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Turning a highly-ranked, tiny niche into more.
Being highly ranked at nearly nothing is still pretty much nothing.

 7:13 pm on Nov 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've been pondering this topic for a while, and would be curious to hear some fresh ideas and viewpoints.

I currently have a site for a niche sport. My site is quite well ranked on google (I'm in the top 10, or even top 3 results on most keyword searches). I have pretty loyal traffic (avg 10 page views per visitor). The average visitor spends more than 8 minutes on the site. 20% of my traffic comes from Google or other site links.

The problem is that this site deals with such a tiny niche that even though my traffic is decent in a relative sense, there's just not enough people in the world interested in this to make Adsense a real earner for me. The CTR is less than 1%. And the ads that show up for this topic are woefully cheap.

So how can I leverage my very high google ranking to something that can actually make some decent money? I've had this site for nearly 9 years now, and never really aimed or intended for it to make money, but it seems like there has to be some way to use this sites "good reputation." I read a lot on here about people making decent (or even ridiculous) money with adsense, and it seems that all of those folks have multiple sites. Is that my only option? To build a new site that hopefully my visitors (and google spiders) will find interesting? How would I logically tie them together?

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.



 7:28 pm on Nov 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Have you considered expanding the scope of your existing site? That could leverage whatever "authority" status your domain might have in Google Search, and it might deliver quicker results than launching new sites from scratch.

An even better solution (in combination with the above, or irrespective of the above) might be to explore other revenue opportunities for the site. For example, you could sell flat-rate sponsorships or CPM display ads to advertisers in your niche. I used to know a guy with a popular hobby-oriented forum who sold ads to manufacturers of products related to the hobby. If your site is about unicycle polo and you're reaching a good chunk of the unicycle-polo audience, manufacturers of unicycles, polo gear, etc. might well be interested in buying sponsorships on your site (even if they aren't currently buying AdSense or other PPC ads).


 7:42 pm on Nov 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have a similar situation in that my best earning site is very time sensitive, mostly tied to a specific holiday - there's only about two months where it really gets a ton of traffic and earns really well. The rest of the year it pretty much just dribbles in. I've got a couple of other extremely small niche sites - all of these rank at the top any conceivable search term for them, it's just that there's not all that many searches, or the searches are only heavy during a certain part of the year. I'm trying to branch out into several other types of sites, while keeping a basically local focus; I'm wary of trying to build my tiny empire to be bigger than I have time or energy or wherewithal to manage.


 7:42 pm on Nov 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

No matter how small the sport is, I bet there's at least one magazine devoted to it. If the sport can support a magazine, it can support a website. Here are a few suggestions...

1. Ask yourself, what do my visitors spend lots of money on? Equipment? Travel? Physiotherapy? :-) What companies should naturally want to reach my audience? Then look at affiliate programs or direct sponsorship rather than relying on AdSense.

2. Branch out, but in a logical and natural way. That way you leverage your existing audience rather than having to get ranked for a whole new sport. Get too unfocused and you could lose the authority status you've earned.


 8:13 pm on Nov 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the replies folks. Let's see, to address some of your points.

- Expanding the scope is a possibility. Unfortunately, I think that any area I could reasonably expand into would be relatively poor paying as well. I guess more traffic would equal more return though. I'm going to have to do some research on related keywords and see what that might get me. Of course that will require writing a whole lot more content.

- Trying to sell ads is difficult. When I say the niche is small, I mean it. jomaxx mentioned a magazine, but while it's been tried about 3 different times by folks, a dedicated magazine for this sport has failed every time. Some aspects of the sport can be related to various hardware pieces that are more general and wide reaching. Perhaps that would be one tack to take.

- Another problem is that my audience is almost entirely young (I'd say 85% are less than 20 y/o), and subsequently poor. :) I don't think there is anything I can do about that one.


 8:26 pm on Nov 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

if they are young and poor try to find out what they move onto as they go over the 20 age mark and develope for that slowly but surely to go alongside your growing age group

for example if they were windsurfers they would then progress to other forms of sailing

just dumb example but worth thinking about


 8:34 pm on Nov 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

  • Do you do product reviews?
  • Do you do destinations that are favorable to your sport?
  • Is there enough traffic to support a forum (is there a forum and how well does it serve the community and what can your forum bring to the experience that isn't currently being addressed).


 8:57 pm on Nov 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

If the audience is 20 somethings, then what about a MySpace page that includes some stuff like reviews, etc?


 9:22 pm on Nov 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

if they are young and poor try to find out what they move onto as they go over the 20 age mark and develop for that slowly but surely to go alongside your growing age group

Hmm. That's an interesting thought. I hadn't really considered that angle...

Is there enough traffic to support a forum (is there a forum and how well does it serve the community and what can your forum bring to the experience that isn't currently being addressed).

Actually the main draws of the site are about 40 pages of instructional material and instructional videos. All the rest of the traffic is a forum. I've had a forum for a long time, and have tens of thousands of posts in there. But as we all know, forums are not good for adsense. I've got some custom channels and notice that those 40 main pages outclick the forum by a very wide margin.


 9:40 pm on Nov 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

You really make me curious about this sport :-)

anyway, as has been said already, a well-ranking 9-years old site is an authority in Google's eyes. Explore more competitive niches, by leveraging that strength and adding pages about other niches, even if not related with your original niche.

(As long as you do it properly, not to the point of having something like "XMetal's site about unicycle polo and mesothelioma")


 10:30 pm on Nov 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>Actually the main draws of the site are about 40 pages of instructional material and instructional videos. All the rest of the traffic is a forum.<<<

what you need to be careful of there is the forum driving down the adsense epc on the other 40 pages of the site.

i would replace the forum adsense entirely with ypn or banners, and see if the epc changes over the course of a couple of months... and remember that you can also monitize the videos with pre or post-roll ads from other ad companies, i have read that there are several of 'em doing that right now... but also probably in the future with the upcoming video for adsense program.


 11:16 pm on Nov 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Nice site, I have a similar niche site. I think you might pass the 1% CTR if you were a little more aggressive with ad placement, a leaderboard up top versus the column on the lower right might improve things for you. It makes the site look a bit more spammy but that's the tradeoff.


 1:43 am on Dec 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree with Lagamorph. Bring your ads to the top of every page in a leaderboard. I would also make your content links stand out more by making them the standard (underlined blue) and follow that through the design of your ads with a blue link on a borderless blended background. I'd get rid of the firefox referal as well unless you are actually making money from it. (it grabs too much attention in your design) Make these few changes and I bet your CTR shoots up. IMO anyway.


 2:25 am on Dec 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

What about an instructional DVD. I'm assuming the clips are of reasonable quality, but the originals are much better. Creating a DVD is a piece of cake now and people will forgive you for low production quality if the content is good enough.

You could also go down the route of encouraging people to send in their own clips. Make it clear that any clips could be included in future DVD's. You could hold off on the instructional DVD to include some of these clips, thus introducing the idea to as many of your visitors as possible.

If I was an extreme sports participant that isn't served by any magazines/other media I'd jump at the chance to see what others are up to.

$10-20 for a bi-monthly DVD should be affordable for many people (given the cost of good equipment in the area).

Good Luck


 8:51 am on Dec 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

Am I right in thinking some of the equipment needed to participate is very expensive? I looked inside a related shop a few weeks ago and couldn't believe how much some of the stuff was! I could buy a car for the same money!

Given that, sponsorship from a manufacturer of equipment or clothing would be worth pursuing.


 9:11 am on Dec 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

Just a thought.

Why worry about adsense when you could join some affiliate programs, review and recommend the equipment and send people on to the merchant.

Maybe the primary equipment won't be available in an aff prog but all the ancillary gear is.

You won't need to strap an entire store to your site, just cunningly weave a few links to the people that sell this stuff in your reviews.

Kind of like, 'In this video the guy is wearing a widget made by foo. It's great and you can find them for sale over here.'

Just pick 5 or 6 things and give it a shot. You may find that your income from a few aff sales far out weighs any adsense revenue.

Like I said, just a thought.



 2:55 pm on Dec 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thank for all the great suggestions. I thnk that to start I will experiment with some different treatments of the ad units. One thing that I am somewhat struggling with is that for pretty much the entire existence of this site I have adamantly and purposefully avoided ads, as that was the primary annoyance of most every other site out there. So trying to keep it clean and totally unobtrusive was a goal at the start. Perhaps slowly I can morph that into something different along the lines of your suggestions.

Making a DVD is a good idea, and one I've thought of previously. The difficulty there is the fact that I don't actually do this sport anymore. I just keep the site going for the kids, cuz I'm nice like that. :)

Well I've got all kinds of things to figure out now.


 1:59 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

You could have very annoying ads for anonymous users who come probably mostly from search engines and may never return anyway, but clean up the page with less obtrusive ads for authenticated users.

With server-side-scripting generated pages, it should be fairly simple to do.

This can help monetize the size without targeting your core forum loyal user base.


 5:37 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm assuming the site is the same as your email.

Try an adlinks unit at the top of your left column. Or if not that a single ad unit at the top. It won't take up so much room that people won't still see your navigation links.

I'd float a rectangle ad unit to the right of the text on your article pages. The article will wrap around the ad. People start reading the article and can't help but notice the ads to the right. With the right hand tower ads you have now your ads go way below the ending of your articles so most won't be noticed.

Also people like to scan online so I would make your fonts a little bigger. It would also look like they get a longer article.

Don't assume just people who participate in widgeting trials will visit. See if you can get people in there who dream of participating.

See if you can rank well in a broader topic. I get most of my visitors because they search a term about widgeting not widgeting my niche. Yet all my articles are related to my niche. In other words I am getting people who have the general interest and my titles and descriptions are getting them interested in learning about my niche.


 11:24 pm on Dec 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

I just noticed you have Amazon. See if you can find books or equipment related to your individual articles or topics. Then put a picture of the book or item right in your left column or embedded in your text with the your link to the Amazon item. People need to see the item right there on the topic page. Impulse buying. I find I sell much more that way than I do through my separate store.


 4:29 pm on Dec 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

This might sound a little far-fetched at first, but have you thought about signing up as an affiliate for an online dating site in the sports lovers/active singles type niche? If this demographic is young, there's a good chance they'll be interested in actively dating a lot of other singles with similar interests.

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