Well we’re halfway through the first month of the new QCP program, so I figure I would go ahead and give an update on my 100 site challenge, and some additional thoughts on QCP.
First off, you may have noticed that this is my second post today – the first, discussed the basic principals of the Google Sandbox. The reason why I decided to touch on that topic was partially to preface this post. I’ve gone through my statistics and found that about 80% of my EPN sniper sites have been sandboxed. This isn’t too serious of a problem, and I was expecting to face it on some level, although I didn’t expect to see 80% get sandboxed.
Here’s what happened…
My old formula for creating EPN niche sites was a lot different than my current formula. I would:
- Find a niche
- Set up a theme like WP Commerce Steel with PAGES as product listings
- Add a Blog with Search 2 Post creating POSTS
- In many cases, I would add up to 30 posts containing YouTube videos related to my niche with a short descriptive introductory paragraph, then I would stagger the release of each post over the next 1 – 2 months
- I would submit the site to about 75 social bookmarking sites and up to 1000 free directories in order to get it fully indexed.
- In some cases, I would go back and schedule a second round of 30 videos in the same way (this only works depending on how many decent videos there are in your niche. If you’re working in the Door Knob or Umbrella niche, there may not be a wide selection).
Now, in many cases, this was a huge recipe for success. In fact some of my “thin” sites that DIDN’T get deindexed were ones that I followed this exact formula on – specifically regarding adding the videos. Early in 09, I stopped adding posts of videos to my new sites, and those were some of the first to get slapped by G. Anyway, I believe this really helped me avoid getting sandboxed primarily because of the constant fresh content. In the early stages, there would be a fresh post to the blog daily with the videos I had pre-scheduled. Then after a month or two, when the site began to rank better, there would be more fresh content because there would be more traffic coming to the site and using Search 2 Post, which would add an additional new POST every time.
The downside to this plan, unfortunately, is that G decided that what I was doing was basically spam, which I don’t necessarily blame them for, and they proceeded to deindex about 90% of those sites.
In contrast to that, my setup process for the 100 EPN site challenge was as follows:
- Research 20 Niches
- Have articles produced for each of the 20 niches
- Register 20 domains
- Go through WP setup and config process for each domain
- Add content and EPN listings to each site
- Repeat 5 times until all 100 sites are complete
The failure on my part was in the planning stage. My main goal with this challenge was to replace my old deindexed EPN site with a greater number of new, correctly built sites that would be much more valuable as a long term asset. I feel that I was correct in how I chose to develop each site, as they are all fully indexed and I would imagine they will be so for a very long time. However, the thing I failed to think about during the planning stage, was the lack of fresh content, and the amount of time it would take in between building and deploying all 100 sites, and getting full gear into link building. Ultimately, the most important thing I learned so far from this process is that planning and testing is so important. For example, in retrospect, what I should have done was before embarking on this challenge, I should have created 10 – 20 of these niche sites in the exact same format to test what the results would be if I scaled the operation. The main reasons I didn’t do this were: I was extremely confident that the format would be successful based on what I saw from previous sites I owned, and also, I wanted to do this on an extremely large scale so that the payoff would be larger, faster.
IF I would have taken the time to do 10 test sites before starting in on the full 100, I would have learned that:
- My assertions were basically correct, that fewer auctions on each page would not result in lower earnings.
- Around 8 out of 10 of the test sites would rank excellent for their keywords for the first month, with little promotion
- Between about week 3-5, 8 out of 10 sites (80%) would be sandboxed.
- The remaining 20% of sites not sandboxed would lose some ranking as well, although keep a reasonable level of search traffic.
So if I knew then what I knew now, the main thing I would probably do different is stagger the release of content. Instead of publishing 5 articles at one time, I could start with maybe 2 articles and schedule 3 more over the next 30 days. Maybe also mix in a couple videos, or product reviews for additional posts I could deploy over the first two months. The second thing I would probably do, is instead of building the sites in batches of 20 and waiting until the bulk were fully built to begin heavily link building, I probably would do more of a 1-at-a-time approach where I would deploy 1 site at a time, and at the same time, accompany it with a few starter backlinks – like ezines, hubs, etc.
So the lesson here, is that while a massive effort is always a good move, when combined with careful planning and proven methods, the results will be even better, faster.
Overall Progress Update
So about 80% of my sites were sandboxed, which I would definitely call a setback, but I am certainly not down on the project, and I’m still quite happy with the results. Last month, I brought in just shy of $300 in EPN earnings from the 100 sites in this challenge. Slightly under what I planned, but overall still good. Also, based on the time when sites 60-100 were actually deployed, I can say that almost all ofthe $300 in earnings came from only the first 60 sites.
When I originally planned the challenge, I was targeting a minimum of $500 profit in September, but I didn’t account for almost 1 additonal month of time to get all 100 sites deployed. I didn’t even get sites 41-60 completed until the final days of August, so I had a lot of really green sites in September. One thing that did help me was the Google honeymoon period, for which many of my sites were ranking on the first page of SERPS for several weeks before being sandboxed.
First things first. I put Google Analytics on the first 50 sites I deployed – hopefully it won’t come back to haunt me, but the reports show that as of right now, my overall traffic on those 50 sites is up 29% when compared to the previous 30 days, so despite a majority of my sites getting sandboxed, my overall traffic is still up.
One reason why is my initial link building campaign. I started off by developing ezines for sites 21-60 – several ezines for each site to be more specific. The great thing about this is that it’s almost a perfect counter to being sandboxed. Many of the niches I’ve targeted are not that competitive, and ezines can rank extremely easily, and they are able to pass on quite a bit of traffic to my sites, which results in a good deal of clicks.
Also, when looking at referring traffic over the last 7 days, I’ve noticed a trend that a lot of my sites are beginning to bring in a nice amount of searches for their main targeted keywords – from Bing. If Bing is already giving me top rankings, that means that Yahoo will probably be soon to follow.
So really, I could literally wait out the 6-8 month sandboxing period and still get plenty of traffic/clicks from ezines/hubs/infobarrels, and yahoo/bing. Then when my sites do get released from Google, things will spike and I should be in amazing shape…
…but I’m not going to do that.
Although there is no concrete way to get out of the sandbox, and almost anyone you ask will probably tell you to keep adding content and building links, I feel I have enough sites where I can split test different strategies and hopefully find a way to get out of the sandbox faster than 6-8 months, which I can then apply globally to all my sites.
The first thing I am going to do – literally today, is look over my EPN stats for the last 2 months, and select 3-5 of the best performing sites from that time period that are currently sandboxed. Then I’m going to go ahead and send a variety of new links (in moderation), and schedule a handful of new posts for each site. I’ll monitor the progress a couple times a week, and hopefully something will click within a couple of weeks.
If not, I will take another couple batches of sites, and try really split testing by adding a larger volume of content to some sites, and add different types of links to others.
Last, but not least, I’m going to work on backing up my already-deployed ezine articles with additional links, so that they can enjoy top rankings while their corresponding sites are sandboxed, and I will continue to have a flow of traffic from every site.
At the same time, I already spent an hour today determining exactly which sites out of the first 50 sites are NOT sandboxed. I’m going to take these sites and begin sending more backlinks to them right away, so that I can hopefully start getting top rankings with a few. If I can get to a top 3 Google ranking for 5 sites by November, and 20 sites by December, I will be 100% satisfied.
This Month’s Earnings and QCP
As I stated above, I earned around $300 from these 100 sites last month. This month I am currently on pace to earn *slightly* less. I have a feeling I will actually come out ahead, and likely closer to $500 in earnings from these sites this month, but only time will tell. Overall these sites have been performing pretty well in terms of individual ECP, however I have some other older sites which get a large volume of clicks every day and have lower ECP, which I feel is probably driving down the overall value of the new sites. I strongly anticipate at some point in the next 6 months, I will be weeding out most of my older EPN sites and focusing only on the new sites.
Overall, my earnings under the new QCP system are down about 15-20%. As with most other people, I am still utterly confused and disappointed with the new system. I strongly hope it evens out at some point, although I don’t have high hopes. Probably the worst thing about the new system is its hard to follow any kind of trend on a day to day basis, which makes it extremely difficult to optimize for the best overall result.
Every Thorn Has its Rose
Although there’s no denying that it sucks having a large amount of my new sites sandboxed, there are still some positives. The main one being that thanks to some analysis, I’ve determined exactly which sites aren’t sandboxed, and I can concentrate more of my efforts on those sites specifically, instead of a general massive effort on all 100 sites. This will help me test exactly what is moste effective, and at some point I will be able to apply the same methods to the rest of the sites, whenever they are un-sandboxed. I should be able to squeeze a nice income out of my non-sandboxed sites relatively quickly, which should at least give me a preview into what my earnings will look like 6 months from now, as well as help to recoup the investment I made in content and labor on this project rather quickly.
I will also be able to condense my findings into a proven method for researching, developing and deploying niche sites into a proven system that I can share with the readers of this blog. I’ve already learned a lot over the past couple of months from this huge undertaking, and I expect I will continue to learn new things almost daily. When it’s all said and done, I should have a very solid system for making money online via niche sites.
Plans for the Future
This site is almost a year old now, and I also am nearing 100 RSS subscribers. Once I reach that milestone, I plan on getting back to some of the basics I had in mind when I created this site – namely, releasing free wordpress themes. When I hit 100 subscribers, I plan on doing a complete overhaul on my original WP Contempo theme, and re-releasing it. I also have plans in the works for more themes.
As for EPN, I doubt I will be investing a lot more time and/or money into new EPN-based sites for quite a while. I want to have a firm grasp on exactly how the new system works, I don’t feel like I’m anywhere close to that point right now. I have plenty of EPN targeted assets right now, to the point where I should be able to be making a comfortable full time income off of them within several months. I may double back and work on more sites in the future, but as of right now, I have no plans.
Based on the complete and utter chaos that is EPN, I’m going to be heavily shifting focus back to AdSense. I’ve been enjoying modest AdSense earnings for quite a while now, thanks to a handful of sites, and I want to expand on that, and fully learn the ropes to being successful with AdSense. My plan from here on out, is to work on developing a minimum of 1 x 100+ article authority site each month, using only AdSense as a monitization method. I’ve been following the teachings of the Keyword Academy very closely, and they, along with many others in the same crowd are all shifting their focus towards developing authority sites. I feel this is a no-brainer for me, as I already have several authority sites, and I own quite a few aged domains/sites with huge potential for growth. I think by adding 1 new authority site to my portfolio each month, I should rapidly be able to increase my overall MMO income.
I may take a big leap and start looking at Amazon as a source of revenue at some point as well. There are a lot of things I hate about the amazon affilate program, but the way things are going with EPN, it’s looking more and more like a solid alternative every day. I don’t expect to do much with this until I’m essentially done with my EPN snipers, but I do have it cooking on the backburner.