The Truth About TTAG: Q4 2012

Here’s a life lesson for the kids out there: sometimes no one will know how good you are unless your toot your own horn a little. Oh, and one more: it ain’t bragging if it’s true. I told RF I’d do a complete breakdown of TTAG’s readership stats each quarter and since we’ve just dropped the curtain on another year, it seemed like a good time for another round-up. This is, after all, a traffic- and ad-driven business, but I’ll try to keep the peacocking to a respectable minimum. Given the way we ended the year, though, that may not be easy . . .

Overall, TTAG traffic has continues to grow at a rate that’s astonished even us. I’ll illustrate that in terms of pageviews,  but will also throw in the “unique visitor” metric for the first time.

Pageviews had begun to stabilize again at the beginning of the fourth quarter. There’s a definite curve that pageviews tend to take, and anytime we start deviating too from that curve things start to calm down and return to the steady growth that we’ve enjoyed over the last two years. We saw the same thing in November of 2011 and August of 2012. With the spike in traffic around September and October of this year, I was expecting pageviews to hover around that 3 million to 3.5 million mark. But as you can see, we exceeded that by a little bit.

TTAG saw an influx of readers looking for the best analysis of the the tragic shooting in Newtown as well as the latest on the subsequent push for more gun control. And while that had a significant impact on our stats, it wasn’t as much as the graph would have you believe. The post-Sandy Hook traffic accounted for only a 600,000 pageview increase, meaning that the majority of that spike in readership was a continuation of the existing traffic pattern of readers continuing to come to TTAG for our regular coverage of everything guns.

Speaking of regular coverage, here are the top 10 articles for the fourth quarter in terms of pageviews:

  1. Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport
  2. Ask Foghorn: Best 9mm for Concealed Carry?
  3. Clackamas Shooter Was Confronted by CCW Holder
  4. 9mm Subcompact Pistol Roundup – Because You Asked for It
  5. Gun Review: Springfield Armory XD-S .45 ACP
  6. Gun Review: Hi-Point C9 9mm Pistol
  7. Ask Foghorn: Best Budget AR-15 for Cheap Bastards
  8. Gun Review: Mossberg MMR Tactical (AR-15)
  9. Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield
  10. Gun Review: Glock 19 Gen4 9X19mm

As is a longstanding tradition here, our gun reviews were the top category of posts in terms of traffic generation. And as we know from our 2012 TTAG Reader Survey, you love and trust TTAG’s gun reviews. Which makes this Testing and Reviews Editor happy as a fat kid with a box of Twinkies. If you could get a box of Twinkies any more.

Also making me happy: a certain ex-relation’s review dropped off the top 10 list. Schadenfreude is a dish best served cold.

As the AR panic buying began to take hold the Smith & Wesson’s M&P-15 Sport review became a real late bloomer, with the real surge in traffic coming just in the last couple weeks. Mossberg’s AR-15 review also made the list by the skin of its teeth with a late rally. The other reviews in the top ten are a little more predictable; concealed carry firearms, a category that’s been popular for years now.

The article on the Clackamas shooter meeting armed resistance zoomed up the charts thanks to a mention from Instapundit (which we appreciate, as always). That funneled tens of thousands of new readers to what would otherwise have been a standard article in terms of traffic. In the olden days (last year) Instapundit links were reasons for occasional panic around here since the wave of traffic threatened to overwhelm our old rodent-powered servers and bring the site down. But we’ve since switched to much more reliable mule-driven processors so we seem to be damn near rock solid these days. At least as long as our supply of carrots holds out.

Also making its way up the hit parade was the Ask Foghorn series of articles. I’ve got a pipeline of about 60 to get to at this point, but every time I manage to cross one off the list, it’s replaced by three new ones. I am making an effort to get to every single question, though. Really.

Now for the new metric: unique visitors.

Pageviews is the only absolute metric we can provide. Pageviews are pageviews, and each one represents exactly one time the site was loaded — no more, no less. But “unique visitors” is a calculated metric, one that counts how many times a unique visitor views the site.

The reason I haven’t used it so far is personal experience: I count as about three visitors, through my work computer, my home computer and my cell phone. Each device has a unique IP address, browser and even operating system, so they look unique to Google. But it’s a popular metric so I’m providing it.

According to Google Analytics, TTAG had somewhere close to 1.2 million unique visitors in December. In fact, we’d passed the 1 million uniques mark before the Newtown surge. Even assuming a large percentage of those “unique” visits comes from people using multiple computers, we still have a readership that trumps the monthly circulation of Guns and Ammo magazine and rivals that of the NRA’s American Rifleman.

Among other firearms-related websites, according to Ammoland.com’s recent compendium, we’re ranked as the most popular gun blog in the Intertubes. Everyone listed above us is either a forum, a retailer or a manufacturer. In fact, we were ranked roughly equivalent to the NRA’s website in terms of traffic.

The bottom line: we’re awesome. And — most important — our readers think so, too. No one rivals us in terms of eyeballs, traffic continues to grow almost exponentially and we couldn’t be more thankful for the faithful support of the Armed Intelligentsia who have made us what we are.

We are the #1 firearms blog on the Internet. We’ve got just as many if not more monthly readers than any printed firearms-related magazine. And we’re growing faster than ever.

And if you’d like to come along for the ride, the guys at GunUp will be more than happy to discuss a customized ad campaign with you.

Oh, and for those doubting Debbies, here’s the raw output from Google Analytics for the quarter.