$1,000 Challenge: Update 1

First, I want to thank everyone who has entered the contest and is following along.

We have about 130 entries so far.  I am really aiming for about 250 unique entries, so hopefully the word continues to spread.

If you have yet to enter, you can do so here -​

Now, let's just cut to the chase.

Choosing a Niche

Before I could really do anything such as order some content or choose a theme, I needed to pick a niche.

When starting out I wasn't sure what affiliate program I was going to use. However, after some thought I figured since so many people are using Amazon, that would be a safe path and offer easy value to the winner of the site. 

For reference, if anyone is looking for options other than Amazon, some of the more common ones I know of are:

  • ClickBank​
  • CJ Affiliate (the new Commission Junction)
  • ShareaSale
  • JVZoo

There are a bunch of others too, but you could spend weeks scouring them all.

Why Amazon?​

Amazon doesn't have the best commissions. But, they have so many products to choose from.

That makes it a little easier to match a product with a juicy keyword or keywords.

Amazon also does an amazing job at converting shoppers into buyers. That means while you might not get an amazing ​amount of money from each sale that is made, you should get a bunch more sales. 

​Don't be surprised if you get a conversion rate of 8% or higher from people that actually click through from your site to Amazon. Try getting that with a ClickBank product.

Keyword Research​

The first step to starting any new niche website for me is keyword research​. I suppose you can outsource this, but I am doing it myself for two reasons.

  • I have a very tight budget and I need my keyword research to be as high quality as possible, and I honestly have never outsourced this task before so I don't want to start testing vendors now.​
  • I need to save most of my money for content and link building.

Without going into an entire tangent on how to do keyword research, I'll try to give a quick but clear explanation of what I did. 

​I look at two main factors when doing keyword research: search volume and competition.

I don't have any magic numbers or special formulas I use for a few reasons, and that goes for both the volume and the competition. Maybe I should, but I don't.

Instead I have things I like, and things I don't like.

What I like:

  • a niche with more than one strong keyword
  • more than one "best" and/or "review(s)" keyword to work with
  • lots of search volume for lower priced items ($15 item/primary keyword with 2,000 monthly searches, OK. $18 item/primary keyword with 50 monthly searches, no thanks)
  • moderate search volume for moderately priced items ($85 item/primary keyword with 400 searches a month, worth a page IMO. $400 item/primary keyword with 80 monthly searches, nah.)
  • another niche site or small affiliate style sites on page one
  • a niche that I feel can be expanded on if the site shows promise

What I don't like:

  • building a whole site around one big keyword
  • building a site around branded terms with no modifiers (best, top, reviews, comparisons, etc.)
  • high priced items - buying a $50 item from Amazon is a lot easier for people to do psychologically than buying a $1,000 item. It can happen, but I don't personally like building sites around them
  • bulky items & items with long lifespans - people get very picky about something they will use daily for a decade, like a sofa. Many prefer to test something like that out in person
  • seeing the main keyword dominated by big brands in the SERPs with no affiliate sites to be seen

The 4 Tools I am Using

​Everyone has their favorite keyword research tool, but here's what I'm personally using now. And, I'll explain why as well.

Amazon

Before I do anything fancy I like to take a good hard look at what is available on the various affiliate platforms. As I have already decided to use Amazon, this was a natural place to start. 

I have no set strategy here other than looking around for something that catches my eye that I have not thought of before. 

It doesn't have to be some super secret niche product. I'm just looking for something that I haven't already seen dozens of niche sites pushing. And, being that I do a lot of work in affiliate marketing, I see tons of niche sites.

Aside from looking for something interesting, seeing how many reviews a product has is useful too. It can give you a bit of an idea of what to expect when you start looking at search volumes.

KWFinder

After poking around Amazon and getting a few ideas, I jumped into KWFinder to drill down some keyword ideas and search volume info. ​I wanted to see if the items had enough monthly search volume compared to their price to justify promoting them.

One big thing to keep in mind here is don't forget the long tails. A primary keyword's search volume might only be 500 searches a month, but there could be a dozen long tails around that primary keyword that add another 500 searches or more.

A cool aspect with KWFinder is that is also shows the current top ten ranking sites for the keywords you are researching and their estimated page strength. That lets you get a rough idea of the first page competition without the need to leave the tool.

kwfinder sample

Ahrefs

Ahrefs has added a pretty stellar keyword tool, so if you have a subscription, there's no reason to not use it. I really like comparing the search volumes it shows to those which KWFinder shows and kind of average them out to get a better idea of what to expect.

It also includes additional useful information to help you base your keyword selections on like the percentage of clicks that go to ads vs. those that go to organic listings. You can even get a breakdown of estimated search volume by country.​

ahrefs sample

Google

Google is maybe the most overlooked tool for doing keyword research. If you want to see what is happening when searching for keywords on Google, just head on over to Google and take a look.

Of course it doesn't show you search volumes like the other tools, but you can get some valuable information.

First, if there are no ads, it's probably not a very profitable keyword.

Next, you can see what other sites are ranking for the terms you are considering going after. As I said above, KWFinder lets you do that within the tool itself, but there's no harm in taking a minute to check Google out manually as well, as you start to narrow down potential keywords. 

Lastly, Google is so kind they even give you some related searches you should probably mix into your content. Just look at the bottom of the search results page.

kitten mittens related searches

Thanks Google!

Just remember, hop into incognito mode and sign out of any Google account you might be signed into before searching. Also, if you are targeting the USA and searching from outside the USA, ​you might want to use a USA proxy to get more accurate results.

In Summary​

After doing all of the above, I am fairly certain I narrowed down the niche I am going to target with this challenge. I found a fairly decent amount of well searched keywords, and from my first look, the competition appears reasonable. 

The Good - ​Some really nice search volumes and a wide assortment of buying keywords.

The Bad - There is some stiff competition for the #1 spot for some of the keywords, especially from some of the big reviews sites out there. ​The search volumes are high enough though that getting top 3 should still yield a nice ROI, and with these search volumes there's always going to be competition. Ranking them is no slam dunk though.

Money Spent - So far I have not touched the $1,000 budget. I do have access to KWFinder and Ahrefs, so that of course helps. But if you don't, they have free trials that give you limited use. There are other options out there too like SEMrush which offer pretty useful free trials you can leverage if you're working with a shoestring budget.

Time Spent - A reader requested I add this metric to the challenge updates and I thought it was a great idea. His point was that while my budget is only $1,000, I might put in a good amount of time too. I am going to try not to put in too much time as the idea is to outsource a lot of the work, but I will put time in for things like keyword research and styling content. 

For this initial work I spent about 5 hours of digging through keywords to get a bunch that I am comfortable with.

Next Step - I am going to let a couple days pass and then revisit my research. It's easy to get tunnel vision after investing so much time into one part of a project. I want to clear my head and take a fresh look. Then, if all looks well, I will plan out the site architecture.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please leave any questions or comments below.

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