US Government Takes Google to Trial, a New Public Project, and Weird Niche Sites

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Spencer Haws and Jared Bauman, from 201 Creative, are back with the latest news in niche sites, SEO, and affiliate marketing. 

The first order of business this week is the news that the Google Core Update has finished rolling out. Jared talks about how, instead of looking at his Google Analytics to see how his sites weathered the storm, he looks at his ad networks.

Jared shares information about the impact on a few of his sites and he talks about focusing more on earnings as opposed to fluctuations in traffic. Jared and Spencer also talk about how the update doesn’t appear to have had much of an impact on AI content.

The next news item on the agenda is the upcoming trial between the US vs. Google. Spencer talks about the potential implications of this monopoly trial, which is expected to last 10 weeks, on niche site owners and bloggers. 

The main focus of the trial is whether or not it was illegal and monopolistic to not allow any other search engines to be used by default, although there are many other issues that will also be addressed in this important trial, which is expected to set a precedent.

They also mention quickly how Google is also in the news in the EU, where it’s accused of being a “gatekeeper” and has been ordered to give more freedom to other companies to compete under the new EU Digital Markets Act (DMA), starting in 2024.

The next topic they discuss is how YouTube is making it easier for creators to choose the perfect thumbnail. The platform is coming out with an A/B testing tool and this function could be available next year. This would allow users to upload 3 custom thumbnails and then YouTube would test behind the scenes to see which performs the best. 

Jared and Spencer talk about how this will affect YouTubers and why they think this is a good move by the platform.

Then it’s time to talk about some Shiny Object Shenanigans. Spencer talks about hiring 6 local people to create reviews for his Amazon Influencer Program account, where he has 453 videos at the moment. 

After earning around $1500 in August, he’s going all-in with this side hustle and expects to see an improvement in September and beyond. He also created a YouTube channel, where he’s going to publish all of his Amazon videos and see what happens.

Spencer also talks about a survey he recently published where he’s looking for people to create an online business and he will document it publicly on Niche Pursuits. The type of project hasn’t been decided yet, so don’t forget to vote for what you’d like to see!

Jared then talks about creating videos for his Weekender Growth YouTube channel, which has about 800 subscribers and 1,000 watch hours at the moment. Although he’s a far way away from monetization, he’s going to dedicate more time to this project going forward.

Then it’s time for everybody’s Weird Niche Site. Spencer shares his, which is HTTP Status Dogs, which combines HTTP status codes with photos of dogs illustrating those codes. The site used to get 20 to 30k in traffic but now only receives about 1000 visitors per month. It’s not monetized in any way, but it’s a good laugh.

Jared’s site this week is Cornify, a unicorns and rainbows on-demand website. Aside from lots of functions like adding unicorns and rainbows to photos, coloring pictures online, and making your own younicorn, the site also has a store linked to Amazon products. Despite this, it only ranks for around 400 keywords and less than 1000 monthly organic visitors, although it does have a DR of 57. Jared and Spencer also talk about what the site is doing right and how it could improve.

And that brings us to the end of another episode of Niche Pursuits News. Tune in next week so Spencer and Jared and keep you up-to-date with everything that’s happening in SEO, website building, and content creation.

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transcription

Spencer Haws:Hey everyone. Welcome back to the niche pursuits podcast. This is this week in niche pursuits news, and I’m recording with my cohost today, Jared Bauman. Jared, how you doing?

Jared Bauman:Good, good Spencer. Good to see you, good to be here.

Spencer Haws:Yep, always good to be here. Always good to catch up on the latest news, the updates, you know, that are happening in our world of SEO affiliate marketing, niche sites, whatever you want to call it. And there is some more that was happening. It’s funny because a couple hours ago were like, kind of light on the news day and then a couple of things happened. And here we are. Got got more news to update. In particular, we’re going to jump into the Google core update has finished rolling out.

Jared Bauman:ding ding.

Spencer Haws:We mentioned it. you know, last week, last couple of weeks. And as of, I mean, it’s like less than 30 minutes ago, I think, like it just finished rolling out. And so we’re gonna talk about that. And so we’re gonna cover a few news topics here to start off the episode. And then we’re gonna jump into our shiny object shenanigans where each of us have a couple of side projects that we’re working on. We’ll give some updates there. And then finally, we’re gonna talk about two weird niche sites. Each of us have a weird niche site to bring to the table here. And yeah, they… They continue to be weird. That’s all I gotta say about that. So stick around. Mine, I think, is maybe less successful than some of mine have been in the past, but still weird nonetheless, and we will talk about it. So

Jared Bauman:I just

Spencer Haws:with

Jared Bauman:looked

Spencer Haws:that,

Jared Bauman:at yours now, so

Spencer Haws:mm-hmm.

Jared Bauman:I will be totally off the cuff on it because I didn’t see it until just a second ago.

Spencer Haws:That’s the way it should be, natural reaction. So let’s jump right into it. So like I said, the Google August core update has finished rolling out. And so basically Google just says, hey, we finished and that’s about all you get in terms of information from Google. They just have a status dashboard, which I’m sharing here. And so the August, 2023, update it started August 22nd and gives the exact time and then it finished today at 103 Pacific Standard Time. Today is September 7th when you listen to this that’ll be September 8th we release these a day after we record them but yeah it’s done so you can look at your website you can see where your rankings are currently and know that hey you either survived or did not survive the Google core update for August and so Jared I know that you tweeted some Stats out some results a little bit So I’ll go ahead and share my screen with that if you want to talk through what you shared on Twitter here

Jared Bauman:Yeah, I mean, I mentioned this last week. It’s particularly, it’s normal to go to your analytics and look at data to see how your sites have performed. And I find myself not wanting to go to analytics as much these days. And so I decided, hey, what if I went to one of my ad networks to evaluate how the update was doing? And it’s true, I tweeted about it. But at the end of the day, who really cares about traffic if it’s really more about how much money the page views are bringing you. So

Spencer Haws:It’s all about the bottom line.

Jared Bauman:it’s all about the bottom line. And so I kind of went and broke down because in this case I shared three different sites and their performance on Raptive or otherwise known as AdThrive. And you can see some different fluctuations from the core update first and foremost. And so you can see site one there has 125% traffic growth. So more than double, that’s one of the wins from the

Spencer Haws:Wow.

Jared Bauman:core update. And earnings were on pace with it. So 125% uptick in traffic, 125% uptick in earnings. Big win there, that’s great. Site two, and this is one of my bigger sites, we got about a 12% traffic drop, which to me is not too big of a deal, just a little bit of a correction or something, but that was an 18% earnings drop. And so I dove in a little deeper, turns out I lost much more US traffic than I lost

Spencer Haws:Hmm.

Jared Bauman:in non-US traffic. And so that’s kind of why. And then the third site there had literally zero change in traffic. It’s flat, but earnings are up 22%. And why is that? Just because RPMs have gone up. Nothing to do with the core update at all. So anyways, it’s just a good reminder. Number one, definitely had some sites that saw some ups and some downs. And number two, the earnings that come from those ups and downs aren’t always the same. And that can be true for affiliates, that can be true for ad revenue, it can be true across the board.

Spencer Haws:Yeah, so if I’m looking at how you’re comparing and just for listeners, how they can maybe compare and say, hey, did my traffic really go up or down? It looks like you’re taking, you know, a couple of weeks before the update started, right? Back to August 8th. And then you’re taking, you know, the current timeframe, the, the two weeks or

Jared Bauman:Yeah.

Spencer Haws:what was it? 16 days?

Jared Bauman:Yeah, a

Spencer Haws:Something

Jared Bauman:little

Spencer Haws:like,

Jared Bauman:longer.

Spencer Haws:yeah, just over two weeks that ended up taking it to roll out. So if you compare those two time periods, I can give you a rough idea of traffic is up or down, right?

Jared Bauman:Yep. And so I don’t know about you. I don’t know if you even had time to look at niche pursuits and see if it was up or down. I know last week at this time it was up, right? But not huge in terms of how many

Spencer Haws:Yeah,

Jared Bauman:gains it had.

Spencer Haws:yeah, it was actually down a little bit last time I looked at it on last episode, I think. And I haven’t had a chance to because I just found out like 10 minutes ago that it finished. And so I’ll do like a full comparison here after. But, you know, today it looks like, you know, traffic is up a little bit maybe compared to like last week, right? So maybe I’m getting back to where I was. It looks like, you know, it’s not a major impact from what I can see. basically flat probably overall, but I will confirm that to make sure. So not, I haven’t seen any huge fluctuations on any, any of my sites. I was looking at, of course, niche pursuits, but you know, a couple others that are smaller and so, so I don’t have a big story to tell. Um, I know I have seen some scary looking screenshots, uh, from other people, but, um, so if you’re listening and you know, have a big update or any insight on. What. um, site was hit and maybe why it was hit or if you know anything, uh, let us know and, and you know, we can always talk about that and get more detailed on that.

Jared Bauman:I’m particularly interested, as I know a lot of people I’ve seen are interested in, just how the update, if it has any impact on AI content, predominantly, if they’re able to figure it out. I know you on Niche Pursuits have done some AI, heavily edited AI content,

Spencer Haws:Mm-hmm.

Jared Bauman:right? And,

Spencer Haws:Yep.

Jared Bauman:you know, so by all accounts, it sounds like did just fine during this update and stuff. Haven’t seen anything that suggests that AI content was you know, targeted specifically or in some way in a superior fashion in this update.

Spencer Haws:Right, yeah, I was actually just looking at this morning because I have a way, using rank logic,

Jared Bauman:Mm-hmm.

Spencer Haws:I can show which of my articles were written by AI. And so I did look at that. I don’t see any major impact there and checked a couple of my bigger keywords. They’re still ranking number one in Google. I just looked at those like five minutes ago. And so, no, it doesn’t appear to be like targeting AI content from what I can see or what I’m hearing. So. So there is that.

Jared Bauman:Let us know in the comments. I mean, you know, we only look at a subset of sites, so let us know how your site performed and if you see anything trending.

Spencer Haws:Yep, absolutely. So the other big news that I just saw late last night, actually, as I was just kind of scrolling through some news, is that, well, it’s a New York Times article that basically says the first monopoly trial of the modern Internet area starts basically Tuesday, and it the US is setting its sights on Google. So This is a case that was actually brought like three years ago, but it’s finally going to trial and so it’s finally happening here in just a few days next week on Tuesday. So this is a monopoly trial and that’s a huge deal. If you look at the history of monopoly trials, there was AT&T back in the mid 80s that had to break up into like seven different companies. There was Microsoft that… um, had to adjust some of its practices, you know, in the nineties and, you know, there’s been other, of course, monopoly trials that either need to break up companies or dramatically shift how certain companies operate. And so, uh, will that happen to Google? Well, we’ll see. This is one of those things that says it’s a 10 week trial. It begins Tuesday. Um, and it, yeah, it’s targeting Google. And this is one of those things that I imagine. is going to be either live streamed or there’s gonna be lots of videos that are talked about. This probably will be all over the headlines next week once the trial actually begins. So this is something to keep your eye on. A couple of things that it’s actually focused on, I read the New York Times article here and a lot of it. Okay, so here’s, here’s actually the paragraph I lucked out the case centers on whether Google illegally cemented its dominance and squash competition by paying Apple and other companies to make its internet search engine, the default on the iPhone as well as on other devices and platforms. Right. So was that an illegal practice to basically not allow any other search engine to be used by default? Right. And so there’s going to be a lot of nuance here. I think a lot of. browser usage, computer usage, phone usage. Google is always the default. It’s preloaded on those phones or computers or devices. And is that an illegal competitive advantage? Is that a monopolistic behavior? And so that’s kind of what it centers on, but of course it touches on so many other things. Does that other search engines in DuckDuckGo, Bing, you name it. Um, should they have done better? Did Google, you know, illegally sort of dominate the marketplace?

Jared Bauman:This is a big deal. I mean, I’m not a lawyer, and I’m certainly not a legal expert by any stretch. So I don’t understand what precedent would be for something like this. But to my knowledge, I don’t think there is precedent, which is what makes it such a big deal. I read in there basically that the outcome of this trial could, and this is the word, could set precedent for how antitrust laws apply to these modern tech giants, like Apple and Meta and Google. So these antitrust laws, I found this interesting as I read the article to prepare for this. These antitrust laws were put together in the 1890s. You can imagine they’re a bit outdated for

Spencer Haws:Mm-hmm.

Jared Bauman:what modern tech companies are doing. And there really hasn’t been anything brought to suit about this since, like you said, 1998 in Microsoft. Well, 1998, that was a lifetime ago. We didn’t even have a smartphone yet,

Spencer Haws:Absolutely.

Jared Bauman:I don’t think. So like, man, it’s really hard to understand which way it’s gonna go because I don’t think anything that we’ve seen the Justice Department weigh in on for darn near 25 years now. Who the heck knows where this is going to go?

Spencer Haws:Yeah, it’s interesting because you know, when you look at it, it’s like, is Google a monopoly? Well, they control 90% of all the search traffic on the Internet.

Jared Bauman:Kind of.

Spencer Haws:You know, it kind of feels like they’re the only player in town. But did they do anything illegal to cement that spot as the as the front runner? Right. Google’s going to arg