Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Some thoughts about volume

It's clear that making money online depends on a certain volume of traffic, and there are two ways to get this volume - either set up thousands of pages that each get a tiny amount of traffic, or set up about a hundred pages that each get a large amount of traffic.

At first glance the second strategy looks a lot harder than the first. It's not easy to get a thousand hits a month to each hubpage for instance. I have just one hub that is performing in that league, and hubpages own stats indicate that only 5531 hubs get over 1000 views a month and only 45,515 hubs get over 100 views a month!

Therefore, everyone goes for the content volume method - make thousands of pages, and you get a decent aggregate traffic even if each hub only gets about 50 hits a month.

However, one thing I've learnt is that there is no such thing as truly passive income online. You can't just set up hubs or websites and leave them. You not only have to continue building backlinks to them, I've found that the hubs that do best are the ones that you regularly revise and add information to. You can do this if you are managing a small number of hubs - but when you get to the thousands, it's just impossible to find the time to revise them all regularly as well as build backlinks.

And if you start to get into buying and selling websites, setting up sites with a view to selling them on, you definitely need large traffic in order to realise the best profit - you can't just stick thousands of pages up and leave them, hoping for dribs and drabs of traffic to come to them.

So it looks like the second option - going for a large amount of traffic to each page - though tougher, might be the most profitable in the long run. This means that you have to write long original killer posts, and carefully build backlinks to each and every page. It can't be outsourced and you need to spend a lot of time on research. And there is no instant payoff as with the content volume method. But there should be a payoff down the line when the traffic starts to come in.

I've started to build some standalone sites, with killer posts, and I am working diligently to get each post into the number 1 position in the SERPs for it's phrase. It's a hideous amount of work though, and it looks like I'll be at it for months before I get my traffic volume. I can see why most people abandon this method fairly quickly.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Hubpages has been penalised by Google

How do I come to this conclusion? Well, I was updating my hubpage on Google Caffeine, which I wrote on 12th August when Google first told the world about their new "next generation" engine nicknamed Caffeine.

Briefly, Caffeine is not really a change to Google's algorithm (though some slight differences appear), it's really a change in structure of the index itself. This is really important, as what is indexed impacts rankings - eg if a lot of pages that have links to your site are suddenly indexed, it should propel you up the rankings, and vice versa.

In my original analysis I was comparing pages in the current index to the Caffeine index for various topics and also for various web 2.0 domains.

What is interesting is that when I retested today, I found differences in the current index too.

Here's the bit that concerns Hubpages.

Using the site: Hubpages.com operator, here's what was returned on the 12th of August 2009:

Current Index: 1,800,000 pages
New Caffeine Index: 1,830,000 pages

Now here's what's returned on 12th September:

Current Index: 1,100,000 pages
New Index: 1,140,000 pages

That's a considerable drop. Up until I crunched the numbers, I had been pooh-poohing suggestions that Hubpages has suffered a penalty. I basically believed that if new hubs on hot money topics like credit cards were struggling to get indexed, it was down to saturation of topic, where people have mindlessly pumped out a bazillion hubs on the exact same subject, sometimes with the exact same title, (and are still doing so, if you look at the new hubs tab), and Google decided "we don't need any more".

But a 700,000 drop in what is indexed is not just about new stuff struggling to get ranked, it's about old stuff being dumped. I wouldn't have realised the sheer scale of the drop had I not originally recorded the numbers for my Caffeine analysis. Perhaps some of the pages that have been dumped are profile pages and tag pages - but that's still serious as profiles and tag pages send backlinks to hubs. I will continue to update that hub every month in order to build a data set of what exactly is going on.

As for advice to hubbers - stay clear of the "hot money" topics. They seem superficially attractive, but are a wasted effort. Better to concentrate on something obscure that is going to be indexed. Being indexed is more important than the potential CPCs of a keyword. If you can't get your page indexed, you will make zero.

P.S. Ezine has taken a hit too - see my Caffeine hub for details

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

It's worth trying out many different niches

I keep a spreadsheet to track all my online work (I use Open Office, which is an open source product that is free to download)

The spreadsheet is organised with one sheet per niche, with each page detailing all the properties in that niche, and a master page that pulls in info each month from the sheets to help me see which niche is profitable.

Well the surprise is that the "most profitable" niche changes from month to month!

I hadn't expected that. I had thought that I'd hit on one, maybe two niches that were profitable, which I could then concentrate on.

In practice, things fluctuate like mad. For a start there are all the Google dances and movements in and out of the SERPS - practically every single property has been out of the SERPS at least twice - once when the initial new content honeymoon wore off, and once when some algorithm update or other was taking place. They always came back into the results, occasionally at a slightly higher level than they had been - but the two weeks or so when they were "out" would have been very frustrating had I not had a whole other bunch of stuff going on (the dances seem to take place niche by niche rather than all at once).

Then there's the fact that as the economy and fashion changes, user behaviour changes. With one page I wrote, I sort of panicked when my traffic dropped, only to find that I was in the same place in the SERPs. Checking the Insights for Search graph for the traffic revealed that user popularity for that keyword had dropped. Such is life.

So it's actually worth trying many different niches, and also don't get put off by lowish CPC in the Google Keyword Tool. I'm beginning to understand that traffic matters far more than CPC. CPCs will fluctuate and there is nothing you can about it, but as long as you have traffic, you will get some clicks. Lack of traffic is the killer rather than low CPC.

Finally, there has been much discussion about whether hubpages has suffered a Google penalty of some sort. From looking at my stats, if there is a penalty it exists only in the finance sector - credit cards, debt and the like. My finance hubs are showing a drop in traffic, but the other stuff is much as it was before (i.e. the good hubs show no difference in traffic between July and August and the bad hubs show no difference in traffic between July and August).

I guess, the hub penalty isn't that different to that meted out to Squidoo for weight loss and the like. If you stay clear from the "hot money" topics, you can still get Squidoo lenses ranked, and still get Hubpages ranked.

But these penalties also bring home the importance of having a lot of niches, and lots of platforms where you create content, so your eggs arn't all in a basket that might get kicked over.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Affiliate Marketing

The reason I've been building hubpages really slowly is that I've become sidetracked with creating Squidoo lenses for Affiliate Marketing.

Squidoo is great in my opinion. As long as you stay away from the usual hot topics (weight loss, anything advertised on Clickbank), and concentrate on actual physical products that are sold by mainstream brands who have their affiliates listed on Commission Junction, Affiliate Window or Amazon, you generally find that your lens is indexed and gets traffic within a couple of days as long as you are careful to build at least one backlink to it.

I've actually detailed my experiences with the above affiliate networks in a hubpage - Best Affiliate Networks - so I shan't repeat myself here.

But I'd like to talk a little more about why I like Squidoo so much. I have two Squidoo accounts - one for affiliate marketing, and one for building backlinks to my hubs. I've done a lot more work in my affiliate marketing account, having built 20 lenses so far.

Squidoo is way more flexible than Hubpages when it comes to affiliate marketing. For example it's easy to add an affiliate banner to your lens - just use the "Text with Big Picture" module, and drop the html into the text portion.

They are also pretty flexible about the number of links they allow - you can have 9 links to any single domain within your lens, and for certain whitelisted domains, eg amazon.co.uk, you can have as many as you like. This means you can set up a landing page on a single keyword offering several different products related to that keyword, with different prices, using a module for each. I tend to use the standard text module, save the picture of the product to my hard drive and load it onto the module, and then put a blurb next to it explaining the product, with the affiliate link embedded in a text link.

Squidoo lenses are also designed to be seo friendly. It's important to select your keywords carefully for each module title, as these titles appear on the lenses as headers and draw traffic in their own right.

It's early days in September, but so far I've made more from my affiliate lenses on Squidoo than from Adsense on Hubpages - and I have 23 lenses in total but 53 hubs. It's always nice to have more than one source of income and I'd urge everyone to try affiliate marketing.