How I Got a Shitload of Traffic, And Then Lost It All

This is a technique I’ve been using on one of my WordPress-powered blogs in the past 4 months or so and it has been working quite well for me. Today I’ll be sharing some stats with you and tell you how to easily do it yourself, so hopefully you can increase traffic to your sites at least a little bit.

A bit over 2 years ago I launched a site that aggregated feeds from about 20 different blogs in a non-competitive niche. I never actually built any backlinks to this website, and to this day it has maybe 50 backlinks total. In short, the site shouldn’t even be ranking, much less getting insane amounts of traffic. Until a few months ago it was getting 100-200 unique visitors per day and generated no revenue outside of an occasional Adsense click. I actually made this website to test some things and boost my other related sites in the SERPs so monetizing this website or even getting traffic/rankings was never a goal. Basically the site’s a content scraper powered by the FeedWordpress plugin.

A few months ago I discovered a plugin called Recent Google Searches Widget. The plugin will catch every query that search engine visitors typed to get on your website and then link it to a search page on your website, such as http://affmind.com/?s=shitload+of+traffic. You can show the widget with the recent searches on your sidebar, and if you allow your search pages to get indexed Google will pick them up, and in my case rank them ridiculously high.

The plugin can generate insane amount of pages for your website as every single search phrase used to find your website will now show up. This leads to the automatic creation of pages that are based on the exact long-tail phrases thus it ranks incredibly well. Sometimes weird phrases that you would never think of optimizing for get captured and the number of indexed pages on your site and the traffic start growing exponentially. That’s how I managed to get my less than 200 unique visitors per day site get almost 10,000. Pretty insane.

The downside is that because of the site’s niche I wasn’t able to properly monetize it. The search pages displayed Adsense and Chitika ads, and combined earned about $15 daily. It’s something, but considering how much traffic the site was getting it is in fact bad.

But what ultimately killed the site’s traffic wasn’t spammy content. It wasn’t the Panda update, nor was it the 400,000 indexed pages in Google. It was shared hosting! I knew it would happen because no shared hosting can handle that much traffic, and the resources used by all the plugins and whatnot were huge. I did even add caching but it simply wasn’t enough. I would of moved the site to a different server long time ago but I was afraid it might lose rankings because of it, and that’s exactly what happened. The hosting company moved my site to an empty server in order to determine why it was causing server crashes and the day they did it the site went back to those 200 daily visits.

Will it ever pick up the ranking again? I doubt it. It was good while it lasted and I knew it wouldn’t be like that forever. I tried but I simply couldn’t find a way to monetize the traffic properly and now it’s likely too late.

So below I’ll give you a small analysis and a breakdown of what you need to make this work for your site.

1. An old(er) trusted domain

My site was just over 2 years old and had almost no backlinks except for an occasional forum link, but for some reason it was trusted enough by Google to crawl it all day long and get 400,000 pages indeed in about 3 months. My guess, it’s because it was updated with new posts a few times per day for a couple of years, despite them being syndicated.

2. Tons of content

It perhaps isn’t mandatory but it’s certainly good for your website to have as much content as possible. My site had ZERO unique content, but about 3000 syndicated posts from other blogs. This again shows that duplicate content can indeed rank well.

3. WordPress + Recent Google Searches Widget

You can of course find or hire someone to make a similar plugin if you’re using a different CMS, but it’s easy on WordPress since you have everything you need. There are some alternatives to the Recent Google Searches Widget, and even some that can work well along with it:

Note that I only used the Recent Google Searches plugin so I can’t really vouch if the last three plugins are safe or work properly.

4. A pimped search results/404 page

This one’s also very important. Since WordPress search engine sucks major balls a lot of time visitors will see the “No results found” message. Here’s how it looks on my blog here:

If you want your search pages to rank well you have to add some content to them. If the phrase is found and it displays relevant posts it’s great, but more than often no results will display so you have to think of other ways.

First, make sure the main keyword someone searched for is in the <H1> or <H2> tags. The above <H1> tag for “Nothing Found” is completely useless, so instead you will want to edit the page and add <?php the_search_query(); ?> so it displays the actual keywords the visitor typed. Additionally, you can change the text to something like “Sorry but we could not find a post matching [keywords] you typed. You can try your search for [keywords] again below.” What is does it basically add the keywords again to the content, despite there being very little of it. It worked for me, it helps your pages rank. Do it.

If you can manage to somehow automatically generate relevant content when there are no relevant posts found let me know cause I’d love to get my hands on it. But if not, you can add Recent posts, Random posts, Popular posts to the search results pages to give it more content and relevancy. If possible, use post excerpts as well. There’s plenty of plugins available for that. Additionally, you can add a list of categories, a tag cloud, and similar widgets to make the page appear to have content when there’s in fact none.

You can also try to integrate Google Custom Search into the WordPress search pages so it may actually deliver some search results, unlike WP engine which most of the time shows none. If you can try to make the search pages have a permalink, so instead of http://affmind.com/?s=shitload+of+traffic it would show http://affmind.com/search/shitload-of-traffic. It worked for me with the former but permalinks are always much, much better.

And that’s about it. It requires very little work, but if you have a decent, trusted domain you can always give this a shot. Just make sure your search pages look natural and non-spammy, otherwise you’ll be getting a ton of hatemail and complaints.

I constantly get tons of links to this page whern searching for different temrs in google. Not once has it been related and not once has it yielded any result at all except for adds. This site is a disgrace to the web and all you business model seems to be to lure people in. I really hope google comes up with some sort of rating function because sites like this is popping up everywhere and its ruining the internet,.

There was so, so many more I got with threats and quite amusing insults but unfortunately I didn’t think of keeping them. Basically if you do this make sure you know it’s spam, so if you got a problem with it then close your browser within the next 5 seconds of your screen will explode. It’s funny to think that people complain about content farms while on the other hand there’s sites like these everywhere which really add absolutely no value to visitors as they don’t even have content. And the worst part, Google ranks them.

I should note however that I’ve done this on one site only and I normally do just white hat stuff without spamming. This site is definitely an exception.

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Google Endorses Duplicate Content

As part of their April fool’s joke, Google posted the same article here and here. Nuff said: you can go on a rampage and re-post your content on multiple sites.

Additionally as part of their series of April’s fools jokes if you do a search for “Comic Sans” you’ll notice the SERPs using this god awful font, but more importantly the top result has a sitelink for “Cheap Prescription Propecia“:

Joke’s on you Google.

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Will +1 Make a Difference?

Just yesterday Google announced via their official blog the “+1″ button. It’s basically Google’s way of introducing the “social layer” to search results where you can see other people’s recommendations for your website. When you +1 a search result (or an Adwords ad) it will be publicly displayed on your Google Profile (which is essentially like a Facebook wall).

According to Google this will lead to improving the search results and giving users content which is recommended by their social circle, i.e. friends and contacts. While I’m sure the extensive user base Google has will certainly be using the +1 button, it is still quite early to tell the exact impact of it. How many of their users will in fact embrace the button is unclear, and much like the Facebook’s Like button it’s open to interpretation: while undoubtedly it can and does bring more traffic to websites, you can get plenty of likes and probably +1′s even with the shittiest website in the world, assuming you’re getting enough traffic.

The content farms definitely don’t need to be alarmed by this. Just by looking at a random page on eHow.com you’ll notice it has dozens, sometimes even hundreds of Facebook likes, despite thousands of people complaining about their questionable quality content. When Google enrolls their +1 button for websites, sites with a lot of traffic will still get +1′s. Whether that can impact the search results in a positive way is hard to say, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Facebook’s Like button gained extreme popularity the moment it was introduced as thousands of websites embraced it. I’m not sure if the same will happen with Google’s +1 but I’m guessing it’s a yes: even if there’s a slight (chance of) improving their search engine traffic tons and tons of popular websites will add the button to their content, and many smaller niche sites will follow. Along with toolbars, Analytics, Webmaster Central, Buzz, Custom Search and whatnot Google is slowly starting to take an even bigger presence on our websites. Whether it’s good or bad for affiliate marketers depends on what kind of websites you make. It does look that quality content really is becoming mandatory.

Final thought: “+1″ is really a shitty name.

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The Hype With Content Farms

If you’ve been following any kind of SEO news recently you could hardly not notice a thing or two mentioned about the Google’s latest search engine algo update, designed to crack down on content farms. While the very definition of a content farm is not clear, possibly not even to Google, it does make me wonder where it’s going to take us.

First of all putting all these sites (eHow, Squidoo, Hubpages, …) in one basket and labeling them as content farms is quite often wrong, especially because they serve a different purpose. But regardless of their often questionable content, they do provide a useful service to many people. Even eHow: while I personally don’t go there when looking for specific information, if I see their page ranking high in Google I’ll click it like any other link. In fact, just recently I’ve been able to find a piece of info on eHow which I couldn’t find anywhere else. They aren’t perfect and much like millions of other people they do it for the money, but the site is far from being spam, which some people are inclined to believe.

Squidoo, Hubpages and similar sites on the other hand consist of content created by anyone who wants to. Yes, people use it to promote their own websites and products as well and earn money online. I use them too, quite a lot in fact. How is writing an article on Squidoo different from writing a post on any blog? Should we kick Blogspot.com and WordPress.com from SERPs as well just because people write shit content on their blogs? How exactly is that different?

Lastly we have article directories like Ezinearticles which is full of useless crap. It’s primarily used to get backlinks and juice to other websites, and any traffic you get from it is a bonus. They are indeed full of low-quality articles which do sometimes rank amazingly well, but quite frequently it’s because there simply aren’t any better, authoritative websites to take their place in the SERPs.

Ever since the Google update I’ve been seeing websites which are far worse, useless and spammy ranking on first page now. Where I once saw Squidoo and Ezinearticles, now I see other sites taking their place. So did web just become a better place? Squidoo is probably the least spammy site of all of these, despite having user-generated content. Tons of people are writing great stuff over there, even though most of the time it’s because they make money off of it. Does it make Wikipedia THAT much better just because people write for free there?

Bottomline is, this update just pushed other low quality content higher in SERPs, while punishing sites that aren’t necessarily useless, whether you see it that way or not. There, I even linked to all of these spammy content farms — the horror!

On a final note, most people wouldn’t grab pitchforks and be passionately against most of these sites if they were labeled information hubs instead of content farms.

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