Niche Site Duel – Update #8: Where the !*?# is My Site in Google?

It’s been a long time since I’ve done an official niche site duel update (although I track my progress monthly in my income reports), and there’s a good reason for that: My site has acted much like a ship that has sunk to the bottom of the ocean – it’s still there, but it’s not going anywhere.

Foolishly or not (it’s debatable), I’ve still continued to work on the site periodically.  What was once a promising niche site has now become a rehab project.  I expected the ups and downs early in the site’s life due to your standard Google dance, or whatever you want to call it, however I never expected that 9  months later I would still be trying to get the site in motion.

Anyway, let’s do some analysis…

A Look at the Past

Before I begin to try and analyze what’s wrong with my site, I first want to take a look at where the site has been in its 9 months of existence.  There was a time (albeit a very short time) where the site showed a lot of promise.  As you may recall, after a few months of the site’s existence, I switched my targeted keyword from “P90X review” (9,900 exact searches per month) to “P90X reviews” (60,500 exact searches per month).

For awhile, I ranked near the bottom of page 1 for “P90X review” and saw 15-20 visits per day (traffic image reposted below).

When I switched the domain to P90XReviews.me and targeted the new keyword, I was expecting a big change.  Eventually, I saw the change come into effect – Here’s a snapshot I posted back in January:

For a few days, I ranked within the top 5-6 spots on Google.  The traffic was outstanding, and I saw that the earning potential of the site could be $1,000+ per month.  Of course, as the image above shows, the site’s ranking fell off the charts, and I’ve once again been left in the dust.  Although the site continues to receive a little traffic each day from various long-tail keywords and some Bing/Yahoo searches, the results are insignificant.

Where It’s at Today

It almost goes without saying – I’m not ranking well for any of my target keywords.  Let’s see what Market Samurai shows…

As you can see, however, it’s not like I’m deindexed or anything.  Just ranking very poorly.  Because all we care about is ranking on page 1 of Google, here’s how my site compares to the page 1 sites for my prime keyword target “P90X reviews”:

[Click to enlarge]

I’ll analyze this in more detail below.

Why Has My Site Fallen Off the Face of the Earth?

Obviously, I don’t know why exactly I’ve had issues with ranking, and if I was really motivated, I’m sure I could pay someone to do a more professional analysis.  To me, this niche site was supposed to be a learning experience (which it has been), so I’m fine with slowly figuring things out on my own instead of paying someone to do it for me.

1) The .ME domain

This could be one potential aspect of this niche site that’s working against me.  The jury is still out on the effectiveness of exact match domains for domains that are not .com/.net/.org.  Based on random anecdotal evidence that I’ve read, it seems to make sense that a .ME domain isn’t going to have the same impact as a .com domain, however I still believe I get some “credit” for having an exact match domain.  There’s no way I would’ve ever ranked in the top 5 for a few days, when I did (6 months ago) if the domain name didn’t carry some weight.

2) The backlinking process

Backlinks probably play the most significant part in SEO, so it would make sense for this to be part of the reason my site is nowhere to be found.  Overall, my backlinking has been completely “white hat” with a mix of article marketing, Web 2.0 links, forum profiles, and blog comments.  I’ve done my best to follow Pat Flynn’s “backlink strategy that works” by tracking it with my own tool, the Ultimate Backlink Tracker.

Market Samurai (in the image above) shows 255 backlinks to the domain, and 78 to the actual home page, however I know there are many backlinks that aren’t showing up there.  It would be difficult to argue that I created too many backlinks or created them too quickly, because I built them naturally.  I did outsource some of the backlinking (creating forum profiles), but it wasn’t a large portion of the overall backlink profile.

3) The quantity and/or uniqueness of content

This one is easy to answer.  The content is 100% unique (and all written by me – nothing outsourced here), and the quantity should be sufficient.  Market Samurai shows that Google has indexed 50 pages for the site.  Definitely not a “thin” site.

4) The competition

Given the fact that I’m targeting a keyword that receives over 60,000 exact searches per month, competition figures to be significant.  This is probably one of the more valid reasons why I’m not ranking on page 1, however it does not explain why I’m not on any of the first 10 pages for my primary keyword.  Even just looking at page 1, there are a couple sites I think I could feasibly outrank.

What Do You Think?

What’s the deal here?  In the first few months, I assumed my ranking disappeared as a result of the dreaded Google “sandbox,” however that is supposed to be a temporary filter.  It’s been over 6 months now, and I’ve continued to build some content and backlinks, but the site is still buried deep within Google’s search results.

If my site was somehow “slapped” (who comes up with these internet slang terms anyway?), I don’t think I’d still be receiving traffic from random long-tail keywords and still be very clearly indexed.  Also, there’d really be no legitimate reason for Google to something like that.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear what you think…

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46 Responses to “Niche Site Duel – Update #8: Where the !*?# is My Site in Google?”

  1. Maybe have a look at the quality of your backlinks, Google cares about what “neighboorhood” your links come from.

    Did I understand that you have changed the domain name on the way? Have you done the appropriate 301 redirects from the old domain name to avoid any duplicate in Google index?

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Backlink quality could be part of the issue, however the backlink strategy I used (some call it a link wheel) is supposed to strengthen the direct backlinks to your site (by adding more backlinks to those links).

    And yes, I did change my domain name and did do the appropriate 301 redirect. That was over 6 months ago, and although it was an issue originally, I don’t think it’s playing a part in this current problem.

    [Reply]

  2. Hey Eric,

    I think that search and google is starting to change up what it considers important. Relevancy is more than dumping backlinks on it. Perhaps, you should target your audience rather than keywords and then let the keyword ranking “catch up.”

    The newest panda update is devaluing comment links, forum profile links, and other things that search marketers have decided is the best way to go.

    Personally, I would imagine your best bet would be to do a little leg work, network with others in your market (not the PX90 market but the “weight loss market” or the “weight training market”, build some relationships and then grab some of the better backlinks that will bring both traffic and “link juice” to your website. Just my opinion though.
    Leo Dimilo recently posted… Are Your Visitors Doing What You Want Them to Do

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Leo – I agree, networking with other bloggers in my niche could both help drive traffic and get me better quality backlinks (via guest posting and other means).

    Because this site is not a primary focus of mine anymore, however, I’m trying to see what I can do with pure SEO effort.

    [Reply]

  3. Its not just with you alone, its with many – not just many , almost all of us!

    It looks like google has made people dance to its tunes ever since it acquired dominance over the search engine market.
    Maria Pavel recently posted… CNA Training In Hawaii

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Very true Maria, and I’m a bad dancer!

    [Reply]

  4. I’m not sure what is wrong with your niche site but I just want to say that you aren’t alone. I started a career oriented niche site three months ago. I got it up to the second page for it’s primary keyword before it dropped out of Google in early May. Like your site, it is still indexed and is pulling in traffic for random long-tail keywords. It’s an exact match .US and not a .com and I’m wondering if that’s what’s wrong with it. My site has over 100 indexed pages with quality, original content on every page. It has the potential of pulling in over $1,000 a month which makes this whole thing really frustrating. For now, I’m going to keep adding quality backlinks consistently and hope that it eventually comes out of the sandbox. It’s earning about $20 a month off the current traffic so I feel that it’s still worth it to keep it afloat. Good luck with your niche site and I hope you figure out what’s pulling it under.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Keep working at it, Ally, and I’m sure you’ll get the site back up. It is frustrating when you know you’ve created good content and have done the proper SEO work. I’m guessing with competitive niches like yours and mine, however, it’s going to take even more work.

    [Reply]

  5. Hi,
    I had the same problem with my homepage.

    I think my problem was keyword stuffing, so decreased the amount of keyword dramatically und wrote some new content.

    Since two weeks i finally am in the top two pages of Google again and already get some traffic through it.

    I stuck in the Google Sandbox for about 3 months.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Great point, thanks for the comment. I don’t believe keyword stuffing is an issue with my site. My target keyword “P90X reviews” really isn’t used all that much on the site. I’ve made sure it appears in a few places, but I couldn’t imagine the keyword density being any more than 1%.

    [Reply]

  6. Looks like the competition can be the number one reason of not getting a better result. Anyway, why don’t you change your strategy. Maybe you can simply build a better relationship with your audience so they can feel a bit of connection from you.
    Adrian recently posted… DIY Chicken Shed Plans

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    That’s definitely true, Adrian. My site is written for people, not search engines, since I personally wrote the content myself as I went through the P90X workout program.

    My biggest issue is that I’m not even drawing an audience (i.e. traffic) to connect with! 😛

    [Reply]

  7. Is it still ranking for p90 review?

    Does a Google slap affect ranking for all keywords or just ones you have targeted naughtily?

    I have thin sites like this that have been knocked down the SERPS like this for over a year and counting. I think with small sites like this if you annoy google they can punish you and leave you there forever as you are insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
    Joe recently posted… Another Google update

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    The site is still ranking for all of my target keywords, however the ranking is very poor. I’m not sure how Google slaps work, but I haven’t targeted one specific keyword any more naughtily than another.

    What you’re saying does make sense, however this site isn’t a thin site – there are 50+ pages of unique content.

    [Reply]

  8. Eric, have you thought of replacing Blog Blueprint with Build My Rank? (if that’s what you’re using). It’s similar in use and cost as BB. That’s what I use now. They offer backlinks from high PR sites.

    Also, another question related to keyword research. A few months ago, Market Samurai switched to Majestic SEO for SEO competition. When you compare backlinks between Majestic and Yahoo in MS, they are different. Can you comment on what numbers you go by? In most cases, they are dramatically different. That might be the topic of a whole blog post.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    I’ve never tried Build My Rank, but I’ll look into it. So far, Blog Blueprint has worked reasonably well for me, since I can use it with The Best Spinner and easily crank out spun paragraphs.

    For backlink numbers, I’ve been going by the Majestic ones lately, however I honestly don’t know which is more accurate. I take it all with a grain of salt and use it more to just benchmark against other sites.

    I’m not sure if Market Samurai switched to Majestic because it’s actually more accurate, or because they have some kind of strategic relationship with them now (it seems like to get any real information out of Majestic, you’re forced to sign up and pay).

    [Reply]

  9. How often do you add new articles? I’m not certain, but I believe the new update (Panda) takes into account how often new content is added. I do 1-2 posts a week on my site (right now, anyway) and when I missed a week and a half my ranking dropped significantly.
    Mikey recently posted… Weekly Update- XBL and PSN Deals 6-14-2011

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Hey Mikey, thanks for the comment. While I know that content does matter, I’m not sure how important frequency is. After all, page 1 of Google often contains sites and pages that are very rarely updated. Think about static business sites or individual pages that rank highly, without any (or very little) updates after they’ve been created.

    Your drop in rank may have just been coincidental. I know I have a few niche sites on page 1 that I haven’t touched in several months and they maintain their ranks, give or take a few spots with random fluctuation.

    Then again, I’m no SEO expert. 😛

    [Reply]

  10. This might be a long shot, and I want to say immediately with the caveat that this is pure speculation: but I’ve seen two other people comment on (and my two sites which took a dip have the same set up) that while links to individual posts are important, if a young site has far more links to individual posts than to the main URL, you tend to get sandboxed or slapped. I can’t confirm this, but from anecdote evidence, my two sites that struggled were like this, and gained their rankings back with another 10+ links to the main page without any new ones to the the inner pages. It’s just a thought, but might be something worth testing for your site.
    Master Dayton recently posted… The Keyword Academy Review

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    That’s an interesting thought, and I had never heard it before, so it’s something I will watch out for. Generally, most of my backlinking effort is for my main URLs, so I haven’t necessarily run into it. I’ve heard it’s good to also backlink individual pages, because it’s more “natural” looking than just having ALL links pointing toward the main URL.

    With my P90X site, I’m not sure what the issue is. Based on what Market Samurai shows, it does look like the site’s individual pages have more backlinks than the main page URL, but I’m not sure why that is. I know I’ve spent a lot more time building links to the main page.

    Anyway, interesting theory – I’ll keep an eye on that.

    [Reply]

  11. In my view don’t go for this keyword and start another website. This is really competitive term and My experience say you will need at least one more year to rank.

    I will personally analyse this website and try to optimize it for you.

    My experience:
    My one website is ranking in India for:
    – 90,000…50 position
    – 12,100…18
    – 18,000…10
    – 49,000…8
    – 3,600…3

    I just did bookmarking to 100s of websites in last one year. Yahoo explorer shows only 50 links. But we really don’t know about Google. And this is worst niche in world. So, If i make it to 1 position in next 6 months. This will make $50-$100 per month. So, concentrating on easy niche is necessary or have lots of patience to watch things.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    I completely agree, Rahul, which is why this site hasn’t stopped me from creating others in less competitive niches.

    I like to try different things though, including more difficult niches like this one. Even if I don’t succeed, it’s a different experience trying to tackle a highly competitive niche. At the very least, it’s a learning experience and makes for a good public case study on this blog. :)

    [Reply]

  12. One of my sites was doing well up to last week in steady organic growth and search. One day later back to zero… no clue why..

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    If it’s a newer site, I’d blame the infamous “sandbox.” It’s happened to many of my sites. For some (like the P90X one), I seem to never rebound. For others, however, you’ll often come out of the sandbox in an even better position. Just keep doing what you’re doing, steadily building backlinks and creating content.

    [Reply]

  13. You figure it’d be up in rankings by now. A couple of my niche sites are jumping up and down at the moment as well.

    When do you figure you should label a sign non-profitable? You can always shelve it and re-visit later (which you kind have done).
    Learn With Tim recently posted… Chris Farrell Membership Review

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    It’s frustrating, isn’t it? 😛

    I’m not sure when you give up and move on. I think a site is worth hanging onto as long as it covers its own annual domain cost, assuming you don’t need to put additional work into it.

    Also, it doesn’t stop me from working on other projects, so I’m inclined to just be patient and work on it when I’m bored and don’t feel like working on other stuff.

    [Reply]

  14. My website is out of the sandbox!! Wednesday night I checked Google Webmaster Tools and I noticed a lot of crawl errors. I fixed them and now my website is ranking 50th for it’s main keyword. Check Google Webmaster Tools and see if there is something wrong with your sitemap or if there are any crawl errors. They’re easy to fix and it might be why your site isn’t ranking well. Good luck!

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Congrats Ally!

    Good tip on the Google Webmaster Tools – I will check it out. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  15. I would say it’s the competition plus the backlinks. I read that Pat flynn backlink strategy post – and it’s fine for low competition keywords (less than 5000 uniques per month). I think his site in that test is a low competition one.

    For high comp keywords, you need high PR backlinks, and links from those article networks are by definition PR0 ones. Not to say you can’t rank with PR0 links, but you need thousands.
    teatree recently posted… SEO Idol Contest

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Yeah, I fear you are correct – I’ll keep at it though and see what happens. :)

    [Reply]

  16. Hi Eric…I think there is something really wrong with google because it not only you who have experienced this but also me and some known friends…We have talked about it recently and planning to have a complain…
    Kathy Grin recently posted… Colored Down Comforter

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Kathy. I agree, it’s a very common problem. Unfortunately, everyone wants to rank on page 1 for their target keywords, and there are only 10 spots…so it’s inevitable that most people aren’t going to rank the way they’d like.

    We just need to keep working hard to craft our sites’ SEO based on what we know about Google’s ranking algorithm.

    [Reply]

  17. Some of the comments are speculation and without any evidence of testing.

    Essentially to rank high competitive keywords you require approx’ 100 – 125 backlinks directed from ‘themed’ base site.

    These sites have to be clean and focused on a theme and preferably within your own private network.

    Build sites based on content farming [this includes web 2.0 properties, blogs, ezines] are not sufficient since theses sites are rarely theme based.

    If you are unable to build the network then go for a lesser option which is a theme based blog for guest posting or paid link with an anchor in the post. Make sure that there is no more then 10 external link on the page.

    This is factual and I have been doing it for years. it takes longer but well worth the effort.

    You will be surprised by the number of bloggers in your niche who will give you a link.

    Azzam
    Azzam recently posted… AzzamS: @RiggerTheGeek That is great to hear :) would you consider leaving a positive review here on our Google Places page http://t.co/jzd0ss6

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Definitely – getting relevant links will always be instrumental for ranking a site in a competitive niche. I think it’s pretty difficult, however, to pinpoint a number or range for the amount of links you need in order to rank well.

    Every niche and every keyword is different – it’s really a matter of continuously putting work in and waiting to see how Google reflects it in the search engine results.

    [Reply]

  18. Eric, great post! I don’t think it’s the dot Me TLD. Why? The site did work. Also I have dot me domains that are on the first page of Google. That said, it is easier to rank dot com and dot net from my experience, but agree its going to be difficult to get the same exact match domain on dot com or dot net. I think it may be a function of building links too quickly. I have found that you really want to go slow and steady, building links gradually over time. That’s my best guess. I have found that SEO is volatile by nature until sites get old and established. Keep up the great work, your blog is awesome and I always look forward to new posts!
    All the best,
    Ian
    PPC Ian recently posted… How I Got 1,242 Facebook Fans For Only $347.70

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    You’re the reason I went with a dot Me TLD. :) I agree that the blame shouldn’t rest on the TLD, although I’d probably have an easier time ranking with a .com or .net.

    Building links too quickly is probably the culprit, however it’s been awhile since I’ve done it, so it’d be nice for Google to let me out of the dreaded sandbox.

    Thanks for the comment and advice Ian, always much appreciated.

    [Reply]

  19. Hi Eric..I am not sure if there is really something wrong with google…But actually, I have also heard from friends about this matter but i haven’t experienced it though… Anyway, thanks for the information you have shared to us Eric…
    Bettie J. Brown recently posted… Dog Vomiting What To Do If He’s Sick

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Bettie!

    [Reply]

  20. The Google panda update was probably what changed your ranking.

    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-googles-panda-update-changed-seo-best-practices-forever-whiteboard-friday

    Article marketing is on the way out.

    The Panda update allows Google to better analyze the user experience of a website and rank websites accordingly. Spammy SEO tactics will probably continue to lose effectiveness in future updates.
    Dave Huss recently posted… My 4HWW Muse Business Was So Good It Got Me Sued Part 1

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    You’re probably right, Dave. Time for us to adjust our SEO tactics, until the next Google algorithm change. :)

    [Reply]

  21. I would definitely consider adding more content. 50 pages is a good start but the more the better. Quality is always key. I have found that actively posting and interacting on Twitter is huge.

    I just started my site, literally, a little over a month ago and I have already had almost 1000 visitors. My bounce rate is only 19% and each visitor views over 4 pages. I’m psyched and blown away.

    My key tactic is unique content with a new post EVERY day on marketing, blogging or social media.

    Just wanted to share what has worked for me so far.

    Thanks Eric and best of luck!
    Craig Kelley
    http://5minaday.com
    Craig recently posted… 4 Things That Will Set Your Blog On Fire

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Makes sense, Craig – I know that content plays a huge role, and it’s something I try to focus on (maybe not with this P90X site anymore, but with other sites). Thanks!

    [Reply]

  22. Nobody knows for sure how long the sandbox lasts, the 6 months is just an estimate. Some people get rid of it sooner and other people later.
    One thing i’m sure of is the .me domain has nothing to do with it.
    Richard recently posted… Wagner 0525032 EZ Tilt 7.2 GPH Power Painter Max featuring Optimus Dual Tip Technology Review

    [Reply]

  23. Wow, this is an interesting post and it has been a good read through the comments. I am just starting out on this journey and it is good to read a post like this to bring some perspective. It is easy to get sucked into the hype and then give up when the hype does not always reflect reality.
    Keep up the good work dude!
    Nic recently posted… Adding Adsense code to WordPress Header

    [Reply]

  24. I’ve had two websites sandboxed so far.

    One was in there for about 6 months and the other was only gone for 3 weeks. Was incredibly frustrating but everything I had done was white hat and Google Webmaster Tools showed no errors. I even submit a “re-evaluate my website” request to Google and they came back saying they had done nothing to affect my rankings. Hmmm. Anyways, just working on something else and keep an eye on the site from time to time worked for me.

    [Reply]

  25. It’s almost certain that you got lower rankings because of the google panda update. Google panda update lowered the weight of backlinks that come from article directory sites and also focusses on user usability.
    Try to do other seo rather then only doing article submissions.Also lower your bouncing rate and fix the crawling errors you might have in webmaster tool.
    John Bocata recently posted… Blogging tips for beginners

    [Reply]

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