I'm a big fan of the Niche Pursuits podcast/YouTube channel. Jared interviews many successful writers, content creators, and website creators on how they started making money online. I like these interviews because I am a mini-blogging success story. I turned my passion here into a thriving career in the AI startup world!
After listening to these interviews on and off over the past few years, I decided to start taking notes to help me formulate new ways to make money online and share those notes with you. This episode focuses on Gary Hudd, an Australian writer and former journalist who turned his niche website into a $9,000 a month money-making side hustle.
I know many people think this is too easy and I'm here to tell you that it's not. If you read the notes below you'll note that it took Gary writing over 80 posts to earn his first dollar. He just kept writing all those months without seeing any return on his investment until it "hockey sticked."
I would recommend watching the entire video but if you want the cliff notes, read below:
- Grady Hudd has a Journalism background, worked as a journalist
- Had to write 10-15 stories per week for work, trained him to get things done
- Started out by writing a lot of copy
- The very first wesbite was slow to rank up, the second is what's making money
- Got frustrated with first site and deleted it (more later, see below)
- Learned the lessons of seasonality on some niche website
- Understanding the different markets (e.g. USA, Australia, UK) influences revenues, learn the upsides and downsides
- Works full-time, the websites are side hustles.
- Started the first website in late 2018, the second one during the COVID pandemic
- The reason for starting a website was to figure out how to make extra income
- Googled "How to Make Money Online" and researched ideas
- The main income making site is run by Gary and his friend
- Income is split 60/40: Gary focuses on writing, SEO, and keyword research, his friend only on writing
- The second site (main site) is 2.5 years old and has about 215 posts
- Main site has 170,000 page views per month, brings in $9k AUD
- Currently on a bit of a downtrend for around 40,000 page views, site traffic peaks in April/May
- Third (new) site is a pet niche site and is currently making 10,000 views a month
- Experimenting with AI-assisted writing, using ChatGPT as a way to augment his writing for third site
- Despite using ChatGPT, Gary heavily edits and uses outlines, he focuses on good writing but augments with GPT as way to optimize writing time
- New site isn't monetized yet
- Saw slow but good results from second site and decided to restart old content from first site
- Re-uploaded all content from 2018 domain (first site) and currently making 6,000 page views a month for 387 posts in the real estate niche
- Made many mistakes in setting up websites in the beginning
- $9k AUD per month is life changing money for Grady
Finding the Niche and Keyword Research
- Found his niche by focusing on a hobby and thought it would be well received on the Internet
- SEO consisted of doing the "word soup" method of keyword research
- Keyword soup is using Google autocomplete to do keyword research for you
- Common feedback to keyword soup is that there are too many similar keywords and topics, how to assemble them into a cohesive article?
- Answer: knowing your niche can help structure the article to prevent keyword soup problems
- Interested in the chosen niche but not an expert it, both Gary and friend enjoy doing it and approach it with passion and a sharing attitude
- Key point: if you understand the niche and actively live it, it makes it easier to write content for and people will respect you
- Used Amazon Affiliates and in month 8 they made their first sale
- Applying display ads and Amazon affiliates for monetization
- Roughly 80% are display ads and generate the most income, remaining 20% is Amazon affiliates
- Amazon affiliates is a no barrier approach
- The majority of articles Gary and friend write are information style posts, they tend to stay away from "review" style posts
- They found that writing informational type of posts can generate just as much traffic as the meaty 3,000 to 4,000 word "meaty" review articles
- People don't like to read 7,000 and 8,000-word blog posts
- Don't have a set word count, but average posts area around 1,200 words
- They have an email list, but have not capitalized on it
- Currently trying to balance time with full-time work and side hustle
- Gary tends to write a lot of his content after work, not a morning person
- You have to write 100s of posts, not just 10 or 20
- Building a niche website requires a lot of work upfront; it took 80 posts before the first income was made
- Once site started ranking, hockey stick income growth happened
- Income at 8 months = $1, at 12 months = $1,000, 24 month = $9,000
- Lives in Australia (AU), but started with a .com website
- Bulk of traffic is from USA, niche is worldwide and focuses there because USA ad payouts are higher
Seasonality of The Site
- Seasonality of their site caught them by surprise
- In Australia, their niche is all year round but not in other countries
- Started to panic then checked Google Trends and saw the seasonality
- One tip is to look at Google Search Console data to verify if traffic drops are seasonal or rank penalization
What Lies in Gary's Future
- Goal is to publish everyday and start moving into products
- Look to monetize the email list by doing targeted email campaigns, believes that it is untapped opportunity
- Not worried that he will exhaust his topics to write about
- Focus on content and optimization
- Haven't done any link building on their sites, but believes it is important
- Link building not their focus, writing good content to rank is their focus
- Currently running three websites.
- Restarted first website (real estate niche) with programmatic SEO, maintains the second website and now focusing on the pet niche website
- Real Estate site is on autopilot, time and effort spent on second and third websites
- Started third site (pet niche) because Grady thought the second one was dying (it was the seasonality)
Overall this interview was fantastic and I learned a lot. I have experimented with Amazon Affiliates and hyper scaling Hugo websites over the past year and half to make passive income and have seen my clicks increase. My conversion rate remains quite low for the time being.
Yet, this interview proves you can make money online and I prefer to do it in a clean low display ad way. I detest all these blogs that are so SEO focused that you can't find what you need. They create too much friction.
My goal is to write frictionless content that people can use and leverage, and if I make a few bucks from Affiliates or targeted select ads, then so be it. For now, I estimate that I am about 8 to 12 months behind Gary's side hustle income and hope to see my first $9k month early next year!