When I set out to start a public niche site project, I knew that it would have its ups and downs, but I could have never predicted what an exciting roller coaster ride it would be!
I started building this site around February this year, and shared several income reports in the past right here. Today I am going to share with you my income report for September, and it was a record earning month!
However, it also looks like during the first few days of October, Google rolled out Penguin 2.1 which has negatively affected my site. I'm going to dig into this, which is obviously a result of the negative SEO attacks that I have written about extensively, and discuss what I plan to do to get my rankings back.
So, just when we thought the excited part of this case study was over, we get to deal with another curve ball!
But first, let's dive into the earnings report for last month.
September 2013 Earnings for BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com
So, during the month of September, the site earned $797.16 from the Amazon Associates program! This is a record month, which I am thrilled about.
And just to make it better, I have a few dollars in earnings from Skimlinks.com to put me over the $800 mark!
So, my total earnings from BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com last month was:
- $797.16 from Amazon
- $6.97 from SkimLinks.com
- Total Earnings: $804.13! (Another Record Month)
I am extremely happy with the earnings from BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com. I've already made my initial investment back many times over, so any earnings from here on out just adds to my overall net profit. In fact, let take a look at the earnings since inception.
Earnings Since Inception
So, the past 3 months have been beyond my goal of $500 per month. And if you take a look at the cumulative earnings, you can see that the site has done very well since inception.
Since inception this site has had revenues of just over $3,500! My initial investment was about $700 and I now spend approximately $100 to $200 per month for new content. So, my net profit is close to $2,500 for this project…very cool!
I had a record month for the number of total items shipped this month. There was a total of 324 items shipped from Amazon, which actually put me into the 7.50% earnings tier! If I would have only shipped 320 items, my commission rate would have been 7%. So, those last few items were huge for my earnings!
Amazon Conversion Rate
The conversion rate was finally back up near 3%. I actually did not do anything different to increase this conversion rate, the layout of my site remained the same. So, I attribute this more to just fluctuations in who buys when; and I'm glad they bought in September!
Believe it or not, the overall number of unique visitors was down on the site by a little. My site remained at #1 in Google for the entire month of September; however, I guess just a few less people were searching for survival knifes last month.
As always, I wanted to also show how much traffic was coming from Long Tail keywords.
As you can see, the traffic from long tail keywords (according to Google Analytics) dropped significantly! However, if you have been paying attention to what's been going on with Google lately, you'll know exactly why this happened.
The traffic from my long tail keywords has NOT actually dropped. Its simply that Google is not reporting on individual keywords as much as they were. They are moving towards 100% secured search, which means more and more traffic is going to show up under “Not Provided” in Google Analytics. I wrote a post about Google's move to 100% not provided right here.
So, to confirm I saw that during August, my “not provided” keywords in Google Analytics was 63.53%. During September, that same “not provided” category had gone up to 79.46%! That's a significant jump up of 15.93%. I fully expect that number to continue inch closer to 100% not provided.
Obviously this doesn't mean that I'm really getting less traffic from long tail keywords, it just means Google isn't reporting it anymore.
In case you want to take a look at the raw numbers for the site, I've included this overall matrix with all the stats from BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com since it started.
A Penalty from Penguin 2.1 (Ouch!)
On October 4th, Google released Penguin version 2.1. This clearly had a direct impact on my site, BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com.
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My site went from ranking #1 in Google for the term “best survival knife” to around #16 for that term. As of today, it looks like I'm sitting at #13 in Google.
This has obviously also affected the traffic coming to the site. Here's a look at my recent traffic overall so far:
To me, the reason my site was penalized is crystal clear. Many of the links pointing to my site are spammy, and they finally no longer are passing the Google Penguin filters after this update. If you need a quick reminder of what Penguin is, see this post from Matt Cutts.
And to be clear, I didn't build any of these spammy links and didn't want them. I've written extensively about the fact that my site was targeted by Negative SEO, and apparently those negative efforts have finally done their damage.
I also wrote about the fact that I got an unnatural links warning in Google Webmaster Tools here. So, the fact that my site dropped in rankings isn't a surprise at all; I was concerned that it might happen due to these spammy links and I think have made that clear on my blog throughout the past few months.
How Can I Recover From Penguin 2.1?
Penguin is an automated penalty, not a manual penalty. So, if I can change whatever triggered the Google algorithm, then I can recover my rankings automatically as well. In other words, I don't need to submit a reconsideration request to recover my rankings. I just need to make the Google formula happy again.
So, if my theory that my site was hit by the Penguin 2.1 penalty due to all the negative SEO links is true, then I should be able to recover by getting rid of those spammy links. Lets take a look again at all the links that I didn't want or ask for that have been built to my site over the past few months. Here's a screenshot from Ahrefs.com:
You can clearly see where someone (not me!) starting building a ton of links to my site around the beginning of April, then you can see another spike in links (again not from me!) near the beginning of September. Clearly whoever has been targeting my site wanted to give it a second shot…and apparently the Penguin 2.1 filters saw all the spam and penalized my site. Makes perfect sense to me.
In addition, I always caution against using your keyword anchor text in links, so if I had built these links to my site, I wouldn't have been using “best survival knife” over 90% of the time. Its a sure way to get penalized:
Even though Ahrefs shows that I have some crazy amount of links (18k), they are all coming from 297 referring domains. So, the best way for me to recover is to try and get the links removed from the spammy domains. So, here's my plan of action:
- Download all the links that are showing in my Google Webmaster Tools.
- Try to reach out by email and contact the webmasters of these sites and ask to have my links removed. If I do enough digging, maybe I can find the person or service that created these links and have them all removed at once.
- If step 2 doesn't work, then I will use the disavow links tool in Google Webmaster Tools.
- Watch my site climb back up the ranks (hopefully!)
Overall and Your Thoughts
I'm very happy with the way my site performed during the month of September! A record month and over $800 in earnings is nothing to pass over lightly.
However, I'm also bummed, but not necessarily surprised that my site was hit by the Google Penguin 2.1. Clearly this was caused by someone else building links to my site with heavy keyword anchor text. I'm going to be doing all that I can to get the site recovered, so be ready for another update in a few weeks.
The silver lining is that perhaps this case study just got a bit more exciting than it was before!
I would love to hear you thoughts or comments in regards to my monthly earnings and the penalty. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below. Thanks!