Jack of spades and Ace of hearts

I don’t publish income earned from Fat Stacks because I don’t think it’s relevant to the reason behind reporting niche site income.  I report niche site income to demonstrate that niche sites, in niches other than “how to make money online” or “how to blog” can be successful.

What’s funny is that on the surface Fat Stacks doesn’t look like much of a successful site.  I don’t get many comments.  Share volume is negligible.  Organic search traffic is only 500 to 600 unique sessions per day.  Subscriber volume isn’t huge.  Total number of subscribers isn’t huge either, considering this site has been around a couple of years.

But here’s the deal.

Fat stacks earns fairly well.  It earns spectacularly well per hour I put into it.

If this were the only site I published, I’d earn way more.  I’d have a podcast, publish more frequently, buy traffic, test more, roll out more courses, do more coaching, promote more products… all the stuff other bigger “how to blog” sites do.

But I publish a number of sites which do better than this site.

Fat Stacks is merely a case study of what I do in other niches as a website publisher.  Maybe one day I’ll have more time to devote to this site, but for now I’m building a niche site empire which keeps me very, very busy.

My point is that on the surface, Fat Stacks isn’t all that successful and it’s not successful relative to similar blogs.  However, for the time I put into it and the fact I enjoy being publisher of this site, it’s a success.

And so this brings us to today’s topic: 10 signs your niche blog is (likely) on the verge of success.  After all, you can have a seemingly unsuccessful website when in reality it’s super successful.

Here it goes…

1. Other sites rip off your content

Lawyer Up

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  That may be and it’s definitely a sign you’re having some success, but it’s annoying… or is it?

Hold off lawyering up cowboy.

Plagiarism is an opportunity for a link.

It’s called a “source” link (or citation or reference).

Instead of blasting off a DMCA notice, why not approach the website with a gentle hand.  Tell them they’re free to keep the content you created, but that in exchange all you require is a simple dofollow link acknowledging your site as the source.  This can be done when images, videos and/or text is plagiarized.

2. Your unrelated niche site is mentioned as an example on a blog within the internet marketing community

I actually had this happen.  Neil Patel linked to my niche site as an example in one of his blog posts on Quick Sprout.  Neil doesn’t know me.  I don’t know him other than his blogs.  Besides, I suspect he has writers doing all that writing and publishing.  It just so happened that one piece of content on one of my niche sites was a good example of something he was discussing.

Of course, if your site is shown as an example of what not to do, that’s not cool (although the link is nice).

To be fully transparent and to give out a link where a link is due, I got the idea for this post from Glen Allsop’s post on Detailed.com.  You can bet your bottom dollar I’m going to roll out these “X Signs Your Doing Something Right” posts across all my niche sites.  They’re fun to write and people love ’em (according to Glen… maybe you don’t).

3. You get some crazy comments

Rude blog commentsModerating comments is funny business.  You should read some of the stuff people submit.  They can be cruel, ridiculous, bitter, funny; you name it, I’ve seen it all.

I just love the comments that include a list of expletives or straight up tell me to F%$# Off.  It’s pretty funny stuff.  One has to be one angry person to actually take the time to type that into a comment or reply to an email newsletter.

Another example is I did a physical product review video for a popular product.  I didn’t care for the product and I said so.  I explained in the video, with the product there so I could actually show what I didn’t like about it.

Well, it turned out that people who had bought this product were extremely defensive.  Commenters told me I was an idiot and that I didn’t know squat about it (meanwhile I had personally bought and tested 20 of the products within the product line so I knew pretty much all of the products inside and out).

But this actually gave me a great idea.  The fact is, that video got a lot more reviews than my more positive videos.  Therefore, it can be good for traffic and the wallet to discuss the good and the bad.  I’m not biased in within the industry.  I’m just some guy who had the product and gave my opinion based on my use of it.  I didn’t make the stuff up; I just didn’t like a few things about it.

I don’t suggest you go and crank out a bunch of scathing, baseless video reviews.  You could get sued.  I’m fine because I own the product and I wasn’t over-the-top.  I was really objective about it.

The point is, if you get some crazy comments, or any comments (other than automated comment spam), that’s a sign your site is gaining some traction.

4. Readers send you letters by snail mail

This is an amazing story.

For one of my niche sites I had a reader email me a photo from the site asking where they could get an item in the photo.

It was a super nice letter written in long-hand with a photocopy of the photo.

I was astonished that in this day-in-age someone would take the time to snail mail a website publisher.  I thought it was awesome.

5. Email subscribers forward your emails to their friends and family

Weekly I receive what I think are replies to my email newsletter when it’s a forwarded copy to a recipient’s friend or family member.  What tips me off about this is the emails says something to the effect “Hey Debby, you gotta check this out.”

I love it when that happens.  It’s so nice to see that people like the site enough to pass it around via email to their friends and/or family.

6. Ad networks pitch you (relentlessly)

If you monetize with ads and you start getting inundated with pitches from ad networks to use their ads, you know your site has something going for it.  Most ad networks only look for sites that will make them money, which means they think there’s something good about what you’re doing.

7. AdSense puts you into their beta program

Once you start making decent revenue on AdSense, they start inviting you to test new features.  While I don’t bother testing everything they roll out, it’s nice to be invited.

8. You’re able to publish on topics within the niche not covered elsewhere, or at least from a unique angle

My first niche site success was a result of covering topics in a unique way.  I attracted links and organic traffic grew quickly.  Most importantly, affiliate commissions were rolling in.  Not long after other publishers copied me, but that didn’t matter.  I ranked well for many great keywords.

That site ultimately disintegrated with Google Penguin, which sucked, but I had earned a ton of money from it and more importantly learned a ton about publishing blogs.  Sure, I wish that site lived on, but them’s the breaks.  Yeah, back then I was a link monger.  Even though I attracted links, I created them with software and public blog networks as well.

9. You create/publish tools or offer something unique within the niche

In late 206 I started a new niche site.  While there is plenty of competition (which is good because it means there’s money in it), I was 90% certain the site would be a success and now I’m 95% certain that it won’t just be a success, but that it will be the number one site within the niche within one to two years.


Because I’m doing something unique.  I’m presenting the content in a unique way, not just for kicks, but because it’s far more helpful and useful for visitors.  I’ve created something outstanding.  Now I just have to keep building it and in due course it will be a huge hit.

10. You’re able to get guest posts published on top tier websites

I’ve never been a big guest poster, probably to my detriment.  I have a hard time parting with great content; I typically like it on my sites.  However, a good sign you’re going to have success with your niche blog is if you can get guest posts on the biggest sites in the world such as Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post and other top tier sites.

Why does this matter?

It matters because if those publications want your content, it means you have the ability to produce the type of content that works within the niche.

11. Your content list grows faster than you can get it published

As you get deeper into a niche, the more topics and content ideas you get.  When your topic list grows faster than you can get it published, you’re in good shape for building out an awesome site.

12. You start getting invited to roundups

If you find yourself invited to participate in round-ups on account of your blog, you’re either already successful or on the verge of it.

13. There’s decent (or some) search volume for your website by name

This is a cool stage to hit.  If when you do keyword research you notice that your website’s name (assuming it’s a branded name) is searched 100, 50 or 1,000+ times per month, you know you have something good.

14. Your site gets listed in “Top XX Websites”

If your site starts getting listed in the “Top XX websites” for your niche, you know you’re onto something.

15. Guest post requests come pouring In

While new sites can attract guest posts, they don’t start pouring in until a site has some authority.  If you find you start getting pitched to accept guest posts regularly, your site is starting to pick up steam.

16. You receive requests for quotes and interviews

It’s flattering to be asked for a quote and/or to participate in an interview.  This is usually a result of your blog’s content and either actual or perceived success.

The frequency for which this happens depends on the niche.  It’s more prevalent in B2B niches, but can happen in the B2C niches as well.

TIP:  jump on these requests.  They’re the easiest links you’ll ever get.  Same thing with round-ups, although I’m not so sure how great round-up links are since the post links out to dozens of other blogs in the same niche.

17. Merchants ask you to promote them as an affiliate

When I started one of my niche sites, I really wanted to promote a particular merchant.  I applied in CJ.com, waited and then was denied.

Fast forward 1 year, that same merchant contacted me to promote them.  I agreed (I don’t take rejection personally).  While I haven’t made much promoting them, it goes to show you that success breeds success.

Everything is harder in the beginning.  Merchants will reject your affiliate application.  So too will some ad networks.  Nobody cares about you until they do and when they do, you’re on the verge of success.

18. Outreach link building actually works

When you are able to get sites to link to a particular piece of content because it rocks, you know you have something worth working on.  Even if it’s one piece of content, it’s sweet.

19. Inbound links actually materialize naturally

This is even better than successful outreach link building campaigns.

When you notice your inbound link volume is growing because other sites are linking to you, you know you have a shot at mega success.  After all, links are really important for organic search traffic and if you’re able to attract links without doing anything other than publishing content, that’s a great sign.

20. The metrics get better and better (I wasn’t going to forget this)

I didn’t put this first, because it’s a no-brainer.  However, I have to include it because metrics are really important to determine if a site is having any level of success.  Here’s what I look at:

Revenue:  unless you’re doing it purely for fun, revenue can definitely be a measure of a site’s success.  However, one must be careful here.  Many people start a site with intention to monetize down the road.  Perhaps they’re building up an email list and/or social media following to sell something down the road such as a course or sponsored posts.

Traffic growth:  If your preferred traffic source is growing, that’s a great sign.  As for how much traffic volume is needed to be considered a success, that varies.  You can have a successful site with only 2,000 visits per month.  You can have an unsuccessful site with 100,000 monthly visits.

Sharing data:  If your content gets shared quite a bit, that’s a great sign, especially if you don’t have tons of traffic.  That means visitors like what they see and read.  However, again, this is not the be-all and end-all of website success.  It’s merely one metric of many.

IMPORTANT:  At the beginning of this post I told you about how Fat Stacks, on the surface, doesn’t seem all that successful, but that it is.  Therefore, keep in mind that not all metrics are determinative of success.  At the end of the day, it’s revenue (in the long run).  If you revenue is climbing or you do a big launch but your site is otherwise unremarkable, count yourself lucky.

It’s all a big risk

The thing about publishing niche sites is it takes a huge leap of faith.  While it doesn’t take a lot of money unless you outsource everything, it does require a ton of work.

I’ve had many sites fail when I was excited about launching them and certain they would succeed.

The fact is I had no idea in the beginning whether any of my niche sites would succeed except one.  I knew Fat Stacks would be a success the day I registered the domain name.


Because I had something to say.  I had success in other niche sites which gives me the credibility I need as well as the fodder to publish useful information.

I regularly read other bloggers how have success with niche sites and they’re popular because they have proven success.  Therefore, I knew the blog concept was sound; it was just a matter of publishing content and being patient.

In fact, I’d never been so certain about a site before launch before.

Fortunately I was right despite a low comment count, negligible social sharing, low subscriber growth, etc.

… and I’m very certain one of my new niche sites will be a success.  I’ve published 100 pages and traffic is starting to come in.  There’s nothing like it online; the leading site in the space gets nearly 3 million monthly visits and I think number one is totally attainable.

But then I’m a glass half full person.  I think you have to be in this biz.


  1. I’ll keep these signs in mind as a reference if things start changing for the better for my niche site. 🙂 I currently have 75 articles written, but the growth of the site is quite slow.

    I’ve been at it for over 6-7 months now and because I believe in the concept of the site so bad, I’m keeping at it!

    I regularly come to this site for some tips and tricks, and you often deliver!

    Thanks Jon and hopefully you get a happy harvest on that new site you are working on! 🙂

  2. Another sign of success is when you have many niche sites earning decent sums and can’t keep track of them. Do you have any advice on tools to track niche sites, how much traffic each site gets each month, to check if earnings are up or down per site compared to previous periods. You reach a stage where its too time consuming to do it manually and I was hoping that you might have tips or tools to suggest.


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