This niche website was initially built by an agency for me. I bought the domain in 2018-2019.
I had a full-time job and a few already growing niche websites. Since I didn’t have the capacity to build another website, I decided to outsource this task.
The agency built the website and loaded it with 10 000 words—about ten articles. I don’t know how I thought of working on another website—apparently, I wasn’t thinking.
This project was left in the dark up until the day I quit my full-time job. At the end of 2020, I’ve decided to start working on this project again.
I didn’t do much during the first six months of 2021. Most of the focused and structured work started in July 2021.
At the moment of writing, it is the beginning of July 2022. Nearly 12 months since I started pouring 8-10 hours per day building this niche website. It was a rollercoaster—downs, downs, downs, ups, downs, ups.
It is funny how I grew a tech startup through SEO and content strategy in less than six months. Or how I sold two websites, each with less than 50 articles, growing quicker and making more money than this website with more than 500 articles.
Actually, it’s not funny at all. It is morally destructive, making you think you had some lucky strikes (somehow), and now the Universe slaps you in the face. I have had these thoughts for the last six months.
Thankfully, I didn’t let that expand further than the level of just being honest and conscious thoughts from myself to myself. Awareness of the moment, the way it is.
But I had to stop, reflect, and find the problems with this niche. I will reflect and explain all the problems I detected and what solutions I’ve applied.
What’s your bet on how this update ends—Up or Down?
1. Website Structure
The first thing I did was to compare my website to the top 10 direct competitors. And there was the first very distinctive difference.
While my competitors' websites were structured around info topics (and they were performing somehow better), mine was structured around the equipment used to practice particular outdoor sports. Does this ring a bell to you?
Problem Theory: All e-commerce websites in this niche have structured their websites around equipment. All niche websites have structured their websites around info topics. My problem theory was that Google saw my website as an e-commerce website and was comparing my content and authority against the biggest brands (equipment manufacturers) in this industry.
Solution Theory: I’ve deleted all equipment-related categories (thankfully, categories are not part of the URL slugs), and I’ve built new info categories, and where relevant, I broke down the structure with tags. I went further and built custom landing pages for every category and tag.
2. Competitors and Keywords
My direct competitors were small websites. The only common thing between us was that non of us was growing substantially, and we all stole from each other’s keywords and content ideas.
One of the websites was stealing the top content from the rest without changing or rephrasing the heading. And somehow (I am not surprised), it outranked us for almost any stolen (okay, copied) structure.
Problem Theory: I was doing the same as my competitors—creating content that already existed, doing the things that have already been done. I didn’t add any new information or value for the reader or the search engines.
Solution Theory: Do the things my competitors were not willing to do. Change and experiment with content a lot, add more value, add a unique angle to the articles, and add new clusters of terms and topics my competitors were not covering. Improve the design and user experience
3. Article’s URLs and Meta Titles/H1 Tags
This was one of the most exciting findings. I saw this in many other niches, where competitors had low DR but ranked well.
I’ve noticed that the best-performing website didn’t include the exact keyword as a URL. Instead, each was adding additional worlds to the URLs. The same was with meta titles/H1 tags.
Problem Theory: We were all “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Solution Theory: Include something unique in your structures. Be the one with “extra better of whatever” among all losers.
In May 2022, the main initiative for this website was to improve as many low-hanging articles as possible.
There are more than 550 articles on my website, and I am afraid that 70% of them are not performing well.
Problem Theory: The non-performing content has stolen (and still steals) from the better-performing articles (it has stolen from internal links juice, crawling budget, etc.).
Solution Theory: Delete, merge, or write new articles with better and unique structures. But the key in this activity is to do it yourself, don’t outsource these rewrites. This is the only way to decide if it is a content/structure-quality problem or if you just have to give up on some articles. There will always be articles that won’t work no matter how much you improve their content.
5. Building Links
I love hustling for links. I did it during my startup years in tech, knowing that the payoff is forever. You create momentum when the domino rides, and rides, and rides.
Being mentioned on other platforms is how Big Brother knows who you are and where to find you.
You can argue with me as much as you wish, but I’ve seen firsthand how much it matters to have a strong backlink profile (wait, haven’t we all seen this with each Google core update?).
Problem Theory: I was gaining 0 links per month. I put too much trust in believing what Twitter Niche Websites were preaching with you don’t need links to rank. Sure, as I like to say—you don’t need links to rank, but you need links not to tank.
Solution Theory: Start building links ASAP (lol, hard to guess solution, at least it is a simple one).
6. Niche Website Twitter
Some wise people said that when your grandma wants to buy Bitcoin, it is time for you to leave the crypto world. The same applies here.
When you see the OGs in niche website building joining Twitter to tweet screenshots of “how I do this” and “how to do that,” you should know that this is the time to leave the space and put people’s opinions and knowledge and experience to rest.
Everyone is bullish on their own bullshit, including me. But this time, my biggest mistake was to listen to the opinions of others instead of trusting my experience with building niche websites.
I put too much trust in Semantic SEO, trying to implement something I didn’t understand (and probably I still don’t, but I am stubbornly learning).
I put too much trust in people sharing screenshots of skyrocketing traffic and a big check for websites you didn’t know anything about. And one thing I’ve learned in tech is that content is everything.
I let myself be deceived by data without context. This is the most important sentence I’ve written so far. I let myself be deceived by data without context.
For the first time, I did things against my personal experience, which was a mistake. Yes, it is learning from mistakes, and I don’t regret all the wrong calls I made with this website. But it is my choice to protect myself from the opinions of others.
To be clear, the SEO community is fantastic (with some malicious exceptions). I’ve met intelligent and caring people.
The people themselves are not the problem. I am the problem—apparently, I fail to make a sound judgment of what is real and under what conditions it might or might not be real.
So, it is my time to leave Twitter. I’ve made this commitment for at least a year. I will hang out only on Sundays, checking mentions and DMs and posting about more significant results and insights.
But that’s it. Niche Website Twitter is muted for now.
7. Pivot, Pivot, Pivot
This is my all-time favorite scene from Friends. You need to watch it.
I’ve decided to slightly pivot (PIVAAT) from the main topics of this outdoors website and continue with the three new categories that I started in May and are responsible for the better portion of the chart below.
The primary thing that convinced me to make this pivot is that the topics I covered initially are related to sports that may endanger people's lives if they don’t have proper training. You can’t learn them only from reading; you need proper training and practice.
My opinion regarding dangerous sports is that you have to be a well-known person/name/authority/practitioner in these sports for Google to recognize your website as a good fit (authority resource) for these topics.
In fact, the biggest websites (which aren’t equipment manufacturers) are athletes (not necessarily professionals) that have been practicing these sports for many years. They write from experience, documenting everything with actual photos of them.
And I can’t offer this authentic experience to my readers. And probably, it’s not right to offer guidance by summarizing what’s already on the internet.
Maybe that makes a hell of a sense.
Or maybe, I am all wrong again, bullish on my own bullshit.
I’ll keep you posted on how this PIVAAT goes.