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We’re now three months into the “No Stone Unturned” case study, which means it’s time for another update. If you’re not familiar with this case study, you can view the playlist on YouTube.
Although this site is only three months old, we’re seeing some really positive signs that lead us to believe that we’re on the right track. I’ll jump into that in a minute, but first, let’s take a quick look at the publishing progress so far.
As you can see below, we published close to 60 posts in January, which was a bit higher than our goal of 40-50 per month. Although it might look like we’re publishing more and more each month, that’s mostly due to the timing of when we’ve received our outsourced articles back, and that trend will likely not continue going forward.
Nonetheless, the 58 posts published in January brings the site total up to 149, which is just shy of our original goal of 150 posts. As I mentioned in the last update, we’ve decided against putting this site on hold at 150 posts, so we will continue to publish additional content over the coming months.
As far as the amount of content that we will publish each month, that’s still up in the air. For now, we’re sticking with roughly 40-50 posts/month, but as the site ages, we’ll let the traffic and progress of the site dictate whether or not we slow down.
Indexing and Keyword Theft
In the past couple of updates, I mentioned that we hadn’t had any issues with indexing. While we’re still not having any major issues by any means, we have hit a slight snag.
Before I jump into the issue, I need to back up a bit. Back in the first month of this site, I happened to notice a visitor viewing a ton of pages on our site over the course of several days, with one page in particular getting quite a few visits.
I kept an eye on this in Analytics and eventually found a site that published a new article targeting the same keyword. There were zero competitors for this particular keyword, and they clearly got all of their info from our article (and they are now ranked #1 for it…).
I’m sure this happens from time to time, but it’s not something you want to see with a brand new site with zero authority, especially one that’s part of a case study like this one.
This particular visitor didn’t stop there, so I ended up using the live logging feature in the Wordfence security plugin to capture their IP address. I then had our host block the range of IPs that they were using.
This worked as expected, but might have led to an unexpected indexing issue. As you can see in the screenshot below, we have a huge number of “Excluded” posts. Almost all of these are URLs with query parameters (you’ll see these as starting with a question mark in a URL).
These URLs are not actual pages, but Google is still crawling them, and unfortunately, they’ve even indexed a dozen or so of them under the “Valid” section.
We’ve since disabled the live logging feature (and Wordfence altogether). However, the number of excluded URLs just continues to climb, and the number of valid URLs has stopped increasing and has even decreased a bit.
These URLs with query parameters are not really a cause for concern for most sites, but considering that Google minimally crawls new sites as it is, it does make me wonder if all of these URLs are leading to Google crawling fewer of our actual posts.
Only time will tell, but I don’t expect this to cause any long-term issues.
So this is where it gets a little interesting. We have a couple of things going on that I think are worth mentioning. First let’s take a look at the number of clicks and impressions in Search Console, which correlates with Google Search traffic:
As you’ll see, there was a big surge right after we published our first batch of articles on 11/7. After some digging, I think this was due to Google ranking us for a business name that’s similar to the domain name that we chose, but completely unrelated.
After they apparently figured that out, our impressions dropped down to where you would expect and have been climbing steadily since then.
What you might also notice on that screenshot is that we’ve only had 54 clicks. While that’s not terrible at this stage of the site, it’s only a small fraction of the search traffic that we’ve received from all search engines.
Here is the number of sessions per month that we’ve received from organic search across all search engines:
It might be difficult to see in the screenshot, but in January, we had 263 sessions. Most of these sessions are coming from non-Google search engines, like Bing and Yahoo.
Google tends to be quite a bit more cautious with new sites, so we’d expect to see the Google traffic to spike much later than the other search engines. Most people refer to this waiting period as the Google sandbox.
Seeing this much traffic from other search engines this early is a really good sign, as it’s likely an indication of what we’ll see from Google as they start to rank our articles higher in the SERPs.
When looking at the Analytics for our older sites, non-Google search engines only account for less than 5% of the overall traffic. As you can imagine, if Google Search traffic catches up accordingly on this site, we’ll be sitting really good.
Although 263 sessions might not seem like much at this point, take a look at how our last three sites were performing at this point in time:
I’ve excluded our first two sites from the screenshot above, simply because we didn’t really know what we were doing yet with those sites. By the time we started site #3, we had a pretty good system in place for building sites.
Something else to consider with the numbers above is that with sites 3-5, we were only targeting low-competition keywords. With site #6, a good 50% of our articles are targeting higher competition keywords, meaning they’re not likely to rank for a very long time.
However, the point of this case study is to determine whether or not covering a topic in depth (regardless of competition) helps to boost the site as a whole. So far, it looks promising.
While we’re only at the three month mark, the traffic appears to be starting its upward trajectory. Google is lagging behind as expected, but we have quite a few keywords that are now on page 2 or 3, as well as a handful that are already at the bottom of page 1.
Keep an eye out for the next update, which should be in the beginning of March.