Fat Stacks quote from Breaking Bad by Jesse Pinkman

Content Refined Review and Case Study (Traffic & Rankings Results from 1st Batch of Articles)

Several months ago I decided to give Content Refined (the Content Surge service) a try for content. They do keyword research and write the content. Handing off more of the content workflow appealed to me. It's been three months since I published the first batch of articles. Here are the traffic and rankings for those articles.

Every time you add a site to your niche site portfolio, you add unanticipated work.

It sounds simple and in many ways it is by leveraging systems, software, hosting and knowledge, but there are always unanticipated tasks that add up as you add more sites.

My portfolio now totals 16 sites (not including Fat Stacks).

The two most time-consuming tasks as you build up a portfolio are keyword research and content production.

There’s no way one person can manage all the KW research and content production.

The keyword research alone is daunting and I love doing keyword research.

Which is why for many of my newer niche sites, I’m now outsourcing a good chunk of both the keyword research and content production to Content Refined.

This is my Content Refined review in the form of a Case Study.

Below I explain this content service, tell you about my experience and then set out my traffic, rankings and revenue results to date.  You be the judge.  I’ll let the results speak for themselves.

What is Content Refined?

Content Refined is an A to Z content publishing service by Content Refined which is owned by Jon Haver.

Content Refined has been around for years. I’ve ordered content from it here and there.

They offered me a specialized service that they have been beta testing, which included their standard content creation packages plus an additional content strategy, which I’ll cover a little later.  Yes, I paid full rates.

The reason for my interest in Content Refined is it handles all aspects of content production including keyword research, Content writing and formatting on my site.

Of course, none of it matters if the quality isn’t good.

Because I’m a stickler for quality, I started with a smallish order of 6 articles totaling 13,010 words.  The cost was $.08 per word (included keyword research and formatting).  13,010 words x $.08  = $1,040.

How Does Content Refined Work?

Content Refined is a 3-Phase content production service.

Phase 1: Keyword research

You fill out a form with your website details and the Content Refined team creates a content strategy which includes keyword research.  They look for decent opportunities for your site.  My instructions were to seek out low competition keywords.

This process takes about one week to come up with a proposed list of topics/keywords relevant to your site.

When complete, you get this insanely detailed keyword research report.

In my case, they proposed two potential article clusters to go after.

I really liked one of them, so I approved moving to phase 2 for one cluster.

Phase 2: Content Production

Phase 2 is researching and writing the content.

My instructions were to make the content engaging, interesting, accurate and well-written.

I was clear that I’d reject anything that was not as good or better than what I get with WriterAccess.

Phase 2 took about 2.5 weeks.  At the 2.5 week mark, they delivered all articles in .docx.

I reviewed all the articles. I was impressed.  It was good.

However, I wanted a second opinion. I sent 3 of the articles to a fellow big-time website publisher (6 million monthly visitors) to review.  He did and he too was impressed.  And no, he’s not using CR because he has his own cadre of writers that cost less per word and he’s not interested in outsourcing keyword research.

Phase 3: Publishing/Formatting Content

I chose to have my team format the content just because they’re familiar with how I like content but I could have had Content Refined do it.  It was part of the price so if you try CR, the price includes them getting the content on your site for you.

My Content Refined Results

This first batch of CR keyword research and content cost me ,040.  A home run is earning the full cost of content in 6 months.  9 months is decent.   12 months is acceptable.  Longer than that, while not horrendous, it’s not ideal.

Date content was published: April 7, 2020

Date of this Content Refined review and case study: July 14, 2020.  That’s a tad over 3 months.

So far the results are very decent.  Not a home run, but decent.  I suspect I’ll earn the cost of this content back in 9 months.

Here’s the data.  You be the judge.

Big Picture

  • Site UR: 46  /  DR: 72 (FYI the site in this case study has fairly solid authority which makes it quite a bit easier to rank new content).
  • Ad revenue per 1,000 visitors (AdThrive): $25
  • Total spent on content: ,040
  • Total visitors to all 6 articles since publishing date (3 months): 3,855
  • Total approximate revenue earned: 3,855 / 1,000 x $25 = $96.25

Traffic breakdown since the published date (traffic for 3 months):

  • Article 1: 1,683 visits (3,525 words)
  • Article 2: 1,466 visits (1,771 words)
  • Article 3: 354 visits (1,787 words)
  • Article 4: 188 visits (1,629 words)
  • Article 5: 131 visits (1,717 words)
  • Article 6: 33 visits (2,810 words) – Note, I screwed up the SEO title for this article which I suspect contributed to its poor performance.  Good thing I did this case study because I discovered the mistake. What did I do wrong?  I had two random letters added to the front of the first word which resulted in the first word being gibberish.  Talk about a bad mistake.
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TOTAL TRAFFIC in the first 3 months: 3,855 visits.

The average number of visitors per article (3 mos.): 642

Keywords and search rankings as of July 14, 2020 (after 3 months)

  • Article 1: Position 1 (40 monthly searches) / Ahrefs keyword difficulty (KD): 9
  • Article 2: Position 8 (150 monthly searches) / KD: 2
  • Article 3: Position 4 (200 monthly searches) / KD: 6
  • Article 4: Position 21 (350 monthly searches) / KD: 12
  • Article 5: Position 23 (150 monthly searches) / KD: 15
  • Article 6: Pos. not ranking (600 monthly searches) / KD: 12

Inbound referring domains (naturally)

The following sets out the number of referring domains pointing to each article.  I did not build links. These are naturally acquired.

FYI, most of these referring domains aren’t very good which I’ve found to be natural.

  • Article 1: 5 referring domains
  • Article 2: 11 referring domains
  • Article 3: 12 referring domains
  • Article 4: 5 referring domains
  • Article 5: 5 referring domains
  • Article 6: 2 referring domains

TOTAL: 40 referring domains (again, most are garbage)

Am I happy with these results?

Yes, overall I’m very happy.  I believe rankings will continue to improve over the coming months and that this content will break even by 9 to 12 months.

I’m particularly happy with the keyword and topic research.  CR came up with two very good clusters.  I went with one to start but they get low competition KW research and so I think it’s a great service for my smaller sites.

Have I placed more orders with Content Refined?

Yes, I have placed another order – a big one actually.

After reviewing the above results, I’m quite happy.  I believe rankings will continue improving which will exponentially increase traffic. I believe I’ll break even on total content cost no later than 9 months. After that, it’s all profit.

For which sites am I using Content Refined?

I’m using CR for my smaller sites (12 of them).  I’m not using it for my biggest sites because I have a content strategist handling the keyword research and content process.  CR isn’t necessary.

However, if Content Refined can keep delivering like they have with the first round, they’ll be a huge asset for my smaller sites. I’ll be able to let those sites ferment and slowly grow without much involvement freeing me up to write case studies like this.

Did I order content for the Fat Stacks public niche site Cyclebaron.com?

Yes, I did order content from Content Refined for Cyclebaron.com which means you’ll be able to see the quality of the content.  Note, it’s not yet published. I only recently ordered the content.

Who is Content Refined for?

Content Refined isn’t for everybody.  IMO it’s for two groups of people.

First, it’s for newcomers who have the funds to invest in content who don’t have much time and aren’t confident about keyword research.  Assuming CR does as good keyword research for every client as they did for me, this part of the content process will be a huge help.

Second, it’s for folks looking to scale up by outsourcing all of the content production.  This is the camp I fall in and I know many other colleagues fall in this camp as well.  At some point, whether you want to publish far more content on one site or wish to scale up with multiple sites, you need to outsource the keyword research in addition to content production.

How much does Content Refined cost?

It costs $.08 per word which includes:

  1. Keyword research (approved by you)
  2. Content writing
  3. Publishing on your WordPress blog (formatting and the whole shebang)

The Sweet Spot

My most recent Content Refined was 12,000 words for 12 sites totaling 144,000 words.  That’s a big chunk of change but most of those 12 sites have some revenue coming in which means it’s not as bad cost-wise as it sounds.

12,000 words of content will be around 8 articles, depending on the keywords.

That’s $960 per site per month.

Some of those sites earn more than that.  Most earn less.

The sweet spot for my smaller niche sites will be the $1,000 per month revenue because then they’re self-financing which results in a growing asset costing me nothing.  It’s like being a landlord where the rent pays the mortgage in a market where real estate values are increasing.

I doubt all 12 sites will hit ,000 per month in one year but I do believe the total revenue of those 12 sites will exceed the cost to finance content for all 12 sites.  If I achieve that, I’ll be content.

If you only end up breaking even in 12 months, how do you eat?

My biggest niche site which earns a healthy revenue provides for my personal expenses.  This is why when starting out, I strongly suggest focusing on one site until it’s earning a ton of money.  Then take the excess proceeds and invest in additional websites (assuming you like the multi-site model).

My Overall Content Refined Ratings

Content Refined Ratings
  • Keyword Research
  • Content Quality
  • Turnaround Time
  • Overall

Note, keyword research and content quality are more important than timeliness.  I’d love for CR to have a 7 to 10 day turnaround time, but that’s the one downside of using a content service vs. a content broker (like WriterAccess).

What was I most impressed with?

The keyword research was outstanding.  They found a cluster that was not on my radar (and I’ve been operating in the niche for 5+ years).  Moreover, they followed my instructions to a tee by seeking out low competition keywords with some search volume.

You get an opportunity to approve the keywords/topics, which is great.  If you’re not excited about the topics, you can say so.  IMO, the foundation for rankings and a great site is excellent keyword research.

By using CR for my smaller niche sites, I’ll save myself many hours each month from doing keyword research.


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