Project Alcyone: Month 14 – December 2020

As most of you already know, Google had a Core Algorithm Update in December. And unluckily, Project Alcyone lost a huge chunk of traffic. So we’ll briefly talk about our thoughts and theories on the update below.

Because of the update, this month, we saw traffic decline by 60% and earnings decline by 45%. Ouch.

Just as we were about to celebrate the recent success of this project over the holidays, we get smacked by an algorithm update.

Getting smacked by a Google Core Algorithm Update is quite a humbling experience. This update shows us that nobody is safe. You can still implement a pretty white-hat strategy and still end up on the wrong end of a core update. It is simply an occupational hazard that we SEOs have to deal with.

The December Core Update

Project Alcyone was actually the only site in our portfolio that got absolutely destroyed by the algorithm update. Our other projects either gained or maintained. Among our public case studies, Project Aphrodite gained, while Project Artemis maintained.

At first, this left us a little confused. Because we build all the sites in our portfolio the same way. Same technical setup, same editorial team, and same link building strategies.

However, after taking a closer look at the winners/losers and seeing it from a certain perspective, it kind of made sense.

A lot of SEOs believe that the update was mainly a links-based one and I agree. That is probably true for the majority of sites affected. However, there are obviously a lot of factors. And an on-page perspective seems to better explain what happened to this site.

We have 2 theories:

1. There was a tightening of niche relevance. This site, despite being in the home and gardening niche, contains a lot of round-up reviews of very different products. And these round-up reviews barely had any supporting content linking to them, they just linked to each other. Quite similar to multi-niche sites like GearHungry and TheArchitectsGuide (two sites that got absolutely destroyed by the update).

2. Sites with a high ratio of commercial content (“best of” round-up reviews) were negatively impacted. If you’ve been following this case study, currently around 80% of our content is commercial.

When you get hit by an algorithmic penalty, you usually will not be able to recover until the next core update. So until the next core update, based on our theories above, we will try to recover our traffic by publishing a lot of supporting info content.

And one more thing:

Despite this update sort of making sense, there was a lot of collateral damage. A lot of quality sites got absolutely crushed. And a lot of lower quality sites are showing up on the SERPs now. So I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some sort of partial reversal on the next core update.

This analysis of the core update on seobility pretty much sums up how a lot of SEOs are feeling.


We published 2 articles (5,398 words). 1 How-To Post, and 1 Round-up Review.

Because of the holidays, we had to slow down on publishing content this month. We also had to shift our focus to figuring out what was going on with the algo update.

Project Total Content Published = 80 Articles (229,096 Words). 60 Round-up Reviews, 14 How-To Posts, 3 Versus Posts, 1 Question Post, 1 List Post, and 1 Alternatives Post.

All content was written by our in-house editorial team, using our templates & guidelines, and optimized using Surfer SEO.

If you’re interested in content written and optimized our way, check out our service at BoostZeus: SEO Content. Use Discount Code: Alcyone to get a 20% discount on your first order.


We built 3 links (guest posts) through our ABC Plus subscription.

Project Total Links Built = 81

We decided not to build any tier 2 PBN links this month.

Project Total Tier 2 PBN Links Built = 108


We experienced a 60% decline in traffic this month. From 74,333 sessions last month to 30,408 sessions this month.

Project Alcyone - Month 14 - Traffic

Despite losing all this traffic, we are actually still ranking though. We’re just on the bottom of page 1 or between pages 2-3.

This is typically what happens during an algorithmic penalty. You don’t actually lose all your rankings, they’re just being suppressed.


As you may have already expected, earnings declined 45% to $3,255.33 this month. We earned $2,528.18 from Amazon US.

As you can see in the chart below, earnings were also decimated as a result of the algorithm update.

Project Alcyone - Month 14 - Amz US Earnings

You can find our earnings from Amazon UK, Canada, and Australia (converted to USD) below:

  • Earnings from Amazon UK: $239.09
  • Earnings from Amazon CA: $459.51
  • Earnings from Amazon Aus: $28.55

Project Total Earnings: $20,899.24


This month, we spent a total of $769.90. we spent $269.90 on content, and $500 on links.

Project Total Expenses on Content: $11,404.80

Project Total Expenses on Links: $12,470.98

Project Total Expenses (Others): $725.28

Project Total Expenses: $24,601.06

Disclaimer: The $11,404.80 we spent on content is actually the price of the content if it was purchased from our service (BoostZeus: SEO Content). We want to demonstrate how this strategy can still work even if you outsource both content and links.

Project Total Profit/Loss

Project Total Earnings: $20,899.24

Project Total Expenses: $24,601.06

Project Total Profit/Loss: -$3,701.82

We’re now 14 months into this project, and we’ve spent over $24,000 and made nearly $21,000 in earnings. As a result, we’re only in the “hole” for a little over $3,000. Because this site was affected by the recent algorithm update, it will probably take a little longer to break-even. But I have no doubt that we will be in the green within the next couple of months.

However, the success of this site now depends on whether we can recover from the algorithm update. So stick around and see if we can turn this around!

Quick Recap:

  • Project Alcyone was affected by the December Core Algorithm Update
  • Published 2 articles (5,398 words)
  • Built 3 links (guest posts)
  • 60% decline in traffic to 30,408 sessions
  • Earnings this month: $3,255.33
  • Expenses this month: $769.90
  • Project total profit/loss: -$3,701.82

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