Happy New Year, adventurers! The year of 2016 has finally come to an end, and now something new is beginning – the year 2017. Thank goodness, right? A lot happened in 2016, and while a lot of it was pretty negative, some good things happened too. In order to expand on the good and to eliminate as much bad as we can, it’s important to take a look at the year before in preparation for the year ahead. As such, today I’m giving you as readers a behind-the-scenes look at the website in 2016 before we jump ahead to the site’s aspirations for the year 2017.
2016 was the first full year of Adventure Rules. I began this blog on August 31st, 2015 (yes, I know, I really should have waited til September 1st). So 2016 is the first full year where I can take a hard look at quantifiable data to see what works and what doesn’t. First, let’s just see the raw numbers. In 2016, Adventure Rules was viewed in some way just over 8500 times by over 5800 unique visitors from roughly 90 countries. Nearly 4000 views – that’s a bit less than half – came from countries other than my home country of the United States. So if you’re reading this right now from another country – thanks for your support! It’s awesome that so many people came to Adventure Rules for one reason or another.
Without a doubt, my biggest hits as far as view count were the Fire Emblem Fates guides, specifically those focused on the children you can recruit in the game. My most viewed post in 2016 was the Kids from Birthright Version guide, which singlehandedly earned about 19% of the hits on my blog. During the course of the year, my total follower count (including the main blog on WordPress and various followers from my social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr) slid in right around 158. There’s some repeats in there for sure, but even counting for people who follow in more than one place that’s still around 150 unique followers across four pages. This broke my 2016 goal of getting at least 100 followers, but not the 200 follower stretch goal. And hey, that’s fine – I am crazy appreciative of everyone who gave Adventure Rules a follow in 2016!
The blog goals are where things start to get pretty sketchy. If you’ve been around since the beginning of 2016, you know I started out with many, many goals, most of which are not even present on the Goal page anymore. While some goals were removed for very legitimate reasons – things like sharpening my focus and creating a stronger “image” for the blog – other goals were removed simply because I realized that I wasn’t truly motivated to reach them. This fate also befell one of the goals that DID stay on the page: finishing and standardizing the Fire Emblem Fates guides. Ouch. That is something that I still kind of want to do – at the very least, I’d feel silly for not finishing the last character guide. As far as standardizing goes, I may just leave them be. Fates is losing relevancy in the wake of other big RPGs for the 3DS – particularly Pokemon – and I’d rather put more focus onto something you folks might actually want to read about.
That brings me to another point where I really feel that I have failed this past year. Or rather, two interconnected points. I have had a huge lack of consistency in posting – while some months were good and I did post on a regular basis, many months were totally empty or maybe had one-two posts for the entire month. The lack of regular content has made it very difficult to get a strong community going around the idea of Adventure Rules. It makes perfect sense and it is 100% my fault: no one wants to follow a blog that isn’t active. Now active can mean different things – you don’t have to post every single day if you have an established schedule of when folks can expect content from you. But I have failed at BOTH of those things, which has definitely hurt me when it comes to things like gathering followers and building a community that could share the blog and help it to grow.
The interconnected problem I mentioned before comes in here: because I’m not as active as I should be, and I kind of just randomly spit stuff out into the aether, I’m not necessarily creating content that legitimately appeals to my audience. While the Fire Emblem guide series I did has enjoyed success I would never have anticipated, many of my posts feel like they were shouted into an empty theater. Please don’t think I’m blaming anyone but myself here – this is an obvious reflection of the fact that I simply don’t understand what folks want to hear from me. I’ve been trying to put a heavier emphasis on doing a more legit “game journalism” thing with guides and reviews and yada yada, but here’s the thing: everyone does that. And they do it better than me. I’m not saying that every little guy or gal out there who wants to write reviews should just give up because IGN and GameSpot already exist – I’m just saying that for me, I feel like maybe I’m trying to get folks to read by posting something that has already saturated the game journalism market. I’m not THE BEST REVIEWER EVER or THE BEST GUIDEMAKER EVER, and honestly most of the time I am not particularly motivated to write those kinds of posts anyway. So not only did I spend 2016 being a bit blind to what my readers might be interested in, I also spent it being blind to what I as a writer really bring to the table. That’s something I’m still trying to discover, and I think the only way to discover it is to actually WRITE something.
And this, adventurers, is where I transition to talking about 2017.
This year I am not going to declare a ton of goals. I’m not going to try a bunch of gimmicks to get attention or likes or shares, and I’m not going to put my energy into being more “journalistic” by posting the exact same stuff that other gaming publications would. I’m also not going to set specific goals for things like followers, likes, reblogs, or similar measurements of success.
That point, I think, needs a bit of explaining. There’s nothing wrong with having follower goals. Everyone’s goals are valid to that person. If you want to reach 500 followers, then you have a goal to reach 500 followers. For me, though, I don’t think a follower goal is something I want to pursue. And here’s the reason why: it’s an arbitrary measure of success. I can write the best pieces I have ever written and become more prolific as a writer than I have ever been this year. And if I do that, but that doesn’t cause people to click the “follow” button on my website…what, I’ve been unsuccessful? That’s not the case. I’ve grown as a writer. My blog just hasn’t “grown” as a popular website. Setting a follower goal is ultimately setting a goal that I can’t control – it’s not a goal for me, it’s a goal for you. And I want to set goals for me. Now if I meet those goals, will followers and likes and whatnot organically spring from that? Probably. If I’m posting on a reliable schedule and those posts are uniquely me, not being a carbon-copy of something you can read on any other site, then yeah, I’ll probably see some growth on the blog. But I want my goals to focus on my growth as a writer – THAT’s how I am going to measure success.
As such, my first goal and most important goal this year is to “Improve the Consistency of Posts.” This is a multi-part goal that encompasses not only Adventure Rules itself but also my activity on social media sites. My first goal is to Establish a Posting Schedule. For starters, that schedule is going to be once per week on Sunday. Why Sunday? According to my current data, Sundays are the biggest day for Adventure Rules. And from a more practical perspective, they are the easiest day for me to post on, because Saturday is the day I typically have the most time to write. So while it’s certainly a weird day for a video game blog to feature content, that’s what we’re going to run with for now. When I have successfully posted every Sunday for at least a month, my second goal is to Double my Output – post twice a week every single week. That is my realistic, achievable goal by the end of 2017. My stretch goal is to post three times a week, but I am only going to try for that if I get really consistent with twice a week and see that I absolutely have time to make three times a week happen. But with a full-time job, duties as a husband and father, and time to spend actually playing the video games I write about, I think twice a week is infinitely more realistic for me.
As I mentioned above, this consistency goal also applies to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Starting out, I plan to post One Original Post per Day on each site. Reblogs, retweets, and shares don’t count towards that. I know one tweet a day isn’t exactly ideal, but I need to get in the habit and work my way up. Long-term, I want to learn how to be effective on each social media site so that I can be actively engaging the adventurer community in those places and helping to spread the content of my main blog through things like retweets and shares.
My second big goal for this year is to Build a Community. One thing I was doing well at the beginning of 2016 that I really stopped doing as the year went on was trying to connect with other bloggers. I haven’t really spent any time reading other writer’s content, commenting on their posts, or looking for new bloggers to follow. I need to get better at supporting other people who do what I do. As a blogger, I know how affirming it feels to have follows and comments and likes on my posts. I need to provide that support and affirmation for other people who do what I do. As such, I want to set a goal specifically dealing with community building. Maybe something like Follow a New Blog per Day, or Read Five Blog Posts a Day, something along those lines. Reading the work of others will help me grow and help me to find my unique identity. I’m not writing in a vacuum, so understanding the blogs around me will help me to really get a feel for what makes Adventure Rules unique.
And that’s gonna be it for the time being. By really focusing on Consistency and Community, my hope is to grow as a writer and become more effective at what I do here. And I hope that those of you who have been here with me so far can get behind that mission statement and will continue to read and support in the year of 2017. If you are a follower of Adventure Rules and have been for any amount of time, I want to thank you so much for your support. You all are awesome and Adventure Rules could not have grown so much without you!
And if you’re reading this and you’ve never been to Adventure Rules before, please feel welcome to stick around and explore. There’s lots of content on this site – roughly 230 different posts to explore. So if you look around for a bit and decide that you like what you see and maybe want to see some more of it, I hope you’ll consider sticking around to see what the new year will bring for Adventure Rules.
Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you have an amazing year in 2017!