How to Spin Out a Niche Site from Your Main Site
Since the start of the pandemic, it seems like everyone and their cousin is all about the niche sites, am I right?
Niche sites are, like, so in right now.
Of course, there were some bloggers and site owners hip to the trend before it became mainstream. Personally, I started Space Tourism Guide in 2017, and launched Discover Sausalito in January 2020. However, since the pandemic began, I also launched many, many other niche sites – and many of them were “spun out” from my main site, using content I had already written but thought could do better on a site dedicated to that topic.
If you’re curious about starting a niche site using some of your existing content, you’ve come to the right place! Below I’ll detail the step-by-step guide I use to spin out a niche site from a main/general site, and all the things you need to consider. I’ll also share tips on evaluating the success of your niche site.
Step 1. Decide on a Niche Site Topic
If you’re reading this post, you probably already have an idea of what you want the topic of your niche site to be. Maybe you’re spinning out a specific destination niche site from your travel blog, or taking one of your favorite crafting topics and creating a site specifically about that. Perhaps your gardening blog could spin out a succulent care website, or your interior design inspires you to create a site all about funky wallpaper. In any case, it helps to get a sense of your current standing on the topic before pulling the trigger. Here are some steps to ensure you’re on the right path.
Audit Your Current Site Topics
Backing up one step, before you choose a niche site topic, take a look at all the topics you cover on your site. For my “general” travel blog Valerie & Valise, I used to cover travel everywhere, including places like London and Jordan. (I’ve since narrowed that site down so it has more of a niche, which has contributed to its improved performance in the past few years.)
By looking at all these different topics, I could choose 1-2 and do the next few steps to decide if I wanted to spin those posts out into a niche site.
Audit Your Posts in the Chosen Topic
Once you have an idea (or ideas) for possible niche sites, then it’s time to look at how many posts you have on that topic. Sticking with my travel example, I had 9 posts about London on V&V, and 4 posts about Jordan. Obviously, having 9 posts about London was helpful since it meant I could launch a new site (using my 10/10/10 plan, more on that below) with less effort.
As you audit the posts in your chosen niche site topic, be sure to check their past performance using your BOSS spreadsheet; you want to understand how they’ve been performing so you can check after launching your niche site to confirm they’re doing as well – or ideally better!
Then, be sure to google your primary keyword for each post and note where it sits on Page 1. Also head into Google Search Console and document the average position for each post. These are all data points you’ll check after launching to make sure your niche site is the best strategy for that content.
Re-Research Your Primary Keywords
Next, head into your favorite keyword research tool (I recommend Keysearch) and redo your keyword research for each of your existing posts. Get a sense of what it would be like to write those posts today –how much competition is there? Who else is an expert on this topic, according to Google? There’s no specific takeaway you need to get here – just a better understanding of what your posts are “up against” as they fight for position on your new site.
This is another chance to note where you currently rank; in the best-case scenario, you’ll replace your current ranking position, if not gain positions. (If you’re already #1, the goal is obviously to keep that #1 spot.)
Do Competitive Research
You’ll have started this step as part of (re)doing your keyword research, but take some time now to identify your competition specifically. Are there already other niche sites on the same topic ranking for the terms you want to rank for? Take a look at the types of content they create, to get a sense for what your content strategy might be.
I’ve found that when I see 1-2 other niche sites ranking well, it’s actually a good sign for my new niche site. It means that Google thinks niche sites should rank for the keywords and those sites provide me a wealth of ideas for new content I can create too.
When I see no other niche sites on a topic, that means there’s one of two possibilities: either people have tried and failed to produce niche sites in the past (bad) or nobody has identified this topic for niche sites yet (good). There’s really no way to tell if you encounter this scenario, so it’s up to you whether you take the risk.
(For context, when I launched Space Tourism Guide in 2017, there was no competition in that niche – there still isn’t – and it has become my #2 income earner. So no competition was still an opportunity.)
Choose the Posts You’ll Migrate
With all the research done, data collected, and competition identified, it’s time to commit to the posts you’ll migrate to the new site. Make a note on your BOSS spreadsheet (I usually color-code the titles) so you’ll remember them later.
Step 2. Come Up with a 10/10/10 Launch Plan
Next, it’s time to take the posts you’re going to migrate, plus come up with a bunch of new ideas to launch your new site.
As you know, I recommend a 10/10/10 launch plan for all new sites. To remind you of this strategy, it’s:
- 10 posts for 10 days
- 10 posts for 10 weeks
- 10 more posts at any frequency you like (usually weekly or bi-weekly)
The 10/10/10 launch plan takes between 17-27 weeks (4-6 months) depending on how often you publish those last 10 posts. So wrap your head around that now: you’re committing to try this niche site for at least 6 months. (Actually, make it 9 months, since you need to give your content time to get discovered, indexed, and ranked by Google before you evaluate its performance.)
Based on the number of existing posts you’ve identified for a niche site, you then know how many more topics you need to come up with to finish your launch plan.
For spinning out London On My Mind from V&V, I had 9 posts already, so I needed 21 more good posts; I brainstormed about 50 more topics (mostly taken from the competition I had identified during my competitive research, above) to research (Step 3, below).
In spinning out Jordan Traveler from V&V, I had only 4 posts, so there was a lot more work to do! (I also didn’t launch this site using my 10/10/10 strategy, which I regret as it has been much slower to grow.)
Step 3. Do New Keyword Research
Okay, now that you have existing posts and new post ideas for your launch plan, it’s time to do all the keyword research and decide which posts you’ll be writing.
As a reminder, I have a handy three-step guide on choosing/researching keywords for niche sites. This step usually takes a few hours, but is super important – never assume you know what to publish on your niche site without doing the research to back it up. The most disappointing thing is publishing your new niche site, checking the data a few months later, and realizing you’re not getting traffic because the keywords you chose/topics you wrote about have no volume, not because you’re ranking poorly. (Discover Sausalito is plagued by this low-volume issue!)
Step 4. Get to Work
Have your 30+ topics locked down? Then it’s time to get to work!
Y’all know I never hide the fact that running a blog is a marathon of work; I gotta include this note here so none of us forget it 😅
Generally, I find it takes about 1-2 months to get a new niche site “ready” to launch. However, it’s up to you how much content you want ready before launching.
At the bare minimum, ensure you have your first 10 posts ready to publish before you launch your site. This means you can launch, take a 10-day break from writing, then get back to work writing weekly posts for the next 10 articles in your launch plan.
(It also means that the more articles you have on your existing site, the easier it is to launch a new niche site. If you have 8-9 articles, you only need to write 1-2 new articles to launch. This is what helped me spin out so many niche sites in 2021.)
Step 5. Launch Your New Site
Finally! You’ve got a set number of articles written and ready to go (remember: 10 minimum), so it’s time to pull the trigger and get this new niche site out there on the internet.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide of tasks that are part of this step:
- Choose a new domain – I didn’t cover this before, but you obviously need to choose and register a new domain. I strongly recommend making sure the niche name is in the domain (i.e. “London” On My Mind, “Jordan” Traveler, etc.)
- Migrate existing content over – Once your domain is set up and running WordPress, migrate your existing content over and schedule it for your launch window. I always like starting new sites at the beginning of a month since it makes it easier to keep track of those first 10 posts, but there’s literally no data to suggest any launch day/month is better than another.
- Schedule all old/new content – Add your new posts to your new site, and schedule those too!
- Set up redirects as each old post goes live – As you hit your launch window, be sure to set up redirects from your old site to your new site for each post that you migrated over. I recommend the plugin Redirection for this. Also, switch the posts on your old site back to drafts. (This saves them in case you need to roll-back your niche site strategy in the future.)
- Stick to your launch plan – The whole point of having 10+ posts ready to go was so that you can stick to the 10/10/10 launch plan. Commit to getting through these first few months with your new niche site to give it the best chance of success.
- Promote to your existing audience – Once you’ve launched with 5-10 articles, promote your new site to your existing audience. As they’ve possibly already seen this content or topic on your old site, they’re the first and most likely fans of the new project!
- Start setting up promotional channels for your site – I won’t go into detail now, but don’t forget to set up social media and/or email systems for your new niche site to create promotional and branding opportunities too.
And with that, your niche site is launched! Great job!
Evaluating a New Niche Site’s Performance
So now that you’ve launched, what next?
Well, you’re obviously going to keep creating new content. You should create at least the 30 posts that are part of the 10/10/10 launch plan – but can continue creating content after that, of course.
I recommend setting up a BOSS spreadsheet for your new website as soon as you launch it; this will help you start to assess your performance from Day 1 (okay, Month 1). As your site begins to rank and grow, keep an eye on your traffic (comparing pre-migration data for sites from your main site to performance on your new site), your rankings (especially for old/migrated posts compared to their previous rankings), and how new posts are doing within the first 2-3 months after you publish.
If you’re onto a strong idea, you should see new content ranking well within 2-4 months of publishing. However, Google has become much more sensitive to new domains, so it can take as long as 6-9 months before you start to see your posts even getting indexed/ranking. (Eat Like Bourdain was plagued with this for the first 7-8 months, and still has some posts that just won’t get indexed!)
All this to say, you should really give your new niche site 9-12 months to evaluate whether it was a good idea. You can, however, drop your publishing frequency way down: you could do 10 daily posts, 10 weekly posts, and then 10 monthly posts to create 30 articles in your first year and complete the launch plan. However, the slower you publish, the longer it takes Google to evaluate your site, and the less likely you’ll see success.
As I said above, I recommend 10 weekly or bi-weekly posts to round out your launch plan quickly then slow down your publishing cadence if you’re uncertain about committing the extra time and effort to this new project until you have data.
What If My Niche Site Fails?
If your niche site just doesn’t do well, there could be a number of issues:
- Google won’t index your site. (I recommend giving it more time for your domain to mature – if you have the patience!)
- Google indexes your site but it ranks poorly. (I recommend working on your E-A-T.)
- Your site ranks well but still gets no traffic. (I recommend re-doing your keyword research to ensure there’s still volume for your topic.)
No matter the issue, you have two choices if you decide your niche site has “failed:” delete your site, or try and salvage the content. I recommend taking all your content from the niche site and putting it back on your main site. Maybe most of it won’t do any better, but it will give you some E-A-T in that topic on your main site – and hopefully the old/migrated posts will at least recover back to their original ranking positions and traffic!
I hope that helps you decide whether or not you want to create a new niche site, and how to do it. Have any questions about spinning a niche site from your main site? Let me know in the comments!