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.
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!
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
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:
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 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.
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.