Part of my job in real life is to analyze website data. Pouring through the numbers, I gather insights and make recommendations on how our clients should proceed. When it comes to this site, I peek at the numbers daily, though the amount of analysis that can be done though the wordpress.com suite of analytics has been pretty limited.
Recently, they rolled out the ability to export post data into CSV files. I did that, added an assortment of metatags, and start splicing up the numbers into interesting chucks. Let’s take a peek together at what’s happening under the hood of In Third Person!
2015 was a great year for the site. It was the 2nd highest in terms of traffic, though its peak year in 2012 was pretty fraudulent. A few random posts that weren’t in the spirit of the site, such as the post about my new car at the time, became Google search darlings, elevating my traffic to levels that weren’t sustainable or representative of how the site as a whole was performing. Once those pages cooled off, traffic took a nose dive that was even lower than 2011 levels.
Since then, the site has bounced back while keeping true to what I’m trying to do here. From 2013 to 2014, traffic increased by 15%. From 2014 to 2015, traffic rose again by 28.43%. While it’s still a ways away from catching up to those inflated 2012 levels, the site is in a good spot now and showing positive growth.
The Content Mix
In 2013, In Third Person started to expand its content spectrum from beyond the video game space. I started writing about board games that year, and would start writing about comic books in 2014. In 2015, it was interesting to see how each category performed.
|Content Category||% of total posts viewed||% of total traffic|
It’s no surprise to me that 75.70% of viewed posts were related to video games. What is interesting is the fact that video game content only makes up 57.79% of all traffic. That means that video game posts are under-performing relative to the amount of viewed posts that were video game related.
The category darling was board games. Making up only 14.04% of viewed posts, they generated 28.23% of traffic. In essence, they performed about twice as well as they should relative to the percentage of viewed posts. As for the rest, comic books were a disappointment, as they under-performed relative to their percentage of viewed posts.
Next, I broke the data down by content type. Which types of posts perform the best?
|Content Type||Average # of Pageviews|
Guides perform exceptionally well for the site. A big part of that goes to the Universal Fighting Game Guide, which contain a series of evergreen posts that are linked to from some of the biggest fighting game forums on the internet. I truly appreciate the attention my work here gets, especially if it helps grow the fighting game community.
But it’s not just those guides that put up big numbers. While my comic book content has been mostly disappointing, the 8 Good Places to Start Reading X-Men post was one of the most popular in 2015. I think guides work so well for me because I choose to answer questions that you can’t necessarily find answers to on the big gaming or comic book sites. This should continue to be a driver going forward, as this type of content is just too niche for big sites like IGN or Gamespot.
Reviews did well, but with a huge catch. More on that later. The real stinker here is video. While the true measure of a video’s success is on YouTube, it sucks to see that the posts receive so little attention, especially when some of those videos take a lot of effort to make. I won’t go into detail on video here, as that’s sort of a different discussion on how that’s performing.
Getting even more granular, I mash both groups together to see what really works and what really doesn’t.
|Content Type||Average # of Pageviews|
|Board Game Articles||59.96|
|Comic Book Articles||25.04|
|Video Game Articles||22.84|
|Board Game Guide||162.57|
|Comic Book Guide*||490.00|
|Video Game Guide||598.88|
|Board Game Reviews||132.07|
|Comic Book Reviews||13.81|
|Video Game Reviews||17.86|
*Comic Book Guide is heavily skewed, as there was only one guide
Let’s tackle this one content type at a time. Articles in general put up ho-hum numbers, save for board games. Really proud to see those performing as well as they are, as they have been the most interesting to write over the last few years. I do wish the video game articles performed better, but it’s a much harder area to crack.
With guides, stellar numbers all around. The board game stuff is heavily influenced by the Awesome Board Games You Should Play page, as well as the monthly Board Game Night Playlists. In particular, the awesome list is an evergreen post that appears to serve its purpose extremely well.
In regards to reviews, my board game stuff performs exceptionally well compared to the others. This really caught me off-guard, as my reviews for video games and comic books have struggled historically to gain any traction. To see board game reviews performing as well as they are makes me feel really good.
Based on the numbers, it would be easy to say that I should just only make board game content and ditch everything else. While I love writing about board games, I also love writing about video games when I have something to say on the matter. Besides, this blog is a platform for me to talk about whatever I want, so I’ll use this space however I choose.
While I’d like to give all the credit to my board game content being excellent, I think the source of that success comes from the current landscape of board game writing. Unlike video games or comics, there are no juggernauts like IGN, Gamespot, Newsarama or Comic Book Resources. Yes, there’s Board Game Geek, but it exists primarily as an information hub and message board. For the type of board game content I make, the landscape is wide open of small fries like me taking hold of a niche and active audience scraping the depths of the internet for more information.
Taken beyond board games, the video game and comic book content that excels is the stuff that you can’t get at those major outlets. Whether it’s a detailed guide on where to start reading X-Men comics, a guide on how to understand frame data, or a guide on what games to play on your next board game night, stuff like this has always thrived on my site. You can get an Uncharted 3 review anywhere, but success for me in terms of generating traffic comes down to making stuff that you can’t get anywhere else.
But do I really want to go down the path of optimizing the entire site for maximum traffic? Does my site then just turn into a Buzzfeed list nightmare? No. My goal for this was to always be a platform for me to speak my mind. Heck, if I didn’t follow my heart, I never would have started writing about board games in the first place. That came about because I fell in love with the medium and wanted to share my thoughts about the scene with the world. Ultimately, for this site to continue being a success, I have to keep writing for the love of the craft, not because I want to see numbers on a chart go up. The numbers can go as high as I want, but if I don’t love what I’m doing, then there isn’t a large enough number to keep me doing this.