This if more of a show and tell than anything, but if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
Thanks for reading!
Hey Adam, nice work! That's quite the technical feat... I don't envy you :)
Given your mention of the audience size, did you have any hand in growing the community, and do you have advice for growing to such a size? Thanks!
Hey Matthew - thanks!
Yeah - I built/started the original VideoGamer site during my Uni studies. We started with voluntary staff and zero traffic, and over the course of about 8-9 years grew it organically to 3.5m uniques a month - lots of highs and lows - probably worth an article unto itself.
It wasn't until I sold the site in 2015 and it merged with a larger network did the numbers get to double figures (the sale I talk about in the article was a second sale from the new acquirer).
The primary traffic driver the whole time was Google - we wrote copious amounts of content, and ensured the site was carefully SEO'ed. But we did suffer as a result of that on occasion, with algorithm updates usually killing our numbers until we figured out why. Referrals from social media grew as a higher percentage over time.
We had a core following from early on, but it was very small. It didn't pick up significantly until we made some specific hires and started producing really original (often satirical) content. Our podcast was really well received and our video content, once on YouTube, kicked off after one of our videos went viral (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rJDn0jRnUQ).
It got to the point where many of our staff had alter-egos/personas on videos, even their own developing storylines. Content was often presented as these personas - keeping consistent with the storyline - which made them different to all the other videogame sites (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0B_ePAT-E2s). Things often got a little out of hand too, but it was all good fun (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-2rR17m6Sg )
Our core users absolutely loved this, dubbed the 'VideoGamer Cinematic Universe' - check the wiki: http://vgcu.wikia.com/wiki/Characters_in_the_VGCU
The site is quite different now, but at the time we won awards several years running in the UK (one of the staff's personas even won the biggest accolade, and accepted it in character! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jMguTkV8tA ).
So as you may expect: my advice (aside from the obvious SEO on point, utilising social media etc.), is to ensure your content is original - even if it seems to breaks taboos - and keep trying different things until it works. If you're in an insanely competitive industry like video games, then the harsh reality is that it may be almost impossible to become as big we once were (or IGN, GameSpot and so on). But it looks like you have a niche within comics, which looks great.
There's no magic formula, and of course it's extremely competitive, but persistence and originality is paramount.
There's actually way more to the VideoGamer story, but that was probably more than you expected/wanted - got carried away! But any more info just give me a shout. Thanks!
Wow! Thank you very much for such a detailed write-up. I really appreciate the insight and timeline. It's given me plenty to think about, but made me sure that things can pick up if I keep at it.
SEO is definitely a weak point for me as most of the content on my site is visual, but I'll be starting a blog shortly to rectify that :)
I'm certain to be in touch! You've been a great help :D