Leaving Work Behind

My First Niche Site: Update #8 – Phoenix From The Flames

Written by Tom Ewer on November 14, 2011. 30 Comments

Phoenix From The Flames

This is Part #8 of a series. A list of all the other updates can be found at the bottom of this post.

It has been two months since my last niche site update, which was entitled “Disaster Strikes“. And aptly so, it turned out, as Modeling For Kids never recovered from its Google penalty.

At the time I was extremely disheartened, given all of the work I had put into it. Although it was only making $2 – $3 a day, the potential for more was clearly there. And beyond anything anything else, its relative success demonstrated that niche sites were a viable business model for me. If I set up 20 such sites (which would be completely feasible, given 8 hours a day in which to do so), I could theoretically produce a full time income.

With that said, sulking about what could have been was of no benefit to me whatsoever. Instead, the best thing to do was to assess what value I had left. The main value was in the articles themselves. Theoretically, if I started again and published the articles on a brand new domain, I could start the process from scratch and get back to where I was (and then go beyond). So long as I didn’t make any stupid backlinking mistakes again, I would be in business.

My New Plan

Modeling For Kids is no more. Go ahead and click the link – it’s gone. And once Google realizes that (which should be when one of its bots next visits), it will dump the site from its index. Once this has happened, I believe I can start again with a clean slate. What I absolutely do not want to do is start putting articles up on a new domain whilst (a) Modeling For Kids has those same articles and/or (b) Google has those articles in its index. I want Google to look at my new domain and see the content as fresh.

As you might expect, with six months worth of experience, my approach this time around will be rather different. My backlinking strategy is set in stone, and I know which keywords I hope to rank for and why. I certainly hope to be able to get back to where I was before quicker than first time around, but only time will tell.

Keyword Research

I will initially be targeting five keywords. Once I have attained good rankings for some of these, I will reevaluate my position and consider additional keywords. Let’s take a look at each keyword in turn.

1st Keyword – 2,400 Searches Per Month

1st Keyword

This is the keyword that started it all, six months ago. In reality, it is pretty rubbish, but I was ignorant of that at the time. It produces just 2,400 searches per month, which is nowhere near enough for an “anchor” keyword (i.e. one that forms the basis of an authority site). However, in the interests of diversification, I will throw some backlinks at this keyword.

As you can see, the onsite optimization among the top 10 sites is awful, but the numbers of backlinks are not inconsiderable. However, I know that many of those backlinks are extremely low quality. Given that my new site will not be well-optimized for this keyword, it will be interesting to see if I can still rank for this keyword.

2nd Keyword – 6,600 Searches Per Month

2nd Keyword

I never got beyond 3rd place for this keyword with my previous site, so it will be interesting to see how I fare this time around. As with the 1st keyword, the onsite optimization is poor, so I am confident that I can rank well for this, given time.

3rd Keyword – 27,100 Searches Per Month

3rd Keyword

Again, optimization isn’t great – there isn’t anything here that I don’t think I can overcome, given time. Whilst the relevance of the keyword to my content is certainly questionable, the high search numbers should compensate accordingly.

4th Keyword – 8,100 Searches Per Month

4th Keyword

As seems to be the general theme with these keywords, the onsite optimization isn’t great. Additionally, the backlinking situation is nothing to be too concerned by. The domain ages are very hefty – only time will tell if that proves to be an issue.

5th Keyword – 9,900 Searches Per Month

5th Keyword

This is a toughie. The top result especially is well optimized, with a decent number of backlinks. However, the index count is extremely low, so Google might look upon my site favorably if I produce lots of relevant content and remain patient.

Backlinking Strategy

My initial strategy will be very straightforward.

I will use Build My Rank (not an affiliate link – why?) to drip-feed backlinks with a variety of anchor texts (using the above keywords in addition to more generic anchor texts, like “click here”). Additionally, I will create web 2.0 sites (such as wordpress.com and Squidoo) that link back to the main site, and pump them full of a huge volume of low-quality keywords. The backlinks I create will link to various pages on the domain, not just the homepage.

That’s it! Nothing too fancy – just consistent and cautious backlinking over an extended period of time. I will pursue this strategy for a minimum of a one month, then evaluate my progress.

Content Creation Strategy

This one is simple. As before, I will publish three articles a week at regular times. The articles will be almost exactly the same as they were on the previous site, although I might take the opportunity to edit the titles to be more SEO friendly (as the articles were initially written without much thought to SEO at all).


One valuable lesson I learnt with Modeling For Kids was that the design is bloody irrelevant if you are getting no visitors. So I have started with just a very clean and simple design for my new site. If I start to attract a notable level of traffic and am getting a high bounce rate / low average site on time, I will consider a redesign. Until that point, spending any time on the design is a waste of time.


I am following the same line of thinking with monetization as I am with design. There is no point in monetizing a site that has no traffic. Once I am receiving a number of visitors that makes monetization worthwhile, I will put Adsense units in place.

Onwards and Upwards

The disastrous demise of Modeling For Kids is now a distant memory. It is time to use the content that I spent hours creating to better use. Google may have destroyed the value of my first site, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pick myself up and start again.

Read The Whole Series

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30 Responses to “My First Niche Site: Update #8 – Phoenix From The Flames”

  1. Jesus Ramirez
    November 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm


    Good luck on your new site,

    I’m sure Modeling For Kids taught you a lot,
    and you can get further than you were in a fraction of the time.

  2. Leo
    November 15, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Hi Tom,

    So out of curiosity, was there no way of getting Modeling for Kids back into Google’s good graces? What factors did you consider when deciding not to continue building out the site and seeing if you would rank for your keywords once again?

    You may have touched on this before, but just wanted to clear things up in my mind…thanks


    • Tom Ewer
      November 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm

      Hey Leo!

      There may have been a way, but when it comes to Google, there is no sure way of knowing. Perhaps if I had spent 4 solid weeks doing a certain style of backlinking campaign, combined with heavy content creation, I would have got back into Google’s good graces.

      The problem was no certainty of success. I could put in all that work and get nothing in return. So in the end, I decided that I would be better off starting again. In the grand scheme of things, I lost 3 month’s worth of work. The sooner I start again, the better.

      Perhaps if I were more experienced, I would have known better why I had been penalized, and what I could do to reverse the penalty. Unfortunately, Google does not reveal why you are penalized, which makes it a complete guessing game.



  3. Adem
    November 15, 2011 at 11:31 am

    As I’ve mentioned here before I’m in the same boat and was making good money from my first site but got punished. I agree that there’s no real value in trying to get the site back to the top of Google as they seem very reluctant to unpenalise you, so best to start all over again.

    I have started a new site, new domain, but have actually left my old site online. I am still getting occasional visitors from my old site from Yahoo etc and so have set up 301 redirects to the relevant content on my new site.

    I have been able to do this as I started from scratch and wrote new content. I combined several smaller posts into larger authoritative posts and ensured that the onpage SEO was up to scratch. Looking back I’ve been able to greatly improve my articles and this has been part of the learning process.

    I hoping that by having truely useful content I can get the site growing organically and therefor avoid any future google punishments.

    Good luck with the new site btw.

    • Tom Ewer
      November 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm

      Thanks Adem, I appreciate your comments and am also interested to see how you get on with your site. The strategy you have chosen is one I considered, but I ultimately decided that it would be too labor intensive, what with my current hefty workload. In an ideal world, I would have gone about things in the same way as you are.

      Are you not concerned that since you have set up a 301 redirect to your new site, Google might put 2 and 2 together? I might be being overly paranoid, but you never know with Google…

      • Adem
        November 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm

        I did some reading about 301 redirects and there didn’t seem to be any definite view that this would be bad so I went with it as I had nothing to lose.

        As for Google’s view, I really don’t know what to expect as they seem to have gotten quite fickle with rules changing on quite a frequent basis but we shall see. It’s not just you who is paranoid!

        The aim is that once the new site is ranking highly with plenty of articles then I will probably remove the old site but for the moment it’s still driving traffic to the new site. I am very happy with the new site, happy with the design, quality articles, and there is scope for extending it so hopefully it can be as fruitful as it used to be.

        • Tom Ewer
          November 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm

          Sounds like you’ve done your research! And you’re totally right about Google – there is no second-guessing them. All we can do is do our thing and learn over time…

          How’s your ‘tache getting along for Movember? I look like a 70s porn star…

  4. Gregory Ciotti
    November 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Will definitely be following your progress on this Tom, I’m not really a niche site guy, maybe you can convince me otherwise!

  5. Payt
    November 15, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Hi Tom,

    I haven’t heard of build my rank before but I did a quick google and people seem to say some pretty bad things about it. http://howigotrich.net/build-my-rank/

    Is this something you have used with success before?


  6. Tom Ewer
    November 15, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Hi Payt,

    There are plenty of positive reviews around to match the negative ones, but I’m guess you’re asking for my opinion, so I’ll put them all to one side 😉

    I have had good results from using BMR in terms of targeting medium-low competition keywords. I do not blame the tool itself for me getting penalized by Google – I’m pretty sure that was all my fault.

    BMR can give you a huge number of low-authority backlinks from unique domains with tailored anchor text. In a nutshell, that is what it offers.

    Whether or not it is for you depends on what you are trying to achieve (i.e. the competitiveness of your keyword).

    This isn’t an ideal space to go into the details of the correlation regarding the increase in PR and corresponding exponential increase in the valuation of a link by Google, and you may already understand that concept, so I’ll just stick with what I’ve said above! 🙂



  7. Bon Crowder
    November 15, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    #ARG I’m not keen on doing backlinking or even keyword researching. But December is my SEO month so I’ll be tackling it then. I’m looking forward to results, though, for sure!

  8. Steve Scott
    November 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm


    It sucks to have a site run afoul of Google. One of my old experiment sites had this happen to it. Like you said to Leo in comments, it is possible (supposedly) to recover. But it is unclear as to how much it can take. I stripped every bit of advertising and sales pitch off the site and made it purely informational to see if it is possible to recover. So far..an uptick…but nothing considerable and about 10% of what i used to get.

    Just to be clear… on that site that got whacked, I am relatively certain the problem wasn’t backlinking, since i did very little. (just a few web 2.0 links). I think I got hit because just about every single link on the enter site was pointed to one offer and I may have overdone it.

    You current back-linking strategy seems very sound and safe, and is close to my main strategy on the current sites, except that I am also trying a few “other things” to see what works. (but you should have included an affiliate link. I mean, the point may not be to make money from links for this site, but if someone does get a good product out of it…why not)

    Anyhow, it sounds like you are bouncing back nicely

    • Tom Ewer
      November 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      Hey Steve!

      I just found this wonderfully useful comment in my spam filter – how rude! So please excuse the lateness of my response.

      It’s interesting to know how your experiments have fared – I think it is a tough call to get back in Google’s good books once they have decided that they don’t like your site. Not impossible, but tough nonetheless.

      There are a lot of ways to poke the beast – I’d always rather err on the side of conservatism!

      Thanks for your input Steve 🙂


  9. Rose
    November 19, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    It all depends on why you got your penalty. If it was down to panda, then using the exact same content will not help (as panda is a content/on-site penalty). But if it was something else that caused the penalty then perhaps your strategy might work.

    • Tom Ewer
      November 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      Hello Rose!

      Thanks for your input. You’re absolutely right in principle, but I do not think the content was the issue at all. It was unique and of a high quality.



  10. Bob Bessette
    November 29, 2011 at 12:20 am

    Hi Tom,
    Good luck with your site. I am doing the same thing with 2 other niche sites that I have been building links to for about 6 months. I belong to the Keyword Academy and only use PostRunner but am really interested in BMR. I also have built some links to my blog site which is the website that I put in the reply box here.

    I have a full-time job but am really trying to add some income with the sites. I also have two other niche sites that I have installed WordPress on but haven’t written any articles for them yet. I am interested in your journey.


    • Tom Ewer
      November 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      Hey Bob,

      Great to hear from you, and great to hear that you’re working on your own niche sites!

      Perhaps it’s best that you have those two others on the back burner, so that you can focus on the other two? I know all about trying to juggle niche sites and a full-time job – it can get overwhelming…



      • Bob Bessette
        November 29, 2011 at 11:57 pm

        Hi Tom,

        I’d love to hear your comments about BMR. I am interested in potentially trying it out. They have a 10 link free tryout period. I use PostRunner as I said with Keyword Academy. I will definitely follow your blog as we have a lot in common.


        • Tom Ewer
          November 30, 2011 at 10:19 am

          Hi Bob,

          The 10 free links is a waste of time to be honest. You need to be using the service for at least a week or so (generally speaking) in order to see a benefit.

          I am currently using the service for three different sites. Once I have tested the product for an extended period of time, I will be writing up a full review in addition to guidance on how best to use the service.

          So if you want to hold onto your heard-earned pennies until you have a tried and trusted (I hope!) review in your hands, I’ll have something for you around mid-January.



  11. Hugh Kimura
    December 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Hey Tom,

    Great to read about your experiences. I was inspired to start doing niche sites too and bought two domains last week. I’ll be following your posts with interest.

    A couple of thoughts while reading your post…

    Why not just add Adsense from the beginning instead of waiting? It only takes a couple of minutes and you might get some high value clicks even if the traffic is low.

    You are probably working on some better keywords and although the keyword in this post seems crackable (obviously, since you did it before) I think that there are much easier ones out there. Any experience with creating sites to target lower traffic numbers but with much less competition?

    • Tom Ewer
      December 5, 2011 at 11:36 am

      Hello Hugh,

      Adsense is an addiction. First of all, in my experience, it doesn’t take just a couple of minutes to add (although admittedly it only takes me perhaps 10-20 minutes). You’ve got to set up the individual ads themselves, format them so that they blend in with your site design. Then you need to install an ad management plugin and get them placed optimally on your site.

      Then you spend every waking hour thinking about whether or your not you have the ads in the most optimal spots on your site – which isn’t important, because you don’t have the traffic to make much of a difference anyway!

      Plenty of people put Adsense up straight away – I’m just not one of them 🙂

      The other site that I am covering (Deal With Anxiety) is all about targeting low competition keywords. Check out the niche site resource in the navigation bar for more information.



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