Season’s Greetings & Holiday Wishes from Tahoe Trail Guide (2019)

Snowy forest

Hey folks! It’s Jared Manninen, the creator and publisher of Tahoe Trail Guide. I wish you and your family a Happy Holiday Season!

I also wanted to let you know that I’ll be taking a break from Tahoe Trail Guide until mid-January (2020). This time of the year is always busy for me due to my seasonal outdoor recreation job. So, I usually “log off” for a few weeks in order to focus on working, reflecting on the year, and to just enjoy the winter.

I recommend that you take some time for yourself, as well. And, if you’re at Lake Tahoe, be sure to get outside and enjoy all of the relatively early snow that we’ve received this past month.   

I’m trying to get in the habit of publishing an end-of-year recap of the progress I’ve made building Tahoe Trail Guide. I totally understand if this is not your thing, or doesn’t hold much interest for you. No worries.

But I did include some nice photos from this month (December 2019), so you could just scroll down the page to look at the pretty pictures 🙂

I probably should’ve lead with this, but … thanks so much for tuning into Tahoe Trail Guide! I’ve seen another year of significantly increased traffic on the site, including some wonderful interactions with readers.

I love receiving questions and thoughtful feedback regarding Tahoe Trail Guide. I may not know everything, but what I do know and have experienced I love to share.

So, always feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions.

Violet winter skies and a snowy meadow
Catching the last light while cross-country skiing at Grass Lake on December 4, 2019. © Jared Manninen

If you’re a subscriber to Tahoe Trail Guide, you’ve probably noticed a decrease in the number and frequency of new articles. Rest assured, this has been by design.

The interesting thing about any large-scale project is that you don’t always know where it’s going to ultimately lead. And many times, your initial expectations are far from the reality of where that path is heading.

As I said, there have been huge increases in viewership of Tahoe Trail Guide.

However, the analytics are telling me that most of the traffic is not necessarily from returning viewers (75-80% are new). And of the people using the site, many of them are not moving beyond the page on which they landed (75-80% bounce rate).

By all web standards, this is a bad thing. Traditional belief is that you want lots of subscribers, you want them all coming back to your site frequently, and you want them reading every article and looking at every page of your site. So, it’s a little discouraging to see this.

Snow-flocked trees on a snowy hillside with mountains in the distance
Cross-country skiing at Tahoe Donner Cross Country along Sundance Trail on December 8, 2019. © Jared Manninen

But … of all the traffic that’s visiting Tahoe Trail Guide, 75-80% are finding the site through organic searches. For example, when people look for a subject (i.e. hiking Mount Tallac) on a search engine (i.e. Google or Bing), they’re finding that information easily. This means that most likely Tahoe Trail Guide is ranking high on the first page of search engine results.

This is a fantastic thing.

Also, I’ve been contemplating the nature of Tahoe Trail Guide. Is it really a site that someone is going to spend a lot of time on looking at page after page?

As much as I’d love to believe that, I have to be honest with myself. No matter how good a website is, I don’t spend that much time visiting more than a couple of its pages. And, mostly I just read the one article that piqued my interest and then get on with my day.

I simply don’t read a website from cover to cover like I would a traditional magazine, comic, or a book. So, why should I expect other people to look at my site in that way?

Snow-capped mountains in the distance with a snowy meadow in the foreground
Cross-country skiing at Grass Lake on December 19, 2019. Hawkins Peak and Pickett Peak are in the distance. © Jared Manninen

I do have some series of articles meant to be read in succession. However, most of what I write are essentially one-shots. It is a hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing trail-oriented website, after all. For example, if a person was planning to hike Mount Tallac and found my webpage with the relevant information, why would I expect them to look at other pages on the site?

They had a question. I provided an answer. Now they’re going to go hiking.

This is all fine and dandy with me. At least now I know the score and can let go of my previous expectations.

Another thing I’ve realized is that if the same people aren’t returning frequently to the site, is it truly important for me to publish at my previous breakneck pace of 3-4 articles per month?

Definitely not.

This isn’t because I wouldn’t love to, though. It’s just that it’s unnecessary at this point. Tahoe Trail Guide currently features about 100 articles. That’s a lot, especially considering I’ve only been building the site for three years.

Winter storm clouds and blue skies at a cross country ski area
Cross-country skiing in the Euer Valley on December 22, 2019. © Jared Manninen

On top of that, every single article I publish is an “evergreen” article. Nothing I produce is time-stamped. For example, I’m not publishing top-ten lists of 2019, 2018, 1993, etc… I’m not publishing reviews of the latest useless gadgets that’ll be irrelevant six months from now.

It’s interesting because I didn’t consciously decide this. I just knew that I didn’t want to waste my time on gear reviews and product endorsements – the standard fare of social media influencers and so many niche websites.

I agree that people aren’t necessarily going read my cross-country skiing articles during the summer.

But, guess what?

It’ll eventually be winter again! And, it’ll be winter every year in some form or fashion until we completely blow up the planet or total nuclear fallout occurs.

Two cross-country skiers along a trail during a snow storm
Cross-country skiing during a snowstorm at Tahoe Donner Cross Country on December 22, 2019. © Jared Manninen

So, since I had so much good stuff on Tahoe Trail Guide, earlier this summer I worked with a Tahoe-based web firm to learn how to organize the site to be search engine friendly. I’m far from implementing all the skills I learned, but that’s what I’ve been focusing my time on (versus publishing new material).

Basically, I’ve been house cleaning all year. And it appears to be working as evidenced by the site’s increased viewership.

Oh, and then there was the whole 2019 Tahoe Wildflower Big Year project of which I became obsessed. For my efforts, and while working a full-time job, I took second place in total species found with 368. The first place winner found 715 species.

Not to take anything away from him, but he’s a retired school teacher with the time and resources to accomplish such a feat. He’s also been planning for this year since the last time the project was hosted (2016).

Again, I’m not trying to sound like a poor loser. I just wanted to illustrate that I didn’t do too shabby considering the massive gap between first and second place 🙂

OK, that’s enough.

Have a wonderful holiday season. And, I’ll see you next year!

Cross-country skiing during the winter
Cross-country skiing at Washoe Meadows State Park on December 23, 2019. © Jared Manninen