Jordan Traveler 3-Year Report
[CASE STUDY]

This year has been a rollercoaster for site owners… she says, in the understatement of the year.

Maybe you, like me, saw some of your best traffic ever in the late summer and early autumn of 2023. Maybe you, like me, felt you had finally started to see the rewards for the hard work you put in, creating content that helped readers do things – whether that was travel, cooking, crafting, raising a family…

And maybe you, like me, have seen it all come crashing down in the last six months.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the most frustrating thing about the past six months has been for me as a site owner, as each of my sites seems to have a different set of reasons and issues to explain why traffic has dropped. In some cases, it was the Helpful Content Update, which has acted as the equivalent of a manual penalty; in others, it’s been core updates where my site was demoted in favor of bigger UGC sites. Some sites even show signs of traffic losses from both! In all cases, recovery seems virtually impossible.

This recap focuses on Jordan Traveler, which has been systemically demoted in the October and March Core Updates. Read on for a look at the past 12 months of running JT and what I plan to do next.

What are these Case Studies?

As a reminder, I do case studies for almost every site I’ve created, at the 6-month, 9-month, 12-month, 18-month, and 24-month marks. If a site reaches its two-year mark and I plan to continue writing, I’ll switch to annual reports; currently, all of my sites are more than two years old!

Here are the ages of each site, and a link to the case studies I’ve written about each one:

Now let’s dig into the specifics of Jordan Traveler and my plans for it.

Fast Facts

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

Date First PublishedMay 7, 2021
Articles Live (as of 5/1/23)99
Publishing CadenceBiweekly-ish
Monthly Pageviews (last month)7,623 (Apr 2024)
Highest Pageviews (30 day max)65,196 (Sept 2023)
Email Subscribers230
Monetization/Amount Earned (total)$28,055 (23% from ads)

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

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History & Status of Jordan Traveler

Looking back on 2021, I feel like I was a travel blogger with such optimism for my industry. After being pummeled during the pandemic when travel almost completely stopped, I launched several sites in that first year, including Jordan Traveler. (It was actually one of the last ones I launched!)

As travel began to recover, the traffic to JT soared, and I felt proud to have created such a comprehensive resource to help people visit a place I love so much. There was definitely seasonality on the site, but it was actually an incredible complement to my site portfolio, as JT tended to get more traffic in the late autumn when most of my other sites decreased traffic. JT was also a great earner, with – for a time – better earnings-per-visitor than any site (including V&V some months!).

In an unsurprising voice to add to the chorus, Google disagreed that JT was actually worth ranking, and began demoting the site in the October Core Update. This is important to note: Jordan Traveler was NOT hit in the Helpful Content Update; it was hit in the October Core Update and again in the March Core Update.

Since then – and compounded by the bullshit in Israel – JT has been on a freefall, and has lost about 93% of the traffic it had at its peak. On keywords the site used to rank very well for, it is now virtually unfindable in favor of other general travel bloggers, Tripadvisor forums, and (rightly so) the official Jordan travel organization site.

So… with all that… what’s next?

Strategic Takeaways

As hard as it is when a site has dropped to almost-zero traffic, I think it’s still worth my time to sit down and think about what I’ve learned. Even when we have no/little control over what happens, we can still learn… so here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Google Hates Travel Sites – There’s no two ways about it: Google punished sites like Jordan Traveler on purpose because they wanted to promote their own travel products and AI. It’s on purpose, and it’s personal, and there’s no incentive for them to change that system, so we’ll just have to move on.
  • Sometimes You Have to Be Stubborn – I think in all business, part of success is just being willing to stick at things when the going gets tough. I like working on this site, and I know it’s helpful for readers based on comments. Fuck it, man, I’m sticking at it even if my traffic is 5% of what it was, but I’ve gotta only spend 5% of my time and effort on it as a result.
  • Do Your Work with Purpose – In the past year, I’ve thought a lot about the different sites I run and why; in the case of Jordan Traveler, my primary purpose is to help people visit a place they might be scared to do so. I’ve also realized a second purpose for this site in particular (and London My Mind too): I want to be able to earn enough from the site to visit again*, so I keep the site going and work at it to accomplish that goal.

*I feel like a lot of people have said that site owners like us are just in it for the money and deserved to be punished for having the wrong priorities, but I know a lot of us travel bloggers were just doing it to help cover our travel costs because it’s something we love to do. That’s definitely what JT has always been for!

What’s Next

Last year at the two-year mark, I set the following areas of focus for Jordan Traveler:

  • Comprehensive & Self-Sustaining Content – I came up with a few content experiments last year, which I tried to some success and some failure. I’m adjusting course again based on those results – but the key to keeping a site helpful in the long term is constantly trying new things to help readers, which I’ve been doing with this site despite Google demoting it.
  • Build Off-Google Traffic Sources – Last year, I wrote “JT has been a stool with one leg;” Google’s attack on niche travel sites could not have made that clearer. I did not completely focus on this goal, which is why the site took such a big hit to overall traffic hit in the past year.

And here’s what I’m thinking about in the coming year.

Consolidate & Optimize

While I generally think the advice site owners have been given in the past 7 months since the Helpful Content Update and October Core Updates has been throwing spaghetti at the wall, I’ve always been a proponent of keeping one’s content organized and building a site with the most helpful resources possible. (That’s why I have a whole triage system for low-performing articles before deleting them!)

JT – as with all of my sites – has some dead weight, unhelpful articles, and such. This year, I’m working to clean up and consolidate the site, plus update and optimize other articles to make sure that every article is as good as possible for readers who want to visit Jordan.

Slow But Steady Strategy for New Content

In addition to updating and optimizing existing content, I think it’s really important to keep adding new articles as a signal to readers (and search engines, not that we’re supposed to write “for” them). I’ve got a small list of new articles I want to add in the next year, filling in some gaps in my overall strategy. Best of all, inspired by Google’s advice to “write for your readers, not for us,” these are topics I don’t expect to rank for at all – but which could be very helpful for my readers if they find them.

Noindex to Give Google the Middle Finger

Okay, so I’ve been pretty neutral about Google in this recap, but here I’m going to take a stand: they do not care about small sites like Jordan Traveler, and the traffic I’m getting from Google is so small that it’s almost meaningless. Simultaneously, Google still continues crawling my site and using it to build their AI tools… (weird, right? Because if my site is so bad, why is it worth crawling???)

I haven’t done it yet, but I’ll probably pull the trigger on blocking the Googlebot from Jordan Traveler in the next few months. If the contract that “I produce great content for readers to read for free and in return Google sends me traffic” is broken, so is the contract that “I produce great content for readers for free and in return Google can crawl that content to build AI tools that have now replaced me.”

(It’s worth noting I’ve already blocked the Googlebot from London My Mind and it didn’t really affect traffic enough for me to get upset after all the traffic losses that site has had. But I sleep a lot better by not being in bed with Google on that site anymore.)

Social Media for Traffic…???

As usual, I’m always debating the power of Instagram to help grow my site. My account hasn’t grown a ton in the last year because I haven’t really been posting, but I feel like it could help if I just tapped into it more consistently… I’m going to leave this as a maybe-goal, but let’s be honest: nobody’s going to be surprised if I come back to update y’all on this site next year and I haven’t done anything. 😂

Okay, that’s a good spot to wrap things up. Do you have any other questions about this recap for Jordan Traveler? 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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