Another random post by yours truly — the laziest blog poster online. Sorry, I’ve really let this blog go the past year. To be honest, I’ve created an alter ego writing articles on a different internet marketing blog the past while — so I suppose all the posts I should have put on this site have been going there. But once in a while, that old nostalgia comes back to me and I’ll throw something on this blog. This is one of those posts.
Google and Panda
To make money online, you need to keep evolving your strategies. I’ve learned this over the three years I’ve been doing this. If you don’t change your strategy, you are going to fail online. Sometimes, you need to radically shift the way of doing things.
I first started out gaming the search engines to make easy money. It was easy to spit out a bunch of crap and make some quick money. But that’s not really the case anymore (you can do it, but you’re sites don’t stick around for long). Gaming the SERPs has become harder and harder though, as the the years have gone by. In fact, I would posit that it’s in fact easier to just create solid websites that offer a lot of value to the searcher and spend time “networking” to build legit links. If you do it the right way (build a legit site, network for legit links, do proper online marketing as opposed to SEO trickery), your work will stick around and you can keep building on it. Eventually, you WILL make money.
The Panda updates have been a real nightmare for many webmasters, SEO’s, and internet marketers.
Let’s see, there’s been
- Panda 1 — VERY bad for UGC and Webmasters
- Panda 2 — BAD for smaller websites (longer tail searches)
- Panda 2.1 — More Bad for Webmasters
- Panda 2.2 — Bad again
- Panda 2.3 — Reports of webmasters regaining some of lost panda ranking (an actual positive change)
I think the average internet market has felt the effects of the Panda updates — some have been wiped out, some have been hurt only a little, and some a lot. A few have gained through the Pandas (and likely only those who have really built a solid foundation from the start). There have been a ton of legit sites penalized as well though, so I don’t want to say only good sites have made it through the Panda unscathed — there have been a lot of false positives hit by the Panda too.
Most of these Panda updates are perpetuating the Brandspam that we are all getting familiar with. Large brand names (Amazon, Wikipedia, etc) being given blind authority to rank for anything. It was bad before the Pandas but it’s worse now. Google assumes that Brand = Trust. To some degree, this may be accurate — brand names have more money and will throw more money into online marketing. The quality of the information/products *may* be higher. I would like to say Google will change this in the future, but I don’t see this going away. The solution for the little guy is to “brand” yourself as well. You don’t have to have to be a corporation or have a XXXXXX budget to create a brand. There are some things YOU, the small guy, can do to mimic the brand signals over time so Google things YOU are a brand too. Mind you, it takes time. Perhaps I’ll have a post about this in the future.
My whole theory on all the Panda updates is that the early panda’s went after sites that were dominating the single and two word keywords (the mega traffic terms), while some of the later Panda updated targeted the longer tail rankings (which is why some smaller sites/mini sites, were effected since these types of sites usually target longer tails).
Here’s the bottom line with Google: they are not your friend, especially if you are making your sole income. What’s best for Google is not always best for webmasters. If you want to play this game called Making Money Online, you’ve got to work within those constraints.
The Death of The Informational Site?
Informational types sites, I believe, have a shelf-life. Or at least, the usual small niche sites you see peppering the web have a shelf life. Smallish sites making money from adsense/hawking affiliate products might be make something now, but in 3 years, in 5 years, in 10 years? I think not. The direction of Search seems to be favoring Brands and large scale sites, and expert niche sites. Small sites are getting pushed out.
My feeling is that you have to go big or go home now. You are either going to be an Ant or an Elephant but not in between. And it’s the ants that get crushed by the elephants.
Sorry, the 20 page site that you update three times a year won’t be outranking a dedicated niche-authority sites with daily (insightful) posts. And as we move forward the next few years, it’s GOING to take an niche site that offers the best information online, frequent updates, tons of real articles about the topic, and an active community who end up ranking on the front page for that niche term. That’s the direction we are going. If you are going to make an information site, it’s got to be big, it’s got to offer real value, and it needs to be maintained.
Affiliate Only Sites = No NO
I’ve noticed there seems to be a bit of a craze with some people who have been switching from Adsense mini sites to Amazon mini sites; the reason being, that Adsense is more dangerous and unstable than Amazon. Yes, having Amazon ONLY sites is safer than having adsense because you are not on the “map” as much to Google. But that doesn’t mean you are safe — either form one of the thousands of outsourced Indians working for Google who manually inspect websites. You are also not safe from the various big search updates that come along seemingly every month or two now. They WILL/ARE weeding out affiliate sites from the index.
Because of this, I feel that really pushing the heavy affiliate site model is NOT the way to make a stable income online. You might make an income, now, (perhaps a LOT of income) but chances are you won’t be keeping that income in the future.
Case in point. I had an affiliate site ranking for a single keyword health term. The site was getting about 1500 uniques per day. Two days ago, Google dedindexed the site out of the blue. I had about 30 posts on the site. The theme was pretty plain (I would even say, a bit ugly and certainly not very pretty). The information was great, the posts were huge (5000 word ones), but I was VERY aggressive with affiliate links through the posts and site. Looks like one of my competitors reported the site (you get that if you start ranking high for competative single work terms) or Google manually inspects sites ranking for competitive terms to make sure they qualify for that position. Whatever the case, it was deindexed. I now have to change the theme, strip out all the affiliate links and sales stuff, add a few more posts, and beg google for a re-inclusion with a sob story.
That might scare some of you people who make money tricking the search engines, small posts ONLY to hawk affiliate products, and create (fugly) blogs with the sole purpose of funneling as many clicks to Amazon, but this sort of model is NOT the way to make a long term income. Ask yourself this: does my sites provide real value to the searcher or is it simply a funnel to some affiliate product. If the answer is the later, your site might not be sticking around for the long term. YOU WILL LOSE YOUR SITE EVENTUALLY. I’m not just speaking out of my ass here either — it’s happened to me multiple times.
I’m not saying don’t throw on affiliate links on your site or don’t make a site with no intention of making money. We all want to make money. But if you are going to go the affiliate route, you need to REALLY strike a fine balance between affiliate hawking and legit content. To keep an affiliate site that getting a good amount of traffic in the index/ranking, you are going to have to offer EXTRA good content and have a LOT of content that’s DOES NOT CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS.
Google (rightly) views affiliate/review sites with a lot of suspicion because:
1. Affiliate sites often create one more level between the searcher and the product they are looking for anyways
2. Affiliate sites usually don’t provide real information (it’s biased — all focused on getting a click or sale)
If you are going to go the route of an all out “affiliate” site, you may be better off just creating an eCommerce store directly — certainly this seems to be what Google prefers anyways. Ecommerce sites are legit service-based sites. Affiliate sites are parasites (according to google).
Some food for thought anyways.
The key is VALUE right now. The web is very quickly mirroring the real world. The name of the game is NOT SEO, but good marketing. If you can market creatively both online and offline, you can attract interest, visitors, links, and ultimately, money. The new approach is to set up a REAL business online. Sell products directly (not affiliate marketing) offering something that your competition does not or set yourself up as a market/niche expert. For some of you who have some solid sites up and running and have used your time to test out markets, you are in a good position to set up a real business online. Others who are churning out crap and spamming automated links in order to rank — you won’t be around for long. My recommendation is to approach creating a website like you would setting up a real world online business. If your approach is to set up a wordpress blog, outsource 10 articles from the Philippines, run some Article Marketing program, comment spam, and profile spam, you won’t be making any real money in this game anymore.
Do backlinks matter? Of course they do! I really don’t see any way around the backlink issue — they will always be the most relevant (and important) ranking factor. But social factors are going to be a big part of ranking in the future. The quality of the backlinks will be even more important. It’s been getting harder and harder to game google with automated links and this is no doubt only going to become harder in the future as the search engines get smarter and smarter. Having a “clean” backlink profile will become even more important that it is. Why build your empire on sand — and building crappy links IS building your empire on sand.
One issue with gaming the serps is that if you do manage to game your way to the top for some competitive keywords, your competition won’t have any qualms about going through your backlink profile and reporting anything suspicious to the Google spam team. At that point, it’s only a matter of time before your site either gets penalized or deindexed. This had actually happened to me a few times.
I’m about a week away from leaving Canada and moving abroad. I’ve been talking about this for a while, but it’s finally going to happen. I’ll be living in Thailand and Bali and making various forays through South East Asia, Nepal, and Tibet over the next year or two. Yes, I will still be working online while traveling.
For those who are interested, I’ll send a link to my personal landscape photography site so you can keep track of my pictures/journey. No doubt I’ll pop on this blog once in a while when the (rare) mood strikes me.
Work hard guys and make money online.