I know you must be super excited to read this case study since I promised you that – I’ll be showing you the blog which has grown from 0 to 517k organic visitors/m with an approximate revenue of $70,000/m in just 5 months. I’m sure your next thought might be – WTF! Are you fucking kidding me? 0 to $70K/m in 5 just months? Is it even possible?
Let’s first talk about traffic numbers, I have referred to the Similarweb data and here is how it looks like:
Speaking of estimated revenue, according to Ahrefs – the monthly traffic value for this website is $120k to be exact. [Ahrefs traffic metric shows only the ORGANIC traffic and rest of the avenues such as direct, referral, email, social are not counted and that’s why it is showing the traffic around 252k/m ]
Since Ahrefs considers the CPC data to calculate estimated revenue, let’s be real and let’s do some calculations ourselves:
Organic Traffic/m [Educational Posts + Product Recommendation Posts]: 517k
Since I do not expect any transactions/sales to happen through informative posts (although few users might be flowing from informative posts to transactional/product recommendation pages), I’ll consider only product recommendation pages as money-making pages.
I’m being pessimistic here while guessing the approximate revenue this website is generating per month (since I recently watched Fyre Festival and realised Murphy’s law is for real – “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong“).
We crawled all of the pages on this blog and found out that this blog has around 30% pages which promotes some or other affiliate product – from which they generate revenue. Remaining content is just supporting articles.
So as per this data point, this blog gets only 517000*30% = 1,55,100 organic visitors per month on it’s money generating pages.
- Average Ticket Price: 56$
- Standard Conversion Rate: 2%
- Total Sales Per Month: 3102
- Revenue/m: $1,73,712
- Affiliate Commission Rate: 40%
- Net Profit/m: $69,484
An upfront (and unfortunate) fact that you’ll hate
I’m not going to reveal the URL of the website since the penalty story of 10Beasts (PS: 10beasts’s case study was covered by Glen Allsopp on Gaps.com) – it is clear that Google is constantly spying on the people who are manipulating the search results with their shady tactics on a scale (especially Affiliate websites).
So sharing the actual URL of this blog might attract unexpected eyeballs of Google Engineers and 6 month’s efforts of such a brilliant marketer would go in vain instantly. (Come on! You would have done the same if you were at my place).
If you get to know the exact URL of this site, please keep it for yourself and do not share it in comments. [Please!]
Sitewide links still work, like a charm!
One of the most interesting facts that I’ve discovered as soon as I analyzed the backlinks profile of this domain is: this domain has 6 sitewide links from high authority websites. The average DR of these linking domains is 73 and DA is 66.
To be honest, I was skeptical about DR metric of these linking domains – because I keep analyzing around 2M domains/day programmatically against their availability and I come across thousands of domains that show DR 70+ despite having all shitty/auto-generated backlinks profiles. Here is one such example domain:
If you check the linking domains to this domain, you can easily guess that almost all linking domains are of low quality. Here is how they look like:
But now things are about to get serious over here. Guess what happened next?
I found that each of that linking domains has monthly 3M+ organic traffic. Which means, the shady business of sitewide links buying/selling is still active. [I call it ‘shady’ because it is unbelievable to see such big brands who are providing sidewide links to low-quality domains for a few hundred of bucks (or maybe more! Who knows!)
On the other hand, there are few big players in the industry who are dominating SERPs using sitewide links in natural way. I would recommend you reading this article by Glen and you will get an idea about how just 16 core companies are dominating the most popular industries online with the help of dynamically changing sitewide links.
I’ve used this strategy 6 years back when I was dominating the SERPs for the competitive terms like – “IPL live”, “Watch IPL Online”. The whole Indian blogosphere was ruling the event blogging niche like crazy. I’ve seen people getting 50,000+ users real-time during such a single day (or short events) and for these churn-and-burn projects – Sitewide links strategy was working like Steroids.
Wait a minute! Is this money site built upon an expired domain or a fresh one?
Damn! This is an expired domain which has a clear history of 18 years starting from 1998 and then this domain got dropped for the first time in late 2015.
Someone picked up this domain in late 2018 (On November 1st to be exact) and started posting 600-800 words articles related to health on this blog (Starting from 14th November) and then within a timeframe of 40 days literally, this domain started picking organic traffic like crazy. In December itself this domain has crossed 50k pageviews (Impressive right? I know!)
Earlier I did an experiment with the expired domains [which I have shared with Glen Allsopp here] and I am not surprised to see that leveraging the authority of expired domains to rank new domains (money site + backlinks from expired domains) still works. However, what I have realized is: Expired domains + Sitewide links from high traffic blogs is like a perfect steroid for this domain. I am not sure how expired domains are working after the latest core algorithm update, but I am currently working on a new test case which has involved expired domains and I will keep you guys posted about how things work out.
I’m telling you, long-tail keywords are more important than EVER.
According to Ahrefs, this domain ranks for ~48,000 keywords in Google, and only 75 keywords out of 48000 keywords are having monthly search volume > 10000.
Out of these 75 keywords – only 25 keywords are ranking on the front page of SERPs [rank less than 10]
Hence it is clear that the majority of the search traffic this blog is getting is – long-tail keywords!
Is it because of the structured theme? Content? Load time? I don’t know to be honest. It was pretty hard for me to accept the fact that a 70 articles blog started just 6 months ago is now ranking for thousands of long tail keywords – that too in HEALTH niche. In the past, I’ve read a lot of articles around long tail keywords rankings and especially – “how to rank in featured snippet” rankings and I have tried every single way that those gurus told me to get that position 0 – but none of them worked, to be honest.
I run few experiments around featured snippets and still I don’t have a concrete answer for – “how to rank in featured snippets”.
Lone effect H1’s (or structured lists or short answers) have on featured snippet rankings is like measuring the impact of a single piston in a race car. By itself, it won’t win you any races. But you’d never want to be in a position where you’re missing one and all the other cars have more. So just keep trying out different methods and I’m sure one of them might work out for you.
Anyways, enough of backlinks and domain talks! Let’s talk about the content and the design of this blog.
Content is shit! Design is shittier!
When I read a few articles on this blog, I could easily figure out that the content is neither grammatically correct nor it sounds like written by an EXPERT (now I’ve started doubting whether E-A-T is just a made up game or a real deal)
FYI: This blog doesn’t even have any information around author/s on about us page, neither they have author box for an individual article.
But anyways, believe it or no – this site is using a FREE WordPress theme along with the following plugins:
- Contact Form 7
- Dw Question Answer
- Schema And Structured Data For WP
- Table Of Contents Plus
- WP Review Pro
- Advanced Ads Pro
The reason why I’m telling these basic things is because – I recently started using Twitter actively and every single day I come across new terms/data points related to SEO which talks about deep-shit involved in Technical SEO – but after spending enough time on every single aspect of this blog – I’ve realized that “Life is simple, so does SEO!”
The more you dig in, the more complicated it gets. You don’t really have to worry about scenarios like:
- Is GSC supposed to count an image in a featured snippet as ranking in position 1?
- How can I optimize Crawl budgets and achieve faster indexing?
- How the featured snippet is pulling content that’s hidden on-load in a tab?
- If someone clicks one of the dropdowns in the SERPs to expand the FAQ schema, does this record as a click in Search Console?
With the proper CMS [WordPress of course], bunch of fundamental plugins, responsive and fast loading theme – you can win the battles easily (subject to your expertise in understanding Search Engines and offsite SEO efforts).
Here is what industry experts have to say about this domain
Since I did not share the URL of this blog with you, it would have been difficult for you to trust whether I am mentioning all things correctly or no.
So I reached out to 16 industry experts and asked them their views about this domain so that it will give you one more reason to trust in my data points and all other details. I received responses from these experts pretty quickly and here are 3 of them:
Here is the first one from Tim Soulo (CMO Ahrefs.com)
I have no idea what happened with that site, mate
The backlink profile didn’t seem to change in the past 5 years as per Ahrefs. So it must be links from sites that block us.
I also can’t see how much content was added over time, and when they started adding it, so that to understand how fast it ranked so high but the traffic growth I see is really insane.
Let’s see how long that will last
I reached out to Kevin Indig – who is VP SEO and Content @ G2 and mentor startups @ German Accelerator and here are the thoughts of Kevin about this blog:
When I look at the link profile of the site (especially # of referring domains), it seems that the owner bought a couple of other sites and redirected them to quickly build a trustworthy link profile. Three data points lead me to that assumption: First, the link profile grows in stages, instead of linearly and gradually.
Second, I found some Wikipedia links which now redirect to the homepage and seem to have pointed to a different domain at first. Third, the domain has links before it started to rank. So, it could have been a parked domain that gathered tons of links and then someone built a project on top of it.
When I look at the content, it deliberately answers the most important questions in the space and has some good automated visuals. The meta-titles are optimized, and the site loads fast. Clearly looks like a well-done SEO project to me.
Here is what Matt Giovanisci from Lasso has to say about this blog:
It seems like some shady shit is going on. The industry itself is shady as shit too, so I’m not surprised.
According to Ahrefs, the referring domains go all the way back to 2013. This domain has been around a while because it used to be a domain for an Abbey in South Dakota that got some high-profile press links. However, all those links are now being redirected to the homepage instead of the original articles they were linked to.
So my guess is this person snagged a killer domain, quickly spun up a site with shitty content in a profitable niche, and is riding the wave of good backlinks and SEO juice until Google finally figures it out and crushes their rankings. This site won’t be around very long.
All in all, I have to admit, not a bad VERY SHORT TERM strategy. Not something you’d ever catch me doing. I’m all about that long term SEO growth!
Here is what Backlinc’s founder Karan Labra – who is one of the most prolific Digital Marketer based out of Delhi, India has to say about this site:
Time and again, I’ve seen the sheer dominance of sitewide links when mixed with contextual links specially in high competition niches like Biz opps, Pharma, finance and dating.
This example just goes to show that if you just stick to the fundamentals of SEO of building a website that should rank at #1 regardless and then giving google the signals it needs to rank your page you’ll already be way ahead than most of your competitors who are playing first-i-need-to-figure-it-out game.
Keep it simple. Stick to the basics and Test every assumption.
Then I reached out to Vivek Sancheti, who is the well-known SEO from India. Here are Vivek’s thoughts about this blog:
This website has performed pretty well even after the recent July core update. The content quality seems normal. The content structure is for sure basic but good. And the design is pretty basic and nothing modern in it.
With around just 145 articles the site has gained 48K keywords and 250K monthly hits from Google. It’s not normal for sure when the niche is so competitive. One more point to surprise is this domain has lost 50% of its links since expiry still working good.
I had shared some websites ranking with a similar strategy with you. Most of them are still performing rock-solid event after July core update. Most of them targeting one or another affiliate program.
To sum it up I would say that expired domain with quality backlinks can work out awesome even if you work on a completely different niche than the domain was. I am completely surprised by how strong this website is performing even after Google’s algo getting smarter and smarter.
Finally, Matthew Woodward from Matthewwoodward.co.uk contributed his time to review this blog and here are the comments from Matt:
What I love about SEO case studies is that you get to take a peak behind the curtain of things you wouldn’t normally be able to.
In this example the success of the site is down to the combination of-
Repurposing an expired domain with authority
Keyword research – many keywords have around 2k-20k search volume and keyword difficultys of 5
On page elements like content styling, rich snippets, tables of contents and FAQs throughout
The backlink profile is insanely strong with many many links coming from DR 70+ domains
Interestingly the site which is in a YMYL niches lacks any EAT signals and there is absolutely zero author information. Any eat signals are purely coming from the authority of the expired domain which includes links from Wikipedia and many Edu sites.
But in summary this is just a classic example of authority + content = traffic
Simple SEO, is effective SEO.
I hope those comments from industry experts can give you a rough idea about various aspects of this blog such as domain, content, design and backlinks profile.
Speaking of my opinion, well, I have mixed feelings about this blog to be honest. The way this site has grown organically over the period of time – it’s unbelievable. Even funded startups are not able to get that kind of growth even after spending thousands of dollars on their SEO campaigns.
This reminds me of a drunk-conversation with a random dude from Netherlands:
Anything which is made by humans is HACKABLE, and even Google is not an exception.
I don’t know what is going to happen with this blog, but I am sure that – the experts’ team of trained monkeys from Google will not take more than a few days (or maybe less) to fix such loopholes in the system.
Since I was keeping my eye on this blog for the last 2 months, I’ve tried to find the owner (and of course his other websites) and guess what – the owner of this blog started one more website, which focuses on SAME keywords, has EXACTLY same design and that website has just crossed 100k page views in 40-50 days [Seems like this niche is working pretty well for him]. Here is how the Similarwebweb snippet looks like for this new replica:
Whoever is behind this blog (or serial of blogs) is absolutely brilliant and has a deep understanding of how exactly search engine rankings work. If this method keeps working for a longer period of time, then I won’t be surprised to see this guy hitting a mark of 1M dollar per month, period.
Expired domains and Sitewide Links Tactic – How to do it in a RIGHT way?
What’s Google’s take on expired domains?
I’m sure most of you are still under the impression that G’s official position was that backlinks are “invalidated” once a domain is dropped but that’s not the case [at least data says so].
I did some research and here is what Matt Cutts have to say about using expired domains:
There are some domain transfers ( e.g. genuine purchases of companies) where it can make perfect sense for links to transfer. But at the same time, it wouldn’t make sense to transfer the links from an expired or effectively expired domain, for example. Google (and probably all search engines) tries to handle links appropriately for domain transfers.
So if you are planning to work on a long term project and if you have budget to invest in SEO, then you can absolutely go for expired domains as a genuine case. You can consider acquiring some domains which are highly related to your niche and you can either setup your money site on it or probably redirect few kickass domains to your money site.
Where can you find expired domains?
Before you start hunting for expired domains, keep it in mind that this method of using expired domains to rank your money sites [or even using expired domains to rank your websites is highly skeptical from Google’s perspective].
When it comes to hunting good quality expired domains, one problem I can think of is that once you find domains worth buying, the registrars might pick them up before you have a chance to buy them, so it can become a very time-consuming and frustrating job. If you still want to give it a spin, then here are few avenues where you can find kickass expired domains:
- Bulk check outbound links of authority domains against their availability using bulk domain availability checker. For example, you can export all the outbound links of authority domains such as techcrunch.com using Moz/Ahrefs/Semrush and run an availability check on thousands of domains simultaneously using tools like this one.
- If you have high budgets to acquire expired domains, then you can spy on active Dropcatch Auctions and pick several good quality domains everyday.
You can automate the process of finding good quality expired domains. Here are the exact steps for that:
- Pick top 20 high authority sites from your niche and export all outbound links using Ahrefs. Filter out the domains which have at least 100 referring domains and DR between 20-50. [Domains with DR>50 are less likely to get dropped]. This way you can build a database of few million domains.
- Run a cron job every day and find out the availability of the domain As soon as any domain is available – you can trigger a notification for yourself.
The cost of running this tech infra on ~20M domains per day is somewhere around $500/m. So if you consider yourself investing that much amount in finding good quality expired domains – then it’s totally worth it.
Can I simply redirect the domain to my money site which I am trying to rank?
As I have already mentioned about the risks of using expired domains, I can not guarantee whether redirecting expired domains to your money site will work or no. However, if you have already made up your mind for using expired domains – then here are few important suggestions:
- Do NOT redirect the domain to Homepage [Did few experiments and 90% of them got failed]
- Create a separate landing page [Say “Xyz acquired ABC”] and post some press release sort of content and then redirect your expired domain to this page. You can place internal links on this page and pass the link juice to important pages.
- Redirect on category page [Just make sure the domain you are redirecting belong to same broad niche]
How long does it take to see impact of redirections?
There is no concrete answer for this question (unfortunately). However, setting up the money site on expired domain and achieving 100k organic/m seems pretty easy [or doable]. On the other hand – it might take months to see impact of expired domains. It all depends upon how Google treats your domains.
From my personal experience, I’ve seen expired domains starts kicking off within the timeframe of 15-30 days.
I’ve tried to cover every single pixel which is responsible for the growth of this blog, and if I have missed anything – let me know in the comments and I would be happy to answer your questions.
Thank you for reading!