London On My Mind 3-Year Report
[CASE STUDY]

I recently had a discussion with a V&V reader who claimed that people who love Alaska hate urban areas. I was quick to correct her that while I love Alaska, London is my favorite city in the world – and it’s that love of London that propelled me to almost 85,000 steps while 14 weeks pregnant, and to keep working on London On My Mind during (what I hope will be) the toughest year of running the site.

LOMM 3yr Hero

During my August trip to research for the site and see friends, my husband and I did a Flytographer shoot; little did I know that would be my last smile about my London site for a while… (Kidding – it didn’t get bad for almost a month later!)

London On My Mind has had a tough second half of the year, but I’m not throwing in the towel yet. Read on for a look at the year as a whole, what I’ve been struggling with, and my plans to try and keep moving forward.

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, and 12-month marks. Then I 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 about London On My Mind

Here’s a quick glance at the stats for London On My Mind at its third anniversary:

Date First PublishedJanuary 1, 2021
Articles Live (as of 1/1/24)224
Publishing Cadence3-5x weekly
Monthly Views (last calendar month)21,249 (ouch!)
Maximum Views (in last year)82,335 (August 2023)
Google Traffic (last 12 months)86%
Email Subscribers3,502 (↑2,435)

In the rest of this post, I’ll dive more into the history of the site and where I hope it goes in the year to come.

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

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History & Status of London On My Mind

LOMM 3y Chart

The first two years of running LOMM were the kind of dream we all hope for when starting our sites: the site grew steadily, then accelerated as I tuned into a strategy that seemed to work for Google and my readers… and then, the Autumn of 2023 happened.

After starting the year off with a strong trajectory again, the site jumped off a cliff with the Helpful Content Update (HCU), got kicked in the October Core Update, and continued a downward slide the rest of the year. Admittedly some amount of this decline was certainly seasonal – you can see a decline between months 21-24 last year too, after all.

But dang, it’s been frustrating to watch all the progress made in the last nearly-two years erased in a few months, due to algorithmic changes and not necessarily because I did anything “wrong.” (While I am obviously finding and addressing areas of improvement on the site, I am also a proponent of the argument “well, Google and readers liked it for so long, so it couldn’t have been that bad of content to hit this site so hard!”)

While I normally like to be optimistic about my sites, it’s pretty hard when I think about LOMM, and that’s been reflected in my commitment to the site. I’ll come back to this below.

Strategic Takeaways

As usual, I want to next turn to what I’ve learned specifically from this site in the past year, before setting some areas for focus in the next one.

The Only Constant is Change

I think we were all surprised when the Helpful Content Update dropped in mid-September, as it was unlike almost any other Google algorithm that has ever been released. But then, when Google released the October Spam update two weeks later – and the October Core update just a few days later and running simultaneously –, I knew we were in trouble… and then they just kept at it almost all autumn long! (In total, there were… five official and several more unconfirmed updates/periods of volatility.)

The old adage is true, even for a tech behemoth: the only constant we site owners should expect is change, and we need to run our businesses accordingly. This means not having all your eggs in one basket, whether that’s multiple traffic streams, multiple income streams, and/or multiple sites. (Turns out my insane run of starting sites in 2020-2021 was good even if I’ve typed my fingers to the bone these past few years!)

Google is Dead, Long Live Google

After the autumn of hell, I mean, Google’s relentless updates, you’ll hear a lot of site owners talking about diversifying traffic right now – and absolutely, that has been important for years (and I’ve been saying it). But let’s be honest: we’re all still junkies for the easy hit of organic search traffic from the monopolistically-huge market leader that is Google Search.

As my own time is constrained in the first few months of this year as I become a mom (and, let’s be honest, for the rest of my life 😅), I am still focusing on how to figure out an effective strategy for organic traffic – even if it’s not as easy as it was to get those hits.

What’s Next?

Those two strategic takeaways might seem contradictory: diversify, but don’t give up on Google even as the big G keeps kicking you in the face…? Yeah, I feel the same about LOMM, which is why I’ve been struggling to find motivation and commitment to work on the site at all for, oh, four months now!

As I feel like it’s almost impossible to predict what might happen with this site this year (I just had my first 1k traffic day in months, before writing this update), I’m focusing on some other parts of the business before I make any major decisions later in the year, as necessary.

Manage Expenses vs Growth

After expanding my writer team in the late summer, I’ve been watching LOMM bleed money ever since due to traffic drops. My goal in 2024 is to get a better handle on this; I love the writers I’m working with on the site and think they are helping a lot to make the site a better resource, but I can’t continue to spend at the rate I have been while earning so little.

I’ve already made adjustments for this first quarter of the year, and have some ideas for how to help keep my writers paid but still keep the site close to financially viable. (It’s worth noting that I do allow some sites to “lose” money while others “make up for it” – but it has to be sustainable in the long run or I won’t be in this business much longer!)

Keep Trying New Content Types

While I have – historically – endorsed leaning in on what I call “rainmakers” (the types of posts that are already working well for you), I also think it’s important to try something new when what you’ve been doing is not working.

I’ve spent a lot of time at the end of 2023 brainstorming ideas for new content types that will still fall within my target for the audience I want to serve with this site (non-London locals, as you might recall from last year’s update). Because I like to be transparent here, this currently looks like attraction reviews, which look like “London Eye review” or “Tower of London review.” I’m not sure how the site will perform on these keywords, but I’ve gotta try something new!

Triage Low-Performing Articles Quarterly

In my article about how to delete blog posts, I run through a “triage” system I use when an article isn’t performing as well as I’d hope. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of articles on LOMM right now. I did go through a big deletion in Q4 of 2023 (almost 40 articles), but there are still plenty more that need to be updated and/or kept an eye on for future work or deletion.

To that end, I’ve started scheduling updates to some of the major articles on the site, including the heavy-hitter itineraries that should probably be updated annually anyway. My goal in 2024 will be to get better at creating a system for keeping the site accurate and helpful for readers at any point in time – no matter how much traffic it’s getting.

Have any questions about how my London site has grown in the past three years or what I’m focusing on next? Let me know in the comments!

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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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