Last Updated on March 24, 2021 by Jeremy
During quarantine, we saw a severe drop in traffic on our travel blog and local blog. As we knew that these sites were not going to rebound for quite some time, rather than doubling down in new topics on these established domains, we decided to start new blogs outright.
This was done for two reasons. First, the topics we wanted to write about didn't fit all too well with the established branding. Second, we know that new sites take a long time to establish themselves such that, while they weren't going to make much money during quarantine, we would be diversifying our portfolio for the long-haul across many unique domains.
At first, we had every intention of making these sites personality-driven blogs much like our travel sites (think full social media, multiple posts per week, a story involving us somehow, etc.), but we quickly realized that would be too time consuming. In fact, when we stopped to assess how things were going, we realized that we had started three sites all were niche products focused. Our ideal monetization model was not display advertising (although we'd certainly take it), but rather affiliate sales for a few core items.
As we are approaching each of these sites just a bit differently, we thought it'd be fun to share a periodic case study here talking about the sites, how we plan to monetize, and update their progress over time. So today, let's do a quick introduction to the sites and our monetization goals!
Doctor of Coffee
Doctor of Coffee was the first product-oriented site we started in early 2020. With this one, we had every intention to make it a personality-focused coffee blog that would discuss the science of coffee roasting and brewing at home through our own experiments (my wife and I are chemical engineers and avid coffee consumers so this was right in our wheelhouse). As coffee products run in price from $10 (filter papers) to $2,000+ (espresso machines), with an average coffee setup being $200 for a kettle, scale, grinder, and one brewing method like pour-over, you can see the affiliate potential we were dreaming of.
After just eight posts, we realized that the science angle was a bit too focused, and it dropped off our radar for almost a year as we pursued other topics. It was only in starting another product site in early 2021 (What is Sous Vide, below) that we decided we could revive this one with more general coffee content, a lesser focus on our involvement, all while being a bit more unashamed in promoting products (quality products that we actually use, mind you).
So we cut off all the social media outside of ad campaigns, redesigned the site to heavily push products, and started a plan to hopefully publish about one article per month. The long-term goal of this one would be to slowly grow the profits to a small amount (say, $50-$100/month) such that we can re-invest the money into a freelance writer to publish more content. Ultimately, we want this one to be as hands-off as possible to see where it'll take us. Long-term, if we can get it making a decent enough income, we may consider selling it outright for a profit.
As of March 2021, this site receives between 1-15 page views per day from Google, and a week after our redesign we sold our first product via an Amazon affiliate link- a pair of batteries with a ~$0.06 commission. Can you smell the profits? I can't, but we do have to admit we have to bring this one back with more content more than anything- so for now we're going to hopefully target one post per month, a bit of money in the ad budget, and see if this one can grow slowly from there.
What is Sous Vide
What is Sous Vide is the more recent of product sites we've founded (March 2021). We saw a need for a good sous vide website out there, and, much like the coffee blog above, hit our interests due to the science side of things. I also love the product, use it weekly, and recommend it to everyone. As this product also could use a fair number of accessories (vacuum sealer, dedicated water bath vessel, cast iron skillet, instant read thermometer, etc.), we put the price point of buying a sous vide anywhere from $200-$300 each on average. Once again, great affiliate potential.
We are currently building this site and have ideas for about 20 standalone posts and ideally hope we can build that out and then let it ride with minimal new content beyond that. We do not envision it being a recipe blog at the start (although it certainly could transform into that in the future if we think traffic potential could be there), and really is all about building the site up to see if we can get it to rank for the exact match keyword for the URL- whatissousvide.com.
Yes, you read that right. I found a 12k monthly search keyword as an exact match URL for just $12/year- no premium surcharge or paying to buy a domain off a flipper. So, we're naturally curious- can we outrank the authoritative sites because of our domain keyword match or has that SEO ship sailed? This is what I want to find out with this site. If we could get high on the first page of Google for that term alone, well, that's some serious affiliate potential.
In fact, the first day after installing Google Analytics something interesting happened- the site received three page views. The next day two. The day after that five. The only explanation I could think of is that some people put whatisousvide.com into their browser (adding a .com to what should be a search query, perhaps?) and giving us direct traffic that way. Sweet!
As we just launched this site literally last week, receiving the same amount of traffic as Doctor of Coffee (which has been live for a year) despite only having a couple of pages is pretty impressive. We have not had affiliate sales to speak of yet, but I am putting in a lot of my effort to get the first 10 or so standalone posts out. Then, much like the coffee site, it will be passive advertising and slow production of content to the tune of one or two articles per month until we hit the 20 ideas mentioned above. From there, we may just let it ride and see what happens.
The Grape Pursuit
I was originally only going to include the above sites in this case study as they are standalone sites purely aimed at selling specific products. But then I realized that my wine blog has the same end goal despite being a more traditional, personality-driven blog, with a niche scope (trying every wine variety in the world). Wine, as you know, can be quite expensive (so can the associated products) and we intend to promote wine affiliate programs like Wine.com, wine glasses and cellar products on Amazon, and even wine clubs that we purchase and review. Since the average case of wine is minimum $100-$200, you can also get an idea of where we are going with this with regards to affiliate sales.
Currently, the site has about 110 posts on it since starting it in spring 2020. Most of these are wine reviews that have inherently low Google search traffic (more practice for me for wine courses I'm taking in my free time), but some of our more general articles are indexed quite well (partially thanks to moving wine articles from our travel blog over with a < href="https://thisweekinblogging.com/moving-articles-to-new-site/">301 redirect) as well as some periodic spikes in Google Discover.
As of March 2021, the site receives about 5,000 page views per month and has sold a case of wine, a wine storage rack for a cellar, wine glasses, and a few more products to the tune of about $15 in commission. We are almost there in being able to buy a bottle of wine from the project! Just don't tell anyone that we've probably consumed over 100 bottles in the last year alone. Studying for wine classes is hard work.
All joking aside, we've at least validated the proof of concept with this one and simply need to let it grow with more content each week. Thankfully, I know where I can find a stocked wine cellar to get content ideas for this one. We plan on pushing this like a traditional blog, social media posts every day (or so), 2-3 new articles per week, and advertising to name a few. Give us all the monetization we can be it ads, affiliates, and more as well!
So, where will these niche sites go? We're taking three different approaches to building these product-oriented websites and will see how things evolve over time. Our priorities will always be our main travel blogs (as they are established income earners), but the extra time we've had during quarantine has allowed for us to experiment with new ideas as well.
Can we make money passively updating a coffee site? Can we build a set-it-and-forget-it sous vide site with an exact-match keyword in the domain name? Will we start moving cases of wine at a speed that matches our consumption? We're going to find out! Check back in a few months when I provide the first update into how all these sites are performing.