Using the term “successful” loosely
How I built a successful gaming news site
filed under "The Interwebs"
We’re creeping up on the 3 year anniversary of Ghost Gamer News' launch, and I wanted to share how I built the (somewhat) successful gaming news site, what I discovered works, and what doesn’t when it comes to running Ghost Gamer News (and making money with a gaming blog in general).
Launching Ghost Gamer News: Content is King
The most critical aspect of launching any blog designed to make money is to have.. You know.. Actual content.
Ideas are great, but without content that people actually want to access, all you’ve got is something no one cares to look at.
I had already started creating relatively successful guide content for Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and had planned on covering Ghost of Tsushima as well; That’s actually partially how I came up with the name “Ghost Gamer News”.
The initial plan was to create reviews, guides, and post general news about stealth, sniper and tactical games. I wanted to post 1-2 items a day in a Slashdot-style basic summary with external link as a supplement to more detailed content I would create myself, but I quickly learned that was going to be a massive waste of time and of little value given that I didn’t have any “daily” readership at launch (and subsequent community interaction), and summary-style content has very little value outside of “digest” style posts (again, which are better suited to dedicated readership).
So, I instead focused on creating 1-3 pieces of original content per week, with a focus on answering questions and targeting gut-feeling stuff folks were searching for (I am not an SEO “expert”, but I have a good grasp of the fundamentals).
Additionally, I wanted to create both article and video content, in order to diversify my reach a bit and eventually add additional revenue sources beyond ads on the blog itself.
For the most part, this strategy has worked well. I get anywhere from 500 to 1000 page views a day now, which isn’t bad for a niche-focused gaming site that I run outside of a day job and additional side-hustles. I create guide content that frequently ranks higher in search than major content publishers, which is a huge ego boost.
Not everything is sunshine and roses, however, so let’s break down the big asterisk that is my success.
The challenge of running Ghost Gamer News
My chief issue with running a gaming news site like GGN is that, in order to really make money, you have to slather it with ads.
I pushed hard against it initially, only running a handful of ad spots total; With most visitors using ad blockers, however, this ended up meaning I made very, very little in ad revenue.
Eventually I adjusted my strategy to focus on having a header ad, footer ad, and an ad after every major in-article heading, but it’s still not great. I make about $100 to $120 a year in ad revenue with Google AdSense, which in the grand scheme of things is.. Not much. It covers hosting, which leads us into the second issue with running a relatively popular gaming news site.
Optimizing the site for performance on the client-side is relatively easy, but when you’re running WordPress, optimizing for server-side can be a.. Challenge.
GGN runs on a decent shared hosting plan with aggressive caching, and even then the server-side performance is sluggish. I regularly hit resource limits.
I SHOULD move to a VPS, but I don’t have the time nor the modern experience to run one myself, and managed VPSes would cost more than what the site earns by a large margin.
I’ve lucked out in that I am able to do literally everything necessary for the site myself: Content, SEO, coding, art, and more are all well within my purview.
If I had to pay someone else to come in and do one or more aspects of GGN? It just wouldn’t be worth it at all.
On top of that, I’ve actually scaled back “video” content quite a bit. I originally wanted to do a 50/50 split content strategy between video and article content, but the time investment and storage needs for video is just much too high for what the return is, so I focus my video content on some appropriate guide content and things like rifle reviews for sniper games, which tends to be relatively low-effort and popular.
I also streamed periodically for some time, but have decided to drop streaming all together just because the time and hardware investments again become a little much for something low-return: I also haven’t really been able to maintain the energy needed to be a streaming “personality”, and my own health gets in the way a lot with maintaining that energy, let alone being able to stream at all.
Overall, despite these failings, I’ve been fairly happy with running GGN, and plan to keep it going for some time.
Maybe Star Citizen will finally have a non-alpha release and I’ll be alive to cover it, too.