It’s hard to believe that we’re fast approaching the three-year mark from the start of the pandemic; for many of us who had hopes and dreams for our business in 2020, it’s also a dark anniversary for all that we lost. For me, part of that experience relates to my third niche site, Discover Sausalito, which I launched in January 2020.
While I can look back now with the perspective that I don’t know how much different this site’s performance would be today if the pandemic hadn’t happened, it still makes me sad to reflect on the anniversary each year and how much work it has taken to get where it is.
In this post, I’ll give an update at the three-year mark for DS, looking back on the past year, what I’ve learned, and where I plan to go.
🎧 Want to listen to this case study instead? Check out Episode 15 the Site School Podcast!
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; 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 – 9 years – annual w/ monthly recaps
- Space Tourism Guide – 5 years – annual
- Discover Sausalito – 3 years (this post!) – annual
- Follow the Butterflies – 2 years – annual
- London on My Mind – 2 year – annual
- Great Plains Travel Guide – 22 months – semiannual
- Soup Whoop – 21 months – annual
- Jordan Traveler – 20 months – semi-annual
- Eat Like Bourdain – 19 months – semi-annual
(Links will take you to the full list of reports about that site!)
Here’s a quick glance at the stats for Discover Sausalito at its first anniversary:
|Date First Published
|January 1, 2020
|Articles Live (as of 1/1/23)
|Monthly Pageviews (last 30 days)
|Maximum Pageviews (in last year)
|16,044 (September 2022)
|Average Pageviews per Post
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.
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History & Status of Discover Sausalito
Discover Sausalito has had a rough life, to be completely frank. When I started it in January 2020, I did not do my standard 10/10/10 launch plan, and I think that hurt the site’s growth potential even before the pandemic kicked off and killed travel in general.
Since then, I’ve only published intermittently – at best. There are big gaps in the publishing schedule, as evidenced by the dashed blue line in the graph above. For most of 2020, I let it sit and considered abandoning it completely as California stayed in a permanent state of lockdown. Once I moved out of California, I was actually able to start thinking creatively about the site, and only started producing new articles in the latter half of 2021.
I worked for about a year to create content regularly, going from 7 articles in Month 18 (July 2021) to 49 articles in Month 32 (September 2022). By that point, I came to a few conclusions, which I’ll detail now.
By September 2022 and with about 50 posts published, I came to realize a few things:
The Niche is “Too” Narrow
While I did a bunch of research before starting Discover Sausalito, actually writing posts showed me that there weren’t as many keywords as I hoped there would be. This limited the number of quality articles I could write.
My top competitor has lots of non-Sausalito content on their site – and to be honest, lots of crappy content. I don’t want to do that, so I’m a bit stuck on the question of what to write next.
That said, I built DS to be a resource for Sausalito, and it ranks really well for almost every major Sausalito keyword – and certainly for every keyword I’ve written a post targeting. So the niche isn’t “too” narrow; it was exactly right – but just not that big.
The Traffic Isn’t There
Another thing I realized was that the volume of traffic to my posts wasn’t high enough to justify the ongoing work. The site has an average position of #2 across all of its keywords (and 44 of 51 keywords rank #1 or #2), but it only gets 10,000-15,000 pageviews per month.
Admittedly, I don’t rank #1 or #2 for keywords like “things to do in Sausalito” or “best restaurants in Sausalito” (not sure why, but that’s a Google mystery for another day…) – those are undoubtedly HUGE traffic drivers and would be very good for my “bottom line” traffic if I could score them.
But without those (which honestly, no site should ever expect to win those big terms when there are sites like PlanetWare and Eater out there…), the site still does really well for average ranking but just doesn’t have much traffic.
Seasonality is Essential
Given the narrow range of this site – both in topics and traffic – there are only two choices: stop writing, or get creative.
I am never one to quit, so I’m going to continue leaning into the second option and pursue more seasonal content. This will include keeping my holiday posts (4th of July, Christmas, New Year’s Eve) updated, as well as adding monthly posts to the rotation.
Given all that, I want to pull my thoughts together and give myself focus for the coming year. I don’t plan to publish much, but I’m also not going to abandon the site so I need to have some idea of where I’m headed!
Minimal Content Maintenance
As I mentioned in my 2-year case study update, I took a few breaks from creating content last year: I took time off from January through April and again after August through the end of the year. I don’t really plan to write much more about Sausalito this year; maybe a few new seasonal posts, and a couple of general Sausalito posts as I find the keyword research to support them.
Keeping Things Updated
Though I won’t be/haven’t been publishing much new content, I do think it’s important to keep older content updated. If you’ve been over to the DS site this month, it looks quite active, as I’m updating all of my restaurant ranking lists for the new year. I have other posts I’d like to keep updated and try to improve – like those “things to do” and “best restaurants” posts I want to improve ranking for.
I’m not sure if this site will get to a good level, but if traffic improves again this year, I might look at monetizing it through SHE Media to help offset the cost of running it. Given that this site hasn’t made anything, it would be nice to at least cover the domain costs for these three years by the start of year four. 😅
Do you have any other questions about this recap for Discover Sausalito? Let me know in the comments; I’m happy to share anything that I forgot to include!