The Truth About TTAG: Q2 2012

Every quarter I like to give you guys a little update as to how we’re doing — by “us” I of course mean TTAG and by “doing” I mean how our traffic looks. By investigating the traffic for the site we can figure out how many people read our blog, and hopefully provide advertisers with an idea of how many people they’re reaching when they advertise here (thus providing an incentive to do so and funding our website). So let’s begin, shall we?

Let’s start with a summary. This quarter (the period from April 1 to June 30 inclusive):

  • 1,711,639 unique visitors
  • 6,353,098 pageviews
  • 3:05 Average length of visit

But what does that mean exactly?

“Unique Visitors” is a measure of how many individual people read something on our site. If you want an existing metric you can compare it to, “circulation” for magazines is probably the closest you’ll find. Our monthly average for the quarter was around 615,889 individual people per month. Put another way, that’s 148% of the readership of Guns & Ammo (source) — their entire readership plus almost another half more. In other words we’re playing with the big boys now.

That’s not to say that we’re the most widely read — Field & Stream and American Rifleman still seem to be the top dogs with 1.4 to 1.5 million readers — but we do think that we’re the best. And a growing number of people seem to agree. Just not necessarily those who want to advertise with us, unfortunately.

“Pageviews” is the total number of times our web servers have generated a page for our readers, be it the front page or an article. For advertisers this would equate to the total number of opportunities for someone to click on a link in your ad or be influenced by one of your advertisements on our site. Its also a pretty standard metric among those running websites for the proverbial “whipping it out” contest, since its an extremely easy number to compute and compare with great accuracy.

The above graph shows our pageviews broken out by month since we started, and there is one rather alarming dip right around March. You may remember that around that time RF decided to move the servers to GoDaddy (no doubt drawn by the… erm… “talents” of their marketing department) which resulted in just about everything going wrong that possibly could. Comments didn’t work, posts were lost (everything I wrote in December 2011 mysteriously disappeared, for example)… It wasn’t fun. Traffic took an instant 10% hit and refused to recover.

Thankfully RF saw the light and moved our servers back to Rackspace. Not long after we transitioned to Zippykid, which compared to everything else we’ve been doing to keep this website running is the promised land of milk and honey. We’ve since restored all of the missing posts and comments are working better (if not perfect), and traffic is starting to return to its normal roaring pace. Ignoring the “SHOT SHOW jump” from January we’re actually still remarkably close to being “on pace” for continued growth.

Despite the website issues we still had the best quarter ever in terms of traffic. And the weekly numbers continue to trend ever skywards.

“Average Length of Visit” tells us how long the average reader sticks around. If that number were under a minute I would have to conclude that people come here expecting something and finding something completely different, then scurry away like a cockroach when you turn the light on. But because the number is roughly equivalent to the time it takes to read one of our reviews I get the distinct feeling that people are actually reading what we write.

Speaking of reading what we write, here are the top 10 articles of the last quarter determined by total pageviews:

I bet you can see the pattern here. It gets a whole lot more clear when you realize that the next 20 articles in the list are all gun reviews. People seem to really like our reviews.

So what’s the point of all this? What am I trying to convey? I’m trying to point out to prospective advertisers that we’re the best bet for investing their advertising money, as we have gobs of loyal readers (and are growing that number every day) and FAR cheaper than magazines to reach similar numbers of people.

I’m trying to point out to manufacturers that we’re a trusted source for gun reviews, and that you should lend us your firearms so that we can provide an accurate and truthful review to people who may be interested in purchasing your goods. And I’m trying to confirm in your minds, our dear readers, that you’re not alone in thinking that we’re awesome. The cat’s pajamas, even. Because we are. And we will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

So what’s coming up that’s new and exciting? Well we’re launching a podcast, but more on that later today. We’ve also invested in some video equipment to do better quality videos and possibly feature length segments.

But mostly we’re going to keep focusing on what we do best, namely gun reviews and providing in-depth coverage of news and events. As I like to point out, the difference between TTAG and other blogs is that here we strive to give you the whole picture when something new comes up. Some blogs just post a short blurb about the news with some comment about how excited they are. Others just repost press releases, or do a half-assed job of reporting the news. Here you get the whole story, including why the news is interesting or important and what the impact may be. Well, we try at least.

Keep reading — it only gets better from here.

comments

  1. avatar matt says:

    How do you determine what a unique visitor is? It seems rather odd that there are only 200 – 300 commentators for 1.7 unique visitors. I have Ghostify installed which blocks things like google analytics, so chances are whenever I hit refresh you get a new unique visitor.

    Also your John Deere screen hi-jack ads forced me to reinstall ad blocking software.

  2. avatar matt says:

    How do you determine what a unique visitor is? When you take in to consideration how loud mouthed most Americans are, it seems rather odd that there is 1.7 million unique visitors but only 200 – 300 commentators. I have Ghostify installed, so chances are whenever I hit refresh, you get a new unique visitor.

    Also your John Deere ads forced me to reinstall ad blocking software.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      I have Ghostify installed, so chances are whenever I hit refresh, you get a new unique visitor.

      The vast majority of people don’t run software like that. That doesn’t invalidate your point, however. Visitors are tracked by IP, so if I read on my computer and on my phone, that’s at least two different IPs, and since my phone’s IP changes based on where I am, that adds to it as well. It’s still a trackable metric though, you just have to pay attention to it in the large scale, not in fine-grained numbers. An increase of 10 is not significant, an increase of 100k is.

      On the other hand, as Nick pointed out, that’s why pageviews is pretty much the standard for judging traffic, because that isn’t location dependent. They don’t care if I read it at home, on my phone, or at work, as long as they know I’m reading it.

      1. avatar matt says:

        The vast majority of people don’t run software like that.

        Most people don’t, but most web bots do, and there are a ton of them out there on the internet.

        Visitors are tracked by IP

        It is highly unlikely they are using IPs as the sole metric. If so it would be horribly flawed, see NATed environments and DHCP.

      2. avatar Matt in FL says:

        re: web bots

        OK, so web bots do. Doesn’t that increase the reliability of the metric? Since bots aren’t actually “eyeballs on the page” you wouldn’t want them counted anyway, right?

        IPs combined with cookies are the primary method of determining unique visitors, I believe. Some people block cookies entirely, some flush them after every browsing session. The first set would artificially deflate viewing numbers, the second set would tend to artificially inflate them. On average, it probably balances out, and to the level that it doesn’t, see my previous comment about observing the general trend vs granularity.

        1. avatar matt says:

          fukc I hate spam filters, replace anlaytics with the proper spelling in the links because TTAG is too lazy to fix their regular expressions or setup white lists.

          IPs combined with cookies are the primary method of determining unique visitors, I believe.

          That is highly unlikely as it would defeat the purpose of cookies. I bothered to check ghostify, and I would assuming they are using google anlaytics, which is based solely on cookies.

          Some people block cookies entirely, some flush them after every browsing session. The first set would artificially deflate viewing numbers

          It would depend on how the javascript code is setup. If a cookie isnt present, it may simply generate the value in javascript.

          the second set would tend to artificially inflate them.

          Which according to this blog article, google anlaytics does generate a new unique visitor

          http://www.anlaytics-ninja.com/blog/2011/12/how-unique-are-unique-visitors-in-google-anlaytics.html

          OK, so web bots do. Doesn’t that increase the reliability of the metric?
          Not all web bots, simply many of them. Some bots like SearchMe or Alexa will execute javascript and pass cookies. How exactly they work, such as if those cookies are persistent is not known.

          Either way, this is a horribly flawed metric. I doubt they are doing the most basic of filtering, such as web bot user agents, so as to not deflate their ego. I would love to see them make the actual data set available. But since they wont even state the source of this metric, I doubt we’ll ever see a data set.

          I would love to see a report comparing the number of unique commentators to unique visitors.

        2. avatar Matt in FL says:

          Jeez, man, you need to loosen the straps on your tinfoil hat. You seem determined to disbelieve the information in Nick’s post, and I’m not sure why. I mean, I get that the number of unique visitors is not super-reliable, but it is representative, and when viewed in that light, is still useful.

          I read the article you linked, and he opines that the number of uniques is somewhere between 25-39% greater than the actual number of human visitors. OK, I’ll stipulate that for this argument. The point is still that if this quarter showed 1.7M uniques, and last quarter showed 1.2M uniques, that’s a raw increase of 500k. If you factor in the 25-39% figure, that’s still an increase of somewhere between 305k and 375k new visitors this quarter.

          If you find yourself running afoul of the spam filter, try using a url shortener like tinyurl or goo.gl. In my experience those links breeze right through.

        3. avatar matt says:

          Jeez, man, you need to loosen the straps on your tinfoil hat.

          This article is The Truth About TTAG is it not? Deceiving people with faulty metrics is about as far away from the truth as you can get.

          You seem determined to disbelieve the information in Nick’s post, and I’m not sure why.

          I’ve spent enough time in IT writing reports against SQL databases to know to never believe a report that doesnt include a overly detailed explanation. When TTAG refuses to even state the source for this data, I become even more suspicious. Instead of calling it a conspiracy theory, think of it as peer review.

          I read the article you linked, and he opines that the number of uniques is somewhere between 25-39% greater than the actual number of human visitors.

          That is only one private site which required a login. For statistical purposes, you would want many more sites to get a good idea of the percentages. And for a public site like this the number would likely be significantly higher.

        4. avatar Mark N. says:

          I have no idea what these guys are babbling on about….

  3. avatar Matt in FL says:

    I’d have been disappointed if there wasn’t a GZ article in the top 10, given all the discussion that’s gone on here about that case.

    Nick, I’m sure you’re tickled pink that there’s a .300 Blackout review in the top 10. Keep plugging away at it, we’ll mainstream that round yet.

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      I was going to do a top 5, but when I realized that the top 10 included the BLK review I decided to do the full decade 🙂

  4. avatar Aharon says:

    Congrats to TTAG. You guys are doing great and the results speak loudly. Take that Brady Bunch!

  5. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

    So does this mean you now get FREE AMMO for eval? Wowy Zowy that would be the height of success in the gun world !

  6. avatar Rich says:

    If you’re thinking about podcasting, you might want to check out this guy:

    http://www.podcastanswerman.com

  7. avatar virtualjohn says:

    Thanks guys for the work you put into providing an informative and entertaining site.
    I would point out seven of your top ten articles of the last quarter were gun or ammunition reviews. Hint. Hint.

  8. avatar LeftShooter says:

    Nick, et al,

    Good work, boys! Keep up the good work!

    Do you have a tool that would reveal how many times the NSA and Homeland Security folks view the pages to read our comments? (Or, do you have a filter device that makes it seem as though we are all commenting about our love for My Little Pony, perhaps?)

  9. avatar gimlet says:

    Congrats on the increasing traffic! TTAG is my go-to source for firearms news and reviews, and I’m pleased to see that a lot of other folks seem to think similarly.

  10. avatar Sanchanim says:

    Congrats to everyone.
    Hopefully the new data will help in the advertising department. I know it is a difficult task to say the least.
    To be honest I think the reviews here are some of the best around. Why? Because TTAG pulls no punches. They are honest opinions. They are polite, and if there are issues they let you know. More importantly TTAG also seems to answer the question of how did the gun manufacturer deal with it. No gun is perfect, and occasionally you get a lemon too, but it is great hearing about how the customer service department works as well.
    MY hope is TTAG continues to climb. I wonder if any of you have pondered interviewing political figures in regard to 2A issues as well? It would make for great pod casts, and to be honest as readership continues to climb it can be a voice as well. Eventually the NRA won’t have as much clout as we will lmao!
    A special shout out to Nick. His videos are some of the best. Particularly the AR lower build. If you had any questions after watching the video, just buy a prebuilt gun! Yes it was that good… 🙂

  11. avatar Michael Bluth says:

    You guys really make terrible graphs. A few pointers:

    we don’t need to count 0’s. just say 1M, 2M, etc. or use integers and make the axis label “Pageviews (in millions)”

    we also don’t need to squint to see each month. delineate year on major ticks and quarters on subticks – the reader can easily infer the rest.

    make fonts and axes readable without requiring me to click the graph.

    don’t use excel. ever. matlab or origin.

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      I prefer R myself, but Excel is just so much easier…

  12. avatar percynjpn says:

    “In other words we’re playing with the big boys now.”

    You’ve earned it – wish you even more success here on in!

    Todd

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