How To Make Money with Niche Sites: Week 4

JillAffiliate Marketing, Blog21 Comments

I was looking SO forward to week 4 because I figured we would have some big updates to share. And we definitely do….just not the kind we were hoping for.

But before I reveal the big update, allow me to explain what's been going on these last two weeks….

Everything was moving along so nicely, all of our sites were climbing in the rankings, our sales were increasing, and  howtotreatcellulite.com was cruising along, gaining some traction, and even ranking for keywords we weren't even trying to target.

And then it happened.

Google rolled out the second wave of their Hummingbird update and 6 of our 20 sites took a serious hit.

What does a serious hit entail? Oh you know, just an 80% drop in rankings, traffic, and sales.

Yeah. 80%. It sucked.

But before I get into what happened, why it happened, and what we're going to do about it, let me just get this off my chest…

A Rant About Google Updates

This is now the fourth Google update we have endured with our sites, and while it definitely sucks to have Google roll out a whole whack of changes and switch up how they view and rank your site, it is all a part of the game.

What I mean is this: If you want to get involved online and run a website that is reliant on free traffic, you are going to have to wrap your head around the fact that this shit happens. And it happens at least every 6 months, in an attempt to keep their search results relevant.

Is it fair? Hell no.

Is it annoying? Fuck yes!

Is it possible to recover? Absolutely!

In fact, after each update we've gone through in the last 2 years we have come out on the other side of things even stronger, and making even more sales.

Wacky, I know; but the thing about these Google updates is that you have to stay patient, figure out what the update was targeting (there will always be a TON of websites discussing the current updates whenever they roll out), and then implement the new strategies that are deemed acceptable by the big G.

Another thing I want to stress about these updates is they are actually useful to anyone who has to endure them.

Why?

Because it helps you hone your skills, develop new strategies, become a better business owner, harden up, and not just rest on something that is comfortable.

In fact, I didn't even bat an eyelash this time around. Now, throughout the previous updates we would get sucked into the negativity of them and wallow in our sorrow for losing a big chunk of money. I probably even would have cried…actually…I DEFINITELY would have cried.

But this time around, it's different.

This time we see the update for what it is: A good kick to the pants to keep developing our approach and our strategy.

So with that being said, let's get into what happened…

What is Hummingbird?

The Google Hummingbird algorithm was announced on Google's 15th birthday—back in late September 2013. It is the single largest change to their algorithm since 2001, and is aimed at making search more “human”, or more conversational and focused on deciphering intent and context, and not as reliant on exact match keywords.

Instead, it currently favours websites that are deemed authorities in their industry (with high page authority) and don't JUST target exact match keywords—this is especially true with long tail keywords, ie. how to treat cellulite.

That doesn't mean it is completely snubbing keywords, it just wants you to up your game with the quality of the content you create—meaning more of a focus on what the reader wants and less on keywords.

Hummingbird and Affiliate Marketing

Now with that all being said, it is still completely possible for an affiliate site to attain the top spot!

But from what we can tell it's with websites (and keywords) that aren't targeted by the big content or e-commerce sites, such as: webMD, Livestrong, Amazon, Wikipedia, WikiHow, About.com, hell, even Cosmopolitan magazine!

That means, product-based websites should still have a good fighting chance at hitting Page 1 with relative ease (and good links), as these big websites don't typically target brand names but more so topic-based keywords.

However, if you remember correctly, we are NOT targeting a brand name in our URL. We are targeting a long tail “how to” keyword. *face palm*

What Sort of Website Should I Start?

As of right now, all our websites that are targeting brand names in the URL have remained untouched *knocks on wood*, as well as our two big skincare and beauty sites.

The rest of our sites—which each target a topic-based keyword—have taken a hit, prompting us to focus more on brand name URLs for our future websites.

That means if you are following this case study and getting involved with the challenge of creating your own affiliate site, you might want to consider a brand name domain and keywords.

Speaking of keywords…

What Am I Supposed to do with My Keywords?

Since the focus is now more on conversational searches and results, you no longer need to worry about finding sub-keywords for each keyword you target.

Again this could change, but as of right now just targeting one main keyword—and using it once throughout your content—and solving the problem that the keyword relates to should be more than enough to demonstrate to Google that your page is relevant to that particular search query.

So what kind of keywords should you be looking at?

Consider looking at keywords such as: [product] review, does [product] work, buy [product], [product] reviews, buy [product] online, where to buy [product], [product] ingredients etc…

These keywords aren't typically targeted by the big content websites so you should still be able to rank relatively easily.

Just make sure you don't over-stuff your keywords into your post and instead try to focus on solving the problem each searcher would be looking for with each query or keyword.

So how are we going to adopt this new strategy into this case study?

The Surprise Twist

Since it is fairly clear that we will be facing an up-hill battle with our howtotreatcellulite.com site, we figured we would shake things up a little and introduce a second website into the case study!

SURPRISE!

In an attempt to show you exactly how you can build and monetize your own affiliate site we think it is only fair that we show you both the way we always used to do this, coupled with our new approach to affiliate marketing.

The good news is not that much is changing. It will more so be a process of tweaking a few things and seeing what works.

So what is the new site we're introducing into the case study and how will it differ from howtoteatcellulite.com?

The New Kid on the Block

Niche We Chose:

Natural breast enhancement

Website URL: 

http://mynaturafulreview.com/

Product We're Promoting:

Naturaful breast enhancing cream

Side note: We don't think it is absolutely necessary to have the product name in your URL, and some merchants might not even allow it, but if you can swing it, it is worth testing.

Specific Pages We'll Be Using: 

http://mynaturafulreview.com/

http://mynaturafulreview.com/naturaful-review

http://mynaturafulreview.com/breast-enhancing-supplements

http://http://mynaturafulreview.com/buy-naturaful

Keywords We Will be Using:

Now while I mentioned above that Google's new focus isn't heavily reliant on keywords, we still want to see if branded keywords have the ability to rank as well as long tail keywords used to.

For this site we will only be using ONE keyword per post, and that's it. There will be no sub-keywords and the primary keyword will only appear throughout the post once, unless unavoidable.

  • Naturaful
  • Naturaful review
  • Breast enhancing supplements
  • Buy Naturaful

We feel fairly confident that we should be able to rank fairly easily using these 4 keywords, however we are always at the mercy of Google…or malicious SEO's who might want to take us down.

Our Overall Strategy:

Similar to our howtotreatcellulite.com site, we still used Long Tail Pro Platinum to find our keywords for the Naturaful site. After all, it is our go-to keyword research tool and we can't speak highly enough of it.

However, if you aren't at that stage yet, you can still use my basic keyword research method. Just make sure you skew more towards branded keywords than the long tail “how to” keywords we initially pointed you towards.

For the theme of the site, we stuck with our favourite (and simple!) theme—the Niche Site Theme—as it is easy to customize and we have had great success with it before. If you want an easy-to-customize theme that works with WordPress and is virtually fool-proof, download the Niche Site Theme!

As far as content is concerned, we are still sticking to the content model we outlined in Week 2. That means we'll still be using our silo strategy to link from page to page, with affiliate links on each page as well as a CTA at the bottom of the post.

Finally, the only other aspect we will be switching up with this new site is our linking strategy.

Our Linking Strategy:

This is the only other aspect we have decided to tweak by introducing this second site.

We are still going to only drive links to the homepage and use our silo strategy that we mentioned in Week 2 to keep the link juice flowing and feeding each page, but for this site we are only going to use our private network of websites to drive links.

That means we are not going to use SEnuke for this site. We also aren't going to be using guest posts. Instead, we are just stick with driving links from our own network of high authority websites.

Now if you're fighting the urge to curse us because we have the advantage of having this network of sites, don't. Because we have a lil somethin' somethin' cookin' up behind the scenes just for you and…well…that's all I'm going to say…for now. *wink*

Et voila! That is everything that has been happening in our lives these last 2 weeks!

Remember, we aren't trying to discourage you from attempting to build and monetize your own affiliate website. We just want to be as honest and open as we can be about this entire process.

So please, keep at it and don't stop trying. We KNOW that you can do this, and we have all the faith in the world that you will make money with your website if you adhere to what is currently working.

Just take it one step at a time.

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  • I would be interested in your content strategy. Are you using the product yourself to and posting a review or do you get someone else to test the product for you?

    • Our content writer actually tried the product so she wrote the content and we’re using her pictures 🙂

      • That sounds good. I think for projects like that, the reviews should be authentic, so good job finding someone who tried it.
        I did a bit of research on this product (obviously not for myself but out of curiosity) and there are almost no reviews of non-affiliates, so it must be a worth-while niche.

        • Yeah I think for products like this it’s always best to have tried it. However, with that being said I don’t think it’s ALWAYS necessary to have tried the product.

          I mean, obviously it’s ideal to have tested it yourself (and most of the time you can get in touch with the merchants and ask for a sample to test out), but you can also just do heaps of research and synthesize other reviews and information to form your own 🙂

          • True. It is just a different way of promoting it. I just know a bunch of guys who write articles for weddings claiming to be wedding planers (which they are not and the quality shows) or guys running affiliate sites for products they claim they tested with “amazing results” even though they never tried it.
            I think it’s ok to have a fake personality on the website to protect privacy, but it should still be honest.

          • I definitely still think it should be honest…and I don’t think anyone should ever write a review that only claims to have seen “amazing results” – because honestly, I don’t think those reviews convert as well as ones where the negatives are highlighted as well (video coming up on that in a few weeks)…

            But I also think that for some people it is more difficult to test out everything they want to promote with their sites.

            Is it ideal? No. Is it downright horrible of them? No.

            I guess it just comes down to personal preference 🙂

  • What a twist, damn! I was just about ready to launch my first SEnuke campaign, but now I don’t know what to do 🙂 Is it worth it anymore?

    • As of right now we’d say no….from what we’re seeing with the Naturaful site you don’t really need SEnuke right now. Especially if you are making use of high authority blogs for linking

  • Jub

    Yo! So no more guest posting? Why remove that from the linking strategy exactly, is is essentially the same as using the PBN, except you would never reject your own guest posts?

    Was about to start hunting some sites down to pitch 🙂

    • No you can definitely still use guest posting…we are just testing out building a site without it as we used it for the first site, that’s all 🙂

      Still totally stand behind the powers of guest blogging and think your site (or any site for that matter) can benefit from it!

  • Francisco

    Hey couple,
    Choosing a brand name domain… wouldn’t that violate the brand’s copyright?
    Cheers!

    • Not if you read through their terms of service and they allow it 🙂

      Not all brands allow it, but some definitely do.

  • David Ng

    Hi!

    The importance of building a list has been emphasized by so many successful marketeers. But on your websites for the two niches, you don’t build any. Why is that so?

    Also, the two niches in this case study have no facebook presence (facebook page). What are your thoughts of supplementing your efforts with facebook presence?

    Thanks!
    Rgds,
    David

    • Hey David,

      For the smaller niche sites we build we don’t use email or social media marketing. However for our bigger affiliate sites – our skincare and our beauty sites – we rely heavily on both email marketing and social media.

      We just believe that for sites this small, you don’t necessarily have to grow the kind of community you would necessarily have to grow for bigger, more branded sites.

      However that is not saying that you CAN’T do that with yours…you absolutely can! It’s always worth testing things out and seeing what works for your readers 🙂

      • David Ng

        Makes a lot of sense! Thanks!

  • Brian Weerts

    Hi Jill and Josh, my domain name is smartbeautycare.com. I chose that with the thought of being able to add products. Based on what you said above I could use (if allowed) smartbeautycare.com/ for this first product. By-the-way the product is an anti age wrinkle treatment with solid reviews and over 3000 monthly searches.

    • Hey Brian, you will be allowed to use smartbeautycare.com/productname regardless because that will be the URL for your product review.

      I just meant you would have to check the product’s terms and conditions if you wanted to set up a website like http://www.productname.com

      Does that make sense?

      • Brian Weerts

        It does make sense, thanks. There has been a new twist. The product line has good reviews but the product I have been considering turns out the have no reviews. Apparently it is too new. So I guess I’ll look for another one.

        • Hmmm are there any reviews on Amazon for it at all?

  • Dwayne

    Something i think is cool and simple is how you just broke down the niche ,,, Niche We Chose,,Website URL..Product Were Promoting….etc. Puts it in your face to see a path I’m gonna start doing that . I’m the king of ” I will remember it ” and we all know how well that plan works lol …. Hey is someone making tacos ? I smell tacos… What keyword was it i was just looking at ?…Damn It