There’s this weird thing that happens when you start a website: for most of us, we launch a new site bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, full of optimism and enthusiasm. We’ve got a good list of keywords we’re targeting, a solid launch plan, and the energy to keep at it.
But for how long?
I’ve always said running a website is a marathon… but a marathon has a start and an end, and most of us start our sites with no real end in mind. In most cases, that’s okay… but sometimes, it’s worth considering the end as part of the starting process.
If you’ve been following Site School for any length of time, you know that I’ve stepped back and stepped away from several of the sites I’ve started over the years – but I always kind of agonize over doing so.
Discover Sausalito is one of the sites that I started without an end in mind, and have struggled to plan for long term – and now it’s been four years and I feel like I need to do something different. Add on the fact that I’m about to become a mom with a lot less time for my many beloved little sites, and this recap is equal parts self-reporting on data and doing a bit of therapy to try and figure out the answer to “what’s next.”
If you’re up for that kind of thing, read on for the recap of DS at its four year mark.
What are these Case Studies?
As a reminder, I do case studies for almost every site I’ve created, at the 6-month, 9-month, and 12-month marks. Then I 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 – 10 years
- Space Tourism Guide – 6 years
- Discover Sausalito – 4 years (this post!)
- Follow the Butterflies – 3 years
- London on My Mind – 3 years
- Great Plains Travel Guide – 2 years
- Soup Whoop – 2 years
- Jordan Traveler – 2 years
- Eat Like Bourdain – 2 years
(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 fourth anniversary:
|Date First Published
|January 1, 2020
|Articles Live (as of 1/1/24)
|Monthly Pageviews (last 30 days)
|Maximum Pageviews (in last year)
|24,652 (July 2023)
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.
How do I keep track of all these stats? I’ve got an organizational system!
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History & Status of Discover Sausalito
I don’t normally include two charts in this section, but I thought it would be helpful to see how Discover Sausalito grew from the “3 Year Chart” (left) to the “4 Year Chart” (right). As you can see, DS actually had a pretty good year – it grew more this year than last year, and the big seasonal swing seems on par when comparing the two.
To be honest, I had hoped DS would get to this level about two years ago, but between the pandemic, the general lack of search volume about Sausalito, and the competition for some of the “big tuna” keywords, it doesn’t really surprise me that it’s only now looking like someday I might be able to get it monetized with ads and earn a teeny bit back for all the work that’s gone into it.
The one consolation is that this site doesn’t seem to have been hit by any of the major algorithms in the latter months of 2023. Yes, there was a big decline in traffic – but that seems to be mostly in line with the general reshuffling of Google results and the seasonality of people visiting the Bay Area.
To be completely frank, my focus was not on DS this year: I assigned my main writer a number of articles early in the year, and we scheduled most of them in the span of a few months. I focused on other sites throughout most of this year (which fits with last year’s focus of “Minimal Content Maintenance”) and spent some time scheduling out updates for early this year (“Keeping Things Updated”). So by that measure, the site was successful last year – especially as a few affiliate tools helped it start earning some money (“Monetization…?”).
What did I learn from all this? Good question!
I’ve sat here for almost 30 minutes trying to think about what I learned from DS this year, and I’m coming up empty. It’s not that I didn’t learn anything – I’m sure I could wrack my brain – but rather that this site is a good example of how some sites are just not a priority at times (or they stop being a priority forever). I’ve said it in other recaps, but it’s okay if something you start doesn’t always stay a top priority to you – seems like I need to remember that myself!
I’ve pondered a lot about where to go next, as I don’t have any major plans for this site in the coming year: I’m working to keep it updated each year on the posts where that makes sense, but I don’t have a lot of new content planned. As such, I don’t expect it to grow much, either in traffic or income. What’s a site owner to do then?
As I see it, there are a few options:
- Walk away – Stop focusing any energy on this site at all, let it become out of date, and eventually fail to renew the domain.
- Clean up and maintain the content as little as possible – There are certainly some articles that just don’t provide meaningful traffic; I could reduce or consolidate that content into fewer articles and then do what I’ve been doing in terms of updating things annually and that’s it.
- Consolidate the whole site into V&V – This is an option I’ve been toying around with in the back of my mind for a few months. I could take some of the best-value keywords, rework them, and publish them over on Valerie & Valise, then either delete the rest of the site, or leave it up but provide some strong backlinks from V&V to DS. This might help me rank better for the keywords that actually get meaningful traffic – and monetize some of the content I’ve created.
I’m leaning toward the latter as an option right now; I could take the top 10-15 topics, migrate them over, and see how they do while I’m on maternity leave. If they don’t do well (like when I tried moving all of my London/UK Harry Potter content from Follow the Butterflies to London On My Mind), I can always move them back!
I’m mostly talking to myself by this point, but that sounds like a good plan… seems like I have some work to do today!
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!