How do you grow a profitable site in a competitive niche in 25 months?
That’s what we learn in Shawn’s interview on the Niche Pursuits podcast.
Shawn dives into lots of important topics:
- His strategies for keyword research
- How he deals with the seasonality of his niche
- What he does for link building
- The affiliate programs he uses
- And a whole lot more…
But his story is also super interesting and inspiring.
He was a social media marketing guy before taking a course about SEO.
He now works for Forbes as an SEO strategist in his day job, grows his niche site in his free time, and still finds time to work on interesting projects.
Oh, and did I mention he also has 7 kids?
Check out the interview and hear this soft-spoken juggernaut give you all the motivation you need!
Topics Shawn Hill Covers
- His social media marketing background
- How he learned SEO
- Starting his site from his RV
- Working as an SEO strategist for Forbes
- How he chose his niche
- The seasonality of his niche
- How much he now publishes per week
- When his site started making money
- His income growth
- Why he started making info content
- Tips for HARO
- Planning seasonal content
- His video strategy
- Using Jared’s photography course
- The affiliate programs he uses
- His revenue split
- Plans for the future
- Competing against bigger sites
- Selling vs. scaling
- And much more…
Links & Resources
Watch The Interview
Read The Transcription
Jared: Welcome back to The Niche Pursuits podcast. Today we are joined by Shawn Hill. With the grilling dad.com, Sean joins us to tell the story of a website that he started just over two years ago. Now, fast forward just 25 months later and the site just broke $25,000 in revenue, getting several hundred thousand page views a month.
Pretty quick growth, and we get to hear all about it from A to Z from the start to the finish where it’s at right now. Sean, it does know what he is doing when it comes to S seo. He works for Forbes as his day job doing SEO for. And so he does bring a good amount of experience, but it’s still wonderful to hear about how he started this site from scratch.
The keywords that he started off by going after, he did start with this site being focused on affiliate revenue primarily, and has since moved into adding a lot of informational content on that is monetized through ads. We get to hear about how he grew the site, how the growth trajectory. And of course along the way, all the different things that he had to make decisions around.
We do get into his backlink strategy. We talk about where he is going with the site. We talk about Google updates and what they’ve been doing to the site and maybe how to futureproof things. I ask him about social media, what he’s doing there. He does have a background in social media prior. To his job at Forbes.
And so it’s really cool to read how he’s using and starting to leverage other areas like Facebook groups. We talk about YouTube and we talk about whether it’s a good play here in this space. It’s always fun to get the story, uh, about a single website at its growth. And obviously Sean’s doing some great things.
We finish off the interview by talking about where he is going with the site, gonna keep it, gonna grow up more, gonna start other sites, et cetera. I hope you. Introducing niche sites.com. Are you looking to scale your niche site portfolio or build your first website? Look no further than niche sites.com with a portfolio of successful websites.
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Niche sites.com/trial. Go claim your free content. Before we jump into the podcast, I wanted to let you know that today’s episode is sponsored by Search Intelligence. Here’s a short clip of Ferry from Search Intelligence showing you how their agency built digital PR links to a client’s website. Do you remember this campaign?
Shawn: It was all over the news. It is the most intelligent royal campaign with over 100 links generated in the world’s biggest online public. This is one of the most viral PR campaign of 2021. This is how we’ve done it. The methodology was pretty simple. We looked at the QS World University rankings for the institutions attended by key members of the royal family to discover which royal is the brightest wall.
Naga Markle came out on top, followed by Kate Middleton and Prince William. We put these findings in a press release and sent it to mainstream media and journalists who riot about royals from Russia to the uk, the us, Vietnam, and Japan. This story got massive coverage landing over 100 links, and created a massive buzz on social.
Simple research, but a great story that journalists love to write about. I hope this will put you on fire and will give you inspiration.
Jared: If you want similar link building PR campaigns for your website, head to search dash intelligence. Dot co.uk and get in touch with them now.
All right. Welcome back to the Niche Pursuits podcast. My name is Jared Baum. Today we’re joined by Sean Hill. Sean, welcome on. Hey, thanks so,
Shawn: so much for having me.
Jared: Yeah, thanks for, for coming on. I am very excited for today’s discussion and I know that, um, you have a, a great background in, um, in marketing and website building, but we’re gonna be talking about some of the websites that you’ve built, uh, along the way.
So before we get into some of the details, how about giving us some backstory, uh, and catch us up to, to maybe where the website building journey.
Shawn: Yeah, definitely. So I started, you know, had a background in sales professionally and transitioned from that and started a marketing agency that was primarily focused on social media.
Uh, a couple of the clients asked if I would start writing blog posts for ’em too. So I started to, and I didn’t know much about it and just being competitive, I was a little frustrated that. What I was writing wasn’t showing up very high on Google, and that led me to like asking a lot of questions and learning like, oh, there’s this term called seo.
So I was joining like every group in forum I could possibly find and asking questions and just digging in. And ultimately, you know, through that journey. Met this guy named, named Brock. Uh, he said he, you know, had had a little bit of help from this guy named Shane. And Shane had this course going. Um, so I took the course, paid him for some, um, some coaching along the way, and really just kind of followed that, that playbook.
And, you know, now we are here where the last couple of months was, you know, over $25,000 in revenue on the site. Two years later.
Jared: Wow, that’s great growth. I, um, you know, it’s funny, I share a very similar story, which I don’t even tell that much, but I was, um, doing marketing at my old company and the only thing we didn’t do well was seo.
We did social media and email. I just couldn’t figure it out. And I put my, I just kind of like a dog on a bone set out to figure out why, and, and, you know, now here we are later. That’s mostly what I do with my
Shawn: agency, . Yeah. That’s awesome. So
Jared: are you, um, still running the agency? Where, where are you at? A job perspective.
Um, I mean, that’s great income on your website where, where’s the full-time job at?
Shawn: Yeah. So I was, I was doing that as I started kind of learning more about it. I realized I didn’t like having a whole bunch of bosses and I really didn’t like social media in using it, uh, for other people. So I started transitioning away.
I have a friend that has like a, a full service marketing agency, so I just started kind of shipping clients that way and filtering ’em over there. And then I was really focused on my site and kind of like something you had mentioned in the intro there. It was at the time, like in Covid, we started traveling around the country.
In an RV with the whole family. It was a ton of fun. And I was spending, you know, hours every day, you know, learning and building this site as I was going. But from there, you know, once we came back to a house, I’m like, Hey, I, I actually need a job. Like our savings are starting to dwindle. So the site wasn’t making that much money yet.
And so I went back to a job, but I had actually, you. Working with Shane had asked him a question. He’s like, Hey, that’s a question. One of our SEO analysts would ask, like, have you ever thought about doing this for a living? And so that kind of opened the door where I was working with him and, and this other agency where they had some partnerships with some really large media sites.
And so my first, you know, s e o was working on these large sites, you know, that were doing really well. So I got to learn, you know, if you make one small. You kind of see the impact of that within a day. Mm-hmm. , because they’re such big sites. So really got immersed into it there. And, um, kind of fast forward now, uh, I’m now an SEO strategist at Forbes, uh, full-time and running the site a couple hours a night is kind of what I spend on it now,
I feel like, which direction should we go? We could fill a whole hour talking about Forbes and what you do with them, or fill a whole hour talking about your website, how fascinat.
Shawn: Yeah, so it’s a lot of fun doing both and it’s one of those things where I haven’t experienced really any burnout, but I’m, you know, working all day, you know, at Forbes and seo.
And then afterwards, after the kids are in bed is when I typically come back down here and spend a couple hours and do it all again for myself. I, I know
Jared: that there’s gotta be a lot of things and, and I don’t wanna take us too far off course cuz we do want to talk about how you’ve grown this website from, I mean, basically zero to 25 k a month in two years.
But maybe could you give us a little bit of insights because most of us don’t get the opportunity to work on really, really big sites and whenever we have someone on that’s, that’s worked. We just had, um, uh, Nick who had worked on dmv.org on a little while ago, and these big websites are so different than.
The types of websites a lot of us are operating. What are some of the things you’ve been able to learn from working on a big website, like say a Forbes or other websites and that you’ve actually applied, you’ve been able to apply to
Shawn: your website? Yeah, I think the, um, two biggest things are finding, I don’t know the, the right word to use it, I guess like managing a.
which was like brand new to me, but how they’re able to manage in all the different parts that come with running these sites, whether that’s, you know, a writer or an editor or photos or you know, other multimedia actually publishing it. Formatting like optimizing for search, doing all these things. Like usually on these big sites, there’s like a person that’s specialized in their one task.
Uh, and on these sites we’re kind of wearing all the hats, right? So it’s learning how to delegate and which. Are, you know, better to delegate versus you doing yourself. But then the other thing, and it’s definitely the biggest, is branding. Mm-hmm. . I mean, if you, you know, everyone’s heard of Forbes and it’s because they’ve done just a phenomenal job.
Everyone knows the brand name, uh, and it’s usually trusted and for good reason.
Jared: That’s great, man. It must be fun. Must be fun to work on a big site and kinda like what you talk about, like make a change in, I mean, hours, days later, it’s, you’ve seen it . Yeah,
Shawn: it is. It’s a lot of fun in
Jared: the wild. That’s great.
Well, let’s, um, I mean, let’s go through if we can, and really get, uh, into the weeds on how you built this site and, uh, maybe. Here, the foundation, how you picked the website that, or the niche that you wanted to go after. Was this your first one or, or there a couple maybe failed ones before that, like take us to the foundation of this, this particular site.
Shawn: so I thought I had it all kind of figured out before taking the course, just from asking people questions and forums and, you know, learning all the free information I could. And I had a couple of sites that just didn’t do well and the, the first one really was, The one I actually like was like, I guess trying to rank things for, and it was in parenting.
You know, I’m a dad of seven kids. I’m like, I’ve got experience here. Like I can, I can talk about write the book. Yeah. Well, nothing ever ranked. It was horrible. Social media profiles grew pretty quick, but. I just, it wasn’t translating into traffic and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. And you know, that’s kind of led down the way.
So then I just had to say like, I’m gonna pretend I know nothing, uh, and just be ignorant and while I’m taking this course, I’m gonna follow it step by step. Mm-hmm. Um, and so that’s really what I did. And you know, as far as the foundation, I think you’re right. Like I wanted to, to pick a niche that I had experience in where there were products I could help promote.
But also, you know, something. It has search data behind it. Mm-hmm. that way. I was going into something I knew I could find traffic for. Um, so ultimately, you know, I was kind of narrowed it down to a couple of different niches that I thought would be interesting, one of which was gardening. Knowing what Epic gardening has done now, like, I’m so glad I didn’t go there and try to compete with them because what they’re doing is just amazing.
Um, and ultimately I decided on BB. So, um, I’m running the, the site, the grilling dad.com. Um, and it’s been a lot of fun. You know, there was search volume, I didn’t know it at the time to even think about or check for seasonality. So there are huge
Jared: peaks and huge value. I was, I just literally wrote in my notes seasonality.
We’re gonna have to talk about that one. . Yeah, it
Shawn: is. It’s not Anisha. I would tell people to go get in and it’s not just cuz I’m there, it is just really big, you know, peaks and. Yeah, started from there. So pick the niche, you know, pick the name, had a simple logo. It’s, it’s definitely changed over time. As the site started making money, I’m upgrading it.
So that’s kind of the, you know, the model was just getting, getting started and getting content out there. Um, and I was going just super low difficulty, keywords, just a lot of how-to type of posts. The original intent of the site was to, An affiliate site. So I had no intentions of ever adding, you know, a Mediavine or Adri to the site.
Um, so a lot of best of type of Roundup posts and a lot of how to, that was what the whole site was made up of. Originally when you
Jared: sought after going down the barbecue route, was it, was it based on, hey, here are three or four, you know, gardening and barbecue and these are three or four areas I’ve interest in, interest in, and I’m confident I can go, I can find keywords for these categories.
These niches? Sorry, if I pick one, or did you kind of drill into trying to see if there was a lot of good keyword opportunities and that’s what guided you to the grilling side of things?
Shawn: Yeah, I was a little, a little biased just because I had, um, while working with social media, I was actually starting a lot of Facebook groups before.
Facebook groups were cool. So I had this like, gardening group. It has a hundred thousand members in it. Geez. Um, and you have a thing with social media, I’ll tell you. . Yeah. And then I have a barbecue group that had, you know, at the time, like 25,000 members, um, and no site or anything. So I kind of did it backwards.
Um, and then the, the dad group too. And I’m like, all right, well, the parenting didn’t work. Uh, it was too competitive, you know, I just, it wasn’t for me. Um, and ended up going with barbecue simply because, , it was something I was actually doing like every weekend and like really passionate about learning. Um, so learning how to, you know, whether it’s smoking brisket or ribs or grilling burgers and, and also like when I was searching for content, a lot of the content sucked and right.
That’s kind of what hit like, I can do better than this.
Jared: You were probably looking around cuz you were actually doing it, realizing, wait a second. This is not taught. I, I have this problem with my brisket when I do it, none of the articles actually address it or whatever it is. Yeah, exactly. Wh when it comes to coming outta the gate, talk about the, the, the approach you took with the affiliate and op, you kind of buried the lead a bit, I’m guessing it went a little bit of a different direction now, but why, um, why the affiliate focus, especially when you were getting.
Shawn: Um, it was the focus because I wanted to at least break even on like the hosting costs, which we know, you know, it’s not a lot, but when you’re broke and you’re driving around the country in an RV and you’re literally living off of your savings, um, you know, I, I just wanted to break even as fast as possible and it seemed like the lowest.
Um, I guess barrier of entry, getting to dollars, um, you know, getting to 50,000 page views a month. I was like, there’s no way like I’m ever gonna do that. It seems so far away, but, you know, making 20, 25 bucks a month from affiliate sales, like, I felt like I could do that. . Mm-hmm. . So
Jared: how, how about we get a snapshot of where you’re at right now and then we’ll kind of undo how you grew this.
Um, you mentioned the, the, the 25 K a month, um, but maybe anything else you’re comfortable sharing in terms of page views or, or other types of metrics?
Shawn: Yeah. It’s getting around 250,000 page views a month. Um, and there’s around 300 published posts. That’s
Jared: great. That’s the 300 published posts, especially not as affiliate focused.
It sounds like that must be driving some good revenue and traffic.
Shawn: Yep, definitely. Is it, it won’t, uh, like January, February, not so much as we ramp into summer, you know, that’s when we’ll see some, some nice little peaks and then. Holiday time, people buy a lot of stuff no matter what in each. So those
Jared: are fun.
What kind of fluctuations are there? Like maybe could you, like what’s the low month in terms of page views and what’s the, the
Shawn: high month? Yeah, so in 2022, um, January, which I mean, again, the site had just hit one year old in January of 2022, um, and it made $1,200 and then December of 2022 it made 25,000.
So like the, the winter months are just so much worse. Um, but there’s also like just a lot of growth. Um, and then this year, January, you know, there was still like 300%, um, year over year growth. January over January. So that’s a, a big drop off, um, from making 25 grand, you know, two months ago to making, you know, about five grand this month or last month.
Jared: Right. Yeah, I mean, it’s easy to understand conceptually, but maybe talk to the person who is still a little skeptical on why seasonality is so hard. Um, you know, Because when you talk to someone who has a site like yours, it’s heavily seasonal. They, they tend to always say like, oh man, dude, seasonality is such a bummer.
But at the same time it’s like, well, I don’t know. You have high months, you have low months. It all averages out. Like what are some of the big frustrations or, or problems with, uh, having a site that’s so seasonal? Yeah, I think there’s,
Shawn: there’s a lot of different factors that go into it. Not only are less people just searching for those terms that you’ve been going after.
but also those who are like, they’re just, they’re different, right? There’s a lot of shopping and not a lot of buying. Um, like Christmas just ended. They racked up all these credit card bills. January, they’re starting all these new spending habits and getting their, you know, uh, financial planning in order.
So it’s kind of the opposite. Like if you had a financial site, you’re probably getting a lot of traffic right now in January and February while people are, you know, starting to, you know, take control and get their finances in order. Um, with their, their New Year’s resolutions and all of that. I’m sure weight loss is the same whereas other things, you know, it just depends on, each niche is, is different as far as the seasonality impact goes.
Um, and even some, you know, will have seasonality, but it, you know, may not be as severe. Like, I’ve worked with other categories in the past, like moving as an example where it’s not as, uh, impacted, but it does have some seasonality where spring and summer are just. More going, moving. Yeah,
Jared: that makes a lot of sense.
Does it change the way that you approach, um, like your content calendar, your updating? Um, does it just, like, do you have to approach it differently? Uh, if you don’t have a seasonal site, you kind of just, you know, you, you come, uh, I’m not trying to say this is what you do, but you don’t have to factor in timing.
You can publish keywords and articles as they come through. You can update articles as it sees fit, but with seasonality, is there like an added layer of calendaring that you almost have to do?
Shawn: Yes. Um, like right now, you and I had mentioned before the show, like I’m doing a whole redesign on the site. Um, it was built with the page builder, Elementor, uh, it’s really slow.
Like I started failing core web vitals and I’m like, Hey, this is a, a big deal. You know, this is middle of December, and I’m like, I need to fix this, but I’m not doing it right now. Like, I’m gonna wait until January to start this because I know nobody’s gonna be on the site. And I say nobody, I mean it just like cuts down.
It’ll be around like it was a hundred thousand people came to the site, which is much lower than that two 50 that I had, you know, was getting used to Right. Anyway, like, so going through that, like the timing of it made more sense. Cause you know, there’s less, you know, it’s less risk averse and, um, Just needed to Yeah.
Time it right. And so hopefully it’ll be finished, um, soon. Maybe by the time this people are actually watching this, they should be redesigned and, and looking good to go, ah,
Jared: you got a target now you gotta, you got a date to work towards Target now? Yep. Nothing like a deadline to motivate. Right. ?
Shawn: I would say it’s probably like 90% done.
Um, the one thing that. You know, stinks is the, the image size that I was using for featured images doesn’t work well now. Mm. And the way I had it positioned on the page, now, it’s like in a different spot and it just, it looks wacky. So about 300 pages, I’m gonna have to go through and create new featured images.
Ah, that’s not fun. . Well, you hire, you hire help and, you know, yep. Form a team and get it done. Step by step. Start out
Jared: guys. Yep. Yep. So you started off publishing a lot of affiliate focused keywords. Um, maybe walk us through like how many articles in the first maybe six months or so, how many articles were you publishing?
Uh, they were, sounds like affiliate focused. How long were they, what were some of the, the ways you did your research? I, I, I gather from the way you talk about it, you were, you were the one writing, you know, you’re out in your RV, traveling around and you were the one creating the content yourself.
Shawn: Yep. I was writing everything I could until I made enough money to pay someone to write for me.
Um, and I don’t know how it happened, uh, luck probably, but I found someone who was just starting, like right outta college, starting their freelance career as a writer. She was pretty good. I would say like b, b plus type of writing. And it was like $5 per every thousand words. Wow. I know. And I’m like, yes.
Like, how much can you write? Like now my site’s, you know, making, you know, $50 a month or whatever it may be. Like I, I want to outsource all of the writing. Um, so I still do some, I, I actually enjoy writing. It’s just so many other things to focus on. Um, so that was the plan I was publishing about one per week when it was just myself and I wasn’t having the growth that I wanted.
Um, the goal was to get to, you know, sprint to 30 posts and I’m like, man, this is gonna take forever. Finally got there. That’s when it started making a little bit of money. Um, getting to 50 posts roughly is when I started outsourcing all the content. And then now from there, I’ve actually hired, you know, a different writer that is much better, uh, as far as the quality goes.
And she’s doing, you know, a lot more posts now. She’s kind of grown with me as the site grows. Um, and then recently hired on, uh, another gentleman to start writing some posts as well. Um, but that’s kind of been the progression as I was writing everything, doing everything, and it started making enough money for me to outsource the writing.
And now like it, we’re writing about six, six to eight posts a week now.
Jared: Wow. Okay. So you’ve really ramped up the content schedule cause you had 300 articles live, uh, what are we just over two years in and so I mean, six to eight a week out of math is fuzzy, but that’s probably three or 400 a month right there.
Or three or 400 a year. Sorry. Right there. Yep. Good. When did, uh, like how did the growth go? Like is it one of those where you kind of woke up one month and it hockey sticked up to the right, or was it this slow progression of
Shawn: growth? It was pretty quick, and once it actually started to grow, it really just took off on its own.
All right, so month number. It took month number six when I first made my first money online. So five months of just writing content, usually one, one post a week. Six months in, I made a dollar 40. All right. And that was enough to keep me going, right? Yeah. Prove the concept. And, um, the next month. Took a downturn.
I made 21 cents . But then after that, so month eight, I made $127 and yeah, that’s, that’s quite. All right, I can, I can hire out for a few posts now because of this person, you know, that I, that I met. And then month nine it was 386, so a big jump, and then 643, and then it stayed right around 500 bucks. And then, you know, month 13 it made 2,400 and then 3,500.
And then we’re looking at, you know, month 19 is when it made its first $10,000 in a month. And then, you know, month 25 is when it hit 25. Oh. So it was a really slow start and then just huge ramp.
Jared: So what do you attribute to that huge ramp up? I mean, many would say that if you’re working on a brand new fresh domain and publishing content, that’s gonna take three to six months to, um, to get any traction from Google in the first place.
So in many ways, It seems like you came outta the gates pretty well. After about six months, you were seeing a great growth curve. Like what do you think caused your site to do really well proverbially outta the gate, especially as compared to maybe your, you know, your parenting site and these other sites that hadn’t done that?
Shawn: Really, I think the biggest thing was, you know, the, the planning on the upfront. With content. I was only writing content. I had a shot at ranking for, Hmm. Um, I wasn’t going after anything, any of the big keywords, any of the hubs, all the shiny objects. I was able to avoid those and add ’em kind of to a backlog.
And I was just really, you know, kind of a stickler on that. I made a lot of mistakes along the way too, uh, while trying to do that. Like, I was so reliant on KD as a metric to tell me if I could rank for it or not. Um, which, you know, I’ve certainly learned since then that. Great final indicator. But yeah, that, I mean, that was the plan.
I was only writing content. I thought I could make money from. Before we
Jared: jump into the podcast, I wanted to let you know that today’s episode is sponsored by Search Intelligence. Here’s a short clip of Ferry from Search Intelligence showing you how their agency built digital PR links to a client’s website.
Shawn: you remember this campaign? It was all over the news. It is the most intelligent royal campaign with over 100 links generated in the world’s biggest online public. This is one of the most viral PR campaigns of 2021. This is how we’ve done it. The methodology was pretty simple. We looked at the QS World University rankings for the institutions attended by key members of the royal family to discover which royal is the brightest wall.
Na Markle came out on top, followed by Kate Middleton and Prince William. We put these findings in a press release and sent it to mainstream media and journalists who write about royals from Russia to the uk, the us, Vietnam, and Japan. This story got massive coverage, landing over 100 links, and created a massive buzz on social media.
Simple research, but a great story that journalists love to write about. I hope this will put you on fire and will give you inspiration.
Jared: If you want similar link building PR campaigns for your website, head to search-intelligence.co.uk and get in touch with them. Now, you talked about how you were very heavy on the affiliate side.
Did you start to change that at any point and start writing more informational content?
Shawn: For sure. Like I said, I kept digging in. Really was fully immersed in there. So anybody who made content around these type of sites and making money, I was, you know, just diving in and learning everything I could.
That’s when I came across, you know, fat Tax Blog and John Dykstra and really, you know, I’m like, dude, he’s making this money and he’s not selling any products. Like, are you kidding me? And then I’m like learning while I’m working at these other sites, I’m like, oh, like they have these sites or these pages that are making all this money, but it’s.
They’re ranking because of all the authority they have because of like the topical authority that they have with all these other post informational posts that aren’t making money. And so that’s when I’m like, man, I need to do that for topical authority. It’s gonna help improve my affiliate posts. But also I could, I could make a little bit of money on the side with these, you know, informational posts.
And, um, it was pretty much overnight. I mean, it was month 17 was like, you know, $3,200 or something like that. Uh, and then 18 it was. Over 7,000. So it flipped overnight. And that was because I turned ads on and it doubled my revenue. Yeah,
Jared: well that kind of traffic, I mean, you know, I, that that’s, that’s enough to substantially increase your revenue just from traffic that comes to maybe a non monetized post.
Do you keep ads on, uh, posts that are monetized with affiliate offers and.
Shawn: Right now, they’re minimal on any of those posts. Um, there’s the sidebar, like one sidebar. There’s the, you know, the one across the bottom and I think there’s one in content ad I plan to kind of fine tune that a little bit. I recently switched from Media Vine to Adri.
Still unsure on who I’ll stick with long-term. Um, but I needed to test it myself. But I think that having some ads on. Are gonna be good, especially like in between, as long as they look clean in between the different posts. After, you know, if someone’s scrolling all the way down, they haven’t bought anything.
Yeah. Rather then gimme some money from ad
Jared: revenue. You’re not gonna buy one of the products I recommend, at least let me get some ad revenue.
Shawn: Yeah, exactly. So that’s, I think that’s gonna be the plan for me, one or the other. But those pages, they get a lot of traffic, so I don’t wanna not make money from ’em.
Jared: Um, there’s kind of a, sometimes a bit of a different process in picking keywords for informational topics. Did you, did you kind of just go after, Hey, as long as it’s related to grilling, uh, I’m gonna go after maybe the easiest or the lowest competition keyword that I can find, or, because you were coming at it after publishing a bunch of.
Affiliate style comment, were you, were you kinda like, well, I’m ranking well for this, you know, such and such barbecue. I’m gonna write some informational content about this barbecue to try to try to round that topic out. Like what, what kind of approach did you take with that informational content?
Shawn: Yeah, I, when I first started it was, let’s find all the content we can, uh, and then I started kind of categorizing it and, you know, segmenting it out.
And I would write about certain, you know, whether it’s certain types of food and all the long tail keywords. And then I’m like, Hey, I could actually start writing like all these questions about the products that I’m promoting. Um, so I started doing that. Yeah. And a few of ’em, you know, there was a time rank changed a lot with this last update, but I was ranking ahead of the U S D A for how long does Bacon last in the fridge?
And I’m like, there’s, there’s no way, like Google got this wrong. Like , I should not be ranking here. Um, same thing like I ranked for the word smokers. I was like, oh, just the header term. Yeah. I was number one for a couple months for the word smokers and like, there’s no reason I should have been. Um, so I’ve definitely had some luck along the way.
Um, but as far as like picking the, the informational keywords, yeah, I was kind of just shotgunning and then seeing what would happen because they were ranking me really well for that, you know? How long does, you know, bacon last in the fridge? Every food possible, right? Like let’s write, how long can you know steak last?
How long can ribs last? And just started going down that, uh, kind of rabbit
Jared: hole You bring up a good point. I think it’s worth kind of doubling down on. Um, I had a client email me, um, a couple months ago and say, Hey, we, we lost a lot of traffic to this one page. Can you look at it? And it was something very similar where they had been ranking for a couple of terms that they had no business ranking.
and it was one of those things where it’s like, Hey, enjoy it while it lasts. You didn’t exactly get hit by an, an update, an algorithm update. You probably just kind of lost the traffic you didn’t really deserve in the, in the first place. So I wouldn’t really worry about it too much, you know, just be glad it happened,
Shawn: for sure. Exactly. I think that there’s, um, for a lot of these sites, it’s like a, a Google boost that you can get, um, you’re kind of like in the flow. Everything you publish. The next day it’s already on page one, right? Like all these things are happening for your site and you’re ranking for these terms that you shouldn’t be, and then it could just be gone.
Um, and like you said, it’s not because of like your site got hit, it’s, it probably now just where it should have been the whole time, or it should have actually been
Jared: the whole time. Yeah. Well, let’s spin at least 30 minutes in now, and we haven’t talked about back links. . I’d be curious to hear from you if, if you, um, put any emphasis on back links, uh, how you’ve gone about tackling links.
Um, again, uh, for a two year old site, it’s doing very well. Um, and so I would, it would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about.
Shawn: Yeah. Uh, I think it’s a, an important topic. I think that the double e a t, um, factors, I think a lot of it is gonna come down to back links and which sites can be trusted. There’s a lot of studies out there that, you know, kind of prove that, um,
And so that’s, I had a focus on it early, but it was all harrow. Right, right. And that was all manual process. And so now I’m kind of doing a few other things where I’ve hired out, um, you know, an agency to write this big, like skyscraper type post, and then they go and pitch it for me. Um, It was not cheap, but you know, that did okay.
And then now I’m actually, I’ve hired someone to do hero pitches for me as well. Um, and I even like tweeted about it today. Someone I had reached out to and won a backlink from, like a freelancer. They’re, they’re doing a different post on a different site now, and they reached back out to me and asked like, Hey, like, you helped me out before.
Can you help me out with these quotes? Um, so I think networking with other site owners and freelancers, uh, is really important for, for links. How did
Jared: the Harrow Link building go? I mean, if you, especially if you’re doing it at the outset, um, uh, was it successful or did you find that, you know, it was, it was tough
Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun, um, doing it because I’ve met a lot of fun people, but it is a lot of pitching without getting a lot back. As far as feedback, cause if you’re not in it, sometimes, even if you are chosen, like you don’t even know until you, you see it live. Um, and so those who are communicating the whole time, I try to stay in touch with them, uh, to build those relationships.
Um, but I would say a really low percentage, like I haven’t actually tested it, but probably around 10% of all pitches that I’ve done ended up with a link. And the things that I found that worked the best was replying as soon as possible. Like I’ve got filters set up where I don’t even see her’s emails unless it contains a keyword that I want.
So then if it’s in there and I see it, it comes up on my phone. You know, even if I’m not at my computer, like I’m replying, I wanna be the first one in their inbox. And I think the thing is not saying, oh, I would love to be a great source. Like, no, what question did they ask? Like, answer it right now, like in bullet points, make it look good.
Tell ’em that you’re credible, and tell ’em what other sites you’ve been in. At the end of it, after you’ve addressed their question,
Jared: hero’s gotta be tough too, because when you’re starting out with a new site and you’re putting time into hero as well, here’s a, it’s a lengthy feedback loop, right? Like sometimes these articles take months to go live, and so you have to almost like writing for Google.
You have to wait a long time before you figure out what’s working and what’s not. And with Hero, it’s, it’s, it can be the same thing, right? It takes some time, several months, and you don’t even find out when it goes live. You only find out cause of a, like a backlink checker or something like that. .
Shawn: Yeah, exactly.
Jared: what other, uh, strategies, if, if any, have you used to grow this site? We, we’ve kind of talked about your approach to content and, and keyword research and talked about back links and, um, obviously you have a, a social media background. It seems pretty successful. Have you, have you used that or, or any other things to help
Shawn: grow this site?
Yeah, so the, um, The Facebook profile page for the grilling dime just hit 22,000 followers. Um, so I don’t post on there nearly as much as I should be. Um, there was actually an issue with like Yost and the featured images I was using before with Elementor and they weren’t talking together. So if I would post a link on Facebook, it wouldn’t.
Like show up, like an image preview. Oh, mm-hmm. . So I couldn’t like, schedule these posts, so it had to all be manual and I don’t, I don’t have time for that. So I,
Jared: uh, , I just wasn’t actually posting to Facebook in the moment. Who’s got time for that?
Shawn: Yeah. So I haven’t, uh, haven’t been doing as much as I should with it, especially with the growth that it’s had.
Um, and then I would say as far as growing it, I think. Clustering a lot of keywords together that are informational and going after it, um, pretty hard. Like as an example, um, we went after Turkey content, um, cuz we know there’s a lot of questions about Turkey. And we like myself and you know, the, the main writer on the side, we’ve got a lot of experience ourselves, like smoking and baking or, you know, roasting Turkey.
So we went through, we found a bunch of questions that we thought could be answered and on Thanksgiving, like the day before and Thanksgiving day, like we hit over a million impressions in a day. Um, all because of, like in September, we were looking ahead like. We need content that’s gonna be, you know, focused where we know people are searching.
So taking, I guess, um, risk like that, like, Hey, we’re gonna publish all this content. It may or may not rank by the time we need it to be there. Um, but just keeping it closely focused together in a cluster, I think was important to give us enough authority to, to rank those.
Jared: I might have been one of the, uh, million impressions on your site that night.
I, uh, I for the first time, spatchcocked a Turkey. I smoked a Turkey via Spatchcocking at this Thanksgiving, so, um, I did not know what I was doing. . Yeah. Well I spent a lot of time. Um, but that te that segues nicely into my next question because not only did I spend a lot of time researching online, but I was on YouTube trying to figure it out.
It feels like there’d be such a good YouTube play for you in this industry.
Shawn: Yeah, it’s definitely a focus. That’ll be this year I’ve done a few short. , I don’t want to be in the videos. Um, mainly because like I’m not super comfortable in front of a camera. Um, so I’ve always been kind of the behind the scenes guy, so we’ll see how that goes.
I don’t do a lot of recipes on my site. Um, very, very few of them. And so I think those would do really well on social and YouTube, all the other ones. We’ll see. I’ve got a, got a plan, but, um, we’ll see how it goes. Working on some scripts right now. Yeah.
Jared: Would um, would you be comfortable outsourcing that if you could find someone who would be able to adequately get in front of a camera and kind of carry the brand?
Or is that something where brand-wise you think it would just be too far removed?
Shawn: No, I would totally do that. Um, you would, yeah. Yeah. I would say one of my, like biggest competitors, there was this dude, um, his name is Jordan and he’s on Instagram and he makes these amazing recipes and I’m like, dude, if I could get him.
Write for my site or you know, publish content on my Instagram or YouTube, like that would be really cool. So I’m like reaching out to him and then I’m like, oh. And I realized like my biggest competitor had already hired him. Oh. And I’m like, man, that was so smart. But then I started looking at their YouTube and they have someone else that I think has their own type of like YouTube channel, but they, he’s also doing posts like for their brand, and I think that’s really cool.
Um, the competitor themselves, I mean, their, their site is amazing. So, um, hats off to them for the growth they’ve had. I mean, they’re, they’re over a million views a month now, so they’re huge.
Jared: Wow. Yeah. It just feels like a great site too, you know? To do the YouTube, uh, not only shorts, but maybe, maybe full length videos.
And it feels like you could get away without having to have this crazy high production value. You know, it could be very outdoor oriented without needing to, uh, you know, become a professional videographer. .
Shawn: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So that’s, that’s the plan. And to start, Like, this is horrible to say. Like I think you should actually try the products before you recommend them.
And I usually do on most products on my site. Um, the issue is I can’t show people that, cuz I like wasn’t confident at all in taking photos or videos. It’s just not something I’m, you know, I’ve done a lot with, it’s actually why I bought your course. Um, so it’s gonna help me, uh, going through that course to actually.
Adding my own photos. I’ve got nine smokers in my garage. Oh man, you got
Jared: a gold mi of content waiting to be, literally,
Shawn: there’s nine of ’em. Like I, some of ’em I haven’t even done reviews on. Like some of ’em I’ve like recommended, but I don’t even have any of my own photos on the site, like with that. Um, so that’s a big part of this year and, and going through and, you know, updating the featured images, it’s gonna open an opportunity to start adding my own images and photos.
Um, you know, again, not to toot your horn, but I’ve learned so much like from your course that I’m like, Hey, I actually feel like I could take good enough photos, um, with my smartphone to start adding these on the site and making it look. Much better.
Jared: Oh, that’s super cool. Yeah, you don’t need more than a smartphone.
I mean, all the phones these days. Um, and the same with YouTube. You could, I know a lot of people who are using their iPhones and then they just attach like an external, uh, microphone and they’re, they’re filming, I won’t say great, but pretty darn great YouTube videos too, you know? Mm-hmm. for sure. Um, let’s talk about that.
It’s on my list. You segued perfectly. Like are you going, the classic Amazon route with your affiliate product recommendations is, is this, uh, an area where there’s private affiliate deals? Um, you know, how, how are you, uh, how are you going about the affiliate route?
Shawn: You know, so it was all Amazon at the. In fact, like when I was first starting, I didn’t have my own like affiliate ID on any products just because I knew I wasn’t getting traffic.
And I’m like, you know, gotta have so many sales. And so I waited and then it was only until I think last month, maybe December, some of those original posts just now got updated with my affiliate id and they’ve been getting traffic for two years. I’m like, okay, well here’s a lesson learned. Um, and so now all those are updated, but it was all Amazon at first, and then it slowly started to turn into, um, some direct deals, right?
Whether that’s some of ’em just through, you know, um, like impact or share sale. And some of ’em are, you know, private. And it’s been a lot of fun learning and growing that way and learning, you know, more about conversions and, you know, considering that side, uh, of it and if it makes sense, like the extra percentage, like if they can’t convert at all, like it doesn’t matter, I’d rather send ’em to Amazon and make 3% of something than.
12% of nothing. So that’s
Jared: what I was gonna ask you, like, have you tested and seen some perform better than others? I’m so fascinated all the time about that because any, anytime you talk to someone who has gone down the road of either private deals or just off Amazon affiliate programs, they seem to always say like, EHS hit or miss.
Some do great, some don’t, and, and it’s so tough to figure it out unless you just sit down
Shawn: and. Yep. Even in the, I mean, same category, same page. I have some where it’s like a private deal that pays really well, but they don’t convert at all. And another one that, you know, pays okay. But it converts really well.
Um, and I
Jared: What do you think that comes down to? Like, have you got any insights on what it comes down to?
Shawn: Just their site? Yeah, their site. Some of ’em are set up for conversions, some of ’em aren’t. Some of ’em are better at, you know, retargeting and you still getting credit for it, those type of things. So I think that’s a big part of it.
And I think that, overall, just recommending products that are actually good and not just recommending products that are gonna pay you a lot of money. Mm-hmm. Hmm. like, it, it like shows, so I don’t know. The, the product that actually performs the best is like the second cheapest on the site or on that page.
And, um, I mean, it pays out at like 9% and it’s still, you know, $800 product.
Jared: You’re right. Cheap in the barbecue industry is still pretty good. You, you had mentioned that the site broke the $25,000 mark. What is, what is the split between the earnings from affiliate versus the earnings from, um, from ad revenue?
Shawn: Yeah. So it’s almost exactly 50 50. Okay. Um, so November and December they flip-flopped where, you know, November it was like 51%, um, you know, display ads, and then 49% affiliate, and then it flip flopped in December. And it’s really, since I added ads, it’s been consistently close to 50 50. That’s,
Jared: I was gonna say, so it’s, it’s been pretty much 50 50 along along the way.
Um, and I would imagine that in the seasonality page views drops, your ad revenue drops, but then again, the page views to the affiliate content drops, so probably the affiliate revenue drops as well. So it might actually stay pretty
Shawn: consistent. Yeah. This, I think the low months, the affiliate content will significantly out.
Display ads. Mm-hmm. . And so, um, last month, I mean, it was almost like 75% affiliate. Okay. Interesting. Yeah.
Jared: Well, there you go. That’s, that’s the, the benefit of having that affiliate, uh, content on there. Yep. What, um, what’s next? What’s next? I wanted to ask you about that. I have a couple other questions too, but in terms of where you’re going, you’re publishing a, a ton of content.
You’re really ramped up the production schedule. We talked a bit. You, you know, maybe YouTube, maybe videos, maybe imagery, all these other things like, uh, what’s the plan for a time of recording? You know, we’ve got most of 2023 ahead of us.
Shawn: Yep. So a lot of video adding in those, um, you know, images that no one else can have cuz they’re mine.
Right. Like, just making it a better quality site is a huge, you know, task for this year. Um, we’ll still. Publishing new content? Uh, it won’t be, it probably won’t be as much as, like at one time we had planned like 10 pieces of new content a week. We’re probably gonna keep it around six. Mm-hmm. . Um, and it’s just gonna be better, right?
Um, where we are showing our own photos, you know, our own videos, we’re gonna start doing things on YouTube, uh, and really kind of branding. Um, that’s, that’s the big thing in the focus this year. If I had to boil it down to one word is branding. ,
Jared: you talked a bit about Google updates and man on man, we’ve had no shortages.
No shortages of those. Um, how has the site performed through those and is there anything you’ve kind of learned from watching the various updates roll out and how your sites responded?
Shawn: Yeah, so I’ve had a couple of times where, you know, after an update I saw some drops, um, and then it would pick back up.
And right now, Almost everybody that I’m tracking that are like competitors are seeing drops right now where media sites are coming in and starting to take some of those top positions where before they weren’t touching these at all. So we’ve had some drops there and it’s interesting to see like HFS chart, it looks like my site like just died overnight.
Oh, does it? Yeah. but it didn’t. And so it’s just interesting to see some of those pages that they just have wrong where it’s mainly cuz they have one page that says, I get like 120,000 visitors a month if I’m in position one, but I get 50,000 per month if I’m in position two. And the reality is like, I’ve never gotten more than 400 page views.
Are you serious in a given month
Jared: for that? It’s that Dr. I mean I know it’s off, but that’s dramatic. Yeah, it’s dramatic.
Shawn: And then, you know, the flip side too, there’s some pages. I mean, I won’t go into detail on these that say I’m getting like four or 500 views, but I’m actually getting like over 10,000.
I’m like, I like these. No one’s going after these.
Jared: Oh, that’s, yeah. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. And so, um, it, it, you were saying you, you saw, you’re seeing some, some rankings slip a bit to some big publishers, but nothing that’s,
Shawn: um, over Yeah, nothing, nothing dramatic. Um, and most of the time it seems warranted, right? For these big media publishing sites, they’ve done a great job showing how they tested it.
Um, their methodologies, you know, seem on point and they probably do deserve to be ranked higher. Um, I haven’t really seen any that are, that seem unfair because of the algo updates.
Jared: When a big media site goes after a keyword, they’re actually matching search intent. Right. Um, and they actually do a killer job.
And they have a crazy, strong domain. What do you, what do you do? Like, what’s your approach? Do you just kind of bend that article off and say, well it was, you know, it was nice ranking there while I, while I had it. Do you kind of, do you try to update it and try to compete and just try to make it better, try to make yours different?
Do you repurpose that article for something else? Like, I’m just curious how you approach it when a big media company with a strong domain actually does produce a good piece of.
Shawn: Yeah, for me, I try to compete, uh, if I’m there and I’ve shown Google like, Hey, you know, I was a, a good person there at position one.
Like let me try to update this and make sure I’m matching user intent and see if I can do, you know, a better job at showing, you know, my hands-on experience and doing these type of things. Right. I think it’s important and I’m just like to a fault, really competitive, so I’m not just gonna give up just cause somebody else strolled into town.
Makes sense. Makes
Jared: sense. Yeah, you’re right. You, if you were number one there for a while, you probably have a case to be made that you could get back to number one. Yep. Yep. Let me ask you, as we kind of start to close, what, I guess the long-term plans for this side hustle business. You have, you know, you, uh, you have one site, it sounds like, or at least from what I’m interpreting, you’re really focused on one site.
Would you ever start another one? Would you try to sell this and, and go into another one, or maybe purchase a site and use that as a springboard? Are you gonna just stay knuckled down on one site?
Shawn: Yep. Site did. I bought a second site a while back. Um, And I wasn’t sure why and I just haven’t had any time.
It was making some money. It’s not making any money now. I was kind of frustrated with that cause I had to redo a bunch of the content. I didn’t do a good job up front. Um, actually looking at the site, I just looked at the revenue potential that I saw. So lesson learned there and I don’t focus on that at all.
Now. I started like a, a test site that I’m trying some programmatic SEOs stuff on, and so that’s going okay. But again, I’m very little time. Maybe two hours a month that I’m spending on that long-term goal. For this, I think I can go one of two routes. I’m either gonna go the route of full out branding and products and kind of following that playbook or.
Selling, right? Like those are kind of the, the options. And I’ve thought about it. I think it would really stink if I sold it and then, cause I know the potential, right? I don’t want to have that like, man, what if I would’ve kept it? Um, but at the same time, you know, with all the changes we’re seeing in search and, you know, AI being integrated into search, like, I don’t know, like it doesn’t really scare me.
I think we’re years away from any really big changes like that happening and affecting the general public. Um, but it’s definitely crossed my mind to sell it, you know, while I can. Yeah.
Jared: Yeah. Well, you’ve got a very good thing going. It’s a great site. Um, I can’t thank you enough for coming on and talking about the journey to where you’re at now, but also sharing the site and.
Upfront about it, that people, I mean, it’s just, especially all of us, but especially when you’re brand new, I remember being brand new and when I could get my hands on, um, like looking at it while I hear someone talk about it, it was just so impactful for my learning. So I thank you for coming on and, and, and being so upfront about, you know, some of the different levers you’ve pulled to get this site where it is.
Shawn: Yeah, no problem. Like you, like you said, I remember what it was like being brand new and having, you know, a site to look at and you. It sounds weird saying it now, but like look up to, which is weird cause I’m looking up to so many other sites, but I, I do, I think it’s important. I think that being transparent with your site, I think we’re gonna see more of that moving forward.
It just adds more credibility to you and your site.
Jared: Where can people follow along with what you’re doing? Obviously we have your website, the grilling dad.com, but, you know, um, if they wanna chat with you about other things, maybe more website or seo. .
Shawn: Yeah, I mean, I’m on Twitter a lot. Um, so you can catch me on there.
It’s at Sean Hill, but without the vow. So that’s S H W N H L L. Uh, and then also like helping start a, like an SEO niche site community [email protected]
Jared: Okay, cool. Well, we’ll get all that in the show notes and, um, yeah, Sean, thanks for coming on. I, I
Shawn: learned a lot. Oh, well thanks for having me, Jared.
Again, appreciate you having me on here, but also for the course too. It’s been a a huge help. Good to hear. Good to
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Here’s a short clip of Ferry from Search Intelligence showing you how their agency built digital PR links to a client’s website. Do you
Shawn: remember this campaign? It was all over the news. It is the most intelligent royal campaign with over 100 links generated in the world’s biggest online public. This is one of the most viral PR campaigns of 2021.
This is how we’ve done it. The methodology was pretty simple. We looked at the QS World University rankings for the institutions attended by key members of the royal family to discover which royal is the brightest wall. Naga Markle came out on top, followed by Kate Middleton and Prince William. We put these findings in a press release and sent it to mainstream media and journalists who write about royals from Russia to the uk, the us, Vietnam, and Japan.
This story got massive coverage landing over 100 links, and created a massive buzz on social media. Simple research, but a great story that journalists love to write about. I hope this will put you on fire and will give you inspiration.
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