My First Niche Site: Update #7 – Disaster Strikes

This is Part #7 of a series. A list of all the other updates can be found at the bottom of this post.

Please note that Modeling For Kids is no longer an active site. If you’d like to know why I shut down the site and started up a new one, click here.

Disaster StrikesIt has been nearly three weeks since my last update, and I have plenty to tell you about. If you are a subscriber to my newsletter, then you will already know that the majority of what I have to say is not good news.

Estimates Proved Rather Inaccurate

After my last niche site update, I started with my push to rank #1 for as many related keywords as possible. I hit top spot for ‘child models’, 3rd spot for ‘child model’, and 5th place for ‘child modeling’. I was also working on ‘teen modeling’ and ‘baby modeling’. There was a lot of potential for increasing traffic.

Unfortunately, the number of visitors I received from these keywords was way below what I expected. Why? I suspect it is a combination of (a) Google’s traffic estimates not being particularly accurate and (b) the conversion rate not being high enough.

Conversion Rate? What Does That Have To Do With Anything?

I believe that there is a much neglected metric when considering search engine traffic, which is the conversion rate. You have probably read that you should expect x% of search traffic for the top spot, y% for second spot, and so on. But it is not that simple.

What is likely to have a major impact on your click through rate is how relevant your site’s title and description are to what the user is looking for. When carrying out keyword research, you should be considering at length exactly what people are actually searching for when typing in a keyword. It may not be what you immediately assume.

The fact is, you will never be able to cater to 100% of people typing your chosen keyword into Google. Some of them will not be interested in your site, through no fault of your own – they will just be looking for something different. The key is to fully consider whether the content in your site (and your site’s title and description) align with what the majority of searchers are looking for.

Why am I saying all of this? Because I believe that the content in my site does not reflect what the majority of people are actually trying to find. This is unfortunate, but not a disaster, as people are still clicking through to my site. But, it does mean that the ratio of searches to click throughs is much lower than I anticipated.

It Gets Worse…

Since traffic was increasing, I was becoming conscious of the fact that the design of the site wasn’t particularly attractive. I was also keen to see if I could attract a healthy number of newsletter signups. If I could, then I could consider producing an eBook to sell. AdSense earnings are all well and good, but the real money is in producing a product.

So I worked hard over the bank holiday weekend and produced what I thought was a rather clean and attractive design. I stripped out all AdSense and set the site up for pure newsletter conversions. I placed a feature box on the homepage spanning the width of the page, and put ‘mini’ feature boxes on each and every single post page, category page, and so on.

I created a free eBook (“Three Tips For Child Modeling Success”) to act as an incentive to sign up to the newsletter. Additionally, having analysed my traffic, I knew that there were three questions that were particularly popular:

  1. How much can child models make?
  2. How do I find a modeling agency?
  3. How should my child behave at casting calls and photo shoots?

So my feature box became a combination of the eBook promotion combined with a promise to answer those three key questions. To be honest, I thought that the redesign would be a conversion monster.

But it wasn’t. Over the space of 3 days I averaged 3 newsletter signups per day. I was averaging around 250 unique visitors a day. So my conversion rate was around 1.2%. That was not going to get me anywhere, and dashed my dreams of producing an eBook and setting up a healthy income stream.

So, I decided to go back to AdSense earnings for the time being. Perhaps once I had considerably higher traffic, I would explore producing an eBook again.

Then The Real Disaster Struck

I wasn’t prepared for what was coming next.

Modeling For Kids

I used Thesis for my site redesign. It is a powerful tool for those who have an intermediate understanding of CSS and PHP, but it is by no means a turnkey theme solution. Unfortunately, I was struck with a bug on the back end which I could not find the source of, and could not shake.

After a few days of deliberation, I decided that I would have to completely reinstall the theme and manually re-enter all of my customized code. There was a possibility that my code was causing the issue, and so I needed to try and localize the problem.

So I went ahead with the reinstall. For a short period of time, the site’s design was back to basics. My onsite SEO was stripped bare. Once the site was reconstructed, I had got rid of the bug.

The following morning, I woke up to find out that my rankings in Google for every single keyword had dropped drastically – onto the 4th and 5th pages. Since then, they have continued to drop. My site is not even ranked in Google for certain keywords now.

What Has Happened?

Well, I have no idea. All I can do is speculate. It seems coincidental that the site reinstall coincided closely with the drop in rankings, but it is hard to believe that the temporary change had such a drastic effect.

The more plausible explanation is that Google has dropped me in the rankings because it doesn’t like my site for some reason. I do not see how it could be the content or design, as I believe both of those are of a good quality. There are sites in the top 10 that are far less pretty and useful. So it may be that Google doesn’t like my backlinking strategy. If that is the case, I have a real problem.

The only other possibility is that it is a ‘test’ of some kind. Perhaps Google will shunt me back up the rankings after a period of time. I do not know. It is all of course speculation.

So What Next?

Well, for the time being, all I will do is write a little more content (to show that the site is still ‘fresh’) and add a few more backlinks. All I can do is wait – I don’t see what other choice I have.

This has completely halted my progress on all fronts. Although Modeling For Kids was beginning to produce an income stream in its own right, its value was perhaps higher as an ‘experiment’ for my future projects. I was looking into the possibility of outsourcing the majority of my work on future sites so that I could do more at once, and therefore increase my return. Without the data from my work with Modeling For Kids, and without the long-term proof that my backlinking strategy works, I cannot proceed with any of my plans.

So now I play the waiting game. If I am in the same position in say 10 days time, I will have to reevaluate my position. Until that time, I will hold tight and see what happens.

Read The Whole Series

Photo courtesy of Clayton Scott


  1. says

    I have seen this same problem with one of my websites…It was ranking number 1 in google and one fine day lost ranking and i could find my website only in 4th and 5th pages :( I really wanted to know what could be the problem…My site was 4 months old!! Please do update if you have found out what could be the problem

  2. says

    Hi Tom,

    Just stay consistent with your plan (adding content weekly and building backlinks) and just be patient because it will come back to its previous rankings or maybe even higher. Also make sure that you don’t saturate your main keyword.

    I would also try to review an Amazon product and post it in your modeling blog. Try to look for products that costs over $100 so the commissions will be worth it. Also find something that has 10 or more consumer reviews with 3-5 star rating. I love Amazon so it’s hard for me not to give that tip. hahaha!

    I really like what you’re doing here with your blog. You’re already miles ahead and you’re a success in my book. Just keep it up and never look back.

    • says

      You’re absolutely right, but this was more like a violent shove than a push ;)

      I think I have got to the root of the problem and will be revealing all in my next update – hopefully I will have some good news by then!

  3. says

    I’ve been running my site for a decade now, and Google still surprises me when it comes to how certain things get ranked and drop or rise over time. Each Google dance holds new surprises.

    • says

      Hi Jos,

      When it comes to Google, I think the only long term strategy is to provide great content and a clean design. Any other tactics are liquid, and liable to change!

      Thanks for contributing :)


  4. says

    I can really relate to this. Not this exact scenario, but the learning experiences. I don’t have any sort of information to add, but it’s refreshing to connect with others learning these quirks of websites, and how they rank etc.

    I hope you figure it out and can have a swift recovery.


    • says

      Hi Martin,

      Thanks for your kind words. I think I have figured it out…a swift recovery is a whole other thing! The important thing is to learn from your mistakes…



  5. says

    Great point Tom, and yes, thanks for the reminder, learning rather than being hung up on our mistakes.

    What do you think it was if you don’t mind sharing?

    • says

      I revealed my thoughts in my last couple of weekly newsletters (I give weekly updates on my projects that you can’t get on the blog, so maybe you should sign up ;) ), but in a nutshell, I think it was overenthusiastic backlinking. Too many backlinks with the same anchor text. I’m guessing it triggered an alarm somewhere at Google HQ. Of course, that is only a guess – only Google really knows…

  6. says

    Thanks Tom.

    Yes that first post was my first visit here ;) In keep hearing about the mysterious algorithms. That is good to know though. It will probably take me awhile to remember all the little quirks and tips, if ever, but that’s cool. :)

  7. says

    You would just have to give it some time, giving up too early is one of the most common mistakes in making these types of websites, I do not know if your niche has a high competition though, but just give it sometime and do not give up too quickly.

  8. says

    Hey, I am not sure you are still willing to continue with this kids modelling website, but I have an advice for you.

    My tech blog – has around 600+ articles right now. And Once or twice I changed permalink structure.

    1. My 4000 daily visitors dropped to 200 within first 15 days of changing
    2. my all pages got unlisted from search for few days.

    I restored back to my original permalink structure soon after realizing it.

    After a month or so, my pages first get listed in Google and then started getting stronger on higher positions too. And now my site is back to normal. (It tool 3 months to gain back my status back all over)

    My advice to you is -
    If you make changes like in design – Try to retain your previous setting and take manual back up of every page of previous design

    If you make some changes in URL or something more disastrous that directly affects Google SERP, Then just wait for few days to things get clear.

    Bigger changes in site, takes longer time in retrieving back strong search positions again.

    I am not an expert, But I hope this will be helpful to you when you start back your niche site

  9. says

    The best tip I can give you is never give up, I had websites before and it some of them took 2 years (2 freakin years!) to actually start earning (and not a lot so to speak). So don’t give up, if you love writing, keep going at it. Take whatever you earn from the website as a bonus and not as the ultimate goal. Well, that’s my two cents for the day.

  10. says

    I guess it is the backlinking strategy that you followed that blew your website. stay away from backlinking schemes of skimmers and work more on getting visitors than start trying to rank

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