Advice for $1k/Month Affiliate Site

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I have been working on a tech website over the last year and a half. After writing towards 100 articles and acquiring high-quality links from HARO and other sources, I am in the same position that I was a year ago. Only one of my articles ranks that well, but it's still not right at the top. I earn $500-$1000 a month from Amazon affiliate and feel frustrated as Is it hasn't picked up but seems like an untapped revenue source. I got an audit by a respectable SEO expert in the past but again there was nothing that was clear that could be causing my problems. I did get a manual penalty for a month recently from using a PBN on this site, and my rankings have returned to normal after being approved again by Google. These PBN links had no real effect on my site yet they were supposed to be good and well reviewed.

I am looking for some advice about how to proceed in order to get my site up in the rankings across the board. I work a lot on other projects now so it is not at the forefront of my focus. I think would like to get high quality paid service or even a joint venture. Because the PBN links and the HARO links haven't been impactful I feel like there is something wrong with my technical and on page SEO but I just don't what it is.

Can anyone say what they would do in this position?

Thanks
 

Ryuzaki

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@electrisio, It's frustrating. I'm in the same position on my main site. Tons of content, lots of links, technically sound site. Links stopped seeming to do anything and my rankings slowly are eroding.

In your case, you're saying only one of your articles ranks decently, which makes it sound like you may simply be targeting keywords that are too competitive for the amount of page rank your site has. Perhaps you can test adding 10 more articles for lower competition terms that you know you "should" rank for, and see how it all responds. You can use those to further interlink to your more difficult pages and they should help you dial in the relevancy too.

There is assuming your on-page is fine. Maybe it's not. Maybe you've mismatched the intent of the SERP and the intent of your content. There's a lot that could be going on, but I'd check these four things out in this order:
  1. Intent matching
  2. On-page optimization
  3. Keyword competiiton
  4. Query deserves freshness
It could be that you're going after terms that require freshness and you aren't updating the articles.

I'd stay away from PBNs if you care about this site. Just because the penalty was released in a month's time doesn't mean the algorithm hasn't throttled your site now (I'm not saying this is the case, but nobody knows). I have had sites that received penalties perform fine after getting them removed, but I'll never know if they could have done better.

Best of luck with it. I'm in a similar position and I'm wrapping up a giant audit and some changes, hoping that stirs the pot a bit. After that I'm simply going to post tons of content for keywords I know I can take down, versus always going for competitive and commercial ones. It'll increase my niche authority and relevance over time and I can revisit harder terms later.
 
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@electrisio, It's frustrating. I'm in the same position on my main site. Tons of content, lots of links, technically sound site. Links stopped seeming to do anything and my rankings slowly are eroding.

In your case, you're saying only one of your articles ranks decently, which makes it sound like you may simply be targeting keywords that are too competitive for the amount of page rank your site has. Perhaps you can test adding 10 more articles for lower competition terms that you know you "should" rank for, and see how it all responds. You can use those to further interlink to your more difficult pages and they should help you dial in the relevancy too.

There is assuming your on-page is fine. Maybe it's not. Maybe you've mismatched the intent of the SERP and the intent of your content. There's a lot that could be going on, but I'd check these four things out in this order:
  1. Intent matching
  2. On-page optimization
  3. Keyword competiiton
  4. Query deserves freshness
It could be that you're going after terms that require freshness and you aren't updating the articles.

I'd stay away from PBNs if you care about this site. Just because the penalty was released in a month's time doesn't mean the algorithm hasn't throttled your site now (I'm not saying this is the case, but nobody knows). I have had sites that received penalties perform fine after getting them removed, but I'll never know if they could have done better.

Best of luck with it. I'm in a similar position and I'm wrapping up a giant audit and some changes, hoping that stirs the pot a bit. After that I'm simply going to post tons of content for keywords I know I can take down, versus always going for competitive and commercial ones. It'll increase my niche authority and relevance over time and I can revisit harder terms later.
Thanks for that reply @Ryuzaki , some really good info and opinion there. I will look into some of your points for sure. Is that your own audit for the site or you using someone's service?
 
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There's a lot of services with crawlers that provide rudimentary audits these days, like Ahrefs for instance. You can also get a lot of mileage out of the new Search Console Coverage Report for managing indexation. Otherwise, you can find plenty of lists of things to look at in an audit on the various blogs. It's generally stuff like "images missing alt tags" and "duplicate titles and meta descriptions" and "keyword cannibalization" and stuff like that.
 
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Perhaps you can test adding 10 more articles for lower competition terms that you know you "should" rank for, and see how it all responds.
This is also what I would recommend. I would go to keywordshitter and make sure you have keywords everywhere also on. This will give you a gold mine of long competition phrases to target. Simply take your main phrase and add best, reviews or top or whatever buying term you want to use. This will spit out a ton of phrases with search volume. Download this (lower right) and do an analysis on the competition. I usually do KGR (keyword Golden ratio) and also a quick competitor analysis. All the terms can then be internally linked increasing relevance and hopefully, the terms will also have some sales. Once you get traffic and time on site up the rest of the site will follow. Hope this makes sense.
 
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On @Ryuzaki and @David Forer 's points when I build sites I "pick up the scraps". While everyone else is targeting the high volume keyword without any clear intent I'm happy to publish 1-2 thousand words on answering a long tail query with minimal volume.

The thing you need to remember when doing keyword research is the tools don't see everything. You might write the topic with 3 keywords in mind but it may end up getting traffic from 10 others. Psychologically, I also find it's much more satisfying to rank #1 for a keyword with 100 searches a month than position 19 for a keyword with 5400 searches a month.

If you're in it for the long haul, you'll be top 3 for everything given time/persistence, but short term I'd focus on some easy wins while you grow.