$10K Challenge Update #11

Welcome to the 11th update of my $10K Challenge. If this is your first time reading, check out what this challenge is all about here.

Below are the things that happened since the last update:

Key Successes

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    Launched e-commerce product with a good number of sales.

Key Failures

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    Traffic and revenue has been declining since May 17th
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    Has not been able to figure out the main reasons for the drop and ways to fix it.

More...

Website Stats - August 2017

Domain Profile

I used Ahrefs (paid) and Open Site Explorer (free) to help measure the effectiveness of my promotional efforts by tracking these metrics:

  • Domain Rating: 50 (+1)
  • Referring Domains: 569 (+209)

Traffic

Compared to the previous update in April, traffic has gone down by almost 40%.

In fact, since May 17th, traffic has been declining week by week.

Income

As a result of the drop in traffic, revenue also suffered:

  • May 2017 - $5,789.83
  • June 2017 - $4,338.19
  • July 2017 - $4,902.83
  • August 2017 - $2,648.59

Why such a big drop in August?

Well, one of our hypotheses was that the site was hit by a Google penalty called Fred which targeted sites with aggressive affiliate links and ads.

So, we tried removing half of the affiliate links on all commercial pages to see if that would help recover our traffic.

We’ve been waiting for almost 2 months now. However, we haven’t seen any signs of recovery so it’s likely that we’ll be adding the affiliate links back.

My Analysis: Potential Causes for The Drop

Unfortunately, I’m not having a definite answer for this yet.

There are so many factors that could cause the problem.

However, after conducting a lot of analysis on my own and consulting with SEO experts, here’s a list of the biggest potential causes:

1) Increase in Competitors and Copycats

This is the biggest downside of having a public case study.

As soon as people noticed a public site doing well, they started to blatantly copy it.

If you look at the top 30 results of any keyword that I’m ranking for, you can easily spot these copycats.

They copied everything about my site from the logo, website design, article structure and even backlink strategies.

While most copycats will not do very well, there are actually some established sites with stronger domain authority and much bigger social followings.

For example, there’s one particular health site with almost 3,000 referring domains that basically rewrote all of my articles but now outranking me for a lot of my main keywords.

There has also been a big increase in giant publications getting into the space as well.

The fact is that these HUGE sites all follow each other’s content strategy very closely.

So, as soon as one site starts ranking well for one topic, all of the others will start publishing content on the same topic as well.

Because they’re so big, they’re basically taking all top positions for a lot of my target keywords.

As a result, my site was pushed down to the bottom of the page.

Here’s one example:

As you can see, most of the top 10 results have a higher DR than me. While this was certainly not a big issue in the past, it seems like Google is favoring these huge sites more and more.

2) Getting hit by Google Fred

It’s also possible that the site has been hit with the latest algorithm Google update by the name of Fred, which targets sites with low-quality content and user experience.

As summed up by Ryuzaki from this forum thread, you would be hit with Fred if:

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    Your site had more review content than anything else.
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    Your site had an EMD that included "Best, Top, Reviews," etc.
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    Your site lacked entertainment content and educational content. You only worked at the bottom of the intent-funnel.
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    All of your content was hyper-optimized around exact match keywords instead of topics.
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    Your Display-Ad-to-Text ratio was way out of whack.
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    Your posts were walls of text that lacked images and videos.
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    You optimized around information queries and then wrote like it was a buying query post.
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    Your ratio of Affiliate-Links-to-Outbound-Links was way too high.
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    You featured affiliate links in every post. You went too hard in the mufuggin paint.
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    You didn't nofollow your affiliate links.

Here’s another good write-up on Fred which has a lot of the similar findings.

Sadly, TYS ticked 80% of the items in the list above. More than 60% of the current content on our site is designed for getting clicks to Amazon.

And if I’m being honest, they’re not of the highest quality.

3) Negative SEO

I’m not fully convinced that this is the main cause of the problem. But, it might have contributed to the drop somehow.

According to Ahrefs, over the past few months, we have been getting more than a thousand of new spammy backlinks.

They all look quite similar while coming from different domain names.

My Recovery Action Plan

The only thing we’ve done so far is reducing half of the affiliate links on all commercial pages.

But, after 2 months of waiting without any sign of recovery, my conclusion is that there’s no quick fix for this problem.

What I need is a holistic action plan to not only improve the site’s quality but also growing our domain authority by acquiring more backlinks and social media followers.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll be doing over the next few months:

  • Launch new site’s design with improved UX.
  • Do a comprehensive content audit.
  • Improve existing pages that are doing well.
  • Delete weak pages that are no longer relevant.
  • Post more high-quality non-commercial content.
  • Do a comprehensive backlink audit and disavow bad links.
  • Grow our social media accounts.
  • Scale up link building, focusing on getting links from bigger more relevant websites.

Will It Ever Come Back?

It will 🙂

It might take time to recover, but I’m confident that once the above quality issues are fixed, our traffic will eventually come back higher than ever before.

What about E-commerce?

I’m glad you asked 😀

The good news is that we’ve launched our first e-commerce product in August and our store has generated sales.

Sales are not as high as planned due to traffic drops but we’re launching ad campaigns to get the numbers higher.

We’re quickly moving away from monetizing mainly with affiliate programs and focusing a lot more on selling our own products.

I believe that’s the right move and it will help us build a truly sustainable business for the long run.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my 11th update.

It might not be full of good news as usual but it sends a very important message.

Every business has its ups and downs. Changes happen all the time.

If you want to win, the only way is to adapt and keep improving.

If you have any questions for me, feel free to leave a comment below or post in our Facebook community.

You can also join Cloud Living Academy Premium if you want to keep yourself updated with the latest strategies and tactics that we’re using to build our businesses.

People are having great successes with the program and many are on their way to the first $1,000 monthly.

Check out the most recent ones below:

Tung Tran

Tung Tran is the founder of CloudLiving.com.

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