Picking a Niche & Acquiring a Domain

This is the first part of my series about ‘How to Build and SEO a Website from Scratch’.

In this article I will talk about the steps I took to choose the topic of my new website, purchasing an expired/dropped domain and the initial set up.

Niche selection

So, here’s the backstory…

I went to my brother’s house and he had a VR headset, which he let me try. I like computer games but I’ve always been sort of turned off by Virtual Reality. I think it stems from growing up in the nineties and watching the movie Lawnmower Man 2 – VR was heralded as an amazing new technology back then but it didn’t live up to the hype and looked clunky and crap. And then, in more recent years, the plastic goggles that you inserted your phone into for a “VR Experience” were also underwhelming.

But this device my brother had – an Oculus Rift, I think – was amazing. So realistic and immersive that I had to get one for myself.

I bought an Oculus Quest 2 and me and the kids absolutely loved it. Friends and family loved it, too. I thought to myself that this is something that I would be more than happy to write about (writing content for something you do not have a passion for is soul-destroying) and the technology is on a pretty stable track with a few upward spikes (backed up by Google Trends). This is definitely something I could make a website about.

When I am looking for a new niche website, I usually look for the following factors:

  1. Is it something interesting? Building and operating a website can be hard work, so it needs to be about something that I will enjoy talking and writing about.
  2. Can it be monetized? There has to be a way of making money from it. This could be in the form of affiliate marketing (referring buyers to a supplier for a commission), selling my own products or using display ads (pay-per-click). Display ads are my ‘goto’ – there’s very little responsibility and as long as you get traffic, you get revenue.

Buying an expired domain

I don’t always buy an expired domain but when I do, I usually go to Expired Domains. If you set up a free account, you can filter and sort dropped domains by a plethora of criteria.

You have to understand that all the best premium expired domains will have already been snatched up by domain brokers. These guys have automated systems in place to bid on and catch domains the moment they are dropped. So, you’re basically looking at the reject pile.

Nevertheless, with a bit of time you can sometimes pick up a bargain. Nothing amazing but a basic clean and aged domain that is already related to your niche and has a few related backlinks. An expired domain can often help your website to start ranking more quickly than a brand new domain.

I grabbed DreadVR.com. This used to be a website dedicated to a virtual reality game. It has 2 or 3 related backlinks and has VR in the title. It is also brandable and is not subject to any trademarks. It cost me a tenner from Google Domains.

Initial website configuration

I have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for setting up a new website that looks a little like this:

  1. Configure hosting
  2. Set new name servers
  3. Set default address to my email (all emails sent to the new domain go to my main business email address
  4. Install WordPress (using Softaculous)
  5. Install SSL Certificate
  6. Login to WordPress Admin
  7. Install Google Site Kit plugin and configure Google Analytics and Google Search Console
  8. Install Generatepress theme and plugin (the premium GeneratePress theme is fast, highly configurable and can be installed on as many websites as you like for a reasonable annual fee)
  9. Design a rough-and-ready logo (this usually changes in the first 12 months – I’m going for speed rather than perfection)
  10. Configure the theme
  11. Write a home page

After doing this, I may write one or two quick ‘n’ dirty articles to give Google an idea of the topic of the website.

Next, I do my keyword research and decide how I will structure the website.