The October 2022 Report

Reviewing the woes of October 2022

Time to share the October 2022 report for the four sites that I’m tracking here on Yeys.

In fact, I usually try to publish the report during the first week of each month. So, I’m a bit late in doing so now. Although to be fair, mailing list subscribers have already received this report directly in their inboxes.

If you want to get the “early bird” version of Yeys, sign up for the newsletter here. It’s free and easy. I never spam and you can always unsubscribe if you don’t like it.

Before we begin, here’s why it has taken me this long to produce the report –

As you may already know, earlier this month, I got busy launching my first mini-course!

And yes, if you’re a newsletter subscriber then you got that notice almost a week ago. And thank you, if you already bought the course!

You can read more about the course here.

And now, without further ado, let’s get into the report.

My web publishing business: a recap

My husband and I own a portfolio of more than 25 content sites, monetized mostly with display ads. Our web publishing business makes over $180K in monthly revenue.

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

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

Our system in a nutshell

We have a simple system –

  1. Find suitable topics.
  2. Create good content.
  3. Scale by using effective SOPs, workflows, and routines.

I blogged here about the 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 each site.

The October Report

If you’ve been following my reports, then you already know that the four sites were all hit to some extent by Google updates in September.

October was just as harsh. Even harsher for a couple of them. Definitely an “ouch” month.

Let’s dive into the numbers and then I’ll add my observations.

Site #1

  • Niche: General (the site does have a unifying theme)
  • The first post was published on April 2, 2021
  • Number of published posts: 235
  • Monetization: Display ads + Amazon

Yup. Following a 30% decrease in traffic, Site #1 was hit again. And harder.

This is what the Google Analytics chart looked like –

As you can see, the hit came later in the month, making the actual numbers worse.

In August, the site had an average of 2373 pageviews a day.

During October the site averaged 1122 pageviews a day, but if you look at late October, that number dropped to 579 pageviews a day.

That’s a total of 75% decrease in traffic overall, between August and today.

As I said, Ouch.

Site #2

  • Niche: Home & DIY
  • The first post was published on June 11, 2021
  • Number of published posts: 239
  • Monetization: Amazon & display ads

It’s a similar picture for site #2, although the drop is milder.

There’s no denying the site was hurt during the October update. It’s just not as severe as the picture we saw with site #1.

Then again, this site was hurt more during the September updates.

Overall, the daily average pageviews in the last half of October was 774. Compare that to 1605 in August and yes, it’s a drop of just over 50%.

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 I’ve had for about 20 years as an in-house experiment. I knew the domain was clean, and all incoming links were on topic.

Site #3 never did too well, but these last updates made everything so much worse.

Overall, about a two-thirds decline in traffic and revenue, comparing summer days to late October.

Site #4

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

Remember site #4? Our late bloomer finally made it over 100 pageviews per post in August, making me hope it was finally coming out of the proverbial sandbox.

But then the updates hit.

The decline here wasn’t too steep, but considering it was already struggling throughout its existence, I feel sorry for #4.

Why I’m not too upset

I won’t lie. Seeing sites take a hit like that is never fun. It’s scary and it hurts.

However, things could have been much worse. Here’s why I’m still a happy camper.

Our portfolio made it through

Had these been my only sites, October would have felt a whole lot more stressful.

Many publishers reported that their entire portfolios were obliterated during these updates. If that’s you – I am really sorry this happened to you.

In our case, the sites in this report are actually the ones that were hurt the most. And they’re among our smaller sites.

For our larger sites, most faired really well. Two of our largest sites even went through a little growth spurt. Only 5-10% but considering these sites were already in the 500K+ category, every percent translates into a healthy chunk of revenue.

So, yes, I’m thankful that overall we faired well.

It could have been worse for these four sites

Were they hit? Yes. Absolutely.

But they did not get down to zero, or close to that. I’m pleased about that.

In fact, when we analyzed the sites, we noticed they still ranked at no. 1 for most of the terms.

In many cases (though not all) Google put video results, shopping links, People Also Ask, and other widgets at the top of the search results page. These are all pushing our sites down the page.

The point is – Google doesn’t think the sites are that terrible. Leading me to believe things may still improve.

In fact –

Things may be improving

Possibly. I’m still not sure, but two of the sites seem to be doing better.

Over the last 7 days, traffic increased by 12% on site #1, compared to the previous 7 days. I can see a similar trend with site #4, though not with sites #2 and #3.

None of these four sites is out of the woods. But it may still happen. Or not. I guess the next few months will tell.

This is a risky business

It’s a little bit embarrassing to share a “bad” report. At the same time, I’m glad that this little case study isn’t going so well at this point.

These reports were meant to provide a realistic and transparent view of what growing new sites can really look like. They do just that, sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I think that too many publishers only share successful sites,  creating a survivor’s bias that has the potential to lead people astray. I don’t want to take part in that.

Sites can fail. Not just because of Google algorithm updates, by the way. I blogged here about the 10 things that can bring down a site. Google algorithm updates made it to the list, but there are other things too.

If you’re new to this business, it’s important to see that sites don’t always succeed. This business is anything but easy or risk-free.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think. How have your sites fared? And how do you think these four sites will fare in the future? I’d love to take a glimpse into a crystal ball if anyone can let me borrow theirs!

11 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing Anne. Really sorry to hear it was a difficult month for these sites – hope things pick up soon.

    I was just wondering whether you’d spotted any pattern here – why these four sites? You mentioned your larger and older sites remained unscathed thankfully – do you think the size or age of the sites might have anything to do with it?

    • Hi Dil,
      At first, I thought it was site age. All of our older sites fared well, including a couple of small ones (under 150 posts each). But then I heard from other publishers whose established sites took massive hits, so I don’t know anymore.
      I have a feeling no one really knows. Not even Google’s engineers. The algorithm is too complex at this point to know anything for sure.

  2. My travel site was hit at the beginning of September too (helpful content) but not in a sudden way. It just continued to drop during September and October from 1600 sessions a day down to 550. I have updated almost all of the articles and in the past week it has started to slowly edge up (now almost 800 sessions a day). I have no way of knowing if it is my updates that have helped or if it has just started going up on its own.

    • Hi John,
      Yeah, that’s the problem. With a single site, it’s much harder to tell. With some niches you could also have a seasonal effect and that complicates things even further. I’m glad your travel blog is doing better! Good luck!

  3. Thank you for being so honest about your journey. It clearly shows that you are human and you go through ups and downs.

    I wanted to ask you about your insights in this matter.

    What do you think went wrong?

    What things about the website or your processes you would change to have a better outcome?

    What personal note would you sent yourself back in time at the beginning of 2021 ?

    • Hi Moshe,
      I don’t think anything went wrong, to be honest. Not in the sense of anything that we need to change.
      The fact is we are creating the same type of content, with the same templates, authors, and editors, across multiple sites. Some sites went up, others went down. Leading me to believe this is entirely out of our control. That’s one reason why I’m hoping these sites will bounce back.
      I have no regrets regarding anything that we’ve done since the beginning of 2021. Nothing I would have done differently. Even with site #3 in this report, which started out as an experiment. It’s a small investment and it taught me not to expect anything from aged domains, for example.
      I would love to send a personal note to 2014 Anne (in case you have a time machine on ya 😉 ) I would tell her to go ahead, hire people and scale. That it’s actually fun and she’s going to enjoy managing, and not just creating content. But by 2021 I already knew that 😉

  4. What happened to website 4? Why did the number of posts decrease? Show it to me. Maybe I can tell you a few improvements. There’s nothing left to lose, it’s not going to go below zero anyway.

  5. You said, “… In many cases (though not all) Google put video results, shopping links, People Also Ask, and other widgets at the top of the search results page. These are all pushing our sites down the page.”

    It took me a while to figure it out, but that is exactly what happened to our site. Any suggestions what we can do to overcome this? All I can come up with is to try adding video to as many of our top articles as we feasibly can. Thanks.

  6. Great read as always, Anne!

    I appreciate you sharing, even when traffic is down. I definitely agree with your point on survivorship bias.

    While it’s tough for newer sites, I think that publishers that persevere through these updates will ultimately be rewarded as their sites age. The volatility is definitely scaring off plenty of new bloggers and digital publishers.

  7. My site is similar to your site #2, the organic traffic of recent months is around 10k per month, other than yours the article is about 5 months old.

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