Q2 2023 Check-In: Accountability on All My Sites

Three months ago, I sat down with myself to check in on all of my sites; as part of each site I run, I do case study recaps – usually at 6/12/18/24 months and then every year thereafter. During these, I set areas of focus for the coming period/year between recaps. But I wasn’t really checking in on those much – and then was actually surprised I wasn’t completing them.

That first recap – for Q1 2023 – was really helpful for me, as it forced me to take a timestamped look at each site, and be honest with myself about how I’m doing on the goals I set. It’s been another three months, which means it’s time to look again at my goals, and see what – if any – progress I’ve made; some sites also have new goals now as they’ve crossed milestones where I set new goals.

Q2 2023 Check-In Hero

As a reminder, I’m using the stoplight system Rand Fishkin use as part of his SEO predictions posts each year; I think it’s a clear way to measure how you’re doing (or did) when evaluating things. So I’ve added a stoplight to each of the goals or areas of focus I set for every site, and then counted them up here.

In total, I have 24 areas of focus across 8 sites (which frankly, typing it out, sounds ridiculous!):

  • 🟢 (success/achieved) = 11/24 = 46%
  • 🟡 (in progress) = 9/24 = 38%
  • 🔴 (failure/so far) = 3/24 = 12%
  • ⚫️ (abandoned goal) = 1/24 = 4%

I am actually doing better in Q2 than I was in Q1 – I have more success and in-progress scores. This is obviously a good sign, as it means I’m achieving the goals I set out, or at least working toward them. Ready to dive into each site and see how I’m doing?

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Valerie & Valise

Greyed-out goals in this section have not changed since the last accountability check-in.

Valerie & Valise is my big tuna: my oldest, largest, and best-earning site; it’s also the one I spend most of my time on, understandably. It passed its ninth blogiversary in October, so it’s been about six months since I set these goals; I haven’t passed a milestone since or set new goals, but I did update the relevant goals for Q2.

  • 🟢 Getting all Pre-Pandemic Posts Updated – As in my Q1 check-in, I still have 10 posts from before the pandemic that aren’t updated; I haven’t prioritized these as 8 of them are outside my niche, and the other two don’t make sense to update without re-visiting the destination. As such, I’ve actually changed this goal to green; there are no posts of real value left to update.
  • 🟡 Quick Turnaround on Partnership Posts – Since the end of Q1, my summer travel season began, and I’m currently working to bully my brain into quickly turning around the partnership deliverables for my Montana and Yukon trips. Wish me luck!
  • 🟢 Identify and fill in gaps in my Alaska content strategy – Picking away at this, I am trying to complete a series of posts for each major city/town, so I can create ebooks about them. Once that is complete, I’ll dig back in to come up with other ideas.
  • 🟢 Improve Email Marketing – Maybe it was subconscious, but as I started working on this report, I actually got derailed to finally set up email systems for the majority of my audience. 86% of readers should now see some sort of email collection form during their visit, which feels like a good accomplishment.
  • 🟢 Optimize Affiliate Marketing – Sometimes, a task is a lot of work – other times it’s quite easy. Thanks to my friend Amanda, I rolled out the “LetMeAllez” script from Stay22 – and it has dramatically improved my hotel bookings/commissions. Hopefully, cancellations are going to continue dropping, so that income will realize.
  • ⚫️ Re-Tool Product Strategy – Reviewing my 9-year recap, I’m not actually sure what I meant by this. So… I’m going to dismiss myself from this goal and continue with my Alaska eBook strategy as planned.
  • 🔴 Grow YouTube Channel – Guys, I gotta be honest: I am SO COMPLETELY FAILING at this goal. I know I need to start to focus on YouTube (and Instagram), but I just don’t feel like I have the energy or mental space right now. It’s my hope that by finishing up work on some sites in the next few weeks, I’ll have more time to dive into video.

As these goals haven’t changed, it doesn’t surprise me that my scores haven’t changed much either. That said, I’ve got about four months to continue working on YouTube and make some progress there!

Space Tourism Guide

Greyed-out goals in this section have not changed since the last accountability check-in.

Back in November, my second site – Space Tourism Guide – crossed its five-year mark. I haven’t set any new goals since then, but have made some progress on the existing ones in the last quarter.

  • 🟢 2023 Content Updates – I had a very aggressive Q1 and updated a ton of content that needed minor but essential updates. This is now part of my annual plan – though damn, it’s a lot of work!
  • 🟢 Keep Making Rainmakers – At this point, all of the rainmakers – stargazing city/state/national park guides – are scheduled and will be completed by the end of the year. As I have a good system running on this site, I feel like it’s fair to mark this one as complete.
  • 🟢 Building More Me in the Brand – After doing some work to add more “me” onto the site, I feel like I’ve exhausted the low-hanging fruit; I’ve also begun to drift further from this project/brand, and am less concerned about finding more opportunities to do this – so I’m marking it complete.

In my mind, I’m working to eventually wind down my focus on this site – so having all green lights is a good signal I’m going in the right direction.

Discover Sausalito

Greyed-out goals in this section have not changed since the last accountability check-in.

My third site, Discover Sausalito, is now over three years old. While this was a fun project, I definitely don’t consider it a success only because I failed to adequately scope the size the site could grow to.

Basically what I mean is: when I started DS, I wanted to get it to 10,000 sessions so I could add it onto Mediavine. Mediavine changed its requirements in June 2020 (and again last year) so it will never reach Mediavine levels. That’s really disappointing as advertising is a critical part of seeing any ROI on the site…

So after 3.5 years, I’ve basically never made anything on this site – but it ranks well and gets good traffic given the size of the search volume available.

  • 🟢 Minimal Content Maintenance – On the whole, DS runs a bit on autopilot: it doesn’t need much to stay accurate each year, and there aren’t a lot of posts that could become outdated.
  • 🟢 Keeping Things Updated – Just like with STG, I built a system that allowed me to update a large series of posts at the beginning of the year; this will need to continue going forward, though not until early 2024.
  • 🟡 Monetization…? – While DS is definitely growing thanks to new articles, I don’t think it can double its traffic to reach the minimum for Mediavine through my Pro status, which is 25,000. I’ve thought about adding it to my SHEMedia account, but they’re so annoying sometimes that maybe I’ll try a different network instead…

Not much has changed for this site since Q1, but it’s helpful to think about what might be next… like ever getting a return on the time and money I’ve invested in this site!

Follow the Butterflies

Just after publishing my Q1 check-in, I shared my three-year update for Follow the Butterflies, my Harry Potter site. I was also just looking at this site yesterday trying to come up with a strategy going forward; I haven’t yet figured one out, but I think my new goals are still worth focusing on for the time being:

  • 🟡 Consistent Content – My goal here is to get back into a system of publishing new content and updating old content; so far there have been “new” (including updated) posts almost every week since the end of March, and I have a plan for the same until the end of November. Then I’ll check in again!
  • 🔴 Maybe Mediavine? – Like DS, this site is sitting about halfway to Mediavine levels. While it might make it to the minimum by the end of the year due to seasonality, I don’t think that’s the right ad network for it. While I’m currently monetized on SHEMedia, I’m definitely shopping around for other ad platforms for small sites like this!

While I’m still not quite sure what I’ll do with this site in the long term, I think it’s helpful to have these check-in moments to try and come up with a plan…

London On My Mind

In January, my London site – London On My Mind – passed its two-year mark; these are the goals I set then, which haven’t changed.

  • 🟢 Scaling my Content Team – After trying a content writing team, I’ve decided to scale back content production in the past quarter – it was really overwhelming to manage more than one writer on this site when I have so many other sites too.
  • 🟡 Email Email Email – As part of trying to be more efficient with this site, I switched from ConvertKit to Mailerlite this quarter, and set up a complete welcome series (not sure if I had this before). I’ve been struggling with weekly emails (across all sites, actually), so that’s still an area to improve.
  • 🟡 Social Media…? – Instagram is where I really need to be, but I’ve had good success growing my Facebook group and page this past quarter; those have both been valuable on V&V so I still consider it a success.

LOMM will always be one of the most difficult sites I run, because of the competition and volume; it’s a great opportunity if I can carve out the time and energy to focus on it – and a strategy to implement!

Great Plains Travel Guide

Great Plains Travel Guide crossed its two-year mark just before my Q1 check-in; in that case study update, I decided to sell the site. Now, it’s been growing healthily, and I’m about to apply to Mediavine next month. This sort of changes my plans since it may begin to earn enough to justify the expense of keeping it updated and adding a few new posts each summer… we’ll see!

  • 🟢 New Content & Updates – After setting a summer content plan, I actually got more aggressive and increased the number of posts my writer and I are publishing/updating this summer. Most of that work is already done, and then the site will go on hiatus for the winter. It’s nice to have one site that feels like it’s on cruise control.
  • 🟡 Get Listed to Sell – If I’m able to get this site into Mediavine, that does change my plans a bit: it makes the site potentially more interesting/valuable to sell, but it also may be at least enough to cover the investment of keeping the site updated and active in the future where it can potentially earn more traffic and income and become a better selling opportunity. Tbd!

While my plans for GPTG might be changing, the course I’m following to get there is not – and it’s good to see that it’s all going well so far.

Jordan Traveler

When I compare my sites, Jordan Traveler is actually one of the strongest on my list from both earnings and traffic – though it does have a couple of problems (lower search volume – like DS – and huge seasonality). It just passed the two-year mark, so it’s still quite young, but here are the goals I set. for the coming year:

  • 🟡 Comprehensive & Self-Sustaining Content – It’s hard to articulate, but with several of my sites (DS, GPTG, JT, ELB, and even STG in a way), I’ve been working to “finish” the site – get to the point where I’ve covered the vast majority of topics the site “needs” and then just keep that content updated with new content less frequently. While this means that the sites won’t grow as they have in the past, it’s far less work to maintain a site than grow one – freeing me up to work on other big projects and ideas I have. With JT, I have a plan through the end of January, then will switch to updates for at least a quarter or two to see how the site performs without new content regularly.
  • 🟡 Build Off-Google Traffic Sources – As part of helping my writer grow and develop, I have handed off my social media for JT to her; who knows if this might turn into a bigger part of the business, but it’s nice to delegate! I’ve also started setting up Mailerlite to have a welcome series and at least monthly emails in the future.

I’m looking forward to stepping back from intense focus on JT in 2024, though it has been a good project and I intend to keep it going; in the meantime, it’s just heads down to keep the site growing and see where it can go.

Eat Like Bourdain

Due to some health complications, I’ve reset my goal to “finish” my Eat Like Bourdain site by the end of 2023. Then it too will go into an update cycle for the indefinite future. We’re not there yet though, and I set a few goals in my two-year recap for the site:

  • 🟡 Always Be Publishing – I have struggled in the past few weeks, but I will get back to publishing on this site soon; my energy definitely ebbs and flows!
  • 🔴 Instagram?! – Like V&V, I think that ELB has a really strong Instagram opportunity – which could help revive my Enthusiast podcast idea at some point in the future. I really need to get some of the publishing work done on this site and others before I have the space to focus on this though.

While this section might seem quite short, ELB remains one of my top areas of focus in my portfolio; I know it still has lots of opportunity to grow, and am excited to reach the end of this intense content push in a few months.

Other Sites Not Mentioned

You might notice a few other sites I didn’t mention, and I wanted to address those here. I’ve decided to retire a number of sites I started in 2021, including Soup Whoop (my failed food site), Visit Niihau (my micro Hawaii site), and True Crime Podcasts (a cool idea I just don’t have time to focus on or a good monetization plan for). I won’t be doing recaps of those sites as I’m not publishing them anymore.

I also launched and then immediately quit my Dungeons & Dragons site, D&D Community, back in March/April. I have been really torn about working on this project in the future – we’ll see if I ever have the time and energy!

This post was mostly for me, but I hope you found it interesting. There are always more things to work on! Have any questions about my various quarterly goals? I’m happy to answer 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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