Wednesday, January 25, 2017

State of the Owlbear 2016: 300K and counting

It's done -- 2016 is finally behind us and the bes--  well... something is yet to come.

Raging Owlbear in the Caves of Chaos
Twenty Sixteen was a bit of a weird year for Raging Owlbear. Because life doesn't often let me do things I don't get paid for, I did not have as many posts to offer up this year as the year prior. I averaged less than 1 per week... and when I did post, it was sporadic, such as nothing for 2 to 3 weeks and then 3 articles in a row over a week and a half.

Despite the cave of neglect in which I left the owlbear, it kept raging on due to a few really popular posts that drove oddly high numbers.

In February, my article "Hey, Did You Know D&D 5th Edition Is Free?" exploded over a few days with thousands of page views (a lot for me, given my average readership). The crazy thing about this article was that all I did was link to the various free PDFs already put out there by Wizards of the Coast. There was absolutely nothing new in this post, but I suppose I was one of the first to put all the links into one place.

This is pretty much all the players in my weekly D&D game...
Ok, but where is the 10' pole?!?
In March, my post on simplified encumbrance, Encumbrance Made Easy, also gained a fair amount of traction and has been a steady performer over the course of months.

After a slow down in spring, the blog gained some traction over the summer on the back of a HeroForge Miniatures review (a follow up to a prior quite popular post). These two reviews are top Google results, so they consistently drive good traffic ranking as two of the top 5 most popular posts on the site.

Admittedly, it does look pretty awesome.
In August, what I thought was nothing more a fun "golly gee, look at this!" post, banked massive numbers. Out of some crazy luck, I won a D&D-themed PS4 from the folks developing the Neverwinter MMO. I thought it looked pretty darn cool, so I just posted a couple pictures. Because of a few popular retweets and Facebook shares, the post went pretty viral (relatively speaking for a blog of my size) and it really drove the August numbers.

Autumn neglect shows in the slumping number as I did not take advantage of the August wave of readers. That said, I think there are several solidly written posts which have gathered some attention and kept some of the blog's momentum.

Lastly, a link collection article on Unearthed Arcana play test classes helped push December monthly number to the highest the blog has seen. Early December also marked the crossing of 300,000 page views over the 2 1/2 year lifespan of the blog.

By the end of January, I will be crossing the 350,000 mark [Update: I did it!], so the blog is gaining speed as I focus on stories that have a broad appeal (such as the article on inexpensive miniatures and actual play tips from Storm King's Thunder).

In case you were wondering how a mildly popular D&D blog does, here's an overview of my year.

13.6 K
17.5 K
10.5 K
8.6 K
7.5 K
12 K
15.7 K
21.7 K
9 K
13.7 K
11.5 K
29.6 K
171 K

Final Thoughts

Given my lack of time to truly dedicate to writing, I think the blog has done fairly well over the last couple years. I'd like to hit 200 K in a year, and if I can maintain about a post per week, I should be able to attain that goal. My biggest challenge is that the articles I lovingly craft over a few thousand words don't seem to do as well as some of the more "off the cuff" short posts about some random topic. The time investment in those articles does not appear to boost the numbers significantly... but I enjoy writing longer, in-depth posts so my desire to grow the blog is a little out of step with my desire to write real "game journalism". 

Lastly, if you are a blogger, you must absolutely engage on Facebook. I love Google+...  especially the RPG communities. The communities are terrific and engaging, but do not help with the numbers significantly. When I started really working my Facebook engagement, the blog took off in ways it just didn't using Google+ for promotion.

In any case, I thank the many readers who have commented and helped make me a better writer. Your contribution to the blog is also extraordinarily valuable as I get a lot of creative juice from the constructive critique as well as the occasional praise.

I hope your New Year is filled with gaming fun, excitement and wonder.

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