12 months have passed since I decided to start a case study and pit against each other a blog that I create versus a ready-made blog that I purchased from Human Proof Designs.
Progress on both sides has been extremely slow because other more important things always stood in the way. Of the little attention that they received, my self-made blog got more in terms of updates and new content.
But overall, they both have about the same number of articles and the conclusion that I can draw is that as long as you experienced as a blogger and have some time on your hand, creating a blog yourself is the better option than buying a newly made one.
This way, you not only get to fully understand your blog (through the research you do), but you also have direct control over the quality of the articles that you publish and everything else.
While the ready made site was good, it was not stellar. The content was OK, but clearly created by somebody who wasn’t very knowledgeable in the area. The content was correct and well written, but it lacked that personal spark to make it shine. But this is what you can expect from most writers nowadays – finding a good (and cheap) one is really difficult.
However, the ready made blog is an affiliate website, while the one I created is more on the informational side. Informational content normally receives more traffic, so comparing these metrics wouldn’t be completely fair either.
All that would matter, at the end of the day, would be the amount of income generated by each blog. And in this regard, as you will see, they are both at ZERO. This is mostly due to me not really giving any real attention to any of the blogs.
Then why continue this case study?
Even though I am very slowly working on these sites – I am not completely ignoring them. I still have plans to focus a bit more on them and I am sure that I will make both of them work.
I am actually considering putting AdSense on the blog that I made and get some trickle of income. I also am confident that one year from now, they will both generate some money.
So it’s an interesting read and learn, in the end: see what you can expect from a “lazy” approach to a niche site. Reading this new update, you will see that progress is still made as your blogs age.
Case Study Details
In November 2019, I decided to buy a ready made site and, at the same time, build a site from scratch myself.
I wanted to spend the exact same amount of money on both and see which one is more profitable and easy to run/create/manage.
I bought my ready-made site for $1,280 from Human Proof Designs (during a promo they held) as it was in a pet niche that I had some major interest in. The site I built from scratch is in the home appliance niche.
The goal was to invest $1,500 in both websites and see which one performs best and basically decide if it’s lucrative to either buy or build websites for $1,500 and try to flip them for profit (or keep them for some monthly income).
Fourth Update (12 Months Later)
As I already mentioned, minimal work has been done on both blogs since their purchase (and also since the latest update in July).
However, things are on an upward trend, even though there’s nothing impressive to report in terms of traffic. But let’s see how things changed since the past update!
Traffic & numbers
Let’s start with a quick overview of both sites! The number are total, not averages (and compared to the numbers of the previous update).
1. Ready-made site
Published Articles: 14 (+1)
Sessions: 736 (+433)
Organic users: 591 (+370)
Costs: $1,280 (+0)
Earnings: 0 (13 Amazon clicks, though, so we’re getting there!)
Profit: – $1,280
2. Self-made site
Published articles: 16 (+5)
Sessions: 2,807 (+2,711)
Organic users: 2,267 (+2,215)
Costs: $270.40 (+80)
Profit: – $270.40
I would say that we have an interesting development, despite not having anything spectacular. We’ll go a bit more in depth below and I will explain why I am still pretty happy with these results.
Things to note
Ready Made Site
I have been grossly ignoring this one. Even the published article is very recent – just written by myself last week, so having no real impact over anything.
But despite all these, it seems to be aging well and getting more and more traffic. Here is how things looked over the past few months:
With no promotion whatsoever, things are looking relatively good and are on a slightly upward trajectory. Ignore the traffic spike as it is a referral bot visiting on that day.
In terms of the actual content visited, last update showed us that almost 75% of the traffic hit a single page on the blog. This time, other pages are starting to do better. But we still have that one top page getting most of the traffic:
The good thing here is that the second most visited article is a “best of” type of article with affiliate links. Articles at number 8 and 9 are also affiliate articles. People are also spending more time on each article, which is also good.
As a result, we started getting some clicks to Amazon. Just 14 since the previous update and no sales… but at least we’ve got some movement here. I feel that we’re really, really close to making that first sale.
What keeps surprising me, though, is the places where this blog gets its organic traffic from:
Last update, Bing was also king, responsible of 34% of the incoming traffic. Now it has dropped a bit – to 32%. Still above Google, which is relatively strange in my opinion. Never have I seen anything like this.
However, the blog is still pretty small in terms of articles and traffic. And I don’t mind Bing traffic at all – the more, the better!
All in all, I noticed that there’s still an upward trend in terms of traffic, which is really nice, considering the fact that no links have been added – but also no content.
Self Made Site
As you probably saw, things appear to be a bit better with the site that I have created myself. The traffic has seen a major increase compared to the previous update: over 2,700!
Unlike the previous blog, this one gets most of its traffic from Google (over 90%) with Bing at around 2%, almost on the same terms as Yahoo and DuckDuckGo.
What I like is the fact that, just like with the ready made blog, this one is starting to see a nice spread of its traffic to multiple articles:
We still have most of the traffic hitting a single page, but some others are starting to climb up. Two of those are actually articles published since the previous update. (Notice that the same referral bot hit this site as well on the same date as the ready made blog).
In this blog’s case, traffic seems to have plateaued a bit at around 650 uniques per month. The Page Views are going up a bit, but slowly.
And while things seem to be better than with the Ready Made Blog, it’s not necessarily the case.
Sure, it is getting more traffic (and from Google too!) but all the articles that rank are informational. I sneaked an affiliate link here and there within the articles, but these are not buyer intent keywords that they are ranking for.
This means that when it will come to monetization, the ready made blog could still do better overall. Informational articles are usually monetized through display ads only, which have a lower RPM than affiliate.
But it’s still to early to draw any conclusions, as long as none of the blogs actually made any money so far.
I think that if there were still any doubts about this, my case study shows that the age of a site (and articles) is very important when it comes to ranking. Especially when you take an approach like mine that includes no active link building.
It’s also a lot easier to rank for informational-type content at the moment. Buyer intent keywords are difficult to rank for, no matter what your niche is.
On the ready made blog, we get a trickle of visitors to the affiliate articles, while the blog I created receives ZERO visits to the affiliate articles, although I consider them better and more in depth than on the other blog.
When it comes to ranking for these keywords, you also need links.
Page Speed issues
With Google officially announcing that the core web vitals signals (basically page speed) is going to become a ranking factor in May 2021, I started to obsess a little bit over the page speed of my blogs.
I was holding all my properties on a VPS from Dreamhost, but the initial server response time there was low: sometimes up to 2 seconds, but usually at around 1 second. Most of my websites were scoring in the mid 20s, while my optimized ones were usually in the mid 50s.
I already moved my money making properties to BigScoots (affiliate link) and I am extremely happy with my decision. The loading speed shot up instantly, without me doing any changes.
Those sites are now scoring above 80 (which is good, as they all have display ads running) but the best part is that now the sites fully load in around 3 seconds on mobile (up from 6+ on my previous host).
However, neither of the two sites in my case study are on BigScoots. I kept the smaller sites on Dreamhost – mainly because I am their customer since 2008 and I never had any major problems. Also, I am paying just $20 for a VPS, so I can’t expect it to be lightning fast.
Still, I am relatively happy with the results and a bit of tweaking in the past few days has helped me get these page scores: ~70 for my Ready Made Blog and ~80 for the Self Made One.
First of all, these are both good scores having in mind that I pay just $20 for my server and I have some 15 websites there.
Second, you can see that even though they’re both on the same server and are both the same type of article (informational with many photos), they get various scores, with my self-made blog being faster.
How is that possible, when they use the same plugins and optimizations?
The answer is: the theme! The only thing that differs is the theme. The faster blog runs on GeneratePress Premium (which is the theme I am using on most of my blogs due to it being so incredibly fast), while the slower one is on an old theme (Performag) by Thrive.
The reason why I use it is because that’s the theme it came with when I bought the site and I was just too lazy to change it. Also, I have no real reasons to complain here, as the theme itselg has some nice optimizations and features that Generatepress doesn’t offer.
But still, you can see that choosing a lightweight theme is extremely important today – or tomorrow, when speed will matter a lot to Google when it comes to ranking your site.
Plans for the future
I still haven’t ticked most of the plans I made during my previous update. It’s a month since these blogs have been launched and they don’t even have a single social profile set up! This is the thing that I hope to address first.
Especially since the self made blog is in a niche that might do well on Pinterest (I suck at Pinterest, but it never hurts to try).
I wasn’t really expecting much, but they delivered a really high quality pack of keywords. I am very passionate about the niche and I know for sure that some of these can bring in a lot of visitors if they can indeed rank. This is by far the best service from them (right now) from all that I bought – which convinces me to keep trying.
Some of them were incredible and it would’ve taken me ages to find them and the best part is that some are also buyer intent keywords!
So I have already created the drafts (just titles, actually) on the site and I plan to add at least several of these articles sooner rather than later. And I will definitely purchase more of these packs for all of my sites. The pricing is fair to say the least and the keywords are amazing!
I am considering buying one for the self made blog first, just because I am too lazy to do the keyword research there. Either way, the plan is to have at least 2 new articles published per month on each site.
Apart from that… no real plans. I will try to start serving AdSense ads on the self made blog if the monthly uniques go past 1,000. It will be minimal income anyway, but it will still be nice to see some money made.
This would be it for now – if you’re still here and read all the way to the end, thanks for doing so. And good luck with your own projects! I’ll be back with a new update after 3 more months.
Check out the previous entries in this case study: