Our AdSense Authority Site Failure
It’s much more common in Internet Marketing to talk about your successes rather than your failures. (Although that’s probably true OUTSIDE of IM as well.) Everywhere you look you have someone telling you how great they’re doing or, even worse…being vague about how amazing their lives are while trying to convince you to buy an eBook so that you can find the success they have. While there are notable exceptions, this shelving of failures does seem to cheapen the value of a “real win”, making it seem so much easier to be successful than it really is.
While we try not to sugarcoat the amount of work that’s been required to set this thing up, we do tend to talk quite a bit about what is working for us. In part, we do this to share with you the actual “nuts and bolts” that go into exploiting successes and to help motivate and show you that it IS possible.
The problem (as I see it) is that it might come across to you as easy or as if we have it all figured out. We dont.
I usually find a ton of value when I read about people who are successful in their niche and they’re sharing their failures, mistakes, and struggles with their business. Running a business isn’t easy…and the simple fact that they’re acknowledging that tends to make me feel more connected with them and lets me know they struggle with some of the same things I struggle with.
While we’ll have more of our failures or flops detailed in future posts, I wanted to share with you our attempt to create authority sites, lay out actual numbers and data we’ve had so far, and provide some insight as to why we think the sites haven’t worked out as well as we’d hoped.
The Authority Site Plan
We’ve had a fair amount of success at creating mini-niche websites that are highly targeted and were hoping to parlay that success into larger authority sites, similar to what Pat Flynn and Chris Guthrie have done.
We know that our mini-niche sites cost around $50 to create and, on average, will sell for around $200. Could we simply build larger sites that cost $500 and flip them for $2,000? $1,000 and flip for $4,000? We wanted to find out! Not that there’s anything wrong with our current model…we just thought it would be prudent to branch out a bit and see if we could diversify the “types” of sites we were building.
We decided to test out the creation of two sites (Which I’ll refer to as Site A and Site B) and see if we could replicate our current model on a larger scale.
Selecting The Authority Site Niches
As part of a larger package of domains we purchased from a domain broker, we ended up with (what I thought were) two pretty amazing exact match domains:
- Food Niche
- 4 word phrase exact match .net
- 40,500 Global exact match searches
- 22,200 Local exact match searches
- $0.44 CPC (Low, I know…but an INSANE amount of searches to make up for it!)
- Advertiser Competition: Low
- Eye/Vision Niche
- 4 word phrase exact match .net
- 5,400 Global exact match searches
- 880 Local exact match searches (Quite low, but those searches are generally made up in the UK, Canada, and Australia and the other numbers were compelling enough to try it out)
- $8.61 CPC
- Advertiser Competition: High
We particularly chose a high search/low CPC and Lower search/high CPC pair for variance. The plan was to silo Site A through categories and posts, but to leave Site B a bit more open when it came to content. We were looking to keep costs for both sites at right around $500 each in terms of actual spend (and NOT including my time) and I went through the process myself (mostly) without the use of VA’s so that I could better understand and document the process.
Setting Up Authority Sites
Once we had the niches selected we chose to use the Clickbump/Xfactor Authority WP theme for Site A and the original theme Pat Flynn had used for his authority site (Simplefolio) for Site B. (We had to modify this a bit to get it to work) We had an eBook written and edited as an opt-in giveaway with Site A on oDesk for around $100 that included a nice format, pictures, etc. and I researched and wrote a “Top Tips” handout for Site B opt-ins.
For Site A, I selected 7 keywords to be used as category pages that had 1.5K-4K exact match searches and wrote the content for those pages myself. I then ordered 3-6 content posts from TextBroker for each category based on long-tail KW research. For Site B, I ordered an 800-900 word researched 4-star article for the homepage and 25 or so articles from TextBroker to be used as posts. For all of the content, I edited, checked, and uploaded the content myself, adding relevant information, optimized images, etc.
For linkbuilding I mostly followed our usual process and just did a bit more of it. I ran each site through OnlyWire early to get them indexed , submitted 3 articles for each site to SubmitYourArticle, and submitted a total of 60 BuildMyRank posts over time to both Site A and Site B. I had an agent comment on 25 do-follow blogs with links back to the sites and I also set up 3 Web 2.0 links to both Site A and Site B with unique content. I then purchased a couple of Fiverr gigs to create a bunch of links to those 2.0’s I’d created.
Authority Site Results
- Visits: 2,367 Last 30 days
- AWeber Signups: 18 (20 signups, 2 unsubscribes)
- AdSense: 5,272 Pageviews, $4.35 earnings Last 30
- Primary Keyword Google Ranking: #3
- % of traffic from Primary KW: 54%
The good news with this site is the traffic. (Although it stands to mention I still would have expected much higher traffic based on the rankings and search volume for the KW) It’s also interesting to note the extremely low bounce rate. (Which I think has to do with the theme…it has snippets of the category pages with the “Primary Content” way below the fold, causing the users to click through and check out the various categories)
The embarassingly bad stat here is earnings. While the CPC is low compared to our average site, it’s the fact that the CTR is at 10% of our average that’s really dragging this site down. To give a comparison, if this site had our “averages” for the mini-niche sites, it would have earned approximately $108 the last 30 days. I knew that with an authority website the CTR would be lower with less aggressive ad placement, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as low as it is.
- Visits: 785 Last 30 days
- Aweber Signups: 8 (9 signups, 1 unsubscribe)
- AdSense: 899 Pageviews, $10.98 earnings Last 30
- Primary Keyword Google Ranking: #4
- % of traffic from Primary KW: 40%
While I expected less traffic with this site, the current rankings for the primary KW and some of the longtails made me think we’d have much more traffic than we currently have. With the mile-high CPC and advertiser competition I was also surprised to see an actual CPC that was just a bit over our mini-site average, unfortunately. The CTR is significantly better than it is for Site A, but still well under our average for our mini-sites.
Authority Site Takeaways
With a sample size of 2, both Joe and I don’t think we’ve given this a fair enough shot to really see whether it’s something we should pursue. We definitely feel this particular investment isn’t going to pay off for us, but we’re trying to remember that our first mini-niche sites were a bit of a disaster as well before we caught and corrected our mistakes.
We’re quite pleased with the fact that we were able to ge these sites ranked against Google first page competition that we would NEVER go against with our mini-niche sites. (Would have ranked a 2 or 3 on our 1-5 scale for KW research) It’s MUCH easier to do that when you have a budget with some flexibility and can adapt for changes as the site moves along.
Thoughts on Site A:
The fact that the site “would” be earning over $100/month if it were one of our mini-niche sites is encouraging. I think the MUCH less aggressive theme and ad placement would either require a TON more traffic or it would require us getting much more aggressive with the ad placement. I’m going to see if I can tweak it a bit and add more ad blocks and shift things around a bit. If that doesn’t work I might scrap the theme altogether and go back to something we’re more familiar with.
Thoughts on Site B:
I think the low Local exact match searches didn’t help and my guess is that we’re not currently ranked well in the other countries that make up more of the search volume. I was quite nervous about getting this site ranked specifically…the first page competition looked quite rough and I’m happy to see we broke onto the first page. The fact that it’s ranked and getting clicks that aren’t even close to what I was expecting is discouraging. I don’t think I’ll be doing anything to this site, but will report back if traffic from other countries seems to pick up or if anything changes.
Even though I know we need to test more in this area, it’s discouraging for these two sites to be “duds” so far…I was really hoping to report back with something better here so that we could confidently move forward.
One of my problems as it relates to AdSenseFlippers and our team is that, it seems to me, each particular site will require various levels of love and attention that we don’t offer to our mini-niche sites post-creation. If we were to scale this, I think it would require a site-creation team as we have now and a “fine tuning” team that comes along a few months later as a clean-up crew. (To tweak ad placement, add links if needed, change themes, etc.)
An even larger problem boils down to this: Where should we be focusing the most amount of our time?
This took quite a bit of my time as I fumbled through it. Should I really stick with another batch of testing or would it be better for me to focus on our known universe…that which is making us an increasing amount of money with fairly large margins? With a $500 spend…I’d need these Authority sites to be making $100/month on average to match up to the mini-niche sites, pound for pound. Honestly, I’d even take $60-$70 per month on average. (While it would have lower margins than mini-niche sites…having a selection of higher value sites would bring in higher-end buyers as well)
And now…over to you! What do you think about our stumble into authority sites? Any tips, suggestions, or ideas?