The State of the Site: June, 2019 Edition
June 06, 2019

It feels like a reasonable amount of time has passed since my last update on the State of the Site, so I figured I would go ahead and post another one tonight. I'll try to keep it brief, but as you know if you've been around the site for a long while that I tend to fail at that particular objective once I undertake it. Like... almost every time.

This post will discuss the site's current traffic levels, revenue, what that means at present and what I plan to do about it in the future. Some of this information isn't the sort of thing a site would share in public, but then, we're not a typical site.

Site Traffic

First up, let's talk traffic. I looked up results on Google Analytics, and here is how we did in April of this year:

* 12,743 unique users
* 17,833 sessions
* 40,614 page views
* 76.81% bounce rate

Those numbers are in general quite decent. Spread out over 30 days, they mean we averaged 425 visitors, 594 sessions and 1,353 page views par day. When the site was in what some of you may remember as its heyday, most of the numbers were around 25% better, but our bounce rate was actually quite a bit worse (a higher the bounce rate means a site is doing a worse job of serving the needs of its random visitors; we're at nearly 77% and that's not good for a lot of site types, but for blogs it is actually fairly normal and maybe even on the low side).

Site Revenue

As it has for most of its time on the Internet, the site routinely loses me money on a month-to-month basis. I spend around $75/month keeping the lights on, and the site generates around $12/month from ad banners, essentially nothing from affiliate programs (in fact, Amazon kicked us out of the program because although we were referring people to their site, none of those people were buying anything), and some extra on top of that to my personal Patreon page. Basically, on average I pay 3 times per month what the site generates during the same period. So that is... not ideal.

However, the disappointing revenue figures don't put the site's future in jeopardy because this has long been the case and I plan to keep the site online for many years to come, even if it continues to lose me money. On even my worst days, I'm proud of what we've built here, and on my best days, I'm practically over the moon.

What the Numbers Mean

The traffic numbers could be higher. I would argue that based on the high-quality content we provide, and the breadth of information available to viewers (we're one of the top resources available online in a few keys areas), the numbers could actually be considerably higher.

Revenue could also be better, maybe even to the point that the site earns a return on the time and resources everyone has invested over the last two decades. I would like to see the site generate profit not because my goal is to retire to an island somewhere, but because once it produces profit I will be in a better position to pay myself and others to provide an increased volume of quality content... which would likely mean more visitors to your reviews. It genuinely bugs me that we're producing (as far as I'm concerned) some of the very best game-focused content on the Internet and yet our chief reward for it is the satisfaction that comes from a job well done.

In summary: our numbers aren't terrible, but they should be even better, and making them better would open up new possibilities to do more of what we love with rewards of the sort that might allow us to comfortably expand our efforts. And in that case, everyone would win.

What I Plan to Do About All of the Above

My plan is to continue looking for ways to improve the site's efficiency, and its performance within search engines, so that the site is able to better reward everyone's past and current efforts.

The way search engines--particularly Google, which is easily the most important of the lot--work is that when a "spider" crawls the site, all sorts of factors are considered and those impact an individual page's placement as a general rule, and its placement in particular instances. HonestGamers has a high page count, which I have optimized to perform better in search than similar pages on other sites, but I know it can be further improved.

Google's advice to webmasters is to optimize pages not specifically for performance in search engines (which is what almost everyone does anyway) but to better serve visitors. In theory, serving visitors better will result in higher search engine placement a ways down the road, which will mean more people find the site, more people sign up for and use its services, and more ads are served to generate revenue so the site can pay its bills and grow.

To that end, I will be making minor tweaks around the site in the months ahead. I've already begun making them. Some of those tweaks you will notice. Some you will not. Chiefly, though not exclusively, the tweaks will focus on improving game profile page content, so that a "placeholder" profile has more useful information for visitors so they are less likely to "bounce" (visit the page and then leave within seconds because they don't see anything of interest). I also hope to work to improve the experience for potential new members of the community, from the point where they first access a page to (hopefully) the point where they sign up and begin using site features and maybe contributing.

While I am doing all of that, I hope you will feel especially welcome to give me any suggestions you might have for how your personal experience could be improved. Is there a feature you wish existed that doesn't? Does anything befuddle you or frustrate you? I want to hear about any of that stuff, so I can address it with either an explanation, or a modification to the site's design, or whatever else.

In Conclusion

If you've enjoyed using the site for years, months or days, please continue to do so. I don't plan to make a lot of huge changes. In the past, I've learned that changes for the sake of change tend not to go well. I think a lot of us are happy with the way things are. We're a little old-fashioned, and that's how I want to stay. It's how some of you have told me you want things to remain, as well. So I'm not looking to strip the soul out of the site, or to start covering celebrity gossip and movies and all the stuff that most of the leading entertainment sites have expanded to make their focus. But that commitment to our core objectives doesn't mean the site can't do a better job of welcoming newcomers who would fit right in with the rest of us, if just the process were more accessible.

Thank you for the role you've played in getting us where we are, and I only hope the site can continue to provide a quality experience as together we keep building what already has become one of the best resources for game info and discussion on the Internet!

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Feedback
Masters Masters - June 07, 2019 (10:58 AM)
Jason: sadly, the replies to this post represent the state of the site.
pickhut pickhut - June 07, 2019 (03:23 PM)
To be fair, I've been working for eight and a half hours. That... and I can't think of any helpful feedback at the moment.
hastypixels hastypixels - June 07, 2019 (11:46 PM)
I tend to think like the web developer I was trained as, so that puts my mind on the track of presenting the site's features on a navigation bar somewhere around the top of the screen. Then adding breadcrumb trails because I love those - I find they invite readers to explore content when they can readily explore sections with just a single click.

Example:
Reviewer > Platform > Review ...

It may seem redundant, but a breadcrumb trail at the top and/or bottom of the review page would invite more clicks. It surprisingly easy to include lateral movement in a site without cluttering things up. This is why I would (still) like to see more detailed profiles on review pages. I know you said our blogs perform that task, but you've got to click "blog" or find a way to navigate to your favorite reviewer, and I've personally stopped when I can't find an easy to way to get to what I want.

Call me lazy if you want, but I know for a fact that every click you put between content and the reader is a click that reader won't utilize. Maximizing lateral site movement will encourage people to stay, it is how shopping sites work - and we're offering much the same sort of experience. I really thing that is a good paradigm for this site.

Anyway, just some things to consider. You're doing a bang up job, Jason, and I'm glad you're looking to improve things. Thank you. If there's anything I can do to help besides contributing content, let me know.
honestgamer honestgamer - June 08, 2019 (01:34 AM)
The site used to have a breadcrumb trail such as you outlined here, and some of the older staff and support pages still do. When I did a lot of the early designing on the site, breadcrumb trails hadn't yet fallen out of favor, though they have now. I actually modeled a lot of what I did design-wise at that time based on what I saw leading merchant sites doing, and I haven't entirely ruled out implementing breadcrumb trails again now. It's something I have considered as I also look at optimizing each page to serve a particular purpose, rather than trying to make them all serve as an introduction to everything the site offers. It's tough to get that balance just right, and the cost when I miscalculate isn't always immediate but can sometimes be quite steep. Removing breadcrumb trails definitely helped the site's performance in most areas at the time, but who is to say that would still be the case?

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