April 17, 2015

Niche Marketing: Will the Latest Google Update “Clobber” Micro-Niche Blogs?

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I am interrupting the planned sequence of my series on Niche Blogging to discuss the latest Google Update that is causing some consternation among some online marketers who own niche blogs.

None of the blogs I follow have published anything about this yet – which gives me some encouragement because, with two new niches under development, I had already decided NOT to go into panic mode, stay calm, continue the development and wait and see how things go.

For those of you who may be wondering what I am talking about, here’s a blog post that has caused discussion in my networking groups on Facebook:  Google Takes Aim at Exact Match Domains (EMDs).

An EMD is one that you will have keyword researched and set up with the sole intention of trying to dominate the market with that keyword.

Writing Online is actually an exact match domain as this keyword was researched before we bought the domain and set up the site. However, we are not panicking on here, neither are we panicking about our own individual micro-niche sites being penalized by Google.

Why are we not panicking?

For the simple reason that this site is full of original content and the ratio of content versus adverts and product links is extremely high.

It is the same with our individual blogs. Although we have blogs that have been set up for the sole purpose of making sales, those blogs have a good proportion of  original content in relation to the number of products appearing on each post.

As far as I can tell, this latest change to the Google Algorithm is simply part of the evolution that has been going on since I first started writing online. In 2008, the “gurus” tended to advise that if you were setting up a micro-niche blog, all it needed was 10 posts, featuring strong keywords plus a good number of backlinks and that would be enough to get traffic and make sales.

A couple of years ago that number was revised to 30.

Then we saw the value of having huge numbers of backlinks reduced – Google had woken up to the fact that people were “gaming” by paying for hundreds of backlinks that were not necessarily actually relevant to the content being published.

Now on some sites we are seeing content indexed fast and sales made from content that has no backlinks and has only been published for a few days.

Google insists that only low quality sites will be hit by this. However, as we know from past experience, with any change that Google introduces, which involves sites being penalized, there’s going to be some innocent Bystanders caught up in the cross-fire.

We believe that by “low quality” sites, Google is looking at sites that are full of sales items but very little content. Pages full of Amazon Sales Widgets, which of course do not have a full product description. You have to write those yourself.

It seems to us that providing you have a good amount of original content to accompany those products, then you may well be OK. Currently, we are ensuring that for each post on our Micro-Niche Blogs we have at least 500 words of original content. This is made up of a proper introduction to the post (remember one sentence does NOT constitue a paragraph!!) plus original descriptions of each product.

You have to hope you won’t be one of the innocent bystanders, but if you do see a drop in traffic then I suggest you try to contain your anxiety and wait and see what happens – if you really are innocent, then you may recover if you give it time. Google is constantly tweaking its algorithm, so hang on in there.

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Niche Marketing: Niche Blogging

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So far in this series on Niche Marketing, we have looked at establishing niches on free Publishing Platforms, like Wizzley, Hubpages and Squidoo and before we move onto Niche Blogging, let’s just remind ourselves why we can become successful fairly quickly on these sites.

Our success will depend on having a basic understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the crucial factors in optimizing pages for the Search Engines are:

1) Keyword research

2) Publishing quality, original content

3) Some quality, relevant backlinks – although large numbers is becoming less important

Given an understanding on how to get traffic, publishing on a site like Squidoo gives you the extra “edge”. Google likes Squidoo and Squidoo pages get a boost from Google as a result. Hubpages used to enjoy the same preferential treatment until Panda waddled over the horizon – but that’s another story as we watch Hubpages slowly recover!

And because we know how to get traffic and convert to sales on Squidoo or other free sites, some of us have stayed within our comfort zones and become pretty reliant on those sites. This is not wise, because relying on a site that you do not own makes you vulnerable and this is why we need to think about spreading our content around and why niche blogging is something I personally feel everyone should consider, particularly if you rely on the income you generate online.

Owning sites gives US more control over our online lives. It makes us less vulnerable to changes over which we have no control.

Niche blogging may not reap the same rewards as quickly as publishing in a niche on the free platforms, but done properly you have the potential to build a solid income stream that will start to show results in the medium and longer term.

One of the reasons why it takes longer to establish a good stream of traffic that then converts to sales is that your Niche Blog will not start with the same authority as the pages you publish on the free platforms. You will have to patiently build authority for your niche blog and give it time. Google seems to like sites that have been around for awhile and that are regularly updated, so don’t give up!

And you can use the free platforms to help you build authority for your blog – I will discuss this in a future article.

How to Build a Niche Blog

As with any content you publish, you need to prepare before you publish a single word. And the process for building a Niche Blog is the same as with publishing a page on a free platform. Yes, you do your Keyword Research.

Assuming you already know the specific topic of your blog, you need this keyword research to:

1) Choose a URL

2) Choose a Blog Title

3) Choose a Sub-heading

4) Choose the headings for your articles – try to find enough keywords for 10 articles to start with and then be prepared to do additional keyword research every so often

Once you have the keywords for the URL and Title, then you need to go and buy your domain, which will be the topic for my next article.

In the meantime, you may find these articles useful:

How I Learned To Do Keyword Research

Build It And They Will Come – Not!

How Do I Decide What To Write About

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Writing for Profit: Is It Time To Break Free?

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In a few days time I will have been using Squidoo for six years! It’s amazing to think that when I first started, my intention was simply to promote my genealogy websites and a small community that I had built. Today I am generating a not unreasonable amount of income from working in a variety of niches. But I have also spread my wings and am generating more income from my own sites.

I was asked to write an article about how I had gone about doing that and in particular about something which has enabled me to really spread my wings beyond Amazon.

It’s quite easy to get caught up building more and more pages at the free sites that are available to those of us writing online. As a way of creating an income through affiliate marketing they make things very easy for us.

Many people will be familiar with affiliate marketing sites such as Commission Junction where you are able to promote products from many companies and earn money from doing so. But you are still building someone else’s website aren’t you? We are all familiar with the problems that can create in the longer term. Not least of course is that the owners may decide to close the site, or they can lock your pages and cut off your source of income or many of the other issues that can occur when you do not own the site.

So what do you need to do? How can you start to create your own income stream which is not reliant on someone else? Over the last year this is something that I have been asked about more and more as people have become aware that this is something I have been doing.

Let me be very clear before you read any further. There are costs associated with creating your own web properties, whether that be domain names and hosting; plugins for blogs that automate processes or having content created. Some of those costs you can reduce by taking on the work yourself (content generation as an example) but some of those costs you cannot avoid. So if you are looking to increase your earnings from outside from free to use sites such as Squidoo, Hubpages, Zujava, Wizzley and other platforms, you have to accept that there are expenses involved. However, please do note that you should never spend money that you cannot afford to lose.

Throughout 2011 my focus was on building up a set of sites which generated income from Amazon. In large part this was because I was familiar with them through Squidoo and other free to use sites. That has worked and I am now seeing the amount I earn from Amazon on my own account exceeding the monies I earn from Squidoo each month.

However, something that has really got me excited during 2012 is building sites which promote products from Affiliate Programmes which pay higher commissions. Namely those that we ordinarily find on Commission Junction, ShareASale and the like. Whereas I get 7.5% at Amazon many of the programmes within CJ etc pay circa 30% per sale or above.

Initially creating these sort of sites was laborious to put it mildly and then I had a brainwave! I had been using a site some years ago quite successfully which I stopped using for various reasons which had nothing to do with the site itself. A site which enables you to generate affiliate product stores using a WP Plugin.

So I went back and took another look and was impressed with the way they had improved the offering and rather than providing specific sites each month, as they used to, they had made it so that you could now create an affiliate store populated with products from Merchants you are affiliated with!

Bingo! I subscribed to the 5 sites per month option and I am really very happy.

Rather than me trying to explain how the site works why not take a look at Datafeedr and see what you think? Is it time for you to break free and build an income for yourself?

I know some people prefer watching videos to reading about things so if that’s you take a look at the video tutorial that Datafeedr offers. One of the things that strikes me about their videos is how comprehensive they are and how you are literally taken step by step through the process of creating your own affiliate marketing websites.

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Building a Microniche Blog – 5: Points to remember about Link Wheels

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When building Link Wheels as part of your SEO Strategy, always keep these points in mind:

The links on the outer rim of the Link Wheel should be from quality sites with a good Google page rank
Examples: Hubpages, Squidoo, Tumblr, EZine, Zimbio – this will help establish quality backlinks.

All Links should travel in one direction on the Link Wheel – either clockwise or anti-clockwise, it does not matter.

Set up a Google Alert for key phrases
I have a Google Alert for Year of the Tiger Tattoos, which frequently helps me find topics to blog about, including: Free Tony the Tiger,

DO NOT be tempted to use commercial software to “spin” articles quickly
Google is looking for honest and quality content. You should write all your own articles and ensure they are in your own writing style

Leave genuine and relevant comments on other sites
When looking for sites that are relevant to your blog, be genuine in the comments and only leave related links. Make wekll thought out comments that show you have actually read the blog post and that you are not just there to link drop.

However, none of this is going to work very well if you have not optimised your Blog properly. This includes keyword research BEFORE you decide on the URL, Blog Title and to some extent the Blog Content.

Further Reading:

Building a Microniche Blog – 4: My First Link Wheel


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Building a Microniche Blog – 4: My First Link Wheel

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In previous posts I explained how I started to set up a Link Wheel as part of my SEO Strategy to promote a new micro-niche blog.

I made a diagram of my first Link Wheel and it was very proud of what I accomplished in just nine days – from setting up and personalising a blog from scratch to all the links I managed to establish. I guess I could have done it even quicker if I could have suppressed the designer and artist in me (and yeh, the perfectionist!) and just started up the Year of the Tiger Tattoos Blog using a ready made template, without doing any customization!

However, the very first version of the blog was set up using the Constructor theme and while I was very pleased with the results, it turned out to be very unstable any time I wanted to edit the design. So when I moved the blog I reluctantly decided to use a different theme.

This is what my Link Wheel looked like:


Link Wheel

Having completed the Link Wheel, my job was not finished and I made a list of the other tasks that needed doing:

  • Set up an Amazon and other affiliate widgets in the sidebar
  • Schedule two new posts each week
  • revive my Blogger blog to establish backlinks
  • establish “clusters” to ensure that each site in the “rim” has some good backlinks

“Clusters” are like mini Link Wheels set up around the sites in the rim of the Link Wheel.

The trick for not running out of ideas for new blog posts is to make sure to use very specific topics within the niche. My original four posts were very “general” and there are many topics that I can post about, e.g. there’s some well known celebrities who have tiger tattoos, in addition to Angelina Jolie. All I have to do is take each celebrity and give them their own specific post from time to time. It’s the same with religions, culture and tigers in literature.

The concerns I had at the time were:

  • There’s three Squidoo lenses in the rim – is this too many?
  • Should I look to have more “articles” in the rim – I have used hubpages but what about other sites?

Further Reading:

Building a Microniche Blog – 3: A Warning about Adsense

Building a Microniche Blog – 5: Points to remember about Link Wheels

Easy Product Displays for Amazon and Zazzle Affiliates

Building a Microniche Blog – 3: A warning about Adsense

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In my last post Building a Microniche Blog – 2: Developing a Link Wheel I discussed using Adsense on my micro-niche blog Year of the Tiger Tattoos and something my girls said to me at dinner one evening, got the alarm bells ringing.

I was explaining how Adsense works and it did not take them long to understand the concept of Adsense earnings so they thought they would do me a favour and do some clicking on my blog!! Fortunately, I was able to put a stop to it before any clicks were clicked. The last thing I need is to get banned by Adsense for clicking through my own ads!

When I checked my Blog Traffic Stats I could see that I was getting traffic via the Search Engines for the following phrases:

“tiger tattoos in hong kong, lebron james tatooes, free chinese symbol tiger tattoo, babies born white metal tiger, chinese zodiac tiger tattoo”

This would give me ideas for new posts.

The other tip I want to share with you is about blogging in general
One of the biggest problems I have is making sure I blog on a regular basis. As I set up the new blog I made some blog posts in advance and then scheduled them to be published at intervals. It was great. I did all the work on one day and then just sat back and watched them appear automatically.

I also found that doing multiple posts at once was easier than having to think of a new topic on a daily basis. So scheduling the posts in advance is something I try to do.

Further reading:

Building a Microniche Blog – 2: Developing a Link Wheel

Building a Microniche Blog – 4: My First Link Wheel

Easy Product Displays for Amazon and Zazzle Affiliates

Building a Microniche Blog – 2: Developing a Link Wheel

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In my introduction to Building a Microniche Blog, I explained the thinking behind the choice of Year of the Tiger Tattoos for my newest “microniche” blog. Within just a couple of days of being published it was getting traffic from the Search Engines!

I scheduled a series of posts to appear over the following two weeks, with an interval of a few days in between each post and I also published my first ever hub on Hubpages Year of the Tiger Tattoos.

As someone who was new to Hubpages, I spent some time establishing which links on Hubpages are “do follow” and which are “no follow” and discovered that the Hubpages Links capsule is “no follow”, which does not suit if I am linking to my Year of the Tiger Tattoos Blog. For this reason I made a couple of my key phrases clickable links in the content, in addition to using the Links Capsules.

I also made sure that I carefully checked out the Links policy on Hubpages to ensure that my first ever Hub did not get flagged.

The Link Wheel was taking shape. However, I then got a very pleasant surprise.

I did some searching on Google for my Year of the Tiger Tattoos blog and my Hubpage was on the first page of Google at #9!!!!!!! out of 1,370,000 results!

And the Blog was at #13!! The phrase year of the tiger tatoo was #5 out of 835,000! But despite all my excitement, I knew I still had some work to do and more links to establish, to develop a Link Wheel.

While establishing links and checking out affiliates I did not forget another potential revenue stream – AdSense. I enabled the Easy Adsense Plugin on the Blog and I created an Ad in my Google Adsense account. The Ad was customised to fit in with the colour scheme on the blog and I thought it fitted in really well.

So far, so good!


Further reading:

Building a Microniche Blog

Building a Microniche Blog – 3: A Warning about Adsense

Easy Product Displays for Amazon and Zazzle Affiliates

Building a Microniche Blog – 1: Introduction

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In this series of posts I shall be documenting how I made a successful Microniche Blog that got good Google traffic and made sales.

In early 2010 I was introduced to the concept of Link Wheels in order to create quality backlinks as part of a carefully planned SEO strategy for your sites, whether they be blogs, Squidoo lenses, Hubpages or other content. However, I am a kinesthetic learner, so no matter how well anyone explains things to me, I learn best by doing.

Having started to be successful with some of my Squidoo Lenses, I wanted to spread my wings. It also made sense to start publishing my content on a variety of platforms – it is never a good idea to rely on just one platform.

I was interested in learning how to make a microniche blog, get it ranking high in Google and the other Search Engines and how to get targetted traffic. So, I set up a blog from scratch in order to test out if Link Wheels really work.

What is a Link Wheel?
A Link Wheel is a method that involves creating posts on various sites and interlinking them in a wheel. The rim of the “wheel” has links that flow in one direction only i.e. Site 1 points to Site 2, Site 2 points to Site 3 and so one, until you get to the last site in the wheel, which will point to Site 1 – thus closing the wheel.

Each of the sites in the rim of the wheel points to the site at the “hub” of the wheel.

There should be no reciprocal links.

The strength of the Link Wheel is that YOU create ALL the content. You create the site at the hub and all the sites pointing to the hub belong to you, so you can ensure that all links are “quality” (more about that in a future post)

Starting a Microniche Blog
This meant researching keywords, setting up a new blog on a WordPress platform, using the Plugins to optimise for the Search Engines and then using articles on various sites, including Squidoo to establish a Link Wheel, with the Blog at the hub.

The first step was to look for a microniche – preferably something I knew about. Well, it did not happen quite that way!

You see, a contact of mine, Alex Crabtree (who had encouraged me to try this out) jumped ahead of me and it actually saved me some time. He did a quick bit of research, using Market Samurai. He already knew that I had a successful topical Squidoo Lens: The Year of the Tiger and that I was interested in Chinese Astrology. He then made the link to one of the most searched for phrases on the net. A product that is at the center of a huge network of Communities on the net………tattoos!

No, it was not that I was going to try to rank highly in Google for Tattoos. And no, I wasn’t going to try to rank high for Tiger Tattoos. But what about Year of the Tiger Tattoos? And so my blog Year of the Tiger Tattoos was born. (The blog has since changed, but that is another story.)

However, the URL had a deliberate typo in it: Year of the Tiger Tatoos – because the search phrase was being misspelled big time and it is that phrase we decided to try to rank for.

The blog was set up. The plugins activated. The affiliate products researched. And the first post published. More posts were researched, written and scheduled for publication over the following few days – I had never been so well organised.

The next step was to create the Link Wheel…….

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