End of Year Blog Summary: 2015

| December 26, 2015 | 3 Comments

It’s the end of the year, and aside from the “did your batteries die” monthly post we’re winding down.

We grew a lot in 2015, in terms of audience, repeat visitors, exposure, and the quality of our video production. We made a TON of new friends this year, and I am really looking forward to 2016. I am especially grateful for all of the instruction I received this year.

This blog is two years old this month. Before that I ran a blog for seven years. Between those two sites I’ve created hundreds of YouTube videos.

With both properties it was important for me to be authentic, for good or for bad. You won’t see a lot of fancy editing, you will see my success and mistakes on and off the range.

2015 Stats

My “day job” is on the Internet, and a lot of it deals with the product aspect of Web sites and Web-based software. Statistics and metrics are part of what I do, so I’ve attempted to highlight how this site (and by extension, you all) are different from the usual.

Just about every Web site out there hides their usage stats and traffic. However, we’re a small community and you are all EXTREMELY loyal, so I figured why not.

Blog traffic

Overall, we had a 167% increase in blog traffic from last year: about 300,000 visits and 438,000 pages read.

The increase is partly due to the natural maturity of a blog; the more we write the more we show up in search results, and the greater a chance we’ll have written about something a user is searching for.

However, our growth is also due to some really significant referral traffic. Our #1 referrer was Active Self Protection. They drove over 74,000 views to our site in 2015. They brought us 16,143 users to our site in a single day last year, beating the same day last year by 76,771%. 😉

We are grateful any time ASP shares our articles, and pick up several new readers every time they do.

We’re also very grateful for traffic sent to us by Greg Ellifritz over at Active Response Training. He has referenced us several times in his Weekend Knowledge Dumps, with a personal best of five mentions in one weekend summary. Greg brought us about 2500 new visits last year, and I recognize some of the “regulars” from his blog posting over here. Hi!! You are all awesome.

Users who come back regularly are a very important way to measure a site’s health. “Returning visitors,” as Google calls them, indicate that someone has found our site via a search result or a referral and decided to stay. Our returning visitors fell from 25.8% in 2014 to 22.8% in 2015. However, this is still very good given the niche nature of the site and the overall increase of traffic. We had a 222% increase in the number of repeat visitors from 2014.

As a downside, referral traffic tends to spend less time on the site. People are on a page for 16 seconds less than usual, down to 1:16.

Time spent on page is important; the average person reads at about 200 words per minute. I can expect people to read / skim about 250 words or so before they leave. You may have noticed that the majority of our articles are getting shorter and broken up into multiple posts. This is to accommodate data we get about how people interact with our content.

YouTube

People watched 249% more minutes of our YouTube footage than last year. Our weakest month in 2015 was about our well as did on our strongest months in 2014. Our videos were viewed over 284,000 times last year. That’s a lot, given that our videos aren’t about typical stuff.

Average video view duration is up, to 2:57. Like our blog posts, you may have noticed that I’ve been trying to shorten our videos whenever possible. I really try to get them under seven minutes, but it’s difficult.

We had a ten-fold increase of people sharing our content, which makes me feel really good. We also doubled our subscribers compared to last year, which makes me feel even better.

What those stats mean

So, in general: we have a small, niche audience that has contributed to predictable, organic growth. Five times last year we had tremendous growth due to referral traffic, with ten other spurts contributing lesser but still significant growth.

In the end, however, we are a very small site. Given that ad revenue and sponsorships are directly related to eyeballs, this has a big impact on our plans for 2016.

I try to be authentic in my reviews. The vast majority of the things are purchased with my own money. Almost everything sent to us for review are either returned or given away to the community. As of this writing the only things we have kept are the Beyond Locks products, because they are screwed into our doors or door frames, and the S&W M&P Shield Stealth holsters from Q-Series. The Mako Group refuses to tell us where to return their very nice MeproLight Tru-Dot red dot sight, but we tried.

We also pay for all of our own training, ammunition, transportation and housing costs. This is a huge expense.

Running this site is expensive, especially when we attend big events like SHOT Show or review high dollar items like my Glock enclosure comparison.

Our Amazon affiliate program and Web Store provide small and unpredictable revenue. We did well when three Trijicon RMR sights were purchased through our affiliate link, but commissions on high dollar items are rare. Thanks to our gift giving guide we generated a record high of $61 through Amazon this month.

As you may have noticed, a few months ago we added more banners to this site. Unlike the Google ad in the right column, these ads are specific to companies involved in the firearms industry or firearms friendly companies that have products you may find interesting. We ran a test, and while the number of people clicking on the ads was higher than industry average, the total click through rate (CTR) and number of times a banner got shown (impressions) was low. It doesn’t make a ton of financial sense for us to pursue manufacturers and retailers for these banners, since we don’t have the traffic to generate enough leads for them.

We earn about $100 – $140 a month through combined YouTube views and Google ads on this site.

This is a niche site for a small but dedicated audience. I appreciate every one of you. However, there simply isn’t enough traffic to generate the ad revenue needed to offset the cost of what we do. On a good month we will pay for server costs, and offset one or two items we’ve reviewed.

The impact

There were far fewer reviews this year, especially about firearms or accessories. This is partly due to wanting to prioritize training over tools, but mostly due to financial considerations. I had hoped to review the CZ-USA Scorpion, and the MasterPiece Arms 930DMG this year, but that was far beyond our budget. We want to do more reviews on bags, such as the Vertx Satchel and the 5.11 Rucksack.

In 2015 we paid our guest authors for their articles. This was suspended for the majority of this year. I felt guilty about it and we have started a different compensation program that pays less up front but offers longer-term revenue generation based on visits.

We’ve gone to SHOT Show two years in a row. We had a great time and met a bunch of great people. However, the content we created did not result in a big increase in readers, ad revenue, or sponsorship / testing and evaluation opportunities. We do not plan on attending SHOT Show in 2016.

We’ll see what 2016 brings. We are going to travel more and train with different instructors. I will do more training-related pieces and reviews.

Thanks again for visiting, reading, viewing, and commenting. We’ve made some good friends through this site, and hopefully gave people something to think about.

Stay tuned, and we’ll all see how next year’s statistics compare to 2015. 🙂

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.
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3 Comments on "End of Year Blog Summary: 2015"

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  1. Jerry W says:

    I just recently stumbled upon your site through a random viewing of one of your YouTube videos. Thank you for providing a valuable information resource. I like that you give honest reviews – good and/or bad, while still being respectful and diplomatic. Consider me a repeat viewer to all three of your chosen media outlets.

    Also, I appreciate your well written content, with proper grammar and spelling. It’s all too common these days to read a blog post that appears to have never even been proofread for simple grammatical errors.

    Likewise, it is refreshing to watch a video without all the “ummm” and “uhhh” between every other sentence.

    Good luck on a successful 2016.

  2. van der lin says:

    good to know. Happy things are growing for you. Mostly I appreciate your labor of love here. I’ll make a point to order some stuff from the store some time, or just make a donation if you do bitcoin.

    regards.

  3. Miffed says:

    A few months ago, I looked into what it would take to conceal carry an SBR. Unfortunately, I didn’t find what I was looking in terms on the legality and feasibility of doing it. A few days ago, I stumbled across your site while looking for info on force-on-force classes. I am stunned and thrilled by what you have accomplished!

    As Jerry said above, I greatly appreciate the quality of your writing and work. It is a pleasant change from the usual sloppiness on the web. Please, keep up the effort and attention to detail.

    My wife and I would like to take a force-on-force, fight oriented class later next year. I don’t carry often enough, and she doesn’t carry (yet). I am slowly getting her into handguns, and may be able to get her behind a rifle someday, too. In the meantime, I am excited to continue to burn through your articles and videos.

    I would like to see more discussion on how you and the She-Shepherd train together and plan to fight together. With my back, I have thought through how I would handle certain scenarios, but I don’t know how I would approach them with an armed but possibly untrained ally. Please guide us through your prep and thought processes when you have more than yourself to take care of.

    Thanks again, and have a wonderful New Year.

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