The past month or so has been a tumultuous one in the Google world. In March, Google deindexed much of Build My Rank, and other blog networks as well. In addition, lots of webmasters had their Google Adsense accounts closed including Zac Johnson and Gauher Chaudhry. (I also received a couple of emails from others that had their Adsense Accounts closed as well). Finally, Matt Cutts also mentioned during a panel discussion that Google is working on a penalty for sites that are “over-optimized”.
Wow! Sounds like a lot of doom and gloom! Are there any silver linings? Is everything related to SEO negative? Well, I would like to point out a discussion started by Jonathan Leger on his forum that is a pretty level headed approach. He essentially says that not much has really changed. Ranking sites in Google is still pretty much the same as it has always been. I agree.
With all the talk, I wanted to take a look at some real numbers. How have my own niche sites been performing over the past month compared to previous months? From all the talk, sounds like I should have seen a drastic drop in earnings or worse! So, did that happen? Well, read on to see how my earnings fared and some of my thoughts on the future of SEO.
My Niche Site Earnings
For those of you have been following my income reports for a while, you will remember that I have been tracking the earnings of 20 sites that I built in the month of August 2011. (Obviously I have built many sites before and after those sites). The last time I reported the income from those sites was a couple of months ago right here. In that detailed report, I showed that those sites earned a total of $2305.02. So, where are those sites now? Well, there are indeed down a little bit.
My income from these 20 sites in the month of March was 2,000.73.
So, I saw a drop of $304.29.
As I look at those 20 sites, I can see that the primary reason for the drop in income is all from 1 site essentially. My highest earning site (of this batch) accounts for most of this drop (site #1 from previous reports). This site simply dropped a few spots in Google, but continues to be the highest earning site of the batch.
As I look at the rest of my sites overall, (over 200 other sites), my income was actually up a little bit for these. These “other” sites saw an increase in income of $68.88 from last month. I actually laughed when I saw how close it was, usually it fluctuates much more than that. In reality, many of my sites varied in earnings a great deal when compared to last month; however, as a whole the sites saw the slight increase.
So, combining my $304.29 difference from my 20 Sites and the $68.88 gain from all my other sites, MY TOTAL INCOME from Google Adsense was down just $235.41.
This $235.41 decrease is a very small percentage of my Adsense income. So, overall, I'm actually very happy with the way things turned out! With all the tumultuous news in the SEO industry, I was worried I would see some major changes effecting my sites.
And yes, one of my sites did indeed account for most of that loss, because it was down in the rankings; however, even that site will net me over $1,000 this month I'm sure. So, I saw some movement of some rankings, but I didn't see any systemic changes in how my niche sites are faring with Google.
My Authority Site Earnings
I included the earnings from my authority site in the above calculation; however, I wanted to break it out to report on how its doing. Here are the rankings and earnings of my authority site (a project I began in August of last year).
Unfortunately, my site dropped a few more spots in Google for its primary keyword. However, there was very little change in income. One reason that I was able to keep my income consistent, is because I have been testing out different ad colors and placements using the Niche Website Theme. A WordPress theme developed by Chris Guthrie and I. I have been able to increase my click through rate by a good amount by testing out some different ad variations.
So, despite my drop in rankings, I was still able to keep my earnings the same. Essentially, I was able to earn just as much, even though I had a drop in traffic some.
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My Focus is on Keyword Research
Niche Sites are alive and well and continue to rank in Google.
Going forward am I making any major changes? No, not really. The key to my success has always been keyword research and this will continue to be the primary focus of my business. For the niche site creator, the rankings and income does not come from building the right links, it usually comes from finding the low competition keywords that you can rank for with very little off-page SEO. That's the whole point of my business. Find keywords that have very low competition and then apply other basic SEO strategies. And of course, using my software Long Tail Pro makes finding great low competition keywords much easier.
Of course, everyone likes to focus on what the next latest and greatest link building strategy will be. But to me, the link building has always been secondary. Essentially my link building will be staying the same; I will continue to use the link building strategy I laid out here, minus Build My Rank, and I may add more Web 2.0 properties and a few other things. So, I do still plan on doing at full link building post; but overall it will only have small variations.
But again, the part where most people fail is keyword research, not link building.
The Future of SEO
So, has there been a huge shift in how Google is Ranking sites? No, not really. For the most part, Google still ranks sites based on keyword relevancy, quality of content, and authority as established by links pointing to the site. This is likely to be the formula for the long term. Yes, there HAS been changes, and there will continually be changes. But essentially SEO is the same as it has been for a long time. Yes, it may be more difficult with more competition, but there continue to be niches out there that can be monetized with Niche Sites.
Google will continue to tweak their algorithm for ranking sites and some sites will go up and some will go down in rankings. However, the consistent and diligent webmaster will continue to be able to rank their content within Google. No, its not easy, but as long as Google is ranking sites, there will always be something called Search Engine Optimization. Google's business is ranking websites, do you really think they are going to stop ranking websites?
I now turn it over to you. What do you think of my latest business report? Do you think that a major overhaul of your SEO strategy is needed? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on the issues I raised.