As month two rolls on, the case study project is coming along quite nicely.
In case you haven’t already seen the details of the project, you can check out the original case study post we’ve published by clicking here.
This website is part of an ongoing project where we show you exactly what it takes to build out a website that will earn on a monthly basis, and can be flipped for $100,000 or more at the end of 12 months. We’re building the site with a (initial) budget less than $4,000 total.
If you’re not already subscribed to our newsletter, make sure you enter your email below to get future updates to the case study, and be entered into a contest that we’re also holding.
At the end of 12 months, if we’re not able to flip the website for $100,000 or more, we’re going to give away 5 of our most expensive custom-built packages (each package is worth $4,000). You’ll also get to see the site live on the internet, because we’ll only be revealing the URL to our subscribers -- not here on the blog.
What’s Been Done, So Far
In case you haven’t checked out the previous case study post, here’s what has been accomplished on the site, so far.
Previously, we broke down for you how we chose a niche, and the tools we used to make sure the niche we were entering into had plenty of backlinking opportunities, while making sure it wasn’t too competitive.
We also introduced you to the monetization method we’re going to use, and showed you how we’re going to silo the content to make sure we stay relevant in the search engines and have a much easier time ranking quickly for the longtail keywords we’ve uncovered.
Since competing that work, we’ve also built out the foundation of the site, added new content, and linked it all together inside of the silos we created.
Here are the steps we’ve taken since the last update:
- Built the website using WordPress on WPX's VPS SSD hosting.
- Installed and configured our essential plugins.
- Began using a silo structure on the content we've created.
- Started building out social profiles to pad our backlink profile.
- Researched the best Web 2.0 platforms to build content on.
- Set ourselves up to avoid Google's sandbox.
- Created a plan of attack for next month.
To get started, we knew that we needed to host the website on a fast server that wasn’t being shared with thousands of other websites.
When you’re on a shared hosting account, your website loads slower because the resources (bandwidth, memory, and processing power) on those servers are slower to begin with.
Then, when you add in the fact that there are thousands of other websites on the same server all trying to be accessed at the same time, it’s easy to see how your loading speeds suffer as a result.
On top of this, Google has what is considered to be the “bad neighborhood” rule, where they look at the sites that are sharing the same server you’re on, and whether they are considered to be legitimate, or not.
With shared hosting being so cheap, many spammers and black hat marketers keep their own “churn and burn” sites on those servers, and many other marketers used shared hosting accounts to house their private blog network sites.
In other words, by building your website on a shared server, you’re taking a risk by having it lumped in with all of the black/grey hat and PBN sites that could be knocked down for spam.
While this is rare, it can happen, and the possibility is baked into Google’s algorithm.
Even if it wasn’t for Google’s “bad neighborhood” rules, the fact is that your website will load slower on a shared hosting account than it will on a dedicated server with faster resources and less sites competing for those resources.
Your site load speed is another factor that is being considered by major search engines, because they understand that people hate waiting around for a site to fully load after they click through from the search results.
To remedy these problems, make sure our site isn’t landing in a bad neighborhood, and that it always loads quickly without requiring extensive optimization, we chose to go with WPX's VPS hosting.
VPS, for those of you that are unfamiliar, means a virtual private server. It’s a server inside of a server, and functions similarly to a shared hosting account.
Where a shared hosting account will provide you with a single physical server and store thousands of sites on the same hard drive, a VPS server separates your site from other sites.
You’re given a portion of a server that runs it’s own operating system and it’s own hardware resources, giving you the benefits of a fully dedicated server without the increased expenses that those servers tend to cost.
To help make sure that our site loads as quickly as possible, we made sure that the hosting account we built the site on uses solid state drives -- or SSDs. In terms of hard drives, normal drives have slow access times, while solid state drives can be accessed almost instantaneously.
That means instead of waiting extra milliseconds, or even hundreds of milliseconds for the site to be accessed on a regular hard drive, that time is saved and the site is loaded that much quicker because it’s actually being accessed on a solid state drive.
Again, SSDs do cost a bit more money to host your website, but the benefits greatly outweigh the cost.
Once you build a site on a virtual private server (or even a dedicated server) with a solid state drive, you’ll have a hard time going back to standard shared hosting accounts.
WordPress is also one of the best platforms for building these types of sites because the software makes it easy to manage and update content, create the silos that we’re going to use to rank our content higher, and properly maintain the site without worrying about security flaws.
We also installed and configured our essential plugins:
It's not a lot, but it's everything you really need in order to launch your website.
Our Content Strategy Started Coming Together
When it comes to ranking highly in the search engines, especially for longtail keywords without a ton of heavy hitting backlinks, very few strategies work quite as well as “siloing” your content.
If you’re not familiar with what a silo is, we briefly covered the strategy in our last case study update.
Rather than completely reinvent the wheel, we’re going to direct to you one of the originators of the concept, Mr. Bruce Clay. You can visit his site on siloing by clicking here.
In a nutshell, building a silo with your content (or multiple silos) helps you maintain relevancy, and actually makes it easier for your visitors to find your way through the site, and locate the specific content that they’re looking for.
WordPress makes it incredibly easy to create silos.
By keeping your posts that are closely related inside of the same “Category”, you’re going to automatically build the silo structure without having to give too much thought to the process.
To give you an example, take a look at our previous case study update.
You can see from the picture how easy it is to keep your content relevant by using the WordPress Category feature. Keeping your closely related content inside of it’s own category also makes it easy to increase your relevancy to the search engine algorithms.
When it comes to ranking, the search engines want to display sites at the top of the results that are extremely relevant and helpful for the keywords that the visitor has searched for.
If your content is scattered throughout your site with no real organization, you may rank for some random keywords, but it’s going to be exponentially harder for you to compete with other sites that have implemented a proper silo structure on their site, and have interlinked their closely related content to make their site easy to navigate.
For our site, we’re using 8 different categories, and tackling them one at a time, as far as content and promotion goes.
This will help us build up authority in the beginning, and allow us to virtually “come out of nowhere” and show up near the top, leaving our competitors wondering where we’ve come from and how we’re doing so well.
Internal linking plays a critical role for increasing your relevance, and while WordPress Categories does a fairly good job of keeping your closely related content linked together, you can go one step further and manually link the posts on each category to one another.
In the image above, for instance, you would take each of the 3 different posts in the “Cordless Power Drills” category, and work in a way to link each of the posts together.
Most times, this would be a simple blurb or a few sentences added into the content that gives you the opportunity to link to the other 2 posts related to cordless power drills.
Related Posts plugins also work for interlinking, but for maximum effect you want to make sure that the links pointing to each of the other posts in the same category are contained inside of the content itself (contextual), and not at the bottom of the posts -- the way most Related Posts plugins create the links.
As we’re building the silos, we’re also going to be interlinking between the posts to help pass authority throughout the site. This helps keep down the amount of offsite promotion we need to perform, and makes it easier to rank each additional page that we create on the site.
How We Built The Initial Set Of Backlinks
Ranking in the search engines is a popularity contest. Think of a high school prom or reunion. The King and Queen are going to be nominated, and whoever gets the most votes wins and takes home the title of Prom King and Prom Queen.
Websites in the search engines function the exact same way. Except instead of votes from other students, votes are made in the form of backlinks pointing at each site that is trying to rank.
Whichever site has the most backlinks, in general, wins the award.
There are rules that you’ll need to follow, though, when it comes to building your backlinks, or you could risk landing your site in Google’s Sandbox or facing a penalty that keeps you from ranking at all, because you’ve over-optimized your link profile or built links too aggressively.
There are two main strategies you can use if you want to avoid landing in the Google sandbox -- aka, the pending box.
First, you can purchase a domain that already has some age behind it, and a history of having links built to it. This strategy does require a bit of work, and you’ll need to be able to decipher whether or not the domain has been used for spammy purposes before you purchase it.
The second strategy is to build your links slowly and methodically, increasing the authority of your site gradually, and making sure that you’re not over-optimizing the links by including too many keywords. While you’re just getting started, you want to avoid repeating the same keyword over and over again.
We’re taking the second route, to make sure that the playing field is as even as possible, and show you guys that what we’re doing can be done by anyone.
To build our foundation, we’re going to focus on creating social profiles using branded and naked anchor texts.
Using naked and branded anchor texts will allow us to pad our link profile so that we can build more focused, keyword targeted links down the road.
If you’re not familiar with naked and branded links, naked links refers to links in the form of http://yoursite.com. Branded URLs would be links with the anchor text “Your Site”.
Google expects you to have these types of links in your profile, and if you do not, their algorithms may feel that you’re trying to manipulate the search results which could have your site on a fast track to the sandbox.
In the worst case, you could find yourself battling penalties that you won’t realize you’ve been hit by until months down the road, making it that much harder to recover from the penalties by undoing the backlinking work you’ve already done.
Avoiding penalties during the first few months of your site’s life can be difficult, but as long as you don’t aggressively build backlinks to it, or try to work in as many keyword targeted anchor texts as you can, you’ll be fairly safe.
You also do not want to get links using automated software, purchase link packages from people that do use automated software (like Fiverr, for instance), or build a bunch of links from places that have spammy link profiles themselves.
After building out the social profiles, we’re also going to grab a handful of high quality web 2.0 links that will also help build up our domain authority, and make it easier to rank the lower competition keywords we’re targeting.
A lot of people get the idea in their head that they are going to reuse content they’ve already created, and spread it around to different web 2.0 sites and sprinkle in a few links back to their own site.
This is a bad practice, and should be avoided.
You’re going to need to create unique content for each web 2.0 platform and stick to the backlinking practices that we’ve already laid out for you.
For the initial set of links, and building the foundation, focus more on increasing your domain authority through naked and branded links than on how many keyword rich anchor texts you can build.
If you stay conservative in the beginning and target low competition keywords like we’re teaching you, you will have a much easier time avoiding the sandbox and getting in Google’s good graces without
Onto Google’s Sandbox…
We’ve already touched on the “pending box” -- or sandbox -- multiple times already, but it’s worth digging in more so you know exactly what you’re facing, how to know if you’ve been caught up in it, and what you can do to get yourself out of it.
Every new site has a high chance of landing in the sandbox, so arming yourself with the knowledge needed to remedy the problem, and possibly avoid it completely is critical to keeping your sanity during the first few months of building out your site.
The sandbox can be trigger by you over-optimizing your content, stuffing keywords throughout it, and by sending too many links to your site too quickly, or over-optimizing the links you’re building by stuffing as many keywords as you can, or repetitively building links that have keyword targeted anchor texts.
When your site triggers the algorithms and you get put into the “sandbox”, it’s going to take substantially longer for Google to trust your website -- that’s exactly why they’ve created it.
If Google believes you’re trying to manipulate their algorithms, they’re going to put you into the timeout box for a few months (or longer, and even indefinitely, in some cases) until they figure out whether or not they can trust you, and that you aren’t blatantly trying to push your site up the rankings.
The best way to avoid the sandbox is to show Google the trust signals that they need to see in the beginning, so they’ll loosen their grip and your site won’t come under such intense scrutiny from their automated algorithms that seek out spammers and throw them into the timeout box.
Using the link building strategy that we’ve laid out for you (social profiles and a handful of useful, unique web 2.0s) and creating content on your site that people actually want to see and that is relevant to the keywords they’re searching for, you stand a high chance of completely avoiding the sandbox altogether.
As your site’s organic search traffic begins to increase, you can slowly start increasing your link building efforts, and getting slightly more aggressive with how often you’re building links, and the types of links you’re building -- as far as anchor texts and keyword targeted links are concerned.
What’s To Come In Month 2…?
We’ve only just begun scratching the surface with this site, and have big things planned for it over the next 10-11 months.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that our site already ranks for a solid number of keywords with only a handful of indexed backlinks! It's dancing around quite a bit, but that's completely normal.
Over the next month, we’re going to ramp up our content production to get the first silo completely filled out and interlinked. More content gives us more opportunities to rank for other keywords, and helps give Google’s algorithm more to chew on so they can figure out whether or not our site is trustworthy.
We’re also going to build more links to help pad the foundation of our link profile so we can begin stepping up how aggressively we build links to the site down the road.
Remember that slow and steady (when it comes to link building) wins the race during the first few months of your site’s life.
Finally, we’ll start digging into the outreach campaign we have planned for the site, and show you exactly how we find sites to approach, the approach that we use to get them to respond, and how we structure our content so that they want to publish what we’ve written.
There’s a lot in store for you if you’re building your own site and keeping up with the progression of our own site.
You’ll need to stay tuned, and make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter to get notified when we release updates in the future.
By subscribing, you’ll also get access to the site’s URL so you can see it live, and watch the progress as it moves forward.
Remember that there is a running contest and bet with our subscribers. We’re confident that we can turn this site into a $100,000 earner. If we can’t, our subscribers are going to be entered into a contest to win one of our most expensive website packages.