Did Google Kill The Niche Site Model?

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woman on laptop For the last two weeks, the Net has been buzzing with chatter about the latest Google algorithm shake-ups.

This time there were 3 fairly big updates that rolled out over the span of 10-12 days.

So in case you missed it, here’s a recap…

On September 27/28th, Google launched an EMD update (Exact Match Domain) that targeted “low quality” (their words) sites that were ranking well primarily because of the phrase match (and didn’t have enough other signals to support and validate such a high ranking).

Google must have really set the bar high for “high quality” because when an awesome site like Traffic Generation Cafe gets hit, you can’t help but wonder what the heck is going on.

Nevertheless, a few days later, we learned there was also a Panda update around the same time…

That one other algo that Matt was referring to in that Tweet was later confirmed as Panda. So that would explain why the “small EMD weather report” didn’t seem so small after all.

So if you were hit and you don’t have an EMD then you were probably affected by Panda.

Then on October 8th, there was another update (Top Heavy 2) that targeted sites that had too many ads above the fold. (Top Heavy 1 launched in January.)

How Did I Fair?

With regards to my sites, I had some winners and losers. This blog won (15% traffic increase), but my static site saw a 10% drop in organic traffic.

In fact, my static site actually has 25% less organic traffic than it did this time last year. That’s the bad news.

The good news is my income has not dropped proportionately because of diversification and I’ll talk more about that in a bit.

But first, let’s discuss The Almighty G.

The Rumor Mill

I don’t want to spend too much time on rumors and speculation because it does no good, and no one really knows what’s going on but Google.

Some believe they are pushing down content/affiliate websites and favoring brands to force more spend on AdWords.

Whether that’s the truth or not is beyond my control.

Some people hit by the EMD update said they would change domain names and do a 301 redirect to the new name.

I’m no expert, but I personally think that’s a waste of time. Remember, Google didn’t penalize all EMD’s. They penalized the ones that didn’t have enough pre-determined “quality” signals Google looks for to support the ranking.

So even if you do create a completely new website, you still have to build it up to make it worthy to rank again, and that’s going to be much harder given that SEO seems to be changing.

I say, stick with what you have and work on diversification. That’s what I’ve been working on for the last year. It’s been a journey, but I’m having some success that I want to share and hopefully inspire you.

Email Marketing

You may remember I launched my WordPress Starter Tips for beginners several months back. This is the most success I’ve ever had with email from a conversion standpoint.

The list has been growing by about 1,100 subscribers per month and I have primarily been promoting the list in certain YouTube videos and pages on my sites.


Most of the tips are not promotional in any way. However, in some I make recommendations for WordPress themes, my WordPress ebook, etc. and it has really helped with income.

As you may know, I am having a love affair with the Genesis themes (Yes, that’s the theme this blog is now sporting). I’ve started switching more of my sites over to them, so I’ve been promoting the themes to my list, via video, etc.

(I will also be having a giveaway on this blog very soon. (Yipppeee!)

Email marketing has always been a struggle for me because it’s tough to strike the right balance between informational and promotional content. Obviously people don’t want to be pitched to all the time, but I still want to monetize the list.

So it’s been a challenge, but I’m finally seeing some results. Below is my current ShareASale affiliate earnings that have come mostly from Genesis referrals.

If you are having trouble getting conversions with traditional email marketing (something I’m just not very good at), setup some useful autoresponder tips that go out on various intervals.

Just keep the inform/promotion ratio around 90/10.


You knew this was going to be on the list, didn’t you? :)

I can’t say enough about YouTube and what it’s done for my diversification. Even though my 3 channels combined earn a small salary with the YouTube Partner program, I don’t focus on that because it’s Google-dependent revenue, and who knows what could happen with that in the future.

What’s more notable is that YouTube has helped with traffic, converting sales for more affiliate products, ebooks, etc.

Multi-Site Diversification

As I mentioned in another post, I have some other small sites I’ve been working on to further diversify my portfolio, but I have been spending more of my time building up my natural hair site.

It’s growing by the month and is not Google dependent. It started out that way, but lately more visitors are coming from Facebook, Pinterest, my YouTube channel and my forum that I just launched 2 1/2 months ago.


And finally, I’m getting into the Kindle publishing game and working on a book to add to the monetization mix.

So yes, I’ve been in Diversification Land, and it’s why I’ve only been blogging every other week instead of weekly (I hope you forgive me.) :)

The Verdict

Now, to answer the question I posed in the title…

No, Google did not kill the content/niche site model, but I do believe it is forever changed. The days of building content sites in hopes of drumming up a ton of Google traffic are coming to a close for the most part.

Of course, there will always be ways to find some success this way, but I think it’s even more of a risky model if that’s all you’re going to focus on.

There’s nothing wrong with targeting Google, but you should definitely plan to diversify sooner than later.

Don’t Give Up

I know it’s frustrating, and I’ve heard a lot of people say they are just going to throw in the towel. I can testify that diversification is hard work, but think of how much better off you will be when you do discover a way to be less dependent on The Big G.

Keep experimenting with different strategies and hang in there!

So what about you? Were you impacted? What are you doing outside of Google to promote your business today?

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  1. says

    Wonderful information here, Lisa! but I think the niche site model still lives. I think people need to be careful about how they do their marketing (backlinking) of their websites. Obviously spewing weak content into a ton of article farms used to work

    Online Marketing Nigeria
    Vibe Web Team

  2. says

    Other than “not giving up” what are some things that I should be doing differently with this new Panda update? SEO scares me because I think it changes way too quickly.

    • says

      Write for visitors and not bots. Don’t stuff your pages with keywords you want to rank for. Update your content regularly, don’t participate in link schemes or exchanges and you should be fine.

  3. says

    niche content does still live on – diversity in backlinks is the best plus social markers this is getting our sites back to where they were we lost 50% revenues last may!

  4. says

    I know this is seriously getting to the point where people will have to add REAL, useful content on the internet to get ranked well. What’s up with that…? 😉

  5. says

    Thanks for a very useful post, Lisa. And yeppers to Adam there–everything I’m reading on my favorite blogs concur–just write good content already…that’s….why they are my favorite blogs after all. Google is simply starting to honor that more and more, so really the internet seems to be becoming a more “natural” place, at least in terms of search rankings, IMHO.

  6. says

    Great post… but I think the niche site model still lives. I think people need to be careful about how they do their marketing (backlinking) of their websites. Obviously spewing weak content into a ton of article farms used to work… but google doesn’t want that to be the way you get promoted anymore. To quote a pretty popular movie, “if you build it they will come” isnt good enough. You need to build quality, and have others talk about it to be good enough now. And if so, you can still create a number of quality sites that aren’t necessarily authority sites.

  7. says

    I think the authority site model is the way to go. I’m letting my Amazon niche sites (that ALL got hammered) sit for a while. Working on them kind of sucks anyway. It’s way more fun working on stuff you actually like.

  8. says

    hello lisa mam,
    i am new to ur blog thank you for updating about google updates, all the information you have mentioned above in this post are very informative and useful.

  9. says

    Hello Lisa Ma’am,
    First of all I am new to your blog and your blog looks awesome 😀
    Your article is great! lots of things I have learned 😀 In last Google Page Rank update I have lost my Page Rank but by reading this article I have confidence that at this time I will gain my page rank back really thanks for it 😀

  10. says

    Hmm, it is not very happy to hear such a thing. Google has changed so often so it is very hard for webmaster and Seoers. My site was even banned, got penalty then I must write an email for them. Does current SEO methods such as social media, Linkwheel, directory submission still help?

  11. says

    I think the best strategy is multi-site diversification. It is always better not to rely on one site or one strategy. Affiliate marketing, adsense, selling own products etc. could be embedded on different sites for stable online income.

  12. says

    Wonderful information here, Lisa! First time reader and really enjoyed your positioning on all the changes going on with Google. It wouldn’t surprise me that Google may possibly be “throttling” the way sites show up to help bring up the need to purchase AdWords. I have also heard from other articles that Facebook is trying to develop a search engine as well. It seems to me, that possibly Google and Facebook are taking ideas from one another (anyone who has a Facebook page noticed how on this year, the viewability was getting throttled by Facebook with posts). Diversification seems to be the way to stay ahead of the curve!

  13. says

    Informative post.Yeah EMD is the Google’s update which affects on Exact Match Domain.But according to Matt Cutts, if you maintain high quality content, your site will not be affected.Maintain high quality content in your exact match domain sites.Thanks for sharing importance of email marketing.

  14. says

    As usual you are always giving people useful content. I am in the process of creating backlinks to my site and your posts always help me find the best “white hat” way so I really appreciate that. Even though some websites were hit with traffic after the panda update, I feel that it was about time Google came out and did something about it so it penalizes those who were into “black hat” seo tactics and using shortcuts when honest people out there with websites were trying to rank the right way. What are your thoughts? I’m sure you agree because you were an SBI user, and I know that SBI encourages people only to use “white hat seo tactics”

  15. says

    Quality unique content is king or in Lisa’s case – Queen. No matter what Google does, if you provide quality, in-demand, unique content, people will find you


  16. says

    hi lisa great advice and reviews , can i ask you opinion about social media marketing ? you know the almighty G are really not friendly at this time . so my question is social media marketing can really effective to attract traffic to our site thx

    • says

      Yes, but it’s hard work. For example just having a Twitter account or using Google Plus is not going to get you more traffic. But building relationships, engaging with other users, etc. will help because people are more likely to share your content. The more shares you get from people you are connected to, the more it may help with SEO.

      • says

        and what about pinterest , just a few days ago i saw many ebook and course about pinterest that they claim can attract traffic . is this true ? you know i am really tired about seo . i always follow the guidelne in google but sadly every time google change the algorithma my website always get effect including income and traffic . so i want to try social media marketing .

  17. says

    I have been reading all the comments to help me understand what the heck is going on with my traffic. Two of my sites were hit pretty bad by the P’s earlier this year. My 8 year old coaching website was not touched, until recently (traffic -10%). Reading this post has helped me get an attitude readjustment – no matter how much great content I put out, the traffic is going to my old content that has been around for five plus years. Getting traffic for my new content is almost impossible. I can see that I need to change what I’m doing.

  18. says

    I got destroyed by the 3 Google updates!

    I got very frustrated and stopped working online for a couple weeks. I cleared my mind and decided I need to focus and get back on the horse and give it another go. I think I can learn from my mistakes and get better at creating content online and profiting from it.

    Thanks for sharing your take on this Lisa. It is very helpful to see everyones point of view on this topic. Google really doesn’t give a lot of information on their updates and probably for good reason. So if I can get as much free information as possible from others its greatly appreciated.

    • says

      I feel your pain James, and have had a similar experience, my income down by 70% from last year.

      I too am so stressed and upset, but I am not giving up either, I think it’s just time to re-evaluate and get craftier.

  19. says

    You know what, I am not surprised. Google whether on purpose or by accident sometimes throws out the baby with the bathwater. I haven’t built my second site (first niche site) yet but I’m prepping what other channels I can use to guide people to the content. YT is a great option but so FB, TW and even Squidoo! You have to diversify and make sure that only a percentage of your visibility relies on Google rather than the whole pie.
    Great article!

  20. says

    Hey Lisa and other readers,

    Google updates changed a lot in the way traffic is distributed, but we need to remember that that’s a step in the right direction, always.
    I’ve been active publishing niche sites as a sole source of income during college, and all of these websites have always been judged by google fairly, as I see it. Eventhough I spent almost all my time in preparing articles and blogging (which I am very excited about starting) partly because of my fear of google, I have to say I am very pro Big G as a search engine.
    The reason for that is that Google’s only goal is having people use their search engine, in order to earn money through adwords. To do so, Google has to give searchers what they are looking for. If searchers over all are more satisfied with their search results, conversion rates are higher. If Google doesn’t give their searchers what they are looking for, they will inevitably start using different search engines. By this logic, if your site gets hit by Google, you are not what people are looking for. It isn’t resist from updating the search algorithms because it will prevent some bloggers to make money by promoting things their visitors weren’t really looking for. The sole reason for the existence of Google is to lead people to the pages they are looking for, whether there are affiliate links on them or not.

    The publishers first goal is to create that content searchers are looking for, and secondly to monetize them.

    What are your thoughts on this?


  21. says

    Some believe they are pushing down content/affiliate websites and favoring brands to force more spend on AdWords.

    This sounds like something a big company the size of Google would do. As for static niche sites I must say what I’ve seen to help which is to use paid traffic. Sure you need a budget to test and tweak certain traffic sources but once you find the winners all you have to do is ramp it up!

    • says

      Yes, Google demoted sites that had too many ads above the natural cut off of a page. Of course not all sites were affected, but if you don’t have enough quality signals (social media, quality backlinks, etc.) then those sites were affected more. This is the 2nd update they’ve done.

      Google AdSense just came to my city and they were warning webmasters about that very issue.

  22. says

    Hi Lisa,
    Do you think that if you still produce quality content that you can still rank well in Google or those days are over or is it heading that way?

    • says

      Quality content alone won’t do it unless you have a niche all to yourself (which is rare these days). Plus if you are in a niche by yourself, I’d seriously question the demand. LOL Today, you need social media signals and quality backlinks.

  23. says

    I don’t personally feel that it’s dead all together. I think the sites that just wrote 4 total articles are on there way out, but if you continue to write great content you will get back in the mix. It just comes down to writing good in my eyes anyways.

  24. says

    lisa i remember your you tube video where you state “why you don’t discuss link building” and from that post i learned a pretty awesome thing and that is to keep doing your good work, if your content is good enough, people will share it for you.

    i am following the same advice and recently one of my blog post was picked by a eye ware brand and was posted at their facebook page, and from there i received over 600+ people and 320 fb likes and 41 tweets, i wish google put all the black hat opportunist away :) , thank you lisa for the guidance :)

  25. says

    Some sound advice here, but for the majority of new small businesses, diversification is a bitter pill to swallow when building good quality serps is so difficult. So much time is devoted to building a site with quality content, that there is little time to even look at other channels such as fb, g+, yt etc. Especially when those diversified channels can’t be measured in some kind of performance table. Like a search engine.

    BTW – really enjoyed http://twitter.com/misery mammoth post above. Entertainiong and enlightening! :)

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