SEO Case Study – Why You Need to Be Patient (4-Years of Data)

Today, we’re going to talk about just how important it is to be patient when you’re building websites. By the end of this article, we’re going to have gone through four years worth of data on a website of mine and take away seven lessons that you can think about when you’re building your own websites.

How I built this website

Before we dig into years one through fourth data on this particular website, I should give you some background context as to how I’ve built this website. This website was an experimental niche for me a few years ago. And over time, I’ve gradually added a few more posts every single month on this website. So give or take at a minimum level, it was 10 posts every single month. And at a maximum level it’s been as high as 30 or more posts every single month. Typically speaking, when I’m creating content, I could release content that is at least 1500 words in length, and it is really trying to take the skyscraper approach of being more comprehensive than any other website out there.

The other thing to keep in mind is that all of this has been done with white hat method. I don’t believe in black hat or even gray hat methods, I believe in playing long term games. And that’s going to actually be one of the key takeaways later on in today’s video. Now, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at year one’s data.

Digging into the month of June year over year result

So here you can see the results of just a one-month snapshot of the month of June year over year. In terms of this particular website, this website had about 17,000 visits in year two, as opposed to my year one visits, which were around 7.8K in the month of June, the year before. So right off the bat, what you can tell is that in between years, one and two of consistently releasing anywhere from 10 to 15 posts a month or so, I was growing traffic gradually over time.

You’re also going to notice how a lot of the metrics are up and to the right, in which with new users, it also leads to more sessions and naturally more page views onto this respective website. When it comes to taking a look at things like average session duration or bounce rates, I’m not too concerned at this point in time in the website building process, mainly just because I’m still building up the core content on this site. And I’m not really trying to optimize anything. But main thing that you can see here is that between years one and years two, I saw some pretty big growth in which traffic year over year was 117%.

Digging into the following year

Going into the following year, between years two and three, you can see that growth tapered a little bit. And here you can see that in year three, the number of users that were on the site in the month of June grew a little bit more in which it grew 33% where the total number of users was 22.4K compared to the prior year, which was 16.8K. So still some gradual growth and the main things that you need to know in between this time period is that I kind of took a backseat in terms of this respective site, because I was focusing on scaling some other sites at that time.

And so it naturally make sense that what happened here was I didn’t release all that much more content. And as a result, the growth kind of tapered as well, but it still was up into the right in overall terms. And then what you can also see is that overall, a lot of the other metrics are largely consistent as well.

And that they’re either going up a little bit, or they’ve gone down a little bit, but nothing too meaningful in terms of changes there. And then when you look at years, three and four, what you can see here is that the number of users I had in year four of this particular website is 32.5K compared to the prior year in which we had 22.4k of new users.

Overall, we’ve seen some different changes over time in which the growth was 45% year over year. But something to keep in mind is that in the month of may Google made a big change to their algorithm. And so there was some traffic impact there. Otherwise it would be a significantly bigger growth period for this particular year.

All of that being considered though, here’s what you can see when I summarize these key stats for you year over year. What you can see is that in between years one and two, it was a massive jump in terms of the number of new users. Years two and three had some steady growth and then years three and four had a little bit more growth in the prior year.

How many words of content I’ve published

But overall, what I’ve done side by side for you here is I’ve actually shown you how many words I’ve published at this point in time in June every single year. So what you can see is that in June of the first year, I had close to 191,000 words published whereas in year two, this was getting close to 1 million in year three, it was close to 1.5 million, but a little bit short. And then in year four, we’re closing in and we’re actually a little bit past now 2 million words on this site.

So what you can see just at a high level from this is that there’s a pretty positive correlation in terms of the number of words that have been published along with the amount of growth that I experienced in terms of users on the site in that particular year.

So now that we’ve had a chance to take a look at the growth over time at this particular website, let’s talk about seven lessons or takeaways that you can apply when you’re building your own websites.

Lesson #1: SEO takes time

The first lesson that I share with you is that SEO takes time. But the long story short is that it can often take between six to nine months of a piece of content being released before you start to see the fruits of your labor for releasing that post.

So what you can tell from this four year case study is that it’s taken a lot of time in order for this traffic to grow. It is still not even at the point where it’s over 50,000 users every single month. That’s my next goal for this particular website. But what you can see is that over time, as I’ve been adding more content, it has gradually been growing in overall authority as well as an overall traffic for the website. And this is including multiple algorithm changes through the years in which the traffic of the site has gone up and down, but all things equal when comparing year over year, my site has continued to grow.

Lesson #2: Focus on what you can’t control

The second key lesson from this is that you really should just focus on what you can’t control. I’ve seen time and time again, some websites that go up and down in terms of organic traffic. And that’s just something that you won’t be able to control. We will never really know exactly what Google wants when they push certain algorithm updates.

And so what you can focus on is creating epic content that is better than anybody else’s and continue releasing content over time. That’s essentially what I’ve done over the last few years on this site, regardless of what month it is, there is at least 10 posts going out on this respective website. And when the numbers change or signal to me that things are picking up on a curve that’s when I invest more on these websites so that I can then see if I can accelerate the growth curve. But overall, what I’m focusing on more than anything else is, am I releasing more new content that is useful and valuable to my respective niche?

Lesson #3: Focus on playing long term games

The third lesson that you can take away from here is that you should really focus on playing long term games when you are site building. What I mean by that is you really need to zoom out from the typical tendency that you’ll have when you’re first starting out your website of checking your traffic every single day. It really doesn’t matter what happens today or what even happens in the week. What really matters is what’s happening over longer time periods of several months or several years.

And that’s why what I’m showing you today is the year over year trends for a particular month snapshot of this website. You’ll notice that if I were to just look at it week by week, I probably wouldn’t notice any meaningful big changes that would’ve happened on this site. But when I compare it year over year, I’m seeing massive changes that have happened for this website in terms of the overall size of the site, as well as the users on the site.

Lesson #4: Zoom out whenever you’re feeling burned out

And that third lesson naturally leads me to the fourth lesson, which is zoom out whenever you’re feeling burned out. And the reason why this is important is because it really speaks to that last point I said, in which oftentimes we will get so in the weeds of looking at our traffic every single day or every single week, that we’re not really thinking about how it’s looking over a longer time period.

And this was really key when you look at years one and and two and three and three and four. Between years, one and two, I was actively adding a ton of content onto this site. I practically five X, the amount of content on the site between years one and two, however years, two and three and years, three and four had a little bit of a drop off in terms of growth rate of total words published. And that was largely a function of me being a little burned out from not seeing a ton of the fruits of my labor for having released so much content.

And this has gradually changed over time in which, as I’ve seen the payback period of my respective post, going down over time in which I’m seeing more sessions with more content that I’m releasing, I’m starting to accelerate the rate at which I’m releasing content again on these sites.

So if you ever find yourself burned out from just creating content or even just scaling your content teams, try to zoom out and look at things from either a three month horizon, a six month horizon or even a yearly horizon.

Lesson #5: Invest to scale

The fifth learning that I’d say is that you need to continue to invest in order to scale. This would not have been possible without scaling my teams. At this point, I’ve got more than 10 content writers working on this respective website. And this allows for fluctuations in terms of my writer’s production and allows me to still hit my content production goals. And so, without being able to scale up my teams, I wouldn’t be able to consistently be hitting my metrics in terms of focusing on what I can control and releasing valuable content for my niche.

Lesson #6: Focus on building sustainability

The sixth lesson that I’d say is that you need to focus on building sustainably and not taking shortcuts. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of opportunities to potentially pay for backlinks or to potentially even offer backlinks back to respective websites and pay for placements that were coming into me, but I’ve always ignored them and I still continue to do so today.

And the reason why I focus on white hat techniques is because I’ve been in this SEO game long enough to see all the gray hat or black hat techniques eventually get caught by the algorithm. So I would rather build something sustainably over a really long time period that I know is not going to see any major decay because I have followed the rule book so to speak in terms of the ways that Google likes to see sites being built.

And I would encourage you to do the same thing. There are always gonna be other YouTube videos that are teaching some sort of technique that might get you a ton of traffic initially. But I ask you to ask them, what does it look like over multiple time periods? Because I have been here long enough to see tons of private blog networks and other things come and go over time and it just isn’t worth the risk reward, in my opinion.

Lesson #7: Content remains king

And then the last lesson I’d say is that content remains king. Ultimately it’s all about the amount of content you’re producing, as well as the quality of the content that you’re releasing. If you are not releasing valuable content that is better than everything else out there, then your site is naturally not going to get eyeballs or attention from other people.

It is becoming a more and more competitive place today because it is so much easier to get into digital marketing. And so it’s a really important for you to think about how you can just differentiate your content. Ask yourself questions like are you asking experts for the respective insights on this particular topic? Are there ways in which you can build unique data insights into your content pieces to make your content really stand out from every other piece on the internet?

It’s really important that you’re not just creating content for the sake of creating content on your respective websites. That’s just to race to zero whereas if you’re creating new forms of value, whether that is surveying people for new insights or just being the best resource in every single way of the word, or just making sure that you really do exhaustively answer every single possible imaginable question that people have regarding the topic that you’re trying to create content from.

When you do this, you will win more over long time periods. And that’s all I got for you. So hopefully from taking a look at this case study, you’ve learned a ton.

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