There are a lot of different ways to make money online. If you’re interested in building your own online real estate that can produce income and eventually be sold for a lump sum, two of the most common options are starting a blog and starting a niche website.
If you’re wondering what’s the difference or which option is better, we’ll answer all of your questions in this article.
What Is a Niche Website?
A niche website is highly-focused on one particular topic rather than publishing content on several different topics. Many niche websites are monetized through affiliate programs and/or display ads. Although it’s possible to use other monetization methods, like selling your own products or offering a service, that’s not very common with niche websites.
The goal with a niche website is to get search engine traffic by creating content that is focused on specific keywords or phrases. If you own a niche website, you’ll probably do keyword research with a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush to find keywords that you can use as the basis for your content. The approach here is to find low-competition keywords related to your niche that will be easier to rank for (on the first page of Google’s search results).
The comparison in this article is more about the intent of the site than the technical structure or setup of the site. Both niche websites and blogs are likely to be powered by WordPress using a combination of posts and pages. The differences are related to the desired outcome and the approach used to grow the site.
Common Characteristics of Niche Websites
While these common characteristics won’t apply to every single niche website, as a general rule, you can use these characteristics to identify niche websites.
Niche websites are rarely personally-branded, while blogs are frequently branded around a particular person. When you’re reading an article on a niche website, you probably won’t notice who the author is, and you’re unlikely to care. Some niche websites are completely anonymous, not revealing any information about the person behind the site.
One of the common goals of a blogger is to develop a connection with readers, which builds loyalty and leads to repeat traffic. That’s not usually the case with niche websites. A niche website is all about the content and getting the visitor to click on an affiliate link or an ad.
Because most niche websites make at least a portion of their income through affiliate programs, you’ll see a lot of content that is written around specific products or types of products. Some articles that you’re likely to find at niche websites include:
- Product reviews
- Lists of the top products of a particular type
- Product vs. product comparisons
- Alternatives to a particular product
These types of articles are ideal for affiliate marketing because they can include a lot of affiliate links to different products. Also, visitors who are searching for these types of articles are in a buying mentality, which leads to more conversions and more revenue for the site owner.
Amazon Affiliate Links
There are niche websites that promote products through just about any affiliate program you can think of, but Amazon is especially popular with niche site owners. For example, you’ll see a lot of articles like “The Top 10 Blenders Under $100” that give a short description of 10 products with affiliate links to Amazon for the visitor to purchase any of the products.
The main reason that Amazon’s affiliate program is so popular for niche websites is the fact that you can buy just about anything on Amazon. It doesn’t matter what your site is about, you can probably find plenty of products for sale on Amazon that you can promote. And since most shoppers already buy from Amazon, the conversion rates tend to be high.
Niche Website Examples
Possibly the best way to explain a niche website is to show some real-world examples.
This site covers topics related to gardening and the outdoors. The range of topics is a little bit broader than you’ll find with some niche websites. The content has a lot of affiliate links, including Amazon, and the site is very clearly set up to get as many clicks as possible on the affiliate links. There is no personal branding, no About page, and the author’s name isn’t even listed.
This site is highly-targeted with content for people living on a gluten-free diet. You’ll find a lot of “is XYZ product gluten-free?” articles. The site is monetized mostly with ads. The author’s names are listed, but the site is about the content, not about the author.
This site’s content is all about dogs. The site is monetized mostly through affiliate programs by mentioning all kinds of different dog-related products within the content.
What Is a Blog?
For the purpose of this article, we’re talking about blogs that have a goal of making money. Of course, plenty of people have personal blogs where they just write for fun, but we’re focusing on blogs that are set up with the goal of making money.
If you’ve ever had any interest in making money online, you’ve probably come across articles about bloggers who are making six or even seven figures a year. A blog can be a legit business with unlimited income potential.
The type of blog I’m talking about here could also be referred to as an Authority Site. The goal with a blog or authority site is to attract traffic, develop a large following of loyal readers, and make money.
There are several different ways that blogs can be monetized, with the most common options including:
- Display ads
- Affiliate programs
- Creating and selling your own products (usually digital products)
- Publishing sponsored content
- Offering a service (like freelancing or consulting)
While most niche websites get the vast majority of traffic through Google search, bloggers attempt to get traffic in several different ways. Google search traffic is still important, but many bloggers are very active with social networks as a way to drive traffic to their blog.
One of the most significant differences between niche websites and blogs is the way they pursue repeat traffic. Since niche websites tend to get almost all of their traffic from search, that means that most of the traffic will come from first-time visitors. Bloggers, on the other hand, work very hard to establish their reputation or authority and build up a base of loyal readers who keep coming back to the site.
Most bloggers have an email list that they use as a way to stay-in-touch with their most loyal readers and to get subscribers to keep coming back to the site.
The most successful bloggers have developed a strong reputation and have many loyal readers who are always interested in reading more. Once this has been accomplished, the monetization options are virtually unlimited.
Another key difference relates to the topics that are covered on the site. While niche websites are tightly focused, blogs have more flexibility to cover a range of topics. Lifestyle blogs, for example, might cover travel, money, fitness, dieting, or any number of other topics.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the key distinctions between niche websites and blogs, let’s take a look at the pros and cons to help you decide which might be the best path for you.
Pros of Niche Websites
A Clear Plan to Follow
One of the best things about building niche websites is the fact that there is a clear plan to follow. Not only is it clear, but it’s also duplicatable. After you have success with your first niche site, you can follow the same plan and do it again with another website.
There are a number of online courses you can take that will teach you how to build profitable niche websites. While each of these courses will be unique in some ways, the basic process is similar:
- Choose a niche for your site.
- Do keyword research to find low-competition search phrases.
- Create content to target these low-competition search phrases.
- Keep publishing content and wait for Google to send traffic to your site.
That’s a very simplified version, but the process of creating a niche website is not overly complicated. I’ve tried many different types of online businesses over the years, and in my opinion, building a niche website is one of the most newbie-friendly options because you can follow a simple plan and have success.
Since you’ll be looking for low-competition search phrases to target, you’re going after lower-hanging fruit. You don’t have to be an expert at creating websites or SEO in order to have some success.
Building a niche website and developing content around low-competition search phrases should allow you to get traffic to your site with some patience (it usually takes 6-12 months to start seeing any significant traffic from Google).
You don’t need to go after popular search phrases that will be really difficult to rank for. With a niche site, you’ll have a lot of articles that get a small-to-medium amount of search traffic, and it all adds up.
Higher Percentage of Success
Achieving some success with a niche website is not all that difficult. If you follow a proven plan, you’ll be likely to have some level of success and make money.
This goes back to having a simple plan to follow. You may not build a million dollar online business, but if you follow the plan and stick with it, you should have a site that makes some money each month. Compare that to a lot of other online business models that have a very low percentage of success.
Possibility for Passive Income
One of the most appealing aspects of managing a niche website is the possibility for passive income. After you’ve built up the content on your site and established your search engine rankings, your site may generate income with only a small effort on your part.
Of course, if you have a successful site, you’ll probably want to continue to invest time to add even more content and keep growing the site, and there will also be some general maintenance needed. However, a niche website offers a strong possibility for passive income.
The Work is Easy to Outsource
The main task involved with building niche websites is writing the content. The types of articles that you’ll be publishing on your niche site are ideal for outsourcing, and there are plenty of writers who are willing to do the work for very reasonable rates.
If you want, you could even outsource other aspects of the site, like keyword research. It’s up to you how much of the work you do yourself and how much you outsource. Many niche site owners try to do all the work themself at the beginning and then begin to outsource once the site is making money.
Outsourcing work will allow you to grow the site faster, and it’s also key to earning passive income since you’ll be relying on others to do the work.
The Effort Doesn’t Have to Be as Consistent
Another major difference between niche websites and blogs is how you invest your time. Growing a blog or authority website requires time on a consistent basis. You’ll be working to build your following and that’s hard to do if you’re taking long breaks. If you go a month between posts, you’ll lose a lot of the momentum that you’ve been building up. For this reason, a blog is not ideal unless you can dedicate time to it each week.
However, the consistency of your time or effort is much less significant with a niche website. Your visitors are very unlikely to notice or care if you have long gaps between posts on a niche site. In fact, some people like to start by launching the site with several articles, and then letting the site sit for a while.
I have a niche site that had a year between posts, and it didn’t hurt the site at all. Sure, the site would have grown faster if I had been working on it the whole time, but there was no email list or regular readers that lost interest in the site because it wasn’t being actively updated. The traffic actually went up during that year off.
I wouldn’t encourage you to take a long break with your niche website, but having that extra flexibility can be important if you have a schedule that doesn’t allow you to put in time every single week.
Managing Multiple Sites is Possible
Most niche websites won’t take loads of time to maintain. Of course, the details will depend on the site. Since many niche website owners outsource the writing, it’s possible to manage a profitable site on a smaller number of hours.
It’s very possible to have a few different niche websites going at the same time. In fact, most successful niche site owners have multiple sites that combine to make up their income.
This is key because the income ceiling for niche websites is lower than the income ceiling for blogs. While there are some niche sites that make huge sums of money, most successful niche websites will make smaller amounts. To achieve a higher income, you simply have multiple websites instead of just one.
Cons of Niche Websites
Not as Many Monetization Options
While it’s possible to monetize a niche website in many different ways, most niche websites only make money with affiliate programs and advertising.
The less diversification you have in your income streams, the more risk you have if something happens to one of them. This has been very evident when Amazon has made changes to its affiliate program, since so many niche website owners rely on Amazon. In 2020, Amazon reduced the commission paid out for affiliate referrals in a lot of different categories, and some niche site owners saw their earnings decrease significantly as a result.
Lower Income Potential
As I mentioned a little bit earlier, niche websites will usually not earn as much as successful blogs. Of course, there are always exceptions, but most niche website owners manage a few different sites in order to reach the level of income that they want.
The Work Can Be Boring
Most niche site owners choose the topic of their site based on what they think will provide the best income potential. You may or may not have any interest in the topic of your site.
Doing the work related to running a niche website isn’t always the most fun. I know that I personally find it a little boring. Of course, making money can be exciting, so you may be fine with this type of work if your site is doing well and making money.
Highly Dependant on Google
Since most niche sites rely on Google organic search rankings to drive the majority of traffic, that makes you highly dependant on Google. Your search rankings could change at any time and Google is constantly adjusting the search algorithm. Your site could be successful one day and then lose a ton of traffic overnight.
Pros of Blogging
Unlimited Income Potential
There really is no limit to the amount of money that you can make as a blogger. There are bloggers out there who make over a million dollars per year simply from managing a blog. Of course, those super-successful bloggers are the exception not the rule, but the potential is there.
Lots of Ways to Make Money
While niche websites tend to make money only from affiliate programs and ads, bloggers can make money in many other ways. A lot of the highest-earning bloggers make the majority of their income by selling their own digital products (for example, online courses).
Blogging Success Can Open Up Many Doors
Successful bloggers tend to have a lot of opportunities come there way. A popular blog could lead to a book deal, partnerships, sponsorships, and other business opportunities. Those things may be something you’re purposefully pursuing, or it could be an unexpected benefit that allows you to make a lot of money.
Build Your Own Personal Brand
With a successful blog, you’re building your own personal brand, not just the brand of the blog. You’ll be seen as an expert in your field, which is a big part of the reason why all of those other opportunities will come your way.
Cons of Blogging
Lots of Competition
Although blogging offers incredible opportunities, the truth is, blogging is not easy. It’s a very desirable way to earn a living and there are a lot of bloggers competing for the attention of readers.
While there are a lot of niche websites as well, the approach of doing keyword research and targeting low-competition keywords makes it possible to minimize the competition that you’re facing.
Lower Percentage of Success
Most people who start a blog with the goal of making money will never achieve success. While there are no official statistics, it’s safe to say that the failure rate of bloggers is pretty high.
The main reason that new bloggers fail is because they expect to start getting traffic and start making money quickly, and then they’re disappointed when they’re not seeing any results.
While there are plenty of blogging courses and ebooks that you could follow, the path for each successful blog is a little bit different. It’s not quite like building a niche website where you can follow a very specific step-by-step plan. Building a successful blog requires more decisions and leaves more room for error.
Significant Time Investment
Growing a successful blog is certainly not easy. It takes a lot of time and patience and most people aren’t willing to wait long enough to see the results.
Not only will it take a lot of time and effort, but you also need to invest time on a consistent basis. Blogging is not an ideal option if you have a very irregular schedule and you’ll go weeks at a time without being able to work on the blog.
Niche Websites Are Best For…
If you’re looking for a way to make money online, starting a niche website could be a great choice for:
- Beginners – If you’ve never made money online before, starting a niche website could be a great choice because you can follow a proven plan and you have a decent chance of being successful. Even if your site doesn’t make loads of cash, you can still make something, build your confidence, and learn a lot that you can apply to other projects in the future.
- People Who Are Not Interested in Personal Branding – If you have no interest in getting exposure for yourself and you like remaining anonymous and working behind the scenes, a niche website might be a better fit than a blog.
- Anyone With an Unpredietable Schedule – If your schedule won’t allow you to work on your site every week, a niche website would be a better choice than a blog.
- Anyone Who Would Rather Manage or Oversee – While it’s possible to do all of the work on a niche website yourself, and it’s also possible to outsource some of the work related to running a blog, niche websites are ideally suited for outsourcing the majority of the work. If you’d like to grow a business and manage others who do the work, building several niche websites could be a good option.
Blogging Is Best For…
- Someone Who Wants to Become Known As an Expert – If your goal is to build your own profile in a particular industry, starting a blog would be a better choice than a niche website.
- Someone Who Has Exceptional Experience – If you already have talent or experience that makes you stand out in your industry, you’ll want to use that to your advantage. That expertise makes it easier to brand yourself as an expert, gain trust, and grow the following of your blog.
- Entrepreneurs Who Want Unlimited Income Potential – If maximizing your income is the goal, a blog may provide better opportunities as compared niche websites. Of course, there are plenty of niche websites that out-earn blogs, but in general, blogging provides more potential.
- Anyone Who Wants to Manage a Single Online Property Rather Than Multiple Websites – Do you prefer to put all of your focus into one thing, or do you like to work on several different projects at once? Most successful bloggers dedicate the majority of their time to their blog. They may have other websites, but they’re usually of secondary importance. Most niche website owners manage several different sites.
- Anyone Who Wants to Write About a Lot of Different Topics – If you think you would get bored with niche websites, blogging may be a better choice for you. Still, it’s usually best to keep your blog focused on particular topics, but you can branch out a little more than you can with a niche site.
If you’re looking for a way to build an online business and make money, starting a blog and building niche websites are two viable options. In either case, you’ll have to be willing to put in time and effort before seeing the payoff. With consistent work and some patience, making money is a real possibility.
Both blogs and niche websites can be sold for a nice lump sum when you’re ready to move on and do something else.
The decision really comes down to which one would be the best fit for your own preferences. Both options come with pros and cons, so look over the details and decide which one is best for you.