I’ll be the first to admit it: I went a little crazy last year (2021) starting new sites. After launching London On My Mind in January, I quickly unleashed a flurry of keyword research and came up with several other site ideas; one of those was Great Plains Travel Guide, the second site I launched in 2021.
In the year since the first post was published, GPTG has been an interesting experiment. By most metrics, it’s been successful: for a time, it was even out-pacing Space Tourism Guide in terms of early traffic growth, and I wondered if I had another “rocket ship” site on my hand, so to speak. In the end, this site has a very different trajectory than any other site I’m running, and I’ve learned a lot from it in the 12 months it’s been live.
Today I’m sharing my first blogiversary recap for Great Plains Travel Guide, a site dedicated to the underdog destinations out there.
What are these Case Studies?
As a reminder, I’ll be doing case studies for every site I’ve created, at the 6-month, 9-month, and 12-month marks. Then I’ll switch to every six months for the next year, so you can expect reports at 18 months and 24 months. If a site reaches its two-year mark and I plan to continue writing, I’ll switch to annual reports. Here are the ages of each site and its current status:
- Valerie & Valise – 8 years – annual w/ monthly recaps
- Space Tourism Guide – 4 years – annual
- Discover Sausalito – 2 years – semi-annual
- Follow the Butterflies – 23 months – semi-annual
- London on My Mind – 14 months – quarterly
- Great Plains Travel Guide – 1 year (this post!) – quarterly
- Soup Whoop – 10 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
- Jordan Traveler – 10 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
- Eat Like Bourdain – 9 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
- True Crime Pods – 8 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
- Solar Smarts – 8 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
(Links will take you to the full list of reports about that site!)
In this Case Study update, I’ll try to give you everything I think is interesting about running this site so far, and a real “peek beneath the hood.” If you want to know anything else, be sure to let me know in the comments!
Here’s a quick glance at the stats for Great Plains Travel Guide at its first anniversary:
|Date First Published||March 1, 2021|
|Articles Live (as of 3/1/22)||42|
|Publishing Cadence||Currently on hold|
|Monthly Pageviews (last 30 days)||7853|
|Maximum Pageviews (in last year)||7853 (February 2022)|
|Average Pageviews per Post||187|
In the rest of this post, I’ll dive more into the history of the site and where I hope it goes in the year to come.
History & Status of Great Plains Travel Guide
I started GPTG one year ago – at the beginning of March 2021 – with my standard 10/10/10 launch plan:
- 10 daily posts
- 10 weekly posts
- 10 posts at any cadence (I continued with weekly)
This carried me into October; I missed a few weeks here and there but was pretty consistent. I continued weekly posts until early December, when I realized that traffic was no longer growing – likely due to seasonality (I mean, who wants to travel to the Great Plains during the winter??? 🙅🏻♀️).
Instead of pushing through on a project that wasn’t growing as I hoped, I decided to take all of Q1 2022 off from publishing: the last post I published was December 4th, and I haven’t published since. While you might think this would affect traffic negatively, it did not: GPTG saw a good December/January traffic bump (common in the travel industry) and has been growing ever since – even with no new content.
As a recap from past case studies about this site, GPTG is structured around three silos: Attractions (sights to see), Destinations (places to go), and Routes (exactly what it sounds like). Posts can be more than one type, and there are two sub-types in the Attractions silo: Food & Drink and National Parks.
All content must be primarily focused on the Great Plains states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, plus certain geographies in West Texas and eastern New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. (I say “primarily” because I have some posts in the queue that advise destinations outside the Great Plains, like day trips and road trips.)
Here’s a breakdown of how many articles I’ve published in each silo (Count Breakdown) and how much each silo contributes to overall traffic (Pageview Breakdown):
Takeaway #1: Categories are Incredibly Stable
One of the main takeaways I have from looking at the charts above is how consistent the four categories are in driving traffic for this site. Admittedly my site structure is a bit simpler here than on other sites (with basically only four categories), but each one is almost exactly 25% of the traffic I’m receiving. This is nice because it means that all of them are effective – but it doesn’t help guide me in terms of which categories to focus on in the future since they’re all effective!
Takeaway #2: States (Tags) Offer More Insight
Unlike the categories of the site, the tags (States) offer a lot more guidance into where I can focus my efforts going forward to grow my authority.
Multi-state posts – specifically road trip/Route guides (as a category) – have been very good traffic drivers, and I plan to do a heavy proportion of those going forward.
Additionally, some states are better traffic drivers than others: South Dakota, Kansas, North Dakota, Texas (part of the state), and Oklahoma. As I do my next batch of keyword research, I’m going to focus on each of these states to gain authority there before spreading out to the other states (probably in Year 3, more on that below).
Takeaway #3: Seasonality varies by Destination
While we all know seasonality is a huge part of travel – every destination has popularity in different seasons, even London! – I was shocked at how much seasonality affects travel in the Great Plains. I obviously can’t speak for the entire travel sector for this region, but in my data, there is literally no demand for travel resources to visit the Great Plains in the winter, so from September through December, I have to expect traffic to drop. Only when people start planning their next year trips in January will traffic return. I’m taking this into account with my content plan for this site.
Seasonal Content Creation
Picking up on the topic of seasonality I was just discussing, I’m going to do something different with Great Plains Travel Guide than I do for other sites: I’m only going to publish for eight months of the year. In the coming year, I plan to publish from April to the end of August, then take a break for September to December, and pick up publishing in January again.
By doing this, I keep the site looking fresh and active when the majority of people are actually visiting and interested in the content. It also gives me a break to focus on other projects in ~Q4 each year – which is when Valerie & Valise typically needs the most attention to prepare for its next Alaska season.
Sure, there will be some people who visit between September and January who wonder if I’ve abandoned the site – and maybe I’ll schedule easy rewrites in 1-2x per month to keep something “fresh” on the site. But I think that building in a natural break will be a very good move for the sustainability of the site.
Follow the “Rainmakers”
As of writing, GPTG has only one true “Rainmaker” post (a post that’s doing really well and should be replicated if possible): The 11 Best Roadside Attractions along I-80 in the Great Plains. I’ve already been using this as inspiration to write – and try to rank well for – similar topics, including The 11 Best Roadside Attractions along I-90 in the Great Plains (now my #5 traffic driver) and The 8 Best Roadside Attractions Along I-40 in the Great Plains (#16).
It shouldn’t really be a surprise that road trip content is so effective for a site about traveling in the Great Plains – that’s how people visit the region. But it’s still a good reminder about looking at your traffic to determine adjustments in your content strategy and where is most effective to focus your energy.
While it might seem like I have endless energy and resources for all of these sites, I don’t: I have to prioritize and following my Rainmakers has worked well for other sites in the past, so I’m confident it will be a good strategy for this site too.
Ads, Ads, Ads
As of writing, March is off to a very good start for GPTG and I think it’s time to start thinking about ads. As I mentioned in my recent case study for Jordan Traveler, I’ll be reaching out to SHE Media next month to see if they’ll put ads on this site at the ~10k mark as they’ve done for some of my other sites.
While I personally have a lot of intrinsic motivation to work on my sites, having an extrinsic motivator in the form of ad revenue will certainly help me stay committed through my 8-month “sprints” each year.
As a reminder, these case studies will now switch to every six months for the next year, so my next GPTG case study will be published at the 18-month mark in September 2022. Do you have any other questions about this recap for Great Plains Travel Guide? Let me know in the comments – I’m happy to share anything that I forgot to include!