Planting Seeds

Steven Aguiar

ALMOST TWO YEARS ago, I made the jump from fulltime digital publishing strategist to self-employed marketing consultant. Still, I love magazines and have always wanted to start my own media company. I just never thought it would be a site devoted to house plants.

Last year, my friend John Verdery released a book called the City Dweller’s Guide to Indoor Plants. He threw up the corresponding website, where he detailed his favorite gardening tools and linked to Amazon. If someone clicked on a link and made a purchase, he earned a commission.

When I saw the site, a lightbulb went on. I always wanted to build an editorial brand around one of my interests, like personal finance or digital marketing. But blogs that cover those topics are a dime a dozen. (No offense, HumbleDollar.) John had planted the seed for a niche blog in an underserved space. I saw an opportunity to help him grow and monetize the site.

Currently, we’re focused on long-form blog posts that help indoor gardeners solve their problems—and which should get picked up by search engines. Examples include how to grow microgreens indoors and how to propagate succulents. These posts are about 1,200 words each, far longer than the typical blog post currently ranking on the first page of Google.

The second most important driver of search traffic, beyond great content, is having other websites link back to your own. We did well out of the gate: John and his book were covered in a blog post on Huffington Post, giving us a ton of link juice from a high authority site. Still, we expect search engine traffic to really kick in three-to-six months from now.

In terms of monetizing the site, we plan on using Google AdSense to earn advertising revenue and product links to Amazon, eBay and Etsy to generate affiliate marketing revenue. This is challenging. Because of low AdSense payouts and small affiliate commissions, we’ll need thousands of visitors to our site every day to earn significant dollars. Down the line, we’ll look into ways to cross-monetize, including paid monthly memberships for private chat rooms, City Plantz-branded products and whatever else might be relevant to our audience.

Sound like a pipe dream? Perhaps. But the financial risk is small. So far, we’ve paid $450 to a developer to help build the site, $1,200 to a writer who produced six posts, and $100 on Facebook ads to capture email addresses and drive traffic. A good investment? Time will tell.

Steven Aguiar’s previous blogs include Chasing Points, Site Seeing (Part I) and Getting an Edge. Steve is the founder of BlueWing, a B2B digital marketing agency. He majored in Economics and Hispanic Studies at Brown, and is a big fan of compound interest.

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