Scaling – Not Just for Weight Loss…

Scaling – Not Just for Weight Loss…

(aka – The Tale of Two Minisites)

(aka – Knowing When to Hold ‘Em, When to Fold ‘Em and When to Scale ‘Em Up)

Sorry, couldn’t decide on just one title for today… 🙂

If you’ve been following my first Case Study on BuildMyRank, you’ve watched my intrepid little minisite climb the rankings and increase its earnings. However, chances are you aren’t very impressed by the amount of money it’s making – $20-30/month at last count.

It’s okay, I don’t blame you! If I thought that $20-30/month was the end game for this site, I’d be pretty disappointed too. The truth is, affiliate marketing minisites are only the beginning step in my business model. Now I get to begin the fun process of scaling up the site!

To help you to understand what I mean by “scaling a minisite,” I want to first contrast the minisite in my Case Study with another minisite I started around the same time. I don’t want to go into too many details about it, but basically, it’s in the weight loss niche and everything about the target keywords looked good when I first had it built. Good search volume, low competition and good indicators of buying intent.

But after almost a year, nothing. Well, next to nothing – the site made a few affiliate sales, but the conversion rate was incredibly low compared to the number of visitors coming to the site. Fortunately, because I started small in this niche, I don’t have a lot of time invested in the site – so it won’t break my heart to walk away from it.

That’s why I start small and scale up – and why I recommend you do the same. When you start with a small minisite, you’ll be able to figure out what works and what doesn’t, before you invest a ton of time or money into something that isn’t guaranteed to work. And once you do have a minisite that’s gaining momentum in the rankings and earning a small amount of income, you can put more work into growing it, knowing that the site will continue to convert on a larger scale.

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Here’s how I plan to scale up the minisite from my first Case Study:

1. Add more content to the site

Right now, the site only hosts six product reviews. It’s a good start, certainly, and it’s enough to draw some people in – but it definitely doesn’t stand out in the niche. Obviously, I’d like to add more product reviews (and add more product lines in general), but I think the site could also benefit from informative articles, tutorials and other content to round out the user experience.

2. Expand into other sub-niches

About two weeks ago, I took a field trip to a brick and mortar store that serves this niche, and it was hugely eye-opening. There’s a whole other sub-niche out there that I was completely ignoring! I haven’t done any keyword research on this new sub-niche, so I’m not sure exactly how I’ll incorporate it yet, but my trip was a good reminder to keep my eyes open to other opportunities in this market.

3. Add more user functionality

Members of this niche are notoriously active – they form meet-up groups, attend niche get-togethers, and even have their own dedicated stores in the offline world. But on my site, there’s no way for them to really engage with my content, which is one area I’d like to expand on in the future. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll go about adding this, but some ideas include video demos of new products, forums where users can share their opinions or even a product ratings system.

Obviously, the ways that you scale up your own minisite will be different from the list above, since you’re likely in different niches with different interests and demands. If you aren’t sure how to best scale up your own minisite, simply check out the Top 10 Google results for your target keywords and see what other sites are doing. This will give you clues on what Google values, and what visitors expect to see from a site in your niche.

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Do you start with small minisites and then scale them up as they show promise?  Or do you have any other advice for new marketers who aren’t familiar with the concept of scaling?

Image: heanster

10 Responses to Scaling – Not Just for Weight Loss…

  1. Jon says:

    First off, this is my favorite article from you yet. It’s entertaining and educational; win-win-(win?)

    Second, awesome job sharing with us that it’s OK to step away from the computer for inspiration. You learned more about your niche by researching in the physical world (see: Earth).

    Last, the Google tip to scout competitors is a great idea. If you’re snagged somewhere in your journey then study the competition. This sometimes means seeing what they’re doing and NOT doing it because it’s lousy. But it can also give you insight on things to try for your project.

    Thanks!

    -Jon

    • Sarah says:

      Hahaha – do you watch The Office? As Michael Scott would say, it’s a win-win-win 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Jon says:

    The Office is awesome. I didn’t start watching it until the 4th season or something and then got caught up completely.

  3. Hi Sarah – this is my first time on your blog and I really like the aesthetics! 🙂 I definitely agree with your “Ethical Marketing” brand. Awesome stuff!

    I read your article and while I think you have a great approach to your minisites, I do have one question for you.

    As you may have learned recently, Google vamped up their algorithm to increase traffic to the sites that provide new and unique content and such traffic from those that don’t. From what I’ve read and learned on on her blog, this is really going to impact niche sites.

    Do you think this is going to OR has it impacted your traffic rank on your mini sites? If so, what kind of effects are you seeing in traffic?

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Hector – Thanks for stopping by!!!

      Regarding the algo change, I haven’t seen much of an affect so far, for a couple of reasons that I can figure. First of all, most of the targets seem to be sites that scrape or post duplicate content, where all of my niche site content is unique.

      There also seems to be a trend towards large, older sites that rely on Adsense being disproportionately affected, which isn’t an area that I’m in.

      I am keeping an eye on a few things, though. Since a lot of my traffic/ranking strategies rely on EZA and Web 2.0 sites, I’m waiting to see if they become less effective. So far they haven’t, but if they do, I’ll change things up.

      I’m also looking into alternatives to Google Analytics. I love it, but I doubt that this is the last such change we’ll see from Google, and having all of my info in their hands could get risky.

      Hope this helps!

  4. Tia says:

    You know, there really is something to be said about visiting brick & mortar businesses who serve the same market. In Tucson, the brick & mortar climate is still really strong. It would do all of us some good to scout competitors and understand the different types of competitors, not just direct, but indirect, and learn from them.

    Scaling is key! I’ve been scaling, too, with my new blog and I know I have a way to go, but this time I’m just starting slowly and plan to make fewer mistakes or need fewer changes down the road.

    Cheers,
    Tia

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Tia! You’re absolutely right about visiting offline businesses. I think that sometimes we get so caught up in things like search volume, backlinks, etc, that we become blind to what’s happening in our niches.

      Good luck with your websites!

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