“You can make things work in very different ways. Following a recipe is good – especially when you’re just starting – but have fun and test things.”
published: June 11, 2022
1. Where do you live?
Brussels, Belgium. Country of beer, chocolate, waffle, and more.
2. When did you start creating content and your SaaS? What is the name of your SaaS?
I started my first content website in early 2017. Had read about niche websites a few years back on the Niche Pursuits website (case study #2). In 2017, I trusted I could make it happen if I followed the process: create content, etc. I worked exclusively with the Amazon associates program (France).
My first sale came in pretty quickly – it was a fake golden watch (not my niche). Made a $35 commission from it. Wut? Tried to explain it all to my accountant, but he didn’t seem to grasp the affiliate concept (he prefers cigars and going to Cuba).
Was lucky that my first few websites were a success pretty quickly and lucky to rank on generic keywords like: « mattress kids » even though I was targeting « best mattress for kids ». Google came out with a core update in 2019 and an intent correction update. I felt it. « bed mattress kids » was meant for e-shops, not affiliate websites. As Google sometimes phrases it « there is nothing you can do about this update ».
Started working on my SaaS in October 2020 and came out with a first version (launched on betalist.com) in December 2020. The name of the SaaS is LowFruits (for Low Hanging Fruits). The aim was to build something that could help me understand where weak websites were ranking and try to reverse engineer it from there. I consider it now more of a SERP analyzer (rather than just a keyword tool).
BEFORE THAT: Engineer, worked in 2 corporate IT companies. But the 9 to 5 became boring and limited. Really felt my life was like in the groundhog movie.
3. Are you working full-time on your SaaS?
Currently, mostly working on the SaaS. 5% of my time on maintaining and adding content to my content websites. Making a living from content websites since 2018.
Creating a SaaS is harder than content websites. On top of building the tool itself, you need to manage marketing, customer service, … but I love every single day I work on it.
4. What was the “Click” that made you decide to start your SaaS?
I initially created the tool to scratch my own itch. The keyword research process using a tool like ahrefs is usually something like the following :
- Put a seed keyword
- Get keyword ideas
- Filter results based on KD and voilà !
But as I went through the list I felt that I couldn’t rank on many of these supposedly low KD keywords (KD is generally based on backlinks). SERPs had strong websites, with spot on content: how would I do better?
I ended up spending a lot of time going through the SERPs and websites to find « signals » helping me assess the real weakness of a keyword. Other new or weak websites? Thin content? Websites not answering the intent of the query?
I wanted to create something around that process to help me automate it all.
5. How many niche sites and/or online businesses have you created?
- 10 content websites
- 1 online directory
- 1 e-shop
- 1 mobile app
- 1 SaaS (LowFruits)
E-shop: Co-created an online beer club. Concept was simple: Get beers directly from craft breweries and ship them to customers.
But the business model was tough, margins too low to make it sustainable. Customers were mainly people sending beer boxes as gifts. People who received the box rarely became customers (ie., acquiring a customer was hard and keeping them even harder).
6. How many are you still running now?
9 (content websites + SaaS)
7. Have you sold any sites or online businesses? And what was the ROI like?
Sold 2 of my content websites. Both for around 24 months of profit (One on the French market where multiplies are lower compared to US and the other was a penalized website).
8. How many sites or online businesses have failed or not gotten going?
Had 2 websites that were penalized after an update.
1 mobile app (was just a side project). 1 e-shop (low margins, difficult business model). 1 online directory (difficult to acquire customers in this niche).
9. How much are you earning each month?
10. What are your current streams of revenue?
- Affiliate Sales
- Display Ads
- Software (SaaS)
- Selling backlinks (it’s more common and accepted on the FR market to do this)
11. For content, what are your Top 3 on-page SEO strategies?
1. Build strong topical clusters (from the start).
Focus on small clusters of 10 articles targeting low competition keywords, even if they have an estimated 0 search volume. See a few months later which clusters Google likes, add more content to them, articles will rank much faster.
2. Use your beginner mindset to find topic ideas, then check the SERPs.
Not sure what to add in an article? Think of questions/sub-headings you would have around the topic. Then, check the SERP to see what topics are covered and (very important) what kind of structure Google likes. If the articles at the top are listicles, don’t have yours in a different format.
3. Avoid fluff.
Apparently, a redfish has a higher attention span than we do. Go straight to the point and make the subheadings interesting (but not too click-baity). If the article is about “How to clean a car”, don’t have a paragraph on what a car is.
12. For your SaaS What are your Top 3 USPs?
I consider LowFruits to be a SERP analyzer. It analyzes data from the SERP and gives you insights : Any low hanging fruit keywords? A few unique features:
1. Unique market analysis
In each report, you’ll get the list of websites ranking with their monetization methods: ads / affiliate / e-shops? Focus on analyzing your direct competitors. If you’re focused on monetizing your websites with ads, you’re not competing with e-shops. Find where weak direct competitors are ranking as it’s a signal you can be in that SERP too.
2. Every time you analyze a keyword, the PAA and related queries are extracted.
You can analyze them too. Many PAAs and related queries won’t exist in other tools: you can find some real keyword gems in there. Check the visibility index telling you which queries are the most visible in the SERPs. Many PAAs have an estimated search volume of 0 but are very present in the SERPs => focus on these.
3. Traffic / DA ratio
Subscribers get access to exclusive data like traffic data of competitors and the « performer filter ». Performers are websites with high traffic and a low DA: a keyword goldmine for your website. Add them to your extraction list (extraction feature) to fetch their keywords. You have a high probability of finding some really good low-competition keywords.
13. What’s the biggest issue(s) that you’re facing today?
Content websites: finding good writers that keep on producing good quality content (no fluff, no plagiarism, …).
14. What tool(s) do you rely on the most?
I use Google Doc with my writers and Canva with my VA to create featured images. These are really amazing products. I also use Copyscape to check for plagiarism.
15. What has been the biggest mistake you’ve made in creating content / SaaS?
Not spending enough time checking the quality of articles on my content websites. Writers can feel too comfortable and add fluff just to get to a word count. Need more processes in place to keep high-quality standards.
16. What has been the best decision you’ve made in creating content / SaaS?
Focus on projects over a long period of time. Results don’t come in after just a few weeks or months.
17. What’s one thing that you felt accelerated your journey the most?
A bit cliché but read the 4HWW like 10 years ago … it was my first view on productivity tricks (80/20, Parkinson’s Law, …). Loved it!
Some people spend hours finding the perfect domain name, I spend less than a minute. Some of my domain names are just terrible, but I don’t consider it important, as the ROI is really good with/without a good domain name (and I don’t focus on building a brand with these).
18. What’s your 12 month goal?
Double the number of people having success with their SEO content strategy using LowFruits.
19. How do you stay up to date on SEO, affiliate marketing, display ads, and other news?
I follow a few YouTube channels, signed up to a few newsletters, Twitter, …
20. What do you eat or drink for fuel to keep going?
Tomato juice. Used to be chocolate (don’t forget I live in Belgium) – was addicted to it. Currently training my brain to stop with the chocolate dopamine shot.
21. Where can people follow you?
I’m on Twitter @pavlos1944
BONUS: Anything else you’d like to share that can help others?
A few mindset tips:
1. Reverse engineer what you see (or at least try with the data you have).
Try to understand why a website is at the top – what they’re doing right and if you can do better.
2. Causation / Correlation / …?
Sometimes we update things on our websites, see stats change … and are convinced that it’s what we changed that made the impact, but how do we really know with all the different variables and Google updates going on?
3. Don’t be too religious about what other people say.
You can make things work in very different ways. Following a recipe is good – especially when you’re just starting – but have fun and test things. I still have a very good RPM and ROI with the Amazon associates program but many mention it as dead. The more people mention that the associate program is worthless, the fewer people will come to compete with my websites.
4. Be careful with dopamine shots.
We sometimes see success stories and they give us a mental boost … but for how long? The next day we might just go back to our old habits. Do you (really, really) enjoy the niche you’re in? It’ll help you during hard times (and core updates).
5. Spend more time producing than consuming.
Consuming information is comfortable, but it doesn’t move the needle. The best is to consume specific info only when you have a specific problem to solve.
To finish off, a few interesting content website ideas to check:
- https://www.sleepinginairports.net/ – a community website for people sleeping in airports.
- https://www.whereig.com/ – just a website about where places are.
There are a ton of ways to make a living from a web-asset, feel free to experiment and have fun.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out LowFruits as a great tool to easily find low-competition keywords!