Today, I was reading Griz's old posts and they reminded how good the past few years have been. In terms of making money online, there was no keywords you couldn't target. Loans, cosmetic surgeries, cars, product keywords, credit cards, hotels etc. As long as you work continuously on getting backlinks that contain your anchor keyword, achieving high rankings is matter of when, not if.
I am afraid things are not as simple now. Certain keywords and niches such as landlord building insurance are off limit and I need to recognise this change. However, that is not saying that I can't make money with niche sites. While most IM folks have gone off the niche site bandwagon and started making authority sites, developing their own products or selling kindle ebooks, I still make niche sites and are earning money from them.
In this post, I like to share what I have learn from 10 months of doing the Amazon 50 site challenges. It is going to be long but hopefully, you can gain something from it.
The steps for making money with Amazon have not change. They still boil down to the following:
- Select a niche
- Pick keywords with high search volume and low competition
- Create content
- Build backlinks to the site
How to select an Amazon nicheMost people combine keywords and niche selection into one process. I don't. I like to examine niches independently from keyword research. In fact, my niche needs to be more forward looking so I look closely at news and forum discussions. That is how I turn up keywords such as glamping.
Most IM folks depend on tools such as adwords, longtail pro, market samurai etc. These tools are backward looking and they are actively mined everyday. To avoid competition, I need to look elsewhere for my gold mines.
So what do I look? News , forum discussions, trend sites, blogs from forward thinkers etc All these represent gold mines that I find gems in. By the time these new niches appear in the keyword research tool, I will be 6-12 months in front of everyone with my content and links.
Using this criteria, my camping site (4seasontent.org) will fail the test. That is why it has not made any money. It is competing in a niche which is saturated with both real brands as well as other IM folks. Just check out this competitor: 4seasontents.org. He or she also doesn't have any traffic as well, thus strengthening my point that it is difficult to compete in niches where there is nothing new to optimise for.
How to chose Amazon keywords that you can rankAfter the Google Panda and Penguin updates, learning how to pick the right keywords have become more crucial. In fact, learning what keywords are impossible become more important than search volume. Unlike the past, I now totally avoid certain keywords because I can never ranked for them, no matter how much content I write or how many backlinks I throw at the site.
First rule to remember: avoid product keywords.
Although Amazon is all about products, it is getting next to impossible to rank for any forms of product keywords including category product keywords, brand product keywords and even product model keywords.
Below are some screen shots showing you the Google search results from the amazon sites that I have revealed:
Mini cupcake maker
4 season tent
Gps tracker for kids
In every one of these product keywords, you see real ecommerce stores or brands taking the top slots. That was not the case in the past where niche sites or article directories such as hubpages can rank for them.
I don't know whether this was part of the algorithm changes but from a user point of view, things have definitely changed. As an affiliate, I need to step away from these keywords because I know I can't rank for them no matter how good my SEO skills are. Google has predefined what kind of sites should appear for these product keywords and if I can't be such sites, I will never get into the first page.
That is not saying that I can't make money as an affiliate. I just need to find other keywords that I have at least some change of ranking. So what is the secret?
Find keywords that requires subjective human opinions
Or what I called humanised keywords. These are keywords that indicate that searchers want to read from other sources besides the brands and the ecommerce stores. They represent areas where niche review sites and personal blogs have a chance to compete in.
The most common example is the word 'reviews'. Take any product keywords and add "reviews" behind them. You will see a completely different search results.
Let's see one such result when I take one of the keywords above i.e. gps tracker for kids and add "reviews" behind:
Gps tracker for kids reviews
This strategy can be applied to any humanized keywords. Besides 'reviews', other examples include:
- all the Q+A type of queries that might lead to a purchase
How to write content for your niche sitesWhat I try to do is to focus on what information searcher might need with before or after the purchase of the product. This is how I try to add value in all my niche sites. For example, in my minicupcake site, I am starting to include recipes that users can use after buying the mini cupcake maker. In my early retirement site, I created an excel sheet that calculates how long it takes to retire early based on dividend investment alone.
The worst kind of content goes round and round without addressing the main points. I used to write articles that read along these line (if it is an article about interior decorating ideas):
"It is easy to come up with interior decorating ideas. All you need to do is to take a close at your surroundings and try to draw inspiration from them. Most people have ideas not because they thought deeply about it but because they observe all the stuff happening around them. If you want to have more ideas, learn to adopt a different perspective and .... blah blah blah"
Nowadays, if I am doing this article, I will borrow a book from library and learn the different interior decorating techniques. I will then find images to illustrate these techniques and create a long list post.
A lot of work? Yes but I can't take short cuts anymore if I want my sites to survive Panda or other future algorithm changes.
How to build backlinks to your niche sites
I believe in quality over quantity when it comes to backlinks. A couple of value passing links wins over hundreds of spam links. To get those, I used a concept called link sponge.
This concept is similar to link wheels or link pyramids. In case you are not sure what these are, this is how they work. Folks would build web 2.0 sites on public blog networks such as those on tumblr, webs.com etc. Each of these sites links to either another web 2.0 site or to the money making site directly. They in turn will be strengthened by having lots of spam links from blog comments, forum profiles, directory sites etc pointing at them.
The idea is to get these web2.0 sites to absorb all the spam links and point that link volume to your money site. Since web 2.0 can take more link abuse due to their domain authority, they effectively act as buffers to your real site. If you attempt to throw volumes of such spam links directly at your site, be prepared to see it disappear from the SERPs.
So, link sponge works in similar fashion, with one important exception. Rather than absorbing spam links, link sponges are real resources that can absorb authority links. For example, there are many established sites that give out free links to sites that have valuable children resources. If you want to absorb these links, you need to build a useful resource that will be linked by these child friendly sites. Then use this site to link to your affiliate site in the kids market. That will be a hell of a link!