Around two months ago I covered how the Penguin 4 rollout had countered the majority of my sites, since then I have been working towards developing a new method to rank sites in Google with minimal success. Fast forward to February 2017 and Google seem to have rolled out two additional algorithm updates.
The screenshot above shows the SERP position tracking for Algoroo from the beginning of February to the time of writing. As you can see, it is showing amber changes for both the 1st and 8th of February.
This screenshot shows the tracking since the Penguin 4 rollout around the end of September 2016 to the time of writing this article.
Finally, this screenshot shows the tracking for all of 2015, see the difference? In my opinion, Google are becoming much more aggressive with their updates, especially the ones targeting black hat methods.
Checking The Analytics
The below screenshot is my analytics tracking for one of the sites in my new test network using web 2.o pages for its tier one and tier two with GSA Search Engine Ranker links for its tier three. Many people will see that it is only pulling around fifty hits per week from Google but in my opinion, this is to be expected for sites built on fresh domains as covered in my post here about the Google sandbox.
As you can see, the site had begun to gain traffic at a steady pace until the week of the 1st February and then it has been on a steady decline ever since. This data also matches up exactly with the amber alert in the first screenshot from Algoroo above.
This screenshot is the analytics profile for the exact same site covering the week of the update broken down into daily snapshots rather than weekly, as you can see the traffic takes a drastic hit on the day of the rollout.
This screenshot is for a site only a few weeks old, the only backlinks it had at the time was a tier one of web 2.0s. Rather than taking an initial hit on the 1st February, it has taken a gradual reduction over the week.
Is It Time To Move To Private Blog Networks?
I have never liked the idea of only having a small number of actionable domains available per day with potentially hundreds of people trying to get them so I have very limited experience in private blog networks but it seems like they are also on Google radar.
This thread over on BlackHatWorld was made just after the Penguin 4 rollout began and is based around how the speed of private blog networks has slowed down. More recently, there has been this thread regarding a potential update targeting private blog networks.
Personally, I put little to no stock into these types of threads as most people have alternative motives, just more obvious than others as shown in the screenshot below.
It makes sense for this member to try to counter any information relating to a private blog network based update as you can sell they sell domains in their signature. On a site note, I have never understood why people would offer perfectly good domains for a one-time fee of $50 that have the ability to make the owner hundreds or thousands of dollars per month. If you ever approach a domain seller to purchase domains for a private network put that question to them, some of their replies are hilarious.
Anyway, moving onto my own experience with private blog networks. As I have already touched on I am not a fan of the strategy and I only have a single site using the strategy. It has been ranked since around August 2016, it fell from number one to number three in November 2016 and within the past week or so it has begun to fall.
The screenshot above shows the rank tracker data for the domain, unfortunately, I only have the data available from November time as that is when I moved over to SERPLab for my keyword tracking. The below screenshot shows the domains analytics for the same time period.
As expected, the site took a hit in traffic after falling to third position with its traffic remaining fairly consistent until the middle of January 2017 where is has consistently fallen and I doubt it will recover. Since ranking the domain I have not changed anything with the money site or its private blog network domains meaning all changes to ranking and traffic are from external factors.
If the site keeps falling I am considering blasting it with 100,000 contextual links from GSA Search Engine Ranker to observe how the site reacts.
Now before moving onto the next section of this post I just want to confirm I am NOT saying black hat search engine optimization is dead. I have taken a fair few hits from it recently and need a break although I do plan to keep a small number of black hat based tests sites running to see how they react.
I have been doing a fair bit of soul searching recently and I think I have decided that I want to work towards a digital nomad lifestyle where I travel as much as possible while earning money from a laptop. Thankfully the majority of the countries on my list are much cheaper than the United Kingdom so I can potentially live off much less than I had previously planned.
I leave the Royal Air Force at the end of March 2017 and my current plan is to take a year out from work and focus one hundred percent on getting online projects off the ground. If the past three months has taught me anything it is that Google are getting better at detecting and punishing the use of black hat tactics.
I have recently been cleaning out my analytics account to remove all dead or penalized domains and I discovered the below profile.
Upon investigation, it turned out that I had somehow totally missed building links to this whole site, in the past I have discovered random pages on domains that I had forgotten to build links to but never a whole site.
As you can see the traffic does fluctuate from the start of 2016 but the majority of the year is steady bringing in around 1000 hits per week. The domain is based around display advertising rather than affiliate marketing meaning it brings in close to nothing but upon investigating the site in SEMRush I discovered that the majority of its traffic is coming from long tails and extreme long tails that have 300 or less monthly searches.
My earnings per mille with Amazon based sites currently fluctuates between $50-$80 meaning if this was an Amazon site it could potentially be bringing in over $300 per month, not much but all I did was add a few posts of content to it and leave it to age and pull traffic and more importantly to me, it has held through the Google algorithm updates. Additionally, I would imagine this type of site would be attractive to investors after the two-year mark as there is little to no risk in the site being penalized.
Actioning My Plan
I had already begun my White Hat Case Study largely based on a few pages on my domains I had discovered that had skipped the link building phase but still pulled traffic. Now with my additional data gathered from the above site I plan to increase this site even further and add even more pages targeting many tiny keywords in an attempt to pull as much long tail traffic as possible.
In addition to the data gained from the domain above as well as a few external pages that have not been received link building efforts I have recently discovered the Just Start sub-Reddit. It is a small community of people who are doing exactly this with Amazon based sites with some of the more established members managing to flip the sites for six figures giving me additional confidence that this route may provide enough income to travel on.
If this plan is successful then I will also look to starting a travel blog and YouTube channel to further increase my income and document my travels.