I recently returned from an amazing vacation to the Galapagos Islands. What an amazing place, its hard to put into words. I will soon be posting some stories and photos on my Galapagos Travel Blog. I just need time to sift through 1,300 photos and pages of my hand-written journal.

As I mentioned briefly in my previous blog entry, my Galapagos blog currently contains a bit of fun: the first 33 entries were not written by me, but by Charles Darwin way back in 1835, when he first visited the islands. At the same time, this also serves as an experiment in public domain web content. The 33 entries were taken from a single chapter of "The Voyage of the Beagle", a book written by Darwin about a trip around the world, that included many stops, including the Galapagos Islands. The book is now in the public domain, which means that the book is no longer covered by copyright. As such, it can be republished freely and legally.

Of course, my travel blog is not the only site on the web that includes some or all of the text of the book. The key question for the experiment, therefore, is would I be able to generate search engine rankings and traffic using content that has been previously published many times over?. The answer, which is a little surprising, is yes.

Here are some stats since I left on vacation, April 23, 2007:

  • 141 visitors
  • 205 page views
  • 140 people came from a Google Search, 1 from an AOL search
  • 94 different keyword phrases were used to find the site
  • several top rankings, including a #2 for tortoise mating, a #10 for Galapagos Climate, and a #12 for the non-specific phrase "different plants".

Since I don't have any ads on the blog (yet), the site has made no earnings. But 141 visitors from search engines within less than 3 weeks from public domain content that I cut-and-pasted isn't bad at all. And remember, I used just one chapter from the book. If I had used all 21 chapters, perhaps I would have received 2,961 visitors. And what I did the same for 10 public domain books of similar size? Then the total would have been almost 30,000 visitors in just over two weeks. Now we are talking significant traffic.

Of course, this experiment in public domain web content is not completely fair. Based on my experience building web content and search engine optimization (SEO), I did a number of things to help improve my chances of success. I am going to continue to research and experiment with public domain web content. Look forward for more from me on the topic in future.