I love reading case studies about people building websites - the ups, the downs, the decision-making processes, and finally the sweet, sweet, 'I sold my niche site!' denouement.
That's partly why I write the case studies on this site but I won't take offence if you want more. In fact, I've put together this little list of other digital entrepreneurs writing good, interesting, or funny case studies.
Note that these guys all want your email address and will utterly destroy their website's usability in order to get it. The shittier the reading experience, the further down the list they go. (The best one is at the bottom but falls foul of my strict rules.)
Oh! If you happen to wander off the safety of this site and do a Google search for case studies, you're going to see some appalling spammery. For your protection I have come up with this list of signs you are on a worthless no-good spam-artist huckster's site:
Ignore anyone who:
- Promotes Bluehost (explained below)
- Mentions a special offer or free trial more than twice in one paragraph (that's a sales page not a case study)
Right, on with the list.
#1 - BEN @ BORED MARKETER
Ben describes himself as an unemployed bum - he has a lot of experience of using dubious techniques to game Google, but is trying to build a site in the insurance niche from scratch using only legit methods.
So far every update has been quick and enjoyable to read, with some funny bits.
Bonus - site seems pretty free of annoying pop-ups, though some parts of some pages are blocked unless you retweet the page. SIGH. I'll forgive him because his organic traffic and Youtube SEO pages are great.
Start here: Authority Site Challenge part 1
#2 - JOSH @ PASSION INTO PAYCHECKS
Josh is like 6 years old or something and has hustled his way into the hearts of the digital marketing community.
In this 9-part series he talks about a site he built and sold for 35,000 dollars. There's also another series on Amazon FBA and one on buying an existing site with his parents' money.
His writing style is a bit too on the nose for my taste - explanations are repeated and some things that are perfectly clear are explained. However, better that than leaving things vague and imprecise.
Pop-ups make reading on mobile a pain, but it's fine on desktop.
Start here: Niche Site Journey Update 1
#3 - TUNG TRAN @ CLOUDLIVING
Tung is a Vietnamese dude kicking ass at building sites and making money online. English isn't his first language, obviously, but he writes clearly.
He <was> top of this list because he shared his website address in the very first post. That means you can visit his site and see what he's done so far with your own two eyes. His goal is to build a site from scratch that makes 10,000 dollars a month, within 18 months. Please sir, can I learn some more?
His starting budget was 5,000 USD which might seem like a lot, but you could copy his methods and save money if you were willing to write most of the text yourself. Part 2 is a bit thin on detail but then part 3 is choc-full of goodies. I guess it's better to have regular updates of whatever length than the writer getting stressed because he feels he has to write War and Peace every month.
By the way, I also recommend an article Tung wrote called 'My Failures For The Last 9 Months and Why I’m Sharing Them'.
I might have to move him down the list if he keeps referring to himself as a 'visionary'. Actually, I'm going to do just that, but mostly because having read through the series I'm not all that sure why his case study site is doing as well as it is. Tung will probably say that he explained it in his keyword research post, but that wasn't linked to from the case studies. Still, lots of value to be had here.
And zero pop-ups!
Start here: 10k Challenge
It took me a while to find part 2, so here's the link to all in the series.
#4 - SHARON @ DIGITAL NOMAD WANNABE
There's a timed pop-up that hijacks the whole screen. You can at least click anywhere to get rid of it, unlike some that force you to click the tiny X in the corner. Still, irritating. Bad first impression. I wrote a whinge about this sort of thing.
The case studies are 3 Amazon affiliate sites started from scratch. There is a lot of talk about PBNs, buying and exchanging links, which is all highly risky and maybe a bit outdated.
Having said all that, the more I read the more I got into it, and there were some nuggets like this one:
"I also added an article that I wrote specifically so I could link to it from Wikipedia to replace a dead link that existed on there on a topic related to my niche. This worked out well and it has stuck."
The series ends with a 1-Year Finale, a fantastic post that made me regret thinking snarky thoughts about the site. The section 'biggest challenges' was raw, honest, and essential reading for someone just starting out. Having reached the end I'm sad it's over. Maybe I should move it up the list.
Note - After 4 or 5 posts Sharon forgot to include 'next post' links so when that happens use this link to find the next one (on that page things are listed newest>oldest).
Start here - My First 3 Amazon Sites
#5 - LEWIS @ CLOUD INCOME
Step 1 - A gigantic pop-up hijacks your screen. JESUS CHRIST PEOPLE GIVE ME A FRIKKIN BREAK PLEASE I'M BEGGING YOU JUST BE COOL OKAY JUST BE COOL.
Step 2 - Check if he promotes Bluehost. HE DOES.
Everything is against Lewis at this point. But let's dive in to his latest case study.
Starting on his latest post led me on something of a journey down a rabbit hole, but I think I found ground zero. 'Niche Site Case Study 2' (link below) has 4 articles about Lewis starting a niche site - then it seems like he left it alone for a while before returning to it in a series starting with 'Growing an Existing Site from 1k to 3k'.
The original article is probably the best introduction to a case study I've ever read. It's got actionable advice, data, thoughts, analysis. Couple of takeaways - buy an aged domain with good metrics to beat the Google sandbox, and don't add affiliate links till you're on the first page of Google. Oh, and he set the goal of writing an article a day - something I always wanted to do but got overwhelmed by having so many sites. Looks like Lewis was a bit more successful in that regard.
And you know I like honesty. How about this?
In one of his updates (which is actually a video) he explains <why> he uses Bluehost, so I'm tempted to give him a pass on that. Basically I think most people who promote Bluehost do so because there is a generous affiliate package. Most sites I've found that seem to be truly honest and independent rate Bluehost as a 2 or 3 out of 5 service.
Anyhoo, I highly recommend this series and if Lewis ever removes his GIVE ME YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS NOW BEFORE I SHOW YOU A SINGLE WORD OF CONTENT message I will actually give him my email and sign up to his newsletter because it's probably really good.
Start here: Niche Site Journey 2