I’ve added a small FAQ at the bottom of this post that answers some of the questions I’ve been asked about this small project before and after I started writing about it.
This was the month I began working on the site. There was very little article publishing and a lot of playing around with layouts, colors, and other non-value-adding work. I even began playing around with a design system in Figma, but quickly realized that was a huge waste of time.
Eventually, I got the site live and started writing some of the first posts. This month I managed to publish 3 posts.
This month I continued to work on the design and architecture of the site. You’d be surprised how many times I changed the CMS structure, how things should relate to each other, and what the URLs should look like.
Eventually, I managed to write and publish another 3 posts, just like in January. This month was also the first month that articles were given impressions on Google. The “Users” and “Sessions” numbers were probably all me since I didn’t set up any tracking filters to exclude my own IP. This was also fixed here.
This month I did another refactor of the structure of the site and actually ended up completely redoing all URLs. Not a fun thing to do for an SEO project, and it was pretty clear that a lot of the new URLs took some to get properly indexed in Google, even though I had set up correct redirects on all of them.
Before I built the site, I did some basic keyword research to try and figure out how people searched for the main topic of the site. One takeaway I got from this during March, is that keyword research tools are way off.
The good thing is that they almost always show too small numbers in terms of total traffic potential. Seeing which posts started getting impressions (and clicks) gave me a pretty good idea of which direction to move forward in. This was also what made me redo the site architecture once again.
I managed to publish 5 articles this month. Some were longer and some were very short.
One useful takeaway here is to start out by publishing short, medium-quality articles with different topics. Then wait, observe and see which gets impressions. Then optimize accordingly.
This month I didn’t do a complete refactor of the site structure (wow!) but instead added small features to it, such as putting posts in correct hierarchies and making sure they had FAQs added as a schema in the head tag and a few other changes.
This was also a month when I didn’t do much work on the site at all. Not because I lost interest, but the time just wasn’t there. This is a site I have fun with during my free time. If I’m doing other stuff, this likely gets neglected.
One takeaway here is to notice the power of time when working with SEO. Impressions and clicks still increased despite spending less time on the site, and this was likely due to the work i did in March.
This month I added a small dashboard to track the performance of the site. I know creating more content helps it grow, but visualizing it this way really motivates me to keep working at least just a little bit on it.
Initially, I actually automated everything, so that the dashboard pulled data from the CMS, Google Analytics, and Search Console. But I remembered the power of actually writing down what I’d done throughout the month, so now it’s just pulling numbers from the spreadsheet I’m also showing each month.
Graphs always look nice when they’re starting from 0, but my point here was to show both leading and lagging metrics for the site. Again, to highlight the point of continuing to work on it.
May was the month I published most amount of my articles to date, but it wasn’t until the end of the month that I started writing them. It may be the dashboard (and the nice increase in performance) that spiked a little more motivation to keep going.
I managed to publish 7 articles, but again, most of them were at the beginning or the end of the month, cause that was where I felt like it.
Believe it or not, in June I decided to change the site architecture (again). I spotted some difficulties with some things I wanted to try out, so I decided to spend (too much) time figuring out how to restructure it and solve that issue.
I ended up creating entirely new content models in Contentful which took quite some time, but being on the other side of it now, I still feel like it was worth it. But it came at a cost…
This month I only managed to publish 3 articles, as a clear result of spending too much time on the technical stuff. But Google (and the other search engines) were good to me and the site still grew nicely.
As you can see, the metrics moved in the right direction, so despite my limited efforts in adding more content, it still turned out to be a great month.
July was a good month where I managed to focus on publishing substantial amounts of content and do a little refactoring of the site.
I implemented TailwindCSS (both on the niche site and my personal site) which has a big win for me. I love the framework after having tried it in another project and it makes things SO much easier.
If you've ever considered trying it yourself, I can only recommend doing so.
In July I published 7 new posts which I was pretty happy about (wait until you read next month's update).
Looking at the results, this was also the month with the biggest uptick in search impressions and clicks from Google. All things I'm happy out.
August was vacation time and I really didn't do much on this project during my vacation.
As you can see, no content was added to the site during this month. I added a few small sections to existing posts and added a few links from older content to newer content.
As you can see here, impressions and clicks still increased quite nicely during August. But things like the click-through rate in Google are not performing that well. This is something I will focus more on later.
September was yet another poor month in terms of content production but it was actually the best month of the site so far. Let's see why 👇
I only managed to publish one post for the site this month. I did this pretty early on during the month. But as you can see here (and in the graph below), the traffic grew pretty nicely.
I didn't publish much content, but I started thinking about how to capture value from the visitors and lay the foundation for potential future monetization.
I've had signup forms on the site for quite some time - I just haven't done anything with the leads yet. I'm still not sure exactly how to generate any revenue from this site, so my idea is to publish different types of content with content upgrades and see if I can start conversations with people signing up about the problems they're facing.
September was the best month for the site in terms of sessions. It grew from 570 in August to 912 in September. I'm pretty happy with that and especially excited to see the site grow even though I haven't been putting new content out.
You can see that the search impression amount was basically the same as in August. The main reason for the growth is the increased click-through rate which increased from 0.9 to 1.4%.
Google has recently released a few bigger updates to its search algorithm, but I'm not sure if this has caused it or if the site is just gaining more authority in the SERP.
October + November 2022
October and November were months when I didn't do much to the content of the site, but I played around with a new thing! Let's dive in.
Very easy to write the update here, because I only added 3 posts to the site in October and didn't add anything during November.
From the table above you can see that impressions in Google have flattened out. This makes sense, as I haven't really published any new content.
Clicks and sessions have still managed to go up quite nicely over the past two months, which is very hard not to love. This is what this experiment is all about.
As mentioned in the last update, I started capturing a few leads a while back. Over these two months, I doubled down on that and added more lead capture forms. Here's the chart of subscribers to the newsletter list:
Pretty nice and steady growth! Again, the power of SEO. I added a few "lead magnets" (content people signup to get) and attached a small 3-step sequence at the end of that.
Open rate suggests I should just keep sending these folks emails as a lot of them are being read.
December was yet another quiet month on the content side of things, but the site still grew and actually achieved its largest growth to date.
I didn't manage to add any content to the site but instead spent some time tweaking some design aspects, doing a few structural changes in my content schemas, etc. All things that shouldn't show results until a few months in the future.
As mentioned, the results are pretty impressive. The search impressions grew almost 50% compared to November and the sessions grew by over 50%.
Since I have only been running this site for just about a year now, I can't say if there's a yearly trend that reaches its max in December, but I guess January numbers will tell!
I also continued capturing leads and you can see that I added quite a nice amount of subscribers to the newsletter. This is still not something I'm working much on, but I plan to set up some longer form of automation sequence in the near future.
If some of the leads get cold in the meantime, so be it. The most important part to me is to tweak the engine to make sure it generates enough leads so that once I have something to offer, it will land in front of enough people.
This month I crossed the 1-year mark for the niche website. I started thinking about whether I'd say I reached the 1-year goal or not.
I didn't set one but had I, I'm pretty sure I would have reached it by now.
The site grew a nice chunk this month as well. In terms of percentages, it wasn't the biggest month.
But it definitely was in terms of absolute numbers.
I did manage to publish a few posts as well, and they've also shown data that I can pretty quickly iterate on.
I managed to publish 4 posts this month. They were published at the beginning of the month, so a part of the growth was caused by that, but nowhere all of it.
One of the metrics that I'm most proud of is the avg. pageview count per session. This metric has been moving in the right direction almost ever since I started the site.
This tells me that a cluster of interesting content around this topic is slowly being built.
Let's look at the results for January! Impressions grew from 60k to 90k and sessions grew from 1734 to 2900. Overall something I'm pretty happy with.
I added the newsletter subscriber graph to the overall dashboard. I now think of this dashboard in 3 parts:
Inputs - what do I create of new content and site structure changes that should affect how crawlers view the site?
Search appearance - how does the site perform in search engines in general?
Outcomes - how many sessions and newsletter subscribers do this bring?
From top to bottom, these are the things I care about. What could eventually be at the top is earnings for the site, but for now the subscriber count is what I care the most about.
Each graph brings its own insight and provides a really nice overall health check for the site.
I'm guessing February will be a down month where numbers go back to something similar to December, but let's see!
I'll try and continue to update this post every month, but feel free to ping me on LinkedIn if I'm falling behind (thanks to the person who did this!).
Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve been asked a couple of questions by friends and visitors of the site, so I decided to share them here for others to read (and who knows, someone might ask a similar question on Google someday).
Which tech stack do you use to run the niche website SEO project?
I’ve built the site around a set of free tools (some of them running usage-based freemium plans) that include:
Gatsby for the frontend
Tag Manager for tracking pixels
Google Analytics for website analytics
Contentful for CMS
Google Docs for writing
Make.com for behind-the-scenes automation
Notion for project management
What is the end goal of the website?
For now, there is none. Initially, I was just testing frameworks like Gatsby and how they work with Contentful. Now I just enjoy playing around and seeing numbers go up ;).
Are you building any links to the site?
For now, I’m not. I might in the future, but I also know that you can go a long way without doing so. As an experiment, I might have someone help me build a few links someday, but it’s not a focus at the moment.
How (if at all) will this site make money?
As mentioned, I'm mostly doing this to learn new stuff. Frontend frameworks, content writing, SEO, email sequences...
However, I have been thinking about if there's a way to earn a little bit of cash. If I add display ads to the site, I expect I'd be able to land on a $10-$30 RPM (earnings per 1000 pageviews). The site had 2694 pageviews in November, meaning it could earn between $26 and $78 if I set it up correctly.
This would probably build more motivation to work on the site, as you would be able to see a correlation between the work and the monetary output. It would also enable me to find and pay other people to produce the content for the site.