Eating, Drinking, Money, and Your Life
As usual, I see a lot of new members asking about niche topics. “Is X a good niche?” “Can I make money with Y topic?” And I see a lot of well-meaning members in the community approving their idea without really thinking about what they are asking.
This can, however, lead them (and you) down an unsuccessful path if they are not careful…
Does Controversy Create Cash?
There is a saying in the entertainment business: controversy creates cash.
Think of shows like Jerry Springer, reality TV, or even professional wrestling. These forms of entertainment are practically built on controversy. And they are quite successful.
But affiliate marketing is different. Controversy can kill a site.
Now, first things first, almost ANY niche can be a good niche. But, there are some considerations you must weigh before moving forward with an idea.
Is your niche topic controversial?
If the answer is yes, then tread carefully. For example, topics involving drugs, alcohol, or gambling — so-called “vice” or addiction topics — can be a problem.
Think about your monetization opportunities. Many advertisers will not want to place their ads on a site about drinking, smoking, vaping, and marijuana (including hemp and CBD, two HUGE niches I see asked about and “approved” immediately on WA lately.) Be careful. Not only are they controversial, but they also fall under the YMYL rule we’ll discuss in a minute.
Another example might be anything firearm related. In today’s political climate, regardless of which side of the argument you fall on, just realize that most advertisers don’t want their name associated with a gun in any way. Period. Can you blame them?
And, at the end of the day, regardless of how passionate you are about a topic, if you can’t monetize your site, what’s the point? That’s why we’re all here, right?
So, try to stay away from controversy if you can. (And, yes, I realize that's a bit of a hypocritical statement as this article itself will surely prove to be controversial.)
In their Quality Guidelines, Google has recently rolled out a new standard (Section 2.3 if you’re interested) called YMYL, or “Your Money or Your Life”.
Essentially, YMYL refers to any content that could potentially affect a reader’s money or life, particularly negatively. So, what exactly does that mean to you?
Any site, or content within a site, that contains information about finances or health falls under the new YMYL rule.
For example, if you are offering stock tips, investment strategy, or any form of finance (personal, accounting, etc.), you can affect your reader’s money and you now fall under the new guidelines.
If you are offering health tips, exercise, or even certain types of cooking, you can affect your reader’s life and you now fall under the new guidelines.
The challenge is that you have no trust with Google. Let’s be honest; when you start a brand new site, they don’t know you from Adam. Which means if you are creating content that affects a person’s money or life, Google is certainly NOT going to stick its neck out for you.
For example, let’s say you want to start a site about diabetes. Now, you might actually be an expert. Perhaps you have diabetes yourself and know just what it takes to handle it. Or, maybe you work with diabetics every day. But Google doesn’t know that, at least not yet.
As such, Google is going to err on the side of caution and rank something like the American Diabetes Association or WebMD long before it ranks you because, quite frankly, your advice might potentially result in someone's death and they're not going to risk it.
The same applies to financial content. Sure, you might have the absolute bulletproof method for getting out of debt (”Pay Off $100,000 in Only 30 Days!”) But, again, Google doesn’t know that. It’s just going to send everyone to someone like Dave Ramsey rather than risk your advice leading someone to bankruptcy.
You Gotta EAT
So, naturally this begs the question, how can you get past YMYL? Simple… you gotta EAT.
EAT stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trust. Basically, Google is now telling us that we should 1) demonstrate the skills and knowledge of an expert in the topic, 2) show how we qualify as an authority in the topic, and 3) other experts and authorities trust us, validating that we belong to the inner-circle.
How do you EAT, you ask? Here are a few tips:
- Have a clean site design. Do NOT make your site look like a spam site from the 90’s with loads of banners and links that scream, “Give me your money!”
- Create fresh quality content. By posting regularly Google will soon assume you know what you’re talking about and start to consider you an expert and authority.
- It should go without saying, but also make sure that regular content is useful to your audience; again, it should not be about you just making money from them.
- Include forward links, back links, side links, and so on. By connecting your content to other experts, especially if you can get them to link back to you, you will really build your trust and credibility fast.
- Be transparent. Don’t “hide” your info. Write a great bio listing your credentials (i.e. what makes you an expert) and include a way to contact you.
Now, before I receive tons of hate comments and PM death threats, I am not saying you can't make a site like this successful. If that is your passion then go for it; after all, who the hell am I to say any different?
I'm just letting you know what the new rules of the game are so you can make the most informed decision before you start. YMYL sites are simply going to take much longer to rank for and that's totally okay if you know that going in and are up to the challenge.
But, if not, be extremely careful when choosing a niche. Yes, I know that you think CBD oil and hemp are the greatest things to come along since sliced bread. And maybe they are. I'm not arguing. But, you don't need to convince me. You need to convince Google... and that's a much bigger hurdle to overcome than little old me.
Please share your thoughts and comments below. Keep it nice and friendly (i.e. no threats! lol) but if you disagree feel free to throw it out there; I've got my big-boy pants on :-)
Take care and keep writing.