Are Niche Sites Dying? Plus January 2023 Writing Report

By Kimberly


While I’ve been in the online writing world since 2013, I’ve heard variations of the “are niche sites dying?” question since Day 1. Sometimes the question was, “is blogging dying?” or “are information websites a bad idea today?” or even “are blogs still a thing?” and there are all sorts of answers online. Here is my answer.

Websites are far from dead, whether they’re a blog, niche sites, or information sites. Affiliate sites (where they focus on promoting affiliate sales to earn an income) aren’t dead, either. However, the whole market is always changing. Sites that refuse to pivot will, individually, suffer and may “die off.” However, sites willing to adapt will be fine if they pay attention to how the internet evolves.

That being said, I think the world of the internet is shifting – and there are big changes on the horizon. They aren’t here yet, though. But winter is coming (oh, wait. It is winter!) for the digital world, and things shift, ebb, and flow regularly.

Is Having a Niche Site Profitable?

A niche site can be profitable, depending on how it is run. People who run niche sites with more hands-off approaches will have higher costs for staff to run it for them, while hands-on managers can have lower overhead costs and, therefore, more profit (or income). Outsourcing tasks will make things easier while increasing costs (and decreasing profits).

On the other hand, running a portfolio of sites requires a team, even small ones. For example, I ran my first site by myself when I started. When I added a second site, I managed to run both sites alone. Even by adding a third site, I could run them by myself. However, now that I’ve got 9 sites in my portfolio, I need help. So somewhere between 3 and 9 sites, you may want to hire a virtual assistant (that’s what I did).

Hiring writers also cut into the profits. However, content is (usually) a great investment and worth the cost. I say it’s usually a good investment because it is possible to write bad content – and that’s not worth it. The content could be “bad” based on the topic, how it’s written, or some combination. I’m sure there are other factors in determining “bad” from “good” content, but those are the two main ones I’ve seen.

Should I Start a Niche Site Now?

The best time to start a business or a niche website mirrors planting a tree; the best time to start is 10 years ago. But since we can’t travel back in time, today’s the second best time to start a business. Just know that, unlike planting trees, online marketing changes frequently. A lot of work is required to “keep current” and keep the business thriving.

Another analogy I’ve loved is that life (and business) is a lot like going up the down escalator. You’ve got to put in a good amount of effort to stay in place. However, the analogy breaks down here because there’s also a lot of downtimes and waiting required in business – and if you just stood there on the down escalator, you’d be back down one floor. So it’s not a perfect analogy, and in fact, sometimes it’s downright wrong.

Even so, sometimes you do a lot of running in place in business. You may not move forward from it, but you learn an awful lot about what doesn’t work (and then what does). Sometimes, you can skip a lot of the hard work and failure by hiring a mentor or taking the right courses. However, you can’t skip all the work – and I recommend you don’t try to avoid it all. Sometimes failure (while super uncomfortable) is the best teacher of all.

Which is better – 1 Big Site or a Portfolio?

There is no guaranteed answer as to which is better – one big site or a portfolio of sites. There are no guarantees that either will work. Content creators must see what works for them – and take things one day at a time. Learn, adapt, and change, as the data suggests. Follow the data.

I started with one site. It was a precursor to this site – and it’s still got mentions across other sites where I’d posted or shared stories. It got rolled into this site. I wrote about an insane variety of topics because I was throwing metaphorical spaghetti at the wall to see what worked. After much time, effort, and work, I found two topics that worked.

One was a parenting topic. The second was a specific type of paint. This is when I dug into the data for the first time.

I couldn’t do much more with the paint because it was a one-off thing. I happened to write about it first, so I got good traffic. But I quickly realized it wasn’t a repeatable thing – unless I wanted to jump from a new thing to another new thing in hopes of being first. That’s doable, but it’s exhausting. So instead, I leaned into the parenting thing.

Over time, I realized I was burning out on that topic – and that I’d hit a brick wall where my creativity was spent on that thing. I also realized that, despite all of my work, it was still the original article getting all the traction. All that hard work didn’t do much. I was exhausted and realized something had to change. I realized I could either listen to the data and make a big change or ignore it and push forward. My mentors and most of my fellow blogging friends recommended the second path. But the data doesn’t lie. I decided to follow the data and pivot.

So I changed my methodology (this is when I first learned about Income School’s Project 24). I rolled all the parenting stuff off this site and onto a new URL for a fresh start. I did the P24 method for a few months and quickly got 60+ articles on that website. And then I got burned out – so I decided a second site was required. I let that first site marinate for a few months to recover mentally.

Since then, I’ve slowly added sites to the portfolio over time. I now also have a few ghostwriters on the team, although I still personally prepare, review and edit every article I publish. I’ve got a virtual assistant who helps with graphics, formatting, and other tasks. And I’ve got an editor who helps ensure all the grammar is up to snuff. She doesn’t edit these reports, though.

How Do You Follow the Data?

Following the data will mean different things depending on the business model. For website owners, it means writing articles based on what people want to read. It means making sure the topic is covered in a user-friendly manner. Following the data also means diversifying as needed.

For example, I knew I needed to pivot (rather than listen to my mentors and friends) because all of my traffic went to less than a handful of the articles on my website. The interlinking (done right, mind you) and other tricks they recommended didn’t fix that. I’d given it time, tested it, and seen it fail.

So I looked at other options, found one that sounded reasonable (and viable), and tried that. It worked, so I kept at it. Since then, the data suggests I need to re-add tactics from the original methodology I used in years past. I’m giving that a test now to see how it works.

The data I look at (much of what I present in my writing reports) concerns traffic acquisition, sustainability, diversification, and profitability. These are the things I need in my business for it to work. Your business may need other factors, so build those into your reporting metrics.

Want to see how my reports are shaping up this month? Let’s dig into the data.

January 2023 Writing Report

If I were to only look at how these next numbers look, I’d be beyond bummed and totally believe that niche websites are actively dying and that I should jump ship ASAP.

Month to month

  • Traffic: -3%
  • Revenue: -30%
  • Publishing: 0%

Year over year

  • Traffic: -16%
  • Revenue: -44%
  • Publishing: -9%

Year to Date

  • Traffic: -40%
  • Revenue: -36%
  • Publishing: -9%

However, when I compare this data to the various ad revenue indices provided by companies like Ezoic and Mediavine, I see that my sites aren’t performing well financially because everyone is taking a financial hit in the ad rate pocketbook.

However, I’ve also been seeing a decline in traffic, so I’ve been digging into that. I found that one of my best articles had lost some traffic. I discovered that the ads covered some of the content (which is awful for user experience, so I don’t blame people for bouncing off that article). You better believe I fixed that. Traffic to that article has been recovering.

I’m sure there are other articles that need quick fixes. I’m digging into each of those. I’m also working on a way to do that far more efficiently because digging through 646 articles (across 9 websites) one at a time is a good way to get an ulcer. This means testing out several things – none of which are far enough into testing to have a reliable report for you yet. Sorry. It is what it is.

In any case, on to the data and timeline recap:

  • I started blogging in 2013.
  • I joined Income School’s Project 24 in 2019.
  • Going from $0 to $1000 monthly took me 26 months from when I first implemented the Income School style strategy.
  • Going from $1000 to $2000 for the first time took another 4 months.
  • Getting to above $2000 monthly consistently took another 3 months.
  • Months since I first hit $2,000/month: 13

TLDR: what does the data say? January’s ad revenue rates were in the toilet thanks to the economy, the news, and everything except ChatGPT. That’s likely to evolve the online world further, so it’s exciting to see what that means. Do you want to be prepared for it? Diversify now.

January 2023 Site Report

The sites themselves are coming along well.

Site A

  • Gardening
  • New posts: 6
  • Total posts: 309
  • Monetization: Ads + affiliates

Site B

  • Parenting
  • New posts: 0
  • Total posts: 131
  • Monetization: Ads + affiliates

Site C

  • Genealogy
  • New posts: 1
  • Total posts: 68
  • Monetization: Ads + affiliates

Site D

  • Writing
  • New posts: 1
  • Total posts: 35
  • Monetization: Ads + affiliates

Site E

  • Sports
  • New posts: 3
  • Total posts: 54
  • Monetization: Ads + affiliates

Site F

  • Entertainment
  • New posts: 5
  • Total posts: 15
  • Monetization: Ads + affiliates

Site G

  • Home
  • New posts: 2
  • Total posts: 20
  • Monetization: Ads + affiliates

Site H

  • Educational
  • New posts: 3
  • Total posts: 14
  • Monetization: Ads + affiliates

All sites have been successfully added to an ad network and have affiliate partners. I’m not stressing about their income too much for the smaller sites, but having them set up with an ad network (some are on AdSense) does at least open up the doors to some basic revenue so that I can continue to fund the portfolio.

What Does “Diversifying” Mean in 2023?

Diversifying depends on the business. Diversifying for an online marketing or niche website business means having multiple income streams, multiple traffic acquisition methods, and solid branding to encourage repeat visitors to develop brand fans (AKA superfans or brand ambassadors). It means building up the support needed to keep growing and/or weather big changes that are on the horizon.

This can be looked at on a site-by-site basis or a portfolio-wide basis. Personally, I’m doing this on a per site basis, as each site is in a different place. I don’t want to be investing as much work into building out the brand for the home site (that currently has only 20 articles) as I would the gardening site (with 309 articles).

While all sites are built to attract organic traffic, there’s no reason I can’t expand traffic acquisition to include social media, streaming platforms, or other methods. Keep in mind that I’m not jumping to all of them at once. That’s a surefire recipe for failure (and burnout).

Instead, I’m looking back to skills I’d developed from pre-Project 24 days – back when I’d gotten good traction from a couple of social media platforms. I’m building those out first, because I’m familiar with them. I’ll give them time, evaluate their performance, and make a decision on continuing (or not) at that time. I’m only a few weeks into that trial, so I won’t have data for at least 6 months or more. And yes, I plan to keep working on them for at least 6 months – if not a whole year.

You only get good data results if you put in good data effort. So I’ve gotta do my part.

Another way to diversify is by adding other media consumption options. For example, if you’re a niche site content creator, consider adding video options. And get your email list going already. Diversify. Be ready to adapt. Dig into the data. Listen to your intuition if you can’t find the data you need. Rinse and repeat.

And if you’d like to learn from my experience, here are the resources that have helped me along my journey.

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