NICHE EMPIRE PROJECT
Inside what it takes to build a profitable online property.
MONTH 5: MARCH 2019
In this article:
Amazon API Fury
SEO Metadata Update
LAST MONTHS EARNINGS (USD)
TOTAL EARNINGS (USD)
MONTHLY GOOGLE IMPRESSIONS (thousand)
MONTHLY GOOGLE CLICKS (thousand)
What a rollercoaster this month has been! There are times when I have been frustrated beyond belief (See ‘Amazon Associate API fury’ below). I was expecting another month of small gains (See ‘Annoying Google’ below) but then Google recognized all the hard work I’ve been putting in with a 3x in impressions and traffic.
Updating SEO titles and Meta Descriptions
In last months post, you’ll recall that I went through all my articles and updated the SEO Title and Meta description for every post. Well, see the second hump in the graph above? …that’s what happened.
After annoying Google once by implementing my internal linking all at once and recovering from that, updating the SEO Titles and Meta Descriptions had the same effect. I saw a decline in impressions and traffic.
But as I mentioned in my last article, the site should come back stronger once Google has settled down and as you can see from the graph above, this happened in a quite dramatic style.
This result could be a combination of my site coming out of the Google sandbox (after 5 months) or due to the improvements I’ve made (Internal linking and metadata updates) and the volume of content I now have on my site. Or most likely, a mixture of both.
I’m secretly hoping I still have a sandbox jump to come and this is just down to recent work as 5 months is quite early to exit the sandbox but is entirely possible if Google likes what I’ve done with the site so far. Either way, our goal is to continue trending upwards.
This is how the above graph looked come the end of the month.
Things improved further still and we maxed out at 3689 impressions in one day on 21st March. You can see a decline shortly after that and this may have been natural but there could also have been another reason. Which leads me nicely on to…
Don’t forget to verify your domain…like I did!
If you’ve bought a domain in the last few years, you’ll know that you receive an automated email from your registrar to verify your email address. This is now a requirement of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and if you don’t do it your website can suddenly go offline until you do so. No reminder, no warning just…blackout.
I use Gmail for my work and I love it because it’s great a sifting out your email in to different categories/tabs so you only get to see the important stuff and it normally does a pretty good job of this. However, not the case with these domain verification emails.
It tidily shuffled this email away in to a folder I just glance at from time to time meaning I forgot the register the domain.
Literally at the peak of this graph when Google was giving my site some serious love, the website went offline and I didn’t notice until the next day. When I did notice, of course, the domain verification service was down. (Note to self: time to open an uptimerobot account).
There was no doubt about it, the site was on for its best day yet in terms of traffic, and I was expecting to smash through the threshold of 100 visitors in a day. Instead, the site was down for about 24 hours and I had two consecutive half days of around 60 visitors each day.
I did manage to get exactly 100 visitors on the last day of the month, however by then our impressions had gone down. Was the dip in impressions due to the site being down and Google adjusting? Who knows. But we were robbed of our record day yet for sure. That said, the way things are going we’ll be sure to break through that barrier again very soon.
Note: I’ve also added a rule in my Gmail account to make sure that any domain verification emails come through to my primary inbox in the future. I shall never forget to verify a domain again (it’s not the first time!)
Here’s how our rolling ‘active users’ graph is now looking:
And the traffic for the month:
But most importantly, the site has seen a 182% increase in organic traffic.
Impressions in Google were up in March to 48.7k vs. 15.5k last month and the number clicks were up to 1.22k from 394.
So this month the website has seen a 3x increase across the board!
Highlights: What else happened this month
There are a few more areas that I think are worth discussing this month.
- Amazon Associates API Fury
- Monetization Update
- Adding new channels – Pinterest
- Time for some link building?
Amazon API Fury
I may be experienced with SEO and online business but this is my first experience of the Amazon Affiliates API and plugins that use it.
I had some real soul-destroying issues this month that took up loads of my time. And…I’m still not sure they are totally sorted.
No Sales = No API Access.
After my initial flurry of sales, I ended up not getting any sales for 30 consecutive days and so my API access was withdrawn! That’s right, so now I am unable to use the API at all.
My traffic is on the up and likely to get more clicks but without a sale, I can’t use the API. Argh! Luckily after a few days, I got a sale and we were back online because AAWP caches any products that are already added to the page. Thus my affiliate links were still working for existing articles. I just could not add any more.
For a little while I thought I was facing the prospect of going through 60 posts and updating these pages to not use the API but Amazon’s OneLink solution instead! Not something I was too excited about!
Throttling, but why?
Similar to last months report, I noticed that visitors were not always getting redirected to the correct Amazon site (their locale) when they clicked on one of my links. Upon diagnosing this I tried reconnecting my plugin to the API only to receive this message:
“RequestThrottled: You are submitting requests too quickly. Please retry your requests at a slower rate.”
But…this is the catch. There is no way that my website is submitting requests too quickly. By default, you are limited to 8640 requests per day (if you make no sales – more if you make sales) which equates to one request per second.
Given that the AAWP Plugin caches products you only ever hit the API the first time you insert products on to the page. So we’re talking very few API calls a day.
What was the result? I was unable to re-connect the API for days at a time causing all my affiliate links to vanish from the website. So, on and off all month the affiliate links have been inaccessible. As a result, this probably impacted my overall (albeit small) earning potential for the month.
I’m still in correspondence with Amazon about this issue as it’s not totally gone away but seems a little more stable. Fingers crossed I can get this sorted sooner rather than later.
This has further raised my concerns about the dependence on 3rd parties for earnings on the site. AAWP support was not the best, being slow to respond and offering no workarounds. Amazon support isn’t clear themselves on what the issue is.
More and more I feel like I need to avoid the API and find a link based solution instead like OneLink and GeniusLink (which I recently discovered). Research ongoing.
Due to ‘API fury’ above, my earning potential was definitely hindered this month. So, I’m hoping for a clear run this month to see how things pan out.
At this time, I’m not getting much traffic to my ‘primary keyword’ articles for the higher priced products as they are not ranking as well and will take a while to get there. Instead, I’m getting traffic to lower-priced products using the KGR method described in last months article.
I expect this to change and building some links will likely help with this. (See below)
With those caveats aside. Here’s what my US and UK sales look like last month:
So overall, US$4.00, 1 cent short of last months total. But with all the issues I had, it’s not surprising. Hopefully, we’ll see something significantly better next month.
I noticed that I’d been getting a reasonable amount of traffic from Canada and Australia so I also signed up to those Amazon Associate programs as well to make sure I wasn’t missing out on any revenue! So, we’ll see how that goes!
Adding New Channels – Pinterest
Pinterest is different from other social media platforms. In fact, some people argue that it’s not social media at all, but rather a ‘visual search engine’.
The reason for this is that whilst many social media platforms are transient in nature and posts are very short-lived, on Pinterest you can expect traffic from Pinterest for years to come with the appropriate use of SEO.
However, like SEO for websites, this is a slow burn. It’s not going to happen overnight but like SEO, get it right and you’ll be reaping the rewards of ‘free’ organic traffic for years to come.
This is why I have chosen Pinterest as my first ‘Social Media’ channel. I’m looking to build a digital property for the long term and building a Pinterest profile fits this strategy. (Note: I did previously set up a Facebook profile for a link to the website but I’ve not done anything with it yet)
Another reason I wanted to get started with Pinterest is to diversify my traffic sources.
“It’s common sense that you shouldn’t be reliant on any one channel and you just never know what might happen to your site after a Google algorithm update.“
I’ve had a blog signup form on the website since the beginning but I’ve not yet added any ‘lead magnets’ to improve the signup rate.
Now that I have more traffic coming to the site I’ll be looking to utilize downloadable assets and email to further increase my diversity of traffic sources. So far I only have 1 person signed up to my mailing list!
Time for some link building?
No doubt about it, outreach and link building are hard. But to speed up the progress my site is making, it’ll be necessary. I could wait for links to come naturally but that will be a much slower burn.
Also, I want to improve the ranking of those pages with the higher priced items and link building will help with this.
So, in the coming month, I’ll start to make a valiant effort on this front. I’ve already secured one guest post placement in the last month and the content is currently being written. It’s a decent site with some decent traffic so I hope that we’ll see some benefit from that guest post.
My intention is to create white hat links only. So, that means no Personal Blog Networks (PBNs). Whilst PBNs work well today, in my opinion, PBNs are risky. You’re relying on a third party to cover their footprints from Google and as with all things in online marketing, I’d rather be genuine and follow what Google wants us to do thus completely removing any risk of penalty in the future.
I’m building this digital property for the long term so I don’t want to do anything that will jeopardize its future for a short term win.
A great month in general and I feel good about the progress in terms of traffic. If I can overcome the Amazon Associates issues, I’ll be even happier.
I’d love to see a turnaround in sales and hopefully, start ranking some of the higher value product posts to really increase earnings.