NP News: $9 Million Stolen From Ezoic, Ad Network Comparisons, Weird Niche Sites, & More!


Get ready for an exciting episode of This Week in Niche Pursuits News, where we dive into a rollercoaster of digital marketing stories:

From a $9 million employee theft scandal at Ezoic to weird niche websites and ad network comparisons.

This episode is a treasure trove of interesting discussions to help close out another week!

Things kick off with a jaw-dropping case of employee theft at the popular ad tech company Ezoic. The guys explore how one crafty individual tried to steal $9 million by altering the bank account details on the company’s Google AdSense account.

Luckily his plan was foiled, but not before Ezoic faced layoffs and cash flow struggles due to the incident.

The conversation then switches gears to continue last week’s discussion on Google’s latest update, and how it’s expanded to encompass all types of reviews, not just products.

The conversation also gets into the fascinating world of weird niche sites, like sleepinginairports.net – a handy guide for those seeking a good night’s sleep during layovers or as a hotel alternative. This unconventional site thrives on crowdsourced reviews and enjoys a whopping 46,000 organic traffic per month (according to Ahrefs, so for sure, their real traffic is much higher)!

They also cover a mysterious travel site whose social media presence is suspended and a Lego site with untapped potential in email marketing and social media.

And the question on every site owner’s mind is: which ad network pays more? We tackle this question head-on, comparing Ezoic and Google AdSense, considering factors like ad setup, programmatic display, and site speed.

Spencer then dishes on his latest side hustle – outsourcing product review videos for the Amazon Influencer program. With a team of five videographers and a video backlog, Spencer is set to rake in commissions from product page views.

To wrap things up the guys discuss the perks of starting with ads on a website for that initial burst of energy and income and share an SEO tactic that involves hunting for unlinked mentions and requesting links.

In a nutshell, this latest episode of This Week in Niche Pursuits News covers a wide array of digital marketing topics that are both fun and interesting for anyone involved with online businesses.

Listen to the full episode below!

Watch the Episode

read the transcription

Spencer: Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of this Week in Niche Pursuits News. I, of course, am your host, Spencer Haws, over at NichePursuits.com, and I’ve got my faithful co-host here with me. Jared, how you doing? 

Jared: Good, Spencer. Good to have you back. Had a week off to, um, rest from the news of the week. But, uh, you’re back in the, in the.

Spencer: Yeah, I did. I was on spring break with my family. We went up to Vancouver, Canada, which was, uh, which was fun. It’s a cool city up there. First time I’ve been there. And so we enjoyed that. Had a week off, but you and Josh did a great job, uh, on the episode, covering the news. And, uh, believe it or not, we’ve got a whole slew of new news, uh, this week to cover, as always happens each and every week.

And a couple of weird niche. And a couple of weird niches. Uh, for sure there’s no shortage. Um, I started keeping a spreadsheet actually of the weird niche sites that I run across, or most of them are coming as you know, from Twitter threads and Facebook groups cuz uh, when you get the collective network together, uh, they know a lot more weird niche sites than I do on my own.

And so I’m starting to keep a spreadsheet. Mm-hmm. So I don’t think we’re gonna have a shortage, uh, at all in future weeks. So be sure to stick around. At least two weird niche sites that we’re gonna share here later. Uh, but first we’re gonna talk about, uh, a couple of the headlines. And one actually just happened today, uh, within the hour basically of when we’re hitting record on this.

Google, of course, made another update. And so Jared, what, what’s going on with that update? 

Jared: Yeah, boy, you’re right man. Uh, you have to, uh, be able to think on your feet when you’re doing this style of a podcast. It kind of, uh, just got, uh, got announced a little while ago. We’re recording this on, on a Wednesday this week.

But, um, the April, 2023 reviews update, and, uh, I’m gonna kind of read some stuff here from Marie Haynes, uh, who is a, a wonderful follow on Twitter. She, uh, really documents a lot of the Google updates, along with a couple others like Lily Ray, who we’ve had on the podcast before. But, um, yeah, first outta the gate she says, not a typo.

The products review update seems to have gotten renamed now to the reviews update and they’ve expanded the documentation. So lemme just read it really quickly, uh, fresh to me as well by. So the documentation used to say, uh, publishing high quality product review page. Product review pages on your e-commerce or product review site can help shoppers learn about a product before they purchase, right?

So these are the, the type of articles that these updates impact. Now, the documentation has changed. You’ll notice the word product is only mentioned in in passing as part of a larger group of articles and content that they’re now looking at with this, this Update Publishing high quality review. Can help people learn about things they are considering, such as products, services, destinations, games, movies, and other topics.

And of course we have the other topics, keeping it nice and open-ended. So clearly, I mean, this is probably our fourth or fifth product review. Update there. I said it, product review update. It looks like looking like it’s expanded into just generic reviews all across. 

Spencer: Right. It’s interesting. So Google is continuing to kind of expand what they’re covering in these types of updates, these algorithm updates.

Um, I think they’re trying to sort of tighten control on, um, just who, who’s an expert, how do you write an expert review and, and how do they rank that and give guidelines for that? In, in the crps 

Jared: you have it up in front of you. I mean, uh, we don’t know. It’s an hour old, but, uh, who knows if. Uh, update will have that significant impact on experience, the newest addition to the E E A T family that they announced back in, I think, December or January.

And we’ve been wondering how that would roll itself out and how that would show itself. So, you know, um, who knows? 

Spencer: Yeah. So you’re not gonna make some predictions. Um, which sites are gonna get a boost or going to get a, a hit on this? 

Jared: I mean, I could take a, a wild guess that would just be based on evidence of the past about which types of sites might win.

But no, no, I don’t, I don’t know how. I, I mean, obviously whenever we see them say like, da, da da da da da, and other topics, it’s like, well man, this could cover a whole wide, wide array of 

Spencer: things. Right? I was trying to catch in a pickle there. So I think that’s, uh, that’s probably the way to go is kind of vague as Google is vague.

Um, they update their guidelines. They say, okay, this update’s rolling out. We don’t really know what’s gonna happen. And so maybe next week we’ll have a little bit of insight. We can look. What sites were, were hit, uh, with the update. So if you’re listening, just check your Google search console, your Google Analytics, um, you know, maybe wait a couple of days and start to compare how your traffic is for that day with.

The day of the previous week, right? So if it’s Thursday tomorrow, compare it with the previous Thursday, kind of see if, um, there was any changes. And then you can start to dial in, was it a product review that was, um, article that was impacted? And if it was, you can, you can start to do some research there.

So I, that’s about all I have to say about the Google, uh, reviews update, just because it’s so fresh. We don’t know much. We just know it’s happening. Yeah. 

Jared: Agreed. Yep. And, uh, I’m sure we’ll address it next week. And your survey, uh, that we talked about two weeks ago was interesting, right? Like that you talked about, um, you asked over, I think over 200 or 250 something.

Uh, but what website owners responded, you know, up and down 50 50 and so we’ll, to see if this one, you know, kind of goes the same route. 

Spencer: Right. Exactly. All right. Let’s jump into what, I guess I’m calling our headline story. I think we’re gonna spend sort of the most of our time on, on this. Any one topic will be this topic.

So, uh, Zoic is in the news. Um, they had an un unfortunate experience where an employee tried to embezzle or tried to steal $9 million. Uh, from what I understand, that is a lot of money. Uh, this is a story that, uh, was published on business insider.com. You have to be a premium member to see the. Otherwise I’d share it on my screen.

I’m not a paying a subscriber of Business Insider, but it’s been kind of republished and re-shared in other places enough to get all the details. Um, Basically, from my understanding of, of reading this story, uh, there was an employee that had access to Zo X’s actual Google Ad Sense account, right? So, um, Zoic is an intermediary, right?

You go to their platform, they actually, um, manage the Google ad sense and get paid directly from Google for all the publisher’s earnings. And then he. Distributes that out to all the publishers. And so this particular employee had access to the Google AdSense account and tested a couple of times changing their bank account information and then immediately unchanging that to, to see if any triggers would go off within Zoic.

Um, and no triggers went off. And so the next month or whenever it was, I believe this was in. Uh, that this happened, uh, they changed the bank account, Zoic from, uh, from from Zoic to their personal bank account, and 9 million for the month of December was deposited into this employee’s personal bank account from Google Absences.

And it was a 

Jared: straight shot, right? It wasn’t one of these like, you know, thousand dollars here, $10,000 there. It was just a straight shot, nine. 

Spencer: I believe so. I believe that’s, you know, Google pays on a monthly basis. Yep. That’s how much Google owed is. Boom. 9 million bucks. Now, where the employee went wrong is, well, okay, they already went wrong, clearly.

Uh, where they got caught. Where they got caught, yes. You know, if we were all the criminal mind, we would’ve done this better. But this particular employee then tried to buy physical bars of gold. Uh, they tried to buy 9 million. Gold in one fell swoop. Uh, and so the, the gold company, uh, this triggered something to them.

They notified the fbi, the F fbi, did some research, found out what happened. And of course, at this point he zoic saw that they’re missing $9 million and, uh, So fortunately for Zoic, the money has been recovered. The employee is, um, he’s, he’s, anyways, he’s in a lot of trouble. He’s, he’s in some serious hot water, right?

FBI involved, there’s legal actions proceeding, um, and all of this is happening. So that’s, that’s the, the big news. Do you have any nuance to add to that, or any additional points to add to that? Well, I mean, I 

Jared: know that, you know, I, I don’t know the exact, um, uh, timeline of it all, but there have been layoffs with Ezoic.

Uh, those layoffs, you know, seem to have timed out somewhat near, uh, the, the December and then ongoing timeframe. So clearly, I mean, obviously $9 million I guess for some companies wouldn’t matter. For most companies, that’s gonna be something you’ll notice. But yeah, I mean it had IPL implications for them at right outta the right, outta the get-go.

It sounds like, and it sounds like some different team members, uh, of his oak lost their job over what might be cash flow issues stemming from this. 

Spencer: Right. Exactly. And that’s, um, that’s actually, and I’m just sharing a screen of a Twitter thread, um, if people wanna read about that. Um, this is a nice summary of, of everything that happened basically that we talked about.

Um, but I actually. Learned about the Ezoic story a couple of weeks ago before this Business Insider article was published. I didn’t know all the details, but I got an email from Freestar. Now, Freestar is a very rapidly growing programmatic ad tech company. Very similar. They’re direct competitor of Zoic and.

Freestar reached out to me and basically said their, their, their title was like, major Problems at Ezoic, something like that. And then they linked to a Twitter thread, which I will, uh, share here. Um, says Ezoic is getting brutalized on Glassdoor right now, which basically alludes to what you were just saying, that after all this happened, uh, some employees were laid.

I believe it’s something like 10% of the company was laid off. We don’t know if it was directly related to this, but probably, yeah. Um, you know, there’s been a lot of tech layoffs and so maybe there’s some of that going on, right? There’s just, um, some, some changes going on in the tech industry. Um, a little bit hard time for some ad companies, but I think, you know, now that we know everything that’s going on, you miss $9 million for a period of time.

Things happen right at the company. And so it is true that Zoic is being drugged through the ringer here. Um, you know, this, this thread is, is not, is not nice. You know, a lot of, uh, a couple of former employees are coming out, you know, ex. Complaining about the executive team being arrogant and rude, yada, yada, yada.

I won’t go into everything, you know, but there’s two sides to it. The CEO has responded and said, Hey, there’s not a lot of basis for what’s going on. Um, so I don’t know all the details and I’m not taking sides. We’re just kind of reporting here that Zoic really is kind of getting drugged through the ringer.

They did get 9 million stolen by a previous, uh, Um, and so I had kind of heard about this, um, a couple of weeks, uh, you know, before the, um, business Insider article, and you did a 

Jared: good job keeping quiet. I didn’t hear about it from you. Yeah. 

Spencer: I decided to just keep quiet until I knew more details and, um, always a good note.

I didn’t wanna, yeah, I didn’t want to be the one to say, oh, it sounds. X, y, Z is happening until I knew X, Y, z, uh, is happening. And so I thought this would be a good time to also kind of share some of my history with Ezoic because I kind of do have a unique history in terms of, I’ve worked very directly with some of the executive team, in particular the, the CMO there.

Um, so if people followed along with, um, niche Site Project four, they will know that I monetize my site with Ezoic, um, you know, own the er.com. And so I talked about Ezoic a lot just because that was the ad network that I was using. Um, you know, they, they did a good job, um, for that particular site. Um, what people may not know is that I was actually their very first, what they call E three P member, which is essentially their influencer program.

And so this was, uh, a program that they created. Um, I won’t say for me, but I was the very first member of the program, you know, and so I was the very first influencer of Ezoic. They created, um, the program. I was the first to join, and then, you know, they went out and recruited other influencers, bloggers, YouTubers, um, to, to sort of be influencers now.

I will just say that there was not a lot of specific requirements, like I didn’t have to speak positive positively of Zoic. Um, I made sure to be very clear that I wanna be honest, I don’t wanna be locked into something that, where I have to say Zoic is good. And so if you actually look at the history of niche pursuits, I then tried Ezoic on a mom blog that I bought.

And there was definitely some rough periods there. I wrote a, a very candid, um, blog post that people can read. I should have pulled that up. Could share that on the screen. Um, about moving from AdThrive to Zoic. There was definitely some bumps along the way. Um, took ’em a few months to figure out, but they did figure it out.

Um, and then I, uh, tried to, Get Zoic installed on niche pursuits.com. The traffic grew quite a bit last year and so I wanted to start monetizing with display ads and, uh, so I started to go through their process, but I’m very picky with niche pursuits.com and I have a whole setup and ev just every setup that is zoic.

Wanted with their plugin and with their speed optimization tools. Just didn’t quite work with my tech, my particular tech stack, right? I’m using WP Cash and, and other things that I’ve done to optimize my site. I’m on a custom theme and I tried really hard to work with the team and, um, long story short, we couldn’t make it work.

And, and after just going through some of that experience of like some things that Zo can do and can’t do, and, and again, my site is a custom site. I’m very particular, um, right. And so I have some quirks, um, for sure. But there was just some things they couldn’t get to work on their end. And, uh, because of that I chose not to use Ezoic on niche pursuits.com.

I’m currently using media. Um, I’m thrilled with Media Vine. They’re doing a great job. And, uh, kind of all the experiences as I look at Ezoic over the years, I, I chose to leave the influencer program, um, that Ezoic has. This is, this is a few months ago, right? That happened and it was a tough decision because.

You do get paid to be a member of the influencer program. And so I chose to leave those payments. I’m no longer, you know, hey, I just, I couldn’t in full faith, um, you know, going through the experiences that I had still be an influencer, right. So I do want to, to be very clear though, that I don’t think people should avoid, avoid Ezoic at all costs, right?

I think it works well for some sites, particularly starter sites, right? If you’re just getting started, you wanna monetize and you don’t have a custom setup, you don’t have a lot of quirks going on. Um, you know, with your site like I do, um, is though it can be great and, and maybe that’s all you’ll ever.

Right. But, but there are, um, for certain situations there, there are some difficulties that he oic, uh, may have. So, boy did I say it all there. Jared, 

Jared: I feel like I wanna put on my, uh, interviewer hat. Yeah. Ask you some questions. What I’m curious, and you probably don’t know the exact date, I didn’t ask you this in advance, like, when did the program get created?

When, like, when did that all start? 

Spencer: Ooh, I should have looked this up. Um, I feel like it was like three years ago. Okay. Or something. So 

Jared: it’s been around for a while. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That would’ve been before Niche Site project four. Which, um, you talked about how you did have zoic on that. 

Spencer: Yeah, I, I’m trying to remember if it was before or like right during, it was very similar.

Timeframe. Yep. Yep. Um, I don’t remember which one came first, but Yeah. Yeah. I was a member of, of the program there. Um, and what I was gonna show is, um, just how hard leaving the program was, right. Because they did pay me. Uh, they also, I was featured on the Zoic homepage. Um, if you go to the homepage, oh, um, I was, I was featured with a quote, had a nice link.

You know, they’re a Dr. I don’t, you know, Nine, maybe, something like that. Uh, very high. So it was, it was a great link. But when I left the program, you know, I said goodbye to that link, uh, as well. And so they’ve got somebody else featured, um, on that site. So, so not easy to leave, but, um, yeah, that, that’s, that’s kind of the 

Jared: whole story I will say, um, to is Oak’s Point.

When I started my first website back in 2017, um, I don’t know, uh, Zoic and all that, but I, I do know that they did not have the, um, lowered traffic requirements. They didn’t have those back then. They were at least 10,000, maybe 25,000. And so I couldn’t get on an ad network for the first year or so. Now, what’s interesting about it is that I wasn’t looking to monetize via ads back.

It didn’t even cross my mind. Um, it wasn’t quite as in vogue to monetize via ads back then. This is 2017, 2018. But, um, I will tell you that after a year of really struggling to get the kind of affiliate income I wanted, I realized I had enough traffic from Pinterest at that time, or like dating myself here from Pinterest at that time to, uh, get on an ad network and, um, and that first check from an ad network was so invigorating to, you know, finally make it paid a lot more than I was making an affiliate income.

And it really gave me, A good shot of energy to keep going and that, you know, that site ended up growing quite a bit. So it is really great. And I know a lot of people don’t put ads in the beginning on their site cuz they don’t want, you know, speed and all those kind of things. But it’s great that Zu now does have those, uh, that ability to ha you know, put ads on your site right away.

When you start getting trafficking, you can kind of start seeing income coming in. I mean, we, I. Shane a couple weeks ago, and he talked about getting that first 11 cents, you know, and how motivated That’s right. So, you know, I, I think that it, like you said, it’s, it’s balanced, but it’s, it’s dating myself, but going back five, six years, I didn’t have the option at doing that.

And looking back, it would’ve been great to have that opportunity to put that on my site right outta the gate and get that shot of energy every day, even if it’s only a couple pennies. Right, 

Spencer: exactly. So I mean, if, if I were getting started, um, I probably would, right after my site is getting a little bit of traffic, I’d probably go to Zoic and, and use that.

In fact, I still do have zoic on a couple of sort of starter sites that I, that I have. Right. So certainly not trying to say. Is, oh, it’s good or bad. Uh, you know, it’s just, uh, for your particular situation, they may or may not be the perfect choice. 

Jared: Right. I would sure like that homepage link though, I’ll tell you that 

Spencer: I, you know, I’m missing that, you know, uh, for sure.

If nothing else for like social validation, it’s like just kind of cool to like be featured on a large website’s homepage. I didn’t know 

Jared: that that was, uh, that’s pretty, yeah, that’s pretty. 

Spencer: Yeah. And you know, of course I, being the seo, uh, the way it actually worked is they actually took a quote from one of my blog posts and they put it there.

I didn’t even know, um, they, they, which was fine, of course. Gosh, yes, please, you know, feature me. Um, but they didn’t have a link to my website and so I said, you know, Hey, why don’t you throw a link into my website? And they happily obliged, right? Um, and so I guess that’s, that’s actually kind of a cool SEO tactic is you can look for unlinked mention.

Um, of yourself or your brand, you can kind of do a Google search or, um, whatever. And, uh, then reach out to all those places that are already mentioning, mentioning you, and get a link. So that landed me a, you know, Dr. 88 link. 

Jared: And another tactic is, you know, again, talking to people who are running, say affiliate websites, you might have products, you refer on your product reviews, you might have relationships with companies.

Maybe go one step further. In this case, they actually took a quote or took something and put it on their website, but. Uh, I’ve had success reaching out to brands that I already recommend and saying, Hey, can I give you a testimonial and can you put it on your homepage and can you link to me? And, um, it’s, you know, you, it is not a hundred percent, but it, it does work as well.

Spencer: Yeah. Yep, it absolutely does. So, um, you know, Display ads and ezoic and adri and mediavine. There’s so many interesting topics to really like cover. I, I will, um, I will give my 2 cents on the discussion of, you know, which AD network pays more. Oh boy. Okay. We’re gonna, we’re 

Jared: gonna add. I’m 

Spencer: gonna wade into this one here.

Yeah. You know, a little bit. I’m, I’m actually gonna defend Ezoic position, um, a little bit. Okay. I’m not a paid influencer at Zoic. You don’t even have a homepage link anymore. I don’t even have a homepage link. And there’s a lot of scandalous things happening apparently over at, uh, at Ezoic, you know, employee, rogue employee at least.

Right. Um, but, uh, I don’t know if it’s Zoic position per se, but I will just say, There’s really no reason you should make any more money on any ad network or Google ad sense. They should all pay the same because, um, I’m gonna throw out, uh, I’m gonna make up a statistic, right, but 90 to 95% of all the ads on any website come from the Google Ad Exchange.

That’s just. True of media, vine, zoic. You know, if you wanna start an ad company, you go to the Google Ad Exchange, that’s where all the individual companies go, which is Google AdSense, right? Google Ad Exchange, Google Aen. It’s the same thing, right? So if, if you sign up for Google AdSense, You already have access to 95% of all the ads that Ezoic ad Thrive Media Vine.

They’re not going different places to get different ads. It’s the Google ad exchange. There is an additional, call it 5%. They have unique ad partnerships right directly. So there are some differences, but very. So overall you should make the same no matter where you’re at. Now, why do you make more or less depending on what ad network you’re on?

Well, it’s because of the ad setup, the number of ads, the programmatic display of ads, how you do it, right? Most of us as individuals, if we get Google Ad Sense, we’re gonna spend hours and hours trying to do what we think is optimal placements, and we’re probably gonna be wrong. Right? Whereas if we just go to Mediavine, they.

They already do this on thousands of sites, boom. And so you’re gonna make more if you go to Mediavine, not because their ads pay higher, just cuz they know what they’re doing better. Right. That’s, that’s my opinion. And then e Zoic, um, maybe will pay more over the long term potentially because they do a lot of programmatic placement.

Right. Um, 

Jared: so Right. They’re claim to fame is machine learning and enhancements over time and, and that sort. 

Spencer: Right. So maybe this is a whole can of worms, but I, I hear so many people say that, okay, you’re gonna earn the least on this network and then you’re gonna move to this network, and then you’re gonna finally get the high paying ads on Ad Thrive.

Right? It’s just not, not really the case. You know, I, I moved from Adri to Ezoic and, uh, had some bumps along the way as I explained and wrote a whole blog post, but Ezoic ended up paying more, right. Um, so it, uh, do what’s right for your site, but I just think it’s an interesting nugget for people to think about.

Um, that kind of a point I always like to hammer is like they’re all getting their ads from the same place. It’s a big pie. It’s called the Google ad. 

Jared: A couple other things to keep in mind that I’ll add from, from my vantage point also, like obviously we all talk a lot about how much they pay, but there’s other factors that differentiate different companies.

Um, uh, you know, one of them is, is the impact it has on your website, your site speed. You’re set up your stack and how committed you are to that. You know, like you talk about with niche pursuits, you have a very dedicated stack that you use and that wasn’t going anywhere. That limits you with some and not with others, but also just site speed in general, you know, and how the different ad units are going to affect the speed of your site because those are loading.

Um, In real time. We actually did a site audit at my agency yesterday where a certain ad network was loading, uh, and they were sending out a lot of, uh, bids for the, the specific ad unit to load, and we could see that. Right. So they have different impacts on site speed as well? Yes. Um, that you should also pay attention to customer service, you know, um, some are better, some are not as good.

And when we say not as good, not as responsive, not as fast, not as willing to maybe. All the work for you, um, or some are, so, you know, there’s other factors to consider too. And if as you theorize, they’re mostly pulling from the same repository and mostly paying the same rates. These types of things can really differentiate what you need and what you want out of a company.

Spencer: Yes, absolutely. And they do have different ad share rates, right? Oh yeah, that’s a good point. And so that actually could make a little bit of a difference in how much you actually make, right? They might pay out, you know, 75%, 75% versus 80. Yep. You know, versus 90, you know, depending on where you’re at or what level you’re at or different things like that.

Um, you know, some, anyways, there, there’s a lot of sort of pricing details that you can dive into as well. But, but I will echo the. You know, make sure that site speed tech stack is working well for your site. And if possible, use third party tools and use your own independent sort of person to look at your site Yes.

And say, okay, this is really the impact of, of these ads and mobile on your site. Look at it on mobile. Yep. Yep. Absolutely. And so that ad unit 

Jared: you’re loading might be great on desktop and then might just destroy the mobile. 

Spencer: Right. And so each individual ad network could be very different, um, for mobile, for site speed, for revshare, uh, for customer service, all of these things.

And so, yeah, even though at the end of the day, maybe you should be making about the same. There’s, you know, half a dozen other factors that really could go into this to push you over the edge one way or another. So that wasn’t 

Jared: so bad. I thought we, we, we were burning the boats here, you know, just, uh, yeah.

You know, for it. No, that’s, that’s a healthy, I think that’s a good conversation. A lot of people have been in this space for a long time, know a lot of things we talked about, but man, I wish I could have heard that 10 minutes, that 15 minutes in during my first year or two of trying to underst. Oh wait, you can monetize with ads.

I don’t just have to sell products. Uh, wait, there’s so many options. Oh my goodness. How do I factor all these things 

Spencer: in? Yeah, yeah, exactly. So let’s, let’s maybe, uh, move on from that story, but an, an unfortunate incident, uh, there with Ezoic and, you know, a former employee caused, uh, caused quite a stir, uh, over there.

So, we’ll, we’ll move on from that and, uh, move on to, so, More, uh, a little more niche if you will here. So, uh, we’re going to, we’re gonna jump into, I think, our shiny objects shenanigans here and, uh, kind of share what we’re working on, our little projects that are our side projects, our, our niche, very side projects, and I’m gonna share a new one this week.

I know. That I’ve been talking a lot about my YouTube channel, and, uh, last time I shared that it hit a thousand subscribers. Um, so we can get monetized. Um, so there’s not much else to share. I stole, 

Jared: I stole your thunder. Last week I kind of told everyone that you hit a thousand. Sorry. I kind of No, I, I took that moment away from 

Spencer: you.

I was aware, uh, that, that you did that. And so that is okay. We hit a thousand subscribers. Um, and, uh, but now we need to wait until it get, the channel kind of gets approved for Google AdSense. We just submitted it. It can take a few weeks, so, We’re just waiting. Um, so, but I have another little side project that I wanted to talk about that I think is interesting.

Um, I, I am approved for the Amazon Influencer program. Mm-hmm. And, uh, the Amazon Influencer program, basically what I’m doing with it anyways is you can post videos directly on Amazon, the product pages, and if people watch a portion of those videos and make a purchase. I can make a commission. It’s very similar to the Amazon Associates program.

It’s essentially a sub part piece of the Amazon Associates program. It’s called on Amazon Commissions. It’s, uh, commissions you earned directly from the product pages. And I, I’ve talked about this a little bit, uh, in the past, but, uh, what I’m finding is that I just do not have the time and energy to create all of the videos myself.

I thought I’m gonna be gungho. I’ll maybe do one or two of these, uh, product review videos myself. I’ll just upload ’em to Amazon and, and then go to the bank, you know, in a couple of months. Well, turns out, you know, my big bigger projects are actually pulling more of my time than this fun side project. Um, and so I’ve decided to try and outsource it.

Uh, and so just this past week, I actually hired five videographers, five people on Upwork that can do product reviews for me. Uh, and so they’ve recorded, gosh, some of them recorded over 10 videos for me, and so I’ve got a backlog now of. Probably 30 or 40 videos that I need to upload, uh, to Amazon and I can hopefully start making some commissions on.

So this is kind of fun moving this project along. I’m paying for it. I’m losing a little bit of money in the first few months here, but hopefully over the long term it’s gonna be profitable. Now you’ve had 

Jared: a couple videos up for a little while now. How are those. Yeah, I, I’m guessing good enough to move forward on something like this, outsourcing it.

Yeah. 

Spencer: I created, I think, six total videos, uh, myself, uh, and, um, I’m making about $40 a month off of those. Okay. Um, okay. And so, you know, it’s, it’s not a ton, but yeah. Doing the calculations of, gosh, even if a video can make you 10 bucks a month, You know, o o over time, the, the numbers should, um, you know, pencil out and, and be profit.

Jared: Just, uh, curiosity, is it like, uh, consistent earnings, um, in terms of like, it’s like a daily thing or is, or do you kind of just randomly get these spikes out of nowhere? I’m, I’m just curious if it falls a similar pattern to kind of having a product review on your website. 

Spencer: Yeah, it’s pretty similar. It’s pretty similar in that it’s fairly consistent, you know, it’s kind of earning within a bandwidth.

We’re talking about such small numbers. It’s true, it’s true, you know, here that it’s, you know, a dollar to $2 a day maybe. Right? Um, that, that, yeah. Is, is pretty consistent, you know. Um, a couple of the videos are really bringing in 80% of the earnings, um, at this point, which is kind of typical with, you know, product reviews that you read on your blog as well.

Um, but, uh, yeah, this is, again, it’s. At this point, almost a hundred percent outsource little project again, that, uh, is fun, is exciting. I actually just instructed my virtual assistant yesterday, gave them instructions on how to actually upload the videos to Amazon for me, so somebody else is creating the videos.

And now I’ve got my VA actually uploading and sort of tagging the products and, and making sure the videos are published on Amazon. I 

Jared: remember you saying, I think we must have talked about this at some point. I hope it was on the air. Um, I’m recording, so, so I’ll reference what I’m talking about. But didn’t you say that, hey, you have, you know, niche site project four, like you gotta kind of stay in your lane with that on Google.

But on Amazon, once you’re approved to the influencer program, you can make videos about pretty much anything, 

Spencer: right? That’s right, and that’s what I’m doing. Yes. So it’s a, it’s jewelry 

Jared: and, uh, canoes and, uh, you know, sky skylights and whatever else. 

Spencer: Exactly. It’s, it’s all over the board. And I don’t know if people are interested in any of this.

Maybe they’re fast forwarding this whole section. I don’t know. But here’s, I was really trying to rack my brain of, okay, how do I get these reviewers product, um, and what product do they review? Do I have to buy new product and ship it to them? And then they review it and do an unboxing? Uh, and what I settled.

As I decided, you know what, I bet there’s so many people out there like me, that have hundreds of products they’ve already purchased on Amazon, um, that they could just review those that they already have. And so that’s what I did is as part of my job posting, I sort of explained what I was looking for and, um, people that were interested and I got tons of applicants by the way.

I’m having them review products they’ve already purchased. Brilliant. Yeah. Yeah. And 

Jared: so I don’t have any on your purchase history and just go, boom, boom, boom, boom, and just start 

Spencer: reviewing it. Right? And so at this point, I have no product cost. You know, I have no shipping cost. I’m just paying for their time.

You know, I pay ’em an hourly rate. Most of them said, Hey, 30 bucks an hour or whatever it is, right? So it’s, call it, you know, 30 to $40 per video is about what I’m paying, um, to, to have it done. And they’re just reviewing products they already have sitting around their house. Um, this might flop completely, but I figure, hey, I’m gonna invest a couple thousand dollars.

It’s a fun project and, you know, I’ll know after a couple thousand dollars if these are starting to gain some traction and earn some money. So, 

Jared: well, as I always say, I love that you test these things and we get to learn and hear the 

Spencer: results. Absolutely. I’m gonna, I’m gonna keep sharing, so I feel like I’ve done enough talking here.

Jared, what do you got going? Well, I’m 

Jared: doing the newsletter. Uh, we’ve talked about this. So you’ve listened to past, um, you know, news episodes we’ve had. I’m, I’m growing a newsletter, committed to trying to grow a newsletter, uh, and, uh, uh, probably four or five weeks in now. So, um, uh, sticking with the goal of sending 12 weeks worth of emails, one email a week.

We’re still on target. Um, uh, an update on the video. The video should be done later this week. As always, when you bring someone on to do some new. There’s a lot of back and forth trying to kind of get things done. The first, the first draft actually from the person that I ended up settling on for the editing was really good.

It could have gone live as it was, but knowing that this is gonna be something I wanted to do on and on, we spent the time going back and forth to try to get that first video 95% of the way there. Right. So then there’s like this template that we have to work off of. So going forward, Kind of expect videos that are even better, um, as part of that process.

But in the last couple weeks, what I’ve tried, I thought I’d share here cuz this is a good tactic for people to put into PL practice. It’s already having great results, is we’ll send out the email, uh, and we send out one email a week, right? So I don’t have time to write one email a week. And by the way, that’s time consuming enough as it is.

I have tried to use chat g P T to. But it just, um, doesn’t sound like me and it’s not in depth enough, so I’m either not prompting it right, or it’s just not quite the right fit for a very personal style email that aside, these emails take a while, so I can only produce one a week. And, um, I send it out and the open rates are 50 to 60%, which I’m really happy with.

But at the same time, there’s still 40 to 50% of the people who are on the list who just joined in the last month cuz I just started it. So they’re not like they’re old and, you know, uh, you know, unengaged, there’s F 40 to 50% that aren’t gained it. And so what we’re doing is waiting until Friday taking that group of people that didn’t.

Going to chat G P t saying, Hey, here’s my original subject line that I sent. Here’s generally speaking what the e email is about. Can you please give me 10 prompt or 10 subject line ideas for another email to send to people who didn’t open this? In other words, people who didn’t engage with this first one and it will spit.

10 pretty darn good ideas. Yeah. And so, um, I’ll pick the one that I think is the best, maybe tweak it a bit. We’ll resend the email on Friday and, um, I’m just looking over things here. On average it’s re-engaging. Um, it’s the open rates on these are 20 to 30%. Wow. And so these are people who otherwise wouldn’t have opened the email, uh, wouldn’t have seen it.

And you know, three days later are getting another email with a little bit of a different subject line and, uh, and, and so it’s working really well. Unsubscribes are, are very low, so it’s not like it’s, uh, bothering people. Um, so anyways, we use that strategy that our agency, when we’re doing email marketing on behalf of people and a couple weeks in, I thought, why wouldn’t we use it here?

So, but it’s having good. 

Spencer: Yeah, that’s a great strategy. It’s something that I do as well. Um, you know, resending to the unopens with a new subject line, right? Maybe they either just missed it or that original subject line just didn’t catch their attention. And, uh, yeah, you can really bump up the number of active subscribers that are on your list.

Um, you know, gosh, doing your numbers if, if you’re. What did you say? Almost like 50% are opening the original and then you’re getting another 20 to 30%. Right. So you’re talking like 70% really are getting that newsletter, um, after you send to the unopens? 

Jared: Yeah. Yeah. By the time you’re done with it and all the percentages add up, I think we’re at 63 to 68% of people who are on the list, week in, week out are now opening the email.

Whereas without that, it’d be more like 50%. 

Spencer: Yeah. So what’s your number one source of subscribers right now? What’s working? 

Jared: Um, Twitter and ironically, and this is the sa, we know this was everything. You referenced it earlier, 80% of your revenue from the influencer program is coming from one or two videos.

I could point back to two tweets that have driven the bulk of the subscribers. Interesting. I’ve mentioned the newsletter in different tweets throughout the last four or five weeks. I don’t know how many times I haven’t kept track. More than 10, at least probably nearing maybe 20, I’m just guessing. And I know for a fact it’s been two tweets that have driven the vast majority of, uh, of people to sign up for the newsletter.

Spencer: And you probably tried to replicate those two tweets. Oh yeah. Yeah. 

Jared: Every tweet I send out, I’m like, this could 

Spencer: be the one, this is the lightning in the bottle that we need. Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s interesting. Yeah. I, you know, still haven’t figured out the Twitter algorithm perfectly, but, uh, every once in a while, yeah, you get something that just takes off and yeah, you can do, do good things.

So it 

Jared: really can. So, Anyways. Awesome. That is an update on the shiny update. I hope by next week we’ll have that video live and I can talk about that process more in depth and and, 

Spencer: and whatnot. Okay. Yeah. Yep. We’ll, we’ll chat about that for sure next week. So, uh, it’s time. This is what everybody’s been waiting for.

I’m sure this is, at least what I’m most interested in talking about. It is arb. Weird niche sites. We’ve got, uh, each of us have a weird niche site, uh, that, that we can talk about. Um, the one that I’m gonna share, and again, hat tip to the Niche Pursuits community here for, for sharing this, uh, let me share my screen and, uh, boy, just, I don’t know where, where people come up with these ideas.

This one is sleeping in. Dot net, uh, sleeping in airports.net. This is an entire website. Dedicated to, I guess, optimizing for sleeping in airports. Um, yeah, the guide to Sleeping in Airports. Are you stuck in an airport? Do you have a long layover? Would you like to save money on an airport hotel by sleeping in the airport?

Um, and they’ve got all sorts of guides, right? Things to do. On a layover out airport lounges, airport hotels, um, all, you know, they’ve of course, have expanded a little bit into what to do during a layover. Um, but this site, if I can go to the correct tab, um, here we go. On a hfs, you can see it’s, it’s doing all right, you know, uh, I look that it’s ranking for 137,000 keyword.

It gets, uh, organic traffic of just over 46,000, right? As we’ve talked about. Probably means the site itself is getting 150,000, uh, visitors a month. Something like that. We don’t know for sure. Uh, you know, it looks like it actually used to be higher. Um, Couple years ago. Uh, and so some of the keywords that they’re ranking for, uh, are some of their airport reviews like Fort Lauderdale Airport, sleeping in airports.

Can you sleep in an airport, hotels by the airport, jfk, sleep pods, and on and on. So, uh, it’s a very unique. Niche topic, and I would definitely categor categorize it as a little weird. Um, but they’re taking a, a what I would call a traditional niche site model where it’s informational content. And as you see, if I go to the right tab, um, you know, when you click, you’re getting display ads, right?

So they’re monetized with. Probably one of the ad networks that we talked about at the beginning. Mm-hmm. Um, it actually is zoic. There it is. Right. So this site is monetized with Zoic. Um, you know, And they’ve got a lot of, uh, a lot of content related to airports and sleeping in airports. 

Jared: Well, we know because we’ve interviewed people on the podcast before that hotels pay wonderful affiliate rates.

Travel in general can be very lucrative. Um, here’s the thing I noticed cuz I, I snuck into the ar uh, the dock a little ahead of time, so I had a few things to say about, but it seems like they’re crowdsourcing most of their reviews. Um, like it looks like they. Travelers to actually give their opinions and then they build these reviews like the best airports to sleep in off of these reviews, which is first off kind of a lot of what Google asks us to do, right?

Like with all this E E A T stuff. But also you didn’t even have to be a traveler to to, to put this site together necessarily. It’s really an interesting. 

Spencer: Right? It is. And um, you know, they’ve probably got some, a little bit of programmatic SEO going on here. At least they pulled in, you know, every airport or city that starts with an S, right?

Oh yeah. That. Um, and so I, I can’t imagine they have content for every single one of these. Um, but I, gosh, I don’t know. Maybe they do. Um, and, but, but you’re right, there’s a couple different spots where you can jump in and, and write reviews. Yeah. Almost on every single one of these, they’re asking you to, you know, write a review and get some of that crowdsource content going.

So smart website, you know, um, gosh, do they have a social media? Accounts suspended. Okay. Mm-hmm. Well, mm-hmm. They’re, uh, it does account suspend suspended 

Jared: on Twitter looks. Yeah, it does look like they haven’t updated maybe as much since Covid hit. Um, uh, maybe that’s part of it too. You know, travel has got, had their ups and downs throughout the last couple years and by UPS they’ve had some great ups as well, but certainly some downs.

Spencer: Yeah, so fun niche site. Weird niche site. Again, we’re just here to inspire and entertain, so, You’ve got one for us. Uh, I’m gonna share my screen as you start talking about this. Very 

Jared: similar in metrics to the one you just had actually. So this is a DR. 64, um, ranking for 127,000 keywords. It is. Bum the brick fan.

And for those you listening, not watching, this is a Lego website and uh, it makes sense. So again, how did I find this niche site? Uh, I don’t, I didn’t ask the niche pursuits community, but I love that idea and I might use that going forward, but, I, uh, my daughter, uh, just had her birthday and got a bunch of Legos for her birthday and is obsessed with building Legos.

And so I landed on this site for other reasons, not research related, but thought this was a perfect site. Um, this site is very active. This is clearly another example of a site that just people passionate. They, they, they talk not just about Lego news. Uh, you know, there was something that was posted today you could see on the homepage there, but also about a lot of.

Different types of Lego sets and uh, and whatnot. There’s 7,240 page. Uh, indexed according to a res. Um, if you look at like the traffic graph, it’s, um, it’s pretty steady throughout the last five, 10 years, you know, um, in terms of the, the traffic that a refs expects it to get. Um, but the, the thing about it is that it’s really under monetized, you know, um, uh, I, I looked it up.

It looks like leg, according to lego.com and their affiliate program, they pay 3%, so not great. But again, if you’re getting this kind of traffic, you can probably negotiate that. Um, I did find like they did a top 10 Lego sets of 2016. Um, it’s not monetized. Uh, it hasn’t been updated, right? And um, if you, I think you had it up on the screen there earlier, like there are a lot of buying intent keywords around Lego.

Spencer: Look at all of those best Lego sets. Best Lego games, best Lego storage, best Harry Potter, Lego sets, best Lego cars, all sorts of things. 

Jared: Best Lego games for Switch. Best Lego, best adult Lego sets. Best Lego mini figures. So, I mean, again, another opportunity where this site we have. Um, is, I mean, geez, with that many pages and with the opportunities they have is in theory like Lego, they’re in theory, they are topically authoritative in the Lego category, right?

Like just you’d think they could publish some of these, um, buying guides, uh, and really, uh, and really rank well for those and make a lot more money, 

Spencer: right? And, uh, do we know how many. Um, or how much traffic they’re getting here. I’m just pulling this up. Um, so it looks like they’re getting a decent amount of traffic, right?

Yeah. Yeah. Let’s see, I think I have it up here. It’s like 38,000. I think I’m sharing the screen with the brick fan on a TRFs now, um, you’re getting 38,000, uh, organic visitors a month, you know, a DR of 64. Um, what’s 

Jared: odd is if, and this is an odd thing about ahs, everybody should know this. If you go to the overview here, you will.

Uh, oh. It must have dropped a lot when I prepared this. It was getting a lot more, I think they must have had a pretty big, uh, drop in the recent update. They were at 58,000 

Spencer: a week ago. Yeah, there’s some swings you can see. There you go here. Yeah, it was up near 60 or whatever. And then looks like that happens a lot.

So it’s, it does, it’s probably not necessarily their site and probably just data imperfections here. Right. With, but yeah, so 

Jared: 38 to 58, like somewhere in that range. And as we know, a RF center performs could very well be a hundred thousand page view a month site from organic. 

Spencer: They rank, uh, number two for Lego News, which is their largest keyword.

Uh, 

Jared: and again, think about the social media side of this business. Yeah. Think about the email marketing side of this business. I mean, if you get a group of passionate Lego fans and you’re publishing content every day, as as it is, I mean, what an email play you could have there. What a, uh, social media play you could have here.

Spencer: Yeah, I love it. Lego rumors, right? Apparently 1500 people a month are looking, searching for Lego rumors like, you know, I chuckle because it’s not something I would search for. But I do know there are very passionate Lego fans. I apologize if I’m chuckling at your very serious 

Jared: hobby. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be searching for marathon rumors, but perhaps you do.

Spencer: Uh, You know that next week’s, uh, weird niche site, I just thought of it. There is a one marathon. Yes, there’s a marathon related weird niche site that yes, there are people very interested in marathon rumors and, uh, I won’t, I won’t reveal it, but stay tuned. Literally, when you mention that there’s a site that I do follow in my weird specific marathon life.

Jared: We, we all have one of these where it’s. Nobody really watches this except for a couple weirdos like us. I know. I have Cute. 

Spencer: Yeah. The the one I’ll share, I don’t think makes much money, but it, it’s, it’s, it’s hilarious. Um, we already have our teas for next week then. That’s right. Oh man, I’m excited and it’s perfect timing because I am running the Boston Marathon on Monday, which is less than a week from today.

You know, it’s just another, uh, five days I think. And, uh, so I’m running the Boston Marathon for the third time. I’m sure most listeners don’t care, but this is what’s going on in my personal life. Uh, so I’m gonna be traveling a a bit more this weekend and, and on. On Monday. And so, um, I’m excited for that of course.

And, uh, I’ll have a marathon related, uh, weird niche site that I can share, uh, next week. So, well, good luck 

Jared: next week. We’ll get to hear how it went and, um, we’ll get to talk marathons in the, uh, in the weird niche section. 

Spencer: Yep. Absolutely. So, uh, I think this is a good one, Jared. I think, uh, we covered a couple good weird niche sites, a couple big, uh, news topics, um, hopefully things that people are curious about and would wanna know as far as, uh, digital marketing news.

Um, any final thoughts or, um, anything else that you want to add before we wrap up here? No, I mean, 

Jared: it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s nice because next week’s already kind of playing itself out a bit. We’ll, we’ll talk more about how this new product or just review, update is going. We’ve got some niches to talk about.

There’s never any shortage of, um, of, uh, of, uh, of news to go through. And then hopefully we might have an update. I mean, I’m telling you people are very interested in this, uh, YouTube faceless YouTube channel, so you know, hopefully we’ll have an update there as well. That’s right. So lot, 

Spencer: lots to look forward to next week’s.

That’s right. Yep. We’ll keep sharing the news as it comes. And, uh, so thank you everybody for listening to this week in Niche Pursuits News, and we will absolutely be back next week. Thanks again. See ya.





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