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Honest discussion about site age + traffic

     
12:26 am on Feb 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Would love to see what other webmasters are seeing with new domains and search traffic. With Google implementing a known youtube sandbox, it seems search has one as well.

For example, my site is travel related - which is heavily competitive but I focus on outdoors/overland and i've researched and targeted well with strong content. My social signals are off the charts - some posts getting 100 shares and 14000 reads. But, nearly 5 months in, Google only barely sends in 30 people a day. Almost exactly at the 4 month mark i see a trend from 10 a day to 30 a day.

of course i see the new post bounce, show up, disappear and come back. My webmaster dashboard shows all is well - everything indexed, my rich snippets are passing, my html is valid, no crawl errors, nothing..

I'm up to 70 rich posts - releasing new content almost every other day and just not seeing any google love.

My last website from scratch i did about 6 years ago and it seemed "if you built it, they will come"... I made about 8 grand in 1 year starting from scratch. I'm going to spend more than 8 grand to get any traffic this year it seems. Is that just the way it is now?

Can anyone share their fresh start story? experience? what are you observing? i know the "Sandbox" is supposed to be dead and i only bring it up after their formal announcements of youtube changes which imply a sandbox there before creators get traffic/ monetization... Is this the new google?
4:59 am on Feb 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Links >
12:41 pm on Feb 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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This is not about Google, but about the way you build content and the visitors reaction to the way you build content.
Nowadays travel related website worth building only when you travel by yourself and share very unique personal experience or when visitors create big amount of UGC, sharing their personal experience (like tripadvisor for ex.).
2:42 pm on Feb 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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All true - its about content. But it seems google doesn't even allow new sites to show up in much of the queries at all and i know the queries/searches are extremely high volume.

I've built links.. i know in the industry they're infatuated with the DA from moz, so i've already been playing that disappointing game. (travel industry sells DA more than it does give readers something... that's for another topic)

Is there anyone here going through a new domain launch? Seeing anything similar? It's like links don't even count just yet. For example, I have some very strong reddit links. Reddit is #7 site in the world and once they get voted up enough, they turn into Dofollor links and they're dofolow from very specific and on topic reddits. There should be some "juice" in that considering my competitors are getting juice from FORUM and BLOG comment spamming in some of the keywords...

Even query/ click chart looks sandboxy. [imgur.com...]
2:55 pm on Feb 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Google bot visits every day. I have AMP pages that pass AMP test, my robots.txt is simple, my ads.txt is valid, I get 99/100 on mobile speed test and 96/100 on desktop speed test. My front page loads in 3 seconds, I have no render blocking content, its responsive on every form factor, content is 600 to 2500 words - well formatted, fast to load and lazyloads images for fast page speed. Like I said, social signals are super strong. I track page scrolls, bounce rate, reads - I see that real readers are reading the entire posts and going to read the related posts... I see my return visitors is increasing month over month, but I paid for all of that with paid marketing. Just 0 love from google and it seems like I'm hitting a wall.

I have some search terms where i'm competing against forum posts but my content is clean, updated and current and behind SSL and loads quicker and isn't referring to a bunch of images in a bucket that runs out of bandwidth by the 2nd of the month and i'm getting 50% conversion rate but only showing in in 5 of the 20k searches. I test this by running a PPC campaign to make sure SEMrush and keysearch aren't lying or moz's query reports aren't a scam and they're generally on spot.

just seems like an age "penalty" for lack of better word. My backlines show no spam score on any tool i use, i'm not seeing attacks from adult or .ru sites just seems odd.

perhaps i just need a zillion more links.. but at the same time, sort of disgusted with playing the incestual link trading game on facebook that i see. google has to be able to detected that these days...
5:45 pm on Feb 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Links help a great deal. But honestly even with my best launches ever, it takes at least 6 months to see a trickle and 18 months to start feeding the family. I have had over a dozen sites that are pulling in 250K visitors + a month. All took at least 18 months to start calling them successful. Give it time and constant additional content and quality links.
6:55 pm on Feb 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Interesting conversation, I launched a site 5 months ago now has about 450 pages in total, 200+ articles and 6000 backlinks. 10 visitors a day jumping to 30 a month ago. Completely different niche - same traffic. I don't know if I can stand a 18 month wait on this one but I appreciate your advice Pjman. I also have a good conversion rate approx 10-11% but low traffic. I am finding Bing will rank pages better though and is more open to new sites. How are your Bing rankings ByronM?
6:57 pm on Feb 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Is that just the way it is now?


More or less, yes!

Unless one has a whole load of money to drive traffic via AdWords or a very deep bucket of venture capital, then Google is next to useless for a new site no matter how good or even better than the competition it may be.

On a local basis it is slightly easier however internationally G is so fubard and up it's own backside it amazes me that anyone ever uses its search to try and find anything since it is hopeless.
4:37 am on Feb 19, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I see bing has fewer of my pages indexed, but I rank higher on the pages I am indexed on. I'll have to dig around in their tools and see if there is any reason for that. Traffic from bing isn't any better than Google at this stage.

When you say your traffic flourished after 18 months, was it a hockey stick climb or was it after the ~6 month mark you just saw gradual growth?
2:27 am on Feb 20, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I guess it is safe to assume t this point in time links are important but time is the big factor.
4:31 am on Feb 20, 2018 (gmt 0)

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ByronM - Here's an old thread which has a lot of good material in it... and I tend to bring it up when there's a time-to-rank type of discussion.

Search engines need time & other signals to confirm a site is "fantastic"
June, 2012
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4467831.htm [webmasterworld.com]

In the thread, btw, tedster discusses the concept of a sandbox (he wasn't fond of the term).

I'd say it generally takes six to nine months for most sites to start driving traffic, and twice that time for something solid... assuming the sites have paid attention to the factors that users are looking for. So... this is with content that's genuinely useful to site visitors... assuming freely given editorial links that come from real traffic.

It's likely also necessary to take a new angle on things. As sdksjdksjd's commented above...
when you travel by yourself and share very unique personal experience
...This suggests the important of a unique approach, and I can't emphasize that enough. If you're writing the same old travel articles everybody else wrote, just with more keywords and different phrasing... or with stock photos that everybody else has seen, that's not going to do it for you. In a way, you've got to understand your audience more than they understand themselves, and have a feeling for creating the kind of content they want to see.

4:23 pm on Feb 20, 2018 (gmt 0)

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The social signals are great, people respond well to the content. Google just doesn't recognize this yet. Our site is all about the personal experience, real photos, and real stories. If how people respond to content is the biggest ranking factor today then I'd expect Google love to be higher. I get thousands of visitors from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and lots of my pins on Pinterest do fantastic.

I talked with some of my SEO buddies and they even admit 18 months seems to be a magic number

With social networks having no time factor - but being totally about engagement I wonder if Google is shooting their foot off if they don't reward engagement better. You say engagement matters, but I see abandoned forums, old blogs, no SSL pages, old sites, stale content, outdated content rank on google - everything they say shouldn't rank - does. Just seems odd.

I almost feel like content marketing people say "it's about the content" and SEO people say "it's about the links" and social marketing people say "it's about the engagement" but the only real thing is about "preserving our value" not actually reflecting the real market... In the end, it could be about all of the above - they could all improve your rank/ROI but it's obvious they're NOT the primary metric for a lot of searches - especially for content sites.

I'm actually amazed that no one seems to talk about the numbers, is it sort of like talking about adsense? We can't really talk about it without worry of impacting our google love?
4:51 pm on Feb 20, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I went back and read the thread you related to. 5 years later and we still have no idea - and we're still not sharing real data. We're such a weird group :)

It's funny reading it in the context of history since I know "trial lawyer" is a hot thing and Google tries to find you a local trial lawyer these days vs everyone competing for that keyword - but the answers given in the thread seems preservationist rather than anything else. Why couldn't "trial lawyer" reflect its highly competitive and have dynamic serps based on human signals rather than the often manipulative SEO signals (links.. links and more links..)

We're weaving an unnatural web as long as PageRank is the be all end all... and soon, new people won't want to join - but that almost seems OK to the "preservationists" who defend this to defend their castle.. (and we complain how fragile our castles are when we are disrupted)

I'll see what numbers I can collect from others starting up. whether its a semantic sandbox, who cares... it is a penalty of sorts that goes against what they SAY would rank you well and its a darn shame they don't just admit time is a HUGGGGE factor of that. (which I guess would hurt their bottom line since people wouldn't want to risk launching a new site and using PPC marketing to build traffic only to realize they spent themselves dry hoping for something that only comes with time)
7:52 pm on Feb 21, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Apparently whatever i've been doing has been attracting an insane amount of bot traffic - about 20 requests per minute it seems is bots - from google to bing to i dunno all the names of these darn things
4:11 pm on Feb 22, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I am also in the Travel sector and have both new and old websites.

Here's the rub: at some stage over the last couple of years Google decided it did not want to rank any independent destination websites anymore.
Since before Google even existed, the search results (Altavista etc.) had traditionally ranked several destination-specific websites for a search for that destination. For the destinations that I operate in, there had probably been about 10 decent specialist guides for each location, and a searcher would have been presented with about 4 or 5 of them in the top 10 results for that destination.
Nowadays the old top website usually appears at #10 or #11 - and none of the other websites appear in the top 50 results.

So Google have made the decision that they do not want those 15-20 year old websites to appear anymore even though they have 15-20 years of links.

The truth is that no amount of links will ever cause your specialist site to rank well for those searches.

I'm not saying that links are no longer a factor: fake news from the Daily Express ranks above all of the destination guides in my sector, and I'm sure that is caused, in part, by links to their homepage.
12:14 pm on Feb 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Altavista, what a flashback. I almost forgot about that search engine though I used it extensively back in the day.
5:41 pm on Mar 13, 2018 (gmt 0)

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With recent known google algorithm changes, I felt compelled to update that my site has seen 0 impacts, I can only wager I'm still in a sandbox or latent link index waiting for some magic maturity date before I get any traffic.
7:59 pm on Mar 14, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Here's the rub: at some stage over the last couple of years Google decided it did not want to rank any independent destination websites anymore.

That hasn't been my experience. Quite the opposite, at least for our major topics.

There's a lot more competition today, so it makes sense that ranking is going to be harder than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Back in the day, Joe Generalist could have written an article about Outer Widgetonia, and it would have ranked easily simply because there wasn't much online content about Outer Widgetonia. Today, Joe would be competing with many other sites, including comprehensive specialist sites that deserve to rank high for queries about Outer Widgetonia.
9:35 pm on Mar 14, 2018 (gmt 0)

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^^ The web is getting saturated at all levels, all niches. Worse, the scrapers are multiplying at enormous rates, further clogging the pipeline. All focused on gaming google in one way or another. Magic as technology seems, it is still operated by human beings and that's the most least precision instrument in the toolbox.

G continues to offer the greatest traffic (amount) but not necessarily the best traffic.

Time does seem to be a factor (most churn and burn websites are 90 day wonders then abandoned for the next set of churn and burn) so waiting, and building, seems to be the best way forward for now.

Things change. Who knows it might change for the better next Tuesday.
10:13 pm on Mar 16, 2018 (gmt 0)

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That hasn't been my experience. Quite the opposite, at least for our major topics.

There's a lot more competition today, so it makes sense that ranking is going to be harder than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Back in the day, Joe Generalist could have written an article about Outer Widgetonia, and it would have ranked easily simply because there wasn't much online content about Outer Widgetonia. Today, Joe would be competing with many other sites, including comprehensive specialist sites that deserve to rank high for queries about Outer Widgetonia.


Can I ask where you are based - or where your market is based?

I only recently noticed that Google Canada still shows the same types of results for destination searches as it did 5 years ago, whereas UK results are totally different (different types of sites rank well).
10:21 pm on Mar 16, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Can I ask where you are based - or where your market is based?

I'm based in the U.S.--and sometimes Italy, depending on the time of year--but our site's audience is global. We're especially strong in English-speaking countries and Continental Europe.
7:10 am on Mar 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I disagree with the argument that websites are 'not allowed' to rank for phrases. Every website that has a base level of links and content will rank for something, even if it is not the particular phrase you are aiming at.

The more appropriate question, I would argue, is what happens when your website ranks for the low traffic/low demand phrase 'traditional widgets between A and B' (where your target phrase might be 'widgets near A', for example). Are people getting what they need from their click or not? Links are still important but a good level of user interaction, especially for a new site, is imo vital to show that you are worthy to compete with the likes of TA, Wikipedia, Google itself, and other online travel guides with an already solid reputation.

I will agree from personal experience that these days some websites do not seem to gain traction, despite most other things being equal (standard of original content, incoming links, etc.), while others do and there isn't much rhyme or reason as to why.

I also agree that there is now a marked difference between different country Gs and 'global G'.
6:07 pm on Mar 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I disagree with the argument that websites are 'not allowed' to rank for phrases. Every website that has a base level of links and content will rank for something, even if it is not the particular phrase you are aiming at.


I am not trying to say that websites are 'not allowed' to rank either, however that is for all intents and purposes the end result:
In the old days, a niche destination website could rank very well for the name of that destination, however nowadays, web pages on mega-websites (e.g. wikipedia, TA, articles from major newspapers etc) will nearly always rank above the specialist website.
Specifically, if say the BBC or the Telegraph (UK examples) write a page about a destination, it will automatically rank above a 20 year old site dedicated to the topic.

And over the past few years we have probably seen a negative feedback loop, where the less visits the specialist sites get, then the less new links the site earns and repeat.
1:03 am on Mar 19, 2018 (gmt 0)

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In the old days, a niche destination website could rank very well for the name of that destination, however nowadays, web pages on mega-websites (e.g. wikipedia, TA, articles from major newspapers etc) will nearly always rank above the specialist website.

Again, that hasn't been my experience. We used to be outranked by major news sites, corporate-owned media sites in our sector, Wikipedia, etc. for many queries that I watch, but nowadays we're usually no. 1 or very close to no. 1 for those same queries. And when we're outranked, the no. 1 spot is usually taken up by an official tourism site for the destination, transportation agency, etc. (at least as far as I can tell, using private or incognito search). As always, though, YMMV.

One thing that has changed: I no longer see as much traffic from Google for long-tail queries that are peripheral to our main topics. Today, all of our highest-traffic landing pages are on topics for which we offer a great deal of content and demonstrated subject expertise. The fact that we've expanded our content heavily for our core topics has probably helped us with Google, since (IMO) Google now seems to value subject expertise and authority more than it did in the days when Wikipedia ranked no. 1 for everything.
10:01 am on Mar 20, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Well, Wikipedia are still number one for all of the parallel destinations that I watch (in Google.co.uk) with no exceptions.
TA are in the top 3 for all as well.
The rest of the top 10 consists of Lonely Planet, Telegraph, Guardian, a tourist board page and the main tour operators.

There is a maximum of only one independent specialist guide listed in the top 10 (some destinations return no independent destination-specific websites).

All destinations that receive several million visitors per year.
All destinations have many dedicated websites that have been adding content continually for at least 15 years.

Perhaps because none of us link to each other anymore, we have successfully shut each other out of the top 10.
11:00 am on Mar 20, 2018 (gmt 0)

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"Link to authority sites" and "avoid linking to low-quality sites" were staple pieces of SEO advice for many years. Perhaps the consolidation of bigger players at the top is, at least partly, a consequence of that. We talk about Wikipedia ranking well across the board (Amazon too), but how many low-mid tier blogs link in every niche link to those pages instead of linking to a "competitor" or other resource.

As glitterball says, we could have very well shut ourselves out.

Maybe it's time to bring back link wheels, etc? ;)
4:10 pm on Mar 20, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Perhaps because none of us link to each other anymore, we have successfully shut each other out of the top 10.


Could definitely be true... I see this as a side effect of links = currency though... Many travel sites make big bucks on sponsored posts or they thrive on guest post links - none of which build a natural web.

Perhaps i'll strive to buck the trend.. lol
7:36 pm on Mar 21, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Just to give more data

For first months I had about 1-10 google clicks per day.
6th month about 25
7th month about 50
heading into 8 month about 100

Seems like a factoring trickle.. my graph of searches seems to show a slow trend...
8:32 pm on Mar 21, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Well, Wikipedia are still number one for all of the parallel destinations that I watch (in Google.co.uk) with no exceptions.

Are you talking about searches on simple destination names like "Paris" or "London" or "New York"? If that's the case, you may be right. But so what? We've attracted many millions of users through Google Search over the years, mostly people searching for advice about major tourist destinations. They may not have arrived via a one-word destination name, but that's fine, because (IMO) most travelers are looking for something more specific than they'd find with a search on the name of a city, country, or region.