Well, it’s been over half a year since I last made a blog post, and man has the SEO landscape changed.
For micro-niche site builders, 2012 was wave after wave of destruction. The reason I haven’t updated this blog is because frankly, there was nothing to share. I’ve spent the last 4-5 months re-examining my approach to SEO and online business in general.
May through July were definitely not good times. I took some damage when ALN/BMR fell, but was still doing fine since I had diversified across multiple blog networks and link sources.
When Penguin hit on April 24, for whatever reason I also seemed to survive without too much damage. Part of the reason may be that I have always used a really high % of related keywords alongside my primary anchor text.
However, the subsequent Penguin and Panda updates/refreshes decimated the majority of sites I had built over the past 1-2 years. This included my micro-niche sites, but also the “higher quality” sites I had as well.
Then the EMD update came along at the end of September to finish off the sites that were still standing. I went from earning 5 figures a month in passive Adsense/Affiliate revenue + 5 figures a month in website sales, to barely enough to pay the bills.
In hindsight, what happened was not really surprising. The strategies & tactics that worked over the last 1-2 years worked extremely well, and so I pushed at it hard instead of diversifying – the ROI was just too good to pass up.
The ALN/BMR de-indexing back in March was a wake-up call, but the success of my old techniques carried a certain amount of inertia, and it took me awhile to finally abandon old methods and push myself in a new direction. Plus, a lot of the old tactics were still working to some degree.
By the time I was working on a new approach, Penguin, Panda and their subsequent refreshes had sunk the ship.
I don’t think anyone needs me to chime in and agree with the rest of the blogosphere that for the most part, micro-niche sites are dead (You can read about it here, or listen to the same message in podcast form here. I’ve spent the last few months re-thinking my approach to making money online, and to the content publishing model in particular. Here are some of my thoughts going forward:
I Want To Turn SEO Flipper Into An Authority Site
After the first Penguin update, I focused a couple months of energy into researching and planning the execution of a real authority site in the health & fitness vertical, but I eventually nixed it. The problem was that it was a subject I really didn’t care for – at least not enough to dedicate years of my life to building, updating, nurturing a community, evangelizing etc.
I realized that at this stage of my life, what I’m most interested in is SEO and content publishing. I *like* building websites, ranking them, and monetizing them. If I was to build an authority site, this would be a subject where I would actually enjoy investing significant time and energy.
I’ll Continue To Build Niche Sites
Of course, I can’t just aim to build an authority site on earning money through content publishing & SEO; no one wants to read about SEO from someone who isn’t actively ranking sites and profiting.
I’m still going to be building niche sites, but no more micro-niche sites. Despite the doomsayers proclaiming the death of SEO, the truth is that their are still plenty of small niche sites ranking nicely for moderate and even competitive key terms.
However, unlike many of the micro-niche/larger niche sites that ranked previously, these sites are usually well-thought out, cover the subject thoroughly, and have quality links. Pat Flynn’s Security Guard Training site for example, hasn’t budged from the #1 position for its keyphrase despite Penguin, Panda, the EMD update etc.
Quality niche sites require significantly more planning, management, and investment in both time, energy, and money. For this reason, my goal is to build out the basis for 6 of these sites by mid November (currently completed 3), and then focus exclusively on growing them until at the end of the year.
Most of the keyword and competition research is done. Right now, I’m focusing on really understanding the niches so that I can properly create and organize the right content.
As for link-building tactics, all link-building will be done manually by myself, and with the help of a VA where necessary. I’ll go into more detail on my current linkbuilding strategy in a later post, but basically it will be anchored by:
I’m also not ruling out buying small amounts of guest posts on 3rd party private blog networks networks, but they would have to be extremely high quality (able to pass manual review, selective about outbound links), and these will only be used to give a small boost where necessary.
I’ll also be putting a lot more focus towards optimizing for lower bounce rates and providing better value for visitors.
Taking On Limited Client Work
I also might be taking on my first SEO client. I don’t really like the idea of client work and I don’t plan to make it a regular thing, but this particular project is interesting in that their is a potential for revenue sharing, so its not really a straight “trading hours for dollars” kinda deal.
It would also give me a budget for implementing ideas on a broader scale that I could share on this blog and apply to my own sites. And of course, diversifying your income is never a bad idea.
I initially created this blog as a way to promote transparency for my Flippa sales. I enjoy writing in general and especially about SEO and earning income online, but I realized that I didn’t really enjoy the content I was creating for the blog, which led to sparse, inconsistent posting.
Better Content & More Consistency
Because the purpose of the blog was to help people who were buying my sites, I was trying to create content to help that specific audience, instead of just writing whatever comes naturally. This blog didn’t have a clearly defined voice, and I never posted regularly.
Ultimately, I think I would be much more consistent and put out much better content if I just ruminate on higher-level strategy and discuss the tactics I’m testing and using.
Going forward, I’m simply going to put out whatever comes to mind. I like to think that I take fairly SEO seriously and that – if I manage to effectively transcribe my thoughts into a format that’s readable and interesting – readers will come back for more. I guess we’ll see.
This also means that I’m going to be a lot more transparent. Although that was the initial goal when I started this blog, I never felt comfortable going so far as to release actual income or traffic numbers.
Now that I’m starting with mostly a clean slate, I will start discussing specific projects that I’m working on and their exact revenue numbers as well. I’ll discuss the overall strategy as well as specific tactics and whether they’re working. I’ll be releasing monthly income reports, but I’m not going to include any income from older sites that are still generating residual income.
As always, feel free to ask questions in the comments, twitter, or via email. I’ll be posting an earnings report for October 2012 (teaser: total income is $0) that will introduce my new projects and give some baseline stats so that you’ll be able to see the growth over the next few months.
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