My Niche Site Experiment – Rankings After Nearly One Month

12 August

niche website experimentI just want to update you on the niche website I started in July.

At the time I’m writing this, it’s almost been a month since I launched and I’m already ranking for the main phrase I’m targeting.

In case you missed my initial post on my website experiment, my goal is to rank on the first page for my target phrase.

I’m conducting this experiment to see just how challenging ranking will be starting from scratch under the New Era of Google.

I realize it’s fairly early and I considered waiting before reporting (new sites always fluctuate), but everyone has been asking me how my experiment is going, so I thought I’d share.

And just to be sure I was not getting personalized results, I confirmed this rank with Google Webmaster Tools.  The screenshot below shows the average position (#35) for my target keyword.

Google Webmaster Tools

For the past week, it’s been showing on page 3 (position #28 – #30) on every computer I check, but remember everyone sees different rankings now, so I rely on the Average Rank that is reported by Google Webmaster Tools.

If you are new to search engine optimization and want to learn more about what Google looks for today, make sure you watch my most recent SEO video here.

As you can imagine, I’m not getting any traffic from this keyword yet because most people never get to the 3rd page of results, so no big surprise there.

In fact, all the organic traffic (about 150 visits in the first month) is coming from long tail, less competitive keywords (4-6 word phrases) that are mentioned in various articles.

The Many Updates of Google

About two weeks ago I noticed that Google made another update which seemed to favor the well-known brands in this niche.

So many of the lesser known brand sites that were ranking well when I started this experiment are now either non-existent or on the 2nd or 3rd page.

The top 10 is now made up of more solid brands.  This isn’t typically good news for new websites — so I honestly wasn’t expecting to see my site ranking this high yet.

But as I said, new sites fluctuate so it’s waaaaay too early to do any happy dances.  :)

Work Involved

So you’re probably wondering what I’ve done so far.

As I mentioned in my 2nd update about a month ago, I am just focusing on writing content and I did publish a few YouTube videos.

I have a Twitter and Pinterest account, but haven’t really done much worth talking about there.

I’m up to 19 pages of content. That includes a static homepage and a menu that links to more static pages.

I am using the silo method to arrange my content, which means the main menu items link to landing pages that include links to other pages as opposed to sorting my content like a traditional blog (by date and category).

Being Careful of Over Optimization

I am working very hard to make sure my content is written in a very natural way and I don’t repeat my main keyword phrase too often in the content.

Today it’s very important to use variations of your targeted phrase in your meta titles and copy so Google doesn’t slap you for over optimizing.

And since my target phrase is in my domain name (it’s a partial match domain, not exact), I really want to be careful of repeating the phrase too often.

This is also important to note…

I only have 2 pages that really target my main phrase — the homepage and one other page.  The rest of the pages are on related topics.  Some of those pages may mention the phrase or variations of the phrase but I do not have a lot of pages solely targeting my main phrase.

Again, I want to be very, very careful of over optimization.

Short vs. Long Pages

I’ve heard varying opinions on this so I’d love to know what you’ve discovered.

In my experience, longer pages (750 words or longer) tend to rank better than shorter content.  I’m not saying shorter articles don’t rank, but they seem to require a lot more social media shares.

After beefing up some articles on my other sites, I’ve been able to improve the rank of many pages.  Perhaps that has more to do more with freshness, so it’s hard to know for sure.

Anyway, I’m ensuring most of may articles on this new site are fairly long with lots of sub-titles and images to make reading easier.

Almost Zero Monetization

As I mentioned in my last post, I am not planning on doing much in the way of monetization right now.  No Google AdSense and very, very few affiliate links.

Ironically, one of the links has already converted — even with such little traffic. That shows you the power of narrowing your niche. It often takes less traffic to convert sales.

I have no idea if minimal monetization is going to give me any SEO advantages, but since I’ve never done this before I figured I’d try it out.  It certainly won’t hurt anything.

On-Page SEO

One tip people often forget (especially on traditional blogs) is deep linking pages when relevant.  Even though the impact may not be as strong as years ago, they still play a role in SEO.

Every time you link to a page, that is a vote for it in Google’s eyes.  And even though an external, relevant link is much more valuable, internal links still help.

Just make sure you vary your anchor text.

So if you create a page that targets “how to shop at thrift stores”, look for relevant places in other articles to link to that page, but don’t use the same anchor text.

One link may read thrift store shopping tips while another might read what you need to know about shopping at thrift stores.

And some links may not have any keywords at all.  You might just use click here for more information.

So many people are still stuck on 2010 SEO techniques and overdoing it when it comes to their anchor text.  Abuse this and you’re asking for an over-optimization penalty.

No Yoast or All in One SEO Plugins

This won’t come as a surprise if you read my post from earlier this year, but I think SEO plugins are highly overrated — especially if you know the basics of SEO.

The only plugin I have that is SEO related is the Google XML Sitemaps plugin to ensure Google is immediately notified of any new pages.

My theme has its own SEO meta tag and additional settings.  That’s enough for me.

Speaking of my theme, if you’ve been thinking of getting The Genesis theme, now’s the time.  They just launched 2.0 last week with better, optimized code — which is always best for SEO.  Just don’t let the hype fool you.  No theme alone is going to give you a gigantic SEO advantage, but even Google admits that clean, optimized code is always ideal.

My Thoughts So Far

Overall this experiment is going how I expected for the most part.  I don’t have a lot of organic traffic and didn’t expect to. Years ago I probably would have had a lot more, but this is a new era.

With no quality backlinks and the site being fairly small, no surprises here.

I’m a bit disappointed in my overall content progress.  I was hoping to have many more pages by now, but I’m sure you know how life gets in the way. :)

Final Thoughts on SEO in 2013

One thing I will reinforce is GO DEEP with your niche and take your time with research.  Many of you know I absolutely HATE the research phase, but if you want any kind of Google traffic it is a must today.

Start with fitness then narrow it down to a specific kind of fitness or exercise.  Yoga, for example, is still too broad so go even deeper to something like yoga poses for beginners.  Get my drift?

Also look at the competition in Google and see how strong the rankings are.  Don’t just rely on keyword research tools. They are NOT enough.  Long Tail Pro is great but you need to do physical research too.

If you see a lot of sites like Yahoo Answers, HubPages, older articles, etc. ranking in the top 10, that’s a sign there may be some room to compete.

However, if you see too many big brands, you know the task will be more challenging.

But you MUST start with a defined niche.

Many of you are trying to cover too much ground.  You’ve got to stay focused — especially in the beginning.

Remember, if you try to target everyone, you target no one.

Well… that’s it for this update.  I will keep you posted! :)