Even with a little blip over the past few days (I maxed out the memory on my hosting account), my niche sites continue to grow and make more money every month. As I said before, I’m not going to become a millionaire any time soon, but I’m starting to get interest from other advertisers now as well which is great in terms of diversifying. The fact that everything I make above domain registration fee is profit is a huge bonus because it means money is only a few clicks away.
I’ve tried to create all my sites to be fairly neutral in location, although I have leaned slightly more to the US for a couple, just because it’s a bigger specific market and/or the site topic demanded a specific audience.
The advantages and positive effects of going global
- The most obvious: more visitors, which means more clicks. This is the main reason to think about going global, and in my mind outweighs most of the negatives.
- The site does well across the big search engines, global and country-wide (there are obviously still ranking fluctuations by country, but they are generally pretty stable).
- You can always choose to narrow it down to a specific country later on – both by on-page language/culture changes, and geotargeting in Google Webmaster Tools – particularly if you choose a global extension such as .com.
- Your site ranks well for people who use Google.com rather than their country-specific search engine.
- If you want to sell the site at some point, you’re automatically appealing to a larger audience.
- You appeal to a greater range of individual advertisers.
- You have a better potential reach for longtail terms across different markets and cultures.
The disadvantages and negative effects of going global
- By far the biggest disadvantage is that affiliate programmes are pretty restricted in certain niches. For one of my niches all the affiliate opportunities are specifically for people within the US, and I’ve tried Amazon but it really doesn’t work well in that area, particularly for such expensive purchases. So there is the possibility that your site won’t be monetised to its full potential.
- Visitors can find it hard to associate with the site or figure out whether it’s relevant to their location (some onsite tweaking and flag images would probably help fix that, but I haven’t got around to trying it yet).
- More top-level domain names are taken. If you’re an exact match domain fan, you’re going to be disappointed. My personal strategy is to add content to my sites and focus on that; more pages mean more keyword opportunities, so exact match is not something I’m bothered about. When I’m working with a budget of 0 for my sites and most of them are experimental anyway, buying an expensive domain is a risk. It’s something I want to experiment with one day, but it’s not happening any time soon.
- You have less knowledge of the local market – and even if you do have knowledge of it, you often can’t apply it as you risk alienating your visitors in other parts of the world. One way around this is to have top countries/regions listed (once you’ve established your site and monitored where your visitors are coming from). It’s a lazy but easy way around it – use your knowledge of existing traffic rather than trying to force new traffic from specific locations where you can.
- Working with individual advertisers can be more difficult. If people want to chat on the phone or even meet up, it’s pretty much impossible. That means that closing a deal can be hard with more traditional companies that work on phone and/or face-to-face basis. People are naturally more suspicious of websites, particularly if you don’t list a phone number or company name (and let’s face it most niche sites don’t, including my own).
- Click value varies. More targeted sites tend to fluctuate less in terms of cost per click, as Adsense pays out a different amount depending on where the visitor is and what ads they see and click as a result. This makes it hard to judge an actual value cross-culturally and can also make it more difficult to judge competitiveness by target market. This can be a positive or a negative depending on your location. If you’re in a poorer country and targeting a richer one, it can be a huge advantage.
From what I’ve seen, people from the UK tend to create UK-specific sites for three reasons:
a) the availability/relative cheapness of exact match .uk domains
b) knowledge of the local market
c) the availability of local affiliate programmes.
Exact match is great if you want to rank more easily – although it’s not as good as it used to be – but as I stated earlier on, I prefer to go for a range of longtail keywords. Typically at the moment I’m on the 4th or 5th page for the main keyword, and whilst it would definitely be fantastic to be on page one or two, the amount of work required to stay there would be far more than I can realistically take on right now. My goals are also slightly different to the companies ranking there as I’m happy to rank for informational phrases such as ‘what is X’ because I’m interested in ad clicks rather than snagging a customer.
Knowledge of the local market is definitely an important fundamental factor in determining whether the site as a whole is going to work or not. But many people are put off just because they are unsure how to write about the subject adequately (or find someone cheap who can). Highly specialised niches – for example, those that require in-depth legal knowledge – are generally best avoided unless you’re very comfortable in the area. However, most niches are fine to write about with a little background research. Many people choose to cut corners by spinning articles, but my policy is never to add to the spam on the web so I don’t ever do it, even for link building purposes.
As I mainly focus on Adsense and individual advertisers rather than affiliate links or stores, the affiliate factor doesn’t bother me. It’s well known that Google hates affiliate sites (even Facebook does) and they are only getting harder to rank, so I chose content sites to be more sustainable in the long term.
I’m still trying to get a good feel for my markets, sites and the process of making money from them as a whole, and at the moment my theory is that local (in my case, UK) sites with country-specific extensions are better for affiliate sites. Having said that, I’m keeping an eye out for a UK niche to experiment with – although it may well have to be an exact match domain to make up for generally lower traffic levels. At the moment though, time is my enemy as usual, so don’t expect to see a post for UK-specific niche sites for months, if not years!