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We’re eight months into the No Stone Unturned case study now, which means we’re starting to hit that part of the timeline where we like to start seeing some bigger traffic numbers. I’ll jump into those numbers below, in addition to looking at our progress from a different angle.
First, if you’re unfamiliar with this case study, be sure to check out the full playlist over on YouTube.
I’m going to take a break from the usual breakdown and look at something different with this update (as suggested in a YouTube comment). Before we jump into that, let’s take a quick look at the site’s progress.
Our hope (maybe somewhat unrealistic) at this stage of a site’s lifespan is to see a doubling of traffic each month. Unfortunately, that isn’t quite what we saw in June.
That’s not to say that we had a bad month by any means. In fact, our traffic grew by over 65% from May to June, putting us just shy of 10,000 pageviews for the month.
Here’s what that looks like in both Search Console and Analytics:
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Next, to mix it up, let’s take a look at the keyword difficulty of the articles bringing in the most traffic so far. Basically, let’s see if the traffic is coming from articles that we personally ranked as low competition, medium competition, or high competition.
To do this basic analysis, I’ve exported the Performance report in Search Console for the month of June. I then took a look at the Pages tab to see which URLs were bringing in the most traffic.
To keep things simple, we’re only looking at the top 25 URLs in the screenshot below. The URLs are obviously hidden, but everything is listed in order, starting with the highest traffic article.
We rank keywords on a four-point system, with XL representing extremely low competition, L representing low competition, M representing medium competition, and H representing high competition. Not surprisingly, almost all of the top 25 URLs were targeting XL and L keywords.
With that being said, there are a couple of medium competition keywords on the list, and when I check the keywords that they’re ranking for, they’re actually about half way up page 1 for their target keywords.
Something else you might notice in the screenshot is that Google appears to see us as an authority on cluster #5. This is why it’s always a good idea to test more than just one cluster, since you may rank better for one than another.
As far as the position in the last column, that’s just an average across the many long-tail keywords that each article is ranking for, but when I dive into each URL specifically, most of them are ranking in the top 3 positions for their target keywords.
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The traffic per article is still pretty low for what we like to see, but that’s not much of a concern at this point. As time passes, these articles should rank for more and more long-tail keywords, which will bump up the visits per post.
It’s always a good idea to look at things from a different angle from time to time, as it’s a great way to identify things you might otherwise miss.
In this case, I think we can draw two conclusions:
- It makes more sense to target low-competition keywords than high-competition keywords, at least this early in a site’s life
- It’s a good idea to test several clusters instead of going all in on one
As far as targeting low-competition keywords, that’s been our strategy since day 1 on all of our sites. However, we’re targeting medium and high-competition keywords as well with this case study to cover each topic more thoroughly, so over time, we’ll see whether or not we’re able to rank for more and more of those keywords.
Regarding clusters, our biggest cluster was our first one, which had over 70 articles. Of those 70 posts, only three are currently in the top 25 URLs on our site. We didn’t hit a “winning” cluster until cluster #5, driving home the importance of testing at least a few clusters before going all in on one.
That’s not to say that the other clusters are performing poorly or that they won’t perform well long-term, but if you’re looking for that early traction, it probably makes sense not to commit to only one topic on your site.
That’s it for this update, look for the next one in about a month.
I’m really inspired by your journey so far and I’m trying to replicate some of your success. I’m starting with an aged website that is 10+ years old with outdated content and a lil new content. I’ve used keyword chef to write some new articles.
The site is about financial aid packages specifically the Pell grant awarded to needy students in the US.
Could you kindly advise me on what I should do at this stage, the site is monetized by google ads and we receive very little revenue. I’ll be doing everything by myself at this stage.
Thanks for sharing your story. I just took a quick look at your site, and overall, I think you’re on the right track. You’re in a niche that will likely be difficult to rank, so I would put focus on improving the trustworthiness of your site, while also focusing on growing your topical authority.
Some quick tips: I would add an “About” page, I would make your articles longer and more thorough (if nothing else, this will allow more ad placements), I would add lots of internal links between your related posts, I would add categories, and I would add a logo. Also, I’m not seeing any ads, so if you are running ads like you said, you might want to check your settings or placements.
I hope this helps.
I’m really new to blogging so I have no idea about internal links but I’ve read about link whisper. Will it help me?
As for updating my content, where should I start? which blog posts should I target first to improve my topical authority?
I really appreciate all your advice and tips. Thanks a lot!
P.S. Will your course be helpful for me with my competitive niche? I really want to learn about underserved topic research 🙂
Sounds like you’re on the right track with adding those pages. Those are expected pages with pretty much any ad network you try to join.
As for internal linking, Link Whisper can save you some time, especially if you have a ton of pages. With that being said, we just add them manually. I have a video on our YouTube channel that gives an overview of our process that might be worth checking out.
Regarding updating content, what we do is wait until our posts have had plenty of time to rank, then we go back to the ones that are ranking well and make them better. The other approach is to improve the articles that aren’t performing well. Either can be good approaches, and in a perfect world, you’d do both. For topical authority, producing more content around the topics that you want to rank for should help (especially with strong internal linking between the posts).
I think our course can help, but we’re by no means experts on ranking in competitive niches. With that being said, there seems to be some low-hanging fruit in just about every niche, and that is what we like to go after first (until a site gains some authority).