Niche Site Project 1 Income Report for October 2013!

By Spencer Haws |

Finally, its time for another monthly income report for my site,!  Here we are sitting in the second half of November, and I still haven’t gotten the report for October up…whoops!

I’ve been fairly busy lately, working with Perrin on his niche site, introducing the world to Rank Hero, and managing other projects not related to Niche Pursuits.  Hopefully you don’t mind the report just a couple of weeks late…

I was very open in my last report about the fact that was hit by Penguin 2.1 on October 4th.  In my last report, I had a record earning month of over $800; however, I knew going into October that it wouldn’t be anywhere close to that, thanks to Penguin 2.1 and the Negative SEO performed on my site.

So, if you are curious to see what a Google penalty can do to the traffic and earnings of a site, you are in the right place!   In addition to the standard income report, I will also share what some of my plans are going forward to beat the penalty and bring my niche site to its former glory of dominating the search engines.

October 2013 Earnings


During the month of October, earned $298.34 via Amazon Associates.  In addition the site earned another $2.91 via Skimlinks!  So, the total earnings of the site was $301.25.

Here’s a screenshot from Skimlinks that pushed me over the $300 mark:


Obviously, this is a huge drop from September, I was expecting that.  However, considering that the site ranks on the 2nd or 3rd page now for many of the terms it used to be on the first page for, its not the end of the world.  At $300 a month, the site is still profitable.  The only thing I have to pay for now is new content if I want it.

Cumulative Earnings


This is a nice little chart showing that at least the earnings is still growing overall since the inception of the site.  In total, the site has earned $3,821.34 since it was created.

Earnings Since Inception

Here’s a quick chart showing just the earnings from each month:


Yep, the earnings dropped in October!

Items Shipped


During October, the website shipped a total of 144 items during the month of October, which is much less than half the amount shipped in September.

Conversion Rate


The silver lining is that my conversion rate stayed about the same!  Of course, this is to be expected as I didn’t make any significant changes to the layout or ad placement of my site.

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Traffic Details


When you take a look at the Google Analytics screenshot below, its quite obvious when Penguin 2.1 hit…ouch!  However, you can still see that even after the penalty, the site is still getting a few hundred unique visitors a day, which is great!  But its nowhere near the great traffic it was getting from Google before.

In addition, I wanted to share the NUMBER of long tail keywords that sent traffic to my site.  Although its not a very relevant metric anymore since Google started its move toward 100% not provided.

ltkeywords organicsearch

Google just isn’t providing nearly as much data on the keywords that are actually generating traffic anymore.  You can also try using Google Webmaster Tools to get a better idea of where you traffic is coming from.

Overall Stats


If you prefer to just look at all the raw data, rather than the charts, this matrix will give you what you need!

Penguin 2.1 Recovery?

I would really like to get the site back above the $500 per month earnings range.  In order to do that, I need to reverse the Penguin penalty!

As explained in my last report, I feel like a major contributing factor to the penalty was all the negative SEO that was performed on my site.

When it comes down to it, my recovery plan consists of just a couple of steps:

I was contacted by a reader after my last post asking if they could perform a full link analysis on my site.  I agreed.  So, I’ve really been waiting to get that full report before I take much action, because I want to have everything documented as much as possible.

So, I’ve been a bit slow about taking much action to remove the penalty because I’ve been waiting for that analysis and because I’ve been busy with everyday business.

I really do hope to have a chance to start sharing my process for contacting webmasters and using the disavow links tool to clean up the site.  I think this will provide some valuable information once I have a chance to get started.

Overall and Your Thoughts

I don’t have much else to share in regards to the project at this point.  I really haven’t done anything with the site at all in the past month, other than add a few articles.  I will continue to work on this site and hopefully return it to its former glory!

I think this is an important report to have, as it shows the full details of what a site can do, even after getting hit with a Penguin penalty.

As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and joining in the discussion below!

Stories & Projects | 86 comments

By Spencer Haws

Spencer Haws is the founder of After getting a degree in Business Finance from BYU (2002) and an MBA from ASU (2007) he worked for 8 years in Business Banking and Finance at both Merril Lynch and Wells Fargo Bank.

While consulting with other small business owners as a business banker, Spencer finally had the desire to start his own business. He successfully built a portfolio of niche sites using SEO and online marketing that allowed him to quit his job in 2011. Since then he's been involved in dozens of online business ventures including: creating and exiting Long Tail Pro, running an Amazon FBA business for over 3 years and selling that business, founding, and co-founding You can learn more about Spencer here.

Want to learn step-by-step how I built my Niche Site Empire up to a full-time income?

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Just yesterday I looked at your ranking. You are coming back, slowly but surely. Can’t wait to see it work out for you!


Doesn’t matter its still huge success! 🙂 And I’m sure this down is just temporary 🙂

Good luck, Spencer!

Spencer Haws

Thanks Jenda!

Darnell Jackson

I agree thanks for sharing Spencer.

Stew @ NinjaGorilla

Spencer – great to see the site is still earning despite the negative SEO!

I think this will make a good case study on how to recover from a penalty/negative SEO.

Just one thing – I see loads of sites now using the TablePress plug-in – this must have come from your public projects. So I had a look at the downloads for TablePress at

Any correlation here between your posts and the download peaks 🙂

Spencer Haws

Very interesting Stew! I’m sure I’ve sent tablepress plenty of downloads for sure.

Leo @Newbiesup

Sure. I contributes several downloads refereed from your posts. lol


It’s a shame how easy it is for someone to tank a site’s rankings with negative SEO.

Have you considered abandoning the domain and starting with a new domain?

Potentially doing a 301 redirect?

Spencer Haws

Yes, I’ve considered, but would like to see how this plays out – as I think it would be very interesting to recover the site.


Great idea to do an audit and the case study will be all the more powerful when you recover.

The site adds lots of value – so there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to turn things around!


I hope this doesn’t happen to Perrin too.


Awesome Spencer. Great work. I know this may be outside of your business model, but have you considered either private labeling your own survival knife to sell on Amazon or possibly selling other products like a Survival Guide on Clickbank or something? Just curious.

Thanks for all that you do!


Spencer Haws

No, I’m not interested in doing that. A business with physical products and other factors introduces a lot time and complexity that isn’t worth it for me. I’m happy to have several niche sites that I can manage all virtually. An ebook or something would be okay, but the time isn’t right for me.


Sorry about the Penguin 2.1. I’ll be really interested to see if you can disavow the links and get it back.

I had a small site get hit myself. I did two things:

1. Created a new domain and brought all of the old content over. This one will be ranked from scratch.

2. Rewrote the content (about 15 pages) and put it on a blogspot blog. Provided a 301 redirect from the penalized domain to this blog.

Weirdly enough, the penalty seemed to lift somewhat, and the old domain almost made it back to page 1. Recently, however, it has disappeared and the new domain is ranking in its place (still climbing).

The blogspot blog is back on page 3 for most terms, but it still makes me 3-4 sales each month and gets a tiny trickle of traffic.

Hopefully, I will come back stronger with multiple sites ranking for the old keywords. We’ll have to see.

Can’t wait to see what you do.

Spencer Haws

Thanks for sharing Quinton!


Hi Spencer,

How are tools like Longtailpro going to get data to use when Google will no longer offer any info? Other search engines? I’ve been holding out on getting it for this reason!


Hi mike,
Regarding the Long tail pro and most other keywords research tools the data comes from Google Adwords and because Google provide this data for its advertisers so we be pretty sure that they’ll not hid or remove this data. You can go a head and get Long tail pro, I’m a subscriber for the platinum version and it’s worth every cent.

Spencer Haws

Its not affected at all, Long Tail Pro still gets its data just fine. Analytics data and keyword data from Google are 2 totally different things. I wrote an entire post on the subject:


Hi Spencer,

Thanks for showing us the updates of the site! Great to know that even though the site was hit by Google Panda 2.1 it still has revenues. Would you consider showing us here the process that you will do to resurrect this site from the effects of Google Panda 2.1? That way we can also learn how to restore our sites were hit back to page #1. Thanks again and I really love to read your posts.


Spencer Haws

For sure, that’s the plan.

Simple Business

This will be very interesting to see how you adapt. I am experiencing the same things with some of my sites. as well. Can’t wait to read more!


Hi Spencer,

It will be interesting to see if you can turn this around and get more traffic again, I sure hope so.

When comparing to your other sites that does not have the bad SEO, have they been hit any with the Penguin 2.1 as well?


Spencer Haws

No, I haven’t seen other sites hit like this one.

Jye @ Full Volt

I was actually looking at your rankings just the other day and saw results down on the second and third result pages and was curious as to what your earnings had dropped to.
It’s great to see it is still profitable despite the penalty.

It will be interesting to see the recovery process.


Great post, Spencer.

I just learned that Amazon pulled their affiliate program from Maine (where I live) and it has really bummed me out that I don’t their vast range of products to niche on.

Jon Haver

Best of luck with your recovery. My recovery of my purchased site that got hit has made little progress up to this point.

I would say the only good news is there is no expensive magic sauce to recovery…remove bad links, build good links is pretty much the only strategy to use.

Still a solid earning site to hold in your portfolio though…it could always be worse.

Spencer Haws

Definitely still doing okay; we’ll see how it goes.


Thanks for sharing Spencer… even when the news isn’t good! Your honesty is a big reason why this site and you are so authoritative, and why it’s such a great resource to learn from.

I’m very impressed that the site still earned $300 after the Penguin 2.1 penalty.

I know that it’s tough to do public Adsense projects because it leaves an Adsense account so open to abuses by people following the project. But I’d really like to see a public project that features Adsense.

Maybe a student could create an Adsense account and “donate” it to a public project you do with him or her… just a thought.

Spencer Haws

I don’t think I would want to put a students adsense account in jeopardy either.


I understand. Hmmm who knows, maybe there’s a way to get an uninterested friend/person so donate their Adsense account. Someone who is not even interested in internet marketing etc.

Is Adsense still generally the easiest/main way to monetize a niche site?

I’d be real interested in seeing how doing an Adsense site influences your keyword research and choice, what layout you’d go with, text vs image ads, ad colors, etc.


Somewhat of a follow-up question, if you were to stick adsense on the bestsurvivalknife site, what do you think the earnings would be given your current traffic stats?

Spencer Haws

I wouldn’t know without some of the data from actual clicks from Adsense.


Sorry about the hit on niche site #1. Hope you’ll be able to get rid of the bad links soon so it’ll be back to its fighting form.

I was just listening again to the webinar so this popped into my mind.

Are there any safeguards to RankHero that someone won’t just pull off a negative SEO campaign to destroy the sites clients have put links into?


Spencer Haws

Lots of safeguards. People in the network wouldn’t perform negative SEO on the sites; they have a vested interest in keeping the sites in good standings. For the most part, those are the only ones that would be aware of the sites in the network. Also, its a totally different ballgame there, as the network sites don’t need to be ranking well for anything; they are used to pass on their page authority etc.


Hey Spencer I’m looking for your old (first) public blog… I’m just wanted to read it over.

You must have listed it somewhere on Niche Pursuits before cause I remember going to it.

Is it still live and public? If so, can you share the URL so I can check it out?



Spencer Haws

It is still live – I can’t recommend much from there as its very old and out of date:


Thanks! I enjoy reading the personal posts about almost quitting internet marketing, quitting your job, growing the business etc. Very inspiring stuff!


I’m about to experience my first +$300 month with my niche sites. So the fact that your one site is still making that much even after all the penalty negativity is pretty great! Good luck getting it back over $500. I’m sure you’ve got plenty of ammo that can help you push it back up to that level.

I’ll be very interested to see that link analysis report if you decide to share it with us. This site has done a great job of explaining how and where to find links. But it would be very helpful to see how to identify which links are “not good” and what you can do about them.


slimstat show some keywords, is there some arternatives to google analytics?? that show the keywords?

Spencer Haws

No, other alternatives won’t show keywords, because google is encrypting their searches – no program will get access to the keyword source data.




Thanks for the report. I appreciate the transparency. I have a site that took a hit as well. I’m looking forward to the redemption posts.

Thanks again!


thanks for giving us this precious information ,for earning by
nichepursuits. i ll be connected with you


Hey Spencer,

Sorry to hear about the loss in earnings but $300 is still not that bad (plus you’ve already recovered your investment many times over).

Just curious, but can you tell us how many items were ordered last month? (you mention shipped but some of those orders could have been from the month before)


Spencer Haws

Sure, I just checked. Total of 130 items ordered.


Thanks. You have a really good CTR then. Out of the 7874 visits, you have 4700 clicking on your Amazon links

A 60% CTR rate is exceptionally good; my Amazon sites normally stay at around 25-30% (which is extremely poor I guess).

I’m going to replicate your widget strategy, hopefully I can see a better CTR

Tung Tran

It’s nice that your website is still generating pretty decent income… my dumbbell site sadly has been hit hard and earned only $100 last month which is bad 🙁

Good luck on your recovery Spencer and keep up posted with your progress


Tung, I thought you sold your dumbbell site? Its nice to know that you’re still keep track and is still concern of the site you sold. =)


LOL! Wow…

I think you just helped to expose a lot of the B.S. and lies and misinformation of making money online.

The real money to be made online is in selling the tools you need to build websites, instead of the actual websites themselves. The only ones that got rich back during the California gold rush were the stores selling shovels and pick axes. I see a strong connection here…..



Can you clarify this? Even i thought you sold your site or did the buyer go back on the deal due to the google penalty?

Tung Tran

Yes I sold the site man… Read the reply above

Tung Tran

Yeah I sold the website… the new owner reported back to me about the earning & penalty…


I find it pretty ridiculous just how many copycat sites there now exist of your site. A lot of them are actually fairly good quality sites. Are people really that lazy when it comes to finding a niche to build a site around or do they just have no imagination whatsoever?

I don’t know. I’m just dumbfounded why so many other people spend all their time and energy to compete with so many other niche site builders on the same topic.

Spencer Haws

I agree!

Jye @ Full Volt

I’ve noticed that is the case for lot for many public niche sites. Just look at Tungs dumbbell site, the first 10 pages on Google has at least 15 copycats.

It’s due to this that I’ve decided not to share the domain and keyword for my current niche site project anymore.


I was wondering how you go about removing the bad links to your site? If someone decides to link you you, what can you do to get all those other sites to remove their links?

I’m kind of new to this and have not encountered a problem like this as I don’t have a site that really ranks for anything yet, but I am enjoying the learning process and the valuable information you are providing us all.

Spencer Haws

You can simply contact them and ask to have the link removed. If it doesn’t work, use the disavow links tool.

Bryce Haga

Do you have any idea of why your conversation rate in Amazon is low?

Because, most of the sites I create I usually get over 9%-10% from Amazon.



It is going to usually depend on the products you promote. Usually outdoors type of stuff such as the survival knives you get a lower conversion rate. I actually think he’s right where he’s suppose to be as I think its normally 3-5% for that product category.

I could be wrong though.

Spencer Haws

Bryce – if you search around online, my Amazon conversion rate is very normal. Yours on the other hand is extremely high, never heard of that high before.


Thank you for your continuous sharing, Spencer. I can totally see the power of long tail words. My niche site has 60% traffic from one single keyword, so after it was hit by Penguin 2.1, I lost more than 90% of my income. I did not do much for the site as I am waiting to see if someone will come up with a solution in the near future – I know I can build a brand new site and transfer everything over, but I prefer to use it as an experiment for possible recovery.

Keep up the great work, buddy!



Thanks for the info. Spencer, really looking forward to seeing how you go about reversing the penalty, It’s a shame that your earnings are down but on the other hand it’s going to make the case study even more interesting I suspect.

Out of interest what are you using to create your graphs in this post?

Spencer Haws

Its just an excel spreadhseet/charts. I took an image of those graphs in Excel and posted here.


My niche site was heavily hit by Penguin 2.1. I decided to try to remove links from my other websites that have the same IP adress (yes, I know that was stupid idea to put links from the same IP) . I remove links 4 days ago and today I have back on the first page for 7-8 important keywords! Before Penguin 2.1 , Google didn’t penalize backlinks from the same IP!

Spencer Haws

Very interesting!

Stew @ NinjaGorilla

Does anybody have a definitive list of the types of links targeted by Penguin 2.1. I have read it was low quality Web 2.0 site links, but anything else?


Yes Spencer you are hands down the best teacher around for building a niche site right now. The detail and thought you put into your posts are perfect.
My site took a 75% hit as well, but it did something funny on the way down. I have 10 articles on the site, and around 7 of them were ranking on the first page for their target keyword.
But either right above them or below in the rankings was my site’s homepage.
So i was ranking twice for some keywords! Great right? Nope.
Then they both dropped out of the top ten dramatically, and as of today they are bouncing around a lot. I didnt have any shady backlinks that i know of.
Was this the penguin update?
This happen to anyone else?

Stew @ NinjaGorilla


If its the site you have in your link then a quick look in Majestic shows:

a) One anchor text accounts for over 25% of your total anchor texts – this should be much lower
b) Your links look low authority (the ones I can see anyway) – trying adding more high PA/PR links

Just some thoughts.


Wow ok thanks.. I was wondering about that too. I thought maybe I had all the links pointing to my home page which would make it outrank the articles.

Scott Henson


Thanks for sharing this with everyone. It really shows you have character when you post the results when things do not go so well.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months.

– Scott


Hi spencer…i know this isn’t related to this particular post but i thought it was a good idea to comment on your LATEST post.

anyway…my question is…is it allowed to display RSS feeds from a news website on an Amazon affiliate website (such as yours)?

Spencer Haws

Sure, I can’t see why not.


Thanks for the reply.

I was thinking that having a couple of posts on the blog that display up-to-date RSS feeds that are keyword-rich might signal to the search engines thst the site has constantly updated fresh content.

What do you think Spencer?

Anyone else on here tried that?


I’m still surprised that you’re willing to have SkimLinks on the site for less than $3 a month. I would drop them immediately. It’s a net liability IMO.

Spencer Haws

Yep, it was an experiment to start, will probably take it down. The weird thing is that the skimlinks show up on VERY few pages. So, its essentially as though the links aren’t there anyway, as no one sees them. So, I don’t think its hurting my amazon sales. But its not helping much either.

neck problem

Whatever,you have earned a lot of money.


Hey Spencer,

If you’re planning to remove Skimlinks, don’t you think it’s a good idea to try some other monetization method?

Obviously, Adsense is a no-no but why aren’t you exploring CPA? I’m sure there must be some sort of CPA campaigns for this niche

Spencer Haws

If you find me a good CPA offer, I’ll try it. (I don’t suspect there are many or else other sites would be doing it).

James T

Great work man. This niche stuff is like what don Rumsfeld or that dick Cheney said about the war- a long hard slog. 3.8 grand for the year almost. I’m a stay at home dad and my wife brings home this kinda cash each day. Not sure if my efforts are even worth it anymore. Still I find it interesting. Try to find a suga manna, I highly recommend it!


Awesome job Spencer. My site is on page two and so far i’ve made $1.86 on Amazon. Nowhere near what you are making. Hopefully since this is a holiday based niche next month will make more. Anyway keep up the good work and keep the info coming!

Steve - Texfly

That’s a pretty scummy tactic negatively SEO’ing your site Spencer.

I’d imagine, even if you did something about it (i.e. 301, disavow etc) they would just build many more links to it – and you’d end up going around in circles with these clowns.

It sure is a bind, and I hope you find out a solution to it.

Sarel Jan

Sorry to hear about the Penguin hit, I know how you feel. It’s great to see you’re at least still profitable. I’m nearly up to $100 this month for my 1 and a half month old site, thanks to your advice.

Keep up the good work.


I was just researching for ideas of “niche web sites” so that I can try to make money on some niche things I would like to try to sell via niche web sites and came across this blog site that seems to be mainly a conversation between internet geniuses.
1: What the hell is “Google Panda 2.1” and
2: What the hell is “Negative SEO”.
I thought that Google had tools to help (whether paid or not) and not to crush some one’s web site.

Stew @ NinjaGorilla

Just on the subject of negative SEO. During my keyword research into “Amazon” products I came across a lot (all) of sites in the Top10 rankings that have recently been negatively SEO with 1000s of “buy viagra” type links.

So I looked into it a little bit more. I checked the backlinks of all the sites in the Top 20 that were optimised for a particular product keyword (title,keyword, etc) and all sites had recent negative SEO activity, apart from one. That particular site also had links from a PBN. So someone clearly knew what they were doing.

I might be jumping to assumptions but it looked a bit suspicious. Why would only one site in Top 20 not get targeted….hmmm.

So I have a question: anyway to protect yourself from negative SEO (guess not!)


Spencer Haws

Negative SEO is very uncommon; most sites will never have to worry about this. Otherwise, use the disavow tool – that’s what it is for.


It’ll be interesting to see how that link report plays out and what type of information you will be able to get from it.

Also, I’m interested in how you are going to with the domain after you get the report.


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