I analyze a 10-year-old authority travel website, TheBrokeBackpacker.com. The site receives 210,000+ pageviews per month (Ahrefs estimate) with more than 3,500 articles published.
The brand’s large team did an exceptional job bouncing back from the significant blows dealt by the Google updates in September 2019 and 2022.
This is the main reason why I decided to conduct this teardown – I discovered how they were able to increase their content output by 10X, boost their affiliate revenue, and achieve much more. The first easy win that I’ll be sharing below was especially surprising.
This is what I cover in this report:
- Website overview
- Major highlights
- Competitor overview
- Easy wins to increase revenue and/or traffic
- Actionable takeaways you can apply
Let’s get into it!
✅ Website Overview & Highlights
According to Ahrefs, the site has an intriguing traffic history, with peaks exceeding 400k and dips around 200k. Although the site’s traffic is partially seasonal, the drops can be attributed to the September updates, specifically the 2019 core update and the recent 2022 product reviews update.
There is a large amount of referring domains (17,600+) linking to the site:
The website’s domain has been in operation since 2013 and has undergone several iterations, primarily centered around budget travel.
It was founded by Will Hatton, an adventurer who started the site as a personal blog before transitioning it into a more professional platform focused on providing travel tips for Southeast Asia and guidance on making money online.
It appears that the site was sold in 2022.
Further research led me to an article that provided valuable insights into how the owner and the site coped during the COVID-19 pandemic, and unfortunately, the situation was dire.
- More than 3,500 articles published over the years
- 10+ affiliate partnerships (from Booking, to REI and other camping gear affiliates
- Team of 10+ people working on the site
- Recovered from one significant Google update hit, and on the path of recovery from the 2nd hit
Why is this site winning?
- A vast quantity of well-crafted content has been published across numerous content silos
- Spotless E-A-T elements can be observed on this site, with more than 10 well-written and detailed bios of people on the About page. Additionally, the site has a well-documented 10-year journey.
- Huge backlink profile consisting of more than 18,000 referring domains (Wikipedia, TheGuardian, Yahoo, Forbes, etc.)
Top 3 Competitors
Here are similar competitors targeting the majority of the same keywords.
- NomadicMatt.com – 340k traffic according to Ahrefs, a very similar site to this one. Even more personalized than TheBrokeBackpacker
- TravellersWorldwide.com – 600k traffic according to Ahrefs, huge growth in last 12 months, possible AI content
- MissTourist.com – 90k traffic according to Ahrefs, another personalized travel blog
Let’s get into the easy wins to grow this specific website.
🔥 4 Easy Wins To Grow This Website
There are opportunities to significantly grow this brand. I break down the following easy wins:
- Add programmatic display ads
- Find people that will write real travel reviews
- Do a proper content analysis
- Sponsored content
Let’s get into it!
➡️ Win #1: Add programmatic display ads
This site generates revenue solely from affiliate commissions through several affiliate deals.
Nevertheless, given the many well-designed CTAs implemented across all content, there is no reason why this site shouldn’t explore display ad networks such as Mediavine or AdThrive.
Even if affiliate revenue were to decline, based on my experience, display ads would likely still improve overall revenue. The expected RPM in this niche would be $25 to $35 depending on the specific topics.
In any case, you can always turn off display ads if they don’t perform as well as expected.
➡️ Win #2: Find writers who are capable of producing real, authentic reviews
A new Google update targeting product reviews is rolling out, and this site reviews numerous travel destinations, accommodations, restaurants, and hotels across the world.
However, due to budget restrictions for most niche website builders, it’s evident that the majority of the reviews online are not based on personal experiences.
Creating authentic reviews is the safest way to move forward in the niche content space, and fortunately, this is one of the easier niches to accomplish this in.
Here’s my plan for how I would address this:
- Hire a VA to compile a list of 500-1,000 travel influencers from social media and those that blog
- Reach out to them and request write-ups of their recent travels based on location.
- Optimize their articles for specific keywords
- Add them as contributors to your blog in About page, and at the end of their articles
- Include as many “real” images and videos sourced from them as possible
➡️ Win #3: Do a proper content analysis
This site is quite extensive and has several clear content silos such as the best eco-resorts, guesthouses, hostels, villas, information on the cost of living, safety, and travel cost for numerous places all across the planet. It’s crucial to track each silo to ensure optimal performance.
Here’s how I would approach it:
First, create separate GA properties or segmentation for each silo. Next, calculate the ROI for each silo. As the site earns solely from affiliate revenue, this shouldn’t be a significant issue if you already have affiliate tracking software in place.
Then, monitor rankings and how each silo reacts to Google updates.
Also, analyze how quickly new content ranks and track metrics such as clicks, impressions, average duration spent on pages, and bounce rate for each silo.
Prune any content that isn’t ranking at all or hasn’t received any clicks after 90 to 120 days being published.
By gathering all this information into one spreadsheet, you’ll have a clear picture of what type of content ranks the best and worst.
➡️ Win #4: Sponsored content
While we’ve explored a number of strategies to increase revenue for travel blogs in previous newsletters, I’d also like to highlight the potential of sponsored posts in this niche.
Despite some people having negative views on sponsored content, this site has already established authority in the industry with over 7,000 domains linking to it with do-follow links.
This means that many popular travel sites are already linking to it, making it easier to outreach to travel brands, tourism boards, and other companies in the travel industry.
While sponsored posts are in this case limited to blog posts, there are several ways to monetize them, such as renting ad space, negotiating a flat fee, or re-negotiating an existing commission-based offer.
I estimate that this site has the potential to earn up to $10,000 per year by publishing just one or two sponsored posts per month.
👉 Actionable Takeaways
Here are actionable takeaways that you can apply to your niche website today:
- As AI tech advances, the value of authentic and well-written content will become increasingly important. For site’s with authority, I recommend doubling down now.
- Sponsored content can be a reliable and safe source of revenue if your site has significant authority. However, don’t just accept ANY random guest article. Make the brand put in effort to write a one-of-a-kind article.
- Display ads DO NOT kill affiliate revenue. That is a myth.