Current State of Google – Niche Sites vs Blogs

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The Current State of Google - Niche Sites vs Blogs
This is not a picture of me

Have you been paying attention to the state of Google? Which way is the wind blowing today? Which types of sites is Google giving precedence to? What should I be doing to get my site to rank highly in Google? Why was my site ranking highly yesterday and it completely fell off the radar today? What did I do wrong or right? What the hell is Google doing? What are they going to do next? Does anybody know?

Most of these questions are great mysteries. SEO geeks are constantly trying to solve them and sometimes they do… for that day. And then it all changes again. The trick to keeping up with Google and all of their changes is to stay on top of the game and try to keep up to date as much as possible. Read the SEO blogs. Keep up with current case studies done by others. Figure out what used to work, what is working now, and what appears might work well into the future.

I always think that I have it figured out – and then I find out that I don’t. I’ve been a blogger, a blog-quitter, a niche site creator, and a niche site quitter. I’ve attempted an authority site, then quit it. I went back to niche sites. I’m in the middle of building an authoritative niche site. But thanks to this recent post on Niche Pursuits, I’ve realized I made a crucial mistake in choosing my niche. At least I still have this blog – Dumb Passive Income – which has remained constant. Which leaves me with a question and kind of a dilemma in what I should be doing going forward. Should I be creating niche sites or focusing on a blog or blogs? What is the best option to help me reach my goal of earning $1,000 per month by the end of 2013?

Is “Free” Traffic from Google the Goal?

I put the word free in quotations because it really is a relative term. Google traffic might be free in terms of you’re not paying money for it. But, you are spending time to learn and implement proper SEO strategies. We all know that time is money. Especially for the person who works at a day job and trades their time each week for a predetermined amount of money, whether it be hourly or salary.

My ultimate goal with this blog and with everything else I do online is to get away from that model. I’m tired of trading time for money. I want to be able to put in work now to create things that will earn me income well into the future. This is what is known as passive income. Can I do this without Google? Probably. Will it be easy? No. Should I be focusing on other means of driving traffic to my sites? Maybe.

In my 2 years of experience with blogging and creating websites, I’ve realized that traffic from Google can be very lucrative. I am not an expert at getting it and keeping it – but I have had some success in the past. I’ve also had a little bit of success with traffic from social media interaction and blog commenting. I’ve figured out that a lot of traffic doesn’t necessarily translate into a lot of money. Social media and referral traffic from other sites are typically people clicking through just out of curiosity. Search traffic from Google is people looking for answers. Providing answers to specific search queries is key – and that is where the money is at.

So – to answer the question – yes, “free” traffic from Google is absolutely the goal. Now the trick is to figure out what will work long term when optimizing for Google search engine traffic. Long term with Google!? Is there such a thing?

The Current State of Google Sucks!

Currently, Google seems to be putting an insanely ridiculous amount of emphasis on freshness. Whether it be content freshness or site freshness, I don’t really know. Glen from Viperchill.com somewhat recently posted the following epic article on this topic: Revealed: The New SEO (When Google Takes Freshness Too Far). The article is a real eye-opener and gained a LOT of attention around the interwebs. In it, he reveals some very specific examples of how horrible the current Google search results actually are. Note: the article was published near the end of July, 2013

Around the time that Glen published that article, I had already been seeing some strange fluctuations in some of the search results for keywords that I was targeting with some of my sites. I’m going to lay it all out right now and reveal one of my niche sites that I previously kept secret. This will be kind of like a follow-up to the post on ViperChill – using my own personal experience as proof.

Question to ponder: Is this content freshness thing a long-term trend that Google plans to stick with?

The Success then Failure of My Very First Niche Site

Springtime of 2012 was when I quit my old personal finance blog and started this one. The plan was to learn how to build niche websites and to document everything on this blog. I was still completely clueless as far as how to do proper keyword research, but I was on the hunt to find a niche to build a site around. Around this time, my mom was having an ant invasion problem in her home. She had heard of some kind of homemade ant killer that was effective and asked me to look it up for her (she doesn’t have a computer or internet). I discovered a simple recipe that uses borax to kill ants. I also discovered a niche that had a whole bunch of crappy sites dominating the search results! I did some simple keyword research using the free Adwords tool provided by Google and I found my keyword – borax ant killer!

At the time, exact match domains still got a huge boost in the search engines – and this one was available as a .com! In a very short period of time, I produced 4 pages of content and boraxantkiller.com was up and running. In less than 30 days, it reached the #1 ranking in Google with zero backlinking efforts by me! The site earned around $10 to $15 per month during that summer, then died off and earned almost nothing until the spring of 2013. Apparently, people don’t have ant problems during the winter – duh. It maintained the #1 spot in Google though for almost that entire time. Note: Being an exact match domain, the site did lose it’s rankings right after the EMD update, but slowly made its way back to #1 after only a few weeks.

Fast forward to spring of 2013 – I added a few more pages of content, installed a much better theme (Niche Website Theme) and added a header graphic. I started to make some pretty good money with this site considering the low number of searches that the main keyword gets. From April 1st, 2013 until today (Sep. 20th) the site has earned a little over $270 with Adsense. I guess the site isn’t a total failure. It is still earning a small amount, despite completely losing its ranking for the main keyword.

The current top 10 results in Google for the search term borax ant killer are really quite terrible. Instead of taking a bunch of screenshots and writing out all of my thoughts, I actually recorded a short video which shows it all. Check it out on YouTube here or watch the embedded video below.

One point I forgot to mention in the video was the freshness factor for the top results in Google. It is non-existant! None of those blog posts in the top 4 could even be remotely considered recent.

  • Spot #1 – published March 8, 2012 – over 1 year old
  • Spot #2 – date not shown – first comment 2 years ago – over 2 years old
  • Spot #4 – the terrible blogspot blog – published July 11, 2010 – over 3 years old

I think the main lesson I’ve learned here is that I should quit wasting my money on hosting and buying domains and just create all of my niche sites on blogger.com using free .blogspot addresses. Heck, they come with instant domain authority of 95!

Building Niche Sites vs Creating Blogs

I’m actually not so certain that this has to be a choice. It isn’t that you or I have to choose one or the other. We can do both – and I don’t mean separately. It appears that bloggers currently have an [unfair] advantage as far as ranking in Google. But I think that we can still build out niche sites on very specific topics and built around very specific keywords. Perhaps we could do so, but treat them more like blogs. This was a revelation I had about a year ago when I started this little thing I called The Niche Blog Project. It didn’t work out the way I had hoped. The keyword was WAY too competitive – but I think I had the right idea.

I still have a couple of smaller niche sites that I’ve created fairly recently that haven’t totally fallen off the Google cliff of search results. I didn’t plan to do much else with them except let them age and maybe add some backlinks here and there. Perhaps I should go back to those and make them look more bloggy and keep pumping some fresh content through them. That seems to be what Google wants. But then again, those niche sites don’t exactly have Page Authority or Domain Authority yet.

Perhaps the next best plan is to build out sites on expired domains. That seems to be all the rage lately – buying expired domains. With the evidence I’ve shown in my video above, this might actually be the perfect plan. The trick here would be to find an expired domain that is free to register and that has existing authority – plus you would have to find a relevant niche that passes all of your keyword research criteria. If you could do all that, I think you would be golden and could build a site that would rank quickly in Google’s current state.

What Am I Doing?

As for me, I’ve got about 15 unfinished projects and I constantly change my focus based on which way the wind is blowing. Yesterday, I was determined to stick with the large niche site I was working on for the remainder of the year. Today I’m not sure. Tomorrow I might be sure. Who knows. I know I’ll at least be doing something! Given my recent discoveries on the current trends, I’m thinking these are my options:

  • go back to my original Niche Blog project (payoffcreditcard.net) and change the entire site and start posting a TON of outsourced content
  • start a new Niche Blog project – starting from square one with brand new keyword research
  • build out one or more of my smaller niche sites into larger more authoritative sites with a bloggy feel
  • do none of this and only blog on Dumb Passive Income and hope that people think I’m credible

Okay – I’m about done rambling here. Much of what I’ve written above is just what is going through my head lately as I STILL try to figure out exactly how I am going to get rich on the internet. 😉

What are your thoughts on any of the analysis I’ve featured here? What direction are you going with your online business?

Remember that there are several dumb ways to create passive income online, but only one site that is blogging about it! Dumb Passive Income… dot com.

-Matt

References

Image: “oh no, here come the Bloggers” from Flickr by Brett L.