This is Part #7 of a series. A list of all the other updates can be found at the bottom of this post.
It 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:
- How much can child models make?
- How do I find a modeling agency?
- 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.
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
- Update #1 – One Month In
- Update #2 – Metrics And Keyword Analysis
- Update #3 – Failure! Failure?
- Update #4 – The Power Of The Long Tail
- Update #5 – The Power Of Targeted Traffic
- Update #6 – We’re Number One!
- Update #7 – Disaster Strikes
- Update #8 – Phoenix From The Flames
- Update #9 – A Fresh Approach
Photo courtesy of Clayton Scott