Niche site duel challenge with Pat Flynn and Tyrone Shum. Market Samurai SEO competition, WordPress, content, backlinks strategy, monetization, etc.

Niche Site Duel Challenge

Written by in Online Business |

This series of posts was originally featured at and has been aggregated here, in full.

SEO Competition What?

Tyron Shum and Pat Flynn are battling it out for niche site stardom and there is an open invitation to join in…or alongside (a duel can’t really have more than two combatants, right?)…either way I am taking them up on the offer, but with a twist.

The majority of the participants are narrowing down keyword phrases that have low enough SEO competition statistics to be worth the hassle of getting them ranked in the top 10 of the Google SERPs this side of the Mayan 2012 apocalypse. I however am totally throwing out that requirement. Why? Because this is a challenge dammit! …actually my reason is much less emphatic…

Bringing to Life a Defunct Domain

Because of my domain buying addiction, I have numerous .com’s lying around collecting dust; one of which is: become an early riser dot com. I have been meaning to do something with this domain for nearly two years but for whatever reason I cannot seem to find the time in the morning before work to get it going…. 😯

Market Samurai: SEO Competition

If you are not using at least the free version of Market Samurai yet then you are seriously behind the niche times. They really are Samurai and have nearly beheaded all similar product competition. Here is what MS has pulled up for the two keyword phrases I am interested in:

Market Samurai SEO Competition Statistics for "Become An Early Riser"

Market Samurai SEO Competition Statistics for "Become An Early Riser" (click to enlarge)

As you can see, the competition for the top 4 spots is from Steve Pavlina and Zen Habits. Although they are not domain optimized for the specific keywords, they are behemoths in the blogging world and will be extremely hard to surpass. Another thing to note is that when I search for this phrase in Google, it returns about 104,000 results but absolutely zero AdSense ads. This means people do not bother bidding on these terms probably because Mr. Pavlina has it on lock.

I decided to check out another term that is directly related and much broader…just for the sake of cementing the impossibility of this:

Market Samurai SEO Competition Statistics for "How To Wake Up Early"

Market Samurai SEO Competition Statistics for "How To Wake Up Early" (click to enlarge)

Yep. The top two spots belong to a keyword phrase domain match with a PR of 4 and 3 and a TON of backlinks.

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Further proof of my insanity: when I do an exact keyword search on the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, my keyword comes up with 170 global monthly searches (with a rise in January…due to all the “new year’s resolutions”). That is TERRIBLE. Contrast this with 1,900 global monthly searches for the phrase “how to wake up early”…and I better hope I can rank for that eventually, even if my domain name is not optimized for it.

What Do I Expect?

Not much. Accomplished for having done something I enjoy and for putting one of my languishing domains to use. In time (a long time most likely) I hope to at least rank on the top 10 for my exact keyword phrase and when that happens perhaps I will release a “Morning Productivity” info product to try and monetize what I can out of it. Since this is a topic that I actually care about and practice, writing content will be fairly simple.

The upside is that since this is a “niche site duel” and there are already two competitors, I can’t possibly lose. 😉

Installing and Customizing WordPress

Normally I like to use a static HTML or PHP template for my niche sites because they’re much more lightweight and can be customized very quickly. And as niche sites typically all follow the same format (a few topical articles, about page, privacy policy and disclaimer pages, a couple relevant images, and maybe a few links) there is very little design-wise that needs to be altered.

However, because this particular keyword phrase that I have chosen is very saturated in the personal development niche, I have decided to broaden my niche keyword phrase a bit (you can see that at the website: become an early riser dot com). Notice that the keyword phrase in the “title” is no longer just my domain name phrase. This means that I have, once again, turned a simple project into a bigger project than initially intended. This is where WordPress comes in.

WordPress (free, open-source, blog/website publishing software) is great for anything that requires more than a handful of pages and a broader range of customizability; for this challenge I have opted for a blog format.

Side note: as far as domain name and hosting are concerned I have chosen GoDaddy to register my domain and HostGator for hosting.

Installing WordPress

There are a few ways I usually go about doing this:

  1. Most hosting providers offer a 1-click install.
  2. Download WordPress to your computer and upload it to your server via FTP.
  3. Using SSH via Terminal on your Mac (or some equivalent on PC).

I most always opt for number 3 as it is the fastest for me. Then all that is left is editing your wp-config.php file, setting your security keys, and changing your table_prefix for security purposes. You can find that info here.

Customizing WordPress

There are a few things I like to configure right away and a handful of plugins that are essential.

  1. Settings > Make sure the “Site Title” and “Tagline” are correct
  2. Settings > Permalinks > I usually choose “Custom Structure” and enter: /%postname%/
  3. Delete the default post, page, comment, and links
  4. Appearance > Widgets > Remove unnecessary widgets
  5. Plugins > Add New > Install “Google XML Sitemaps”
  6. Plugins > Add New > Install “Subscribe To Comments”
  7. Plugins > Add New > Install “All in One SEO Pack”

Choosing a WordPress Theme

There are plenty of free WordPress themes out there that are very well put together and in most cases they will be all you need. However, for added functionality and customization, nothing beats WooThemes. They provide a theme called “Canvas” which is the basis for their “WooFramework”, which basically means it is infinitely customizable and kicks all of the ass. It’s $70 but because of what you can do with it, it is worth every penny.

Normally I would NEVER pay any money for a niche site theme but seeing as how I already purchased the theme for this website, I already own it and using it on multiple websites is 100% allowed.

WooThemes Customization Panel

WooThemes Customization Panel

Customizing My WordPress Theme

If you visit my niche site you can see that I have done some subtle customization. All of which is available via your WordPress dashboard when you use a WooThemes theme. For the time being I have decided not to include a logo because Canvas allows me to use the Google Font Directory and I think the header text looks slick enough for now.

Creating Content, Email Marketing & Social Media

It’s been four days since I launched my niche site. Within 12 hours I was indexed by Google for 3 of the 4 keyword phrases I am going after (however the site was not within the top 1000). Just today I have moved up to 11, 229, and 326 respectively. Not bad, although I have yet to be indexed with Yahoo or Bing.

My niche keyword phrase ranks in Market Samurai

My niche keyword phrase ranks in Market Samurai

How did I get indexed by Google so quickly? I can’t tell you for certain but here is what I did:

  1. Used WordPress and an SEO optimized theme from WooThemes.
  2. Immediately wrote multiple pages (about, privacy policy, resources, why?, disclaimer, contact, contribute, sitemap) and 3 posts.
  3. Created a sitemap using the Google XML Sitemap plugin.
  4. Submitted my website and sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo! Site Explorer, and Bing Webmaster Tools.
  5. Submitted my niche site to a few of these: 16 Links In 16 Seconds.
  6. Had a glass of whisky.

Pretty sure it was the whisky that did it.

Creating Content

This is the easy part. Here is what I did to create a list of nearly 150 article topics:

  • Spent 30 minutes brainstorming and asking myself what I would like to know and learn about the subject.
  • Searched Google using my keyword phrases to see what people have already wrote about my topics.
  • Visited 6 different personal development forums to search for my keyword phrases in the form of questions and wrote down everyones exact wording to use as article headings.
  • Visited these “answers” websites to search for what people are asking about my niche phrases:

That’s it. I stopped at 150 post ideas because I got hungry and my eyes started to bleed but these strategies will yield you an amazing amount of content ideas if you can stand to stare at a computer screen for hours on end.

As far as post frequency, I’m giving myself a easy time and only plan on posting 1-3 articles a week as I have to focus on backlinks/article marketing as well. All of my posts are going to be original content; no Instant Article Factory or spinning software for me. I mostly hate those things…they’re only good for submitting to article directories, which I’ll explain further in my next post.

Email Marketing

Ask any online marketer and they will lay into you about the importance of capturing visitors (email) for future monetization. Most people do this with an opt-in email list which offers extra tips or delivers a free ebook of some sort. I’m going to be taking that approach.

I set up an email marketing campaign using AWeber that will offer extra “morning productivity” tips a few times per month. Incredibly easy to set up and just may make it a whole lot easier to monetize in the future.

Social Media

Most niche sites don’t require a social media campaign because they’re like the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie, “Set it, and forget it!”. I can’t imagine someone would want to associate their “Homemade Baby Diapers” niche site with a Facebook page and personal Twitter account. Mine is a different story…


I’ve decided to link this niche website to my Twitter account because I actually think this is turning out much better than a typical niche site and generally people feel more involved and participatory when a real person is behind something. Plus, I have a really hard time managing multiple Twitter accounts and I personally find it lame when someone creates an account for a product or website just to auto-tweet blog posts or product links. The down side is of course having to slog through a wide variety of topics to get to the stuff you originally followed the person for, but I’ll take my chances.

Facebook Page

I also went ahead and created a Facebook page which you can see by going to the website and clicking the like button at the top/right of the page….what?…you do like it, right? 😉

The landing page for the Facebook page is a simple greeting, and two calls to action:

  1. Click the “Like” button and…
  2. Sign up for the “Morning Productivity” newsletter.

Part 4 My Backlinks Strategy

First, let’s start off with some recent Market Samurai stats. In my last update the site was ranked in Google at 11, 229 and 326 for my top 3 keyword phrases and had not yet been picked up by Yahoo or Bing. Here is where it stands now:

My niche keyword phrase ranking in Market Samurai

My niche keyword phrase ranking in Market Samurai

As you can see, it has not only jumped up for all keyword phrases but is now ranked in Yahoo and Bing as well. Not bad, but still pretty far from where I want to be…especially for that third keyword phrase. I plan on linking one of my article marketing efforts to a page dedicated to that exact phrase.

Article Marketing

This weekend I will submit at least one article relating to my niche to each of these directories:

  • EZineArticles
    The go-to when anyone ever thinks of article marketing. Well-established, popular, high PR backlink.
  • Helium
    I’ve never used Helium before so I thought this would be a great time to jump in. There’s also the potential of earning money directly through a Helium article.
  • HubPages
    Basically an article spiced up with some images, videos, links, etc. Like Helium, this is also a potential money making option.
  • Squidoo
    Very similar to a HubPage.

That’s it. No mass submitting to random article directories or article spinning; I have no issues with using software like Instant Article Factory (to generate quick articles) and The Best Spinner (to turn one “pillar” article into 20 unique articles) to make the content writing process go faster, but that is something I do for simple niche sites and like I’ve said, this site is morphing into something a bit beyond the average niche site.

Another strategy many people use is creating “throw away blogs” to add authority. Stuff like Tumblr, Blogger,, etc. Basically you would create a blog on each of these sites and write an article related to your niche and then either have a link back to your niche site or a link back to one of your EZineArticles which in turn is linked back to your site. The variations go something like this:

Blogger > EZineArticle > Your Niche Site, Squidoo, HubPages > Your Niche Site
Tumblr > Helium > Your Niche Site

This is a strategy I have used in the past but I have nothing to compare it to. So, this time I am opting out of the “throw away blog” route. We’ll see if that makes a difference. I’ll report back whether positive or negative.


This always seems like a chore to me. Even if I have something of quality to add to a conversation, there is always the lingering thought of how and why I arrived at the page in the first place: to hopefully bring traffic back to my site. That reason isn’t a bad reason but I so often read about how people should be “real” and “sincere” when commenting and the truth of the matter is, sincerity and being real have nothing to do with it. I’m not your market, I’m your competition and I’m just here to provide some extra info and leave a link back to my site. All this so called “real” can be left for the people arriving via Google searches to get answers to what ails them.

Commenting is like the guy dressed in a giant sandwich costume waving a “free sub” sign on the corner of the street…it sucks but it brings business. Maybe that’s a bit harsh…okay, sometimes it’s like the sandwich guy…and sometimes you get awesome people making awesome contributions, whatever their motivation. Here’s what I plan to do:

  • Search (great way to find sites to create backlinks on) for my keyword phrases.
  • Comment on relevant blogs until just before I explode; trying my damnedest to be engaging and meaningful.
  • Search for some relevant forums and make a few contributions.

Guest Posts

This is something I may or may not do. If I decide to, it will be at a later time, perhaps a few months or so down the road. The reason for this is because most people don’t want a “new site” owner to tarnish their blog with something unestablished that may go under in the near future. I know I don’t. Also, apparently you need to write at least 3,000 words in order to have a guest post worth anything. 😉


Like always, I’ll start with some recent Market Samurai stats. In the last update my niche site was ranked 10, 140, and 225 in Google for my top 3 keyword phrases. This round I have added a few keyword phrases; here is what it looks like:

My niche keyword phrase ranking in Market Samurai

My niche keyword phrase ranking in Market Samurai

The rank have dropped by a few for each category. That’s to be expected as Google tries to figure out where I belong. As for Yahoo and Bing, the ranks have increased significantly. Yesterday, an article I submitted to EZineArticles was accepted so I imagine my rank will increase as soon as more article directory submissions get posted.


Most people in the challenge have already implemented their monetization methods but I’m planning on rolling that out as slowly as possible. Since I need to make it to the first SERP in Google to start receiving any good traffic, I need to focus on content and article marketing before I focus too much on ads. That being said, I have implemented a few easy things…

Sponsors (affiliate products)

In the widgeted footer I have added a “Visit Our Sponsors” column that for now will list one affiliate product of my choosing. As time goes on and traffic starts rolling in, that will become a paid ad space (where someone will pay to place an ad in that spot for a product or service of theirs).

Books (Amazon affiliate)

The next column in the widgeted footer is a “Currently Reading” list. Which is exactly what it sounds like, a book, related to the productivity category, that I am currently reading. It links directly to the Amazon store. Although the Amazon Associates program pays very little for referring customers, it is often better than Google AdSense.

Newsletter (email marketing)

This will eventually become the main monetization method but will take the longest to setup. In the future I may release an ebook related to the niche and this will make it easier to get that product to a very targeted audience. In the mean time I can send out email newsletters that occasionally have affiliate links to products I find useful.

Resources Page

This is something that takes less than an hour to setup and can reap benefits well beyond the time put in. It is simply a page of services and products that I have used and find are worth the purchase. Every one of these is an affiliate link.

Enjoy this post? Consider sharing it:

Ciotti August 19, 2011

Awesome, I’m not sure how confident I am in the keyword, but that remains to be seen. Thanks for going so in-depth with your strategy for this, definitely got some insight and some things to implement into my own strategy for niche sites.

Jason Manheim August 20, 2011

Fantastic. This is an old post aggregated here. It went well, but I lost interest and it lingers now.

Bryan October 27, 2011


I like how much detail you have put into the tracking of your website. Really good niche market.


Jason Manheim November 8, 2011

Tracking, yes. Good niche, perhaps I just got lazy about it all but it doesn’t seem to be.

Avinash D'Souza November 8, 2011

Jason, this is a FANTASTIC post!

Please please please do a few more SEO posts like this one…you have no idea of how rare it is to find usable posts like this one.

I’m not saying that you don’t get extremely well-written strategy SEO posts but it’s hard to find something that you can A)See the results of; B)Use as a novice

Jason Manheim November 8, 2011

Thanks, it was actually a series of posts on an older blog that I aggregated here.

If I ever get 2 seconds of free time I’d like to do more. 🙂

Avinash D'Souza November 9, 2011

I’ve downloaded it just in case you decide to take this post off at some time in the future…