One of the most incredible things about the night sky is how, when you’re out under it, you don’t notice the stars moving at all. It’s only when you set up a camera and capture a few minutes of exposure that you realize how much the earth has turned – making the stars wheel overhead in the photo.
That’s kind of how I feel about Space Tourism Guide, a site I started five years ago this month. I had long wanted to focus on space tourism and become the blogging expert in the area; I feel like I’ve done quite well in that area, and the site has been successful by other metrics as well. Heck, “astrotourism” wasn’t really even a thing when I started the site, and it’s now a known and growing trend in travel styles.
As I cross this milestone with STG, I want to share my thoughts – in my usual case study style – so that others can see what’s possible with a site that defines a niche of its own.
🎧 Want to listen to this case study instead? Check out Episode 5 the Site School Podcast!
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:
- Valerie & Valise – 9 years – annual
- Space Tourism Guide – 5 years (this post!) – annual
- Discover Sausalito – 2 years – semi-annual
- Follow the Butterflies – 2 years – semi-annual
- London on My Mind – 23 months – quarterly
- Great Plains Travel Guide – 21 months – semi-annual
- Soup Whoop – 20 months – semi-annual
- Jordan Traveler – 19 months – semi-annual
- Eat Like Bourdain – 16 months– semi-annual
(Links will take you to the full list of reports about that site!)
Here’s a quick glance at the stats for Space Tourism Guide at the five-year mark:
|Date First Published||November 15, 2017|
|Articles Live (as of 11/1/21)||188 (↑36)|
|Publishing Cadence||Twice Weekly|
|Monthly Pageviews (last month)||124,051|
|Average Pageviews per Post||662 (↓36/↓5%)|
|Email Subscribers||3,356 (↓677)|
History & Status of Space Tourism Guide
I started Space Tourism Guide back in November 2017 on a wish and a prayer – maybe someday those space tourism companies might actually take ordinary people to space. While that didn’t happen until July 2021, the site has been cruising along ever since. It also reached an all-time traffic record in August 2022, at over 150,000 monthly pageviews. (Similarly, it’s had some great income months that help make it feel like a success financially too.)
STG has definitely been a roller coaster though, as you can see from the graph above. After a banner first two years, traffic stalled for most of years 3-4, and only started to grow again in this past year.
Today, my writing team and I are focused on updating old content and writing new posts to fill in some gaps in a content strategy I started last year (late 2021). This feels like the right direction to continue, and the cadence of publishing – usually twice weekly – feels sufficient to keep the homepage fresh and content accurate as we move into a new year on the calendar and in the business.
Content Structure & Effectiveness
Here’s a chart comparing the number of articles I’ve written in each category with the percentage of pageviews each category is bringing.
Since the chart is kind of small, here’s the full list of categories on the site:
- Aurora Guides
- Eclipse Guides
- Rocket Launches
- Solstice Guides
- Space Gear (Equipment/Affiliate Posts)
- Space on Earth
- Stargazing Guides → Broken into City, State, National Park, Annual Event, Monthly Events, Astrophotography, and “General” sub-categories
As you can see, Stargazing is far and away the biggest category of my site, and brings in the largest segment of traffic – however Aurora is a close second as a traffic source. I think this is partly because viewing the aurora is incredibly seasonal, and these annual reports occur near the peak of interest in aurora-viewing resources (the winter season in the northern hemisphere).
Unlike other sites where I try to balance the different categories of the site, at this point it continues to make sense to focus in the Stargazing category since it’s an effective traffic-driver and there’s year-round interest in it.
It’s hard to believe how much Space Tourism Guide has changed my life since I started the site five years ago. At the time, I was looking for a way to become reenergized about travel writing, and inspired by the opportunity for ordinary people to have an incredible experience – either the Overview Effect in space, or the simple but powerful awe of seeing the Milky Way and realizing our place in the universe.
This led to a financially profitable website that reaches over 100,000 people each month, a book deal with Lonely Planet, speaking opportunities around the world, and a forthcoming well-paid partnership with a Maldivian resort to help reach more people and show them the stars. By all measures, STG has been a success. Yet now, five years on, I feel less enthusiasm for the project than I ever have.
I think that, despite the dream we’re sold on social media, we fall out of love with creative projects, and that’s okay. Or maybe “fall out of love” isn’t the right expression – our love waxes and wanes for creative projects, as it does in all parts of our lives. Right now, I’m going to continue creating content in line with my strategy, and check in occasionally to see if it’s still worth pursuing.
I also feel confident that – for now – my content strategy is solid. Focusing on stargazing is the way to reach new people and help them experience the awe I want them to feel that I stated as part of my mission. I am content to keep working at it for another year.
As usual in these updates, I like to share a few key areas I’m prioritizing in the next year before I write another case study. Here are three main areas that feel like plenty to focus on.
Keep Making Rainmakers
As I mentioned last year, there are some segments of my site that make sense to keep creating – national park stargazing guides, city stargazing guides, and state stargazing guides. I still have a number of those to do, but I recently put them all into my Editorial Calendar for 2023, and will “complete” that part of my content strategy by the end of Q3. Then, when I sit down to write this post next year, I can look at what might be next for the site – or if it just needs maintenance mode.
Building More Me in the Brand
I didn’t really have a place to mention it before, but one thing that has increasingly bugged me about STG is how nobody really knows it’s me behind the site. I don’t do a good job of putting myself as the face of the brand, even though my name is on the book that was inspired by the site, and I do public appearances on the topic.
I don’t quite know what this means, but I think I need to rework my email strategy to include more me, rework my about page and author bio, and share those public events I do with my audience so they get to know the person (“astronomy expert”) behind the project.
2023 Content Updates
As STG has grown, a larger portion of the content requires annual updates each subsequent year. As I mentioned last year, I need to keep posts updated to keep google and readers happy, and that’ll be a huge focus in the next six months of the content strategy. I’d be remiss – and underselling the work me and my team are doing – if I didn’t mention this as a priority we deserve credit for focusing on.
Okay, I’ll wrap this up here, but I’d love to answer any questions you have. Space Tourism Guide will always hold a special place in my heart, even if it’s less than it used to. Let me know in the comments what more you’d like to know about STG and my plans for it.