When last we left, the latest of my money earning sites seemed to be lost in the desolate wastelands of ~ No. 300 in the Google search results. No one was ever going to find my website, and it was surely never going to make any money! Obviously I did something wrong, and Google wanted me to know. Thankfully, I was able to get a clue as to what my sin was and what I should do to correct it.
Here’s what I did to get my niche site back on track. If you’d like to read previous chapters, follow the links at the bottom of this post.
A Lesson in Too Many Links:
How many of you have submitted your blogs to directories? Why not? They’re easy to get a link from and quick. All you have to do is spend about 1 minute filling in some generic fields and “boom” – you’re done!
With My Money Design, I had really only ever used this technique a handful of times. But with my niche website, I decided to really max this strategy as much as possible. After all, Spencer from Niche Pursuits mentioned that he was going to submit to 50 directories or so with the expectation of gaining 10 links to his niche site.
But once I started applying, I noticed something: Whenever you apply to a directory, they usually give you a handful of options:
- Pay to be listed. I say “F” that!
- Join for free, put a reciprocal link (or badge) on your site, and we’ll add you after 1 or 2 days. Who doesn’t want to be listed as soon as possible? This one sounded okay…
- Join for free without a reciprocal link (or badge) on your site, and we’ll add you after 3 or 4 months. Woof! I don’t want to wait that long! I want to start making money now. Option 2 is looking better…
As you can probably guess, I went with Option 2 for a few of my directory applications and posted their reciprocal links on my homepage. Altogether I had about 5.
And that was dumb …
Right around the same time, Niche Pursuits came out with an update where their latest site was also way up there in the 200’s and basically being penalized by Google. The problem: Too many affiliate links. Spencer had built a nice comparison table with a lot of nofollow links to various products. Once he reduced the number of links, the penalty went away and his site was back in the search results around No. 26.
“Could that be what’s going on with my site?” I thought …
I went to my site and made all my directory links nofollow. That seemed to do no good. The rank never seemed to go down:
- 3/13/2013 311
- 3/14/2013 291
- 3/14/2013 312
- 3/15/2013 289
- 3/16/2013 302
So I decided to take more drastic measures: I completely removed all the directory reciprocal links from my homepage.
That seemed to do the trick!
- 3/16/2013 31
- 3/16/2013 322
- 3/17/2013 29
- 3/17/2013 28
- 3/18/2013 30
- 3/18/2013 30
- 3/19/2013 28
- 3/19/2013 20
- 3/20/2013 20
With the links gone, my Google penalty seemed to be removed.
The lesson learned: It’s okay to have one or two external links on your homepage. But when you’ve got a young site with not a lot of authority or trust, and you start putting a bunch of unrelated external links on your page, it’s going to look suspicious to Google and you will get a penalty. The bottom line: Watch how many links you place on your page (either nofollow or dofollow) and pay attention to relevancy. It CAN make quite a difference!
Next Steps for My Money Earning Sites:
Since lifting my penalty, I’ve been having a difficult time having my niche website crack the Top 20 in the search results. It just seems to keep hovering around the third and forth pages:
- 3/21/2013 29
- 3/23/2013 27
- 3/24/2013 25
- 3/25/2013 29
- 3/26/2013 27
- 3/27/2013 26
- 3/29/2013 38
I’ve made sure to maintain a diet of slow but steady link building actions such as commenting, submitting to carnivals, using social media, social bookmarking, etc. In fact, Open Site Explorer says that I have over 900 external links pointing to my site!
So what’s the problem?
Well, a further examination reveals something very subtle and often overlooked: I have almost no links pointing to my site with the exact anchor text of my keyword (according to Ahref’s).
Perhaps if I can get my anchor text distribution a little bit more balanced, my site might do a little bit better in the search results.
With that said, there will be no rest until I am on page 1 of Google! Therefore, my to-do list will be:
- Continue to publish one new post every one to two weeks
- Continue with my current backlink strategy including a few planned guest posts.
- Experiment with other white-hat backlinks to try to increase my link diversity and anchor text
If all this talk about ranks and links is starting to sound like blah, blah, blah, don’t worry! In preparation for the upcoming Google Pagerank update which should take place sometime in May, I am working on a post that is all about making improvements to your site. If you’re feeling lost when it comes to SEO or just want to learn something new, then I think you’ll enjoy this post!
Readers – Who else had money earning sites that got hit by a Google penalty? What was the cause and what should we avoid so that we don’t get hit as well?
Previous Niche Website Chapters:
- Starting the Next of My Extra Income Ideas – Building a Niche Website
- Niche Website Project Part 2 – The Unveiling
- Building My Money Earning Sites – Niche Website Update Part 3
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank says
Thanks for all this information, I always thought that if you made the links no follow then Google didn’t care what you linked to.
I thought that was the case too. But as I found out (both from Niche Pursuits and my own experience), this is not true. Too many “unnatural” links such as those from affiliates or directories will leave your site looking like a spam farm in the eyes of Google. The same does not appear to be true of internal links.
[email protected] says
Awesome! Glad your site is back on track and thank you for the information!
I’m glad to see it back in full swing as well. Now its just those last 30 spots I need to climb – those will be the hardest!!
well done! I have a couple of directory links on the homepage and was thinking about getting rid of them. You basically get a link in a link farm in exchange for putting a homepage link, not really fair.
When you think about it, it really isn’t fair, is it. I noticed that when I visit the directory site and look at the actual PR of the page with my link (not the PR of the directory domain), it almost always has some low or non-existent PR! So basically I’m getting nothing in return! I’ve decided to limit myself to one directory link and that’s it.
[email protected] says
Do you think payment for listing might ever be cost effective? Seem perhaps a bit cheating to me, but who knows!
I wouldn’t pay for a listing. It just doesn’t seem worth it. There’s no guarantee that the page will be a high PR, and you’ll likely just end of sharing that PR with a dozen or so other links (which will cut down your link juice tremendously). In my opinion, the better method would be to offer to write guest posts for other sites. That way you’ll get exclusive placement within the content in addition to having the platform to tell good stories.
Grayson @ Debt Roundup says
Directories are no good unless they are relevant. I used to run a directory when they were in their hayday. I still have it, but all I get now are requests to be removed. It doesn’t bother me and I will shut it down once my domain expires.
I’d be interested to know which one it is or how it builds its PR. That’s very intriguing.
The more I think about it, the link juice from a directory link is probably not anywhere close to being as valuable as what other links amount to. I think I’ll just stick to the top ones and call it a day.
Wow! All this time I thought I was lazy by not adding our site to directories….turns out I was just a genius! I’m going to go tell my wife….
Will she give you the same “WTF are you talking about” look I get when I tell Mrs MMD something technical about my blog? 🙂
KK @ Student Debt Survivor says
I’m still a relative newbie to the technical side of blogging (honestly I never gave much thought to it). Now I’m trying to learn slowly and figure out how it all works. Post likes this are really helpful. Going back to read the other niche site updates. Thanks
I hope you find the other ones equally as helpful as well. Come back on Monday when I’ll have a giant post all about Google PageRank.
I signed with few affiliates but never made much money, so I wonder if I need to remove all the links from the blog. Thanks for the info. SEO is a tricky turf since we are all at the mercy of God Google.
If you never made any money from them, I would just switch out for other ones until you finally get some hits.
Adam Roseland says
Glad you figured out the link issue. What I would suggest, is that if you are going to link out.. link out to an authority site. Something of value like wikipedia is always good.
Agreed! For all my posts, not just the ones to my niche website, I always try to include at least link to an authority site; basically anything within my niche that ranks higher than my root domain.
Financial Independence says
In my humble experience bank linking to the 50+ sites will quickly lower your site ranking as well.
I had once linked to 3,000+ with back links…it did not work well exactly…
Good luck with slow and wise growth!
Thanks for sharing your experience. I have been definitely building links as slowly as possible to keep things natural. It can be frustrating, but another Google penalty will be worse if I try to force things.