Mark Herro on making full-time income in an obscure niche

Last updated: Jun 30, 2023

This video is about an interview with Mark Herro, the owner of sharpologist.com, a successful shaving website, where he shares his experiences and strategies for making a full-time income in an obscure niche.

This video by Niche Website Builders was published on Dec 20, 2022.
Video length: 58:59.

This video is an episode of the Niche Website Builders podcast featuring an interview with Mark Herro, also known as mantic59, who has made a full-time income in the obscure niche of shaving.

The interview discusses Mark's website, sharpologist.com, which is a top shaving site on the internet.

They delve into the details of Mark's content, growth strategies, revenue, and traffic numbers, providing insights and inspiration for those looking to build profitable content sites in niche markets.

  • The podcast hosts wish everyone a Merry Christmas and announce ongoing Christmas sales and promotions.
  • Upcoming events include an interview with Dave from Niche Website Builders and a Christmas special stream.
  • Mark Herro, owner of sharpologist.com, discusses how he made a living from his shaving website through tutorials, affiliate commissions, and partnerships.
  • The podcast is sponsored by Niche Website Builders, an agency that offers content site marketing services.
  • Niche Website Builders provides a fully outsourced approach to content creation, link building, and website builds.
  • Mark Herro got into the shaving niche after experiencing an old-fashioned barber shave.
  • Mark started sharpologist.com to share his knowledge and monetized it through affiliate marketing and advertising.
  • Mark built an audience by creating high-quality content, engaging with them, and collaborating with other brands and influencers.
  • Tips for success in an obscure niche include finding a niche you're passionate about, understanding your audience, creating valuable content, and utilizing SEO strategies.
  • Mark started making videos on shaving, which led to the creation of his YouTube channel and website.
  • Mark monetized his content through affiliate marketing, banner advertising, and presentations.
  • SEO has been the primary driver of growth for Mark's website.

Mark Herro on making full-time income in an obscure niche - YouTube

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Introduction and Christmas Sale

  • The podcast hosts wish everyone a Merry Christmas and announce that the podcast will continue through the Christmas period.
  • They mention their ongoing 12 Days of Christmas sale, where they offer a different sale every day leading up to Christmas Eve.
  • They also mention their 12 fresh domains of Christmas, which are brand new domains with researched niches for starting a new website in the new year.
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Upcoming Events

  • They mention an upcoming interview with Dave from Niche Website Builders on Craig Campbell's channel, where they will discuss how to get started with website investing.
  • They announce the Niche Website Builders Christmas special stream, where they will have special guests and celebrate the holiday season.
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Interview with Mark Herro

  • Mark Herro, also known as mantic59, owns the website sharpologist.com, which focuses on shaving.
  • He has made a living from his website through tutorials, affiliate commissions, and partnerships with shaving brands.
  • His website has been around for a long time and is one of the top shaving sites on the internet.
  • He discusses the content and strategies he used to grow his website and his plans for the future.
  • He shares his revenue and traffic numbers.
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Mark Herro on making full-time income in an obscure niche - YouTube

Sponsor: Niche Website Builders

  • The podcast is sponsored by Niche Website Builders, an agency dedicated to helping people build profitable content sites.
  • They offer hands-off content site marketing services for both investors and individuals.
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Background and Introduction

  • Niche Website Builders provides a fully outsourced approach to content creation, link building, and website builds.
  • Their content packages come with a proprietary keyword research process and are written by in-house native English speakers.
  • They use templates proven to convert and upload content to Wordpress with affiliate links added.
  • Mark Herro is the owner of sharpologist.com, a successful shaving website.
  • Mark got into the shaving niche after his wife took him to a shop called The Art of Shaving and treated him to an old-fashioned barber shave.
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Starting an Online Business in an Obscure Niche

  • In the early 2000s, there wasn't much information available about old-school shaving.
  • Mark joined niche forums to learn more about this style of shaving.
  • He eventually became knowledgeable enough to give advice on these forums.
  • Mark started his website, sharpologist.com, as a way to share his knowledge and experiences with others.
  • He monetized the website through affiliate marketing and advertising.
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Building an Audience and Generating Income

  • Mark focused on creating high-quality content that provided value to his audience.
  • He used SEO strategies to increase his website's visibility in search engine results.
  • Mark built a loyal audience by engaging with them through comments and social media.
  • He diversified his income by offering products and services related to shaving.
  • Mark also collaborated with other brands and influencers in the shaving niche.
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Tips for Success in an Obscure Niche

  • Find a niche that you are passionate about and have knowledge in.
  • Research and understand your target audience's needs and preferences.
  • Create high-quality content that provides value and solves problems for your audience.
  • Utilize SEO strategies to increase your website's visibility in search engine results.
  • Engage with your audience through comments, social media, and email marketing.
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Starting the YouTube Channel and Website

  • Mark Herro started making videos on shaving with old style kits after a discussion on a forum.
  • He won a camcorder at a conference and decided to make test videos.
  • The response from the forum members was positive, so he uploaded the videos to YouTube.
  • One of his viewers suggested he start a website, and with the help of a friend, sharpologist.com was born.
  • He started doing website stuff along with the videos and by 2015, he realized he could make it a full-time income.
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Monetization Strategies

  • Initially, Mark made very little money from YouTube advertising.
  • He discovered the Amazon affiliate program and started earning through affiliate marketing.
  • He joined additional affiliate platforms like ShareASale, Refersion, and Commission Junction.
  • He also did presentations to spa barber shops and their clients to generate income.
  • By 2015, with a combination of affiliate marketing, banner advertising, and presentations, he was able to take early retirement and make the site his full-time job.
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Growing the Site

  • A large majority of Mark's growth strategy has been focused on SEO.
  • He finds trending keywords and mixes them with niche-specific keywords.
  • He has also done content gap analysis to identify areas for improvement.
  • SEO has been the primary driver of growth for the site.
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Social media and its impact on the niche

  • Social media is not popular in the particular niche discussed.
  • The website owner gets a small percentage of referrals from social media.
  • Automated and semi-automated applications are used to make social media management easier.
  • Investing time in social media is not seen as a good return on investment.
  • Other marketing strategies like SEO and Google are more effective.
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Using social media scheduling tools

  • The website owner uses SocialB as a scheduler for social media posts.
  • Missing Letter is another valuable tool that creates a one-year drip campaign using relevant quotes and images from blog posts.
  • These tools save time and effort in managing social media content.
  • The website owner spends around 10 minutes tweaking the campaign and it runs for a year.
  • The effectiveness of these tools is highly appreciated.
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Content Gap analysis and its challenges

  • The website is the go-to site for traditional shaving, making it difficult to find content gaps.
  • Comparison tools often compare the website to large wet shaving vendors, which may not be a fair comparison.
  • The website focuses on tutorials and best product recommendations.
  • Opportunities for content gaps are sought in these areas.
  • The website owner is careful not to compete directly with vendors for SEO rankings.
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Traffic and revenue numbers

  • The website owner is reluctant to share exact revenue numbers.
  • The revenue is in the high four figures per month.
  • Before COVID-19, the revenue was in the six figures due to presentations and collaborations with barber shops.
  • Due to COVID-19, revenue has significantly decreased in the past three years.
  • The website receives around 50,000 visits and 100,000 page views per month.
  • The decrease in revenue is attributed to the inability to travel and the impact of COVID-19 on barber shops.
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Revenue breakdown on the site

  • Roughly divided into thirds: banner advertising, affiliate marketing, and Amazon
  • Also includes a small amount of revenue from sponsored posts
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Pricing for banner advertising

  • Initially used AdSense, then switched to ezoic for better profitability
  • Used a rule of thumb of charging 2x the CPM on AdSense
  • Later determined a better baseline by considering average sale and impressions
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Affiliate commissions and banner placements

  • Double dipping by earning both affiliate commissions and banner sponsor placements
  • Some advertisers request no double dipping, which is honored
  • Shaving-specific banners on the site convert at least 50% better than plain vanilla banners
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Building authority and becoming a big player

  • Endured the test of time to establish authority in the niche
  • Active participation in niche forums helped build trust and authority
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Posting on Niche Forums

  • The owner of sharpologist.com, Mark Herro, is a well-known user on niche forums.
  • He doesn't post much on these forums anymore due to trolls and being seen as a competitor by one forum.
  • However, he still reads and browses the forums regularly for content ideas.
  • He aims to make his website useful and not overly salesy.
  • Many of his content is Evergreen and he's starting to run out of new topics to talk about.
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Building Backlinks

  • Mark did not actively build backlinks for his website.
  • He relied on his expertise, time, and authority to naturally gain backlinks.
  • He believes actively pursuing backlinks is too time-consuming for little return.
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Using Reddit

  • There are two major shaving subreddits and several minor ones.
  • Before posting on Reddit, Mark clears it with the moderators to avoid trolling accusations.
  • He mentions that Reddit can be difficult to navigate and doesn't bother with it much anymore.
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Affiliate Style Content

  • Mark reviews shavers and creates lists for specific shaving needs.
  • He focuses on showing authenticity and building trust in his reviews.
  • He has a good reputation and relationship with the moderators of major shaving subreddits.
  • He follows their rules and avoids excessive self-referential links in his content.
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Testing and reviewing products

  • The owner tests and reviews hundreds of razors, brushes, creams, and soaps.
  • He personally tests everything he writes about.
  • For niche topics like head shaving, he hires freelancers to write specific content.
  • Freelancers get a byline and are paid per word.
  • He sometimes sends freelancers free products or asks them to contact vendors for free products.
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Google's preference for in-depth reviews

  • Google now downgrades listicle-style articles that only rely on Amazon comments.
  • Google prefers articles that include the author's own opinion and mention other reviews from sources like Amazon or Reddit.
  • The owner follows the same approach, providing individual reviews with photos and explanations.
  • He compares and ranks products based on specific criteria.
  • Criteria include weight, balance, handle length, blade angle, blade gap, and type of blade.
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The importance of individual preferences

  • There are many variables involved in choosing the right shaver, and individual preferences play a significant role.
  • What works for one person may not work for another, even with the same specifications.
  • There is a wide range of specifications and variables to consider when selecting a shaver.
  • Personal experiences and preferences are crucial in finding the right product.
  • The owner's website provides detailed information to help readers find the best shaver for their needs.
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Converting reviews and the value of detailed information

  • The owner's detailed reviews help readers make informed decisions and find the perfect shaver.
  • By providing specific criteria and personal experiences, the reviews convert readers into customers.
  • Having in-depth information and addressing individual needs increases the likelihood of conversion.
  • Google values detailed reviews that provide value to readers.
  • Readers can trust the owner's recommendations because of his extensive testing and expertise.
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Using informational content and tutorials

  • Mark uses anchor text within a post to link to another article on the site that showcases products.
  • He also uses a service called Genius Link, which allows him to provide readers with a choice of different outlets that sell a particular product.
  • Mark gives the example of linking to a Genius Link Choice page for the popular razor, the Merkur 34C, where readers can choose to purchase from Amazon, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, and other affiliate outlets.
  • While the affiliate links are not the main focus of the tutorial, they are included within the content.
  • Mark also includes specific suggestions for razors within his articles, such as the Gillette Skin Guard and the OneBlade razor, which are affiliate products.
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Conversion rates of affiliate programs

  • Amazon converts quite well for Mark, as it is a well-known and trusted platform.
  • A particular wet shaving vendor that is well-known in the niche also converts well for him.
  • Some individual artisans, such as Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements, have their own products and convert well.
  • However, some larger retailers like Walgreens and Walmart do not convert as well, and their commissions are smaller than Amazon's.
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Building relationships with shaver companies for custom commissions

  • Some companies approached Mark because they noticed traffic coming from his site and wanted to take advantage of it.
  • In other cases, Mark approached companies with existing commission relationships and proposed a custom commission structure.
  • Companies are often happy to offer custom commissions because of the authority and longevity of Mark's site.
  • Mark turns down offers of free products because they don't generate income.
  • Mark prefers to buy products whenever possible and has a page on his site explaining this.
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Linking to individual reviews of shavers

  • Mark occasionally links to individual reviews of shavers, especially if the product is relatively new to the market.
  • He includes links to other reviews along with his own review to provide a comprehensive perspective.
  • Mark may link to YouTube videos by other wet shaving YouTubers to keep visitors on his page longer.
  • He also includes links back to his own in-depth reviews of specific products.
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Affiliate links and linking out to other sources

  • The use of affiliate links in articles and reviews.
  • Linking out to other videos and websites for additional opinions.
  • Testing the effectiveness of including only personal opinions and videos.
  • Following Google guidelines for genuine opinions and helpfulness.
  • Not seeing a significant difference in results between the two approaches.
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Using forum topics for content

  • Writing about topics from forums, even if they don't have search volume.
  • Keeping engaged with the niche community by addressing top-of-mind topics.
  • Creating an app to scan niche forums' RSS feeds for valuable topics.
  • Sharing the scanned topics on the website for others to find useful.
  • Potentially making the feature a freemium offering in the future.
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Not hosting a forum

  • The challenges of moderating and keeping track of a forum.
  • The time-consuming nature of dealing with spam and trolls.
  • The lack of return on investment for hiring someone to handle forum administration.
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Future plans for growth

  • Considering presentations at spas and barber shops to attract clients.
  • Exploring the possibility of offering coaching or courses on straight razors.
  • Considering a cheaper course for beginner shavers without guidance.
  • Looking to grow the site to a point of generating five to six figures.
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Collecting Emails and Onboarding Automation

  • Mark has been collecting emails for years and has an email list of about 8,000 subscribers.
  • He sends out a newsletter every week and has an onboarding campaign that lasts almost five months.
  • The onboarding campaign consists of strictly tutorial content to engage new users.
  • Mark gets around 8 to 10 new users per day, but they are highly engaged by the end of the automation.
  • His open rates range from 40% to 60% and click-through rates are around 15% to 20%.
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Email Frequency and Content

  • Mark sends one email per week during the onboarding campaign and one email per week to the main list.
  • Occasionally, he will send a second email if there is something important or worth asking the subscribers.
  • He tries not to overly saturate someone's email box to avoid being marked as spam.
  • Most of the emails contain links back to the website where the tutorials are located.
  • Sometimes, Mark will include the majority of the content in the email itself and provide a link to an article for more in-depth information.
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Lead Magnet and List Building

  • Currently, Mark uses pop-ups at the end of articles as a lead magnet to join the email list.
  • The pop-ups offer tutorials, article summaries, and product discounts as incentives to join.
  • In the past, Mark has tried ebooks and resource guides as lead magnets, but they didn't convert well.
  • Next year, he plans to try simple giveaways, such as sending a door hanger to new subscribers.
  • Mark also collaborates with advertisers to do giveaways and collects contestant emails to add to his main list.
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Section 1: Quality of leads from giveaways

  • Lower value leads tend to generate lower quality responses.
  • Response is better when the leads are targeted and know it's a good deal.
  • Had to clean the list a couple of times due to low engagement.
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Section 2: Example of a targeted giveaway campaign

  • Mondial, an Italian shaving brand, offered high-end prizes worth several hundred dollars.
  • Prizes included custom made shave brushes and high-quality razors.
  • Typical wet shavers were incentivized to sign up for the giveaway.
  • Value of the prizes was understood within the specific shaving community.
  • Prizes attracted people who would not normally sign up for an email.

Watch the video on YouTube:
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