AlpInsider is an Eleven experiment that has quickly become an established and trusted mountain sports blog.
Practicing what we preach, we created AlpInsider to demonstrate the power of data-driven content strategy and authoritative articles from true topic experts. The plan was to establish authority in the mountain sports niche, build high-converting organic traffic and generate revenue from affiliate commission.
It’s now been a little over 18 months since we started working on AlpInsider and the blog has already generated nearly 5 million impressions and gone from 0 to 2,300 daily visits from organic search. Reassuringly, over 65% of these visitors are clicking on CTAs and more than 6.5% are converting to affiliate program sales.
With the most recent month providing a 41.5% increase in search traffic from the preceding month, AlpInsider shows no signs of slowing down.
How we did it — SEO content planning & topic-expert writing
When we work with a client, we begin with a brand discovery call. So we took the same approach with AlpInsider. It was crucial that we clearly understood AlpInsider’s goals from the get go since these goals would drive our content strategy and be at the centre of everything we do.
We also took our time to decide AlpInsider’s brand values and stylistic preferences. This enabled us to create guidelines and style guides that ensured our content would align with the vision we had for the AlpInsider brand.
Keyword research, content planning & brief creation
Using Ahrefs and Google Keyword Planner, we conducted in-depth keyword research based on the sub-niches we wanted AlpInsider to build authority in. These mostly consisted of mountaineering and cross-country ski topics.
We dug into each viable keyword we found, analysing its SERPs (search engine results pages) to understand how AlpInsider could outrank competing articles.
Asides from the basics – low keyword relevancy and overall domain authority – one thing we assessed in particular was relevant topic expertise. We knew our topic-expert writers (which include lifelong mountaineers and ski instructors) would give us a significant one-up over any competitors lacking in this area.
We then mapped each keyword to a compelling article title, relating primary keywords to secondary keywords to create an efficient and high-impact SEO content plan.
Then we moved on to brief creation. This involved researching each of the associated SERPs in more depth to ensure the articles would be optimised to outrank competing articles. Each brief provided clear information and structure to guide writers in concisely answering search intent and providing maximum value to the reader.
Assigning topic experts and producing the content
Our topic-expert content teams are a USP we’re extremely proud of. In our Google updates case study, we demonstrate how our topic expertise has allowed our clients to thrive on changes to the Google Search algorithm and significantly outperform the market.
First, we appointed a dedicated account manager with years of experience in content marketing to oversee the project, ensure team alignment and monitor project performance.
Our account manager then assigned writers with expertise and authority in topics relevant to the AlpInsider content plan. These included Michael Graw, a Washington-born mountaineer and outdoors writer with decades of experience in the alpine, and Timo Holmquist, a ski instructor and former mountain trail builder.
Seeing Michael and Timo’s author bylines, readers would know they could trust the content. This means that readers would read more of the content and interact more with it–factors that Google considers in its rankings.
We also ensured that Michael and Timo's expertise was demonstrated throughout their internet profiles — i.e. they have a wealth of outdoors content published across several credible websites — and created detailed author profiles for them on AlpInsider, which included real life photos of Michael and Timo out skiing and mountaineering. This is something Google loves and preaches in its E-E-A-T guidelines.
SEO benefits aside, Michael, Timo and other subject-matter experts provide real-world experience in their writing that generalists simply cannot compete with. To build real authority in your niche and offer genuine value to your readers, topic-expert writers are a must.
Reporting and enhancing results
Each month, our strategists presented bespoke data reports that clearly demonstrated how AlpInsider’s content was performing.
Our reports also identified any site-health issues that should be addressed as well as any opportunities to enhance content performance, including adding internal links and extending certain articles to target new keywords.
What happened next — From 0 to 2,300 organic daily clicks in 18 months
In the last 16 months, we have planned, written, edited and uploaded 112 articles and 210,000 words on behalf of AlpInsider. The site was brand new when we uploaded the first article and had zero domain authority (according to Ahrefs and Semrush).
Over this period, these articles have:
- Generated over 4,640,000 million impressions
- Surpassed 71,500 clicks per month from organic search
- Achieved a record 3,548 organic search clicks in a single day
- Seen over 65% of visitors click on CTAs;
- and more than 6.5% convert to affiliate program sales
Gaining authority from high-quality organic backlinks
Though it depends on client goals, our content plans typically contain a certain amount of content designed to be shareable by authoritative websites.
In AlpInsider’s case, one of these articles was a data-rich research piece on why climbing Everest is so deadly. We gathered the most trustable data from multiple sources on Everest deaths vs. summits over the years and wrote a summarised report that gained notable media attention.
The article was organically referred to by relevant, high-authority websites like Climbing.com, Grunge.com, and SkillsYouNeed.com, while we've also picked up links from the likes of PopSci.com (87 DR) to other articles. It’s likely that strong links like these helped AlpInsider to outrank some of its more established competitors.
AlpInsider experienced month-on-month growth, so the most recent month is the most impressive
As displayed in the chart below, AlpInsider reached new all-time highs in the last 30 days.
The peak comes on the most recent day on record – January 29th– as the site saw 3,548 organic search traffic in a single day. For reference, the best in the previous 30 days was 2,442 organic search traffic, meaning the new traffic record was an 45% jump from the one experienced in the previous 30-day period.
Organic search traffic for the whole of the last 30 days was 71,500 which is 41.5% higher than the 50,500 achieved in the previous period.
Summary of AlpInsider’s month-of-month growth
It’s worth noting that due to Christmas and the fact AlpInsider primarily targets the US consumer market, Q4 (Oct-Dec) is naturally expected to be the biggest quarter of AlpInsider’s year.
Therefore, rather than solely focus on growth statistics from this period, it makes sense to also present the month-on-month growth experienced over the duration of our experiment:
Key takeaways from the above table:
- No month shows a decrease in traffic versus its preceding month
- Growth became steadier after we got things off the ground
- Average month-on-month growth for the last 12 months has been 40.5%
Can this continue? AlpInsider’s future growth
While these statistics are impressive, they’re admittedly inflated by the fact we started AlpInsider from scratch. Since AlpInsider had only 61 organic search traffic in October 2021, it had to grow an enormous 21,703% to reach 13,300 organic search traffic by October 2022. This growth is virtually impossible to repeat at scale. However, our robust processes that enabled the growth can be repeated at scale.
Therefore, while we anticipate growth to steadily slow down as traffic increases, we aim to increase AlpInsider’s traffic to 150,000 search traffic by the end of 2023 and 300,000 or more by the end of 2024.