How to Build an AI Site in 6 Months (A Challenge with 143 Participants!)

Just over 6 months ago, I decided to ask my audience what “challenge” they would like to participate in.

I wanted to encourage people to take action and build something…anything. I figured as a way to incentive more people to try and build an online business, I’d offer a grand prize of $2,500 to whomever won the competition.

I listed about a dozen different ideas including:

  • Sell Digital Downloads on Etsy
  • Start a “No Face” YouTube channel
  • Buy and sell concert tickets online
  • Build a programmatic SEO site
  • Build and Launch an iPhone App
  • Buy and Flip a Website in 90 Days
  • Buy Amazon Return Pallets (and Resell)
  • Create an SEO Site Using AI Content

My audience voted to build an SEO site using AI Content, and so that is the challenge I started!

In total, I got 143 applicants to throw their hat in the ring and commit to building a brand new site using AI for a period of 6 months.

Today, I have a winner to announce!! When I told her she was currently in the lead, she said, “I can’t believe I might win this thing!”

The Goal and the Rules

The goal? Get as much organic traffic from Google or other search engines after 6 months.

The winner was to be determined by the most organic traffic in the FINAL month of the competition (not cumulative).

The logic behind setting those rules to select the winner was that it takes time for a site to gain traction in SEO. Ideally the winner would be someone that was consistently growing over 6 months; instead of someone that just happened to have a good month 2 or 3 and then crashed and burned.

The additional rules were fairly simple:

  • You must a site on a new domain (not an expired or aged domain).
  • You must use AI to create the content. Human editing is just fine and encouraged.
  • You can build links if you want.

That was pretty much it.

The “Perfect” Timing

To say there was a little excitement surrounding this challenge would be an understatement.

The official start date was September 20th, 2023.

It just so happens that Google’s “Helpful Content Update” started rolling on on September 14th and ended on September 28th.

Without knowing, we started an AI content challenge right in the middle of one of the largest Google updates ever rolled out.

The final end date of the challenge?

April 1st, 2024.

So, the challenge just HAPPENED to end right in the middle of the Google March Core update…also projected to be one of the larger updates. That Google core update is still happening.

So, the incredible timing of this challenge is interesting to say the least and as I’ll share below, this definitely impacted some of the results.

The First 2 Months

In the first 2 months, there was a TON of excitement.

143 people were out building sites and trying to create AI content.

After a period of 72 days or 2 full months (and the partial month of September), I recorded a full update video.

I HIGHLY encourage you to watch this video to understand what was going on:

After the first 72 days, we already had a couple of participants that were getting over 1,000 organic visitors a month!

Sure, 1,000 visitors a month is not that much, but for a new site it’s really not that bad.

Some people chose to reveal their sites, while others kept them private. Some published over 500 articles in 2 months, others only published 1 or 2.

However, what was fascinating to see was how quickly people started giving up. After just 2 months, nearly a third of all participants had stopped reporting their progress.

You’ll notice that trend throughout the reports.

Month 3

After 3 months, we were down to only about 53 people reporting out of the original 143 participants.

However, the organic traffic had grown significantly for those still participating!

Jennifer was in the lead with 6267 organic visitors for the month with Tonja and Victoria not far behind.

You can see the full month 3 results here.

Month 4

I recorded a full video of the month 4 results that you can watch below.

And you can get the more detailed 3 month reports with everyone’s numbers right here.

One of the participants, Edvard, published AI content in MASS!

In fact, he published over 7,000,000 articles and was in the lead with 22,800 organic visitors!

However, as you’ll see in the next month’s update, his lead did not last long.

Month 5

At the 5 month mark, Edvard technically still had the most organic traffic for the month with about 18,600.

However, his site was hit hard by a penalty and was getting hardly any visitors by the end of the month.

Here’s a look at his traffic graph.

Unfortunately, Jennifer’s site was also hit with a penalty towards the end of March and was not able to recover.

I suspect that a few other people were hit with a Google penalty in February and March.

You can see the full 5 month reports right here.

I recorded an entire video that shows the 5 month results in more depth below.

6 Months: final report!

With all of that “drama” over the past 6 months, I’m happy to share that we have a winner!

🎉The person with the most organic traffic after 6 months is Victoria Cornell!🎉

Congrats Victoria!

She is the winner of the $2,500 grand prize!

You can see the final results for all the competitors right here.

You can read all participants final reports, what they said worked for their strategies, and see all their final videos right here inside the Niche Pursuits Community Forum.

Victoria shared with me her Google Analytics and Google Search Console, so I was able to verify her traffic and know her site.

I won’t be sharing the URL of her site at her request.

However, I’m happy to share that in month 6 of the challenge, she was able to get 12,398 organic sessions!

Here’s what her traffic looked like for the month of March 2024:

And here’s what Victoria’s traffic looks like over the life of her site (since 9/20/23).

Overall, her site has grown nicely over the 6 months. The site appear to have flattened a bit or even a slight decline since the March Core Update, but not significantly.

Want to hear how Victoria was able to build her site?

Well, she provided several video updates along the way!

Victoria Month 1 Update:

Victoria Month 2 Update:

Victoria Month 6 Update (Final Report!):

What Did We Learn?

So, what can we are learn from this AI Challenge?

First, it does appear that those that took time to human edit their AI content fared a bit better than those that didn’t (like Victoria vs. Edvard).

So, producing content en masse is likely not a winning formula.

However, because this challenge was happening during the HCU and the March Core updates, there has been a LOT of volatility.

Finally, a big takeaway for me is the importance of sticking with a goal.

143 people were initially excited about a “new shiny object”, but the majority of people quit after just a couple of months.

The final report after 6 months only included 23 of the original 143 people.

Everyone had reasons for moving on from the project, and that’s fine.

But I’ve often found that the hardest part of business is sticking with a project when it’s no longer “new” and “exciting”.

So, a HUGE congrats to all participants that stuck with it for a full 6 months…I truly hope that you learned something valuable!

Feel free to comment below with your thoughts or questions!

And if you would like to be a part of a community that explores ways to build long lasting niche publishing business, you should check out the Niche Pursuits Community Right here.

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