The Google Core Algorithm Update (& The May Report)

The monthly report, thoughts on Google's algorithm update and a course recommendation.

Busy days here with less than two weeks left until we get into our car and drive from Florida to Illinois to move into our new home!

I’m about to start packing things in boxes soon. But first, I wanted to share an update on the four sites I’m tracking here. Today’s post also includes some thoughts on the recent core algorithm update and a course recommendation.

With this “mixed bag” of a post, a table of contents could be helpful –

Table of Contents

The May Core Algorithm Update

I know the latest Google update left many website publishers crushed. If you’re reading this and your sites were adversely affected – you have my sympathy. I know how devastating that can be, especially early on.

I am relieved that our portfolio faired well. We’ve had an increase of about 5-10% in traffic across our sites over the last couple of weeks.

We have a simple chart that documents pageviews per week across the portfolio (excluding our forum site). We’re actually coming out of a plateau, as you can see here.

How much of the recent growth was due to the update, and how much is natural growth? That’s hard to say. And there’s always the effect of seasonality on top of that.

It seems like the Google algorithm update may have provided a slight boost but was largely uninteresting (thankfully!)

Still, I’m not happy with that update. Too much random volatility.

There’s no rhyme or reason to this update, as far as I can tell. No one really knows what it was about. It certainly wasn’t about weeding out the junk AI spammers.

As a web publisher, it’s tough to have a sustainable business model in any environment. The more volatile and unexpected the environment – the harder it becomes.

So, what’s my solution?

I’m still thinking about this, but I think it may be time for me to take my own advice.

I blogged about the 10 things that could bring down a web publishing business here.

One of the first items on my list was taking a hit from a Google algorithm update. I suggested mitigating that risk by avoiding not only black but also gray hat SEO tactics. I already do that, and maybe that’s one reason why our sites were spared.

My other suggestion was to diversify the sources of traffic.

It’s definitely time to look into traffic diversification. Specifically, my plan is to work on creating robust mailing lists for several of our sites. I also plan to look into social media again.

I know I explained here why I don’t want to promote on social media. All of that still holds true. But with Google being so fickle, it may be a good idea to diversify some more.

The May 2022 Monthly Traffic and Revenue Report

A quick recap for those who are new to this blog:

I own a portfolio of more than 20 content sites, monetized mainly with display ads. Today, my business makes more than $170K in monthly revenue (And growing!).

I documented my progress in this blog, including detailed monthly reports covering all my sites. In 2022, I switched to reporting traffic and revenue on four new sites.

You can read the initial report here. That post also includes more information about my web publishing business and an FAQ. Please check it out first if you have any questions.

My system in a nutshell

The usual recap. My system is not very complicated.

  1. Find suitable topics.
  2. Create good content.
  3. Scale by outsourcing, using a good workflow.
  4. Rinse, repeat.

I blogged here about my workflow.

If you want to learn how to find suitable topics and produce the right content, check out the courses on my resources page.

I won’t repeat each site’s story – only the basic stats. Please refer to the initial report to learn more about a site.

Site #1

  • Niche: General (the site does have a unifying theme)
  • The first post was published on April 2, 2021
  • Number of published posts: 210
  • Monetization: Display ads + Amazon

I added two new columns this month: pageviews per post and revenue per post. They help assess the site’s progress and overall situation.

Looks like this site has fully matured. It’s steady at just over 300 pageviews per post.

Revenue per post is up a little bit, as expected. I mentioned in the previous report that we had moved it to a different network in April, and it’s taken a while for the site to stabilize. Once it did, RPM was a bit higher.

The effective RPM (including Amazon) is around $28. Not amazing, but not bad at all. I expect the RPM – and overall revenue – to increase in the coming months with the higher RPM rates in Q3 and Q4.

Future Plans

We will likely start dripping content into this site in July. The plan is to add 2-8 articles per month (exact number TBD) to keep the site fresh. I’m curious to see how fast they will rank.

We’re happy to publish more at 300+ pageviews per post and $28 RPM. My only concern is making this site too expensive to sell. Speaking of which –

When to Sell?

I’m pleased with this site. Not entirely sure when to sell it, though.

We should probably keep it until the end of the year, raking in the Q3 and Q4 profits, and then sell based on what should (hopefully!) be around $2,000-$2,200 a month.

By the way, if you’re interested in buying any of our sites once we decide to sell, make sure to subscribe to my mailing list. I will first announce sales, giving blog readers a heads up before the sites “go to market.”

Site #2

  • Niche: Home & DIY
  • The first post was published on June 11, 2021
  • Number of published posts: 226
  • Monetization: Amazon & display ads

This site is still growing and already making a decent $8 per post, making me happy!

Only 235 pageviews per post – which is under our 300 per post benchmark. However –

  1. It’s still growing
  2. The effective RPM is just over $35!

We like the numbers enough to start dripping more content here, too, in July. We hope to sell this site, too, sometime in 2022. Probably closer to the end of the year.

Site #3

  • Niche: Pets
  • The first post was published on May 18, 2021
  • Number of published posts: 119
  • Monetization: Amazon
  • Special circumstances: I created the site on an aged domain that I’ve had for about 20 years as an in-house experiment. I knew the domain was clean, and all of the incoming links were on topic.

Looks like this site stabilized around relatively low numbers for traffic and RPM.

I wonder if maybe the low number of posts affects the traffic numbers. That’s always a possibility. However, with more lucrative sites to invest in, we will not add more content to this site.

I’m hoping to sell the site later this year. It’s a fun pet niche, so it should be easy to grow for those who enjoy writing their own content. Even if you outsource, writers love this niche, and producing more content should be a breeze.

Site #4

  • Niche: Home & DIY
  • The first post was published on August 23, 2021
  • Number of published posts: 214
  • Monetization: Amazon

More of the same with #4. It’s growing. Slow and steady growth. No hockey stick, but I rarely see a hockey stick with my sites.

If you’re comparing poor little #4 with the other three sites, consider the number of posts published every month. A lot of the content there is just too new.

We’ll keep following its adventures and hope to see continued growth over the next few months.

The Website Flip Course Review

I’ve mentioned how we plan on selling the sites that are covered in this report.

The last time I sold a site was circa 2003.

I figured that if we were going to be selling sites, I needed to learn more about buying and selling.

And I like to learn from experienced people. The ones “in the trenches,” who actually make money doing what they teach.

Mushfiq Sarker is just that. He’s a Site Flipper extraordinaire, constantly buying and selling online properties. What’s more, he’s managed to scale website flipping, which I can relate to.

I had planned on buying his course: The Website Flip. Then Mushfiq contacted me a couple of months ago and offered to give me access in return for a mention on Yeys, so I said yes. I was already an affiliate, so why not.

I figured, if nothing else, this would be a much-needed push for me to actually find the time to go through the course.

So, here are my thoughts on The WebSite Flip course. And yes, all of the links (and everywhere on this blog) are affiliate links.

What I liked about the course

Overall, I thought the course was well done. If you’re looking to buy and sell websites, this is an excellent course to get.

Mushfiq Sarker’s top-level strategic approach resonates with me. In this course, he covers strategy as well as the nitty-gritty of buying, holding, and selling sites.

The strategy-level stuff includes an overview of the business plan and things like buying with an exit in mind.

The nitty-gritty stuff covers pretty much everything else.

Suppose you’re looking to learn how to actually flip an online asset. In that case, you’ll appreciate the step-by-step review of the Website Flip cycle, from how to buy, through how to hold and grow, and finally, how to successfully make your exit.

The course certainly covers the basics. For me, this course provided a great way to go over the terminology and acronyms used in the market places.

Another section I found very useful was the one about brokers vs. marketplaces vs. direct deals. It included some insightful analyses, including a thorough comparison of the popular marketplaces. I didn’t know there were so many out there.

The course is filled with detailed case studies. They include actual data – often complete spreadsheets with the P&L per site. You know what else is revealed? Yup, the exact site URLs. I know many people find that extremely helpful.

What’s more, Sarker also added a bunch of “site teardowns.” I really enjoyed those. He takes you through various sites in those video tutorials, providing detailed feedback/criticism and suggestions for improvement. It’s easy to tell he’s got a LOT of experience.

Everything was well laid out. The structure is easy to follow, with modules covering the various aspects of site flipping.

If you’re looking to flip sites or are growing a website in the hope of selling it, I can recommend this course. It also comes with access to a Facebook group and a Twitter group. Some interesting people there that you can learn more from.

If you liked my review and would like to get access, here’s my affiliate link again –

The Website Flip by Mushfiq Sarker

I’ve also added this link to my Tools and Resources page.

That’s all for this update! Hopefully, by the next update, I should be ensconced in our new place in Illinois!

As always, leave me a comment if you can. I’m particularly curious to hear about your experiences and insights following the Google algorithm update.

How did your sites fare and what do you think this strange update was about? Leave me a comment and let me know!

11 Comments

  1. Wow, $170K for the month, that equates to over $2M per year – you’re absolutely killing it Anne, congrats!

    Quick questions with regards to the articles you are adding to sites at the moment:

    1.) What is their word length, on average?

    2.) How much does each article currently cost you, on average?

    • Hi Viral, thanks!
      Our articles are typically 1200-1800 words long. Can be shorter or longer occasionally. The cost question is a good one. We find that our costs are going up as we grow due to the overhead. At this point, we are between $90 to $100 per post.

  2. I am not gonna lie I found it immature that you can talk so much crap about AI writing when you used over 50 writers in one month at some point. You should know that regardless of what instructions you give your writers you’re not safe from having them use AI to write (at least 30 out of 50 will have used it in some way): people fall behind in reaching deadlines because they have a life and sometimes they have to take drastic measures without telling you… read jon s post he’s more humble and mature about this. He understands that he’s not safe as none of who use paid writers are, unfortunately.

    • Hi Lovely,

      Boy, I did hit a nerve there or what. I had to go back to the post to see where I even mentioned AI writing. I didn’t. I talked about “junk AI spammers.”

      AI can be used as a writing aid without a problem, IMO. It can also be used to generate a massive amount of pages on the fly. You could argue the latter form isn’t “real AI,” but that’s what most people call that. The junk AI spammers I’m referring to are sites that produce hundreds of thousands of pages on the fly. That’s not writers assisted by AI.

      What’s more, just because I think those massive sites are low-quality does not mean I’m passing some kind of moral judgment on large-scale hands-free AI-generated content. Using AI-generated content could be a fair strategy for web publishers, IMO. In fact, I’ve mentioned in forums and on Twitter that we’re testing a small-scale site based on AI-generated content. We’re not there yet, but when we get there, I hope to be able to make the most of that.

      The whole point of that section was that I don’t feel safe from these Google updates. That’s not because of AI-assisted writing which, as you said, I have no doubt some of our writers use. You may want to reread the post without that chip on your shoulder. Also, if you wish to comment here again, using a different tone would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Lol, these AI users are as insecure as ever. Look, “lovely”, AI writing sucks. If your articles all use AI writing, then all your articles also suck. It’s the reality of the situation. Deal with it. The shear laziness of AI users and their lame excuses are amazing. That and their poor attempts at gaslighting others to feel empathy for them might as well be a form of entertainment.

  3. Awesome job Anne! Your portfolio just keeps growing to incredible new highs!
    Also good to hear that the update didn’t really affect you. I lost about 30% on one of my sites (which is still pretty small at this point, 35k monthly visits) and the others stayed flat.

    Website flipping is something I’ve always been interested in. I heard of Musfiq before, but maybe it’s time to finally get that course.

    Good luck with moving!

  4. Thanks for this update Anne. Really inspiring to see how far you’re taking this business model!

    Just a quick question about writers. You’re outsourcing a huge number of articles.

    Do you publish them all under your own name, a fake persona (eg. with an AI generated image), or under your writers own names?

    Just wondering whether publishing under a number of different author names may lead to some E.A.T based disadvantages. Same goes for using a fake persona – can Google tell?

    Keep up the great work!

    • Hi Dil,
      I use neither my name nor a fake persona. I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think the current interpretation of EAT is valid. I don’t think Google cares if you have a picture and name. They have zero ways of verifying who the author is, anyway. They’d like to do that, sure. As of now, they can’t. And they’re not dumb. I’m sure they know that web publishers across the web are coming up with fake personas. It just doesn’t matter one way or another.

      We actually have the writers’ names on some sites, just to test it out. Doesn’t make any difference. At the end of the day, Google relies on things like links (possibly with ways to try and determine artificial link-building patterns) and overall user behavior on the page. Google is really limited in its ability to assess the quality of a page, and anyway that can be easily manipulated (e.g. a “persona”) is going to be largely discounted.

      The only question you should ask yourself is whether having the persona there affects your readers. For example, on a health-related site, you will probably do better if there’s an actual physician either writing or validating the content. Showing their name and a bio will encourage trust in your readers. Consequently, it may get you more incoming links and better user behavior. That’s why YMYL sites require more EAT. But it’s not a matter of fooling Google. It’s just user behavior. In most niches, it’s insignificant, IMHO.

Leave a Reply