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ARTICLES - - Gold Report 2012

Dear Gold Sponsors,

2012 was an exciting year for Hearth.com as we made a big move from our old forum system to a modern and more efficient product. It entailed a lot of work, but the end result seems to have paid off. This report will detail the specific changes and how our Gold Sponsors have been positioned in the new format.

First, as a summary, let me provide the traffic graph for the last couple months so that the results of our move can be clear.
The graph below show this period compared to the same period last year. A sample day is highlighted and the data shown so you can get an idea of the metrics.

As you can see, both visits and unique visits have increased substantially. Another key metric which has increased is NEW visits, which shows that our audience is being refreshed by new guests and members.

Another metric which has improved is our audience measure with Quantcast:
We have started using their Direct Measurement system, which assures a more accurate count. This means we give them direct access to most of our site. Their numbers don’t match exactly with ours, but they are close enough to provide buttressing of our charts and statements. Our site is so vast that we simply may have missed implementing their “tag” (which does the measuring) on some pages.

A few weeks ago we peaked in their top 8,000 US Sites, quite an accomplishment when you consider that is the same realm as sites such as:
http://www.angrybirds.com/ - top game site
http://www.aircanada.com/ Major airline
http://www/aflac.com/ Large insurance company with high saturation advertising
http://www.farmandfleet.com/ Large chain store
Cartalk, Honeywell and even the Canadian post office are all in the same realm of traffic as Hearth.com!

Quick Rundown on the New System we migrated to

The new system which we installed is a piece of forum software called Xenforo. We moved over 20,000 members and 1,200,000 posts to the new platform. The advantages of the new platform are many, but the most important are the following:

1. MUCH faster page loading. The new system loads in a snap on most systems (note: Internet Explorer browser older versions have severe deficiencies so they tend to load much slower than chrome, firefox, safari - which meet the modern web standards)

2. Enhanced search system. We have implemented a new search which allows the use of short words such as VC, LP, PE and other such terms. Most forums cannot search properly on words such as LP Gas because they require a min. of 4 characters.

3. More social tools - Now our members can, and do, “like” posts, and members build up their likes, etc.
It is now very easy to find recent activity, unanswered threads (postings), etc.

4. Quicker posting and finding without excess page loads - When a new post is made, the entire page does not reload…the new post is simply inserted. There are fewer “in-between screens” and useless page loads.

As a result of these and other features, we have seen that people are finding what they need faster! While this may mean fewer official “page loads” and slightly shorter time spent on the site, it makes for a much more satisfying experience. The easiest comparison is with a search engine like Google - it is very quick and often finds you the proper results without a lot of work, whereas older search engines required you to sift through more bad results before you found your answers.

Other Hearth.com features moved to the new Forum Framework

Once we got the main forums moved, we started moving other popular parts of the site to the same framework - this will allow users to have a more cohesive experience.
Examples include:

1. Our stove rating and review section:
The new setup allows for much better searching and sorting, including quick searching on model and maker names, etc.

2. Our Q and A section:
Our 2200 Question and Answers have been moved to this forum - allowing easy searching!

Gold Sponsors Ads - Update for New Forum and Features

Many of the Gold Sponsor banners and listing were in the sections which have been migrated to the new system. In addition, since we are steering most of our current traffic to the new areas, we have implemented many new Gold Sponsor promo spots on the new areas. A discussion of them is below:

1. We are using square ads which show up clearly on the front page of the Forum area as well as in other areas - currently that means one out of each three impressions for Gold Vendors - and never more than one out of five total ads will be yours.
As a guide, the front forum page has displayed over 1.3 Million times since we put the new forum system into play in March, 2012.

2. Any guest who comes to the forums - and most visitors ARE guests (not logged in) - sees a listing and links to the Gold Sponsors at the top of most every Forum page.  This is in addition to the rotating ads on the right. This particular promo results in millions of impressions - probably 8+ million per year! Please see the following graphic:

3. We also re-installed the Gold Sponsor banner ads into the moved sections - that is, the QA and the Stove Ratings mentioned above.  They show with every page view in those sections.

The rest of the Gold Sponsor benefits are still in place as before - this includes:
Front page banners (bottom).
Top of Products Page
Gold Sponsors Page
Listing in Drop Down Menus on pages with navigation drop downs
General Running of the Gold Banners in many forum rooms on a full-time year-round basis.

The combined result of all these changes is more traffic and user engagement for Hearth.com - AND - in turn, for our Gold Sponsors.

In summary, it has been an exciting years as we moved Hearth.com into the future - the move went without any problems, and the results have exceeded our expectations.

Please feel free to email if you have any questions or comments on the above.


Craig Issod, Founder




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