2016 Report

I started Learn Tabletop RPGs in January, 2013. I picked the domain LearnTabletopRPGs.com and targeted the term tabletop RPG in order to help search visibility. The tactic worked, but let’s face it, Learn Tabletop RPGs is a pretty generic name. It’s also restrictive. While the site had become about more than learning how to play tabletop roleplaying games, the domain and site name had stayed the same.

So in September, 2016 I changed the site name to Unpossible Journeys and redirected all traffic from the old domain. I picked Unpossible Journeys because I wanted a broader term that would encompass all aspects of tabletop roleplaying, as well as related topics. Why Unpossible Journeys? Journeys: Because to me every roleplaying session is a journey of the mind, and my involvement in the hobby is an ongoing journey. Unpossible: Because Ralph Wiggum.

I also changed from a pure static site (modified Bootstrap theme maintained with BBEdit and Transmit) to a WordPress site. I’m not a huge fan of WordPress, primarily because I’ve had some fairly annoying experiences with it on work projects. But I moved to WordPress because maintaining a pure static site was becoming too time-consuming, and I wanted to give myself the ability to push blog posts more rapidly. I’m still not thrilled with it, and may switch to something like Jekyll or Hugo.

Traffic is Down

Live by Google, die by Google. Or at least, loose a little blood by Google. After a banner year in 2015, page views, visits, and visitors all dropped this year. When I flipped the domain and embraced WordPress, traffic was on pace to match 2015 almost precisely. But even with permanent redirects in place, Google didn’t like the new, less SEO-friendly domain. Traffic took a hit.

Page views, visitors, and visits all declined in 2016 from 2015.

Not only was there less traffic, but average time on site and pages per visit dropped. I attribute this primarily to the fact that the old static site rendered with blazing speed, while the overhead of the WordPress site makes it slower. Even a second or two matters when visitors are waiting for content to load, and speed also affects Google’s ranking of the site. Hence me contemplating jumping off the WordPress train.

I also need to make some changes to the home page and site navigation, again with the goal of making the site easier and faster to use.

Google and Beyond

Before the domain change, Google searches were generating 75% of site visits. After the change that figure dropped to 59%. Unfortunately I haven’t done enough to cultivate inbound links from Facebook, or even Google+ and twitter. As a result, each of those three drew in negligible traffic. My other site, the Tabletop RPG Bulletin tumblr, only did slightly better. The biggest referring site was the RPG subreddit, which consistently drove quality traffic.

I’m still grappling with the notion of posting to the site from Facebook. I don’t like Facebook. It’s the Las Vegas casino of the web, designed to ensnare you, Shelob-like, so it can extract what it needs from you. It’s also increasingly where people spend most of their time online. I’m still not sure whether it’s worth it to engage with Facebook more vigorously in order to drive traffic to the site.

I find Twitter annoying for different reasons, but overall it’s a more manageable tool, and I’m already starting to use it more frequently. I doubt this will result in a significant increase in traffic, but I think it’s really more useful as a way of finding more tabletop roleplayers, learning about what’s going on in the hobby, and chatting with folks.

Even though Tumblr users tend to stay within the Tumblr ecosystem, primarily reblogging other people’s posts rather than venturing out to the web, it’s an easy way to create quick posts and gauge what younger tabletop roleplayers find interesting. So I’ll keep Tabletop RPG Bulletin rolling.

Star Wars & Hero Kids

Maybe it’s momentum from The Force Awakens. Maybe it’s anticipation for Rogue One. Maybe it’s just that word is getting out. Whatever the reasons, the Star Wars RPGs from Fantasy Flight Games generated more attention on the site than any other game, and more Amazon referral sales, besting Dungeons & Dragons by a handy margin. After those two, attention was split between several games, most notably Shadowrun, Numenera, and Shadow of the Demon Lord.

Referral sales through DriveThru RPG were spread across a much wider variety of games. As in 2015, Hero Kids led the pack, this time followed closely by 13th Age, Eclipse Phase, Traveller(!), and Shadow of the Demon Lord. A year ago I was surprised to discover that DriveThru affiliate sales generated almost exactly the same revenue as Amazon in 2015. It’s worth noting that Amazon numbers include secondary purchases, not just the RPG-related items linked to from the site.

In 2016 DriveThru did even better, generating more affiliate sales than the year before, even as the Amazon numbers dropped. This appears to be a combined effect from DriveThru’s increased print on demand capabilities and some games no longer being offered on Amazon (the causes of which are unknown to me).

What’s Next

As always, the site comes after the virtually all-encompassing combination of work and family. But I’d like to post to the blog more consistently and beef up some of the existing content. And if WordPress drives me batty, I may perform another heart transplant and move to another platform.

May your 2017 be safe, prosperous, and full of the clatter of dice!

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