Picking the right niche for your blog isn’t just important, it’s imperative. Keep it family-friendly and AVOID stuff the US government doesn’t like…
Why? Because if you go with the wrong niche and it gets affected by new forms of regulation, all you can do is sit back and watch your baby burn.
This is currently happening to one of my sites.
And it is not fun.
Here’s the low-down of what happened, how I got started in this godforsaken niche, and what I’m doing to hopefully save my business.
How I Picked My First Ever Niche Site
Back in 2014, I was a tech journalist. That was how I earned my living, writing about phones and consumer tech products at a London publishing company.
After watching about 30 people get made redundant in the space of a month, and knowing that my rent had to be paid regardless of whether I had a job or not, I decided to get myself some insurance.
And that insurance was a niche site, something I could side-hustle on my own time after work and at the weekends, that would, one day, replace or heavily supplement my nine-to-five salary.
Knowing what I knew at the time about building sites, precisely ZIP, I figured I could probably pull it off in about six to nine months.
After much deliberation, I decided to launch a blog about vaping and ecigs.
Because I had just started using them to quit smoking and I could not find any good content online.
I searched and searched for premium, editorial sites about vapes but found nothing.
This is it, I thought. This is my niche.
And it was a great niche too; low competition, a relatively new market with strong growth potential.
All I had to do was take what I knew about consumer journalism, apply it to vaping, and, of course, get myself a blog built.
I knew all about writing content from my day job. But I did not know about SEO, building websites, or anything to do with WordPress.
WordPress? What’s That…
You want to know how much of a noob I was at the time?
I didn’t even know what WordPress was.
The company I worked for used Drupal and its own custom CMS.
I’d never had to worry about what a CMS was or how it worked; I just submitted copy and the editor put it on the site.
But after speaking to a few developer friends and doing my own research, I discovered the wonderful world of WordPress.
It took about two months to get from idea-phase to a live site.
In the end, I recruited a friend to build the site.
This was my first major mistake. One that’d end up costing me £2000.
I didn’t know anything about web development, you see, so I decided to ask a friend (who was also a developer) to partner with me on the site.
This would save me money, I reasoned.
I had no idea if the site would work, so, at the time, this made complete sense.
Also: journalists – especially tech journalists – get paid next to nothing, so I wasn’t exactly flush with cash at the time.
This is why I decided to make a deal with my friend.
He’d build the site, I’d do the writing. Then we split the money.
Sounds good, right?
It was at the beginning.
But once the site was built, my friend didn’t really have much to do, while I was doing 3-4 hours of work every day on content after I finished work.
His work, while invaluable, effectively finished when development stopped.
And I had agreed to split ALL the revenue with him down the middle, despite putting in WAY more hours myself.
I decided to let things sit for a bit. It was a new site, so it got naff-all traffic anyway.
Might as well just press on, I thought.
But then, about three months later, it started making money. And I had to make a decision.
I was getting irritated by the fact that I was doing all the work and only getting 50% of the money.
In hindsight, I should have just hired a developer to build the site and got a loan for the money.
Or put it on a credit card.
But I didn’t.
The idea of doing a little start-up with one of my closest friends was just too appealing.
Eventually, we agreed the terms of our divorce. It was amicable. But it cost me £2000 – half the money the site had made up to that point.
Ironically, £2000 is about the same amount of cash it would have cost to have had the site built by an agency.
Or a freelancer.
Again, at the time I did not know about Fiverr or Upwork.
What’s the moral of the story here?
DO NOT work with friends.
Not unless there is a clear division of labor and everybody is happy with what they’re doing.
Fast Forward A Few Years…
By the close of 2018, my vape blog was clearing $10K a month in affiliate commissions.
I had a bunch of writers that did all the content, leaving me to direct and oversee developments and new initiatives.
This is basically the perfect position to be in.
The place you dream of one day being at when you start a niche site.
Things progressed nicely over the next two years too, allowing me to fund the acquisition of the tech site I used to work for. I then set up another site, this one focussed on electric guitars and music.
And then 2020 happened…
I won’t bore you with the details, but the US government has a major problem with vaping.
In the UK, vaping is seen for what it is – a life-saving technology that can and does get millions of people off cigarettes every year.
Public Health England says it is 95% safer than smoking and should be encouraged.
Basically, in England, you can get vapes in hospitals and on the NHS.
In the US, it’s a little different, a little more corrupt.
And annoyingly the US is the biggest vape market in the world.
About 80% of my site’s revenue comes from the USA.
And that market is about to completely disappear.
A couple of reasons.
The first is the vape mail ban; this will effectively stop people from buying vape products online.
You then have things like Master Settlement Agreement which, despite everything I know about US governmental corruption, still blows my mind…
Bunk science from dubious sources.
And big tobacco-funded lobby groups that want vaping eradicated so they can get back into the business of making billions of dollars of profit by selling products that kill more than 400,000 people every single year.
On top of this, you had a nation-wide – and now completely debunked – smear campaign that was designed to scare Karens about vaping.
It worked too.
You now have Karens all over the place thinking their lil Timmy is gonna get himself addicted to those damn vapes.
Despite vape products coming under the same laws as tobacco and alcohol.
Basically, the US vape market is f***ed.
Can My Business Be Saved?
My little story is now right up to date.
It is 2021, COVID is still a thing, and the US vape market is about to implode.
Tens of thousands of jobs will be lost, thousands of businesses will close, and hundreds of millions of dollars will swept out of the market.
Because the US government doesn’t want you using a smoking alternative that is 95% safer than smoking and orders of magnitude more effective than patches and gum.
You honestly couldn’t make this stuff up.
But I digress…
So what is my plan to save my vape blog? How can I make it work without the US market?
Thank God For Thirsty Affiliates…
Thirsty Affiliates is one of the most useful WordPress plugins on the market. If you run affiliates on your site, you need it – and get the pro version too.
I’ve been running Thirsty Affiliates on ALL my blogs for years now. And the reason?
It makes my life infinitely easier.
With Thirsty Affiliates, you can manage all of your affiliate links from one place, so even if you have thousands of affiliate links on your site, you can manage and change them en masse with a single click.
For instance, say you’re promoting a hosting service. You will have an affiliate link from the hosting company.
It’ll probably look something like this: www.hostingcompany.com/ref12244 – or something.
With Thirsty Affiliates, you take that link, plop it into Thirsty Affiliates, give it a name like Hosting Company, and Thirsty Affiliates turns it into a pretty link, something like this:
It not only looks better, but it means you no longer have to manually enter the affiliate link every time you use it.
You can set up Thirsty Affiliates to automatically add a link to certain keywords on your blog too.
Which is super handy.
In the above example, you could use Best Hosting Company, Hosting Company, Our #1 Recommended Hosting Company.
And every time you enter any of those keywords into your copy, Thirsty Affiliates will automatically add in the affiliate link for you.
It is; it literally saves me hours of work and means I can manage all my affiliate links from one place.
But the really cool thing about Thirsty Affiliates is that can geolocate links too, so you can change where the link points to based on the user’s location.
If the user is in the USA, they will be sent to the US-based affiliate page.
If they’re in the UK, they’ll be pointed to the UK-based one.
And it is this feature that is going to save my ass.
Without this, I’d have to go through thousands of posts and update all the links manually.
And that would probably take the rest of my life.
With Thirsty Affiliates’s geo-location feature, I managed to get all my top 100 pages and posts done inside a couple of weeks.
The UK vape market, while thriving, is no way near the size of the US market.
This means less money, most likely.
But it does mean my blog will survive. I’ll lose revenue, sure, and I’ll have to update my SEO strategy to focus more on the UK.
But the blog will survive. It will continue to make money.
But without Thirsty Affiliates, I honestly don’t think it would have worked.
My vape blog is over six years old now, it has THOUSANDS of posts.
Most of the posts have affiliate links.
And they all point to the US.
Manually changing them one by one just wouldn’t be feasible.
Luckily, I have been using Thirsty Affiliates since day one on my blog, so all my links are stored inside the plugin.
So, instead of having to manually crawl through thousands of pages of content and, potentially, millions of affiliate links, I can now just alter a few hundred links and fix them all.
And that is all down to having Thirsty Affiliates installed on my blog.
Do yourself a favor, get this plugin.