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Tangled in Design is the work of Stephen Greig, currently a Web Designer/Front-end guy in Nottingham, UK.

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I wrote a book on advanced CSS3, published by John Wiley & Sons. You should totally buy it…

Buy my book: CSS3 Pushing the Limits

Tangled in Design is the work of Stephen Greig, currently a Freelance Web Designer/Front-end guy in Nottingham, UK.

Stephen specialises in design and front-end development, notably HTML5 & semantics, scalable CSS, along with particular expertise in the experimental, cutting edge CSS3 modules.

Stephen's been in the industry as a full-time professional for over 5 years, during which he has graduated with a First Class BA Honours degree, written a 380 page book on advanced CSS3 and held Senior positions in both New Zealand and South Wales.

He has since moved back to his home in Nottingham where he now works as a Senior Web Designer.

Stephen loves sports and is a keen follower of Hereford FC as well as the Welsh Rugby Union and Football teams.

He also has a deep passion for music and boasts an extremely varied taste, as is evident by his last.fm profile.

He also likes swearing and thinks that talking in third person is cool as fuck.

Want to know more? Tweet me. I'm nice.

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MessivsRonaldo.net 3.5 Years On: A Performance Review

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This is the third annual review of messivsronaldo.net, where I analyse the site’s performance over the last 12 months from a number of different perspectives. The website has always been a bit of an experiment, to see how far it can go without financial investment, so I’m hoping you find some of the data insightful or at least interesting.

Read my previous articles about messivsronaldo.net

Once again, this article will be digging into the Analytics data to demonstrate the site’s performance and to explore issues such as browser and device usage. The topics up for discussion include:

So without further ado…

What’s Changed?

This time last year, I suggested that I’d more or less reached the limit in terms of changes/additions to the site. How little I knew!

This August, I redesigned the site and completely rebuilt it. It wasn’t planned – I just looked at the site one day and it suddenly felt really dated, so I decided to freshen it up.

Old Design

messivsronaldo.net old site design

New Design

messivsronaldo.net new site design

I do think it looks a lot more up-to-date now and offers a much nicer experience for the user. On top of this redesign, I also felt it was an appropriate time to improve the foundations of the site as well, so I decided to completely rebuild it.

The website was previously just static PHP in its entirety, which I always felt was quite limiting to its long term future. I’ve used WordPress for the rebuild and made heavy use of the excellent Advanced Custom Fields plugin to allow me to simplify the updating of the site to the extreme.

Updating the Site

All of the stats from previous seasons are now stored as custom posts in the WP database, and the all time stats are simply calculated on the fly using these figures. The ability ratings are now calculated automatically as well – so if a new ability write up is added, the rating for this new ability is automatically added onto the players’ totals. There are a number of other things that have been made infinitely easier to maintain after the WP rebuild – adding new honours for example is now as simple as checking a box.

messivsronaldo.net WordPress backend
A snippet of the WordPress backend for messivsronaldo.net, showing the many custom post types on the left and the season stats fields on the right

Generally, it’s made my life a whole lot easier, and has reduced the amount of maintenance required at the end of each season/calendar year. Interestingly though, I’ve actually removed the current season stats from WordPress and reverted back to static PHP for these – ironically, I did this to allow for easier updating.

The reason is that I’m often out and about when the games are on, so I regularly need to update the stats in seconds using my phone. Logging into WordPress and trying to update the figures on my phone a few times per game was extremely cumbersome and involved a lot of clicks (taps). Whereas, using static PHP, I can use the excellent Touchqode app to connect via FTP, download the stats file, edit the numbers, and re-upload. And it literally takes seconds.

Static PHP stats
A snippet of the stats file that I use to update the current season statistics

More Detailed Stats

I also introduced much more detailed stats with the rebuild, such as goals scored with either foot, goals scored inside/outside the box, free kicks and more. It’s obviously a bit more to keep on top of when updating the site, but the more data on offer, the more searches it can satisfy, and in turn, the stronger resource it becomes.

More details stats
The new, additional stats that overlay the whole screen when activated

Results Pages

Another addition that wouldn’t really have been manageable before the WP rebuild are the results pages for each player. These are really easy to update after each game and don’t really need to be updated as urgently as the core stats on the front page.

Messi results
One of the new results pages, which lists all of Messi’s games from this season and his actions in each
Results backend
A snippet of the backend for the results data entry

Facebook Page

Away from the actual website, I’ve also recently created a Facebook page for messivsronaldo.net. I should have done this as soon as the site began to perform well, but I just never got round to it.

Annoyingly, the website itself was up to 58,000 Facebook likes, but the new page had to start again from zero. It’s been live for a couple of weeks now and is on 515 likes, although I have spent £20 promoting the page and a few of the posts to give it a bit of a kickstart. I’m not convinced it will grow quickly enough to become a truly valuable asset for the website, but I thought it was definitely worth giving it a go.

Traffic

Again, the past year has been a huge improvement on the previous 12 months in terms of traffic. That period (October 2013 – October 2014), the site received just short of 2 million sessions, which I was delighted with at the time.

In the last year (October 2014 – October 2015), the site has received 5,506,436 sessions; a pretty major increase of 175%.

Analytics for 2014-15

Note that the big lull in July and August is due to pre-season and is experienced each year.

Averages

In the site’s life time (April 2012 – now), it has received 8,243,406 sessions; an all time average of 6,495.

The Highs

In each of my other write ups, I listed the site’s top 10 days in terms of numbers and stated the possible reasons for the traffic. Below shows an updated list, with the numbers in brackets showing the top 10 figures from this time last year.

77,216 (37,614) – Dec 7th 2014
The previous night, Ronaldo scored a record-breaking 23rd La Liga hat-trick. It also took him to 23 league goals in just 14 games.
66,293 (31,664) – May 2nd 2015
Messi scored 2 in an 8-0 win and Ronaldo scored another hat-trick as Real beat Sevilla 2-3.
61,837 (27,703) – Nov 23rd 2014
The previous day, Messi scored a hat-trick to secure the all time La Liga goals record.
60,619 (26,503) – Mar 8th 2015
The previous day, Messi scored a record breaking 24th La Liga hat-trick, regaining the record from Ronaldo.
59,632 (24,525) – Apr 5th 2015
Ronaldo scored 5 goals in a 9-1 win against Granada.
58,543 (23,234) – May 23rd 2015
Messi scored twice as Barcelona celebrated winning the La Liga title. Ronaldo also scored his 8th hat-trick of the season.
53,554 (20,329) – May 24th 2015
As above!
53,326 (19,100) – Feb 15th 2015
Messi scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Levante.
52,485 (19,020) – Nov 26th 2014
The previous night, Messi scored a hat-trick to break the all time Champions League goals record.
51,553 (15,740) – May 17th 2015
Barcelona secured the La Liga title at Atletico Madrid thanks to a Messi goal, whilst Ronaldo scored yet another hat-trick.

As is evident by the reasons given in the above list, the traffic spikes are heavily dependent on the performances of Messi and Ronaldo. In other words, when they do well, the site does well.

Traffic Sources and Search Terms

Organic traffic is still by far the major driving force behind the numbers the site pulls in.

messivsronaldo.net acquisition

In terms of referrals, Facebook leads the way by some margin, with the mobile site topping the list over the desktop site.

messivsronaldo.net referrals

On a slightly related note, messivsronaldo.net got used as a source on the BBC Football website in May in a few articles that mentioned Messi and Ronaldo’s rivalry! Annoyingly, the link wasn’t hyperlinked when the articles were on the front page and relevant, but after emailing the BBC (if you don’t ask, you don’t get!), they did eventually add the hyperlink.

I was thrilled with this at the time, as it really cements my site as a credible and reliable resource. Also, I’m no SEO expert, but I’m guessing a linkback from the BBC doesn’t do your site any harm in the eyes of Google!

BBC snippet

Back to the analytics data. Again, no real surprises in the search terms that have been used the most to access the site. Although it’s nice to see a couple of terms sneak in that don’t contain either Messi or Ronaldo, such as the La Liga top scorer searches.

messivsronaldo.net search terms

Ranking for Certain Terms

Obviously rankings can fluctuate a lot, but the below is correct at the time of posting, using a browser without any usage/account history.

The site ranked strongly for “Messi vs Ronaldo” really early on, but I’m very happy with the progress it’s made with the much more general search terms. I’m assuming this has been a major reason behind the continuing increase in traffic.

Browser Usage Stats

In terms of browser usage, there aren’t any big or unexpected changes from last year. The three big players are Chrome, Safari and Opera Mini, with the rest making up around 5% or lower. Internet Explorer sits nicely down in 6th place, accounting for just 3.36% of traffic in the past 12 months!

messivsronaldo.net browser usage

If we dig a bit deeper and look at browser versions, you can see that Safari 8.0 is the most used browser version, suggesting that a lot of mobile traffic comes from iOS. Most of the rest of the list is made up of a million different Chrome versions!

messivsronaldo.net browser versions

If we look at operating systems, we can see that all those different Chrome versions add up quite significantly! Android subsequently tops the list with Windows and iOS close behind.

messivsronaldo.net operating systems

Mobile vs Desktop

When I did my first annual review 2 years ago, mobile/tablet traffic on messivsronaldo.net had just crept past desktop usage for the first time, with 51%. This time last year, mobile traffic had grown to 58% of the overall figures. Let’s take a look at this year’s numbers…

messivsronaldo.net mobile and desktop traffic

You can see that the trend has not slowed, with mobile/tablet usage now accounting for 66% of traffic, with 34% of users accessing the site from laptop/desktop.

The rate of this growth is quite staggering, and it will be interesting to see where it finally levels out – if it does at all!

Revenue

With traffic levels continuing to go from strength to strength, the amount of revenue generated by Google Adsense has also stepped up to the next level. The average made per month at this point last year was £84 – for the past 12 months, this monthly average has risen to £281!

Evidently, the site has gone from generating pocket money to contributing a significant amount to my overall income. This allowed me to easily justify the time I spent on the redesign and rebuild, as well as the ongoing maintenance of the site.

Google Adsense Revenue Over Time

messivsronaldo.net adsense 2014-15

The most made in a single month was £492 in May this year, although the following months were considerably less due to pre-season. The most made in a single day was a staggering £50.14 on December 7th, 2014. You may recall from earlier that this was the site’s best ever day, pulling in 77,216 sessions – Ronaldo had scored a record breaking 23rd La Liga hat-trick the night before.

Other Revenue Sources

In the past year, I’ve also made use of a couple of other advertising platforms in addition to Google Adsense. Infolinks (who featured messivsronaldo.net as their site of the month in July) was the first that I tried.

Infolinks display ads that slide up at the bottom of the screen just after the page loads. I also made use of their “in text” ads for a while before deeming them far too annoying for users! This has generated a total of $1,165 USD in the past year, which equates to around £750 (£62.50 per month on average).

The other advertising platform I’ve decided to try is a company called “Out of the Box Agency“. They serve an iframe advert to desktop users in certain countries once every 24 hours. For this, they pay a fixed fee of $150 USD per month, which equates to just under £100.

I’m delighted with the revenue the site now generates, but I do think there is potential for it to make much more. Figuring out how is the hard bit though of course.

The Future

If I’m being honest, I think this past year will be the last of really significant growth, unless I’m able to think of some groundbreaking new feature that takes it to the next level.

From here, whether or not the site can sustain these levels will be heavily dependent on the form of Messi and Ronaldo and how long they can stay at the top of the game. I think the next couple of years are pretty safe, but surely the chasing pack will begin to catch up eventually as they both enter their thirties?!

Having said all that, I do think there is a lot more scope in the website if someone with the necessary resources was to come along and purchase it. For example, I’ve not spent a single penny on marketing the site or on any of the data, so if someone had the means to start investing in these areas then I am sure the site could continue to grow exponentially.

As it happens, I did have a semi-serious offer for the site in April of this year. We exchanged several emails and eventually agreed a fee of £9k, with the buyer assuring me that he’d be ready to make the purchase in “a couple of months”. Naturally, he didn’t get back in touch – and with me not being desperate to sell, I decided not to chase the sale.

Although I’m still not desperate to sell as I genuinely enjoy running the site, I do think this would be the way to go to allow the site to realise its full potential. Having recently redesigned and rebuilt the site to improve its maintainability and scalability, I’d be looking for higher offers this time around though.

About Stephen Greig

Stephen Greig is a 25 year old Freelance Web Designer/Front-end guy, currently living in Nottingham, UK. Stephen is also the creator of messivsronaldo.net and author of CSS3 Pushing the Limits, a book on advanced CSS3. You should follow him on Twitter where he talks about the web, sports, music and swears a lot. Stephen's also on Google+ if that's more your bag.