I decided to go ahead and make a happy new year post with some of my best practices for micro niche sites. I have about 100 sites going for me now, and most have reached the first or second page of the serps. Of course I have a few duds that I attempted that did not reach, usually because the competition was a little stronger than I anticipated. The main thing I am going to cover today is picking your domain and analyzing competition. I welcome all viewpoints on everything I say, but I know that all this stuff works because I use it every day. So check out these tried and true tips below. I have seen some heated debate on the forums lately about whether or not you need exact matching domains. Well, to be honest I always go with matching domains, but not for the reason you probably think. There has been some solid proof on this forum that you can purchase non-exact matching domains and have success. So a buykeyword. com or a keywordHQ . com may get you ranked, but here is my viewpoint on the subject. When I determine whether or not I am going to buy a domain for a niche I always want to examine the competition. One of the main ways I examine the competition is by what domains are taken. If the .com, org, net and info are taken, then you are obviously facing a niche that people are tapping. So yes, I will typically only grab an exact match domain, not for SEO purposes but because of possible competition. Are there exceptions to this rule, of course! When researching my domain and the exact matches are gone I do a little research on the exact matches. The first thing you want to check is the content of the sites. Sometimes people purchase domains just to park, if this is the case you might be able to do well with a non exact matching domain. Just type in the sites to your browser, parked sites stick out like a sore thumb. Parked sites are a lazy mans way to earn, which means they have probably done NOTHING to increase their SEO. Now go to google and see where these pages rank. If you find a parked site on the first 5 pages of google, you might be on to something. If you find one on the first page, you better start tackling that niche right away. This means that the domain with basically no SEO is ranking, imagine what you can do with some on site optimization and some backlinks! Ok so you check the sites and they are not parked. All the sites you checked have content related to the keywords you want to target. When this happens 9 out of 10 times I immediately back off. I don't want to have to spend a lot of time on each site to get them ranked, so I just give up on the niche. If it is a niche that gets tons of searches and will be extremely profitable, at this point you probably want to do a little more research on your competition. But more often than not, just pass up on this niche. Is there an exception to this rule, why yes there is! At this point depending on your niche its time to do a little more research. You need to analyze your competitions backlinks, on page optimization and where they stand in the serps. At this point you probably know how you build backlinks and how much time you want to spend on your site. Go to site explorer and check the other domains backlinks. If your planned work exceeds what they have, then you might have a chance. If they have more than what you planned then you probably want to pass these keywords up. So you checked their backlinks and you plan on doing more, what do you do next? See where they rank! Go to google and see where they rank. If they have a ten page site and a lot of backlinks and appear on the third page of the serps then its probably time to pass those keywords up. Also check the domains age, if they are more than a year and not on the first page, then they will be kind of hard to pass up. If they have minimal links and the site is fairly new and are on the first two pages, it might be a niche you want to tackle. One more thing to check before you move to a domain that is not an exact match. Check your keywords with a -. So if your looking at dog training and dogtraining . com is taken, check dog-training. com or net or org. I have done some pretty extensive testing on this, and they will not rank quite as well as exact match, but they will do very well. I have outranked many exact match domains with exact match with a dash (with better backlinks and on page optimization). This can be another measure of how competitive the niche is. If all the keywords with a dash domains are taken, that's another good sign that this niche is too competitive. My last tip is STAY AWAY FROM .info domains. Your better off getting a .net or .org that is not quite an exact match. I have also done extensive testing on this. I made 5 sites where I bought the .com, net or .org and the .info at the exact same time. I literally mirrored the content and backlinks (which were minimal). The .com org and nets started ranking like they always do, the .info's ranked but not even close to where the other ones did. I took the testing a step further. In all 5 of those circumstances I followed up the testing by getting domains that were not exact matches, but included the keywords. I put on the exact same content and gave them the exact same back links. The non matching domains did not do as well as my exact matching sites, but way surpassed the .info domains. I could not get a .info on the front page of the serps. I probably could have with more backlinks and content, but that's not what I am trying to do. Why would I buy a .info if I have to put more work in it, when i can buy a domain that is not an exact match and rank better with less work? Makes no sense. This is one of the few arguments I see on this forum where I draw a hard line. Info's WILL NOT rank as well as .com, org or nets. I'm not saying they wont rank, because they will. But you are going to have to work harder. So yes, I think you can rank without having an exact match domain, but usually it means that the competition is going to be higher. Quick story... About a week ago, I bought an exact match domain and installed all my plugins and got the site ready to go, no content yet. The keywords I was targeting get about 1200 exact searches a month (not a lot but enough to make some money). I filled out the SEO plugin i use on my wordpress site then got busy with life. About 3 days later I went back to start putting some content on the site and realized I was getting traffic. I had about 50 hits on that site since I bought the domain and I had no content. That's exciting and frustrating at the same time. The reason I told you this story is because I wanted to support what I mean by going for niches that have little competition and require little work to get ranked. If you use the tactics I explained above to pick your niche, things like what happened to me will happen to you all the time. Ranking in the serps on some niches is as easy as setting up my wordpress and copy and pasting some content. Next thing you know the traffic is pouring in. I know there are a lot of people out there right now that are thinking that passing up a niche because of the domains that are taken might be kind of silly, but I am looking at this from a minimal work stand point. When I make a site, I don't want to spend a lot of time on it. And I know that the members of BHW feel the same way. So use exact matching domains as a research tool. Domains that do not match can rank, but usually it's going to require a lot of work. If your niche is worth the work (and some really are!) then go for it. But if your looking to make a site that ranks well with little work, then use my methods explained above! Hope this info helps people. I know some of it is pretty basic, but it never hurts to be reminded of some of the basics. I am very busy making sites and took some time to write this for new years. You can ask me questions but one of my recent commitments is to spend more time making my sites and less time on forums. This is good advice for all of you. So I apologize in advance if I am not quick to answer any questions. While you are asking me questions, I am out there applying these exact methods making money. Get out there and start working. The best way to figure out what works is to just do it. No better way to learn than to get out there and do it. If you do have a question, please ask it in the thread and do not send me a PM. I will not be responding to any PM's in the form of questions regarding MNS's. Happy new year! I hope everyones year is better than the last!