Follow the Butterflies 3 Year Report
[CASE STUDY]

It’s hard to believe how much has changed in the past three years. When the pandemic shut down the world in March 2020, I decided I needed something new to focus on – and decided a website was a good idea. Little did I know it was the start of a domino effect that would result in almost a dozen websites in total…

But here we are three years later and not all those sites remain. One that does is the first of my pandemic projects, a Harry Potter-focused site called Follow the Butterflies. Now at the three-year mark, the site is mature and it’s important to look back and learn before setting my strategy for the year to come.

Follow the Butterflies Hero

Below you’ll find my three-year report for this site; you can read past recaps here. Despite a huge 180 from my year 2 goals, I’m excited to move forward with FTB and see where we are this time next year.

🎧 Want to listen instead? Check out the audio version on 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:

(Links will take you to the full list of reports about that site!)

Fast Facts

Here’s a quick glance at the stats for FTB at the three-year mark.

Date First PublishedApril 1, 2020
Articles Live (as of 4/1/22)86
Publishing CadenceIntermittent
Monthly Pageviews (last month)12,627
Highest Pageviews (30 day max)20,128
Google Traffic84.0% (last 12 months)
Email Subscribers452
Monetization/Amount Earned (total)$7,172 (45% from ads)

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

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History & Status of Follow the Butterflies

FTB 3yr Chart

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!)

Over the past year, I haven’t really focused on FTB at all; I only added four new posts in the past year, but did do a handful of updates.

Of the sites I’m still focusing on this year, FTB has been the consistently worst/lowest-performing; I don’t know whether it’s a matter of competition or just a poor understanding of the niche/site by Google, but it’s been tough to keep any focus on this site when it doesn’t really produce much traffic. That said, it isn’t a terrible project, as it does have some decent monetization, so I definitely have a lot to think about!

Strategic Takeaways

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.

This Site Could Be Bigger

While I’ve already said that it’s tough to get traffic and have lamented in past case studies how tough it is to grow, there’s a simple reality: if I published more new posts, the site would grow.

It might not be as effective at getting traffic compared to my other sites, but the philosophy I advise all of you is the same for me. I just need to publish more and rank for new keywords, and growth will happen.

…But it Actually Earns Well for its Size

While looking at my traffic, I realized that FTB is actually one of the most effective earning sites (in money, as opposed to traffic). My tRPM for this site is actually higher than almost all of my other sites, which motivates me even more: more traffic on this site means more income relative to other sites!

(If you aren’t familiar with that metric, I highly recommend reading the article I just linked as it explains how I compare sites on a metric that matters.)

Always Balance the Joy with the Payout

While I’ve been talking a lot about traffic and income so far, there is one important factor that keeps me trucking away at this site: how much I enjoy the topic.

I mentioned it last year and still feel the same way; I need projects that I really enjoy to help carry me through the relentless work of running websites. My love of Harry Potter hasn’t diminished at all as a result of making this site part of my “work life,” and I like working on the site enough to stick at it.

What’s Next

As usual, it’s not just about looking back – I also want to look forward… But before jumping into my new goals, I thought it would be worth commenting on my goals from last year, which were:

  • Consistent Content
  • Podcast Growth
  • Growing to Mediavine

As with most things in life, it’s curious to look back on these goals because so much changed so quickly for this site. Within just a few months of setting all of those goals, I had decided not to focus on the site or the podcast anymore, and honestly haven’t done much since.

I think it’s important to be honest here, because I don’t accomplish every goal and part of these case studies should focus on that – and why.

Consistent Content

While I said I was going to focus on consistent content during last year’s update, I, well, didn’t. Almost immediately, I stopped publishing to focus on other projects (most notably Eat Like Bourdain, which has become a big traffic generator and earner, so was the right decision).

Anyway, this year I already have a plan for the year ahead (through the end of 2023), and need to stick to it to keep this site alive – and hopefully growing. The breakdown is about 75% updates, 25% new content, and feels pretty manageable even with all of the other sites I’m focused on.

I’m hoping that will at least lead to more consistent content or higher peaks in the year; like Jordan Traveler, this site tends to do well in Q4 (October to December) when a lot of my other sites aren’t growing – so it’s nice to focus on using them to stabilize my portfolio through the year.

Maybe Mediavine?

Since I qualified for Mediavine Pro in March 2023 (with Valerie & Valise), I can now apply sites to Mediavine at 25,000 sessions. It would be really nice to reach that level and get the site moved over from SHEMedia to a potentially higher-earning network.

I don’t know if it will happen, but updating old content pluss adding new posts should certainly help!

As you can tell, I don’t have a ton of focus on this site, but I am still working on it and will report back next year. We’ll see how I do on these goals compared to how I did last year!

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!

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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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