Someone – I’ll call him Mr. M – emailed me last week asking for help with his sites. His questions inspired me to write this post.
I think this can be helpful for many people who are starting with web publishing.
Warning: I’m about to make some generalizations. There are many exceptions to what I’m about to describe. In my experience, it’s usually true, though.
The Longtail Keywords Approach
The longtail keywords approach is very popular with new publishers and veterans alike. It’s the most common strategy you’ll find in courses for beginners.
The approach in a nutshell:
Build a new site by focusing on detailed/specific queries that have very low competition.
The reasoning behind the approach is this –
When Google can’t find any other site that targets this very specific query, it will rank your query-specific page. Even if your site lacks the authority that other sites in the niche have.
Why the longtail approach is so appealing
There’s a reason why the longtail approach is so popular.
You can start from scratch.
You don’t have to have an established site to go after queries with zero (or close to zero) competition.
It’s the perfect solution for someone who’s just starting out and doesn’t have the budget for link building.
Months into building and still no traffic
As I mentioned, a specific email inspired this post.
Mr. M, a blog follower, emailed me to share his frustration. He’s been building two sites for a while now but making very little revenue. What could be the problem?
He mentioned he was getting $8 RPM and wondered if the niches could be the problem. Or was it his keyword selection techniques?
A note about asking me for advice
I should say at this point that I don’t offer consultations, paid or otherwise (Mr. M. had offered to pay for one).
If anyone else reading this wants my advice, the best (and fastest) way to get it would be by leaving a comment on the blog.
If you email me or otherwise contact me privately, it could take a long while for me to reply. Chances are I won’t be able to help you in too much detail – if at all. But sometimes, like in this case, I can turn the answer into a more detailed blog post.
Back to Mr. M’s problem –
Mr. M shared his niches with me.
I think they’re fine. I didn’t even have to give that one too much thought. That the traffic is out there, was a given.
The RPM should also be fine, once the sites get enough traffic.
Right now, both of the sites are small so they’re monetized by Ezoic, hence the low RPM.
This isn’t to say that Ezoic can’t generate high RPM, but that it’s not likely to happen with a very small site.
To figure out what the problem was, I suggested that Mr. M follow the method I provided in this post: Dozens of posts and no traffic – what’s wrong?
Mr. M. replied saying he had analyzed the content as I suggested.
The posts were ranking.
The problem was that those low competition queries were not generating enough traffic.
That’s when I realized this could be a good topic for a blog post here. I think I may have an idea as to what the problem may be.
Let’s go back to the longtail approach for a minute.
The long-term gameplay
Those low-competition queries that you should be targeting initially typically have low search volumes. For real.
Even after you take into account different versions of the query.
Even after you take into account related questions the post may rank for.
In 2022, more than ever before, if no one is targeting the exact topic, there’s a very good chance that traffic numbers for this query are very low. So – almost by definition – non-competitive queries tend to have very low traffic numbers.
The system can still work because there’s a long-term gameplay plan here.
Phase 1 – Create a batch of pages targeting very low competition queries
Phase 2 – Rank for those pages to start gaining authority
Phase 3 – With your newly gained authority, now go after queries that are slightly more competitive
Repeat this cycle:
As your site grows in authority – you can go after increasingly more competitive keywords.
The Key: A larger number of posts
In the process above, the second phase is important.
As your pages begin to rank for low competition queries, your site begins to gain authority.
I suspect that there are multiple ways in which site size contributes to authority. I have discussed this in more length here: How to improve your traffic by building a large site.
The post I just linked to probably needs a little updating but the principle is still valid.
A small site just won’t cut it.
If you want to get your site going, you have to get at least 100 posts on one site.
That’s the bare minimum number that I would start out with in a regular (non YMYL) niche. If the niche is very competitive, it may not be enough.
These days, most of our new sites are launched with 120-250 posts. Right off the bat.
Does the age of the domain or site matter?
In my experience, you can’t rely on site/domain age as a shortcut.
In other words, you can’t start a site with 30 posts, let it “stew” and expect it to automatically have more authority a year later.
It can happen.
- Maybe someone picked up your posts and linked to them.
- Maybe posts were shared on social media and that helped build links.
- Maybe you’re very good – or very lucky – with keyword research, to the point where you hit 30 golden nuggets of high-volume longtail queries with low competition.
Anything could happen.
But I wouldn’t rely on any of the above.
In my experience, the more reliable strategy is to create more decent content and put it out there. Get to hundreds of posts as soon as you can.
Should you start only with very low competition keywords?
Let’s say you’re about to create a site with 200 posts. Should all of your queries be low-competition ones?
Some people create a mixed content plan right off the bat. A solid base of low-competition queries, with some more challenging topics thrown into the mix.
The logic behind this is simple:
By the time the site gains some authority and Google trusts it enough, you have some good content ready to rank for more competitive topics with more traffic.
Personally, I like to stick to low-competition keywords at first. I raise the bar as the site grows.
Back to Mr. M’s Sites
It’s impossible to say for sure – and keep in mind that I have not looked at the sites – but I suspect that the sites are too small.
Each site has fewer than 50 posts. I don’t think that’s enough.
It could be – depending on the competition level in the niche.
If it is – then it’s time to leverage the fact that the articles are ranking and now create content for slightly more competitive queries.
Had these been my sites, here’s what I’d consider doing –
- Focus on the better of the two sites.
- Add at least 50 more articles
- For these, I’d look for queries that I think might have more traffic volume.
And no, I can’t say how much traffic each post would bring. I can only guess and the best tool I have these days is common sense.
But I can use these guesses to the best of my ability, avoiding queries that are too limited.
How can you find queries where the competition is low and the traffic volume is decent?
You look very hard.
The exact method doesn’t matter all that much. Keyword research for a new site is always more challenging, for this reason. It’s just part of the game.
Contrary to what some people think, it takes time and a effort to create a successful niche site. Also, a little bit of luck doesn’t hurt.
What do you think?
The above is just my own opinion, of course. As always, based solely on my own experience.
There are other ways to approach this problem. Link building is one that comes to mind.
I’m curious to see what other publishers think could be the problem, and what possible solutions can there be.
As always, leave me a comment and let me know.