Ranking Niche Sites After Google Penguin Update

Google rolled out another update recently called Penguin. The update was a surprise to me because they also pushed out Panda 3.4 not too long ago. It seems like Google is taking spam seriously but so far the search results aren’t much better than before.

In fact, I have seen a lot of spammy looking sites that are now ranking for some competitive keywords, and in some verticals we see totally unrelevant listings.

What’s interesting is that Google actually admits they messed up by providing a form that you can fill out to report spam or sites that lost rankings unfairly after the update.

I won’t be filling out the form for my blog or reporting spam because it’s really not my job to fix things they messed up.

They claim that only 3% of queries have been affected but I honestly don’t believe that. If that was the case they wouldn’t be giving us the form to report what’s wrong with their new search results pages.

So what’s actually going on and what kind of sites are targeted?

I think Google is trying to hit sites that over-optimize their pages and manipulate rankings by engaging in aggressive link building techniques.

It might look good on the paper but in reality it doesn’t help the user and here is why.

When you try to SEO your website and get it ranked on the front page of Google most of the time you will make sure it’s relevant and provides up to date information. You will also structure your site so that the user can quickly find the content they are looking for and either sign up for your newsletter, share it, or become a member.

SEOs do a pretty good job of giving the search engine user exactly what they are looking for.  I don’t think Google would exist today if it wasn’t for the SEOs who produce good sites and make sure they rank well.

The problem is that some people abuse different techniques and try to rank low quality pages too fast. Google noticed it and decided to put an end to it but at the same time destroyed many legitimate sites in the process (like this one).

I think they are still working on resolving the issues and we will probably see more updates this year, but the negative seo stuff needs to be fixed.

If you are starting a website right now I recommend that you don’t tell anyone about it. Don’t post your urls on forums or do any public case studies because someone could ruin it for you right from the start.

A new website is vulnerable to spam links, so you want to make sure that your link profile is clean until you gain some authority. Simple link blast from Fiverr could probably kill your project and you won’t even know it happened or who did it.

Here is how I would build and rank an affiliate niche site today.

1. Content first – For the first 2 weeks I would probably concentrate on putting out high quality content before even trying to get it indexed in search engines. Make sure you have at least 10 quality pages and proper structure before getting a single link to the site.

The site also needs to be regularly updated. I would publish at least 1 post each week to keep the spiders crawling your niche blog.

Once you have some good quality pages created it’s time to get it indexed.

2. Getting the site indexed – Most likely your new domain will get indexed quickly without any link building because every time you make a post WordPress pings all the bots. But to make sure you have a good link pointing to it’s probably a good idea to submit it to a web directory that Google trusts.

There are only a handful of directories worth submitting to.

– Yahoo directory

– BOTW.org

– Business.com

– Joeant.com

I am sure there are more with good PR but I wouldn’t submit to all of them. It’s not a good idea to get so many links right at the beginning. Just pick 1 or 2 and that’s it.

3. More content – I think new sites are now going to be screened for any type of unnatural link patterns. You basically don’t want to start any type of link building campaign for the first 2 months if you want to be safe.

Just constantly update the site and make sure the content you put out is good and provides value. It’s really not that hard to write a post once a week, but you can always outsource content creation.

4. Link building is a go – Now after about 2 months you can slowly start generating links to your site. I wouldn’t do any massive article marketing or use spun content. Make sure that you are getting links from quality sites too.

I would just do guest posting and write content that gets me traffic. Then you can also comment on other blogs manually. Make a list of 5 relevant blogs and try to comment on each one at least 2 times a week.  Don’t use anchor text when commenting! If you don’t want your real name to be shown use a pen name, but the comments you leave should be real.

The most important thing is that you need to build links that get you traffic. I wrote about this in my previous post here. You can use Web 2.0 sites too but not in the way people used to do it. Forget spammy looking link wheels.

Create real quality web 2.0 pages that deliver value and rank well on their own. You need traffic before you gain some decent rankings in my opinion.

Press releases work too but you won’t be able to abuse it like many of us used to do in the past. You can’t just write a post about whatever and publish a press release for the sole purpose of getting a link. It won’t work anymore.

You have to make sure that the content you are trying to publicize is worth linking to and could possibly go viral.

Combine link baits with press releases. For example, I did it with my recent post about Google hypocrisy. After I published the post I distributed my release through PrWeb. It worked well.  Even though it didn’t help me recover from my penalty it drove a lot of traffic to my blog.

Anyway, Google wants a good percentage of your links to be natural. If your content is good and you drive traffic to it the way I talked about above then some people will in fact link to your website.

The problem is that this system will not work in some niche markets. There are verticals that no matter what you do you will not gain enough links to rank on top. For example, if you are running an eCommerce store selling shirts I am not sure how you could gain authority without engaging in some gray-hat link building techniques.

Or if you are starting a website in the financial market it’s going to be extremely difficult to get other webmasters or bloggers to link to you, because they know the value of it.

On the other hand if you are just trying to rank an authority review site promoting affiliate products you might be able to supplement it with good enough content that people would link to.

So my advice is…choose your niche wisely.

I think for most affiliate marketers the big profitable niches are no longer within reach. I would only go after big markets if I knew I had a big enough budget to withstand any penalty Google throws at me. You need to have a plan in case that happens and most sites that try for highly lucrative keywords will get a penalty at some point. If you can wait it out and your site is optimized for paid traffic then the penalty is just going to be an obstacle that you need to get over instead of a death sentence for your business.

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11 thoughts on “Ranking Niche Sites After Google Penguin Update

  1. There will always be abuse, and I just try and do my best to make my content/websites really what people want, because in the end Google wants their results to contain what the people want.

  2. Good advice, Pawel. Especially about the part about backlinks needing to generate traffic too. I know some people who didn’t (don’t still?) care about that. It’s never made sense to me to have backlinks just to have backlinks, even if, eventually they moved you up to where you did get traffic. I guess I’m stingy, I want traffic even on my way to the top not only when I make it there.

  3. Good points and action items. I am frustrated as an SEO, I felt with our main focus on providing content with value, curating news, and backing niche-relevant causes with PR’s (did about 5 for one website in 5 month period via PRweb) that my rankings were worked hard for and justified. Well, even with all the good we have Really done in the causes we have supported, and the high quality links and traffic we have received because of it, still has been overshadowed by some article marketing techniques to the domain (and that shadow blacked us out of the top100 not just 1st page). So I’m scrambling to make adjustments…

  4. To be honest, I wouldn’t worry about it much. Just continue on doing what you are doing. Get traffic and natural links through content marketing (lol I know it’s a vague statement but I don’t see how you can get links if you don’t market your content)

  5. Gotcha, I do have an update though, I have had a team working on removing link s for a certain domain the past month, as of 4 days ago, the “unnatural notice” was lifted from webmaster tools (i did not submit a reconsideration request) and rankings are now improving.

  6. Might work but what if someone is dedicated to spam you with bad links? You could be removing them while they are building more. Google should really just discount them instead of penalizing for it.

  7. Some sound advice here. In the end, if you want quick success, you have to find untapped niches but this is a lot easier said than done. From my experience you can’t really teach finding untapped niches, you generally just stumble upon them by working day in day out.

  8. Great article again Pawel, maybe branding is the way to go? As John Lennon once said, I quote loosely ‘time to write myself a swimming pool.’ he had a large fan base and was a brand so whatever he did he got great results.

  9. Yes brother, I heard another top name in online marketing mention it was unwise to insert affiliate links in the early stages of a new websites infancy. He went as far as recommending getting the site ranked 1st page on Google before creating the affiliate links, to slip under the radar so to speak. He used to be big on seo and backlinking but nowadays he concentrates on building his lists in 5 or 6 top niche markets and using a variety of methods to drive traffic, mostly paid traffic I think, and some free traffic from YouTube videos too. He keeps the videos short on YT and tells the viewers they can see the rest of the video on his site 🙂

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