Authority Site

Authority Site Building – May Update

OK I’m going to be posting a regular update on the progress of my travel authority site. The updates will probably be about monthly – unless something huge comes along. Frankly monitoring this sort of project more than monthly means I’d probably be doing too much talking and not enough doing – if you know what I mean. 

Hey at the end of it when I’m making thousands a month from my travel site – maybe I’ll pull all these together and flog the ebook to you guys! 

Until them – I’ll try to explain what I’m doing, and more importantly – why. I know making the transition from niche, anonymous site, to being out there with a site with your name on it is daunting for many. Well its daunting for me to, but frankly if I can do it, anyone can. Can I do it? No flipping idea, but I’m going to try, stick around for the ride! 

Background on my Authority Site 

I’ve written about my overall business plan for this site before. 

I initially registered the domain on 1 June 2011. I registered it to be the “home” for my self-published books. As I’ve said before I’d found getting organic rankings for a travel site is tough going. I didn’t do much with the site – tossed a little content on and let it sit. If found some very long tail keywords, and wrote about 7 posts. I then published nothing for two months, then I did a few more posts in September, then again nothing until March.  

Meanwhile I did a few guest posts and other hmm… “self promotional advertising” – and voila my search traffic started building steadily from 146 visits in January to 946 in March (so far my record month for search). This dropped a bit in April – why? Not actually sure, the Penguin debacle was late enough in the month to not have a huge effect in the statistics. More likely its the seasonality of the search terms (hard to know without a year or two of good data). 

BTW If I was doing this again I’m not sure I’d use my name in the site’s url again (for frigs sake this is the second time I’ve done this – you’d think I’d learn!). In the unlikely event that I want to sell it, the branding issue would be a problem. 

Authority Site Statistics 

Customers, Traffic? Where are they?
Food Vendor, Phuket, Thailand

24/04/12 07/05/12
PR 3.00 2
Google Indx 197.00 225
Alex Rank 749,511.00 435779
Alexa Rank US 271,824.00  
Reputation 118.00 129
SEM Rush Rank 1,999,856.00       199856,00
Domain Authority 32.00 33
MozRank 4.91 4.56
Page Authority 43.00 44
FB Likes   61
Weekly Reach   137
Twitter followers   61
List Subscribers   58
Uniques (last 30 days)   1138
Page Views   2509
Pages/Visit   1.94
Visit Duration            2:24min
Bounce Rate   63.00%

Frankly I don’t know enough about the social to know what is good or bad about it! I noticed the page rank had dropped a couple of days ago with the latest PR update but apart from that every other metric seems to be going in the right direction. 

What am I aiming at with these metrics? I’m aiming to get into one of the many “top 100 travel blogs” lists. Nomadic Samuel’s seems to have an objective list of requirements –  and I don’t think I’m a million miles off of making his cut off.  I also think there is a very much a snow ball effect with social media. If you have no friends or followers no one wants to go first (in fact if the site had been really brand new and I hadn’t got around to creating and ignoring the Facebook pages months ago-  just buy some likes will have plenty of people offering that service) 

On Site Content 

  • 32 new posts 
  • 2 pages 
Really? I’m surprised – I managed to average a post a day – and quite pleased! Did I publish crap? No I don’t think so, as this is a subject I know very well, so far everything I’ve written is based on personal experience.  As I’ve said before I’m publishing three main types of content:
  • content for the armchair traveller
  • “how to’s” for the serious traveller
  • and photos 
I’m not yet getting a whole lot of feedback – but my doing little else than promoting my content on Facebook, I started to get some significant traffic from there.  Well significantly more anyways! 
This is the tough bit – and why so many bloggers fail. If you are writing and hoping to get any engagement, you really need to wait for at least a year. My most heavily trafficked posts don’t have ANY comments – searchers don’t seem to comment in this niche. My fellow travel bloggers are the ones interacting, that’s not my final audience, but its a start. 
Now one of the things I’ve never had on any site is an “Editiorial Calendar” ie a regular publishing schedule. But for social traffic – I can see the advantage. So I did a couple of things: 
  • I installed a plugin called WordPress Editorial Calendar. Its a drag and drop interface which allows you to plan and manage posts easily. 
  • I did some research and discovered that the most popular time to read your emails is 9am. Given that most of my readers are from the US – I know schedule my “social” posts to publish at 9am EST, on a week day. Remember only some of my posts show on my “travel blog” page, the search engine focussed stuff gets published as its written. 
  • The pages are effectively the content on the category pages. I’m really only doing them as pages because it keeps them out of my RSS feed and makes it easy for me to find them. 
  • I also installed a plugin that automatically creates an index of a page based on sub-title tags: Table of Contents Plus

How To Build Social Media Engagement 

Well if anyone has the passive income solution to this one I’m all ears!  I think this is one of the biggest hurdles for many Internet Marketers. I’m applying a really simple strategy. I basically go looking for bloggers in my niche. I comment on their sites, and I comment on their site’s facebook page. If they respond I do it again.  I don’t pick the “leaders” in the niche. I go to their sites sure, but its not them I’m targetting, they don’t need me. Instead I am picking on their followers, who also have travel blogs. The wannabes if you like. The people at my own level are far more likely to respond and reciprocate than the “big boys”. 

I’m nice, and most people are nice back. Its strategy that worked bloody well for Griz and Court in this niche – I see no reason why it shouldn’t work in travel – because people are people. 

I’m also in several “membership groups” around travel.  Why? For the networking. Yeah really that nasty N-word. Why the heck does networking matter – well for the links I just described above!  My being members of those groups I’ve so far found an advertiser who spent over $400 with me (for 10 minutes work), plus I’m part of a nice guest posting set-up which should give me lots of exposure at the end of this month. 

Why Am I Building Social Media Engagement 

Yeah I would have asked that a month back too! Why? For the money of course.  As you no doubt already know social traffic won’t make you rich clicking Adsense ads. However social engagement is something that advertisers are looking for when they are considering working with a travel site. Not all, true. Some, maybe many, just want to see their keywords on your page and Page Rank. 

But the more discerning actually want figures that prove you have an audience. Because that’s the audience they want to reach. 

Personally I’m diversifying – I’ll take their money whether they want my audience or my page rank 🙂 

Well I hope this series will be of some use to someone out there. Its pretty funny – when I hang out with bloggers they are dead scared of all this “SEO stuff”, when I hang out with IMers they are dead scared of “social media stuff”. 

Actually neither is rocket science, you just need to figure out an approach, and do it! 

Authority Site Rants Websites

Pick Myself Up, Dust Myself Off, Start All Over Again

Thank you. The last email I sent out to the list was rather long, and had bad words in it. Frankly, I was not sure how it would go down. Given the choice I’d rather have put it on the blog, but there are some conversations I’m not prepared to have “out in the open” any more. If you want to know WTF I’m talking about – sign up for the list (under this post). Its the only truly G-monster proof place I have to chat. (No I don’t believe that Facebook pages are secure either, whatever their privacy settings).  

What I got was a ton of replies – some from people I’m pretty sure have never actually commented here.  Thank you. Its nice to hear that I am sometimes useful. 

A few days after I wrote my last post my premier travel site got damaged by the rampaging bird aka Google’s Penguin update – maybe. Its weird – its going up and down in the SERPS like front page, not in the top 100, and repeat. Not just for one search term – for ALL of them! There used to be a sandbox when Google wouldn’t  rank a site for anything for the first 6 months, maybe 12. That gradually faded over the last few years – maybe its been replaced by this ping pong effect? Making me dizzy anyways – was always crap at table tennis.  

Tent on Display, Greytown, New Zealand
No I am not sleeping in it - I just though it looked cute

For the record I hadn’t used BMR on this site, but I’ve done some guest posts plus some good quality articles on relevant sites with key word anchored in-content text links. I’m seeing “phuket or koh samui” go between zero and 8 visitors a day. It was back to 3 yesterday. And when I check Google via proxy I’m sitting at #4 behind Frommers, Lonely Planet (legit publishing houses) and – none of which I’d argue with. The page is better than it was yesterday where a bunch of hotel results were showing (not consolidators actual properties) which had both terms in their address, i.e. they had a hotel on each island – that’s not the answer to a query which is really the searcher asking which place has the better weather, or the better nightlife, or easier to get to. 

BTW the very best information I’ve seen to date on Penguin was  on a blog I’d never heard of before, Microsite Masters – who actually analysed the data they collect for clients and reported the results of Penguin here The only thing I object to is the word “easy”  in their title. None are particular “easy” – but some are actionable so I will be implementing some. 

Which brings me back to the point of this post – yeah this post has a point. 

A New Business Direction – I’m Out of Diversifying Niche Sites 

Yeah – Google all those sites you just slammed – you can have them. But I will be getting my travel site back thank you very much. 

But I do think its time for a bit of a change of direction. My 2012 internet marketing business plan just went out the window.  I’m not looking for new niches, and I’m not creating pure Adsense or Amazon affiliate sites anymore. I think its the high road to nothing.  

Yes I have a cash flow problem – I guess some of you do to.  If I hit payout with Adsense this month I’ll be surprised.  I’m hurting financially. Let’s be honest here, I have partner who earns good money, and who can more than afford to support me, I won’t be in a tent any time soon. But I want him to retire.  I could cash in some investments, but we’re not looking at losing our home, and I forever thankful that I live in a socialist paradise that considers cheap medical care one of the basics of a civilized society.  And the frigging US$ keeps collapsing against the NZ$, thanks a lot forex markets. 

I can’t afford to wait 12 months, or even 6 months to replace my income. I want to be earning $5000 month by the end of the year. This year. 2012

But the game just changed – and its adapt or die time. So I’m adapting. 

I will be focussing on two niches – this one and travel.  

This site just changed – its not about making hundreds of niche sites and ranking in Google and making money. 

Its about what I’m going to do to rank  in the travel vertical (I think that’s the marketing jargon).  I’m turning around some of the stuff that I’ve been adamantly against for years. I am going to try to be “branded” and a leader in the travel niche. I am going to be chasing social media traffic. But not exclusively. I’m taking what I know about SEO and I’m applying it to this business.  I figure the general approach will work in any niche that you know well, certainly doesn’t have to be travel. 

Do I have a blue print? No not really.  I’m pretty much doing what I described in my making money with a travel blog post. 

This site? Well its now about building a G-monster proof authority website that makes money. Without the cult of personality bullshit which seems to accompany so much of this.  

I’m going to achieve this while remaining an introvert, who doesn’t want to go on a speaking tour, become the go-to authority for daytime TV in the niche, and frankly isn’t interested in getting out of their PJs before midday.  

Its about taking the stuff that the blogging crowd has been talking about for years: “write and they will come”, “social media matters”, “the money is in the list”, blah, blah, taking the good bits – yes there are some good bits, and combining those with the best of SEO. 

After all how hard can it be?

You might want to stick around for the ride. 

You see I figure if I can make this work anyone bloody can! 

So hang around – and sign up for the sodding list – because there is definitely going to be stuff I don’t want to talk about in front of the G-monster. 

The passive income dream ain’t dead – but I think we just saw the end of the beginning. 

Back Links Rants Search Engines

Google Bullshit aka Penguin Debacle on the 24 April 2012

Due to the fun of time zones mostly when its the 24th April in the US its the 25th April in New Zealand. In New Zealand and Australia the 25th April is ANZAC day. ANZAC Day is the day Australasians respect our war dead – so I personally think its pretty fucking ironic that’s also the day that Google decided to DISrespect the right of small business to exist on the Internet.  By the 26th there were an awful lot casualties including – apparently being the poster child for the Adsense team and providing huge amounts of unique and original content is no guarantee that Google might rank you in the search engines. So much for the content is King argument. The winners, fairly universally, appear to be large corporations as domain authority and, quite possibly, large Adwords budgets, trump everything else. 

Full disclosure: my niche sites got slaughtered. As in every ranking gone from the top 100. My larger sites are generally OK with some oddities like losing the ranking for “passive income” for this one.  However I do not think this is a result of the deindexing of Build My Rank, I saw the drop of a few pages that was the result of that. This was the wholesale disappearance of every ranking for each site. 

Most of those affected where niche sites, which, frankly repeat the same keyword variations a little too much both on-page and in the backlinks –  I’ll ignore them for a while before I decide what to do with them. 

But there is one I’m, frankly, annoyed about, the book site I set up last August.  I set  this site up to promote my Vacation Packing List book. Before 24 April it was bouncing around page 2 for some related long-tails – but now its gone, entirely, it doesn’t even rank for the site’s domain. Instead we have: 

I mean that terms is hardly a very competitive one – in fact, as witnessed by the SERPS – Google has hardly anything that matches! It has good links and about 20 links from Build My Rank – if that’s what sunk it – then the very scary world of negative SEO is alive and well. 

My gut feel is that this one is a huge win for Google – but not for its stated reason of “removing spam for the search results” – it clearly hasn’t – just Google some of your favourite queries using a proxy such as – to see the rubbish that is ranking. 

No this is a winner for Google – because of the number of small time SEOs I see claiming that they be quitting the game. In fact if I was looking for an investment then I’d be buying shares in any company which provides email services such as mailchimp or AWeber

Because although I’m not quitting the game – I am focussing more on social traffic and building email lists. And those are easier to do with larger sites. Are niche sites dead? I don’t think so – unless every specialist site – like my one above, and every small business’s website, are doomed to rank nowhere. Which may be what Google wants – but how long before the general public start switching to a better search engine? Because at the moment if you search Google isn’t providing the answers – they are giving you a list of big brands, and sites which are way out of date. 

Other views on the update: 

Costas: Doesn’t Like Penguins Very Much 

SY: Penguin Musings 

Leo: Organic/Inorganic Links and Penguins

Dorsi – is usually a lovely sunny character – but she seems more than a little pissed as Penguin Hits Hubpages Online Writer

Authority Site Catalyst WordPress

Using Catalyst Theme To Build An Authority Site

The original title of this site, when it was on blogger, was building an online income one website at a time.  I figured I’d need about 100 websites.  I’ve hung onto the niche website model for longer than most. I may well go back to it. But at the moment I feel like I’m swimming against the tide too much, and I’ve decided to build an authority site – just to see what happens – oh and to make lots and lots of money (of course)! 

I’ve already have one authority site – this one – but I built it my accident, I want to build this one deliberately.  As  Regev asked a question in my last Catalyst Theme Review  I thought it was time to add a bit to that earlier review – by describing how I used the theme’s flexibility allowed me to achieve what  I want to do now, and how I can evolve the site  to what I want in the future, without a complete re-design. 

The Two Main Types of Travel Readers 

In my view, there are basically two types of people who read travel articles, be they blog posts or magazines: 

  • armchair travellers, those reading about a places that they will probably never visit (or not in the next year or two).  In the blogging sphere these are people skivvying off work, trying to keep the dream alive, or just escaping; 
  • those that are actually actively fact gathering for travelling. They may still be at a high level planning stage (how much money does 6 months in Thailand cost?), or they are getting quite a lot closer to departure (budget hotel near airport. Bangkok). 

Most published guidebooks cater for both. In fact the DK Eye Witness Travel Guides (some of the most beautiful guidebooks IMHO) – are pretty much designed for armchair travellers, unless you are using a porter they are far too heavy to actually travel with! Most travel addicts have at least one guidebook to a county they never quite got to! 

Most blogs only cater for just one of these groups –  often un-intentionally.

First there are those who are either gifted writers or just excited about documenting their trip know little about SEO, end up writing blogs which are great reads, but not very practically focussed.  Unfortunately most of these probably never find an audience because the writers have no idea how to promote their work. Writing and they will come still isn’t a great strategy as far as I am concerned, but if you are not writing keyword focussed content your odds of succeeding are minuscule.  To get this to work you need to be doing a lot of social media promotion. 

On the other hand there is also a number of travel blogs which were setup as, or evolved to, being mainly about practical fact gathering, often very focussed on SEO.   Some are quite fun, but then they go on a sponsored trip to “insert country you have no interest in here”, and you lose interest because its all about XYZ for months on end. Some of these sites also rely heavily on social media, but some too use a lot of SEO. 

What A Travel Site Needs To Have IMHO 

No surprise where I’m going here – I wanted a site which allowed me to reach both the “armchair travellers” with a range of amusing stories, and photos, and maybe even videos, which would get them interested in visiting a country.  Plus I wanted to use my knowledge of SEO and some specific travel destinations to write practical, “how to” style articles. I could see no reason why I couldn’t do both.  But I did need to think about how to design a site so I could regularly update both a  “travel blog” plus specific focussed “how to content”. The how to content needed to be easily found, without being in the face of the casual reader.  

I wanted to be able to feature photos. To me a travel blog without photos, is missing out on, a lot. You just gotta have the photos in my opinion. If nothing else it gives some credibility to what you are talking about.  I also wanted maps. Maybe I’m just a map geek – but I like to look at maps and I use maps for travel planning. 

I wanted clear menus and categorisation, so that visitors could find things easily. 

I wanted flexiblity to focus some categories as a silo – offering specific advertising and offers which only relates to those particular pages. Why would an advertiser of Thailand Vacations want to advertise on an article about Canada? I wanted it easy to do this.  In fact the more I looked into it the more I could see that category and tag pages are greatly under-utilised resources in many blogs. 

Using Catalyst To Design A Hybrid Travel Site 

Catalyst Theme - WordPress Accelerated

Basic Design Choices

I decided to use posts for almost everything except for genuinely static pages (Privacy Policy, About, Contact and similar).  Basically that’s because I want almost all my content to go to my RSS feed. I’ve found that content that I’ve added which is neither linked to from the front page OR the main navigation, still gets indexed quickly. The only reason for that is because its in the RSS. 

First I designed the categories up front. I needed a specific category for “travel blog” because not all of my posts were going on the travel blog.  I grouped a lot of my destination content around fairly standard geographic divisions. Designing categories gave me the main navigation of the site. I do NOT “no index” any part of my site including category and tag pages. Tag pages often rank first, before my post, so I find them useful “bell weather” indicators. Categories I have big plans for – see below. 

My tags are not designed up front. I use tags on pages where I’m targetting specific search terms, plus as a way to cross reference photos to be including in the relevant destination searches. 

I wanted a clean nice looking site, which wasn’t too cluttered, but not too bare either. I don’t think minimalism works for travel.  On the other hand I am no designer so I wanted something that I could just use. 

Implementation: I picked the “Greenfields” skin for two reasons 1) I liked it 2) It’s free. The only thing I’ve really changed is that I thought the header was too deep and took up too much space above the fold so I reduced it a bit. I also didn’t implement the slider because I wanted to use more space on the front page featuring various parts of my site (blog, photos, key destinations etc). 

I wanted the site to look good on other devices rather than just computers e.g. tablets, smart phones. 

Implementation: Latest version of Catalyst allows responsive design (which is what this is called) with a click of the button – lucky as that’s all I know about it ! 

I wanted to use a static front page (rather than current posts), because I wanted to provide and overall view of a site that was bigger than just being a “travel blog”. 

Implementation: Used a static welcome page layout “wide left 2 3 3”. The header image is actually a top widget, so I can remove on certain parts of the site if I wish to, and similarly the bottom gray footer is also a widget area which can be dropped from parts of the site if required. 

Specific Page Types and Layouts 

Catalyst provides a  specific blog template. Create a blank page – give it that template, add a specific page layout – voila – a “blog page” 

Implementation: Under core options you can chose which categories of post show on your “blog page”.

Page layouts is where the power of Catalyst really shines. Basically any page or post can have any layout and any layout can have widgets and other content anywhere on the page. It gets confusing – so briefly here are some examples. The blog page above is using my standard layout with standard excerpts and a sidebar. 

Implementation:  Each layout is setup first with specific widgets on that page. You then populate those widgets with the code you require. I use a limited amount of CSS in order to float widgets within content e.g. to display Adsense with Catalyst. I also use CSS to suppress metadata on my evergreen content (Catalyst will let me turn it off or on for all posts – but I only wanted to show dates on some content). 

Other variations of page layouts  I’m using include: 

  • No advertising on irrelevant pages e.g. Contact 
  • Standard advertising using widgets on most pages – see any blog post. 
  • Full-width layout on some pages where I want to focus on the content: Packing List Book 
  • A different full-width layout for travel photos. 
  • Specific Thailand Category Page  – I’ll use a similar design for other destinations in the future. 

Specific Category Pages 

With Catalyst you can specify a particular page to display for each category. I’m using this feature to allow me to add value to my category pages, by mapping posts to a local geographic map at the top of the page, and then using excerpts below. In future I could replace the sidebar with relevant advertising for this region too. This is basically a development of the process of replacing the Post Page Associator plugin I’ve described previously. 

Catalyst Theme - WordPress Accelerated

This is a continuing series about developing an authority site. The next post will probably be about finding new keywords in your analytics – stay tuned. 

Paid Tools The Keyword Academy

Postrunner V2 Is Coming – Sneak Peak Review from a Beta Tester

Postrunner is the guest blogging system which has been part of the Keyword Academy for several years.  Now however its being re-launched as a Postrunner V2. 

What’s New With Postrunner V2?

Well the core of Postrunner is the same as I described in my Postrunner review over a year ago. However Postrunner V2 is a complete re-write of the existing functionality – so it works robustly, plus a host of new features. The whole user interface has been greatly improved – its nice and smooth to use compared to the old one. The key functional changes are:

  • site owners can determine how long an article they want and how many links they allow. No more standard 300 word posts with two links!  If you want 1000 words with one link – you specify that at Postrunner will ensure that is all you get. 
  • site owners can add a long blurb introducing their site and saying what you will and will not accept – you can link out to a requirements page so you provide potential contributors detailed instructions 
  • there is now an author score – this is determined by owners who score your articles. Site owners can restrict access to their sites by requiring a minimum author score. If you don’t have high enough score you can’t post to those sites. 
  • on the flip side those selecting a site to publish on will now see the site’s Page Rank and, more importantly in my view, the percentage of posts ignored by the site, i.e. returned within 7 days.  
  • sites can be ranked up to 5 stars by article writers. 

Postrunner is positioning itself as an introduction service between site owners and those that wish to promote their own sites.  Postrunner sites are all owner by individuals, not the people who are running Postrunner. This is guest blogging, not manufactured backlinks. 

The aim is to get many more, quality sites into the system.  You may have noticed, having a few quality links to your site will trump thousands of trashy low quality links any day of the week. Although some, including me, will see it as a Build My Rank alternative, but really this is about legitimate guest blogging. 

Will Google like it? Who the heck knows – but I have NEVER seen or heard of a site being penalised for accepting guest posts, or using them for promotion. 

Coffee anyone? Nelson, New Zealand

Pricing Information: 

Indicated pricing for Postrunner v2 for new subscribers is:

  • free for promotion of one site; 
  • up to 10 sites: $30 per month;
  • up to 25 sites: $50 per month;
  • up to 50 sites : $75 per month;
  • un-limited sites: $199 per month; 

Note you submit as many articles on any plan – but you are limited to how many sites you can promote. 

But if you are amember of Keyword Academy WHEN Postrunner V2 is LAUNCHED you will be grand-fathered in and allowed promotion of unlimited domains. 

When Will Postrunner V2 Launch?

Postrunner is now live for all members of TKA

So what I am trying to say – its a really, really good time to join Keyword Academy – take advantage of the free 30 days look, check out Postrunner V2 – and if you decide to use Postrunner you end up paying $33/month for unlimited domains. Plus you get the other tools and information available for TKA members too. 

Questions, queries, comments? Ask away! 

Authority Site Online Business Plan Review

Internet Business Plan: Making Money with a Travel Blog

Back in January I talking about business planning – and at the time I expected to do several follow up plans which would detail business plans for several of my bigger websites. But it never happened. Why not? Frankly – I was stuck! I couldn’t figure out a business plan for my favourite niche – my main travel blog. So I did, nothing.

Well I did think – quite a bit, and thought of and discarded dozens of plans. Now, several months later, I do indeed have a plan. If you just CLICK HERE I will tell you how to make $997,999 in the next 7 days while planning your next vacation. Nah sorry – but I’ll tell you what I’m trying to do – who knows it may even work out! 

Research, Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui. Thailand

Travel Blogging Is Tough  

My first website (it wasn’t a blog) – was in travel – it never made a cent. I still have the domain, now it makes a few cents with Adsense.  My first blog is long gone (I have the content somewhere on the hard drive). It was the classic: this is what I’m doing type trip diary. Then I discovered you could get paid to write posts about specific companies – then I lost all my page rank and also all the well paying posts. Lesson learnt – don’t blog for cash! 

Then I discovered Internet Marketing – found out just how highly competitive most keywords were, and how little interest I had in writing about “Disney hotels with kids club” or “luxury Alasakan cruises”  and dropped the whole idea of making money from travel. 

For a while. 

But I do really, really like travelling.  And I’m good at it – I’ve done a lot of it. I am the go-to travel agent for friends. Unless of course they want to know about Disney hotels or Alasakan cruises! 

Every year or so I’d look at it again. I learned a whole lot about SEO – it was a tough niche – don’t think that Expedia or Tripadvisor show up in the search listings by accident! 

I figured out that long-tails in travel could add up to decent traffic. But still I did very little about it – why? Because traffic won’t pay the bills – traffic is a requirement for a successful website – but you need to figure out a way to monetise that traffic. And I hadn’t.

Travel Blogging – Where’s The Traffic From? 

Today  I answered a thread over at The Keyword Academy forum – someone had around 7000 visitors and month and not a single Adsense click. I asked simply: where was his traffic from? It was social. He’s worked hard to get this traffic (spread over 3 niches and only in a few months) – but basically the instant he stopped tweeting, facebooking, g plus oning, and pinning – the traffic disappears. And although he may eventually make money from the traffic – it won’t be for a long time, and it won’t be from Adsense.  

I’ve seen travel bloggers hesitate to travel – because they thought the destination in question didn’t have good Internet connectivity… Anyone see why that is deeply wrong? 

Which brings me right back to the most reliable form of traffic I know – Google. Yeah I know their are plenty of people saying diversify, diversify – but at the end of the date whether I publish this post in the next hour or in 3 months time – will make very little difference to this blog’s traffic. Most of it comes from Google, and most of it comes to posts that are years old. 

But bloody hell the competition is flipping fear in travel. I’d looked and looked for “green keywords” in travel. Never found any.  I was scared off. 

I kept buying toys and playing. I particularly enjoyed playing with Ton’s Keyword Researcher tool. I threw a few terms in around Thailand travel. It came back with some nice long tail phrases. I tossed some of those phrases into Fraser’s Keyword Strategy tool – to give me the search volumes (could have done the same thing with Keyword Academy‘s Niche Refinerary but would have taken longer).  Right so – Google is telling me that the terms that Google GAVE me have no searchers. And the terms made sense, and were similar to questions I’d seen asked in travel forums. I built a couple of pages. I interlinked them. I added some backlinks. 

Up until a week ago I hadn’t posted on the site since October. I hadn’t built a link since before Christmas. I had 1000 uniques in the last month, 85% from Google, and 20% of the visitors were for search terms which had no search traffic according to Google! 

And that 20% of terms that had no search volume? Most of them were variations of the terms from Keyword Researcher! (I’ve been fairly on the fence about Keyword Strategy – but I do REALLY like the way it gives you rankings for all the obscure one off search phrases you get). 

Travel Blogging: How To Monetise 

This has been my stumbling block – forever – with travel blogging. How the heck do you monetize it?  The standard ways to monetize blogs seemed to involved either: 

  • promoting the blogger’s brand in order to launch that career of public speaking or writing: see The Art of Non-Conformity or NomadicMatt. Problem: I loath public speaking and I don’t live in the US or Europe so my chances of getting on the conference circuit are zero. If you want to write books these days I see no point in doing anything except self-publishing. 
  • Getting freebies for press trips, promoting certain hotels or travel companies in return for goods and services: see yTravel or GoBackpacking. Problem: I’m not single, and have zero interest in travelling my own country.  Travel freebies never include the airfares – so suddenly I’m paying to travel solo somewhere I may or may not have wanted to go to – and this is the killer -in a GROUP. Yuk no thanks. I’m sure there was a point in my life when the thought of free trips and 5-star hotel stays would have been very exciting. But no longer. 

Which left me with 

  • Adsense – most of the topics I am interested in don’t give great CPC’s 
  • Affiliate programs via hotel and airline booking sites. Again awful commissions.  On the other hand if this post is right – there is money to be made in hotel affiliates with the right traffic. 
  • Selling my own products. I wrote a book. I have 3 or 4 others – 1/2 finished. Then I got confused – should the content go in a book or on my websites? Both? 
  • Selling ads. There are of course ads and paid links. Paid links are awful, terrible, a blight on the landscape of the Internet, and very popular in the travel niche. Ads are just that – ads. The difference? Add the no-follow tag to a link and its  an ad. This monetization method still seems to work for many in the niche.  

And then suddenly I realised – I was overthinking it. 

I need traffic and I need the social stuff – because advertisers use both to determine what a site is worth to them. There are enough monetization options to worry about the fine details later. Those options are not trivial amounts of money either – for example see Kirsty’s earning reports – almost all of her income is from direct advertisors and all her sites are travel sites. And she spends most of her time volunteering in places that don’t have great Internet. 

I’ve redone the site. I’ve now got a “travel blog” separate from my distinctly keyword focussed content. I will silo the keyword focussed content even further (also making it more attractive to future advertisers). Thanks to the magic of Catalyst I didn’t even need to get another theme, just changed the skin and did some different layouts.  

Oddly the whole BMR debacle has really energized me. As they say in New Caledonia plus ca change, plus c’est le meme chose. I think I just narrowed my focus down from about 30 sites to two – but apart from that – its all business as usual LOL! 

What about you? Are you changing your business significantly after the recent Google changes? 

Back Links beginners Build My Rank Paid Tools The Keyword Academy

Build My Rank Alternatives

I originally published this post in November 2011 pointing out that people really didn’t understand how to use link networks. I’ve now updated it = UPDATED: March 2012 after Google de-indexed Build My Rank 

OK guys apparently the world changed and some of you didn’t notice. Ironic really, I’ve heard plenty of people whinging about not being able to get good backlinks. Or asking for alternatives to Build My Rank because the BMR blogs didn’t look “real” and weren’t niche specific.

There are two really obvious things that are apparently from Google’s swipe at backlink networks. First obviously backlinks from these networks were effective (otherwise Google would have just ignored them) and, in future you are going to have to play smarter. 

Bamboo builds strong buildings; Pandas like bamboo; links build strong websites; Khao Sak, Thailand

Build My Rank was not the only network to get deindexed and devalued, it was probably just the highest profile one amongst the make money crowd. SEO Nitro, SEO Linkvine. The sites that have not got hit are generally keeping a VERY low profile. 

This is quite specific – Google isn’t targeting spammy backlinks from forums, automated bookmarking or the other stuff you can buy for $5 at fiverr.  People who have spammed the hell out of their own sites are reporting no drop in rankings and no nasty messages in Google tools about “unnatural links being noted on their sites” 

This is all about networks which insisted on 150 -odd words of unique content. Google has found them and taken them down manually. 

So what do you do now to rank – what are the alternatives to BMR? 

Alternative 1: Forget Manufactured  Backlinks Make Your Site High Quality 

Yeah I know I probably just lost 90% of you. And no I’m not saying you don’t need backlinks – what I’m saying if you write really good content, engage with your readers, and be genuinely helpful. You will then, over time get natural backlinks, when people link to and promote your content. Its a sound approach, which will take a while, but at the end, you will be mainly Google-proof.  Not entirely – because you’d be an idiot to trust Google after this week – but a lot more than if you just have a mini-site of thrown together content that you don’t actually know much about. 

If you want to learn how to develop a long-term, high quality websites – CLICK to check out the Keyword Academy

Alternative 2: Find a Few High Quality links

I started a new site – 3 weeks later it was a PR3 – nine months later its still  PR3 and on page 1 for its desired keyword? What did I do? I gave it one single link from a PR3 site which I controlled which was relevant to the niche and didn’t have too many outbound links.

It not rocket science, it hasn’t changed any time recently. Some links are more useful than others. When you have access to strong links you will find it easier to rank your websites. 

Getting just one really, really good backlink can do more for your rankings than a 1000 crappy links. It will also look more natural to Google. 

What is a good backlink? A link from an authority site? So WTF is an authority site? A site which ranks well in the same niche as you, a site which has an engaged audience who find it useful, a page which has similar or the same keywords as you want to rank for, a site with PR (this is the least important factor). 

How do you get those links? Well as I said above the best way is to have such an awesome site that people in the same field WANT to link to you. But you can hurry up the process a bit. Its not rocket science. Its called guest posting. Try to find a blog who will accept a guest post from you. You’ll have to write really good content. You’ll have to make it possibly even more useful than the stuff you would publish on your own site. And in return they will give you a link. And you know what – you might even get visitors from that link – there’s a thought! 

Its pretty tough finding guest posting opportunities. You’ll have to contact a lot of webmasters, and expect a lot of rejections – or ignores. I hate doing it.  On the other hand after a while you get to know a few people in the same niche and then its a little easier.

It probably all sounds a bit overwhelming – and I can understand if you are pretty discouraged after the news of BMR. But if you give up now – Google wins – and I HATE letting the bullies win!

Check out the Keyword Academy – really – you’ll be pleased you did – its also free for the first month – so no risk to you. Really check out my new  Postrunner V2 Review – a great opportunity for quality backlinks. 

Back Links Build My Rank Paid Tools

Build My Rank Is Dead – Long Live Links

Build My Rank has been good to me. They’ve ranked my sites for years. It was easy, it was hands-off (I used an outsourcer), it worked. Until some time last night, my time.  I woke to find this: 

Unfortunately, this morning, our scripts and manual checks have determined that the overwhelming majority of our network has been de-indexed (by Google), as of March 19, 2012. Read more here

I wasn’t having a good day yesterday – seriously questioning what I was doing online and trying to figure out a new direction. Wizzley wasn’t living up to expectations, I was stuck in a funk of self-doubt and analysis paralysis. 

When I read the post above I expected myself to freak out. Oddly I didn’t. I know this means I’ve probably lost two sites which I’ve aggressively used BMR on – the same two sites which I’d just received the dreaded “notice of detected unnatural links” message in Google Webmaster Tools. 

Or maybe not. 

The more I think about this the more I see the opportunities. I finally know what I’m going to be doing over the next few months. 

First I’m not going to be doing anything Google would like me to do – so I will NOT be: 

  • I won’t be removing “unnatural links” to my two sites. 
  • I won’t be asking Google for reinclusion so they can run comparative stats and see which sites I removed. 
  • I won’t be removing content from BMR for the same reason.  

I’m not a conspiracy theorist – but I firmly believe that Google is playing a really two-faced game these days. Google does what Google needs to do to make it, not your or me, money. Although I don’t like this guy’s taste in MMO products – he’s spot on in this post about Google’s hypocrisy. 

I'd call Google the elephant in the room - but I like placyderms

Google Still Counts Links 

The mass de-indexing of BMR PROOVES that links still matter. I mean why deindex something that makes no difference! In fact THANK YOU Google for de-indexing BMR – now I know those links weren’t working (which I was beginning to suspect). 

So all Google’s huffing and puffing about social indicators and quality content – yeah may help – but links is still where its at!  I can’t believe they actually de-indexed the network though. Crazy – they could have just quietly devalued the links – would have been far more effective! 

Build My Rank Does The Right Thing 

And thank you the people behind BMR – because you are nice people. You’re not the first network to be hit – but you are the first that I know of who is offering pro rata refunds for the current month, will pay out affiliates before shutting the doors, and, this is the biggie – are offering to return user’s posts! Hell, some networks who have been de-indexed have even kept on trading! 

If you are a BMR member this is what you should do: 

  • cancel your subscription with Paypal for BMR (BMR can’t do for you AFAIK); 
  • keep an eye on their blog for when they release the tool to download your articles (unless of course you kept a copy of all your BMR posts on your hard-drive – yeah me to!); 
  • give in a few weeks and then quietly use that content either on other networks, or on your own network. (After all, its de-indexed now – not duplicate content!) 



Sorry – Its Been A While

Bad, bad blogger. What can  I say – as soon as I get some traction going on this site – I don’t update it for 6 weeks, and don’t even manage to get an income report out for my email list! I guess this is why I need to have too many blogs – so I can ignore them on a rotational basis! Why am I ignoring this one? Well, really, because I have nothing new to say.  Mum did say, if you’ve got nothing nice to say, say nothing! 

Nothings much changed. Wizzley is doing OK, but not spectacularly. It would probably do better if I’d manged to get more than under 80 articles up there though! And yes that is my entire output for the year pretty much.  

Wairarapa, near Wellington, New Zealand

Far from surging ahead my income is stalling and slowly declining (thanks HubPages). I will need to pull money out for the flexiloan to pay tax next month – upsetting that. 

I feel like I am flying blind without Market Samurai. Traffic Travis – is the best of a poor set of choices for monitoring sites. It does OK, its a bit slow, and you will probably need to pay for proxies to keep it running.  I leave it running on a back screen and its doing the job. 

Looking For a Rank Tracker For Web 2.0 Sites

I was using Keyword Strategy to track Wizzley articles – but Fraser has just dropped a whole lot of his functionality – so I now have no way to track Wizzley articles – anyone got any ideas on that one people? I find it very useful to see where articles bounce too on initial release – if they show up on page 5 or 6 or higher I know its going to be easy to rank them. Its a far more reliable, in my experience than worrying about competition metrics. 

I am so tired of Google killing good tools! (Oh yes I really sure that the only reason Fraser has dropped this functionality is from pressure from, I mean is it a bloody crime to want to know which articles are worth promoting and which aren’t? Apparently! 

Build My Rank is still working just fine, despite rumours to the contrary. And also despite me redirecting my contractors efforts away from them for over a month, the ranking I have are holding just fine. It just seems that Adsense is not paying as well these days. 

No, I still haven’t done anything with my main travel site or my eBook site. I haven’t done any promotion, and I haven’t written any more eBooks. 

Where To Next

Well now I am flying blind with Wizzley – I think  I will switch my attention for the moment. I’ve noticed one of my sites I last posted on nearly 6 months ago, and last built a link to 3 months ago – is suddenly getting some traction. Watch this space – and no you won’t have to wait another 6 weeks for the next article 🙂 

Paid Tools Tools

Market Samurai – Rank Tracker Alternative

Sometimes you don’t know how much you like a tool until its gone. Although I’ve never been an affiliate for Market Samurai – I’ve used the tool on basically a weekly basis for years – I may have had it for about 3 years actually! 

I used it to track my rankings – and now changes to Google mean that they are going to probably start charging for ranking data, at the moment its only working it a limited format. 

If this is all news to you – then check out James’s post on Rank Tracking Software Other Than Market Samurai and Pat Flynn’s Interview with Market Samurai’s CEO

Bugger, as they say, in software development, what do I do? (Oh I could rant on about the changes in costs for Market Samurai- but frankly, even if I never use them again – I’ve had enormous value from them for a $97 payment some years ago – I have no problem with them – I understand the problem is Google not them, and I can’t fix Google!) 

But my issue is that I feel like I’m flying blind with no quick and easy way to check rankings – and worse –  I want a solution that I can use with a third-party website that I don’t control i.e. Wizzley. And double worse I’m aggressively testing new keywords at the moment! 

Sunset at Phuket


Eliminate the Expensive 

There are actually quite a few options out there – most of which are monthly payments, and some of which are VERY expensive. Monthly payments are the fastest way to financial misery that I know of – I am very, very loath to pay monthly unless there is absolutely no alternative.  

Eliminate the Very Cheap

Rank tracking is fundamental to my business. Its a pain to have to change software, I don’t want to be doing this every few months – the opportunity cost of swapping over is too high for me to be bothered with software I’ve never heard of, from developers I don’t know. 

Alternatives that I’ve Tried: 

I tried SEO Power Suite’s Rank Tracker – I’ve tried the software before and I know some sing its praises, its never done it for me. It took me several goes to download the software – the site seems quite often down which doesn’t fill me with confidence. Invariably their site freezes on my when clicking around when trying to find answers! 

Also I don’t like their rather less than transparent pricing – its not a one-off price -the first price only gives you “updates” for 6 months – after that you have to pay for a subscription. 

And I particularly don’t like how, when checking a few hundred keywords it got my IP banned from Google search, and wasn’t smart enough to wait and try again later automatically. 

I got the distinct impression that this software has a large user base, and hasn’t really been investing back into its tools to make them as good as they should be for the price. $99.75 plus after 6 months about another $48 to keep it going for another six months. 

[No affiliate link as I don’t really like it, and I hate Plimus as an affiliate manager – use James’s link if you are keen] 

Keyword Strategy as A Rank Checking Tool 

I already have an account with Keyword Strategy – so I decided to give it a long hard look. I dumped some of my Wizzley pages in, linked up Google Analytics and it did quite a lot of stuff very, very well. 

Keyword Strategy – What It Does Well 

  • it did NOT get me banned from Google search and it ran pretty fast; 
  • works well with any site that you use your own Google Analytics account with. I have several accounts on Wizzley and all of them combined and came across to my Keyword Strategy project very easily; UPDATE: Keyword Strategy will no longer work with Wizzley – see here for details
  • it was almost automated – because I already had some traffic to my wizzley pages – KS used the analytics data to pull over far more keywords than the ones I originally aimed to rank for; 
  • adding new pages and keywords is easy using the “import” feature; 
  • KS ads backlinks to your project based on visitors who have clicked through on your link – very useful, and a better option for identifying strong backlinks than the usual method of SEOMoz rankings or similar; 
  • its particularly suited for larger sites where you are into promoting a single page to rank for  keywords, 

What I Don’t Like About Keyword Strategy

  • you can’t use the same keywords on more than one page;
  • with a new page I like to closely monitor rankings for the first few days – however Keyword Strategy seems to have no mechanism for me to force an update on the rankings;
  • the pricing model is by website as I am regularly monitoring 20 odd websites – it wasn’t really a cost effective option, though I’m border line that if I had more control over the ranking checks that I may pay for the $100/month package. 
Keyword Strategy does a LOT more than just tracking rankings this isn’t a complete review – I’m just trying to sort out my current problem! 
Keyword Strategy is free for the first 30 days – pricing starts at $25/month for two sites – 10% off on-going if you click the <<EVIL AFFILIATE LINK HERE>> 

Traffic Travis as A Rank Checking Tool 

 This one’s been around for a long  time, its just I didn’t need another tool when Market Samurai was working.  Its a one off cost, and the free version runs forever (with limitations). One-off cost got my attention – so I downloaded it and started playing .

 What I Like About Traffic Travis 
  • Very good video instruction – its worth watching the videos first – it makes the tool easy to use first off; 
  • Quick – well it was until SEO Power Suite blocked my IP address – then it was smart enough to stop checking and say it would try again in a couple of hours (Power Suite just kept on trying). 
  • It was excellent for my niche sites – I added the url – told the tool to find all the pages on the site (which it did) – uploaded a list of exported keywords from Market Samurai and a few minutes later I had rankings. 
What I Don’t Like About Traffic Travis 
  • It couldn’t handle Wizzley – it just automatically tried to upload all of the site’s pages! Even when I told it to not do so and let me upload a limited sub-set of pages – it didn’t seem to be able to do that. 
  • It doesn’t allow me to monitor a mixture of sites in the same project – which is annoying – I like to manage my web2.0 sites in the same project as the main money site they are supporting. 
Traffic Travis is a one-time cost of $97,  the free version will work forever, but you are limited to 5 projects and 100 keywords per a project. 
<< EVIL AFFILIATE LINK HERE >>Note there is a heavy up-sell to Affiliorma membership site – I know little about this product and am not recommending it. 

 So at the moment I have a mixted solution – Traffic Travis for all my sites except web 2.0 sites. Keyword Strategy for web 2.0. Its not perfect though and I’m still missing functionality I got from Market Samurai. 

Anyone else got a better solution? 

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Pinterest For Backlinks, Affiliate Sales, and Recipes

I am liking Pinterest! SY gave me a heads up about why I should use Pinterest ages ago, and sent me an invite. I ignored it. Then she told me I REALLY needed to have a look, and finally I did. I figured it would be a distraction, it was, but what may well be a useful one.  First off the site scared the bejeesus out of me – it is very “pretty” – I am graphically challenged and easily scared by people who can do pretty! Apparently a lot of the users are female – I’m not surprised. 

But even for the non-visual amongst us, and, dare I say it, those of us who don’t have any clues as to “our style”, and no desire to plan a wedding, its kinda cool, and useful. 

Cool Stuff You Can Do On Printerest 

  • Its good for collecting stuff together – I did a bit of baking around Christmas I was forever googling “how to make marizpan” and similar stuff – I found some good recipes – this would have been a good place to keep them all together (maybe next year). 
  • You can upload your photos. Its as close to a good place to share images that I’ve seen. You don’t have huge options as to how to arrange them –  that seems to happen automagically – but its cool. I’d suggest that you watermark them though. 
Pinterest for Image Sharing

 And For the Internet Marketers Among You..

  • Well I’m counting at least two do-follow links here one at the top above the pic and the pic itself. Those links stay when the pic is shared too – OK multiple links from the site doesn’t have as much value sure, but it gets you in front of more eyeballs… 
  • If you sell anything pretty – photos or crafts you should be on this pronto. This is not my area of expertise – but people sharing and being to link through to your pretty cup cake holder – or whatever it is you sell can’t be bad, can it? It also works for non-fiction indie authors. Oh and you can even advertise the price on it too. (I can’t get any html to work in the description though). 
  • Hey, even if you don’t make stuff – or your product is not particularly visual, those links could be your affiliate link you know! 
Now, at the moment, there seems to be more real people on Pinterest than internet marketers, it won’t stay that way for long, as several of the big boys are calling Pinterest as the next big thing in social media. 
Frankly its refreshing – the interface is simple and intutive – after G+ and Facebook its a bloody joy I can assure you! Within minutes of tossing up some pretty pictures I had complete strangers share some of my stuff. That kinda gave me pause, these people did it because they wanted to not because they knew that sharing my book site might make me money. 
Amazing! I want to go to Myanmar this year because I don’t think it will be long before its completely over-run with tour groups, and has a McDonalds on every corner, and nice modern buses and trains.  It will loose its current run-down, worn-out bucolic charm. You might want to check out Pinterest while its still dominated by people sharing their interests, it has a certain bucolic charm too. 

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