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Case Studies

Eat Like Bourdain 9 Month Report
[CASE STUDY]

When Anthony Bourdain first died, I was devastated – like many in the travel industry who admired his fearlessness to share his perspective about the places he visited and the experiences he had. To be honest, as a travel blogger, I often feel compelled to burnish bad experiences into a nicer narrative and put on my rose-colored glasses when advising people. Bourdain didn’t seem to do this: if he liked a place, you knew it, and if he didn’t like a place, you knew that too.

After penning a heartfelt letter at the one-year anniversary about how his death changed my life, I wondered: how can I continue to honor Bourdain’s legacy and stretch my creative wings. That’s why when the idea to start Eat Like Bourdain popped into my head, I knew I had a solid idea. Helping others explore and support the restaurants and other tourism businesses he visited is a good way to ensure his impact continues for years. Sure, there are other sites doing this same kind of content – but I liked the idea of a site dedicated only to those kinds of posts, rather than mixed in with other content.

So on the three-year anniversary of Bourdain’s death, I launched ELB. Now the site is already nine months old and rapidly approaching its own first anniversary. In this post, I’ll share a recap of the site so far and what I’m focusing on as that milestone approaches.

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:

(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!

Fast Facts

Date First PublishedJune 8, 2021
Articles Live (as of 3/1/21)22
Publishing CadenceIrregular (Weekly Target)
Monthly Pageviews (last month)4364
Google Traffic87.5%
Email Subscribers0
Monetization/Amount Earned~$10

History & Status of Eat Like Bourdain

As mentioned in my six-month recap, I started ELB a bit differently than other sites; I didn’t do my 10/10/10 launch plan and just started publishing. I was able to maintain weekly posts for about three months (June through August 2021) and then became much more sporadic in publishing. My goal is always weekly posts, but prioritizing this site compared to others has been hard since it hasn’t been growing quickly.

Actually, for an interesting point of comparison, ELB and my Jordan Traveler site have followed almost the same trajectory:

JT vs ELB

They’ve had a similar number of posts, and have varied in which site gets more traffic at any given point. One major difference between the two sites is that Eat Like Bourdain has struggled to get posts indexed since July 2021 (so one month after the site launched), whereas Jordan Traveler has had no problems getting content indexed (more on this below).

Additionally, you can see that I took a break from publishing new articles between Month 6 and Month 8 (roughly mid-October through January). I’ve been publishing more in the past few weeks, but getting back into the habit of prioritizing this site has been a challenge with other sites I’m focused on this quarter.

Content & Niche Effectiveness

As in other ways, Eat Like Bourdain is quite different in the way the content is structured – and I made some recent changes to help my theme better organize my recommended content going forward.

Particularly, content is organized in two ways: by show (i.e. No Reservations), and by destination (city, state, region, country, continent). All of these are now categories (destinations were previously tags) so content tends to have quite a few tags. I also created a page last month that lists every destination Anthony Bourdain ever filmed, so I can eventually link each post from this page and have a really comprehensive database of his work in one place.

In any case, it’s hard to compare how effective one category is to another – especially when looking at the shows he’s done. Certainly No Reservations and Parts Unknown were Bourdain’s more popular shows, but the destination seems to be more important than the show for people searching keywords about this site (i.e. people care about where Anthony Bourdain ate in Prague, not which show(s) he filmed while doing so).

All that said, unlike other site case studies, I won’t be sharing charts comparing categories for ELB. It just doesn’t make sense, but I didn’t want to ignore this section in case you were curious!

Data-Based Progress Report

ELB 9mo Chart

Despite my inconsistency in publishing new content on ELB in the past few months, the site has continued to grow – which encourages me to get back at it!

In particular, I’ve noticed that the content that’s doing well is mostly about major international destinations. I mentioned in my six-month update that I was going to focus on creating geographically-adjacent content for a new strategy (so I saw Lisbon was doing well but the Azores was struggling, thus decided to write Porto and Portugal to have a really good interlinking opportunity between all four posts).

The idea here is to focus less on keyword competition and volume and more on creating areas (literally) of expertise that are also helpful for travelers – after all, if you’re visiting Lisbon, you might also visit Porto!

An Issue of Indexing

I mentioned it in my last case study update and above, but getting Google to index my content on Eat Like Bourdain has been a real pain in the you-know-what.

I believe that the July Google Core Update included more stringent criteria for assessing new sites – a more dramatic expression of the “sandbox” idea – that has resulted in many site owners (myself included) struggling to get Google to index our content. Some people are experiencing this only on new domains, others are experiencing it for new content on existing domains.

The reality is that the internet has gotten very “full,” so to speak – and every new site is a gamble for Google. Can a new site really display E-A-T? Can it meet user intent? Maybe – but also maybe they should wait a few months and ensure the site continues creating new and quality content before showing much or any of it to searchers.

This has been the biggest bane of my existence with this site, and part of why I’ve struggled to focus on it. As of writing, about 40% of the articles I’ve written aren’t even in the index. This means that my traffic is about 50% lower than it should be, if all were indexed and ranking as well as the ones currently indexed and ranking!

I was hopeful that passing the six-month maturity milestone would encourage Google to index a bit more of these pages, but it hasn’t happened yet. Here’s hoping it comes in the next few months!

What’s Next?

As Eat Like Bourdain approaches its year mark, I’ve struggled to decide how much to focus on it compared to other sites. So many articles are still stuck outside the index that it’s hard to feel like new content is worth it… but I also really enjoy this project, so I just try to keep chipping away at it!

The other thing that’s worth noting is that it is, in some ways, a site with a discrete (i.e. fixed) number of posts: Bourdain only visited so many places in his life. (If I wrote about every city/region and every country, that would be 303 posts.) This means that eventually, I will “run out” of new content – so I don’t need to rush it!

New Content Strategy Continues

My new geographically-focused content strategy is still too new to assess, so I’m going to keep working at it for at least the next six months – possibly the next year until the 18-month mark. I’ll be curious if focusing on locations near ones I’ve already covered (and which are indexed) will help new content get indexed faster thanks to internal linking opportunities. (That’s the hypothesis I’m testing anyway!)

A “Fun” Site… with Ads?

Early indicators suggest that ELB could be eligible for ads through SHE Media somewhere around the 12- to 14-month mark. Whenever it becomes eligible, I plan to add ads so that the site can be better monetized and easier to prioritize.

(As an aside, what happens when all of my sites are monetized? How do I prioritize then?? That’s a problem for future Valerie! 😅)

In the meantime, I’ll still treat this site as a fun project: it’s a chance to sit down and watch the entire body of work from my favorite travel creator and be inspired by him. That’s a worthy endeavor even if the site never gets to the ads threshold!

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

2 Comments

  • Matt

    Hey Valerie,
    My name is Matt & I’m a big fan of your ELB site! I’m interested in supporting your site (map builiding, writing, indexing past episodes) and would love to collaborate. Could you send me an email to connect?

    Looking forward to being in touch!

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