Ah, Follow the Butterflies, my Harry Potter blog and my little pandemic project. Like many people, I picked up new hobbies when the pandemic began and travel stopped – one of which was a site dedicated to my love of Harry Potter. In the two years since, my team and I have worked to grow Follow the Butterflies into a healthy little niche site.
While it’s nowhere near as big as it could be given the popularity of the Wizarding World, it has been a great project and has been successful given that I didn’t have specific traffic or income goals for it when I launched it in April 2020.
If you’re curious to learn more about this lifestyle-ish topical site, read on for my two-year report and areas of focus for the coming year.
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 – 8 years – annual w/ monthly recaps
- Space Tourism Guide – 4 years – annual
- Discover Sausalito – 2 years – semi-annual
- Follow the Butterflies – 2 years (this post!) – semi-annual
- London on My Mind – 16 months – quarterly
- Great Plains Travel Guide – 13 months – quarterly
- Soup Whoop – 12 months – quarterly
- Jordan Traveler – 11 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
- Eat Like Bourdain – 10 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
- True Crime Pods & Solar Smarts – 9 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
(Links will take you to the full list of reports about that site!)
Here’s a quick glance at the stats for FTB at the two-year mark.
|Date First Published||April 1, 2020|
|Articles Live (as of 4/1/22)||83|
|Publishing Cadence||Weekly or Biweekly|
|Monthly Pageviews (last month)||10,326|
|Highest Pageviews (30 day max)||13,745|
|Google Traffic||81.5% (last 12 months)|
|Monetization/Amount Earned (total)||$2719 (25% from ads)|
History & Status of Follow the Butterflies
As the fourth site I started – and the second site I launched in 2020 – Follow the Butterflies was a great example of my 10/10/10 launch plan in action; it was one of the first sites I tried the strategy with and obivously worked well enough that it became my standard launch plan for many future sites. It’s also worth noting that FTB was a partial spin-out from Valerie & Valise, as the travel-focused Harry Potter articles were on that site first. (This is another one of my favorite ways to start a site!)
Since that first month and the 13 posts published, I’ve added 70 more articles (83 total) – including 26 in the last two months during a few focused sprints with my team. To be honest, my posting has been sporadic; I’ve taken a few breaks from publishing regularly (months 7-8, months 11-13, months 20-22) so I could certainly be better at posting consistently going forward.
For comparison, the only other one of my sites that I’ve published as many posts on is London On My Mind; when it was at ~83 posts, it was receiving ~17,000 pageviews per month so about 70% more traffic than FTB is currently getting. Speaking of traffic…
Content Niche Structure & Effectiveness
FTB is quite different than my other travel sites, as it falls much more into the “Lifestyle” category and is all focused around Harry Potter as a topic. Here are the categories on the site:
- Magical Journeys (Travel)
- Magical Equipment (Affiliate/Product Posts)
- Magical Flavors (Food & Drink)
- Magical Experiences (Party/Special Occasion Planning, Virtual Travel, etc.)
- Magical Creations (Crafts)
- Magic at Home (Home Decor)
- Magical Facts (Facts & Info posts)
After two years, I stand by the assertion I made in my 18-month report that I think this is part of the reason the site has struggled to gain a foothold: while “Harry Potter” is certainly a topic we humans understand, Google doesn’t really feel like it’s a niche – making it hard to show E-A-T. It’s also a very competitive topic!
Y’all know I love to look at the data to see what I can learn and how I can improve. For all of my sites, I track the categories on the site compared to the traffic each categories brings; here are the two graphs for Follow the Butterflies.
Takeaway #1: Volume Builds Traffic
As you can see from the charts above, the number of articles I’ve written in each category actually map pretty closely onto the amount of traffic each category brings to the site.
To me, the main takeaway here is that the categories you write about will generally become the categories you earn traffic about – it’s rare to get too many outliers outside the categories where you’ve written a lot and built your E-A-T. (That’s not to say it can’t happen, just that it’s rarer.)
One thing those charts don’t show are the differentials between the two charts, which I also track. For example, you can probably tell that the red slice is larger on the right chart than left and the blue slice is larger on the left chart than right. That suggests that Experiences isn’t as powerful at bringing traffic even despite having a good number of articles written; Equipment is relatively more powerful compared to the number of articles I’ve written.
Takeaway #2: Lifestyle Sites are Tough
As I mentioned above, I have always hypothesized that Lifestyle niche sites are harder to grow because it’s harder for readers to understand which topics/categories you cover – and if it’s hard for readers, it’s definitely hard for Google to understand too.
Additionally, Lifestyle is such a broad concept that it means you’re likely competing with sites across all of the niches within Lifestyle – in my case that includes travel blogs (Journeys), ecommerce sites (Equipment), food blogs (Flavors), and others. Instead of being easier to win keywords, it’s actually harder in the Lifestyle “niche” (which I’d argue isn’t really narrow enough to be a niche!).
In any case, FTB struggles in this area, and it’s just a reality of the site I built!
Takeaway #3: You Gotta Do Something for Fun!
Now two years old, I’d obviously love if Follow the Butterflies had loads more traffic – and the slow pace of growth has made me wonder how much effort I should put into the site. For comparison, if FTB were the same age as LOMM, it would be getting almost 5x less traffic with 2.5x fewer posts (so it’s half as effective at getting traffic).
However, I started FTB for fun, as a hobby blog to give myself something new to focus on during the pandemic – and hoped it might someday help diversify my income. In the two years since, it has become a decent income-earning site, though will probably not ever be the rocket ship that some of my other sites.
Speaking of income, I first started monetizing FTB around the 18-month mark on Ezoic, and transitioned it to SHE Media in January; my ad earnings went up quite a lot and my affiliate earnings have been pretty solid given the low level of traffic.
As I think about the next year, I’ll admit: I am apprehensive about committing to specific targets and goals since this site isn’t a big focus right now as I’m writing this recap. That’s not to say that I won’t re-focus on it, but that strategy is hard to consider on the longer term! So for the targets I’ve set below, consider them to each have a question mark at the end because they may be accomplished or may change.
One of the areas I am willing to commit to focus on FTB is in creating consistent content. I’d like to stick to one post per week at minimum all year to keep the site fresh and give me promotional opportunities to my email list and other marketing channels.
I haven’t mentioned it yet, but one of the big developments in the past six months for the FTB brand has been the launch and first season of The Glittering Bell Jar, my Harry Potter podcast with my friend Brie. We’re actually on the fence about our next season at this point, so I’m not sure if we’ll even continue, but if we do, I hope we can grow our podcast and reach new HP fans through that channel.
Grow to Mediavine
Finally, if I continue to produce new content, I’d like to think that FTB will continue to grow, and might eventually make it to the ~20k session (~25k pageview) minimum that Mediavine uses to assess additional sites. They haven’t pre-approved it or anything so that’s not to say it will end up on Mediavine even if I reach that level, but doubling my traffic will be good for my earnings either way!
I’m now switching on to annual posts for Follow the Butterflies, so stay tuned for the next update in April 2023. Do you have any other questions about this recap for Follow the Butterflies? Let me know in the comments; I’m happy to share anything that I forgot to include!