I have built over 100 sites....some winners....mostly losers, but I learn from each mistake I make. Recently I purchased a few adsense sites on Flippa and was able to look under the hood of each one to see what was working to make them rank. I spent 5 k on 6 sites.
So...using the methods, plugins, on page seo, from these sites I go and build 30 sites all in the same niche. Same, but slightly different. They are in a high cpc competitive niche and all average from 1000 to 14000 monthly US visits.
The sites all look the same. same theme, header, same sub titles, same flow, same plugins, same amount of images and content.
One of the sites landed on the first page in week two. It was number 3 by week four, and at week six it is holding at number one. The keyword gets 1800 exact searches a month. I have not put adsense on the site yet.
I was never expecting a first page presence until a couple of months in to be honest.
My issue is......Why the hell are the other 29 copycat sites not even ranking? Some of them did show up on the second or third page briefly but then fell.....the google dance. I never did a thing different with any of the sites.
When I say the sites are similar, think along this line....bluedogcoats.com, reddogcoats.net, yellowdogcoats.com, orangedogcoats.org, purpledogcoats.com etc. etc.
Google....you make it damn tough to figure out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Note....none of the sites have backlinks.