stacks is written completely by me because it’s personal – based on what I’m doing online. It’s scalable in a different way. I’m not going to get into this here. Instead, I wish to focus this aspect of scaling content production for B2C niches (i.e. online magazine sites).
Know your outsourcing numbers
Never forget the simple formula for successfully scaling: Invest $1 and generate a positive return. This holds true for content production just as it does for producing widgets, automobiles, sofas, TV’s, etc.
Below is a set of figures and simple calculations I use that reveals my B2C niche site’s content ROI (from organic search traffic only). I think you’ll find it very interesting. Moreover, I know I can double the ROI inside 12 months, based on existing data… and that excites me.
My B2C Niche Site Content ROI
- Total number of blog posts published: 560
- Google organic search traffic for the last 30 days (April 27 to May 26, 2015): 242,000 (learn how I did this here).
- Revenue: Display ad and affiliate commissions generated from Google organic search traffic for the last 30 days: $10,000 CAD (approx.). That’s $8,000 USD approximately.
- Average number of Google search visits per blog post per month: 242,000/560 = 432 per month per post (14 per day per post)
- Organic search revenue per blog post: $17 per month ($10,000/560). That’s $184 per year per piece of content.
- Average cost for one blog post (written and published by outsourcing team): $90 CAD
- Profit per blog post over the course of 1 year: $184 – $90 = $94. That’s more than 100% ROI in 12 months.
As far as I’m concerned, being able to invest $1 in content and earning a 100% ROI within 12 months like clockwork is a decently scalable model. That said, I hope to double the ROI over the next 6 to 12 months by publishing content similar to the best performing content to date.
It gets better…
Approximately 75% of the blog posts are not published with organic search traffic in mind. I did no keyword research. They serve more of social media purpose. That said, I do repurpose much of that content into search-oriented content. My point here is that a lot of content does not perform well and therefore dilutes the ROI.
What this means is that 25% of my posts, which is about 140 posts attract by far the lion’s share or organic search traffic.
In fact, the top 50 organic search traffic posts gets 76% of the Google search traffic.
That means 9% of the posts (50/560) gets 76% of the organic search traffic.
I can use this important data for future content concepts and focus on publishing the types of content that’s performed very well in the past. This means I can easily improve the ROI in a fairly short time.
And that’s what I’m doing currently. Some time back in early 2015 I put together a list of 200 blog post topics, each targeting a long tail keyword that I believe will haul in a decent amount of traffic. These topics are very similar to the best performing posts. In fact, it’s uncanny with how similar in nature the top 50 performing posts are. This makes it easy to know what to publish going forward.
How this impacts the bottom line
My goal is that the 200 keyword researched posts I will publish over the next 4 months will average $30 per month in revenue. That’s $360 per year per post ($6,000 per month or $72,000 per year for all 200 posts).
This means for every $90 I invest in content (average cost per post I publish is $90 CAD), I’ll more than triple my money over the course of 12 months.
Yes, content is a product just like the proverbial widgets.
Threats to My Content Scaling Model
It’s always good to know threats and weaknesses to any business your run.
My content scaling model is not bullet proof. It’s vulnerable in the following ways:
1. Dependent on Google search traffic. While I don’t build backlinks or do anything black hat, that doesn’t mean a future Google search engine update won’t hurt my organic search traffic. It could happen because I don’t control that search algorithm.
2. Dependent on ad networks: The lion’s share of revenue is generated by Adsense and other ad networks. I could lose those accounts any time.
3. Revenue fluctuations: Ad revenue goes up and down throughout the year. I’m vulnerable to these revenue fluctuations.
How I deal with these risks
1. Publish good content: I publish unique, well-written content that I intend to be engaging (much of it is, some of it isn’t). While this guarantees nothing, it’s the best I can do with the model.
2. Avoid spammy tactics: Sometimes it’s tempting to test some black hat links, but I avoid the temptation because what I’m doing works so why increase the risk. Avoiding such tactics minimizes risk.
3. Follow Ad Network TOS to the best of my ability: Yes, I’m fairly aggressive with ad placement to maximize revenue, but I do so sticking within the Ad Network TOS to the best of my knowledge. I read Adsense forums, their TOS (several times) and consult with other Adsense publishers. It’s my responsibility to be informed about best practices and to understand the TOS.
Unfortunately you must be a little patient with scaling content
Unless you’re a crackerjack SEO and can rank for high volume search terms fast, getting 242,000 organic search sessions per month and having sufficient data to know what types of posts and keywords perform well takes time.
On the other hand, my niche blog is only 15 months old, which isn’t really that old in the business world.
The key is consistency and plowing back profits into scaling up and focusing on what’s working. Don’t forget to staying up-to-date with the latest online marketing ideas (here’s a good list of 10 marketing blogs teaching intermediate and advanced concepts).
It’s also important to analyze data to see what works and what doesn’t. You also want to get a handle on exactly how much your content earns and how much it costs. This way you can determine how much you can spend and still enjoy a positive ROI.
That said, as you’ve probably noticed, my 100% return on content is spread out over 12 months. I’m content with that (but do hope to improve it). You might think that’s a joke.
I have a long term view of my niche sites so 12 months is good enough to earn a decent profit. Most likely that same content will continue to earn well beyond 12 months.
Why don’t I spend $50,000 on content today?
In a sense I am, but it’s spread out over time. I’ve commissioned my team to write and publish approximately 200 keyword research posts over the course of 6 months. At a cost of $90 CAD per post, that’s $18,000 CAD on top of the other types of content they publish.
Currently, I invest about $4,000 per month on content. As profits grow, I’ll increase that amount.
The fact is new posts don’t rank immediately. They take time to start earning (unless I send a truckload of paid and social traffic to it, which I often do, which further increases ROI… but for these purposes I’m examining ROI from Google search traffic only).
Therefore, I proceed incrementally publishing a handful each week instead of hundreds at one time.
2. Buying Traffic… ProfitablyScaling by buying traffic is AWESOME.
The main advantage is it’s fast. You can ramp up profits in seconds simply by increasing ad budgets.
Also, it can spit out profits for months or years (not always, but often).
The disadvantages include:
- You may lose money during testing.
- You’re at risk because you’re out of pocket for the ad spend before getting paid by ad networks and affiliate networks.
- Diminishing returns: There are only so many people in the world so no matter what niche you’re in, you will reach a traffic volume limit.
- It’s not always possible in every niche.
The concept is simple. For every $1 you spend on traffic to your site, you must generate a profit. This involves knowing your numbers such as:
- Cost per 1,000 visitors to a specific URL
- Revenue per 1,000 visitors generated from the specific URL
While this looks easy to calculate, it’s not. There are many factors that are difficult to pin down. Those factors are:
- Collateral benefits of traffic: New Facebook fans, email subscribers, new loyal readers who return to your site again, to name a few.
- Ad revenue reporting limitations: Many ad networks can’t report RPM from specific URLs (which then requires a little guesswork).
It only takes one post to scale with buying traffic…
I view content as a product. One blog post is one item. Since a piece of content can be monetized, it’s very possible to generate a profit with paid traffic. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible. It’s easier in some niches than others.
You will very likely NOT be able to profit by buying traffic to every post. I don’t. Instead, the goal is to end up with one or a handful of posts that are so engaging with social traffic that you can get traffic at a low enough cost that it’s profitable.
Also, you can do this with content that promotes products with affiliate links. In fact, you can do this with content that has affiliate links and display ads. The key is making it work.
My preferred sources of paid traffic are Facebook ads and paid native advertising options such as Outbrain and Taboola. Facebook ads work best for me, but I know Outbrain and Taboola can work really well in select niches.
Start with very small budgets. Once profitable, crank up the ad spend.
Rinse and Repeat.
1. Avoid tactics. Instead, focus on publishing solid content people like (and search for), a consistent social media plan and pay attention to what’s working and what’s not working. If you can, jumpstart your niche blog with paid traffic.
Also, I don’t bother with spammy link building or thin content. I don’t have a moral objection to either; instead, there’s no point in taking the risk, especially when the pay off from Google search traffic in the long run can be so good.
2. Focus on 1 site at a time. Had I been juggling 2 large niche sites at the same time, both would not be performing as well together as one site on its own. That’s not to say I won’t launch new niche sites in the future; instead, during the first year or two, focus on one site so you can really grow it into a solid brand and asset.
3. During the first 6 months you won’t see much Google search traffic. This is normal. It was my experience. During this time focus on social media and paid traffic. If users like your content, organic search traffic will come.
4. More is not necessarily more. While I publish 3 posts per day, it’s the minority of posts that do most of the heavy lifting. Shift strategies when you have data that suggests you shift strategies. While I still publish posts not geared for organic search traffic, I am ramping up keyword researched content because it generates such a great ROI.
5. Content can pay off big time. I can’t tell you how excited I am about ramping up content production given the ROI content can deliver. Now that I know what types of content really works well, I know I can double the revenue per blog post in 6 to 12 months without adding to my costs.
Next: read my articles on how I got to 125,000 Google search visits/month and then how I ramped up to 242,000 Google search visits per month. These provide actionable tips that you can start using today.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.