You started a new website, following the steps in your favorite course.
You did your keyword research as best you could, going after long-tail queries.
You published a bunch of awesome posts. Maybe even dozens of posts.
You gave it time, expecting these posts to generate at least a few hundred monthly pageviews each.
But it’s just not happening. How frustrating is that??
The above scenario isn’t that rare, judging from the numerous threads about it in web publishing forums. I’m going to try and help you out today, with ways to analyze what went wrong and how to fix things. At least, what I would have done in your place.
And yes, I’m back blogging! Yay! As always, there’s going to be a short update on my sites, as well as about my plans for Yeys in 2022. So stay tuned, or just use the table of contents to jump ahead to whatever is most interesting to you.
Table of Contents
- All those posts and no traffic
- 7 things that could keep your site at the ghost town phase
- How to Tell what’s wrong
- A Fast And Dirty Site Analysis
- Where does your page come up in the search results?
- How to fix things
- Yeys plans for 2022
All those posts and no traffic
First, let’s clarify what we mean by “no traffic”.
In most cases, we’re not talking about literally zero traffic. The issue is typically that of a discrepancy between what you expected the traffic to be and your actual stats.
Setting the expectations (and benchmarks)
So, how much traffic should you expect from your website at this point?
You’re going to hear different numbers in various courses and online resources. I can only share my own benchmarks here.
Here’s what I expect a site to make, in terms of traffic –
300 pageviews per post on average
Some posts will fail miserably and bring in fewer than ten pageviews per month. Other posts will generate thousands, and even tens of thousands, or monthly views. Most of the posts will be somewhere in between, with a few hundred pageviews each.
On average, the site needs to pull in at least 300 monthly pageviews per post. That’s an annual average, mind. Seasonality is often at play. More on that later on.
Why 300? For two reasons –
- First, taking into account a conservative RPM of $25, 300 pv’s per post equals $8 per month per post. Assuming an investment of $80 per post, we can expect to recuperate the investment in well under a year. Then the rest is profit. That’s a good balance of risk for my business needs.
- Secondly, 300 monthly pageviews, is what we typically see with our sites. So, it serves as a good benchmark.
I know that some course marketers claim that they can get an average of one thousand pageviews per post. Good for them. I can’t do that. I’m sure it happens sometimes. But if you’re new to this business, I would suggest sticking to a more realistic benchmark.
7 things that could keep your site at the ghost town phase
With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at what could be causing your site not to meet that 300 monthly pageviews benchmark.
1. Domain issues
In my experience, once you have a couple of dozens of posts on a site, Google traffic should start trickling in. If you’re seeing zero Google traffic on your site, then you could be dealing with a bad domain. Whether you purchased a so-called “aged domain”, or bought it fresh, your domain could be penalized by Google.
If you haven’t done so yet, check your Google Search Console and look for messages from Google about the domain.
2. Other Indexing Issues
Since we’re looking into sitewide problems, make sure that your pages are indexed. The easiest way to do that is to Google site:yourdomainname.com and make sure that your pages come up. If they’re not, then either your domain is banned (see above), or you may be inadvertently blocking Google from indexing your site.
Keep in mind, getting zero search engine traffic is a fairly rare occurrence. I just wanted to get these potential reasons out of the way.
3. Not enough posts
How many posts do you have on your website? If you’ve only published a couple of posts, I wouldn’t expect any significant amount of traffic. Not even a year later.
Yes, there are one-page-wonders out there, but they’re rare these days. For various reasons, that I covered in this post, I believe that a site needs to have a substantial number of posts before it can start pulling in traffic.
How many posts is enough? That would depend on your niche and how competitive it is. But as a rule of thumb, I would say that in 2022, we’re looking at a minimum of 50 posts.
Fewer than 50 and your chances of reaching the average 300 pageviews per post are fairly low. In fact, I shoot for a minimum of 100 posts before making up my mind regarding a site’s success.
4. The site isn’t old enough
If your domain is all “kosher” and you have at least 50 good posts, the next thing to look into is site age.
In my experience, some sites take up to a year to mature. The speed at which they do seems to depend – at least to some extent – on the number of posts. We now try to push the first 100 posts into a new site as fast as possible.
The point remains – if you’re looking at your stats four, five, and even nine months down the road and it’s still bringing in the traffic, you may just need to give it some more time.
5. The content items are too new
When assessing the age of the site, keep in mind the publication dates of your content.
Let’s say you published the first post on the site a year ago. And then posted one post per month for another six months. Finally, during months 7-12, you posted 10 posts per month.
While I would expect to see traffic coming into the site, it’s probably too soon to assess the full traffic potential of those posts. When we analyze the numbers for our sites, we usually ignore posts that are younger than three months, on a mature site.
On a new site? I ignore anything that hasn’t been out there simmering away for at least six months.
6. Seasonality is at play
Before you declare your site a dud, check the calendar. Seasonality could be a factor here.
For example, let’s say your site is about kiteboarding in Maine.
The site was launched in September with 100 posts. The site takes 10-11 months to mature. The posts are finally starting to rank, but it’s now late August.
For the next six months or so, the site is going to look pretty miserable.
7. Your topics are no good [Pay attention to this one]
Time to talk now about what is probably the number one reason for a site falling flat on its face.
I’m talking about the painful task of choosing the right topics for your site. Choose the wrong topics, and the site will struggle, at best.
There are two things that can go wrong with your topics.
Your queries are too competitive
First, you could be going after queries, or search terms, that are too competitive.
Especially with a new site, you have to look for those queries that are underserved. That means no one else has created a page that’s dedicated specifically to that topic.
Keyword tools can only tell you so much about the competition (i.e. keyword difficulty). You have to search Google for the question and assess the level of competition yourself. I don’t know any shortcuts around that.
Your queries don’t have the search volume
It could be that you found queries that have zero competition. No one produced a page that addresses that question specifically. It’s a solid longtail query, with its own unique search intent, too.
The problem? Not enough people are searching for this term on Google.
And no, you’re not catching any additional traffic with that post either.
Pages that rank and bring in no traffic are duds. They may still have their merit, mind. Anything that ranks high on Google is somewhat beneficial. It shows you that Google does trust your site, and who knows, someday it may pull in a backlink too.
How to Tell what’s wrong
Now that we’ve covered the main reasons, here’s how to go about figuring out what’s wrong with your site.
The first five reasons are relatively easy to check –
- Is your domain penalized or banned?
- Is your site fully-indexed?
- Do you have more than 50 posts on the site?
- Are at least 50 posts a year old?
- Are there seasonal trends in your niche that you failed to take into account?
Let’s assume that everything checks out so far. Now what?
A Fast And Dirty Site Analysis
It’s time to conduct what I like to call a “fast and dirty” site analysis.
1. Open up your content plan spreadsheet
You do have one, don’t you? If you don’t hurry up and start a spreadsheet that includes at least a list of your titles, the URLs, and the date of publication for each post.
2. Add a column with your monthly pageviews figures
Since it’s search traffic we’re focusing on, I filter the traffic in Google Analytics to search traffic only. I use the segmentation feature to get that data.
You can then either download the results and match them up with your content plan, or you could just manually jot down the numbers for each post.
3. Sort out your spreadsheet by the number of monthly pageviews
Use “sort column A-Z”, so that the pages with the least amount of traffic show up at the top. We’re doing that so that you can focus the analysis on these duds.
Remember, this is something you can do only when a site is mature – preferably at least a year old. If you have posts that are under four months old, filter your data to ignore those. They may not have had the chance to rank just yet.
4. For each post, run a Google search for the query
This isn’t necessarily the title of your post, but the search query that you were going after with that post.
For example, if your post is titled “31 gorgeous red leather armchairs”, then your target query is “red leather armchairs”. If you search specifically for your title, your post is more likely to rank at number one, but that’s not what Google users are doing.
Just run the same search query you expect your users to be using.
Where does your page come up in the search results?
This is when you find out why your post hasn’t generated the expected amount of traffic.
You’ll be seeing one of two things at this point.
Either your post is on the first page of Google’s search results, or it is not.
Of course, there’s the issue of where on the first page it is. Is it the number one result? Number three? Or maybe number nine?
There’s also the question of what the search results look like. Are they pure textual search results? Or are rows upon rows of ads, images, and videos coming up first?
But let’s assume for now that you’re dealing with clean textual result pages. Later on, you’ll learn to compensate for other types of search results. So, can you see your site there on that first page?
If you can’t see your site on the first page of Google’s results then in all probability, you went after a query that was too competitive.
If you can see your site on the first page of Google then you went after a query with a search volume that’s too low.
Going through this process can be a real eye-opener. Sometimes it’s the only way to figure out what works in a certain niche and what doesn’t. What do people really search for? What is the competition really like?
This is an ongoing process, and sometimes insights are acquired over time. But it’s the first thing I would do to understand what went wrong with a site that wasn’t pulling in the expected amount of traffic.
How to fix things
Here’s a quick recap of the potential problems, and some tips on how to possibly fix them. Let’s see how this might work in a table format.
|Why no traffic?||What to do about it|
|Domain issues||Register a new domain and transfer your content to the new site. I’m sorry this happened to you but I really don’t know of any good way to get Google to unban a domain.|
|The domain is fine but pages are not indexed||Check your WordPress settings to make sure you’re not discouraging search bots from indexing your site. If that doesn’t help, it’s time to consult with an expert (or ask on forums)|
|Not enough posts||Add more posts|
|The site isn’t old enough||Have patience, young padawan.|
|Content isn’t old enough||See above – there’s a waiting element to this game.|
|Seasonality is at play||Either accept that and wait for the right season to kick in, or see if you can diversify your topics to hit some less seasonal aspects of your niche.|
|Topics issues: Queries too competitive||Keep the pages you have and start working on content that targets less competitive queries. Down the road, your site could gain more authority and your older posts may still rank.|
|Topics issues: Your queries don’t have the search volume||Well, now you know what doesn’t work so well in your niche. Time to dig in and find more queries to answer. Make sure you only choose queries that Google actually auto-completes and not just things that you (or your writer) find interesting.|
Should you start building links?
I wouldn’t do that. Especially not before you figured out what’s wrong.
The way I see it, link building could *maybe* work if the issue was that you went after overly competitive queries.
If that’s the case, then maybe – just maybe – getting more domain authority might help push your pages up the SERPs.
Personally, I wouldn’t do it. Link building isn’t my thing. I find it to be too expensive, time-consuming, and the results uncertain, at best. What’s more, you never know when Google will come after your chosen method of link building.
I’m not saying that link building is bad. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t do it.
Should you work on your E-A-T?
In my experience, the so-called E-A-T factors that are touted by some courses are irrelevant.
Or at least, my sites seem to rank well without those superficial (and easy-to-fake) E-A-T signals. Whenever I experimented with hiring experts to write articles, or just adding writer profiles, it didn’t make any difference.
Should you seek other traffic sources?
That’s definitely an idea. If you have great content that people don’t actively look for, social traffic may work well for you. I’m not an expert on how to get social traffic, but if the low search volume is your problem, but you think the topics should still appeal to fans of the niche, then social media is something I would look into.
Should you abandon the site?
I think that the hardest “fail” to fix would be this: Going into a niche that’s just overly saturated and over-competitive.
You may notice I haven’t mentioned going with a YMYL niche as a potential issue. That’s because I think that the problem with YMYL niches is that they are too saturated and overly competitive. IMHO, in order to compete in a YMYL niche, you need a very large high-quality site. Possibly with thousands or even tens of thousands of good posts. It’s just too high an investment.
If you made the mistake of creating a new site with around 100 posts, trying to take head on the mammoths of a YMYL niche, then maybe – just maybe – it really is a lost cause.
I wouldn’t suggest abandoning the site per se, but I would definitely look into ways to move the site in a “softer” direction, towards topics that are less competitive.
So much for fixing sites that have no traffic.
Yeys plans for 2022
Now, as promised, a quick update on my plans for Yeys in 2022.
The last time I published a report was in October when I shared that my sites made over $100,000 in revenue during the month of September. I mentioned back then that I will no longer publish revenue and profit numbers for my entire portfolio.
As much as I enjoy bragging about my six-figures monthly income (it kept going up since then), I’m going to stick to my decision.
It makes even less sense to share our expense breakdown at this point because, as I found out this year, once you scale beyond a certain point, the nature of your expenses changes. What we spend these days on accountants, legal services, COO services, PEO’s and other nasties – that’s all pretty much irrelevant to most readers of this blog.
Suffice to say that the business is still profitable and still growing. Both in revenue and expenses. Those of you who are members of Jon Dykstra’s Fat Stacks forum are probably familiar with my revenue numbers because I sometimes share them in the awesome “Milestones Thread” there.
That is a private forum, mind. You need to buy one of Jon’s courses to become a forum member, so here’s my chance to plug Jon’s course and throw in my affiliate link.
The last six months have been rather crazy. Between moving to a new country and growing my business, I’ve had very little time to blog here.
I’m still hopeful that this might change in 2022.
So, here’s my New Year’s Resolution (yes, a week early – one has to plan ahead!):
- I’m going to post on Yeys at least twice a month.
- At least one post each month will focus on traffic and revenue reports for a few of our newer sites.
The idea is to allow those of you who are new to web publishing to follow the growth patterns of young sites, similar to the ones you might be building these days.
What’s more, those sites may be up for sale at some point in 2022! While not revealing domain names, I hope that being able to look behind my shoulder and see how we develop and grow these sites might attract prospective buyers.
In fact, just for fun, I’ll also post my estimate of the site’s worth along with every report, as well as a BIN (Buy It Now) price, reflecting at what price I’d be willing to part with it, based on expected value down the road. Should be interesting to see how this develops.
That’s all for today! I’m glad to be back, and I hope you found this post interesting. As always, I love reading comments, so keep ’em coming and I’ll do my best to respond them.
Happy holidays everyone and Happy New Year! I’ll see you in 2022!