Justin Cooke

June 28, 2012

You might have noticed a trend recently where everyone and their mother/sister/brother/cousin are talking about how you need to diversify away from Google traffic. Some of them go as far as saying they don’t even want to BOTHER with Google anymore and mention things like “How To Beat Penguin” or write articles that explain why other sources of traffic are preferred. This hasn’t been lost on us. We’ve considered this as well and have looked at steps we can take to help diversify our traffic as well as our revenue streams.

That being said, some bloggers and marketers are taking this way too far and taking extremist positions that, we think, are unfounded. Ignoring Google as a traffic source is foolish at best and downright crazy at worst. To put it in perspective, pretend that you’re a t-shirt designer. Would you work your butt off to get your t-shirt line exposure in your local store when you have a letter of interest from Walmart in carrying your brand? Sure, having Walmart take carry your brand may bring all kinds of problems, but recommending to others that they should look primarily to the local store seems flawed to me.

Facts About Google Traffic

  • Google Dominates Search Engine Traffic – It’s a little muddy exactly how much as estimates range from more than 66% of US traffic to 92% of worldwide search traffic. Let’s put that in perspective by looking at the distribution worldwide over the last 2 years: (Source)

Search Engine Marketshare Worldwide

  • There is a TON of core search traffic through the search engines – Really. A shit-ton. ComScore estimates 17.5 Billion core searches in May 2012, of which Google owns nearly 12 Billion of those searches. (“Core searches” refers to searches that are thought to be from humans looking to interact with the results received rather than just bots)
  • Google Chrome is now the #1 browser used worldwide (Less than 4 years after launch) – This will become even more critical as the Android OS becomes more and more popular and Chrome for mobile continues to take off. (Source)

Worldwide Browser Usage

  • There are alternative search engines – You can optimize for other search engines that, according to the above data, combine for around 8% of the worldwide traffic. That’s cute… :-)

As you can see from the above, most of the talk surrounding alternative traffic sources appears to be wishful thinking. It’s not that Amazon, Facebook, and Apple don’t have a real shot at knocking Google down a notch or two. They might…but it’s awfully early to be making that argument. Bloggers and technophiles love to be on the cutting edge of these discussions, but us civilians need to keep their cutting edge theories from cutting into our business and profits.

Why The Controversy?

It’s no secret that Panda and Penguin shook things up and some of us took some major hits. So…did Google cut down the number of spots on the first page, leading to a net-loss on first page rankings? No. Are there less searches performed each month? No. (Aside from seasonal traffic swings, search trends are still pointing up) Do they favor larger brands or themselves in their search results? Yes and No. Google’s knowledge graph, (that relies heavily on Wikipedia) affiliate programs, and sponsored listings are taking up more of the Above-The-Fold real estate than before, but with increased search traffic numbers overall this shouldn’t kill us. So…what gives? What’s with all the buzz/hype?

Change creates opportunity. While Tier 1 SEO blogs are digging into the data to try to figure out what all of this will mean for us, Tier 2 blogs and marketers are scrambling to create info products, tools, and “new” services that will capitalize on our fear and get us to turn over our hard-earned money. While Tier 1 exploits the fear and change to garner traffic and build authority, Tier 2 takes an active role and has a monetary stake in promoting the fear to sell you ebooks, video series, and coaching programs that will help you “beat” the search engines.

Pretend for a second that you’re an umbrella vendor. You have a direct financial gain from promoting the fear that it will rain. Taking it even further, let’s say that the market is saturated with “normal” umbrellas. You can now bring out your “new and improved” umbrella that becomes a must-have over the previous version. We’ve seen this all before…this just the latest swing in the cycle. Just take a look at the WSO section of the Warrior Forum when I search for “Penguin” to see what comes up:

WarriorForum Penguin WSOs

I’d add that not everyone is promoting the fear for their own benefitsome just get caught up in it. When you’ve taken a hit with the search engines and everywhere you turn is talking about how horrible Panda/Penguin is, offering solutions, etc. it can weigh on you. We’re definitely culpable to some degree and have probably made statements that perpetuated the fear, however unintentionally. I’m writing this post to, hopefully, dial down some of the fear and to put things into perspective.

The Downside Of Traffic Diversification

Many of the traffic alternatives share an uncanny resemblance to the oft-mentioned “shiny new object” syndrome. Let’s take a look at a few of the top recommendations when it comes to alternative traffic:

YouTube Videos

Besides mentioning the obvious fact that YouTube is owned by Google, putting together unique, quality video content ain’t easy. It’s both time intensive and requires a skillset that (in my opinion) is much more complicated than simply writing blog posts or pages. The path to success and going viral is littered with the failed videos of those who didn’t make it. For every DollarShaveClub video (really funny stuff!) I can show you thousands of similar videos that just didn’t work. High-level and successful marketing agencies can improve the percentages and chance for success, but this is far from guaranteed.

Some point out that putting out as many low-quality videos as possible can earn you enough traffic to make it valuable. We’ve tried this and it simply isn’t worth the traffic. Too much effort with not enough value. (For local businesses, there’s the additional benefit of having YouTube as a web reference, but that’s an outlier example in the local search space and outside the scope of this post)

Twitter Traffic

Using a micro-niche example, a site like blueskiboots dot net is probably not going to have a wildly popular Twitter account, but let’s back out to a more general niche and talk about a “ski apparel” site. If you’re witty and creative, you could probably build quite a nice little following in this niche, but a large majority of us would not have the skills or capability to drive a large amount of targeted, engaged followers. Engagement is the key…sure we can all play the game of getting 10K+ followers, but how many of those will pay any attention to you?

Ok, so let’s look at some of the more spammy ways to use Twitter. You can build large networks of Twitter accounts using hidden IP’s, automation, etc. You can then use those hundreds (thousands?) of accounts to drive non-targeted traffic to your site. Conversion rates? Bleh…not so hot. I’d also mention that if you run AdSense sites, this is a REALLY bad idea. Even if you’ve built up a huge network and are driving a ton of traffic, it’s very likely non-targeted and, even if they’re clicking on your ads it’s unlikely they’re going to convert for your AdSense advertisers. That’s the problem. I’ve come across those selling “earning” sites on the Warrior Forum that caused dozens of people’s AdSense accounts to get banned and they’re forced to look for AdSense alternatives. There are sellers on Flippa that have used this method of traffic too…most of them end up banned a few months later.

Facebook Traffic

Ditto (I’ll mention briefly that I’ve read some interesting ideas and uses for paid FB traffic, but my experience here is pretty limited and I couldn’t delve into this intelligently at this point. If you have any great examples of how to use paid FB traffic for niche sites, we’d definitely like to hear about it!)

Social Bookmarking

Unless you’re in a niche that has a higher chance of going viral through real-world shares, this type of traffic is not terribly valuable. Some of the tools and programs are somewhat interesting and complex. (i.e. SocialAdr is something we’ve signed up for and have been playing with) Networking and sharing bookmarks may work for a site like AdSenseFlippers, but a “ski apparel” site isn’t likely to get as much value out of this.

Joe and I have used Craigslist pretty heavily in the past and one of the things we noticed is that they got awfully good at “ghosting” posts on the site. They (rightly) had a fairly militant userbase that would flag posts that seemed too commercial, were repetitively posted, etc. We played the game for a while, but ultimately realized our ROI had dropped to a point where it was no longer worthwhile. (Sites like Reddit, Digg, etc. are similar)

Direct Traffic

Building an authority site in your niche that people refer to and visit again and again is appealing. There are plenty of people that tell you to “follow your passion” and write amazing content that will get people back to your site. What’s wrong with that, right? Well let’s take a look at a 30 day period from Pat Flynn’s Security Guard Training site: (taken from SmartPassiveIncome.com)

Security Guard Training Analytics

Around 26% of the traffic came directly, (likely from repeat visits) but that’s largely dominated by the nearly 65% of search engine traffic. And the truth is…that’s likely as good as it’s going to get. When it comes to niche sites, Pat’s site is at the upper-end of the spectrum when it comes to these types of sites and providing value. It’s not that this isn’t worth targeting…1,400+ visits a month is going to make you some money…but I’ll refer you back to the Local Shop Vs. Walmart example. How much more traffic might the site get if those resources were focused more on additional content and search engine traffic?

Benefits Of Google Traffic

Considering the fact that we rarely optimize our content on AdSenseFlippers for search engine keywords and traffic (a notable exception would be our discount on Long Tail Pro and our AdSense Alternatives post!) let’s take a look at how the search engine traffic to our site stacks up:

AF Search Source

Google dominates. I would say that some of our niche sites get a higher percentage of traffic from search engines like Yahoo and Bing due to great rankings for a particular keyword, but looking at the complete picture these numbers wouldn’t be too far off. Let’s go over some of the other benefits of Google traffic:

Written Content Is Easier (And Cheaper) To Produce

Comparing apples to apples, I’m much more likely to get a quality piece of content for $20 than I am to get a quality video, ebook, podcast, or bookmarking campaign at that price.

When looking at content for AdSense Flippers, our most downloaded podcast was created 8 months ago and has just over 6,800 downloads. With our (limited) experience on YouTube, our most viewed video brought in just over 2,000 views in around 10 weeks. Our most viewed page on AdSenseFlippers? 22,481 views in 5 months. (Jan – May 2012) I think it’s also important to note that the views on the content are on our own platform, where many of the podcast downloads and video views were through mobile phones, ipods, YouTube, etc…not as ideal.

Extremely Targeted Traffic

As an AdSense publisher, it’s extremely important that the visitors that click through our ads “perform” or purchase from our advertisers at a reasonable rate. This is extremely likely, considering the highly-targeted niches we build sites around. This is not a light consideration. Take into account the banned AdSense accounts and Flippa accounts we mentioned above…we think the likely reason for this is that these social media visits were not targeted and were not performing for the advertisers. The only strategy that will make any sense with AdSense must include a Win-Win-Win-Win philosophy, Value to the searchers, us, Google, and Google’s advertisers.

Maybe you don’t use AdSensedoes this still apply? Absolutely! If I sell website design services and happen to have an image on my site that goes “viral” through social media. (Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc.) That’s good, right? Well…not necessarily. Let’s say it was a funny The Oatmeal-type cartoon. VERY few of those visitors are likely to order from my design services and will have an extremely high bounce rate and no interest in my site, generally. “But what if I got 100,000 visits from it and sold even 1% of them?” you might ask. The problem is this: there are numbers lower than 1%.

Passive Traffic

The work required to get organic traffic from Google is often front-loaded, but the benefit is that you’ll continue to reap the rewards for a long time to come. (Note: The same could be argued for podcasts, videos, and emails in a follow-up sequence.) This simply isn’t the case with traffic from Twitter, Facebook, forum posts, etc. I’m pretty active for us on Twitter and it leads to quite a few visits, but I have to admit that if we’re looking for traffic we get a much better ROI from writing more blog posts and getting found on Google. Not to mention the fact that Twitter is often “preaching to the choir” so to speak where search engine traffic often brings us readers completely new to our brand and expands our reader base.

Higher Sales Value

While the networked social media accounts I mentioned above have been the cause of (AdSense/Flippa) account bans, there are more legitimate ways to build traffic of course. You can use paid traffic to your site. The problem here is that organic/natural traffic is considered at a premium when selling a website and your value/multiple diminishes when you cut into your margins with paid traffic.

One could point to referral traffic (paid placement, guest posts, article marketing, etc.) as a legitimate source of traffic, (it’s true) but it doesn’t completely replace any concerns about that traffic when compared to natural/organic visits. How long will those paid links remain? What if the links (that are not under the buyer’s control) are changed or deleted? These questions can lower the buyer’s estimation on the value of the site if not reasonably answered.

Reliable Measurement Of Search Volume

It’s fair to say that your position in the search engines has become less reliable as of late, but my point here is that you have fairly reliable data as to the number of searches performed on Google each month. How many searches does “X” get in iTunes each month? How about Amazon? Limiting your variables allows you to focus on what you can control. Not knowing what to target with other sources puts you at a disadvantage right from the start.

Additional Considerations

Some of these points are probably a bit controversial and, in reading them over, I thought I should address some of the more obvious questions or arguments.

“Panda/Penguin Concerns And Issues Are Real”

I’m definitely not denying or trying to diminish the effects of Panda or Penguin on Internet Marketing. (We felt some pain here as well) They’ve definitely made an impact that has been painful and costly in many instances. I’m just trying to point out that the extreme attention lately pointed towards alternative traffic sources may be overkill and, in some cases, a poor diversification of resources.

“Paid Resources That Help With Panda/Penguin Are Valuable”

I’m sure that there are plenty of instances where this is true. However, if you’re at all familiar with the trickle-down/dilution effect in this industry you’ll know that for every useful resource, there are another 10 diluted resources pitched and sold (still some value)…and another 100 resources that are further diluted, pitched, and sold. (very little value) Not even a judgement here…it just is what it is.

“You Mentioned Google’s Share of Search Engine Traffic, But What About Alternative Search Volume?”

This is a fair point, I think, but in researching I found it much more difficult to quantify the amount of searches performed through non-traditional search engines. It would be even more difficult, I think, to determine which keywords on which platforms to target, as I mentioned in our point above, “Reliable Measurement Of Search Volume”.

“What About Alternative Traffic Methods X, Y, and Z That You Didn’t Mention?”

I tried to cover some of the more well-known or discussed strategies, but I’m sure there are some that I’ve left out. If you know or have tested any that you’ve found to be useful, we’d love to hear about it. Feel free to post a comment or a blog post laying out your strategy or tactic and we’d love to discuss it!

Wrapping It Up

Wow, this was a long post! I didn’t intend to write this much on the subject, honestly, but with all of the buzz on getting away from Google traffic, I thought it was important to cut through some of the hysteria and look at the facts. I certainly don’t mean to say that we should ignore other potential traffic sources, but I do think it silly to spend so much effort and energy focused on these alternatives without at least mentioning the elephant in the room.

Do you agree that organic Google traffic might not be as bad as it’s being made out to be, or do you feel this is a a naive position to take? Really interested to hear your comments below!  Or…if you’d like, use SpeakPipe to record a message and we’ll get back to you!






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Discussion
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  1. Yakezie says:

    Fantastic. You guys really have some of the best content in your niche! I wrote a post on Yakezie.com entitled Thin Is Out, Thick Is In. Would love to hear your thoughts! Sam

  2. Hi Justin,
    Thanks for great post, I was looking for words like that because I knew that Panda/Penguin updates can’t hurt sites with unique and quality content. I think that many people have some kind of “keyword in mind”, which, in my opinion is “automation”, it’s like a trigger which makes them…well, lazy :). Of course it’s impossible for many folks to write even first post on their niche site by their own, but I was always a liitle-bit sceptic about those “automated added articles, links” etc.
    Google wants to have a quality, many sites have just their content so crappy that sometimes I am really concern why those people think that’s the point of making money online.
    And last words – Panda/Penguin updates slapped those who are misfits, “it’s evolution baby :)”, only strong will survive.
    Greetings from Poland !

  3. I definitely see your point, Justin.

    Referral traffic can be very valuable and higher converting that SE traffic, but it’s also the kind of traffic that sucks in every minute we should be using on actually building out business instead.

    Just wrote a post about SEO – mostly for fun, but also to hopefully provide a more viable model to rank on Google: through relevance and authority.

    Would love to know your thoughts on it: http://www.trafficgenerationcafe.com/what-is-seo-relevance-authority/

  4. Kris @ Detailed Success says:

    Epic post Justin!

    I don’t blame Google for anything. It is essentially free traffic and it isn’t Google’s fault that I spend a lot of time and money on SEO and it doesn’t work anymore.

    In the end it’s a business and they do what is most profitable for THEM not me.

    No one can deny that Google is an awesome source of traffic. There’s nothing better than being on the first spot.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks, man!

      Joe has had this “crazy idea” for some time now that the exact reasons and methodology for search should be free or open-source…and we should punish those that break the rules. I disagree, but it’s been the topic of several interesting/heated discussions, hehe.

  5. […] truth, I was actually quite surprised with the stoicism Joe and Justin approached ‘The Penguin’ with. While the Internet Marketing Community went into full-on freakout mode, Joe and Justin held their […]

  6. Vusal says:

    Thousands of people visit Pat’s blog, direct traffic with that website is unrealistic, you could show another/better examples,

    You can drive traffic from other sources but let’s face it, none of them are close to Google when it comes to “quality” of the traffic,

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Vusal,

      I was talking about Pat’s niche site rather than his blog. I thought it better to use a public example of a niche site that’s well known, but your point is taken. Definitely agree with volume and quality traffic through Google.

  7. Kent Chow says:

    Justin, you make a great point that Google is still the king and the traffic is more target comparing to Social Traffic.

    I was a little bit panic in May and June for the Penguin update. (I haven’t taken much action yet) I used to have couple hundred daily traffic to my Amazon money making site back in Nov & Dec (Post-Panda days).

    I still miss my Google Traffic and trying to refresh my mind and build the love again. Taking actions is the way to get the love post-penguin. Sitting and thinking can’t. :)

    I can’t agree more than that. Google traffic to my niche sites is very targeted. The visitors are looking for something – they are ready to click ads for deals or buy.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Kent!

      It’s nice to have extremely targeted traffic…both Google and their advertisers will appreciate it for sure.

  8. aaron says:

    is it still relevant to produce niche site like the free ebook you give us when panda and penguin try to conquer?

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Aaron,

      Yes, I think niche sites are a great way to get started. They relatively low risk (compared to other approaches) but are low return as well. They can definitely make you some money. The best thing to do is start and test through it as you go. I would advise against doing much linkbuilding at all…see how your sites perform without them and then add linkbuilding from there, tweaking your process.

  9. Well put Justin! We absolutely love Google traffic because like you said, it’s organic traffic that can be grabbed without having to constantly “work” to drive traffic day after day. For my niche sites, I won’t even attempt to get any other kind of traffic. On the other hand, for sites that are based on passion, I think utilizing social media traffic is a very great addition to the search engines.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Josh,

      Good points…I think social media can work on a passion site BUT that passion site must have something about it that’s worth sharing. A silly example, but I could have a passion site about the French Revolution that’s just simply not great for sharing, you know?

  10. Leanne Rivard says:

    Thank you Justin! I am a newbie that follows you, Spencer, Pat, and a few others. I was in the middle of doing my keyword research for my first niche site when the Penguin update hit. Seeing everyone get smaked down made me pause, then freak out since my business plan blew up. I have been recalculating ever since.

    I AM the market for the so called “here’s how to beat Google” products you mention. I haven’t bought any of them, but have felt like I can’t find my way out of a wet paper bag in taking my next step. Thank you for being the voice of reason, and for saying the things out loud that I have been thinking. Since I am new to IM, (but not business), it is nice to see someone talk in real world terms. Google is the 800 pound elephant in the room, and it cannot be ignored.

    BTW-I have decided to write my e-book FIRST. Then develop my website around it. If anything, I think I will be able to learn more, and stay more focused this way.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Leanne!

      I’m glad you found this post useful. Best of luck with your ebook! Have you considered setting up or joining an accountability group? I know a few others that are currently in the process of writing books and they’ve got a ton of value by holding each other accountable, setting public goals, etc.

      • Leanne Rivard says:

        Justin,
        That is a great idea! I have been looking for a mastermind group in my area, but haven’t had any luck so far. Do you have a suggestion where I find an accountability group?

        Thanks for the idea-might be just what I need to get my butt going in the same direction instead of so scattered.

        • JustinWCooke says:

          Hey Leanne!

          I know some people that were putting one together in the Dynamite Circle, a private membership group we’re involved with.

          I was suggest reaching out to any groups/forums where you’re active and seeing if there are any you can join. If not, you can always start one! :-)

  11. The Auction Hunter says:

    Great post! I must say that I have had my fair share of Google slaps in the past and yes they pissed me off. But what I learned from them was that if you create great content and do old fashion linking your websites will flourish.

    Since the Panda/Penguin release all of the niche sites I spent time posting quality information on and did manual linking have shot up and flourished over the shotty sites that used to out rank me with poorly written articles and paid for links. And as far as organic traffic goes Google is the king and will continue to be the king until someone creates a better mouse trap. I get over 60% of my organic traffic from the Google search engine and it adds up to a pretty penny.

    One last note on a different subject. I was never much of a Ad Sense fan in the past. However I ran across one of your post somewhere and after reading it decided to see if you were puffing smoke or their was some money to be made here. So I created two niche Adsense websites following your recommendations and I’m happy to report that in less than a month both websites are on track to do about 500+ daily visitors and will generate about $20 to 25$ dollars in Adsense clicks their first month. So here is a shout out to you, I appreciate the info and hopefully in the future I can pay it forward.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey there,

      Wow…$20-$25 from two sites in the first month? That’s awfully promising! My guess is that you got a bit lucky with one or both of those niches and you’ll be rewarded for that over the next couple of months. It’s not always that easy and they’re not always that successful…but it sure is nice when they are!

  12. nice one Justin totally with ya here! yeah everyone still seems to be going on about how SEO, niche sites and Google traffic are all dead. Your exactly right people are trying to play on peoples fears and worries and they are probably making a killing from this. One example was a Pintest plugin that came to my email nearly 5 times telling me to buy from 2 well known bloggers uhh unsubscribe!…Google still is the king of the internet if you don’t like it bad luck lol

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Matt,

      Yeah, it’s funny right? Really interested in following your progress with the travel/hotel sites…I think that’s a really interesting niche and the monetization strategy seems pretty solid. It sounds/looks like your initial jump into this space is actually stronger/better than our niche AdSense sites which is very promising! Might have to “borrow” the concept and try it out! :-)

      I was definitely thinking about Mark Cuban’s points about TV when writing this post:
      http://blogmaverick.com/2012/01/14/the-tv-business-keeps-getting-stronger/

      So…we’re meeting up Saturday night, right? No flaking? hehe

  13. John DeVries says:

    Always gotta rock the boat, don’t you buddy. ;-)

    This did turn out really well. Glad you wrote it.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Yeah, buddy!

      Glad you appreciated it, man. Can’t wait for your guest post here…I’m sure it will be great!

  14. Great post, me wanty you writey more like this pleeze.

    Great point of view on highest trafficked page vs. youtube vs. podcast and the point you touch on about being your own platform is HUGE.

    The Copyblogger team like to say “don’t be a digital sharecropper” and I agree. Have a facebook page, connect with your clients on twitter, and post and share on pinterest if you want, but focus on the platform that you OWN.

    PS. LOVED the umbrella analogy, that is some clever shit right there… :)

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks, Damian!

      I wonder who I talked to about that umbrella analogy…hmmm… :-)

      I really think that having people consume your content on YOUR platform is critical as I’ve mentioned. For example…you’re a super-sharp guy I get quite a bit of value from…but you don’t have a blog! Ugh! I know you’re writing your first post today…excited to see you get the site up/running.

      • Thanks bro, I am still not sure my personal blog will be the place to linksy to, but it is better than nuthin.

        PS. I can have your monies?

        • JustinWCooke says:

          You have da monies. I like monies. Was hoping I could get some of da monies? Or maybe you split da monies wid me?

          Still laughing about taking our inside joke and using it for the title of a blog post, hehe.

  15. Tom Ewer says:

    Hey Justin,

    I’ve got to be honest – I’m fed up with Google. I put a great deal of effort (and money) into around 20 niche sites, and every single one failed (my own fault no doubt, but no less frustrating).

    In mid-April I received a notice from Google stating that my personal blog had been penalized for unnatural links. I *did* build a few links with BMR/Rank Jumpers several months back, but I did the right thing thereafter – requested that all links be removed, and explained the situation to Google in full. I got a canned message a few weeks later stating that my site’s penalization was being upheld.

    Search engine traffic accounts for 10% of my blog’s traffic. I’ve given up trying to grow that number.

    Cheers,

    Tom

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Tom,

      I’ve followed your frustrations with Google at LWB. I really wonder what it is about your niche sites that didn’t work. I think it’s safe to say that it just won’t work for everyone…while I think it’s a great way for most people to get started and we lay it out as clearly as we possibly can, some have success and others don’t…not really sure why that is.

      Is your site still penalized? I would say if your’e getting less than 10% of your traffic from Google it probably is, eh? If that’s the case, it was less of a choice on your part towards traffic diversification and more of a necessity.

      If you continue to write great content and get the traffic you’re getting, my guess is that your Google traffic will continue to increase over time. We’ll see!

  16. Daryl Mander says:

    Excellent post Justin. It’s content like this that keeps me coming back your blog. I agree that perhaps there is too much hype and hysteria surrounding penguin/panda and diversification away from Google, however at the same time it’s never a good idea in business (or in life) to have all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. If you are 100% dependent on one egg, seo and google, for putting food on your table then you are taking a risk and a bit of diversification can’t hurt. Just don’t forget that, as Spencer rightly put it, Google is still king!

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Awesome, Daryl…appreciate it!

      Diversifying your business interests is a good strategy. I would point out, though, that creating a few niche sites for some extra income isn’t a true “business” in the best sense of the word…even though I know others will think that it is. If you look at our overall business, we have outsourcing clients, niche sites, we’re developing tools, etc. We are diversifying our business which, I think, is a good idea.

      I think the problem is when you spend so much time/effort/energy on something that has less potential and value. It seems silly to focus on diversifying traffic strategies for niche sites because:

      A) That’s probably not your overall business anyway and
      B) Spending way more time on something less effective doesn’t seem sound

  17. semir says:

    hey
    what a great post!! Everybody was looking for this kind of valuable information. Thanks for addressing the current issue. if i am going to tell all the things on my mind right now …i could make this a long comment so..i will try to shorten it.
    everybody is preaching diversification, but to where, is there realy a great traffic source that equals search visitors. But the thing is many people reading this blog and others like smartpassiveincome and niche p. are very much interested in passive income with low investment. but niche sites arent passive to start with, niche sites can go down or up or something which makes it a must to do some serious follow up work. yes it is true that u can go from 30,000$ per month to 0$ per month. when google hits ur site with an animal. to all the people who are interested in passive income and diversification from google…here i will just put my best sources of income …with safety plus passiveness.
    .. make ebooks, memberships or videos for sale at a price but u have to do some serious niche research and help solve a real problem or feed some passion. and then use free ways to get traffic. since googles traffic is nt instant, u can try comenting on forums blogs.guest post, youtube, any where u can think of go to where ur potential customer hangs out and connect. i dont know about facebook,twitter,and others but i have heard that someone got a big email list with only forum posting.
    u can go paid way , by ppc on google and facebook, ans other niche site related to u.
    this whole process can get to 1000$ investment plus your time. but i can tell you it is well worth it. in my opinion it is better for u to make 10,000 per month with one ebook than 100 adsense sites! why? because your traffic cant disappear overnight because u used different sources like forums ,comments. or you might have paid for it.
    eg. we all know pat from smart passive income. do u know he got his first money made online with ebook? yes before he came to build spi he sold ebook on a some architectre niche , he used to get upwards of 15000$ per month. traffic is all from google and other search engines. What if i just bid on all the keywords that his site ranks for, and make a great ebook for a lower price, yea there is always things you can do to stay ahead of the compitiion. then Dont you think that i could make a living that way? might not be as much as him but i am fine with a little lower and guranteed income rather on a traffic that might go away overnight!
    paid traffic isnt the only out…and the bottom line is it is much better to spend ur time and money on something that is of low risk if any… and that is i think as equally or less hard than building niche site.
    thanks bye

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks for your comment, Semir!

      I’ve been in quite a few conversations lately where people are talking about Kindle publishing as another great niche opportunity. It would be interesting to see someone apply the same approach we have here to the niche Kindle books. In talking to someone, though, I don’t think you can transfer ownership of a book to someone else…which would make “flipping” them a bit difficult. I think you’d have to hang onto the book for the passive income rather than flipping, heh.

  18. Sheyi says:

    As much as I hate google so much cause of the way its trying to take over the internet, I still like free google traffic. I do not have time checking all these google updates as it hardly affects any of my sites. I make sure I write new posts and also do white hat SEO and traffic comes from social sites too – so for google, I just take what it gives me.

    Sheyi

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Sheyi,

      It’s “free” in that you’re not paying per click, per 1,000 visits, etc…but there is a cost of getting yourself up and visible…not to mention any costs you might spend on SEO. I like that fact that our mini-niche sites are relatively easy to rank without heavy backlinking, but I know that’s not the case with authority sites.

  19. Marc Ashley says:

    Great read Justin! The internet is simply like the real world and thank god it’s like that. What worked then doesn’t work now and that shall always be the case. If you write awesome articles daily about anything starting today for the next 10 years, you will probably be the best it’s that simple and Google will send you more than enough visitors. Google is still the king and they’re always making changes which is important whether we like it or not. To stay in any game you have to change with the times or simply not complain when it’s all over.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Marc,

      Yes, the changes can definitely be frustrating…but not worth throwing the baby out with the bath water, as you’ve mentioned.

  20. Carl says:

    Great post Justin, I think when it comes to Adsense Organic search engine traffic is the only way to keep your traffic quality good I personally wouldn’t push social traffic can just see it ending in in tears either banned or at the least Smartpriced when nothing backs out for the advertisers.

    Updates suck but you just have to test new stuff adapt and make sure the source of your new information is qualified.

    In terms of paid traffic I personally think it cant be ignored, don’t get me wrong I love free Google traffic, who doesn’t? but you do have more control with paid traffic (obviously not for Adsense :))

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Carl,

      I think paid traffic for physical products that have a high enough margin can be killer, actually… I didn’t mention it in the post, but when you have a site that converts with a decent ROI and paid traffic that’s awesome…find a way to squeeze more out of it. It’s especially helpful if it’s the kind of product/service that people will pass on to others. It can be beneficial to even sell at a loss to get your product/service out there. Once the ball is rolling you can cut back the advertising spend, of course.

  21. Spencer Haws says:

    Great article guys! Google is definitely still king…

  22. Johan Woods says:

    Great argument, Justin. I can only agree with you. And for the love of god, let’s stay away from the Panda/Penguin booster link building booster pro yada yada…Surely a way to get banned.

    Funny observation: sites I haven’t done much to at all in terms of link building are ranking best and making most money.

    I’m guessing it will largely depend on your niche and competitors, but still.

    • Hi Johan

      You can see that effect in many vertical for microniches sites. Heavily backlinked sites have dissapeared (even with good quality) to be replaced by no backlink sites.

      Ive seen this week examples where a single page site (the page is balnk just the title tags etc remains) and it ranks number 5 for a 1500 $1.50 keyword. every site above it has less than 30 links.

      Their is one penquin recovery process i do like which is to add more links using booster pacackages BUT where the purpose is to reduce the percentage of exact match anchor text and the niche is a very lowcomp one.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Agreed, Johan! Much of it is just rehashed stuff that’s been sold before. Add a “Penguin” here and a “Panda” there and you’ve got your new content! Ugh…

  23. 100% spot on. Well said gentlemen.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks, Steve!

      Already got an email from a reader saying something to the effect of “some people aren’t gonna be happy about this post” lol.

      Well…it wasn’t written for them! :-)

      • I say sod them. (change sod to any word you like).

        I thought i’d add ” Tier 2 blogs
        and marketers are scrambling to create info products, tools, and “new”
        services that will capitalize on our fear and get us to turn over our
        hard-earned money.” THIS is the point isnt it.

        Some people that have been succesfull now really only make money buy selling and affiliating with other on WSO type things.

        Therefore they have to find something new and or denounce the “old” ways.

        I would exclude seobraintrust from these thoughts. they are going in new directons (knida) but they have data to back their ideas.

        I’d also add that a lot of folks dont get the massive traffic ops from google images. many of my adsense sites get twice the traffic from images that they get from yahoo and bing!

        Not that i dont love Bing its easy to rank in so the traffic for a 1st in bing can often be higher than a 9th-10th in google.

        Keep writing great stuff

  24. Great counterpoint argument Justin, funnily enough I was watching some videos of the soon to be released Link Liberation 3 system this morning although I think they might be a bit closer to an all round middle ground that some others I’ve seen…

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Thanks, Andrew…appreciate it.

      It can be really difficult to discern the “genuine article” from the BS. Either way you look at it, though, the BS largely outweighs the real stuff by a pretty wide margin…pretty poor signal-noise ratio in SEO (and the IM community overall)

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