Welcome to the 2nd part of the Niche Affiliate Income Series.
Last time I answered seven questions about building niche sites. This post will help you learn How to Stop Pandas from Playing in Your Sandbox.
As we discussed, this income model relies heavily on search engine optimization (SEO). Specifically we’re going to target Google.
Unfortunately Google constantly changes what they like and don’t like about websites. They even do frequent updates to their algorithm that weed out what they consider to be low-quality web properties.
They have updates and penalties with cutesy names like:
- Google Slap
- Florida Update
- Panda Update
- The Sandbox
I won’t go into detail about what each means. Suffice to say, Google works hard to ensure they give the best search experience to the end user.
What does that mean to you?
You need to build websites that Google loves!
It’s important to know what they want. That way you can prevent any sort of penalty to your niche sites.
I’ve done an exhaustive amount of research into the Google Panda update. Plus I’ve even looked at how Google Adwords comes up with their quality score. (In my opinion, I think these two are related.)
Bottom line is you need an “authority blogger” mentality with niche sites. Your first concern is to create a quality web experience for the end user. Only then should you worry about monetizing a niche site.
During my research I found fifteen ways to make Google like your site:
#1 – Provide a Quality Website
Everything starts with a quality website. Not quality web pages. The Google Panda Update shows that they now look at all the content on web properties.
So your niche income site needs to provide an overall quality experience.
There is a lot of debate what makes a “good” website. The best resource I found is by Amit Singhal from the Google Webmaster Central Blog. Here he lists some things to consider as you’re building a website:
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
Think about this as you build a niche site.
Bottom line. Does the content help you or the visitor?
#2 – Offer Unique Content
The Google Panda Update hammered sites with duplicate content. I know there’s a lot of debate about duplicate content and if it should be used. So I’m not going to get into it here.
My opinion? Never use duplicate content on your main niche income site. This is especially true if you decide to use private label articles (PLR). Every article should pass a Copyscape test.
#3 – Write In-Depth Content
The Google Panda Update also penalized “thin content” websites. These were the sites that provided little (or no) value to the web user.
Most people recommend creating 500+ words of quality content. My recommendation? Start at 600 or even 700. Plus make sure each article is actually helpful to the reader.
Also, every article needs to be unique from another. That means you can’t spin the same post and put dozens of variations on your website. Remember your goal is to provide quality content to the reader.
#4 – Create Base-Level Content
Website thinness also applies to the amount of content. Generally, small niche sites won’t be able to compete against web properties with hundreds, even thousands of pages.
There is no set rule for how many articles you need. My recommendation is to start with ten pages. Then add 2 to 3 each week. (I’ll cover this strategy in a future update.)
#5 – Build “Trust Factor” Pages
It’s no longer possible to hide behind a computer screen. Google wants complete transparency with all websites. That’s why it’s important to build trust into your niche site. This can be accomplished by offering a few simple pages:
- About Us: Tell people who you are and how your niche site can help them
- Contact Us: Give people multiple ways to contact you. Include a contact form, an email address, a physical address, and even a phone number. (Get a Google Voice account if you’re worried about using a real number)
- FTC Affiliate Disclaimer: It’s important to tell readers you have an affiliate relationship with the products that are promoted. So be sure to include a FTC affiliate disclaimer. (Lisa Irby has a great post about this and even offers a basic FTC Affiliate Template.)
Overall, be honest with web visitors. Tell them about yourself and be real. This is a great way to make Google like you. Plus is a great strategy for increasing affiliate sales.
#6 – Provide Clear Navigation
Make it easy for people to navigate through your site. Display the category pages on your sidebar. And be sure to put the “trust factor” pages in a prominent location.
In addition, it’s important to break down the content in a logical hierarchy.
You should have at least three categories. The articles in each section should directly relate to its theme.
For instance, here is sample navigational hierarchy:
The main theme of the site is Green Energy. This topic is broken down into smaller areas of content: homemade solar power, homemade wind power, and off the grid living. And then you break down each category into pages that directly apply to this topic.
I know this is site structure 101. But Google is placing a strong emphasis on how websites are organized. So take some time to set up a proper content hierarchy.
#7 – Include a Google XML Sitemap
XML sitemaps help Google navigate your site. Plus this tool sends notifications whenever you make a change to the content.
Setting up an XML sitemap is not hard at all. This plugin helps you do it in a few minute. Plus it posts automatic updates to Google. It’s the perfect set it and forget it solution.
#8 – Interlink Each Web Page
Make sure to interlink all the content on your niche website. It helps with search engine rankings. And it’s a great way to give a quality experience to the web visitor.
Let’s say you have a page about homemade solar power. Within the content you talk about the pros of this home improvement. But then you mention how there are some benefits to trying wind power. You would then link to a page which talks about the pros of using wind power.
Again it’s important to think like an authority blogger. Interlinking is the best way to give quality content to the end user.
#9 – Minimize the Number of Ads
One reason I avoid a Google Adsense model is the over-reliance on advertisements. It’s way too easy to place too many ads and get penalized. The Google Panda Update proved that they’re cracking down on these types of websites.
You can still have ads on your site. But don’t blanket your site with self-serving content. Instead, add elements that will increase the level of user interactivity. (See #14)
#10 – Diversify Affiliate Links
It’s not just the number of ads that can get you penalized. You can also get Google Slapped by repeatedly linking to the same product or service.
It’s okay to start with one product recommendation. But the site should organically evolve to where you’re promoting a variety of offers.
Here’s another strategy… Create a review page that gives a side-by-side comparison of different products. This is a great way to make affiliate sales while giving a quality web experience.
#11 – Link to Niche-Related Authority Sites
Write content that links to sites with authority information. This can be done in a variety of ways:
- Provide an in-text article link to a relevant piece of content.
- Create a blog post that features a YouTube video. Give your comments on it and why it’s helpful to readers.
- Write a “round-up” post where you include links that cover a tightly focus topic. Use sites like Google, Digg, and Stumble Upon to find most of these resources.
You don’t have to go overboard with the outbound links. Just make sure to occasionally link to quality content that does NOT benefit you.
#12 – Get a Variety of Backlinks
Backlinking is an important piece of this puzzle. In fact, this series will go into nauseating detail about how to rank high in the Google search engine.
For now, I’ll say one thing: Diversify your backlinks!
Don’t rely on a single source of links to your site. Instead get a variety of links which point at your main URL and the 2nd & 3rd tier pages.
#13 – Make Sure your Site Loads Fast
Site load speed is important for Google’s Algorithm. For more on this, check out this resource where Google talks about page load time.
#14 – Add Interactivity
Now more than ever it’s important to add interactivity to a website. Google wants readers to take action on your content.
Interactivity can be increased in a number of ways. Here are some ways to do this on your niche sites:
- Encourage blog comments and respond to any you receive
- Add social media buttons like Facebook, Google +, and Twitter
- Use a tool like PunchTab to reward people for sharing your content
- Go to My Guest Post and get articles from other authors
- Set up a poll in your sidebar asking niche-related question
- Create a “best of site” list
Help people take action on your content. This is another way to demonstrate a quality experience to Google.
#15 – Buy an Aged Domain
Finally we’ll end with a tactic I learned just yesterday. Google is also placing a strong emphasis on aged domains. Simply put, they’re more likely to “trust” a website that is a few years old.
Most people think it’s hard to grab an aged domain.
Actually it’s not that hard to snatch up one of these sites using the Go Daddy Auction feature. Here you can find aged domains by selecting these parameters:
- Select auctions that are Ending Soon
- Plug in a word or phrase that’s related to your niche
- Choose a one (or two) year minimum
- Select a .com, .net or .org website
This search will bring up aged domains that can bid on or even immediately purchase. The best part? Some of these can be grabbed for under $20.
Okay that’s my list of fifteen ways to “Google proof” your website. Use these to create niche sites that will get a high quality rating.
I honestly feel that Google will continue to crack down on thin websites. So it’s best to give them what they want and not worry about any potential slap or update.
So what’s next?
Part three of this series will cover my strategy for picking a niche. I use a different tactic than most people recommend. It might work. And it might not. Only time will tell.
Stay tuned…To Your "Internet Lifestyle",