One of the best ways to learn something on a deep level is to experience it, rather than just watching or reading about it. This is true of SEO and niche sites as well.
I have said many times, that the best way to learn the process is to just jump in and starting building your first site. Sure, you will make a lot of mistakes along the way, but if you learn from these mistakes you will be much wiser because of them.
When it comes to building a niche website that you hope to rank at the top of Google, you could potentially make hundreds of mistakes. As a result, there is no possible way that I could cover every possible mistake that someone might make when trying to build and optimize their site for SEO.
However, I do believe that there are some very common mistakes that many newer people might fall prey to when building niche sites. As a result, I'm going to cover the 9 most common mistakes that people make when building niche sites and doing SEO.
1. Poor Keyword Research
The most common mistake that I personally see is poor keyword research. In fact, this is a mistake that I made for a long time when I first started building websites as well!
I believed that if I picked a HUGE keyword that got high search volume, all I had to do was rank at the top of Google and I would be rich! While perhaps that's true, its just not realistic. Those HUGE keywords are extremely competitive and are usually dominated by large corporations or those with much larger “SEO” budgets than you and I.
As a result, I credit my niche site success to the fact that I made a mental shift in realizing the importance of long tail keywords. By targeting keywords that perhaps didn't get as much search volume, but were also MUCH easier to rank for, I was able to land on the first page of Google…over and over again.
If you only get one thing right about SEO and building niche sites, make sure to get your keyword research done properly. I recommend using Long Tail Pro to help find these long tail keywords and to analyze the competition properly.
1a. Not picking a good market
In addition to just picking keywords that are too competitive; a related mistake is picking keywords that are in a bad market. In other words, if you hope to make money from your SEO efforts, you should focus on commercial keywords.
If there are no advertisers or products related to your keyword choices, it can be extremely difficult to monetize. So, even though you might rank at the top of Google because you picked such a low competition keyword, that traffic might not be worth anything.
To avoid this mistake, you can look at the amount of advertisers on Google for your keyword. The level of advertisers is also displayed in the Google keyword planner and Long Tail Pro as “Advertiser Competition”.
In addition, some products are high priced or low priced, this can affect your bottom line. And some markets are made up of people that buy lots of products, while others only buy one. Perrin and I discussed this a bit in our last podcast.
Overall, pick a low competition keyword, that gets just enough search volume and is in a great market, and you will be well on your way to SEO/Niche site success.
2. Spammy Link building
Google has evolved with Penguin, Panda, and other updates. If you are still using link building tactics from 2010; you will be shooting yourself in the foot.
Google can detect when automated and unnatural link building is occurring and will penalize your site. (Here's a few examples from Google)
I would avoid these methods of link building:
- Automated software
- Large scale article marketing
- Large scale blog commenting
- Weak forum signatures
- Thin profile pages
- Weak directory links
- Press releases with anchor text
- Links from pages with lots of other links
- Anything else on a large scale from weak sources
I'm sure there many other types of link building I could list, but this will give you an idea of what to avoid.
2a. Overuse of keyword anchor text
Even if you avoid all these spammy link sources, you also need to avoid overusing your keyword anchor text. So, if your keyword that you hope to rank for is, “Best Leather Wallets” and a huge percentage of your anchor text is “best leather wallets”; then Google will indeed penalize your site.
I don't have a magic number for how much anchor text to use, but its certainly less than 10% and probably even 5% of the time.
Instead use variations of different keywords, phrases, URLs, brand name, and no keyword anchor text.
Over-optimization has become a big deal. I've always said that you should be using your keyword less than 1% of the time on your site. Unfortunately I commonly see people using their keywords 5% or more in their articles.
This is a big red flag for Google.
Also, to truly look at how over-optimized your site is on-page; you need to look at site title, category titles, tag pages, and more in addition to what you've written in your articles. So, even if you are only using your keyword less than 1% of the time in your article, if you combine that with your URL, site title, and category pages you could be over-optimized.
And finally, some say that you should combine how often you are using your keyword off-page (i.e. anchor text) with your on-page keyword usage to get a feel for how truly over-optimized your site is. Here's a guide that Hayden Miyamoto recently wrote about over-optimization.
In a nutshell, to avoid over-optimization penalties, stop using your keywords unnaturally!
4. Poorly Written Content
If your content sounds like crap, then Google isn't going to rank it. Google has developed ways to automatically detect bad content; so spend some time to make sure its good stuff.
In addition, Google utilizes manual reviewers to spot check sites. If these humans detect poorly written that may have passed the automated content filters, it will be reported.
In a nutshell, if you are putting up spun content or outsourcing low quality content to someone that doesn't speak English (for your English articles); then you run the risk of getting penalized.
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This isn't a difficult threshold to pass, but I'm surprised to still see how many people put junk content on their site and expect it to rank in Google.
Just don't put out content that you would be embarrassed to show your friends, okay?
5. Not Enough Content and Not Scaling
When you have a site with some success, its important to try and expand on that success. More content will bring in traffic from more long tail keywords, and can often be the easiest way to increase the profits for that site.
For example, during my original niche site project, I kept a chart showing where my traffic was coming from.
So, as you add more content, you can get traffic from MANY more long tail keywords than the 1 or 2 that you originally selected. (This content shows I was getting traffic from about 1,800 different keywords). Adding more content is often the answer to increasing the reach of the site.
In addition, if you have a winner on your hands, you can look into other ways that you can scale the business. This might include other revenue streams, selling related products, or creating your own product.
Perrin and I have actually been discussing this quite a bit in our business lately. We are trying to decide: do we build more sites or do we simply grow the ones we've already built? As we look at the costs and benefits, we are becoming more convinced that just growing the sites that we already have is a better long term approach.
6. Lack of Patience
When I first began building websites several years ago, I could often get to the top of Google within 30 to 60 days. However, those days are for the most part gone now. SEO requires patience, and a new niche site can often take up to 6 months before it cracks the first page of Google.
I rarely see results in terms of rankings and earnings earlier than 90 days now. This is likely Google's way of preventing poor quality websites from dominating the first page of the SERPs.
For whatever reason, ranking websites just takes longer nowadays.
Unfortunately, I am seeing many people lose patience after the first couple of months and wondering why they don't see any results. However, if these people would stick with their content or link building plan, they can often start seeing results just a short time in the future.
So, don't give up half way through your SEO plan just because you aren't having some immediate results. You need to have some patience.
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7. Worrying Too Much About the Small Stuff
If you sweat the small stuff, you'll never get to the big stuff. Everyone wants their site to be perfect, but don't let this get in the way of simply starting!
Some of the small things that should not prevent your from creating a great site are theme choice, plugins, design elements, ad placements, and more. All of these things can be changed over time.
However, the more important aspects such as picking the right keywords and finding a great market cannot be changed as easily.
8. Copying Others
I'll be first to admit, that seeing others build successful sites has sparked ideas for some of my own websites in the past. There is nothing wrong from learning a thing or two from successful people; however, if you get stuck in the trap of just trying to copy exactly what someone else is doing, you will not be as successful as you might hope.
A big part of success in niche sites, SEO, and in life is trying to be unique. How is your website different or better than your competitors? Copying directly will not make you stand out or make other sites want to link to and mention you.
Want to copy Facebook exactly? Save yourself the time; don't do it! But if you want to be the next Facebook for cats…then maybe you have something! 🙂 (or maybe not).
The point is that you need to be just a little bit different than your competition to truly stand out.
9. Being a Loner
As much as I like to hang out by myself; my bigger sites would never be where they were if I didn't reach out and network a little bit. NichePursuits.com has grown in part because of the relationships I've built with other bloggers and podcasters. These links have in turn made Google pay attention and rank my site well for lots of long tail keywords.
The same can be said of Long Tail Pro…if I tried to do everything on my own without networking or reaching out to others; that business would not be where it is today.
True SEO at its core is a social venture. Reaching out, mentioning others, interacting with other bloggers, and truly becoming a part of the community in your niche is the best way to secure high quality links and a true following.
Overall, if you can avoid these 9 common SEO mistakes, you will be ahead of the competition when building out your own online business.
I've personally made many of these mistakes, but have learned throughout the years. In addition, I still get emails and comments from people all the time asking about their own niche sites; and it becomes obvious that they have chosen the wrong keywords or made other common mistakes.
Hopefully, by reading this post, you can internalize some of the lessons here, and avoid making these blunders for your next big project.
If you have any comments or questions, I'd love to hear your thoughts below.