Everything seemed so perfect. Sitting at the #1 spot in Google, my niche site was earning an average of $66 per day. On it’s most profitable day, Niche Site #1 actually earned over $138!
That all changed on August 25th. I was sitting at the airport, waiting by the gate for my flight home. Bored of waiting, I loaded up my AdSense account on my phone to see how much I’d earned for the day.
Earnings for the day: $8… What!?
After hitting #1 in Google for my primary keyword, I’d never earned less than $20 in a single day. Something went wrong!
I quickly did a google search for my main keyword and saw the problem. I was nowhere on the first page of Google! Niche Site #1 plummeted from the #1 spot all the way to the second page in a single day!
Did I get a Google penalty? Was there a new algorithm update? Is someone attacking me with negative SEO?
I had no clue. But when I finally got home, I raced to my laptop to figure out what had happened.
How to Find the Cause of a Drop in Google Ranking
First, I checked if there were any algorithm updates to Google. Any new Pandas, Penguins, or Peacocks or whatever that I didn’t know about. But a quick check of Matt Cutts twitter and various SEO blogs didn’t mention anything about an update.
Then, I logged in to Google Webmaster tools. Usually, Google will leave some type of message if they penalize your site. But my inbox was empty. Okay, no algorithm update. No penalty. It has to be my backlink profile.
When I checked my backlinks in MajesticSEO, I saw a big problem. MajesticSEO lists your most powerful backlinks first. And most of my top listed backlinks had been recently deleted.
Even my Citation Flow and Trust Flow were lower than last month.
So now I know what caused the ranking drop. I lost some of my best links.
But why did I lose them?
Most of the deleted links all came from a single high PR blog. In fact, these links all came from just one comment I made on it. My guess is that because of some widgets they have on the blog, the link from my comment showed up on multiple pages, giving the illusion of multiple backlinks from a high PR site.
Once new comments came in, my comment vanished from the widget, removing my high PR links from multiple pages at once.
Clearly, my backlinking foundation was built on unstable ground, and I need to learn from that mistake.
Depending on a Weak Backlink Profile
My backlink metrics were always weak compared to my competition. And I knew this. Citation Flow of 25 and Trust Flow of 12 is not that impressive. Even its Page Authority was weak compared to the top 10 in Google for my niche.
But I got cocky. Sending over just a few links from my PBN(Private Blog Network) and leaving one do-follow comment on a high PR blog put me in the #1 spot for a few weeks, and I foolishly believed that I had won the war and conquered my niche.
I’m not an exception to the rule. To improve and maintain Google rankings, you need a steady flow of link juice over time. Further, the links you build need to be sticky. High PR blog comments surely didn’t hurt me. But they inflated my rankings for a bit and gave me an illusion of stability. This kept me from building links when I should have, and I’m paying the price in lost revenue each day this month. From now on, when I create links, I plan to create links that stay for good.
My Gross Income Broke $2000 in August!
With all the doom and gloom of losing my ranking, it makes it seem like this month was nothing but bad news. But remember, Niche Site #1 lost its top spot in Google only in the last week of August, so my earnings for the month were still fantastic. Niche Site #1 earned over $1777.73 from AdSense and $493 from QuinStreet. That’s $2270.73 total!
Let’s take a look at my expenses this month:
(Disclaimer: Many of the following links are affiliate links. I earn a small commission if you make a purchase through them. So if you’ve found this report valuable, and wish to use my link then thanks in advance!)
- GoDaddy for New Domains and Privacy Registration: $47.56
- LongTailPro for Keyword Research: Recurring $12
- Fiverr for Various Tasks: $10
- NameCheap for Domain Registry w/ Privacy: $120.26
- oDesk for Articles and Content Editing: $95.55
- Private Domain Purchases: $300
- IXWebhosting a Second Account for More Expired Domain hosting: $190.80
Total Expenses: $776.17
August Net Profit: $1494.56
Cumulative Net Profit from Niche Site #1: $2364.57
As you can tell, my expenses in August were huge. You’ve probably noticed that the majority of these expenses were domain related: domain registrations, purchases, and hosting. And hey, big coincidence, they all came in the last week of August when I saw my Google rank plummet.
Could I be planning a come back?
Last month, I talked about my new process for building niche sites. The MVP Method.
The idea is to build small, simple sites to test how easy it is to rank for a niche before committing any more time to them.
The process is simple:
- Select a keyword with authority site potential and very low competition. This makes my keyword criteria extremely strict. Local monthly searches must be over 5000, and I need to feel confident that I can rank #1. I will not be satisfied with just being top 10.
- Publish a basic, 10 page site as soon as possible. No fancy logos. Just put up a site with content. We want to test the niche immediately.
- Send a small number of backlinks to the site, and see how the Google ranking moves.
- Expand only the sites that see significant change in Google rank from very few backlinks. They are big winners in a niche that I can dominate.
In August, each of my MVP sites, and my second niche site(Niche Site #2 built in July) received two backlinks from my PBN in addition to a few links from social profiles. In total, each of these sites received no more than 10 total links.
So how’d Niche Site #2 and my MVP sites rank with just 10 backlinks?
Here’s a screenshot of all of my money sites’ rankings as of 9/03:
Niche Site #1 is already appearing back on the first page. But even at #6, local search results push it down to the #10 spot on my phone and laptop. I really need to recapture the top spot to regain a significant amount of traffic back.
I’m very pleased with my MVP sites. It’s interesting that they’re already ranked in Bing. At the time of this picture, these sites had been live for three weeks, yet they’re already around the top 100 in Bing. It took Niche Site #1 several months and over a hundred backlinks before it even appeared in Bing.
I ran a ranking check for them again today, and I noticed that the MVP sites haven’t moved much in Google/Bing rankings, but now they’re also in the top 50 of Yahoo. Clearly, my keyword research is much improved, and all three of these sites look like potential winners. Their primary keywords all have local monthly searches over 12,000, and it seems like Bing and Yahoo are already warming up to them. Time to win over Google, too.
Meanwhile, Niche Site #2 hasn’t budged at all in any search engine. The reason is simple. Poor keyword research.
For Niche Site #2, created in July, I prioritized the niche and the monetization method before the keyword research, and I’m paying for it. A site makes no money unless it’s ranking in Google, so keyword research should be the priority. Despite the large time investment in Niche Site #2(it has over 60 pages of content), I don’t want to waste my time with uphill battles. My focus is on quick wins, so I’ve decided to abandon work on Niche Site #2 for the time being. The keyword is too competitive.
Given the promising start from my first batch of MVP sites, I’ve decided to build three more in September that we’ll call MVP Sites #4-#6. With all the lessons learned from August, I have plenty of ideas on how to improve in September.ht Way – Expanding My Private Blog Network
My expenses in August gave away my plan for September. My initial PBN was small. It had only 5-7 high PR sites, but that’s all I needed initially to rank Niche Site #1 in the top spot for my niche. But since the ranking drop, I know that 5-7 high PR links won’t cut it anymore. To consistenly strengthen Niche Site #1′s backlink profile, I need to take ownership of my links and expand my PBN network.
When my ranking dropped, I went on a crazy, expired domain buying spree. I’ve chosen to reinvest much of Niche Site #1′s profits to purchase over 30 more expired domains for my PBN. Once I have a proper PBN in place, I can take control of my backlinks for Niche Site #1 and all of my future money sites.
No more blog commenting. No more article directories. Going forward, the foundation of all of my money sites’ backlinks will be from my PBN.
Throughout the month, I’ll be developing my newly purchased domains and sending more links to Niche Site #1 to recapture the top rank in Google.
To link build my MVP sites, I’m still interested in finding the minimum number of links needed to test out a niche. Clearly, two is not enough, given the strength of my PBN. From now on, I’m starting all of my MVP sites with 6 links from my PBN.
That means MVP Sites #1-#3 need 4 more links this month, and my new MVP Sites #4-#6 will each need 6 new links. That’s 30 new posts to publish!
Building My Network of Writers
All these new sites and new posts means more writing. A lot more writing.
As such, I’m using the process I talked about last month to find more quality writers to work with me on a consistent basis. With the development of my PBN and MVP Sites #4-#6, I’ll need a minimum of 60 new articles this month. And since I plan to develop three new MVP sites every month, I’ll need a minimum of 48 new articles every month after that(30 articles for MVP sites’ content + 18 articles for backlinks).
I don’t feel it’s necessary to hire a VA to write content for me full-time(yet). But to complete 48 new articles at the start of every month, I should always have 4-5 writers ready to go. So this month, I’ll try to develop relationships with quality writers who will regularly work with me. As of now, I have only 1 writer who has the quality, consistency, and availability I’m looking for. Hopefully, I’ll find at least 1-2 more writers like her this month.
And for you, my dear readers…
Last month I posted a poll, asking you, the readers, to vote on a post that you most want to see. An Expired Domain guide was the clear winner:
Unfortunately, given my niche site crisis, I didn’t get to work on it at all.
Again, I’m still a full-time employee doing this on the side, and given my workload this month, I don’t see myself completing anything any time soon.
However, I can still show you the most comprehensive guide on Expired Domains yet.
Jon Haver has written the Ultimate Guide on Expired Domains. He’s covered everything you could ever want to know about expired domains:
- Where to buy expired domains
- How to find expired domains
- How to use them
- Where to host them, etc, etc.
All those questions are answered in his guide. It’s easily the best, public resource on the subject, and he’s showing it all for free. I’d highly recommend you check it out. Honestly, there’s no need for me to make my own when Jon has already done such a phenomenal job.
Still, I feel a bit bummed that Jon beat me to the punch on the expired domain guide, so if you have any questions about his methods, feel free to ask me below. I’ve adopted a lot of his methods to my process, and I know this stuff can get complicated.
Also, I’ve really enjoyed hearing everyone’s feedback the past couple months. It feels amazing to see other readers getting inspired, and I’m glad that these posts are pushing others to reach their goals.
So again, if you have any questions or comments, just put it in the comments below! I always reply to every single one!