How Tomb Raiding SEO And Expired Domains Delivered 133k Monthly Page Views After Just 8 Months
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The team over at Niche Website Builders has a fantastic case study to share with us this week. It showcases their own unique SEO strategy that they call ‘Tomb Raiding SEO’ which is a pretty cool name that we’ll cover in more detail in this case study.
Mark Mars from Niche Website Builders reveals how he took one of the sites in his portfolio from 0 to over 130k page views per month in just 8 months.
How? A modest aged domain, lots of informational content, and leveraging the Niche Website Builders ‘Tomb Raiding SEO’ technique.
Mark reveals how he did it below.
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The Case Study
For now, the URL of this domain will remain secret, however, we can talk about the results and how we got there.
Here is a screenshot from Google Analytics that shows what has been achieved in the last 8 months.
(Note: Tracking in Analytics starts at the end of February as I originally created a GA4 property but it sucked so I created a Universal Analytics property instead in February. However, as you can see traffic was pretty low at this time with less than 10k sessions in March)
To start from the beginning, the site was built on an expired domain, but a pretty modest one.
The domain had only 104 referring domains with a domain rating of 16. However, this domain had many of the characteristics I’m looking for to complement other sites in my portfolio. Most importantly it had scope for tons of informational content and I could see that other sites with a low domain authority were also doing well in this niche.
In all honesty, this site is going to be hard to monetize beyond Ads. There might be a few options but I am okay with it being mainly Ad revenue.
Here is a short timeline of what happened:
- I purchased the domain on the 11th of October 2020. The domain was a little overpriced at $2,480 but by this time I was married to the niche idea and this was the only domain I could find that would fit.
- When comparing this option to starting on a fresh domain it was no contest. This price is cheap when you consider how much more quickly you can get to revenue and what it would cost to acquire 104 referring domains. Add to this the fact that it has some really strong links.
- This domain was a failed Kickstarter project so it has links from some high DR news sites that are not easy to get. So, I’m not too unhappy with the price I paid.
- The site went live with the first 9 pieces of content on the 12th of November. Approximately 13,500 words.
- I’ve been adding content regularly since then every month. Slowly at first due to writer capacity and then more aggressively the last 2 months or so.
- In March I purchased a website I found that matched the niche on the Niche Website Flippers Facebook group. It was a small site with only 25 posts but generating around 7,000 sessions a month. The site was only a DR 0.2.
- This gave me increased confidence in the niche I had selected. If a site like this can generate 7,000 sessions a month from 25 posts, then imagine what a site with many more pages and a more powerful domain can do.
- I moved the content across to my site and 301 redirected all the pages to the new site.
- The site currently has around 200 posts at an average length of 1,500 words.
- The site grew to around 5,300 page views a day over the last 2 weeks of June before getting a small knockback from the July 2021 core update on the 1st of July. The page views went down to around 3,600 per day but have been gradually coming back ever since and now sit at around 4,800.
The site has recently been accepted into Ezoic and given the traffic levels, it is expected to make $2,500 – $3,000 per month (from my experience).
Here’s how we managed to achieve this growth.
Keyword Research – Introducing Tomb Raiding SEO
At Niche Website Builders we’re always exploring and testing new SEO strategies and keyword research methods.
One that we’re very fond of when working with aged domains is what we call Tomb Raiding.
With this method, we spend a lot of time in Ahrefs finding competitor sites. We dig out a huge list and then score each site against industry metrics such as Domain Rating (DR), Trust Flow (TF), Page Authority, etc.
Simply, we add up the total of all these metrics to give our site a position in the competitor landscape. This is quite a crude way of measuring site authority but these are the metrics we have to work with and we hope that by using metrics from multiple sources we can average out any discrepancies to give us a clearer picture.
The resulting table looks something like this:
This gives us a picture of where our site exists in the competitor landscape.
We then take a closer look at all the competitors that are below us in this table. We do some analysis on which articles they are ranking for and pick out any articles that are generating traffic. This may be 15 articles from one site, 25 from another etc… until we’ve gone through all competitors.
This provides us a list of articles that we should put into our content plan, working on the assumption that if these sites with ‘lower authority’ can rank for these articles then we should be able to as well.
The end result is that we are much more likely to rank these articles than working with more ‘traditional’ keyword research methods, which work with keyword difficulty.
Think of it this way. When we do traditional keyword research and then write content, you typically find that most of your content won’t generate a lot of traffic. It’s very common for 20% of the content on a site to generate 80% of the traffic.
In this instance, we’ve let those sites below us in the table above do all of this testing for us.
We know the 20% of articles that are generating most of their traffic. So we can ‘raid’ their best-performing articles knowing that with a better authority domain we should be able to outrank them.
This means that we have a much higher success rate ranking articles than with other keyword research techniques.
And this is why we call it “Tomb Raiding SEO.” We are raiding competitor websites for all their best gems and leaving the junk behind.
We then do our best to correlate the content that we write with the competitor articles.
So we try to:
- match word count (+10% so that we can add a little more detail and potentially some FAQ content)
- add the same number of headings (making sure they are still topically the same)
- include the same number of images, etc
We’ve found that this works way better than using correlation SEO tools such as Surfer, Market Muse, and Frase.
When using these tools you pick the keyword first and then they try to correlate the content against the best-performing sites for that keyword. But what if the SERPs are dominated by higher authority sites? In our experience, it’s much better to find the sites first, and the keywords and topics second using competitor research.
Of course, you can use correlation and optimization tools to optimize your article afterward but generally, we find if we follow the structure of the competitor article then this will give us great results.
The original site that existed on this expired domain did not have a lot of pages, and certainly no blog. But I still wanted to make sure that any link juice that this site had from other sites linking to it was passed to my new site.
Almost all the links were to the homepage with just a couple of others to different pages. So, quite simply I just installed the 404 to 301 plugin to automatically redirect any other links to the home page too.
If the old site had been larger then I would have been more careful to recreate any old pages that existed on the previous site which had a lot of links and 301 redirect the old page to the new one.
For any other pages that had a moderate number of links, I’d redirect to the most appropriate page on the new site. This could be a single post or a category page for example.
All remaining pages would be redirected to the home page.
Internal linking is so undervalued by those who do not understand the benefit this process brings.
I ensure that every page on the site has a minimum of 2-3 incoming links from other relevant pages on the site. In the case of this site, it was very easy given that all the content is closely related to one another and is intrinsically relevant. So, it was very easy for me to link from one page to another liberally.
Internal linking allows you to pass ‘link juice’ to other pages on the site giving them an improved ability to rank and provides context via the use of anchor text so that Google can better understand what a page is about.
I use Link Whisper to greatly improve the speed at which I can carry out this normally labor-intensive task.
ROI… so far
Here is what I have spent so far on the site:
- Aged Domain – $2,480
- Site purchase – $1,500
- Content (Of course, I use Niche Website Builders for all my content) – 300,000 words – $18,500 over 8 months.
Total Spend: $22,480
At the moment, this is just speculation as I don’t currently have any Ad revenue. But on the lower end of my expectations, at $2,500 per month the site is valued at around $87,500 – $100,000 (35x – 40x)
So, the ROI so far would be $65,020 – $77,520.
Of course, this will just increase for every month that I keep the site and pocket the monthly income. That said, I’ve no intention of stopping here. I’m going to continue to add content at a slightly slower rate (whilst I plow more resources into other sites) and continue to grow this asset.
This site I’ll be keeping as part of an ongoing project I’m working on to build sites for cash flow rather than quick flips.
Who are Niche Website Builders?
Niche Website Builders is run by Mark Mars and Adam Smith who are quickly becoming well known for their expertise which they share on their own podcast and industry-leading agency dedicated to helping content publishers get the best results.
They have been building and managing their own 6 figure portfolios for a number of years before launching their agency in 2020. Within 18 months they have scaled to produce over 4 million words of client content and build hundreds of links every month.
They offer a number of services including monthly content subscriptions, one-off bulk content, done-for-you sites (on both fresh and expired domains), and link building.
You can find out more about Niche Website Builders here. You can also reach out to them directly at [email protected]
If you want to learn more about them you can read our Niche Website Builder review or listen to this podcast episode on content creation and link building.
As a reminder, you can get 15% off the content and link-building services offered by Niche Website Builders.
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