Case Studies

Great Plains Travel Guide 6 Month Report [CASE STUDY]

Welcome to my first ever case study post! I’m starting these posts to document my successes (and failures) in running 12 websites. As this is my first post of its type, I’m not totally sure that I’ve included everything I want to share – or will share – in every case study post going forward. But, I wanted to get this first one out to get feedback about what else I should include, so be sure to comment with any additional questions or info you’d like to know!

As a primer, 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:

  • Valerie & Valise – 7 years – annual w/ monthly recaps
  • Space Tourism Guide – 3 years – annual
  • Discover Sausalito – 21 months – semi-annual
  • Follow the Butterflies – 15 months – semi-annual
  • London on My Mind – 8 months – quarterly
  • Great Plains Travel Guide – 6 months (this post!) – quarterly
  • Soup Whoop – 5 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
  • Jordan Traveler – 3 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
  • Eat Like Bourdain – 3 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
  • True Crime Pods – 2 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
  • Solar Smarts – 2 months – quarterly starting at 6 months

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

I thought about doing 3-month reports, but as you’ll see below, I don’t believe there’s much to report when a site is that young. I might occasionally call out a site if it’s doing something really unique before six months, but that wouldn’t be a regular thing.

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 PublishedMarch 1, 2021
Articles Live (as of 9/1/21)28
Publishing CadenceWeekly (Fridays)
Monthly Pageviews (last month)3953
Google Traffic72.2%
Email Subscribers0
Monetization/Amount EarnedNone

History & Status of Great Plains Travel Guide

I launched Great Plains Travel Guide on March 1st, six months ago, with my standard 10-10-10 launch schedule:

  • 10* posts in the first 10 days
  • 10 posts in the next 10 weeks
  • 10 posts for the next 10 interval-of-my-choosing**

*I actually only published 9 posts in the first 9 days
**I stuck with weekly posting as the cadence felt manageable.

Since then, I’ve published 28 posts, so am coming up to the end of my first 30-post content plan. While the site hasn’t exploded in traffic, it is showing healthy growth each month – in part buoyed by Google Discover – so I’m planning to continue on a weekly cadence indefinitely.

I haven’t done much additional keyword research, as I still have a bunch of ideas from the first big sprint I did that validated the idea I should start GPTG in the first place. I did however use RankIQ to look for low volume keywords about each state in the Great Plains region, which gave me some additional creative ideas for seasonal and trend-based topics.

Content Niche Structure & Effectiveness

GPTG is structured around three silos: Attractions (sights to see), Destinations (places to go), and Routes (exactly what it sounds like). Posts can be more than one type, and there are two sub-types in the Attractions silo: Food & Drink and National Parks.

All content must be focused on the Great Plains states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, plus certain geographies in West Texas and eastern New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.

So far I’ve published:

Silo# of Posts (%)% of Traffic
Attractions11 (39%)23%
Routes8 (29%)21%
Destinations5 (18%)39%
Other/Multi-Silo4 (14%)17%

I always like to compare the percentage of post to the percentage of traffic they bring. For this site, my Destination posts have been doing the heavy lifting – they bring way more traffic than any other silo. Also, these posts are the only ones that seem to get a boost from Google Discover (which I have no control over) which helps explain that result.

My top posts for the past six months (based on average traffic for six months) are:

  1. The 17 Best Things to Do in Casper, Wyoming
  2. The 11 Best Things to Do in Great Falls, Montana
  3. Santa Fe to Denver Drive: Road Trip Tips & Info

In terms of my coverage of the Great Plains states, I’ve tried to keep it evenly distributed – but I do have a bit of a bias toward states that have less competition. For example, literally any keyword about Colorado is way more competitive than any keyword about the Dakotas. I can’t create a clean breakdown of the data by state because all of the Route (e.g. that Santa Fe to Denver post, linked above) and some of the Attraction posts (such as The 23 Best Roadside Attractions in the Great Plains) cover more than one state.

Data-Based Progress Report

Great Plains Travel Guide 6mo Snapshot

As you can see from the chart, after coming out of the Google Sandbox*** around the 3-4 month mark, GPTG has done well at maintaining or growing traffic every month since.

Admittedly, it has only been six months, so it’s hard to know what the future will bring. However, based on its current trajectory, it’s pacing out about one month “ahead” of London on My Mind (meaning whatever traffic LOMM had at month 4, GPTG had at month 3, etc.)

***I know there’s controversy about the existence of a Sandbox, but based on all of these sites, I’m fairly confident there is an “evaluation window” where Google is apprehensive about ranking new sites (which basically equates to a Sandbox). Once you prove yourself and create strong content for those few months, you start to see real growth. Even Space Tourism Guide had a sandbox!

Community Building

I haven’t actually created any email strategy for GPTG at this point, as I’m a bit uncertain how to serve people who are interested in such a wide geographical area. I have a feeling I’ll come around to this once I brainstorm products/freebies that I can offer that might be silo or state-specific; this will be my priority once traffic gets above 10,000 pageviews per month.

I did start a Facebook group for the blog right away though, Great Plains Travel Tips, and it has a whopping 6 members. In the next 3 month, I want to get in the habit of at least scheduling new posts to be shared in that group.

Monetization

Last but certainly not least, let’s talk monetization. As you saw in the Fast Facts section, this site isn’t monetized. I could probably set it up on a small ad network like Ezoic at this point, but I’m going to hold off. First of all, the traffic is still quite low, so the amount I would earn doesn’t really justify the time-expense of setting it up right now.

Second, I’m focused on growing traffic, and occupying the niche I’ve discovered in Google (i.e. the SERPs and ranking positions where there are no great “expert” resources serving this kind of content). I don’t want to interfere with that process for at least another six months, unless Google suddenly gives me a big boost and spikes my traffic up to the point where monetization makes more sense.

Beyond thinking about advertising, I have done some light affiliate promotion, especially in Destination posts (hey, there hotels!) but not much else. I also don’t have any product/service ideas at this point, though it’s on the “think about this someday” list. (Wow, that list is getting long!)

Do you have any other questions about this recap for Great Plains Travel Guide? I’m happy to share anything that I forgot to include!

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