Project Tartarus Case Study: Beginnings

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Giving case studies a super douche bag name seems to be a thing, so I wanted to pick the douchiest name I could come up with. Instead I just picked a random one.

Somewhere there must a book titled “Words from mythology that make you sound intelligent when used in a business setting” cause these douchey names are almost always using something from mythology.

Or astronomy. I’ve seen a few of those as well.

And now, I’m joining the douchebag train with Project Tartarus. But really, it’s just an aged auction domain case study.

**And as always, I’m an affiliate marketer and this post contains affiliate links, meaning I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links

How It Started

So, here’s how it all started…

  • Domain source: ODYS (this link gets you a 100 USD/EUR welcome bonus)
  • Cost: $2030
  • RDs at time of purchase: 162
  • DR at time of purchase: 27
  • Date of purchase: September 20, 2020
  • Niche: not sharing yet
  • Budget: Limit spending to around $5,000 total until the site starts earning; focus on growing mostly informational content
  • Strategy: 100% focus on content, get up as much content as possible as fast as I can; targeting mostly low competition keywords
  • Income goal: $5,000/monthly (monetize with premium ads primarily, affiliate secondary)

At the time of purchase, there were still pages from the domain indexed in Google and Ahrefs was still showing some rankings and traffic.

That last bit is the important part.

I’d been looking on ODYS (this link gets you a 100 USD/EUR welcome bonus) for a domain in this niche for a couple of months and seeing that this domain both still had pages indexed and was still showing traffic in Ahrefs is what made me pull the trigger.

The only thing that made me hesitate on buying this domain was that I wanted something with a keyword in the domain. Instead, I got a domain that was an acronym for the previous organization that owned it.

But, the strong niche relevant backlink profile combined with the traffic and still indexed pages were enough to make me take a gamble on this domain.

The First Month

The same day that I bought the domain, I got it on a Digital Ocean droplet at Cloudways, got WordPress installed, and recreated the top pages from the Wayback Machine.

Once I was done recreating popular old posts and 301’ing anything else with good backlinks, I started focused on creating new content.

Since I was actively looking for a domain in this niche, I already had some keyword ideas jotted down and was able to get to work on them immediately.

And after getting the site in Google Search Console, I got some problem notifications a few days later that I had to take care of.

old problems from domain

I could even see in Search Console the last time that Google had crawled the site, which I didn’t expect. But, there ya have it.

goole lat crawl data

The first rankings for the new content showed up in Ahrefs on September 30th (10 days after I got the domain), with the best ranking at the bottom of page two. And my first page one ranking for a keyword showed up in Ahrefs on October 8th.

By October 13th, I noticed that posts were getting indexed and ranked on the same day. Madness, eh?

Here’s an example that showed up at #10 for its target keyword on the same day as publishing.

same day ranking

And no, I’m not force indexing each new post like some people do. I have never spent time doing this for any of my sites.

Instead, I’m using my time to focus on content creation and getting up content that I’ve outsourced. Right now I’m at about 50/50 between writing content myself and outsourcing it.

Though I’ve got a love/hate relationship with them these days, so far I’ve outsourced articles for this site at Writer Access paying $0.036/word (you get a 10% discount by sending your articles to the “crowd” instead of a specific writer).

Complete tech stack for this site:

A logo came with the site, but I didn’t like it. So, I used a free trial of Adobe Stock and made my own.

I’m pretty happy with the traffic the site’s gotten so far. Here’s what the first month looks like.

new site first month traffic

Not sure why the steep drop yesterday, but I’m not worried about it. Keyword rankings in Ahrefs are trending in the right direction.

Month One Summary

I’ve spent most of my time over the last 30 days prioritizing this site over my other sites. As a result, a lot has been accomplished.

Here’s how the first month of this new site looked:

  • Traffic: 572 sessions
  • New Published Posts: 48 (of which 23 were outsourced)
  • Total spent this month: $2,896.60
  • Per article average cost of outsourced content: $37.24
  • Total published words this month: 65,132
  • Average word count per article: 1,357
  • Income: $0.00
  • Links built: 0
  • New natural links: 1

This is where I should warn you that every single other expired/auction domain that I’ve bought in the past has been a total flop. Well, not total flop, I guess. A couple of them have made around $50 or so.

Let’s just say that it’s been an expensive set of lessons that have gotten me to this point.

I’ve actually had much better results by taking the sites I built on those domains and then 301ing them to existing sites after several months.

So, this is the first domain like this that I’ve had that’s shown this much promise right outta the gate. (and it’s also the first one I’ve bought from ODYS) Here’s hoping I’m not starting this case study prematurely!

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8 thoughts on “Project Tartarus Case Study: Beginnings”

  1. Hey Shawna, so what is the plan from here with this site? More content or will you focus now on backlinks?
    At what point do you decide a site is a ‘total flop?’ I’d love to find out more about how to ‘301’ content from restored, expired domains into a money site to see if this helps with site growth.
    Thanks Shawna – if I could post a giphy in here, I would! x

    Reply
    • I’m focusing 100% on content with it and hoping that the links already pointed at the domain will be enough for a good 6-12 months so that I can put all my money/resources on content.

      In terms of defining a total flop- it depends. With the other auction/expired domains I’ve bought and built sites on, I gave it six months and then decided it was a failure and 301d the content to existing sites. With a fresh domain, it really is more niche dependent and KW strategy dependent. In some niches, it can take well over a year to get traction. In terms of expenditure, I think I’d go with maybe $10K investment and no returns = failure.

      Here’s a good resource on 301s. https://ahrefs.com/blog/301-redirects/ The section on “the merger method” talks about moving content from sites you bought or that you’ve put on expired domains.

      Reply
  2. Hey Shawna,

    what would be a realistic budget to start a small niche site?

    I started one in July, have spent around $ 1.500 so far (Im outsourcing the content creation to 100%) this month my organic traffic grew to around 100 – 120 visitors. I haven’t bought any backlinks yet. How much more should I invest? Is there a rule / benchmark?

    Reply
    • Like all things in SEO, the answer is — it depends 😉

      For me, in most niches my number is $5,000. Once I hit that number, I stop investing and wait to see what happens. I may invest more time, such as writing content myself, but I wait to spend any more until it starts earning.

      Of course, the more competitive the niche, the more you have to spend initially to get traction. For instance, if you were entering something like hosting or personal finance, then I’d bet on $20K for initial investment.

      Reply
  3. i watch your interview with Doug Cunnington on youtube
    and it was really good and came to your site Skipblast and the website case studies are awesome . thank you take care and you are the wonder woman of
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    Reply

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