Ever since the Penguin update came out from Google just a few short weeks ago, I have basically taken a “breather” from building any new niche sites. This has given me a chance to analyze my strategies, determine what sites were affected (and why the were affected), and consider my future of building new sites.
I want to cover some of these thoughts and findings in detail and overall address the issue of building niche sites after the Google Penguin update.
How Are My Sites Doing?
I am like many other people out there, some of my sites were hit pretty hard, but others were not. Here is an example of one of my sites that was hit by the Penguin update. You will notice that it was receiving between 130 and 150 visits a day, but once Penguin hit, the traffic went down to around 80 to 100 visitors a day.
On the flip-side, I also had many sites that were unaffected. For example this site as you can see from the analytics below has been totally flat before, during, and after the Penguin update…no effect whatsoever.
Overall, the Penguin update hurt! I didn't like it at all. However, it has given me a chance to step back and take a look at what may have caused some of my site to get hit, while others were not. For those of you who were on the webinar I did last week, I gave you an early scoop on some of my findings. If not, here's what I've discovered.
Penguin was primarily targeting sites that were using too much keyword anchor text or were linking for less than relevant sources. At least these were 2 of the bigger parts of the updates.
By contrast, the Panda update was targeting sites that had poorly written content or had very short/thin articles. This is why article directories or wiki type sites like Mahalo.com and others were hit so hard. The Panda update had nothing to do with targeting “small” niche sites, but targeted both large and small sites that had either short articles or poorly written content. Both big and small sites were affected equally.
This is also true of the Penguin update. Big sites were hit just as hard as small sites. Again, this update had nothing to do with targeting small niche sites and everything to do with targeting link building practices.
Link Building Strategies Targeted by Penguin
So, for example if you were targeting the keyword “best laptop computers” and 100% of the anchor text that you used to link to your site was “best laptop computers”, then your site was likely penalized heavily by the Penguin update. This didn't matter if your content was amazing or if you site was extremely large; if you used this kind of link building practice, then you site was “Penguinized”.
The second type of link building strategy that was targeted by Penguin was linking from non-relevant content. Matt Cutts, gave an example of this here. Notice in that image, that the links are using anchor text that is not relevant or doesn't make sense to the article itself. I have to confess that I have done something similar – although not as blatant. Usually if I wanted to link from a less than relevant article, I would do so in the author box at the end.
So, essentially this is why some of my sites were hit by Penguin and others were not. My sites that were built a couple of years ago for example all used a high percentage (75 to 90%) of the anchor text was the keyword I was targeting. These sites were Penguinized. However, other sites that did not use as much keyword anchor text were not. Others are finding the same thing to be true.
How to Build Links Post Penguin
Some are saying that as long as you use under 50% keyword anchor text, then you will be fine. I would personally be even more cautious than that. In the future, I am going to try and and keep my keyword anchor text below 30%. The other 70% may just be the site name, generic words (like read more, and click here), or secondary or unrelated keywords.
Overall, I'm not ready to write a full blog post on a link building strategy that everyone should follow, but a lot of the principles that I outlined in my previous backlinking post will remain the same. Pat Flynn has also done a good job of that. The difference will be linking from more relevant content, using keyword anchor text less, and finding higher quality sources to link from.
My Challenge: Lots of Small Niche Sites vs. 1 Large Site
I suppose now is as good a time as any to let you know about my plans. Even though some of my niche sites were hit by Penguin, not all of them were, and many of them are still earning quit well, despite the loss of my Adsense account. I have been using several Adsense Alternatives, and although its not as much as Google adsense, its still a very nice income.
Now that the dust has settled a bit from the Penguin update, I plan to start building more small niche sites. There is still money to be made here, and I'm more than happy to collect some of it.
However, on the other hand, I have been thinking a lot about focusing some time and energy into 1 large site that I write all the content myself and put some real “Spencer love” into; like I do for NichePursuits.com. Especially as I see the success that Fraser Cain has had with his site. He made some very good points in the recent podcast interview I did with him here.
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So, do I spend my time building lots of small sites or focusing on one large amazing site?
For the next 6 months, I am going to do both. I work at this full-time, so I have the ability to do that.
For my small niche sites, I will outsource everything and spend perhaps an hour a day building up my portfolio of sites.
For my one large site, I will write all the content, promote it myself, and put some real love and care into it. I will probably spend 2 hours each day focusing on this one site. Eventually I would like to create my own products for this sites and build real active community there.
The linkbuilding for this large site will all be done through “natural” methods. In other words, I won't be doing any manual link building; 100% white hat SEO.
Overall, that's the plan. I will build lots of small niche sites and 1 large site over the next 6 months and report back how it going along the way. I don't know what to expect as far as earnings from either project, but I think it will be interesting either way.
In conclusion, just because you may have been Penguinized, doesn't mean that SEO is dead. Small niche sites are ranking just as well as large sites. Penguin and Panda could care less if you had a large or a small site; they only cared about the quality and length of your articles, and your link building methods. Perhaps its just time to re-adjust your strategy slightly. That's what I'm doing.
Overall, I've laid out why some sites were hit by Penguin and why some were not. In addition, I provided some basic guidance for how I will be building sites down the road. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject! What do you think of my challenge to build several small sites and 1 large site? What plans do you have for building niche sites after the Penguin update?