Google Penguin Update

On April 24th 2012, Google applied an update to their search engine rankings, code named “Penguin”. Using what are known as algorithms, Google’s many complex mathematical models determine the ranking of webpages within their search results. A highly kept secret, Google does not publicly disclose which factors can help a website, and those which can lower it’s rankings. While many general suggestions have been made by Matt Cutts (leader of Google’s webspam team) to improve a sites rank in the past, this is the first major update targeting at lowering ranking for sites determined to be in violation of various Terms and Conditions.

The following are some of the negative SEO tactics outlined in the Penguin update…

On April 24th 2012, Google applied an update to their search engine rankings, code named “Penguin“. Using what are known as algorithms, Google’s many complex mathematical models determine the ranking of webpages within their search results. A highly kept secret, Google does not publicly disclose which factors can help a website, and those which can lower it’s rankings. While many general suggestions have been made by Matt Cutts (leader of Google’s webspam team) to improve a sites rank in the past, this is the first major update targeting at lowering ranking for sites determined to be in violation of various Terms and Conditions.

The following are some of the negative SEO tactics outlined in the Penguin update, along with a few of my own comments:

  1. Malware/Viruses/etc. – Probably the most obvious penalty, this shouldn’t require much explanation. Scan your site at least once a week in Google’s Webmaster Tools to ensure your site isn’t host to any known (or unknown) viruses.
  2. Cloaking links and redirects – Commonly used as blackhat SEO tactics, it is fairly obvious (and reasonable) that Google is now penalizing link redirects. It is important to note that this does not include shortened hyperlinks or renamed link pointers, commonly used here at 2WNP.
  3. Irrelevant keyword “stuffing” – Placing hyperlinks or other keywords randomly into auto-generated content to trick the search engines into ranking a site higher. Again, it doesn’t quite take a rocket scientist to realize that this is another valid penalty for sites that engage in such activity.
  4. Hidden text and hidden links – While link building is one of the most important aspects of ranking well in Google, hiding links from users (any robots crawling your pages can still see the text) is a clearly a blackhat SEO tactic. Another real shocker here!
  5. Duplicate content penalties – This is where we start to get into a bit of a gray area. While stealing content is a “no-brainer”, WordPress (one of the most common blog platforms) is built around redundancy. While you may not intentionally realize you have duplicate content on your site, Google is now going to penalize you anyway. Not too fair for small business owners who can’t afford the expensive SEO firms if you ask me.
  6. “Doorway Pages” – Google classifies doorway pages as pages that are created for the sole purpose of funneling traffic to another location. While on the surface this may seem fine and dandy, for most blog networks, what pages aren’t funnel pages for your main site? Nearly every page on the 2WNP contains a link to another page (and the homepage via the navigation bar). While I don’t see Google penalizing for this type of site layout yet, this is a very slippery slope. Careful here, Google…

Have I been affected?

First and foremost, you need to decide if you have been hit by the Penguin update. I’ve copied a screenshot from one of my smaller niche sites that has been hit by Penguin, and using Google Analytics, it’s fairly obvious to see the traffic drop after the new algorithm change. While this is just a small niche site that I had been using to build expertise for another brick and mortar business, similar effects have been found on much larger sites across the web that were engaging in unnatural link building techniques.

So, how do I recover?

Google has suggested a variety of methods to recover from the Penguin update. The most obvious answer here is to sort through your site for any content that could be considered in violation of the terms and conditions found in the bullets above. As we often become blinded by content we see day in and day out (quick, what color is your steering wheel?), it’s not a bad idea to have a friend or other colleague review your material for any violations of these terms. If you do find issues, you’ll need to correct these before filing a reconsideration request to Google. Note – DO NOT file a reconsideration request without making significant changes to your site, this can and will hurt you if you do not properly adjust your site.

I’ve sent in a reconsideration request, now what?

Now, you wait. In follow-up to the site listed above, it was later determined that the small niche site in question had been hacked through a WordPress backdoor (more on WordPress security updates in future posts) and another user had uploaded thousands of spam websites that were invisible to human visitors, but were flagged by Google as doorway pages. After removal of the spam pages and updates to the security of the site, I filed a request to the Google webspam team. The following is the response I received several days later:

So where does my site rank now? Nowhere. While the sub-pages are now showing on the first page of Google (previously ranked #1 for my targeted keyword), the main landing page is nowhere to be found. It’s been shown time and time again by various website owners that manual actions can take 30-90 days to recover, so time will tell if the site ever ranks again.

What can we learn from all of this?

I firmly believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that “you get what you pay for”. I have found this saying to be true time and time again in my offline real life, and such tactics will continue to apply for any online business. While I recognize that nearly everyone wants to rank instantly for their targeted keywords, sites that wish to stand the test of time, and the test of unknown Google algorithm updates, need to become authority websites. May people can (and do) earn a substantial living from Google AdSense and various affiliate programs, but putting all of your eggs in one basket is a surefire way to failure and disappointment down the road.

Now that I’ve shared my story, I want to hear yours. Has the Google Penguin update affected your sites? What steps have you taken to correct the errors?

Niche Keyword Selection – Step #2

Now that we’ve got our mind-maps set up, it’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff by selecting niche keywords. While it’s true that money can be made in virtually any niche, choosing the right balance between competition and income potential will improve our odds for success. Selecting a careful balance of risk vs. reward is also much more likely to keep us motivated during the initial start-up phases of our businesses. As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, a young business will require long hours and hard work for little or no reward, but hard work always pays off. What is true for a brick & mortar business is no different than an online franchise, and making money online requires the same level of dedication, and a proper selection of niche keywords.

Now that we’ve got our mind-maps set up, it’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff by selecting niche keywords. While it’s true that money can be made in virtually any niche, choosing the right balance between competition and income potential will improve our odds for success. Selecting a careful balance of risk vs. reward is also much more likely to keep us motivated during the initial start-up phases of our businesses. As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, a young business will require long hours and hard work for little or no reward, but hard work always pays off. What is true for a brick & mortar business is no different than an online franchise, and making money online requires the same level of dedication, and a proper selection of niche keywords.

Now, I wouldn’t be much of a teacher if I didn’t publicly follow my own advice – so here goes: For the Two Week Notice Project, my first niche keyword is “Internet Career” (exact phrase match, details to follow). A moderate keyword in terms of exact searches made per month, my objective here is to show that keywords do not need to be elaborate, complex, or yield substantial traffic flow, but rather are obtainable and measurable.

The time period I’ve provided for myself to reach the first page of Google is ~3 months from the date of this post. Setting a deadline of July 31st, 2012 will allow enough time to have the blog indexed by Google for my selected niche keyword, and will also allow the core site tp start obtaining organic traffic, which I expect will mostly result directly from link building activities (more to come on this in future posts). Setting either unrealistic or overly easy niche keywords will only discourage you, so focus on keywords that will require hard work and encourage future growth!

So, where do I start?

Good question! It’s almost like I would have asked that myself… but I digress. The first step in finding your most profitable niche keywords is to determine the simple supply and demand of your target keyword. Just like any other business, huge supply and little demand is going to leave any business owner dreaming of profits. On the other hand, huge demand with low supply is going to set you on the path to success. While typing in phrases in Google will show you a total number of web pages that you may compete against for any given phrase, and the Google Keyword Tool will show you even further details for each keyword, the most effective method is to use Market Samurai (NOT an affiliate link), which is a piece of software that provides a wealth of knowledge for any niche keyword or key phrase.

While I am now working to develop my own tutorial videos for Market Samurai, Pat Flynn of the Smart Passive Income Blog has provided this excellent tutorial of how he uses Market Samurai to find profitable niche ideas. Take a moment to watch the following in its entirety (yes, all 11 minutes), and I promise you you’ll be further down the path to success then you will yet realize.

Woah, that was a lot of information…

For first time website builders, this may seem like a lot of information, but this is an important step in niche keyword selection. Take your time here and play with Market Samurai while you develop a feel for the general flow of the software. The trial period should set you well on your way to selecting a niche keyword within your grasp, and spending the $ to buy a full license wouldn’t be the worst decision you could make with your money, either. Again, there is no need to rush. The more time you take now to understand the methods put forth in this outline, the better off you will be down the line. As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I’m here to help and will take the time to make sure you understand the importance of niche keyword research.

So, my fellow marketers, I leave you with this: What niche keywords have you found with Market Samurai that you are glad you didn’t pursue, and why?

5 Steps To A Money Making Blog – Step #1

In an effort to provide full transparency for the Two Week Notice Project, this new blog series will identify each and every step needed to establish a new website (more on content & niche selection later). When I first started registering domain names and establishing niche websites, I bought a complete HTML programming guide and programmed the entire website by hand… boy was that a mistake! Not only did I lose interest in the site, but it completely turned me off to the idea of earning online income whatsoever!

After months of researching, examining alternate programming methods, outsourcing design work, and spending countless dollars on failed projects, I’m here to show you what works. After all, do you really want to spend hundreds of dollars troubleshooting your website or do you want me to show you a few shortcuts that in the end will make your site better, faster, and rank higher in Google!?

In an effort to provide full transparency for the Two Week Notice Project, this new blog series will identify each and every step needed to establish a new website (more on content & niche selection later). When I first started registering domain names and establishing niche websites, I bought a complete HTML programming guide and programmed the entire website by hand… boy was that a mistake! Not only did I lose interest in the site, but it completely turned me off to the idea of earning online income whatsoever!

After months of researching, examining alternate programming methods, outsourcing design work, and spending countless dollars on failed projects, I’m here to show you what works. After all, do you really want to spend hundreds of dollars troubleshooting your website or do you want me to show you a few shortcuts that in the end will make your site better, faster, and rank higher in Google!? So, without further ado…

Step #1 – Mind Mapping

Now, if you have any experience in making money online (or perhaps even if you don’t), the first question you are likely to ask is “How do I turn something I am passionate about into an income source?”

While the whole “if you build it they will come” mentallity is utter nonsense when it comes to the wonderful world wide web, I will show you in our next few studies that there is money to be made in virtually any market. If you select a topic you lack enthusiasm for, the bottom line is you’re not going to spend your free time writing about it… and if you don’t write about it, no one is going to visit your site… (I think you see where I’m going with this!)

Note: This is where the “guru’s” tell you to buy their product and they will show you everything they know. They will unlock the mysteries of the universe and send dancing unicorns to your front porch. (Utter nonsense! <– OK, I’ll be nice…)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I get it. You’re bored at your current job. You can’t wait to hand over that two week notice and walk out with your head high knowing that your future is in your hands. Who wants to start slow?! This is where you need to trust me because I’m not selling you anything. Patience in the first few steps will yield rewards far outnumbering all of the failed ideas laid to rest without proper planning.

How To Build A MindMap

To start determining what you are passionate about, grab a piece of paper or download FreeMind (highly recommended – and FREE). At the very heart of your mindmap, I want you to draw four circles – love, fear, passion, and talent. These three central hubs will be the basis for everything that we will accomplish together, so take your time here. From each of these central hubs, branch off topics that fit that category. From here, branch off again into “sub-topics”, commonly called “niches” in the online community. This is the bread and butter of our work. Take a look at my mindmap here, and you’ll probably get a pretty good feel for some other “niches” I already have websites in…

How Will My Passion For Pinatas Make Me $?

OK, so this wouldn’t exactly be my niche of choice, but in the next few discussions we will look into monetization ideas for your topics. So, tell me, what niche ideas does your mindmap show that you never expected?

The TWN Project is Born

Welcome to the Two Week Notice Project! The date is February 15th, 2012, and today we start our journey to financial freedom…

First and foremost, I want to discuss the two main goals of this blog (details can be found on the About page). While you could probably classify this website as a “make money online” blog, I hope that it is serves as more of a road-map to success than a blazen attempt at grasping for advertising revenue and impersonal connections. While I hope that each and every visitor here can follow in my footsteps and find success outside of their 9 to 5 job, I also sincerely hope that connections are made between each and every one of us. Are you willing to stand with me on this journey?

Welcome to the Two Week Notice Project! The date is February 27th, 2012, and today we start our journey to financial freedom…

First and foremost, I want to discuss the two main goals of this blog (details can be found on the About page). While you could probably classify this website as a “make money online” blog, I hope that it is serves as more of a road-map to success than a blazen attempt at grasping for advertising revenue and impersonal connections. While I hope that each and every visitor here can follow in my footsteps and find success outside of their 9 to 5 job, I also sincerely hope that connections are made between each and every one of us. Are you willing to stand with me on this journey?

Why turn to the internet?

I have a confession to make. My girlfriend of 4+ years (yes, she has hinted many times she wants a ring!) currently owns and operates a hair salon. I’ve spent countless hours painting walls, fixing plumbing, hooking up phones, etc. and in the end, it has brought her much success. For those of you who don’t know the intricaces of operating a hair salon, the stylists actually pay the owner to rent our their space, so she even makes money when she is not at work.  Sounds like the internet, right?

Wrong!

At the end of the month, each of the stylists pay their rent checks, which she then forks over to her landlord, whom she leases the building from. Now, I’m sure the landlord pays his fair share of taxes and has a mortgage on the property, but the end goal is the same – you’re always paying someone else.

When it comes to earning online income, your power is virtually endless. There are no “closed” hours, there are no landlords, there aren’t any plumbimg issues that need constant monitoring, and your potential clientle is quite literally in the billions! On top of this, there are multiple passive income streams available, meaning that you can even make money online while you sleep. (Trust me… it’s always a nice surprise to wake up in the morning and be a little richer than when you went to bed, even if it’s only a few pennies!) As we move forward, I hope to explore many different potential online income streams with you and to share our successes (and failures) together.

Now your turn…

If you’re here, you’re probably looking to make some extra money online. Whether you’re chomping at the bit to give your boss your two week notice or simply looking to make some extra cash outside of the 9 to 5, I want to know: what drives you?