The Truth About TTAG: Q3 2012

It’s that time again. Time to give our ad man (Dan Hall) proof positive that his firearms industry clients should spend their ad bucks at The Truth About Guns (TTAG); a website playing host to 10 times the number of eyeballs as your garden variety gun mag. And to give TTAG’s writers a sense of pride for the publication to which they’ve contributed their blood sweat and ammunition. To paprahrase Spose, Dude, we’re awesome. Yes we are. No lie . . .

Q2 was a little disappointing. After the MASSIVE surge created by our SHOT Show coverage in Q1, the only good thing we could say about Q2: we didn’t backslide (despite major hosting issues). Since then we’ve returned to our normally scheduled reliability (mostly) and turned in three fairly dramatic months in terms of traffic.

TTAG has been subject to fits and spurts of pageview growth. This quarter has been no different. August was a banner month for traffic, going from about 2 million pageviews to damn near 3 million pageviews in less time than it took for Red Jacket Firearms to assemble a pre-built piston kit for an AR-15.

September was comparatively disappointing–until you realize that the difference between August and September was less than 100k views (which is roughly the equivalent of a single Monday these days). And we were hit with the GoDaddy DNS issue this month, resulting in a couple days of crappy traffic. So, all in all not bad. Either way, we still beat the trend (which would have had us at 2.5m views).

In terms of the main drivers of content, gun reviews remain king. As we found out not too long ago in our survey, people seem to really like our reviews. But some of the newer features, like the Ask Foghorns and such, are starting to make their way up the charts. Not in the top ten quite yet, but getting there.

Here’s the top 10 articles from this past quarter:

  1. Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport
  2. Gun Review: Ruger LC9
  3. Gun Review: FN Five-SeveN
  4. Gun Review: Glock 19 Gen4 9X19mm
  5. Gun Review: Ruger SR22
  6. Gun Review: SIG SAUER P226
  7. Ammunition Review: .300 AAC Blackout
  8. Oops: Red Jacket Firearms Loses Their FFL
  9. Gun Review: Beretta Nano
  10. Defensive Gun Use of the Day: Just Lending a Hand Edition

Cool, huh? There’s a definite trend in the stats towards concealed carry handguns and AR-15 rifles, although the good ol’ FN Five-seveN seems to never stray far from the top spot.

Something else we put in this quarter (although a little late in the game): the new reviews search feature thingy.

Interesting fact: after we implemented the search feature, the number of pageviews we get from the “Gun Reviews” page dropped by 1,000 pageviews per day (which makes our September stats even more impressive given the 1k views per day handicap and lack of a 31st day).

My hypothesis: people are actually finding what they’re looking for, and so don’t need to go back and forth looking for the right review. Then again, it could be that the page is a piece of crap and people just aren’t telling me.

Some of you may have noticed that the search thingie is actually hosted on a different domain, and there’s a reason behind that: it allows me to track what people are looking for.

FYI: no logs are kept on those servers beyond standard Apache error logs and some WAF stuff, so no personal info is recorded. We know what you’re looking for by tracking the incoming links, or “referral” links as you click them. Which lets me do things like this.

Top 10 Manufacturers by Reader Interest:

  1. Smith & Wesson
  2. Sig Sauer
  3. Ruger
  4. Springfield
  5. Glock
  6. Heckler & Koch
  7. Beretta
  8. FNH USA
  9. Mossberg
  10. CZ

Note how (primarily) handgun manufacturers are listed here? Might be something to do with the fact that people seem to be looking for handguns over rifles by a factor of 2:1.

TTAG is still growing. Our growth rate is no longer exponential, but it is linear. People seem to like us, and keep coming back. In fact, there’s been a subtle shift in traffic source. Whereas before it was almost exactly a 50/50 split between new and returning visitors, it’s now 60/40. What does that tell you?

Hopefully, one day, advertisers will recognize the strength and value of the TTAG brand and start paying us enough that we don’t need to pimp ourselves every quarter. Until then, we’ll just keep on keeping on. And after that too.

Oh, and for that one guy who doubted the validity of last quarter’s results, here’s a dump from Google Anlytics for you. Enjoy!