Eat Like Bourdain 3-Year Report
[CASE STUDY]

I’ve gotta be honest: it has really sucked to sit down and write the past few case study updates I’ve shared (LOMM 3-year, DS 4-year, GPTG 3-year, FTB 4-year, and JT 3-year). Actually, it’s pretty much sucked to write case study updates for the entirety of 2024, since Google declared war on small website owners in September 2023, and hasn’t let up since.

Each recap has made me feel lost and despondent; I’m not saying my sites are the absolute best on the internet, but being repeatedly hammered down and gaslit about the reasons why… well, it’s just not a good headspace to be in.

Though I’ve been quite fortunate that my main site, Valerie & Valise, has only been hit a bit, there has been one beacon of light in my site portfolio: Eat Like Bourdain. Somehow a site that I started on a bit of a whim three years ago at the anniversary of Anthony Bourdain’s death has grown into a website with decent traffic and income – and a resilience against Google destroying its own search engine.

Yes, you read that correctly. For once (at least lately), I have a positive update to share about one of my sites. Hopefully, you can find some seed or gem of hope in this one, even if you have been hit as hard as I have on some of my other sites.

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, 12-month, 18-month, and 24-month marks. If a site reaches its two-year mark and I plan to continue writing, I’ll switch to annual reports; currently, all of my sites are more than two years old!

Here are the ages of each site, and a link to the case studies I’ve written about each one:

As you can see, ELB is my youngest site, but it’s not so young anymore! Now let’s dig into the specifics of Eat Like Bourdain and my plans for it.

Fast Facts

Here’s a quick glance at the stats for Eat Like Bourdain at the three-year mark.

Date First PublishedJune 8, 2021
Articles Live (as of 06/01/23)239
Publishing CadenceUpdates: Daily/Annually
New Posts: Monthly (ish)
Monthly Pageviews (last month)116,115
Highest Pageviews (30 day max)116,115
Email Subscribers3,424
Monetization/Amount Earned (total)~$40,770 (65/35 ads/affiliates)

How do I keep track of all these stats? I’ve got an organizational system!

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History & Status of Eat Like Bourdain

As with last year, I’ve added more vertical lines to help you see how each case study milestone looks quite different:

  • From 0-6 months, the site was DOA, stuck in the Google sandbox (something we now know is real!)
  • From 6-12 months, I finally started to get articles ranking consistently and saw growth.
  • From 12-18 months, I saw more growth followed by what looked like seasonality.
  • From 18-24 months, the site has been on a real tear – traffic is almost 3x what it was six months ago, with only 2x more articles.
  • From 24-36 months (this recap), I finally finished all of the guides I wanted to publish, and traffic wobbled a bit near a stable level over the course of the year.

In the past, I’ve called this site a “rocket ship” because of how fast traffic grew, but there’s one important caveat: there are only a certain number of articles to write. As of this recap – actually as of January 2024 –, I have completed the “total” number of articles I originally planned. As such, I expect traffic to be at a plateau going forward for as long as people are still interested in visiting the places Tony traveled. (Luckily, as of six years after his death, this still seems to be the case!)

Strategic Takeaways

When writing this case study update, I actually left this section for last. Unlike for some of my sites, nothing popped into my head right off the bat.

This is for a few reasons:

  1. This site has done well, and I’ve actually accomplished my goals with it in the past year. That’s very rare for me – even as much as I work – so I’m feeling pretty good about it.
  2. Many of my other sites haven’t done as well, and I know many of you reading have gotten hit hard too, and it feels pretty random. I don’t think it’s totally random why this site didn’t get hit, which I’ll cover in a second, but I think it makes me more aware that it’s all a bit of luck and I don’t really have some grand universal answer to help you see the same success this site has had.

Now I did say I do think I know why ELB didn’t get hit in Google updates, and it’s something that’s so impossible to replicate that I feel almost disingenuous saying it: Eat Like Bourdain is the best, most helpful, and most unique resource on its topic.

Because I insisted that we (me and the writers who helped me) watch every single episode as part of creating the guide for each place, there is no site that better covers the topic of ‘where Anthony Bourdain ate’ on the entire internet. Additionally, since the site has been going for a few years, I’ve gotten comments sharing the names of places that literally aren’t even in the episodes – I genuinely have unique content that can’t be found anywhere else.

Now, as a travel blogger, this takeaway feels completely irreplicable – even to my main site, Valerie & Valise. There is no true way to create 100% unique content about travel, because every business/tour/experience in the world can be visited by others, and theoretically we’re all talking about the same thing. (Frustration over this topic is part of why I started Space Tourism Guide, because I wanted to write about something unique.) So like, big whoop Valerie – here’s a takeaway nobody can use.

But… in the post-Helpful Content Update, post-October Core Update, post-March Core Update, AI Overviews world… this site has survived it all so far, and you deserve to know (what I think is the reason) why.

Past Goals from the 2-Year Mark

During my last update, I set a few goals and areas to focus on; here are updates on each of those items. As in my quarterly accountability posts, I’ve used the stoplight system to indicate my success.

  • 🟢 Always Be Publishing – I finally accomplished this, as of January 1, 2024, when the Antarctica guide went live and every destination Tony visited had a guide!
  • 🟢 Instagram?! – I actually focused a bit on Instagram too; my account has grown to over 500 followers and gets alarmingly good engagement when I post. I just need a bit more content!

I can’t lie, it feels good to see those green dots across the board for one of my sites!

What’s Next for Eat Like Bourdain

When last I sat down to write a recap, I was deep in the trenches: I wanted to finish all of the guides for the site, and it took me another seven months after publishing my two-year recap to get them all published on the site. I had a lot of help doing it too – it total, I paid writers over $5,000 to help me finish the project (in the end, I wrote 64% of the 239 articles on the site).

But now – deep breath – that lion’s share of work on the site is done. My writer and I are just updating the guides annually (to reflect when restaurants close – and sometimes when they re-open!), and I’m adding an article here or there as I have the energy and time (things like restaurant reviews, when I visit a specific place Tony ate, or round-ups).

So… what’s next? Great question.

Enthusiast, v3

It’s crazy, but the idea to start an Anthony Bourdain-inspired podcast started all the way back two years ago (I first mentioned it in my one-year case study update). Since then, I’ve tried – and failed – to come up with a truly great idea that I thought would be compelling for listeners… until I was at Travelcon and think I finally landed on a great idea.

I’ve already sketched out a first season of episodes, and have begun to research the ‘pilot.’ Unlike past versions of the podcast, this idea feels monumental to do properly, and I have no sense of compromise about doing it improperly or poorly. It reminds me of one of Tony’s quotes:

I’ve been free to do whatever I want
To make the shows I want anywhere I want with whom I want
In any style I want
So I, at first I don’t know any other way
And by now I won’t have it any other way
Life is good
Why settle for less?

At least producing one episode – one pilot – of this podcast, is one of my big goals for the second half the year. I think it could be one of my next great projects in my life, so wish me luck!

Instagram/Social Community

It’s not a huge focus, but I have been spending more time focused on social media, specifically my Instagram account. (I have also started a Facebook page but have spent exactly 2 minutes worrying about it and probably need to get back to that someday…)

Using the assets I have from places I’ve been, plus connecting with other Bourdain fans to share their photos and videos, I’ve begun creating a space that’s less focused on Tony and more focused on his legacy and the places he went that are still worth visiting. I really like this focus and am not sure how much – if any – monetization I’ll ever be able to do… but I also am just doing it for fun, which is the best way to do social media anyway.

Do you have any other questions about this recap for Eat Like Bourdain? Let me know in the comments; I’m happy to share anything that I forgot to include!

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Valerie has been blogging since 2001, and has been running her oldest travel blog for a decade. You can find her across the internet on her various niche sites, but she started Site School to help fellow bloggers grow and create better content.

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