When I first started trying to make money online I literally had hundreds of ideas rumbling around my brain at any one time. When you’ve not tried anything before all these ideas all seem quite good, fueling your eagerness to really make them work. It’s only when you start putting some of them into practice that the whole thing seems a little….daunting.
However, once you try out 20 different ideas you then get a feel for what’s working & what simply isn’t. This in turn narrows down your “idea pool” into a more targeted list of potential opportunities.
Almost every Affiliate Marketer I know has a few sites that I like to call their “foundations.” These sites are more than likely the first ones they built & the ones they hold dearest to their heart. If you think of Affiliate Marketing like building a house then these sites would be your starting point, holding the whole structure together to really give you the stability to make more decisions.
I’m briefly going to talk about the kind of sites that I built when I first started, these are the sites that I regard as being my “solid foundations.” i.e. if the shit hits the fan, at least there’s still something out there I can still rely on to produce a steady income.
One business model that has really stood the test of time (right from when I started in Internet Marketing) is the Local Directory Listing. A Local Directory normally includes listings that are Local (By Suburb or Postcode), National or (on a larger scale) International. It also normally serves a purpose i.e. Helping people find & locate a particular service to use, or even letting people rate services based on past experiences.
Yellow Pages is the grand poobah of all things local. If you need a product or service most people will generally either pick it up first or do a search in Google. That’s where we come in.
The idea is simple, pick a niche, build a local directory, fill it with content, promote, implement an advertising model then start charging.
I normally try my best to target local directories to where I live. For example, a .ca domain name will naturally rank much better than a .com for local related searches. That’s why when you search for something like a Gym on Google.com & Google.co.uk you get two totally different results. Use this to your advantage when choosing either a location or a niche.
Let’s for the purpose of this article choose a niche in my hometown of Melbourne. We’ll go with the theme from the previous note, Gyms. I can imagine that searching for a gym in your local area would be a fairly common thing, as people want to know if there’s a Gym local to them or to their work. I know I’ve searched for this exact thing before.
For step one you’ll need to research the competition. A quick search in Google shows one main competitor, The Best Fitness Clubs in Toronto – blogTO. I quickly use the SEO For Firefox tool to get an idea of what sort of Link Volume I’d need to beat them. So we know the only thing they have on us is time. Further analysis shows they’ve been up & running since 2004, that’s a pain but nothing we can’t handle.
For step two we’ll do some keyword research on Gyms & related terms.
The graph above is from Google Trends, I use this to get a rough idea of search volume. You can see a number of things in this graph:
- Searching for the Gym is on the rise in Toronto, Canada
- There’s a significant rise in the number of searches after Christmas
These are both promising signs for starting a Gym based directory website.
Next, lets look at the search volume in Google Keyword Planner & Wordtracker to get an idea of what breadth of keywords we can target besides just going going for Suburbs:
There’s quite a lot of brand name Gym’s coming up in Wordtracker , so we may want to also consider splitting the site into sections. For example “Brand Name Gym in Toronto.” That data also gives us some useful keywords that we can try to build content around. One thing to remember is that quite often these keyword tools will strip out plurals so the term “curve gym” could be “curves gym” (which just so happens to be a popular Gym in Canada).
I’ll also use Wordtracker to dig a bit deeper & find related keywords to Gym, however since I’m focusing on an Canadian niche here I won’t use Wordtracker for the Keyword Research.
We’re now building a nice list of other potential things we can target like Personal Training, Health Clubs & Fitness Clubs, the list is much much bigger, so I’ll generally take notes & store all the potential keyword candidates.
Finally I’ll grab some data from the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, this tool gives Australian Data so it’ll hopefully give us some useful stuff:
Nothing overly different in this list, although there’s some low hanging fruit to pick up that we can use for some articles etc.
The more data sets you can get your hands on for keyword analysis the better, I’m a big fan of using multiple tools to get different angles & compare data for consistency. Last thing I want to do is go after a keyword that’s ranking in position #3 on Keywords Analyzer then realize that it doesn’t show anywhere on any of my other keyword tools.
So we now know what we need to do, we just have to execute the plan.
For step three you’ll need to put together a list of all the suburbs within the area you’re going to target. That’s fairly straight forward. Start with the bigger suburbs first. I’d initially start within Melbourne & branch things out.
For step four you’ll need to register a domain, I’d normally say try to brand it but keep with the gym or fitness theme.
Step five, you’ll now want to think about how you’re going to structure the site.
Keep all the suburbs & listings as close to the front page as you can. What really annoys me about directories is that you can get buried under 4-5 categories before you’ll be seen. This isn’t good for Search Engine Rankings & it’s not good for potential advertisers. That’s why I’ve emphasized having the list by suburb in the left hand menu. This works really well.
For SEO, make sure each page has a unique title:
- Homepage – Gyms & Fitness Centres in City
- Category Pages – Gyms in Suburb
- Gym Pages – Gym Name in Suburb
You don’t need any special kind of software to do this, I normally just use WordPress for these types of sites.
Eventually as you get bigger you can start branching out into subdomains:
Before you know it, your dealing on a National scale, instead of a local one.
Before you can start charging for advertising, you’ll need to prove that the site is getting traffic. I normally pump about $600-$1000 into an Adword campaign & send a Press Release to kick start things from a traffic perspective. A similar site I launched two months ago is doing around 162,000 Page Impressions a month.
I also recommend checking out this article I wrote on Avoid Google’s Aging Filter.
Those sorts of statistics are what Advertisers want to know. So make sure you’re tracking everything with Google Analytics. Also look into tracking outbound clicks so you can get an idea of which advertisers are getting decent enquiries.
Collect Email Addresses
Collecting email addresses is one of the easiest ways to generate revenue. You need to provide value to the list in order to gain their trust first though. Aweber is my preferred list management tool for this.
Create a 10 day course which consists of 10 tips that automatically go out each day when someone signs up to the list.
You can market affiliate offers to your list, allow gyms to advertise in it & also highlight any special offers that members might find useful.
Is this type of site profitable? Hell yes it is. I used to do SEO for a client whose revenues were over $100,000 / year using this exact method.
There’s five main ways to monetize this type of site. The great thing is that you can use all the forms of monetization all at once. I still have heaps of these types of sites that make decent cash with Adsense, I’ve just not bothered turning them into anything else other than an information hub.
To really start making decent cash out of a project like this is that you’re going to need to get on the phone & call people. Sell your product to them & make them feel like they need it. This works, really well. You just need to crawl out of your “internet marketing cave” & knuckle down. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
Once you’ve got traffic, write down 5-10 benefits you think advertisers will get from being on your site. Make it sound exciting, make them think that if they’re not on your site then Gym Buddies down the road will be getting all the memberships that they’re missing out on.
Adsense: This is the simplest form of advertising, I’d use this when you first launch to try & offset the cost of any initial marketing costs.
Affiliate Programs: Some of the gyms out there offer affiliate programs, there’s plenty of other types of affiliate programs that would perform well, Weight Loss etc. Having a mailing list makes this section of monetization even more profitable as you know you have a targeted list of people at your fingertips.
Banner Advertising: You can see advertising space in the form of banner ads, niche sites can normally sell ads on a CPM basis. I recommend you to join Buysellads.
Direct Placement: This is going to be your big money maker, actual Gym’s paying you a yearly fee to be included in your Directory. It’s up to you what you charge, but there’s a heap of cash to be made here. Again you need to provide value to the client, they won’t renew at the end of the year if you’re not sending them traffic. Reinvest money made to provide as much value for the client as possible. You’ll keep them year on year if you do this, instead of just a once off.
Sell the Database: Databases of information sell well around the internet. If you create a database of all the gyms in Australia then someone, somewhere will want to buy it.
Other potential profitable niches
The Gym example above is just to show you how things can be done, here’s another handful of niches that it could be applied to:
- Natural Therapies
- Adult Services
- Real Estate
- Hairdresses & Barbers