Have I Been Swindled By the Googlites?

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This post is not an advice column. I think it’s a therapy session. I’ll be on the couch; you can be on the chair.

Meet Site X. It’s an info blog in the outdoor travel niche. I purchased Site X and overhauled the UX about three years ago (you can read that story here). The site has a reasonably high DR, strong backlink profile, green Google Core Web Vitals, etc. On paper, it’s a reasonably healthy website. 

At least $6,000 of my money has disappeared over the last two years creating content for Site X. I’ve contributed a few dozen articles myself, plus I’ve hired dozens of freelance writers, mostly from Upwork, who have contributed how-to’s, listicles, essays, and FAQs. Posts range from 800 to 1,200 words on average. Most posts contain unique photographs. Everything is written from an authoritative first-person point of view. I’ve followed the basics of on-page SEO: internal linking, keyword-rich headings, etc. 

The content submissions were lightly edited for brevity and clarity, but we kept the original voices. They’re not fluff; they are real-life stories from people who learned and lived to tell about it. In short, I would rate the content as 7.5/10; rough around the edges, but packed with unique, funny, entertaining information and stories – the kind of information people would enjoy reading.

Simply put, I’m getting murdered. Most of those stories receive 10-20 views a month. Half of those views are probably from bots. To add insult to injury, my articles – the ones I wrote and contributed for free – consistently outperform almost all of my writers.’ Yes, Site X makes money – but not from almost any content I paid for.

I feel duped. Since the beginning of my blogging career, I swallowed the belief that growth = scale, outsource, publish, rinse, repeat. Build an authority site, not a niche site. Write for people, not the spiders. And you can’t hope to do these things unless you post 3x a week, religiously, so hire writers to share the load.

I’ve worked with dozens and dozens of writers. I’ve paid $20 an article; I’ve paid $100. I’ve worked with award-winning bloggers and writers fresh out of English Composition 101. But no matter what quality of content goes into my black box, $0.05 a month gross revenue is what usually comes out.

Or maybe it’s my fault. Perhaps I gave the wrong instructions, picked the wrong search phrases. Did I try to expand into too many topics? I’m the Captain; I can’t blame the crew. 

Last month, after yet another Googlepocalpyse Helpful Content, I let all my writers go (again). Site X refuses to budge. Should I transfer all the content to a new website? Leave it alone to die a slow, lonely death? Add another 2,000 words of content to beat the SEO algorithm into submission with a sledgehammer?

I’m in the middle of a choose-your-own-adventure novel. I don’t know how this story ends. (If you know, feel free to comment below.) Right now, I’m going to nurse my wounds. I’ll wait and see where the trendlines level out, maybe redo some WordPress categories and tags. Site X may be down, but it’s not out! 

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