This is a guest post by Ellen C Braun
After following Wanda and Paula’s advice about how to write a product review from the Amazonian Profit Plan, I spent about three full days creating my review page. The word count hovered a bit over 3,000, there were lists of bullet points, and a compilation of the product’s pros and cons. I drove to a local store that carried the product I’d reviewed and took detailed photos from every angle, which I used throughout the review. This gave my product review an edge above standard reviews that simply use the stock photo of the item from Amazon or the manufacturer.
My product review was friendly and informative, and I knew that it was really good. However, after all that work, I had many days of the week pass by with that dreaded “There is no activity for this period” message from within my Amazon dashboard as I logged in each morning to check on yesterday’s stats. There is nothing quite as depressing as seeing that the prior day had been a zero-sale day! Thankfully, I did not give up. In fact, as of this writing, I think it’s been over four months since I’ve had a day without any Amazon sales at all!
The key to my success, I knew, was to get traffic to my wonderful product review. And the key to traffic was going to be keyword research.
The first thing I did was attempt to optimize my page for ‘product name’. Let’s call the page “Square Widgets Review”. I spent a nice chunk of time and money creating a variety of backlinks with the anchor text “square widgets” pointing to my review page. After several weeks, I was glad to see that I was in position #5 in Google, with the first four positions all taken by the widget manufacturing company. That company had a strong website, and I was unsure if I would be able to outrank them for the name of their popular product. Additionally, there were often Adwords ads at the top of the SERP’s, so that my #5 position in Google that I’d worked so hard to attain was below the fold! In fact, although “square widgets” showed 9,000 exact monthly searches, due to these factors, my page received only about 2 or 3 daily visitors from that keyword! Trying to make a living from a handful of visitors was not going to work, so it was time to rethink my keyword strategy.
I noticed that a lot of people had questions about the differences between two of the most popular models of widgets, let’s call them the square widget and the rectangular widget. These two models were very similar, so potential buyers wondered about what the differences were and which was better. So I decided to be helpful to the end user and create a page called “square widgets vs rectangular widgets”. I pointed a handful of backlinks at this new page, and within four or five days my new page was the #1 position in Google for the keyword “square widgets vs rectangular widgets” which Google’s tool showed to have 400 exact monthly searches! My website got about ten daily visitors from the keyword “square widgets vs rectangular widgets” and my traffic was also increasing for similar keywords like: “What is the difference between the square and rectangular widget?”
Then I noticed that there was another company that sold something very similar to widgets, let’s call them blidgets. I created a page called “widgets vs blidgets” and once again started getting a nice amount of daily visitors to my page from that exact keyword. There was one very high end widget that we’ll call the Platinum Widget. It was the highest priced widget that existed, and I noticed people commenting on my site, “Do you think the Platinum Widget is worth the money?” So I created a page whose title was that exact question, and on the page I outlined the benefits of the Platinum Widget while also reminding users that the standard widgets could serve them nearly as well. Of course, I included lots of detailed photos, all of which I linked to the product page on Amazon.
The point of this article is to take a step back from your keyword research and look for obscure questions that people are likely to have about your product. Create a page focused on that question, and point a few backlinks to that page. When people type their questions into Google, your page is very likely to rank high up there in the SERP’s very quickly because your page title matches the visitor’s query exactly, or nearly exactly, and there is probably no competition for this type of long tail keyword!
Put yourself into your potential buyer’s shoes and think about questions that he or she might have about the product. Are there similar products on the market; would she want to understand the differences between the various models? Read the reviews of the product on Amazon to get ideas about the types of questions people are likely to have about your particular product.
The people who are researching the differences between two different model numbers are very likely to be people who have their wallet nearby and ready to hit that BUY button through your affiliate link! Although there might not be a lot of traffic for ‘this widget vs that widget’ terms, the traffic that does come to your site from these kinds of keywords are highly motivated to buy the item, rather than just being serial researchers! And those are the types of people who make our Amazon accounts say that lovely sound: KA-CHING!
We’ve been at this business for quite a number of years now and over that time we have tried just about every backlinking method known to man. We’ve tried authority site backlink packets, article directory submissions, reciprocal linking, 3 way links, blog commenting, link wheels, blog networks, forum posting, social bookmarking and networking, press releases and that’s just for starters.
We even paid an SEO company back in the early days to do the SEO and backlinking for us. That was a big mistake… it didn’t take long before we realized that we knew more than they did and they cost what felt like a fortune at the time.
I think our goal with all of this has always been to try to find an easy way to get backlinks but I’ve come to the conclusion that there really is no easy way. If you want strong powerful backlinks then you have to work for it. And notice I said ‘strong powerful backlinks’. Anyone can get a ton of backlinks to their website – I could email someone now and they could get me thousands of links in the next 24 hours but you can only imagine what sort of links they would be.
The distinguishing factor here is quality not quantity. One good quality backlink has more value than hundreds or even thousands of poor quality backlinks.
That’s not to say that all of those backlinking methods I’ve listed above are worthless. On the contrary, a good mix of backlinks is important so it helps to include a range of different techniques. However, what we have found is that out of all the backlinking methods we have tried one stands head and shoulders ahead of the rest. The backlinking method I am referring to is guest blogging or guest articles (or PAD if you are a James Martell student).
Guest blogging simply involves giving free articles to website owners in exchange for links back to your website.
Simple right? Too simple for some it seems or perhaps they really don’t see the value in this method. We received an email some time back from someone saying that they had read where someone had posted on a forum that although our Amazonian Profit Plan was great the backlinking section was ‘weak’. I could only laugh at that because this method of backlinking is about the strongest there is.
It may seem ‘weak’ to some because of it’s simplicity and because there are no tricks involved in it to manipulate the search engines. And it is because of this many don’t see the value in it.
They also don’t even want to try it because they know it involves work. Most people simply want to press a button and hey presto they have hundreds of backlinks. In an ideal world that would be great but so far I am yet to see any automated backlinking system that results in hundreds of GOOD QUALITY backlinks.
Even those blogging networks haven’t been much of a success. We’ve tried most of them and some are better than others of course but ultimately your links end up on blogs that have been manufactured simply to add links. What this generally means is that the content on those blogs is average to say the least and they aren’t updated very often. You will also find that your links are mixed with other often undesirable links so you are associating with a bad neighborhood so to speak. We keep trying these networks and will probably continue to try them but as yet we haven’t really found any that have been up to par.
Another thing to consider here is that Google is starting to focus on quality even more so particularly with their latest update. I can only imagine that more is coming from Google in the future so we need to be ever vigilant that we not only provide quality content but we also have quality backlinks from quality sites.
This is an industry where just about everyone is looking for a quick fix and when I say ‘everyone’ we include ourselves in that bunch. Even though we have worked hard to get where we are, we are still constantly looking for things to make it easier. But then again maybe it’s a good thing that it isn’t that easy to make money online. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and the market would be flooded.
It’s a case of survival of the fittest – only the strongest survive in this business and usually that means those that don’t give up and keep at it despite the work. You only have to look at JamestheJusts success story to see that.
What I am getting at is that if you want to really succeed with all of this you have to be prepared to do the work and you have to be prepared to stick at it for the long haul. That means even if you haven’t made a cent in the first three months, you keep going. And even if you have only made a few dollars by the end of the first year, you keep going, And even if, like us, after 5 years you still aren’t making a full time income, you keep going.
Doing the work means that you have to stop looking for the easy way out. You have to focus and focus big time and you have to stop looking for excuses. Getting traffic is often the biggest hurdle for most and excuses abound as to why they haven’t started to focus in on that area. Even for those who have started backlinking it is often a case of spending a few hours on it and then forgetting about it for another few weeks or maybe forgetting it altogether because it is just too time consuming or too difficult, or family commitments are getting in the way or it’s boring or whatever. Boring just doesn’t cut it – if you have an excuse for not working on building traffic then you have to get past it because it really is your biggest obstacle to making money online. This was one of our biggest obstacles – for us it was all about building websites and adding content but not real much happened when it came to backlinking.
Traffic is critical to your success and to get traffic you have to work for it.
So, How does guest blogging work?
If you have a system of getting traffic that works for you then by all means use it. We just know what works for us and guest blogging works.
The first step involved with guest blogging is finding sites to submit articles to. The best sites are those within your niche. Bear in mind, when contacting sites in your niche they may consider you as their competition and may not want to add a competitors article to their site. This often has to do with what you are promoting. If you have a specific product site then it can be a little more difficult – for example, if your site is about Apple iPhones and you contact another site also promoting Apple iPhones they will probably ignore your email. On the other hand if your site is about dogs then often it is often easier to contact other dog site owners as in general these sorts of sites are not as product orientated and they see you as more of a kindred spirit rather than as a competitor.
To get around this, you simply approach sites that aren’t in the same niche but are kind of related in some way. For instance, with the iPhone example, I might contact young bloggers who talk about fashion, music and similar topics.
You want a list of sites that have a decent pagerank – we usually go with 3 and up. You can start with technorati.com to find blogs or simply use the Google search.
Once you’ve found these sites you simply send them an email asking if they would like to take a free article from you in exchange for 2 to 3 links in the article back to your website. You let them know that the article is unique and will be on a topic related to their site.
If you get a response back from them you simply write up your article (or get someone to do it for you using Elance for example) and send it to them ensuring that you have placed links to your website within the article.
As you can imagine this method of backlinking can be time consuming. It’s not the quick and easy automated type of backlinking that everyone is after. But you also have to remember that the quality of links is very strong because you are picking sites that are already favored by Google.
In our attempt to stay focused we have been avoiding hanging out at forums, blogs and the like because it is so easy to get sidetracked. However, it can mean that we might miss things and one of these was the recent Google changes. We had no idea it even happened until someone emailed us about it. As it is it didn’t affect us – we haven’t noticed any decrease in traffic and our rankings seem to be in place….that assumes that Google is finished with their little dance of course.
The whole point of this change according to Google was:
“designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on”.
Matt Cutt’s (Google Engineer) has gone on to add that:
“The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content.”
I would love to see the end of scraper sites but my concern here is how does Google know who wrote the original piece of work? I know that in some cases we can write a blog post and within minutes of publishing it another blogger has the entire article posted on their blog word for word.
It’s a shame really that Google has become as big as it has and that we rely on it so much in this industry. When Google makes a change like this to their search engine algorithm big things can happen and it can affect a lot of people and businesses. In this case, it has hit a lot of the big boys really hard – sites like EzineArticles for instance were one of the hardest hit. And as most of us know, EzineArticles is a site that is relied on heavily by many internet marketers for traffic. So hitting EzineArticles also hits a lot of the smaller guys who are just trying to make a buck.
The flow on effect can be devastating resulting in businesses crashing, people out of work and families struggling to make ends meet. And it might sound like I am over-exaggerating things just a little here but you only have to look at EzineArticles who have lost over 130,000 rankings (according to some sources) to see the massive loss of income that would result from that. Lost income means they may have to cut back and I can’t speak for EzineArticles but generally one of the first things to go in any cutback is staff.
On a personal level, I can see why Google has done this. I know that when I go searching for anything in Google I will ignore sites like EzineArticles, eHow, About.com and Suite101 and similar because I know that it will be rare to find a good quality article from any of those sites. More often than not, my search results come back with short poorly written articles or articles that really only provide the absolute basics so I don’t even bother clicking on those sites anymore.
Sometimes these sorts of shake-ups can be a good thing, despite the impact it can have. In this case, I think it has been a positive move because it is forcing site owners to clean up their act. There are too many poorly created sites with little valuable content…hey we still have a few of those ourselves but we realized sometime back that they don’t work and we are working to revamp those sites so that they have more value and quality content.
In these sorts of situations, survival of the fittest comes into play. Those who have been hit the hardest will be making the big decisions now whether they need to adjust to meet the changes or whether it is all too hard and give up. EzineArticles has already gone into overdrive by making changes to their submission guidelines . I can only think that it may take some time for them to bounce back.
What Can We Learn from This?
I think the main thing to take from all of this is that Google is trying to focus on providing high quality search results. That means that as website owners we have a responsibility to our readers and we need to focus on providing high quality content.
This is something we have been harping on about for months now. We keep trying to instill the importance of providing quality and value to your readers and with these Google changes now in place it is now more important than ever.
It also reinforces why you shouldn’t focus on just one source for backlinks. For those that relied only on EzineArticles for traffic they may be suffering right now. This is why guest blogging is one of the best forms of backlinking. You are not relying on only one website – your links are spread out over many different websites and blogs. Just throw in some commenting, social bookmarking/networking, a press release here and there and you have a nice varied mix of backlinks that Google would be happy with.
Were You Affected by the Google Changes?
Were you affected by the latest Google changes? Please let us know in the comments below.
We’ve said in the past that we don’t worry too much about getting the SEO just right on our sites. We used to spend hours on SEO in the past trying to get everything just perfect. We would make sure the main keywords were in the first paragraph twice and then at least once in every other paragraph and we would try and get as many other related keywords in the article as possible. Then we would spend even longer working on title tags, meta descriptions and so on to get them just perfect. But to be honest, when we gave up on all of that, we did so much better.
Now I know that a number of people will disagree with our philosopy on SEO but that’s okay. Everyone has their own opinion and if something works for you then by all means continue with it. We’re not here to convert people – we’re here to tell others what works for us and relaxing with on page optimization has worked for us.
But that’s not to say that SEO should be ignored completely. We still ensure our main keywords are on the page somewhere and in the title tag but we just don’t stress about it. We’d rather spend time focusing on getting the review written in a way that is helpful to our readers rather than spend too much time on optimizing the page to rank in Google. That’s why when we found the SEOPressor WordPress plugin we wondered at first whether we would really use it that much.
However, there were a few reasons why we decided to give this a go. First of all, this was pretty much a no-brainer for SEO – in other words even if you only know the very basics about SEO you will be able to use this plugin and for those of us who do know something about SEO it means that we don’t have to spend too much time thinking about it. We can spend a few minutes optimizing the page based on the suggestions the plugin provides and then move on. Secondly, this isn’t a plugin that just automatically optimizes your pages for you unless you ask it to – so you have full control on what changes you want to make. I didn’t want a plugin automatically making decisions for me and this plugin has worked out perfectly. And finally, you don’t need to use this plugin on every page or post on your site…you have the option to use it on one blog post or on every blog post…the choice is yours.
So in a nutshell we can optimize our pages without any real effort , leaving us more time to focus on what we think is the important stuff like writing quality reviews and getting backlinks.
One of the first sites we uploaded the SEOPressor plugin to was this blog. However, we haven’t really used it that much – maybe once or twice. This is because we aren’t promoting products on this blog in a big way plus our traffic on this blog is more viral and we don’t have to rely on a good Google ranking. So we integrated the plugin on our product blogs and that’s where it works really well. We can improve our on-page optimization without taking too much time out of our day and with complete control over how it’s done.
What this plugin does is analyze the content on your page and provide suggestions about what you need to do to improve it. So once installed you simply create a new post on your WordPress blog.
Directly underneath the post box is a section to add the main keyword you want to rank for. Once you’ve entered the keyword you can start typing in your blog post. When you’ve added a bit of content you just click SAVE DRAFT and then on the right hand sidebar of the page the SEOPressor plugin will kick in and display it’s ratings and suggestions.
So to show you how this really works using a real life example I have used it on this blog post. I typed in the main keyword that I want to rank for which is ‘seopressor’. I then typed about half of my blog post and clicked Save Draft and this is what SEOPressor tells me at this point (see image).
The SEOPressor plugin provides an overall rating which in the case of this blog post is 48.89%. That’s not very good at this point. I need to improve on that but the only way I can improve on it is by making the suggestions listed below that. In this case it suggests improving my keyword density by including more of the keyword on the page, adding H1, H2 and H3 tags, adding an image so that I can add an ALT tag and it also recommends that I add the keyword ‘seopressor’ to the first sentence.
Now normally I’d probably choose not to do all of those things but that’s what I like about this…I can choose to optimize only what I want to optimize. But for the sake of this review I am going to implement all of the suggestions in the list to get the score close to 100% and the keyword density to an optimal level.
You can also edit the settings so that this plugin automatically italizes, bolds and underlines the main keyword throughout your post as well as throughout your blog. And you can also automate it so that it automatically adds the main keyword to your title tag. We’ve chosen to keep those options turned off.
So after making the changes this is what the SEOPressor plugin now tells me:
You can see that I have done a lot better with just a few simple changes. Basically I added a title at the start of the blog post using a H1 tag and I also added a H2 and H3 title in the post. My keyword density has also increased although for some that wouldn’t be enough – I might go back and see if I can add the keyword a couple more times without making it sound spammy but if not I am not going to worry about it. I also added a couple of images and the plugin has automatically added alt tags as I have designated the plugin do that in the settings.
I did notice some anomalies with this plugin. Notice how in the first image it tells me that I don’t have an internal link to other pages? Well I didn’t actually add an internal link and yet that option has disappeared in the second image. Perhaps it is because I made enough changes to get me to an optimal score so it isn’t required.
Yes, I think so. It’s simple and provides us with a quick and easy way to gauge the on page SEO on our pages and if we don’t want to use it on every page then we don’t have to. And it’s so great that the SEOPressor plugin is designed to work on PAGES as well as POSTS because we often use PAGES to create our product reviews.
You can click the link below to get more info on this plugin. We particularly recommend taking a look at the video on that page because it quickly runs through the features better than we could ever explain them.
Click for more info on the SEOPressor Plugin here.
Anyone who uses the Google Keyword Tool on a regular basis may have noticed some changes recently. The main one being the significant decrease in search volume results. Surprisingly enough, it has been kept relatively quiet considering the impact. Google made no announcement of the change and although there are lots of blog and forum posts about it, I just felt that the situation didn’t get the reaction it really deserved.
But then again perhaps like us, others have been waiting to see what the impact of all this means because at this point in time, there is still ongoing debate about whether the changes are beneficial or not. There seems to be two schools of thought – those who think the changes have resulted in more accurate data and those that think the old results were more accurate.
The changes came through at the beginning of September and we personally didn’t even realize until some time closer to the end of that month. I think that was the case with a lot of people. Unless you are constantly comparing search volume numbers for your keywords you probably wouldn’t have even have noticed the difference. The changes basically involved a rather dramatic decrease in the number of results for the Global and Local Monthly Searches.
As we already mentioned, there was no real announcement from Google regarding this change, in fact, about all we got from them was a paragraph left by a Google employee on one of their forums which read as follows:
“If you use both the previous and updated versions of the Keyword Tool to search for keywords, you may notice differences between the tools for statistics on Global Monthly Searches and Local Monthly Searches. This is because the previous version of the Keyword Tool provides search statistics based on Google.com search traffic and traffic from search partners, while the updated version of the Keyword Tool provides search statistics based on Google.com traffic only. We’ve updated these statistics based on user feedback, and hope you find them helpful for keyword selection.”
If we want to see examples of the difference in volumes we only need to look at a couple of keywords like ‘bathroom supplies’ for instance which has gone from 5400 local monthly searches to only 880. And another – ‘golf clubs’ which has moved from 165,000 searches to 33,100. As you can see, these are not simple statistical errors but massive differences in search volumes.
Even one of my brothers who has just started building a website has noticed a significant decrease in one of his major keywords which went from 120,000 down to 18,000.
So is it more accurate?
Well we did a little test since we are ranked no.1 for quite a number of keywords so decided to run a check on a few of of those keywords to see how they compare. Here’s the results for our data in September using our traffic results from Google Analytics data and comparing it to the local monthly search volumes (exact match) from the Google Keyword Tool data:
Our traffic – 1623
Google Keyword Tool estimate – 1900
Our traffic – 1726
Google Keyword Tool estimate – 4400
Our traffic – 713
Google Keyword Tool estimate – 720
Our traffic – 487
Google Keyword Tool estimate – 480
As you can see, the Google Keyword Tool results compares quite well with those few keywords so perhaps it is more accurate. If this is the case, then this is excellent news. It means we won’t be sitting wondering why we aren’t getting all that traffic even though we are ranked no.1 in Google. It also means that when we build a website, we will know the exact traffic numbers before hand. There won’t be any nasty surprises after we’ve spent months trying to build up our websites.
However, at the same time it means that anything we may have done in the past may be all for naught as we realize they will never generate the traffic numbers we were expecting. We have over 20 websites and not all of them have performed as well as we expected them to. Mind you, they would probably do better if we put a bit more effort into them but even so, had we had more accurate data to begin with , then we might not have lost motivation earlier on when we realized we weren’t getting the traffic numbers we were expecting.
So I see this change as being beneficial because it looks like we can build websites with more confidence as having more accurate data means we know what to expect in traffic volumes once we hit the no.1 spot in Google.
Would love to hear what our readers think about this change and if you see it as a positive or negative change.