Case Studies

Great Plains Travel Guide 9 Month Report
[CASE STUDY]

Time flies when you’re having fun – and when you’re busy! And to say it’s been a busy three months for my portfolio of sites is an understatement. After returning from Alaska in late September, I entered my most productive time of the year, and also worked on doing a sweeping set of updates for old content on some of my older sites.

But you’re not here to hear about those sites, right? If you’re reading this recap, you’re interested in one of the many small sites I started in 2021. Great Plains Travel Guide (GPTG) was – in my opinion – one of the great opportunities I spotted with huge potential across a large geographic area. After 9 months, there are still no other blogs focusing on this region specifically.

So how’s it going for GPTG? Read on for a recap at the nine-month mark, and see what my plans are as it reaches its first anniversary.

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:

  • Valerie & Valise – 8 years – annual w/ monthly recaps
  • Space Tourism Guide – 4 years – annual
  • Discover Sausalito – 23 months – semi-annual
  • Follow the Butterflies – 20 months – semi-annual
  • London on My Mind – 11 months – quarterly
  • Great Plains Travel Guide – 9 months (this post!) – quarterly
  • Soup Whoop – 7 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
  • Jordan Traveler – 7 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
  • Eat Like Bourdain – 6 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
  • True Crime Pods – 5 months – quarterly starting at 6 months
  • Solar Smarts – 5 months – quarterly starting at 6 months

(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 PublishedMarch 1, 2021
Articles Live (as of 9/1/21)42
Publishing CadenceWeekly (Fridays)
Monthly Pageviews (last month)4909
Google Traffic71.3%
Email Subscribers0
Monetization/Amount EarnedNone

History & Status of Great Plains Travel Guide

You can read the full history and launch plan that I used to start GPTG in the six-month report; today I want to focus on what’s changed in the past three months.

After six months of healthy growth, GPTG had a great month in Month 7, almost doubling my monthly traffic. I was a bit surprised by this, as I expect this site to be seasonal – and this spike occurred in September; I discovered most of the traffic was related to autumn/Halloween keywords so Month 8 (October) was also strong. Then traffic dropped hugely in Month 9 (November) as seasonality kicked in hard.

As such, it’s been hard to make GPTG a priority lately; by raw numbers it hasn’t been growing for a few months now – and the overall trajectory of the site has tempered a lot as winter settled over the Great Plains and the Omicron variant washed across the country.

Content Niche Structure & Effectiveness

As a reminder, 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.

Here’s a breakdown of how many articles I’ve published in each silo (Count Breakdown) and how much each silo contributes to overall traffic (Pageview Breakdown):

Note that all multi-silo posts are marked as other, as is my one informational post.

I always like to compare the percentage of post to the percentage of traffic they bring. Similar to the six-month mark, Destinations continues to carry more than its fair share; the Other category is also helping, mostly thanks to my Routes/Attractions articles that focus on roadside attractions along major Interstates in the Great Plains (here’s an example).

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

I decided to start tracking my coverage of different states, too, since my goal is to be equitable in my coverage of all states within the Great Plains.

However, by using keyword difficulty as one of the main factors in deciding which topics to target, I’ve naturally trended toward less competitive states – Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Oklahoma… which, to be fair, are the four main states which are wholly within the Great Plains anyway.

I’ve also covered Texas a lot, primarily because Texas is huge so there are multiple destinations within the state, and the keywords around driving routes between Texas Plains cities were relatively low difficulty.

GPTG 9mo State Count

Data-Based Progress Report

I kind of already covered what happened in traffic between the six- and nine-month marks for this site.

GPTG 9mo Overall Chart

I had a huge surge in the autumn thanks to seasonal keywords, and have since seen a big drop off – a combination of those seasonal keywords reaching their natural end and the seasonality of this site as a whole.

While I obviously can’t be sure that this site has seasonality since it’s less than a year old, I think it’s safe to hypothesize that travel to the Great Plains drops off when they turn into a cold frozen wasteland each winter.

In any case, the similarity in traffic trends between my London site and this one have completely evaporated – they’re on two very different trajectories now!

What’s Next (Months 10-12)?

As I move toward the year mark for Great Plains Travel Guide, I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do. The site certainly did well given what I published, and I think there’s still good opportunities for it to grow. This is especially true if I could earn space in some of the bigger, more competitive keywords for larger cities in the Great Plains.

However, at this point, I’m feeling the strain of running so many sites simultaneously, and have decided to take a step back from GPTG through the 12-month mark (March 2022). I had already tapered down my posting schedule, but now I’m officially taking a break to focus on other sites that have better opportunities to earn if I can get them to certain traffic levels quickly.

So while I plan to do a 12-month recap for GPTG, I don’t expect the metrics will have changed at all between then. Traffic might be different, maybe up, maybe down – it’s hard to guess – but I won’t have any new posts or have taken steps on other initiatives. As I cross that milestone of one year with the site, I’ll reevaluate what potential the site has and what I’d like to do with it in its second year.

Do you have any other questions about this recap for Great Plains Travel Guide? Let me know in the comments – I’m happy to share anything that I forgot to include!

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