This Website Is About You, Stupid - Month 9
This website has just reached the 9 month mark. With different goals in life I would now have a shiny new baby. But instead I have a URL with a whole bunch of words in it.
Over the last 9 months I have been creating, updating and writing. Almost everyday this website has grown either by change in design or by addition of words. Here is where it stands now:
- The website has 33 webpages. ~ 45,000 words.
- The blog has 38 posts. ~ 40,000 words.
- A 200 page 'Website Starter Kit'. ~ 46,000 words.
To quote Hamlet, “Words, words, words”. A standard paperback novel has 250 words a page. If I spent the 9 months writing a novel I would now have 524 written pages - a good size novel.
No baby, no novel. I have a website.
The good news is that besides having a bundle of words in one place I have learned a lot. Learned the only way possible, by experience. To celebrate month 9 I will pass some of the best lessons to you.
More Emphasis on YOU
Make sure your site is for your visitors.
Believe it or not – this website was built for you. It seems obvious now but it took me a few months to figure this out.
The name of the website makes it sound like the website is for the website. Most of the stats are about me: how much time I spend, how much money I make, what I have done. I whine about how much work it is, and how little money I get. This website, me, myself and I - how do you fit into all this?
Honestly, at the beginning this website was not about you. With no idea what I was doing, I had nothing to offer. It was about me learning the whats and hows. About me going through the experience of figuring out how it all works. You a bystander watching me work.
Not anymore. Now this website is about you. You can use it as a benchmark to compare your progress. If you are anything like me: not too sure what you are doing, worried that your progress is going to slow, wondering if you are doing the rights things. Are you worse off than me? Or are you better off then me? Why? And for those thinking of starting a site, this website gives you a pretty good idea what you are in for. Hopefully because of this site you will not be too surprised when success comes a lot slower then you expected. Or be ecstatic if your progress moves a lot faster.
To constantly remind myself that this site is about you and not about me, I changed the tag line in the header. It use to be, “and how much money it makes” which has been changed to, “You Learn By Example”. I also have a sticky on my monitor with the words, "It's about them, stupid".
Only Listen to Google For SEO Advice
Do a search for SEO tips and you will find that a week later you are still confused. There is so much information about this topic - everybody and their gerbil has something to say about it. There are websites dedicated to it. There are forums dedicated to it. There are products and services that claim for $99.99 you can improve your SEO and make $10,000 a month with AdSense.
Have a look at these sites. Get a feel for what people have to say about SEO. But when you are done with guesses, theories and unprovable statements, go to the source.
The best place to find the truth about SEO is Google. After all, they make the rules. They created the algorithms that determine whether you have good SEO or not. They know - everybody else is just guessing.
Google has lots off information about SEO. The most informative are Google employees giving presentations. A simple search on YouTube for 'google seo presentations' returns hours of viewing pleasure. These guys are not just spouting theories - they know what they are talking about. They spend their days at Google pushing buttons and turning dials.
Of course, they do not reveal everything. They do not want people to abuse the system. They tell you only what you need to know to make sure that your site gets the credit it deserves. The tips might not be as detailed as the ones you get from other websites, but the benefit is that the information is true.
For example, most SEO sites have been claiming that if you do not want the Google bot to follow one of your external links then simply put the 'nofollow' tag in the link. It was claimed that with this tag Google will ignore the link and not associate it with your site. For years this was the mantra. Then one day a Google employee does a presentation stating that Google does follow those links and it has been doing it for years.
Another example. You are supposed to add keywords into your meta header. Words that describe what your webpage or blog post is about. Supposedly search engines use this information to figure out whether your page is relevant for a particular search. For years, people fretted and worried whether they have the right keywords in the meta header. But it was all for nothing. Google has recently stated that it completely ignores the keywords meta tag and it has been doing so for years.
So instead of wasting your time trying to sift the wheat from the chaff figuring out what is best for SEO, simply do what Google tells you to do. They know best.
Following this simple piece of advise will save you hours. Ignore all SEO chatter and only listen when the oracle speaks. Subscribe to Google Webmasters RSS feed and you will always be up to date with the latest and true information.
How I Lost Page Rank
Around month 3 this website jumped from having a 0 Page Rank to having a Page Rank of 2. That was a surprise and good news. Writing comments on blogs and making forum posts had paid off and I was being rewarded. But the party did not last long. Around month 5 the page rank had dropped to 1. What happened?
The problem is that Google views the webpage 'www.howthiswebsitemakesmoney.com' and 'howthiswebsitemakesmoney.com' as two separate webpages. This caused a problem because around month 3 while creating backlinks I would refer to this site as 'howthiswebsitemakesmoney.com'. So that site, instead of the one with 'www' in front, was receiving all the backlink credit and none was given to the one with the 'www'. Therefore on month 5 when there was a Page Rank update Google assigned 1 page rank to each of these sites. They are the same site, but Google does not see it that way.
The lesson. Choose one name and always use that name for your backlinks. It does not matter which one (with or without 'www'), all that matters is that you always use the same one. If somebody links to you using the wrong name format send an email asking them to change it.
But to be certain you can create a 301 redirect on your server so that all requests for 'howthiswebsitemakesmoney' get redirected to 'www.howthiswebsitemakesmoney'. This will ensure that Google only sees the one version of the website regardless of which version the backlink points to.
Note: Google also sees 'www.howthiswebsitemakesmoney.com' and 'www.howthiswebsiemakesmoney.com/index.php' as two separate web pages even though they point to the same place. You can also add a 301 redirect to solve this problem.
Focus On Great Backlinks
If you want your site to appear in search engine results (you do) then backlinks are everything. Without backlinks search engines ignore you.
Month 7 I completely changed my backlink strategy.
Common folklore states that you should get as many backlinks as you can. Leave comments on blogs, add your site to directories, post on forums, etc. The more the better. But according to a presentation by a Google employee this is false.
It is not the amount of backlinks you have, it is the quality of the backlinks. A site with 2 backlinks, one from CNN and one from New York Times will do a lot better than a site with 100's of backlinks from low Page Rank sites. In other words, backlinks from low page rank site are worthless - it does not matter if you have a 10, 100, or 1000 of them.
So instead of wasting your time accumulating a high quantity of low Page Rank backlinks, focus on getting a few high quality backlinks. And the best way to do this is guest posts on high Page Rank blogs.
For the last couple of months I have made 3 guest posts on blogs with a page rank of at least 5.
Of course, writing and getting your post accepted on a high Page Rank blog is a lot more work. But that is a good sign. Hard work eliminates the lazy competition and is usually rewarded. Google knows that anybody, with little effort, can get backlinks from low Page Rank sites, but only the determined can get backlinks from high Page Rank sites and therefore rewards them accordingly.
This change of strategy has been a real time saver. No more meaningless chit chat on blogs and forums. You do not need to spend hours reading blogs and writing comments. Your time is spent on a focused effort on getting high Page Rank backlinks via guest posts.
And besides the SEO benefit of guest posts (great backlinks) you get the additional benefit of exposure. High page rank blogs have lots of visitors. Visitors that now know you exist. For example, compared to the 50 visitors I currently get, the sites I guest post to have thousands of visitors a day.
It has been only two months so I cannot definitely say that this strategy is working. I hope that Google will do a Page Rank update soon so that I can see whether my Page Rank goes up as a result of high Page Rank backlinks. But a very positive indication that it is working is that my organic traffic keeps improving. Google seems to like my new strategy.
The Motivation To Go On – Things Keep Improving
Had I known at the beginning that progress would be this slow I might not have started this endeavor. When I started I thought month 6 was a long way away and that by then this website would be making a lot of money. It is now month 9 and I am nowhere near where I thought I would be.
But I never considered quitting. I realized near the beginning that the reason it is taking a lot longer for this website to succeed is because my expectations were based on ignorance. I believed the hype of making money online being easy. Now I know better. It takes time. And if there is any one lesson that I hope this site provides it is that having a successful site is not easy and it takes time. By understanding this right off the start you will save yourself a lot of disappointment and worry. You will not be surprised after 6 months that your site has not taken off. You will not be surprised after 9 months and hundreds of hours of work that you have nothing more then a fistful of dollars to show for it. Knowing slow but steady is the norm you keep plugging away and spend less time thinking you are failing.
By constantly working on your site, adding content and making it better you will see progress. As this monthly log attests, things are always getting better (except month 5). Not a success yet, but closer. Every day it edges forward. It is this constant change and improvement that makes it easy to keep going even if it takes a longer then you expected.
- Google Webmasters Blog and Feed
- A Google SEO Presentation
- What is a nofollow tag
- What is a 301 redirect
- Who are you calling stupid?
Want to know what happened next? Read Month 18 - Writing Good Website Content and Guest Posting
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