What to expect in 2018: Sink or Swim
Now that 2017 is officially behind us I figured this was a good time to reflect on everything that happened last year and share with you our plans for 2018.
In a nutshell, 2017 was insane. Unfortunately, it was mostly insane in a bad way, with many lows, disappointments and frustrating moments that continue to this day.
This means something has to change. Today, I’ll share our plans for 2018 and show you what's really going on behind the scenes for the first time.
Google doesn’t like us anymore
The year started off great. I was just starting a 10-month vacation around the world. December 2016 was the blog’s best month ever in terms of traffic. Life was good.
Until it wasn’t.
In a few months, traffic to the site went down the toilet, going from over 120,000 monthly visitors to 55,000 in September 2017. That’s a -54% decrease in traffic, which needless to say, is a catastrophe.
What happened? Well, Google decided it didn’t like us anymore. Or more precisely, it decided we create spam that isn’t useful and doesn’t deserve to be read. When I looked under the hood, the issue was painfully obvious. Mac Gamer HQ stopped ranking for most mac gaming related searches.
In other words, Google decided to actively penalize Mac Gamer HQ and make it disappear from the search results, taking with it half of its traffic. Odd, as this is the last remaining blog that covers Mac gaming in-depth. And it replaced it with results from shady torrent sites instead.
Just thinking about this makes me angry. It was a low blow and because Google does what it wants without telling you a thing, why it all happened (or how to recover) shall forever remain a mystery…
This is all clearly horrible for business as Google rankings are one of the, if not the, most important factor in a website’s viability. And right when I thought we could still recover...
Apple almost killed us
Yes, you read that right. And no, I’m not talking about that copyright claim they sent (because of our old logo). I’m talking about the time they changed their affiliates program, moving from 2% of commissions to 7%.
Mac Gamer HQ does not make a lot of money, but the little it makes comes from Mac App Store commissions. That change meant going from earning a few hundred dollars to basically nothing.
Luckily, it was all a big misunderstanding or something (many, myself included, find it hard to believe it was a misunderstanding at all). But that was a huge wake-up call. At any moment Apple could change their affiliates program or simply remove it. And just as it happened with Google, there was nothing I could do about it.
This double blow made me realize how fragile we are. At any moment, it could all crumble down.
Yet we’re still standing
2017 was a tough year that got tougher each month; in fact, December 2017 had the lowest traffic and earnings in years... It basically felt like the whole thing was about to burn in flames.
But instead of calling it quits, I doubled down on creating more and better content. Because if there's a way out of this situation, it's got to be creating better content. Plus, getting friendly emails from some of you, thanking me for the work done, definitely helped me stay focused.
This is a non-exhaustive list of all the good things we did in 2017 (I say we because a lot was only possible with the help of the team):
A faster site
Speed isn’t the most exciting feature, but it’s still critical. And Mac Gamer HQ was a mess in that regard. But after hours trimming the database, switching to a better hosting company, hiring a CDN, and cleaning code, the site is over twice as fast as before!
To give you an example, our biggest guide, the 100 Best Mac Games, went from loading in 10 seconds to 4.2 seconds!
And this improvement can be seen everywhere on the site.
More long form content
I’ll admit it, sometimes Mac Gamer HQ lacked attention. Sometimes it would be weeks between new articles. I’m not proud, but at least some progress was made in 2017. Let's take as an example our Best of guides which are longer, more in-depth, and much harder to create than your average News article.
Well, last year alone, we released 10 Best of guides. For reference, between 2012 and 2016 we only released 8 guides… This required a lot of work from yours truly, but it also required the support of paid writers. That was a great experience and it’s something I aim to continue in 2018.
More useful content
Speaking about our Best of guides, I decided it was time to upgrade them. They now include benchmarks for each game highlighted, so you can have an idea whether or not your machine can handle them. The Best Horror games for Mac guide is a great example.
This obviously takes a lot of time, but I believe it’s worth it and key to making Mac Gamer HQ the best, most useful Mac gaming site around.
Introducing Mac Performance Reviews
This is something I'm particularly proud of. For years I’ve suspected that many of you wondered: Can I play this or that game on my Mac? And for years I’ve tried to find a good way to answer, with no luck. After many failed attempts, I think I found it: Performance Reviews.
You don’t need me to tell you how good a game is, there are hundreds of reviews available on the web. But you're probably wondering if your machine can run it. And no one is taking the time to answer that question.
We started with Dirt Rally, and with the team's help, we benchmarked it on 4 very different Macs. While we obviously can’t benchmark every model, we covered four typical setups, so I’m confident one of them will be similar to yours.
We’re still perfecting the formula, but that’s the philosophy of our new Performance Reviews: to provide you with the information you need to decide if that game you’re thinking of buying will run on your Mac.
What to expect in 2018
A few years ago I realized how much I loved running this place and so I promised myself to never give up without a fight. And I haven’t changed my mind one bit, not even after the disaster 2017 was.
But I’m sure you’re feeling my frustration throughout this post. 2017 was a huge test and a reminder that Mac Gamer HQ requires a lot of work and will need even more sacrifice to eventually succeed. It also requires money for hosting, services and writers, and yet right now it earns a little less each month.
I now understand why all Mac gaming blogs have eventually died out. Having talked with some of their former owners, they confirmed my fears. It was because their blogs required way too much time and energy for very little growth or reward.
We’ve managed to keep it together for a while now. But I’m feeling the fatigue and frustration of seeing all your efforts go wasted. At the same time, I haven’t always given it the focus it deserves. You guys deserve more than.
This is why 2018 will be Mac Gamer HQ’s one last chance.
2018 will be its sink or swim moment and I promise I will give it my best. If by the end of the year I can honestly say I gave it my best and the blog stayed on its plateau, it will be time to call it a day…
And as I really want it to succeed, I will go for a realistic target:
By the end of December 2018, Mac Gamer HQ should get at least 120,000 visits per month and bring $2,000 per month to cover all costs.
What this means for you
I’m not saying this to make you nervous. I do it for two reasons:
- You deserve my full transparency: I don’t share enough of what’s going on behind the scenes. You have trusted me with your time (and some of you with your money with Level Up Gamer) and I owe you at least that.
- 2018 will be our best year yet: I will take everything I’ve learned over the years and work harder than ever to give Mac Gamer HQ the best chance to survive.
And continuing with the honesty and transparency. This is what I have planned for the year:
More Performance reviews
I know that figuring what your Mac can or cannot run is important for you and I trust Performance Reviews are the answer.
Therefore, expect a new Performance Review every Thursday, at Noon PST time.
By the way, I continue to improve and fine-tune the formula so please let me know what you like or dislike. I always listen to what you guys have to say.
Improved Best of guides
We talked about this one before. Expect new Best of guides including the essential benchmarks. But more precisely, instead of focusing on new guides, I’ll focus on updating existing ones to include newer games and benchmarks (after all, the most popular genres are already covered).
I know, the Youtube channel looked like a museum. Only dusty old videos to be found. In 2018, there will be much more new videos, like our Can your Mac run it videos or this:
I’ll be honest, doing high-quality videos is hard. But there’s no better way to show you how games run or why we recommend them.
The ultimate Best Mac for gaming guide
With the help of everybody on the team, we are working hard on running tests on every Mac sold today, comparing in-game results and seeing which Macs are the most powerful and which ones have the best bang for the buck. Stay tuned, this one will be huge.
This one has been on my to-do list for a looooong time... In 2018, Mac Gamer HQ’s podcast will finally be released. I promise. And to make sure it will happen, I’m looking for someone with experience producing podcasts that would like to help me co-host it. Could that be you? Let me know!
Level Up Gamer
Content is the most important piece of the puzzle, but I won’t lie to you, revenue is critical too. I still don’t want to ask for donations. I want Mac gaming to grow and if you have spare money to spend, buy games and support developers.
This is why there are only two ways you can support us:
- Use our links to buy your games so we can earn small commissions.
- Subscribe to Level Up Gamer (it will open again soon).
And by the way, the aim with Level Up Gamer (LUG) is to be a service so good, you'll subscribe because of the great deals, not because you want to support Mac Gamer HQ. By the way, LUG will open again in 2 weeks with a pretty crazy offer.
The dream is that one day Mac Gamer HQ will earn enough to hire writers and become a powerhouse. LUG will be it’s only chance.
So here’s to a great year
I hope you’re just as excited as I am reading this. Remember, the takeaway here is that Mac Gamer HQ will receive more attention and dedication than ever before. That should lead to a fair amount of great content for everyone 🙂
As always, if you have skills and would like to become part of the team, you can reach out to me (especially if you have experience with Podcasts!).
Stay tuned for what should be a hell of a ride and if you ever feel like reaching out and just say hi, go for it, that’s what helps me recharge and stay motivated.