eBook Review: How To Develop Money-Making Niche Sites with WordPress

How To Develop Money-Making Niche Sites with WordPress

Caroline Middlebrook recently released her first free eBook, How To Develop Money-Making Niche Sites with WordPress, and, since I have an interest in niche blogs, I decided to do an OpTempo review treatment on it. Here’s what I found…

Who’s It For?

It’s ElementaryThe book is clearly written for someone who is at a novice level with WordPress and, to some extent, working with Internet content period. Most of the book deals with the bare bones basics of installing WordPress and getting it up and running along with some good optimization hints. In this capacity as a basic WordPress tutorial it works well. Caroline’s friendly, accessible, writing style seems to indicate that she has some experience in writing user documentation for beginners.

One minor quibble. The recommendation to use Fantastico might be questionable since it can cause problems that a novice might be hard pressed to fix. But, to keep it more accessible to novices, it might be OK to leave this in as long as a few cautions are described as well.

If you’re not a beginner, you’ll probably find a lot of the WordPress setup information too elementary.

What I Didn’t Like

Correcting a mistakeThe problem with the book is that while it is a very good WordPress “How To” tutorial it isn’t very informative when it comes to making money with niche blogs. This flaw is most evident in Chapter 6 - Creating Your Site Content.

While she dances around various SEO topics, she misses the key point of a niche blog  — it will need to depend entirely on getting Google traffic to be a successful moneymaking venture. Social referral visitors, such as you would get from StumbleUpon or other blogs, simply do not convert well. Even worse, this poor converting traffic can cause your Adsense account to become smart priced, thus cutting your income by up to 90%.

A key to developing Google search traffic is selecting the right keywords to focus upon. If one were to create a niche blog on a broad or highly competitive topic, for example, auto insurance, it wouldn’t get enough search traffic to make money. If one were to create a niche blog on certain topics it may not get relevant or money making ads from Adsense. Unfortunately, Caroline doesn’t explain how important niche selection is if one wants to make money with a niche blog.

Next, instead of using standard WordPress posts to create content, she advocates using WordPress pages. This approach works against several advantages of using WordPress to create a niche site, including using RSS feeds. When it comes to pages though, she also should have given greater emphasis to the importance of About and Contact pages.

She also does not seem to understand that unlike a social blog, a niche blog does not need to be updated regularly, if at all, once it’s reached a good position in search results for its keyword and associated long tail terms. People who arrive at the site via Google are generally interested in finding the answer to a question. They aren’t concerned about the publication date, only the answer to their question. If the site doesn’t answer the it, they move on. If you’ve done it right, at least 10-20% of them will move on via an ad and you make money.

Lastly, her thoughts on closing comments aren’t on target either. While eliminating trackbacks is a good idea, closing comments is a bad idea. Having comments enabled allows the content of the page to be updated with no additional writing effort from you. It’s then seen as fresh content by Googlebot. Having this feature disabled displays the user unfriendly line “Comments are closed.” and makes the site look spammy and/or defensive. Moderation options are easy enough to configure to prevent unwanted comments while allowing good ones through.

Some Good Stuff

Good Stuff!One good idea that she did mention in the book was blending in links to affiliate offers with regular article lists and navigation. I’ve found this technique to be effective as well.

The suggestion to use the Database Backup Plugin is also good.

Another good point is the advice on the permalink structure, particularly when applied to a niche blog.

And, as mentioned earlier, the book is a good, basic, getting started with WordPress tutorial.

eBook as a Marketing Tool

In the marketplace of ideasCaroline has included several affiliate links in the eBook plus several links back to her blog. This is an effective way to publicize a blog plus it can result in ongoing affiliate sales. Getting the eBook in to the hands of eager WordPress novices will be important to the success of this marketing effort since much of her blog audience is already quite familiar with this information.

She is documenting her free eBook marketing efforts on her blog as a learning experience if you want to follow along with her.


The Bottom Line

How To Develop Money-Making Niche Sites with WordPress is a very good basic tutorial on creating a WordPress site. However, when it comes to making money with a niche blog, some of the information is very superficial and occasionally inaccurate.


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Comment by Alex
2008-01-10 12:24:33

Thanks for mention of my post Frank.

While I didn’t read Caroline’s eBook your review creates a nice and very interesting summary :)

Perhaps will be worth reading just for personal evaluation …


Comment by jfc
2008-01-10 12:45:32

Hi Alex,

Much like her blog posts it’s a good read. It’s worth downloading and reading.

Comment by Y. S.
2008-01-10 14:31:48

I downloaded it. Hopefully I’ll read it when I have time.

You said: “Even worse, this poor converting traffic can cause your Adsense account to become smart priced, thus cutting your income by up to 90%.” … Can you please further explain that? And how can I prevent that from happening?

Comment by jfc
2008-01-10 14:58:42

Hi Y.S.,

Courtney Tuttle had a good article about this a few days ago: How To Get Worthless Adsense Clicks.

I encountered this on OpTempo due to the traffic from StumbleUpon and EntreCard. That’s why I don’t have Adsense here anymore.

Comment by RT Cunningham
2008-01-10 16:59:24

While I haven’t read the ebook, I would say that your analysis of what you refer to is spot on. It sounds like “A-lister” misinformation being regurgitated.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-10 20:20:59


I think she’s bought into some A-Lister hype to some extent. She’s done very well as a social blogger but, I suspect, is discovering that there isn’t a lot of money to be made along that road.

Comment by Vic
2008-01-10 18:17:46

mmm LMAO so what you are saying is it is another worthless collection of how to’s and rehash with some affiliate links?

Wait you do not have to answer. LMAO

Awesome Review and spot on.

Especially how trying to use non organic traffic can really kill your CTR in a niche people just do not get it Frank then they ask themselves why the 3 cent click and why they are not making money.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-10 20:38:51

Hi Vic,

I do think she has some talent as a technical writer who can write for novice users. She could probably freelance as a tech writer in that area and do well.

Like I said to RT, I think she bought into the MMO A-Lister hype and is trying to figure out where the pay day is. As the Chinese saying goes, “He who rides the tiger will find it difficult to dismount.”

Comment by Vic
2008-01-10 21:51:15

“He who rides the tiger will find it difficult to dismount.”

I love it another for my list.

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Comment by Grizzly
2008-01-11 07:40:47

There is a knack to writing good reviews and you definitely have it Frank. I thought that was pretty fair and balanced on your part.

She is very likable and has a lot of talent for writing but she has not been able to translate this into making money. I think she grew faster than her experience would dictate and now she is playing catchup using the only resources she is familiar with - the A listers. People who have been online for a few years all started out as marketers and became bloggers - Caroline is like most new bloggers - she didn’t start out with the marketing and is learning it on the fly.

Good post Frank.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-11 09:16:29

Hi Grizzly,


My background isn’t marketing either but it’s been a lot of listening to what marketing people want and then building it. Of course, I had tried both eBay/ecommerce sales and PPC affiliate marketing with mixed results before I tried blogging.

2008-01-11 09:52:08

Thanks very much for the awesome review - it has really highlighted a couple of points for me that I think I need to address in the book.

Firstly, I differentiate between a niche blog and a niche site and thats the reason why I advocate the use of pages over posts and the decision not to have comments. I think I need to explain this further.

Secondly the book really is about WordPress and not about making money, but I might need to either expand on this a little or perhaps even link out to some external resources about making money with niche sites as that is not really something I am an expert on yet.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-11 11:43:25

Thanks for stopping by Caroline,

Like I said, I think the book is a good tutorial on WordPress. If you padded it out with another 100 pages or so of tutorial material you could probably shop it around to book publishers. (That’s a whole other ballgame where most technical authors don’t make a whole lot of money in exchange for a lot of work, BTW.)

I understood where you were going with the page vs. post thing. I’ve tried it both ways and the post method seems to work better for getting Google’s attention. Going with a static page in front rather than a standard blog page is a good idea though as long as it reinforces your sitewide links.

On the money making part of it, I’ve found that it’s very different from how you think of a social blog in terms of how you write articles to the kind of traffic you want and don’t want. It’s a tricky adjustment to make because it looks the same on top but it’s quite different underneath.

Comment by Vic
2008-01-12 19:53:13

LMAO way over her head but I really do not think she knows that yet.

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Comment by Alex
2008-01-13 18:57:57


I managed to read the eBook and I thought it was very good read and well worth download for anyone just starting out with WordPress.

What choices you specified for niche and/or monetization can be argued upon but I think Frank properly pointed out that while your eBook name states one thing - niche - it is the least covered area.

I think if you simply add more meat to it, based on your personal experience and knowledge and address a few shortcomings - it will be a great guide.

Don’t let negative comments affect your drive :)

2008-01-11 11:01:48

[…] further two versions and I am now planning another one after taking on board the feedback left in a review of my […]

Comment by Shane
2008-01-11 12:51:17

Having this feature disabled displays the user unfriendly line “Comments are closed.”

Actually, that’s theme dependent — not a function of WordPress. You can easily modify your Comments template to say anything you want if comments are closed, or nothing at all.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-11 13:55:24

Hi Shane,

That’s true. There is a lot you can do by editing templates. For example, I remove the post date-time stamp on some of my sites. However, this does require some HTML/PHP editing knowledge that would be beyond many novices’ level.

Also, on some themes, the writer of the theme didn’t include a reference to comments in the page template so you can’t enable them at all on pages.

2008-01-12 20:35:34

[…]Our buddy Frank from OpTempo wrote a post a few days ago named eBook Review: How To Develop Money-Making Niche Sites with WordPress now let me say this review is so dead on it is scary. Now this ebook was written by Caroline […]

Editors Note: Had to edit out a Vic-ism. :)

Comment by Mike
2008-01-12 22:26:37

How can she write a book on how to make money with niche blogs when she hasn’t made any herself. This is a perfect example of people writing and selling books on how to make money, but can’t back it up themselves.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-12 23:14:15

Hi Mike,

I think the problem is that there is the assumption out there, encouraged by a few certain A Listers, that if you just buy their lessons, paid reviews, advertise on their site or whatever that you can make as much money as they are making. They sell you their blueprint to success much like a multi-level marketer tries to sell you their training/mentoring plan in addition to soap, juice, vitamins or whatever. I think Caroline fell for this hype to some extent.

Problem is that she’s too nice to lie to people like some others have probably done to her.

2008-01-13 00:42:37

Hi Frank,

You couldn’t have said it better like you did. I also think that Caroline has bought into the hype of the A-listers as they are responsible to her success in the first place. If guys like Problogger and Yaro wouldn’t have picked her up in the early stages in her blog, she wouldn’t have the following as she does now.

What gets me is that most of those are other bloggers who in return don’t have a clue about making money but yet they eat the shit that is being fed to them.

I like Caroline and wish her well but am afraid that this book totally missed the subject of making money in a niche.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-13 02:14:48

Hi Monika,

She has certainly worked the social media side of the blogging equation quite well. She probably should have written an eBook about that because she is an expert in it. Getting the social accolades is nice but it doesn’t pay well, which was the point of my Secret Guide to Social Blogging Success series.

2008-01-13 07:37:18

Yes Frank,

You are correct, social media would have been the right choice for her. Her twitter guide would have been perfect for this.

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Comment by Stephen Cronin
2008-01-13 05:05:00


Great review! First time here and I’ve already added your feed (based on this post and your comments on Vic and Grizzly’s sites).

Caroline’s done really well and I like her writing style, but I think you’re right. Several people have commented that she seems to have been caught up in the A-lister hype. That might be true, but I think she’s probably coming to see that herself - I remember one of her posts a month or so ago, where she basically said that most email lists (for marketing) are sleazy. I respect her for coming out and saying what she thought, rather than simply joining in with all other internet marketers.

Anyway, the bottom line here is that the making money part of the book is the weak spot and people would be better learning that from guys like Vic and Grizzly, than from this ebook. I’ve only recently found those two guys and I’ve learnt more from them (and Court) in the last couple of weeks than I did in the previous 6 months. Those guys are the real deal.

I think Caroline’s intelligent, she’s just been learning from some of the wrong people. If she can see past Vic’s somewhat brutal honesty and learn from him and Grizzly, she’ll have a great future.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-13 10:09:07

Hi Stephen,

Getting over at least some of the sleaze factor is part of the key. Internet savvy people get in the mentality that “I would never click on that” or “I would never do that”. I think one of the problems I’ve had with Internet Marketing is in this area and I suspect Caroline is similar in this regard.

For example, the Ish Ringtones ad I have in rotation here is one of my best earners on a couple of niche sites. I thought it was a sleazy ringtone ad but it consistently draws clicks and sales. Even the Internet ringtone offer savvy crowd here has clicked it about a dozen times in the past few days.

I heard someone calling Vic, Griz and Court the 3 Musketeers of Blog Marketing. I think that’s a good title for them. I guess John Chow is Richelieu. :)

Comment by Candle Monkey
2008-01-13 14:55:45

Hi Frank,

I raised many of these same points in a comment to Caroline’s original blog post announcing her ebook … especially about the “Making Money” part of the title. Here is her response about why she included that in the ebook title:

“… in an earlier post for the ebook project I discussed my thoughts behind the name of the book. The words money making are included to make it more enticing to potential readers and to get more downloads.”

At least she’s honest. It’s all about (false) marketing.

Keep havin FuN!

Comment by jfc
2008-01-13 15:50:53

Hi Todd,

I guess she could have done what some other big names have done and requested an email submit or even charged for it.

To paraphrase Sun Tzu, “All marketing is based on deception.”

Comment by Candle Monkey
2008-01-13 16:21:30

Yes Frank, I totally agree with you. I definitely respect the fact that Caroline didn’t collect emails or charge for the ebook. I like Caroline (and her style)

What cracks me up is the people who were leaving comments about how “great” the ebook is, and promising to link to it … sometimes before they even read it.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you about Caroline’s writing style. But realistically, if someone brand new to blogging asks me for advice, why would I point them Caroline’s ebook, as opposed to simply suggesting a Google search for something “wordpress for beginners”, then click over to a site such as http://lorelle.wordpress.com/ ?

Catch up with you again soon,

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Comment by Markk
2008-01-14 12:20:42

Frank, your review of Caroline’s ebook is pretty awesome but I suspect you held back a bit. Caroline has a good writing style but her one-hit wonder about “Comment Strategy” let some people to believe she knows her stuff about making money and traffic. It also blinded her to the fact that there’s more to it than meet the eye. Her subsequent posts were not much to shout about and she has unconsciously admitted in her writing about “certain failures” to get things right. I go along with most of you good folks that she was too much sold on the A-listers’ hype. Yes, she will do better as a technical writer for beginners. That may be her storng point

jfc: I’m amazed by most of your comments. You have won my respect. Your reviews are usually on the mark. I’m usually late into the conversation but better late than never!

Comment by jfc
2008-01-14 14:21:41

Thanks Markk,

She is an expert at generating social blog traffic. However, I think there is a perception out that that traffic to a blog alone will generate money. The problem is that it doesn’t. What’s more, even a small amount of traffic can outearn a huge amount. It’s almost counterintuitive to someone who’s been successful at social blogging.

As for my comments, I’ve been posting on forums for years and before that on CompuServe, GEnie and BBS systems back in the 80’s. It’s a writing style that I’ve gotten comfortable with over the years.

2008-01-16 04:20:40

I think one thing that I have done wrong with this ebook is leave the impression that it is about making money, which it is not. It is a technical guide to setting up WordPress - just setting it up in a way that is easy to configure with AdSense. What you do with AdSense (or any other type of monetization) from there is up to the reader and I deliberately don’t elaborate on that point as pointed out, I simply do not have the expertise.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-16 09:09:21

Hi Caroline,

Unfortunately by using “Money Making” in the title it changed expectations about the book. It was a good marketing strategy because it got attention for your book that it otherwise wouldn’t have received. On the flip side, some of that publicity hasn’t been 100% positive.

That isn’t necessarily bad though because it gives greater exposure to your blog and your book. It may also help set the stage for your next steps either with eBooks or other forms of marketing.

Pingback by TNX.net - Part Two · Moneybot - Money, business & business online
2008-03-19 00:31:17

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2008-03-25 11:33:05

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Comment by Patrick
2009-03-01 12:38:20

You can also promote your site by adding your book to ebook directories. Here is a new directory that actually takes new submissions: eBookFreeway.com and here is the URL:

Comment by Ron
2009-03-29 22:21:54

Is there an update or a Part II, from beginnier to more advanced?

Comment by Mark
2009-09-06 11:13:12

Well…….i hate to say it but this is about like any other “free” books out there, for the novice its great and leaves you with just enough questions that might make you buy her next book. Dont get me wrong, I love the writing style, but lets face facts we are all here to make money and a free ebook is one way to market yourself. Just my take on it. Great review. thanks.

Comment by Mark Mccoy
2009-09-08 23:20:33

Anyone who has actually read caroline’s blog would know she is here to help. Its a great book, for every level blogger. A day gone by without learning anything is a wasted day. great post.

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