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We’ve officially crossed the one-year mark with the “No Stone Unturned” case study site. For the majority of that time, the site was on a nice upward trajectory, but the onslaught of Google updates has put some bumps in the road.
Before we jump in, if you’re unfamiliar with this case study, be sure to check out the full playlist over on YouTube or the previous posts over on the blog.
Another Google Update
As I covered in last month’s update, this case study site was hit pretty hard by the Helpful Content update, wiping out about half of the monthly traffic.
In mid-October, Google decided to push out another update, this time targeting sites violating their spam policies, and again, this site was knocked down a peg.
While the drop wasn’t as significant this time (roughly 10%), it’s still a move in the wrong direction. With a site in this stage, we’d ideally only see upward growth month to month.
Just like the Helpful Content update, our two newest sites were the ones that were hit, while our older sites actually all saw a slight boost of about 5%. Considering we use the same basic strategy on all of our sites, it seems like backlinks and/or age might have been a factor with these updates.
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I’ve heard from other large publishers that have experienced the exact same thing. Their larger, older sites did fine with the spam update, while their newer sites took a hit (all using similar approaches). Hopefully, these newer sites will bounce back over time.
When comparing the rankings in Search Console from now to before the Helpful Content update, I’m actually surprised to see that we haven’t dropped by much in most cases. For most of the keywords that we were ranked #1 for before all of these updates, we’re now ranked anywhere from 1.5 – 3.
The problem is that this drop is across many keywords. There are also many long-tail keywords where we went from a few clicks each to zero impressions (as in we’re no longer ranked for them), which is likely a big part of the overall drop.
On the plus side, there are many instances where our rankings have increased, and I found several long-tail variations where we went from zero impressions prior to the update to the top of page one during the past week. This is encouraging and is a good sign that we still have plenty of growth ahead of us.
As far as posts, we’re now publishing one post per day, so we published 31 posts in October.
If our traffic doesn’t show some significant signs of growth in the near future (I’ll touch on this in a minute), we may pull back on publishing slightly to put more focus on our bigger sites until we see a bounce-back.
What you often see with sites that are hit by a Google update is that the traffic starts trending sideways, instead of following the prior growth trajectory. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we’re seeing with this site.
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As you can see in the screenshots below, growth has completely stalled since the Helpful Content update. This means that none of that newly-published content is moving the needle for us like it was before the updates.
When this happens, you likely don’t see that growth trajectory truly return until another core update is released. It’ll be interesting to see if that happens with this site over the next few months.
Looking back at the site that we’ve built over the past year, I can’t say that I would have done anything differently. Our goal was to build a helpful resource for visitors, and we truly feel that the site accomplishes that goal.
There are plenty of reasons for Google to be skeptical of a newer site like this, so I’m not completely shocked that we were taken down a notch. However, I truly believe that if we stick to our approach with this site, it will be a winner in the long run.
Now that we’ve hit the one-year mark, I’m going to scale these updates back a bit, likely to once every three months. Or, I might just wait to put out an update when we finally see some movement again (in either direction).
If you’re curious about the trajectory of the site in the meantime, feel free to reach out.