$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

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

Key Failures

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


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)


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.


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:

  • plus-circle
    Your site had more review content than anything else.
  • plus-circle
    Your site had an EMD that included "Best, Top, Reviews," etc.
  • plus-circle
    Your site lacked entertainment content and educational content. You only worked at the bottom of the intent-funnel.
  • plus-circle
    All of your content was hyper-optimized around exact match keywords instead of topics.
  • plus-circle
    Your Display-Ad-to-Text ratio was way out of whack.
  • plus-circle
    Your posts were walls of text that lacked images and videos.
  • plus-circle
    You optimized around information queries and then wrote like it was a buying query post.
  • plus-circle
    Your ratio of Affiliate-Links-to-Outbound-Links was way too high.
  • plus-circle
    You featured affiliate links in every post. You went too hard in the mufuggin paint.
  • plus-circle
    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.


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.
  • Hi Tung,
    It’s unfortunate that after removing all those aff links, the site didn’t pick up, I’m, however, optimistic that taking those extra measures will revive it.

    Good luck Tung

  • Jingfeng Sun says:

    Hey Tung,

    I think the main reason is lack of Useful information contents. I know somebody’s proportion:
    Info content : Money content = 3:1
    This is the minimum standard, of course, the more info contents the better.
    So, what’s your proportion?

      • Jingfeng Sun says:

        I think this may be the main reason. You can try to add more Info contents.

  • Your optimism and positive spirit is contagious, seriously 🙂 Congratulations on your eCommerce sales.

  • I suggest looking at traffic by channel instead of grouping it together, as you are aware, Google Analytics is full of spam traffic which can really impact the month to month charts.

  • Mehmet Akif says:

    I hope you will do it better Tung 🙂

  • Hi Tung, thanks for the update. I learned a thing or two because I am also experiencing the same. I have been scratching my head figuring out how to fix it. Ryuzaki’s article is an eye opener however I think shooting for 1:15 money keyword to non money keyword is an overdrive. May be 1: 3 and probably trying to segment topical relevancy via site structure as preached by the likes of Charles Floate and Jeffry Smith of seo design solutions. I am sure you will bounce back, you have exhibited resolute resilience over time…kudos for launching your product on E-commerce.

  • Hello Tung Tran I have heard from the seo gurus that to maintain rankings for the main and high keywords we need to update our content monthly by adding 200 words. Recently I learnt this trick and it works for him. Can you also try it otherwise google will keep removing the unupdated content slowly slowly.

    • That’s poor advice Kumar. Updating old content is crucial but simply adding extra words for the sake of adding words is not going to work in the long term. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had success in the past by adding content to make articles longer and more in-depth but there comes a point where adding content just doesn’t make any sense anymore and will result in fluff content. It’s better to keep optmizing existing content. Optimizing by restructuring, replacing outdated products, and so forth. Search engines actually pick up the updated timestamp and love it when webmasters look after their content and keep refreshing it.

      And good luck Tung, I’m sure you’ll work it out.

  • Luck is also a big fact! Sometimes no action won’t work properly but appreciate your positive approach. Best luck for you and TYS.

  • That really is a shame. I have been following your progress and it seemed like you are doing all the right things. It really is an eye-opener to see how things change so quickly. Best of luck and hope it picks up for you real soon.

    • That’s how this industry works 🙂 If you can’t adapt, you’ll die.

  • Hello Tung Tran nice article and i got also new information from this article that new google algorithms updates which suggests about penalty if you do access Affiliate links and more ad networks

  • Hello Tung Tran nice article and i confident that you will get soon high traffic

  • Thanks for the info. I’m experiencing the same issue since the spring with my authority site. About 30% less traffic than 6 months ago.. there are a lot more competitors in my niche, Google has re-energized Amazon urls after they had dropped off a bit, and some asshat has written a couple of 15000 word essays on the same overall topic my site is focusing on. I’m adding in KGR content via Doug Cunnington’s method, checking my internal linking and optimizing it via Matt Diggity’s advice, nofollowing my affiliate links, building some backlinks where none exist, and paying attention to semrush and webmaster’s analytics. Hopefully it turns some of the downtrend around.

  • Hey, Tung, so far, how much you spend on that site?

    • Don’t have an exact number 🙂 But it’s less than 40% of revenue.

  • Hello,
    Finally, you have published your case study. I was waiting for it. Yes, every case study could not be positive. I don’t think affiliate links maybe causing problems because I have a website which too is filled with affiliate links. I think I know what your problem is.. I will email you..Give it a try.

  • Hi Tung,
    I have some affiliate links on my site but it doesn’t convert at all. do you have any tips to improve conversions or it’s only a matter of how much the traffic is targeted for purchase?

  • Who told you to-do a public case study .
    There will be more copycats not your my website is also down because of these public case study done by few people.

    • I’ve been doing case studies for a long time 🙂 No one told me to

  • Nice to follow your journey.

    Learn’t a lot of things.

    Your new site design looks cool. Which theme are you using?

    Just curious

    Thanks in advance

  • Hey I’ve got some potential recommendations – NUMBER ONE PRIORITY – I did some research on your site and it’s showing me that your inbound link velocity has dropped starting from May, that’s a big sign in Google’s eyes that your site is looking it’s popularity, also I saw that not only are you not getting a lot of new links, you are also losing a lot of links on a monthly basis (increased number of lost links – probably by acquiring low quality links – try to get more high quality and organic links!!), also as, already, mentioned by Will you should seperate your traffic on a per page basis and see how each page interacts with this traffic loss – possibly it’s a site architecture problem and you should create a funnel leading your audience to your money pages, so interlink your top of the funnel & middle of the funnel content and link to your review content. Also split your traffic based on device and see if you are, maybe, having mobile problems. You should work on improving your site speed. Compress components with gzip, make fewer HTTP requests, reduce DNS lookups, minify JavaScript and CSS. Your homepage has 224 links, google recommends no more than 100 links. Optimize your keyword targeting – I see a lot of Hannah, Hannah Do etc. You should be targeting keywords related to your article, like acne, skin, skin care, cream etc. (apart from top, best, reviews, picks – which you are targeting). Your content is in iframes. For best SEO results you shouldn’t have it in iframes. Do all that in the next month ( with a focus on acquiring backlinks) and you should see improvement in your traffic again.

    • I meant losing* it’s popularity…

    • Thanks for your detailed Peter. A lot of your suggestions are in our action plan and if you check the site now you can see that we’ve got a new theme + better homepage. Our site also loads a lot faster now although I’m still trying to improve it.

      Which content is in iframe? I’m not sure I understand this clearly.

      • I ran your site through site analyzer and it should me you had iframe in your content. Go to view-source type Ctrl+F and search iframe and it will show you 2 results. Focus on backlinks primarly that is your biggest issue, as you are losing a lot of links. Also analyze your content, all content that is not performing well but has been uploaded for some time should be deleted. That has already shown improvement in rankings for sites, as google probably looks at sites popularity in terms of pages that have visibility. For example – you have 100 pages & 20 are getting 90 % of the traffic, look to eliminate as many other ones that are not bringing any traffic and don’t have any visibility, as google will than look at your site and go – ohhh, they have 60 pages now and 20 are bringing traffic – so this means a more popular site as 1 in 3 is popular from 1 in 5 before. You can use the content you remove, to build strong web 2.0s linking to your weaker pages that you want to rank. Also look into putting a feature box on your homepage to collect emails, also you can put a small sign up to our newsletter on your about page. Great challenge 🙂 Keep it up!

          • No problem look at making yourself a go-to blog for anything skin related. Check Ezra Firestone & his Boom by Cindy Joseph & Beefriendly brands, he is not an affiliate guy, but an e-commerce guy with skin products, you can take a lot from him
            in terms of brand building. Basically, you have a big audience, don’t just be a place for them to look at
            reviews, engage with them, build trust, get them on your list and then sell them your products. Down the
            line you should also look at getting into paid traffic & amazon fba because of their organic selling reach.
            Think big!

          • Yep that’s exactly the plan 🙂 Paid ads campaigns starting this week

  • Hi Tung,

    Folks learn from their mistakes, you had found the right reasons for website decline. At least we all should learn from this. Thanks for sharing a nice article.

  • Hi Tung ,

    Watching with interest 🙂 Keep up the great work

  • Hi Tung
    If your .com Domain penalty by Google
    You can move to .net or any other extension domain
    you can redirect all .com page to other domain

  • Hi Tung and other experienced Web Professionals,

    I understand about ‘money content’ and ‘educational content’ but how about sites like ‘Wire Cutter’ which has tons of so called money content, and it is a review site.

    But, it ranks pretty well and does good business. Well, they have authority backed by New York Times, right – so that helps.

    Still they do not rank for all review or money keyword. Why?

    So I am wondering, is it just about the proportion of ‘money content’ or whatever one has in their website.

    Or, is it more about the voice or image you create with your content, which makes a difference to an user, and help them to do something good. And help you/me to stand out.

    And at the same time make them feel good, that they actually fall in love with your site because they feel you care for them.

    And they trust you, and they spend enough time in your website, and become a repeat visitor.

    Google or whoever, (forgive my limited knowledge) should pick that up as the greatest signal (otherwise they will be hooped at some stage soon – the greatest search engine, right).

    Again as a layman and a beginner, I feel ‘passion’ will be the key factor in the long term success of a business that includes authority sites or niche or whatever you want to call it.

    Let me know your thoughts please,


    • That’s correct! As long as your content is engaging and high quality, commercial or informational doesn’t matter

  • I honestly think it’s due to too many “best” pages and some of the “best” pages were not quality… for example a page like “best drugstore concealer” etc and then having department store brands.. any woman surfer from the U.S would be immediately able to tell that the page doesn’t make any sense and isn’t trustworthy as the writer had no idea what they are talking about and doesn’t even know what a drugstore brand is.

    Also, I think some of the best pages were recommending products that weren’t truly the “best” but just popular on Amazon (with fake reviews) like white label products. Consumer savvy buyers know the difference. I post/read on some makeup/skin care forums and people who are really into skin care know that some brands are garbage and known as “Amazon brands” vs legit brands sold in actual stores. For example, many were saying that Oz Naturals was garbage and that it’s only popular on Amazon with thousands of reviews but nowhere else and it’s not a highly recommended brand on skin care forums etc despite the fact that it’s a best seller on Amazon.

    Personally on my site now I review the products myself and take pics of myself using the products. I didn’t buy them for my site. I actually own thousands of dollars worth of these products for my own usage (many years ago) and I take original photos of me using the products etc. I think that helps to make a site more legitimate and more likely to pass manual review.

    • I have to agree with a lot of what you wrote here CJ. That’s why we’re putting a lot more efforts into making the site so much better 😀

  • Colin Suttie says:

    Hi Tung

    Further to what CJ says, I run every Amazon product through the Jungle Scout chrome extension before investing in content around it, using JS to filter out all the FBA products. A lot of FBA merchants run out of stock, listings look spammy etc & I’d rather not waste time writing content around their products.
    Thanks for the case study & im sure you’ll recover soon.

  • Also, I have a beauty site myself and beauty is insanely competitive…. because you’ll be competing directly with sites like Cosmopolitan, Totalbeauty, Health.com etc…

    Also did you know that Hearst Media Media owns ALL of these sites : Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Harpers Bazaar, Womans Day, Seventeen etc and they ALL go after the same keywords “best this, best that, best face moisturizer etc)… These sites are SEO whores and all they do is write 100’s of “best” articles every day but they also do put out a good amount of non-affiliate content.

    A few years ago small sites could maybe rank for “best vitamin c serum” but now it’s all huge sites on the first page with DA 60 and up etc…like Health.com and Byrdie pushing every down. Like you said all they do is copy each other’s keywords.
    TYS is huge and pretty high DA and I was shocked to see that it got pushed to the second page. I dunno what MyNewAwesomeBeauty is doing to hold strong… ?

    I actually think Beauty is one of the more or most competitive niches because of these huge sites… you have to go very long tail to stand a chance and on top of that the products are so cheap ($10-$30 etc) that you need huge of volume just to make $1k.

    I think it may be easier in smaller untapped niches where the average cost of a product is minimum $100.

    • Yeah agreed here. I’m pivoting TYS to my own products with paid traffic funnel too. I’ll make a big comeback 🙂

  • Also, it’s a blessing that you are in Vietnam because $2400 is a ton of money there so you’re still living like a king. If it were a U.S webmaster whose income dropped from 5k to $2400 they would have to get a full time or at least a part time job by now in order to pay rent and work on their sites at night/weekends.

    • Well TYS is not the only income source I have 🙂 I can still live pretty well without it.

  • Hi Tung,
    In AHREFS, I do see a lot of spammy backlinks for TYS. Wanted to check if this was a result of any link building campaign done by your SEO team or is it something you were never aware of until you noticed it in AHREFS. If its the latter, I am really concerned! :O

    I had similar issues with one of my older site where I bought one of the “Get 600 PR5+ backlinks” kind of offer. Same thing happened and I lost more than 70% of the traffic in a matter of 2 months.


  • Any chances to see October update?

  • Hello,
    I have a question regarding amazon images. I see most of the sites use these downloaded images from amazon and host them themselves but it’s against their T&C and recently many sites have been banned.
    How do you deal with it? does simply writing “Image credits: Amazon.com” solve the problem?

    • Mixed opinions about this. For me, I’m trying to avoid downloading images straight from Amazon for my new sites.But for TYS, I still use images from Amazon.

      BUT – the most important thing is – I don’t know everything and I’m not Amazon. So don’t take everything I say as fact. I can get banned too.

  • Hi,

    any update on TYS? How did visitors develop – is it coming back to old strength?

    Also an update on TYS Shop would be interesting!

    Best regards

    • Traffic is stabilizing but it’s still lower than it was. Pinterest is taking off pretty quickly. Store is doing fine and growing. I’ll make another update in Jan.

  • Hi Tung,

    How’s going with the website and project? Do you have plan to publish #12 update?

  • Joseph Stewart says:

    When you add your affiliate links back in turn off Google bots before the link so they won’t crawl it. If you don’t like that approach consider linking to an internal page with a 301 redirect out to Amazon or wherever people are buying the products. This works well for me on my sites.


  • >