In the last month, I’ve gotten into building small niche websites. So I was happy when Tom sent me this guest post about this very topic.
I think he provides some excellent advice here. That’s why I urge you pay close attention to the lessons that Tom has learned the hard way…
It’s amazing how much you can learn in a short space of time if you apply yourself.
In 3 short months, I ranked no. 1 in Google for several fairly competitive keywords. Then I lost it all. Now I’m rebuilding with three more sites.
When it comes to keyword research and search engine optimization, I can confidently say that I have had some tough lessons. I have made mistakes that have set me back a long way.
But that is of benefit for two reasons:
- I have learnt from my mistakes, and won’t make them again.
- I am in a position to teach others about my mistakes, so that they never have to make them in the first place.
1. Diversify Your Backlinks
I can’t stress this enough. My first niche site was attracting 250-300 visitors a day after 3 months, in spite of my inexperience and a multitude of mistakes. I was just starting to target additional keywords that would bring in hundreds more visitors per day.
Unfortunately, I made the huge mistake of instigating a formulaic and predictable backlinking campaign. I was creating 10 backlinks per day, and targeting the same three keywords with those backlinks.
Such a predictable strategy was spotted by Google, and my site was dumped out of the rankings, never to return. A site that was just starting to build some momentum (earning about $2 – $3 per day) was now worth nothing.
Mix up your anchor text. Don’t be afraid to throw in generic “click here” links. Don’t just link to your home page. Never be tempted to aggressively target a specific keyword. It is not worth the risk – take it from me.
2. Target Multiple Keywords
For the first two months of my first niche site’s life, I was targeting just one keyword. Crazy, right? I just didn’t know any better. Little did I know that a far better strategy would be to target one or two “long term” (i.e. more competitive and highly trafficked) keywords for the whole site, and then target low competition keywords with specifically written articles.
I did rank for lots of long term keywords, but it was completely accidental. I was writing articles on the topic of my site and got lucky. If you write articles focused around specific keywords, you can make your own luck.
3. Ranking for a High Traffic Keyword Does Not Guarantee Success
There are two reasons why going for the jackpot of high-traffic keywords is not necessarily the best strategy:
- They’re usually difficult to rank for
- They’re usually not as relevant as lower traffic keywords
For instance, say you could rank for the keyword “golf”. That would be pretty awesome, right? But the scope of the keyword in terms of what people are searching for is huge. They might be looking for golf tips, or they might be researching the car.
You could expend 1/10th of the energy in ranking for a keyword that brings in as many relevant visitors as far more heavily trafficked keywords.
4. You Can’t Accurately Estimate Your Google Click Through Rate
This follows on directly from my previous point. There are a huge number of factors that affects the click through rate you will get from your ranking. It seems a common assumption that #1 spot in Google will bring you about 40% of the estimated search figures in visitors. This simply isn’t true. The percentage can vary wildly.
For instance, using the example above, say you had a site all about the car and managed to rank #1 for the keyword “golf”. Say 90% of people are searching for information on the sport, rather than the car. Regardless of the fact that you rank #1 in Google, the click though rate is going to be a single figure percentage point.
This is just one example – there are many reasons as to why you can’t accurately estimate Google click through rate (too many to list here). Tread with caution, and keep your estimates modest.
5. You Don’t Have To Rank #1 in Google
This was a big one for me. When researching keywords, I would decide to myself that it was “all or nothing”. I had to be #1 in Google, otherwise, what was the point? What a load of rubbish.
There is no shame at all in ranking #2 to #10 for a keyword, and having no ambitions to rank #1. If you spot a poorly-optimized site in the 1st page of Google that you think you could take on, why the hell wouldn’t you go for it? Ranking #1 isn’t the be all and end all.
6. Current Events Bring In Big Traffic
Once you have an established site, if you have the opportunity to write about “trending” topics, you absolutely should. My traffic numbers were boosted considerably by writing about current events.
7. Keyword Research Is the Most Important Step
We can talk all day about SEO and backlinking, but keyword research is by far the most important step in defining your success. Picking your battles wisely at the very start will save you a lot of headaches in future.
8. The Number of Backlinks Isn’t the Defining Factor
There are many reasons beyond backlinks why a site ranks well in Google. Most keyword research techniques teach us to tot up the number of backlinks to make an estimation of the competitiveness of a keyword. But if 90% of a site’s backlinks are from the same domain, or if the backlinks are all from “no-follow” blog comments, or for any other of the huge number of potential reasons, the numbers can be highly misleading.
I have ranked #1 in Google with a fraction of the number of backlinks of competing sites. Consider the quality of backlinks, and bear all the other factors in mind too (on-site optimization, domain age, etc).
9. There’s More to Life than Adsense
If you base your entire business model on Adsense, you could be selling yourself short. There are a lot of different ways to make money from your website, and Adsense is just about the least profitable method. It also happens to be the easiest to measure and implement, which is what makes it so popular.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Adsense. It is a great way of bringing your first few bucks in. And if you want to make it part of your long-term strategy because of its ease of implementation, I have no problem with that. But if you are willing to put the work in, you can make a lot more money with other monetization methods.
10. Patience Is Key
I was incredibly impatient with my first niche site. I would check up on the ranking of my single keyword at least twice a day. For a couple of weeks, it didn’t move at all, and I was getting extremely worried. But I was naïve.
Be patient. Climbing the rankings of Google can take time. Persistence and patience are your friends. One thing is for sure – if you stop what you’re doing, you are highly unlikely to climb the rankings. But if you have picked your keyword wisely, have a sold backlinking strategy, and good onsite SEO, it is just a matter of time before you get to where you want to be.
A Continuous Learning Process
I have listed above 10 key lessons I have learnt, but there have been many more. And I wouldn’t hesitate to say that there will be many more lessons in the future. If you are set on making money from websites, you must recognize that you won’t get rich overnight. Like any other legitimate business model, time and experience have a huge part to play on your success.
Tom Ewer is the owner of Leaving Work Behind, a site for anyone who is interested in online business or self-employment. He recently released a comprehensive free guide on keyword research. Get in touch with Tom at his Facebook page.To Your "Internet Lifestyle",