The time has come to finally write the final chapter of Niche Site Project 1 and 2. As you may know, both of these projects were public projects where I built a website from scratch and shared the results and everything here on NichePursuits.com.
The first Niche Site Project began at the beginning of 2013; shortly after the big Panda and Penguin Google updates. During this project I built the site BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com (no longer an active site).
I was able to quickly get the site ranked #1 in Google for the term “best survival knife” and was making over $800 a month.
The second Niche Site Project began mid-2013, and was also a huge success. I actually chose a Niche Pursuits reader (Perrin) to be my student and I coached him through the process of building a niche site from scratch.
We built the site aPennyShaved.com. This site quickly ranked #1 in Google for the term “best safety razor” (and many others). At it's peak, the site was earning about $4,000 a month!
However, if you have been reading along with these niche site projects, you know that there have been some bumps in the road and the sites did not stay at their peak earnings. Even though I have written posts that explained what happened to both sites, I think it's time to finalize both projects.
So, keep reading to discover the conclusion of both Niche Site Projects.
What Happened to Niche Site Project 1: BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com?
I am going to do my best to provide a quick recap on a project that started almost 3 years ago.
Early on in the project, I noticed that there were links being built to my site that I did not build or request to be built. I feared that my site was being targeted by negative SEO.
Try as I might, there was nothing that I could do from the spammy links that continued to pop up. The project moved on, and I was still able to hold onto my number one spot in Google for a number of months.
However, the dreaded day came when the negative SEO links pointing at my site finally took effect and my site started dropping in Google. The drop came on October 4th, 2013 when Google Penguin 2.1 was released. (This Google update was a links update…so it's pretty clear the the negative SEO links were finally recognized by Google and my site dropped).
However, just to confirm what was going on, I brought in a links expert to analyze the link profile of my Survival Knife site. Sure enough, he confirmed what I had suspected, my site had been penalized due to spammy links. That expert wrote a full guest post on his findings right here.
At this point, the case study was essentially over. However, I still put in lots of effort to try and recover the site.
I detailed a lot of my recovery efforts in this blog post. Here's what I tried in a nutshell:
- Disavowed all spammy links in webmaster tools
- Emailed as many websites I could that were linking to me with low quality links
- I saw no results from my above efforts, so I took the drastic step of moving to a brand new domain. I did not 301 redirect any of the links, I just moved the content.
- I thought I was starting to see a recovery; however, it was short lived and not permanent. The traffic continued to die to the site.
Selling the Content and Shutting it Down
Despite all my efforts for about a year trying to recover the site, I just could not get traffic back to the site. Rather than spend more time on a site that wasn't earning much money, I gave up on the project.
Because this was a public project, I would still get contacted by Niche Pursuits readers that were interested in what was going on. One reader had a site in a similar niche and asked if he could buy all the content from my site.
We a had a long discussion, and I was finally at a point where I was ready to just let go. As a result, I sold all the content on the site for $900 (I believe), and completely deindexed my site. The new owner of the content was able to take it and publish it on Google as though it was fresh (because I had deindexed the content previously from Google).
As a result, I no longer have a site in the survival knife niche and this project is officially over!
In total, I made about $6,000 from the site while it was up and running. More than the earnings though, I think the case study was quite valuable as it really did show step by step how anyone can build a niche site from scratch.
I faced some additional challenges because I ran the site so publicly, and that publicity eventually proved to be its downfall with all the negative SEO links.
So, that's it…Niche Site Project 1 is completely over…no more updates! 🙂
What Happened to Niche Site Project 2: aPennyShaved.com?
The first niche site project was such a fan favorite, that I decided to do a second project with a twist. In the second project, I wanted to coach someone else on building a niche site. I wanted to prove that we could start from scratch again and build another successful site.
After getting lots of feedback and opinions from Niche Pursuits readers, I finally picked Perrin Carrell as my student! (Perrin has since now become my full-time employee because I loved the work he did during the project).
The project went VERY well this time. The site aPennyShaved.com quickly ranked #1 in Google for one of our chosen keywords, “best safety razor”. However, we continued to do additional keyword research and content creation, and the site began ranking for thousands of different keywords.
By March 2014, the niche site project site was earning over $2,000 per month.
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This was more money than Perrin had every made (by far) from any of his sites. As a result, we started to get a little bit nervous about sharing everything so publicly. We stopped providing earnings updates after March, because we were kinda hoping people would “forget” about it. We were nervous about someone doing negative seo on the site like someone had done on BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com.
Even though we stopped sharing earnings reports, the site continued to grow in earnings…a lot.
In fact, at its peak in August 2014, the site made nearly $4,000 in one month! Perrin and I were doing lots of happy dances privately, and we hoped the gravy train would continue.
However, during the project we had jumped on the Private Blog Network bandwagon and that eventually proved to be our downfall. I wrote about this PBN update extensively, and swore off ever building another single PBN link. (And for the record I STILL have not built or even been tempted to build another PBN link).
That PBN penalty came crashing down on aPennyShaved.com just like so many other sites. Here is what the penalty looked like before and after on aPennyShaved.com:
At the end of the day, we shot ourselves in the foot with our own link building strategies. We did everything right in terms of keyword research, strategy, and content production; however, as soon as we tried to take the easy route by using PBNs the fun eventually ended.
Lesson learned…big time! As a result, Perrin and I have steered WAY clear of any type of link building strategies that could be considered against Google's terms of service.
Overall, the project was very successful in terms of earnings for Perrin. In fact, in 2014 alone, the site earned over $22,000 in Amazon revenue.
Obviously, the loss of income hit Perrin like a ton of bricks and he honestly went through a bit of depression. Luckily I pulled him back from the brink and got his head straight again. 🙂
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Perrin tried all sorts of recovery efforts including disavowing links, restructuring articles and affiliate links, removing affiliate links completely, and many other things. Despite his efforts, there has been no sign of recovery in over a year.
As a result, I'm calling the project officially over! I don't plan on making any additional updates on this project, unless by some miracle there is a turn of events.
However, you will be happy to know that Perrin was able to move on, build a new site, and that NEW site is already earning over $2,000 per month and is growing quite well. And obviously we did all this with no PBN links! (I talked about Perrin's new site briefly in this blog post here).
Overall, the project really was a huge success both in terms of earnings for Perrin and as a training ground for people trying to build their own niche sites. I've had TONS of people email me and tell me that as a result of this project they were able to start a site, rank in Google, and continue to earn good money from it.
Having said all that, the Niche Site Project 2 is now officially closed!
What About Niche Site Project 3?
Wait, what?! Is this an announcement??
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately and I think the time has finally come to do a Niche Site Project 3! I will be sharing more details in a couple of days, so stay tuned.
For now, I will simply say that the plan is indeed to do another public niche site project that we can all learn from.
The last niche site project effectively ended over a year ago, and so I think it's finally time to explore what has changed with website building. In fact, in the year since the last project, my team and I have been able to build a few successful websites…all without any “shady” links.
(And I recently sold 66% of my Authority Site Project site for $19,076. This is just evidence that we've been able to build a few valuable assets in the past year).
The long tail strategies that we employ are still very effective, and I think it's time to finally share those strategies more publicly.
Be on the lookout for a blog post very soon!