Looking at stats again

A week ago today I posted some thoughts about the tools I am currently using to discover and understand the traffic I get here at my blog. Several of you commented on that post and offered some helpful suggestions (i.e., W3counter — thanks Dan Grossman) and encouragement, all of which were much appreciated. Since that time I have also been carrying on an email dialog with a friend and fellow blogger about his experience, and in today’s post I want to relate his statistical success story and see if we can draw some lessons from it. At his request, I won’t mention who he is or link to his blog, but you may, I think, find his story as interesting as I do.

Since a picture is far more eloquent than I am, take a look at this chart of the traffic at his blog for the last half of this month. (The chart was created using StatCounter, which offers free analysis of the last 500 page loads and even more if you opt to upgrade to their paid service).

Traffic barchart

The results he is now getting, I think you’ll agree, are impressive. How did he do it, you ask? Is it luck? Is it a fluke? Will it continue? Could you or I duplicate his results? All of those are legitimate questions, so let’s look at some of what went on in his case. I’ll leave it to you to decide the answers to those questions for yourself.

First, his is a technology blog. He writes about Java primarily, but not exclusively. However, his blog is focused. He has something specific to write about. Here is the order of events as he relates it:

  • I decided I had something to blog about
  • I wrote one post, then another, then yet another
  • It occurred to me that I must be missing some vital connection between the nodes in the blogosphere
  • I went looking for aggregators and found javablogs.com
  • my hits rose to 392, then fell to below 200
  • someone decided to dzone one of my posts — (Dzone is a site for developers that is like Digg where users rate links.)
  • the rest is described in those pixels (meaning the pixels of the barchart above)

I conclude from his experience that it is important to have a focus, to post regularly, to take an active role in trying to promote your blog, and then to have the good fortune to have something you say be discovered by the community. Once your blog has been found to be a valued resource or maybe even just an interesting one, people will come back to see what you have to say. I can’t predict whether my friend’s traffic will stay at its most recent high levels. Time will surely tell about that. However, it does seem to be true that once people find your site and get something of value there, they are certainly more likely to come back again in the future.

My blog’s current traffic levels on its best days are at about the same level as my friend’s at the beginning of his chart before his traffic began to really take off. My highest number of page views so far (since I installed the WordPress Stats plugin on May 6th) was 69 on May 22nd, which as it turns out was the day after I posted the video contained in “The Curse of Aging,” a link that continues to get a number of hits.

What conclusions do you draw from my friend’s experience and his statistics? Feel free to let me know in the comments to this post.

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2 thoughts on “Looking at stats again

  1. Colm Smyth

    I guess the key question is “will it last”? However it shows that the engine of hits for us long-tailers are the aggregators and rankers.

    Javablogs.com is an aggregator; you just register your blog and your posts are automatically merged into the other posts on a given day. Naturally however, if you blog about everything and everything, there is no aggregator that fits perfectly.

    The other option is the rankers (Digg, StumbleUpon, Technorati-WTF, Delicious, etc). You need a lot of hits before finally someone will finally appreciate what you have to say and rank you. You can always self-submit to a ranker, but that feels like cheating.

    But still, many folks out there will recommend that you do self-submit and clearly it works for some folks (to an Irish guy like myself, self-promotion seems wrong however!).

    Clearly the most popular blogs/sites are very specific (TechCrunch, Fark, Gizmodo, Scobleizer, Steve Pavlina… the list is endless, though not anywhere near as endless as the long tail ;). Specificity means that readers know what they are getting and they can seek it out.

    Some bloggers are successful because they had a “platform” before they started blogging; people seek them out because of who they are (but they stay because they like what they read).

    In summary for a long-tailer without a “platform”, I think you have to:

    1) Increase your pagerank (a tiny percentage of search engine users may actually subscribe to your blog)
    – ask people to add you to their blogroll (*violent shudders*) –
    – leave relevant comments on other bloggers blogs – I think this is actually nice, I certainly love insightful comments from people who have clearly read my post, however they might be motivated

    2) Increase your visibility
    – self-submit (*shudders*) to a ranker – increase your hits (possibly dramatically)
    – I don’t know if it works, but you could try ranking other posts
    – blog more often
    – follow one of the successful patterns for the titles of blogs (e.g. “10 Reasons to use a catchy title for your blog”, “Use Every Relevant Keyword”, “Do I need to pose a really interesting question to get more hits?”, “How to write a catchy title for your blog”, etc.)

    3) Increase your relevance
    – focus! ideally on an area you care about and are informed on
    – identify a “beat” for your blog and patrol it using RSS aggregators, especially ones that let you monitor keywords

    That’s it. It’s not quite as fun as just blogging what you want and sharing bits of your life, but the sad fact is that most people don’t care about you (read the Monkeysphere for a humourous view on this – weight of a human brain indeed).

    So it comes down to what kind of blogger you want to be. But if you want to be read, you have to do some of the above.

    What am I personally trying? Well I happen to use javablogs.com, have a reasonable (but not laser sharp) focus, and I think a little more about the titles of my posts – that’s it. I won’t self-submit or do any of the other things. I’m slightly hamstrung in what I can blog because I chose to use my real name and link to information about my professional life, so I tend to stay with what’s acceptable to a broad base of people, and in particular with a focus on technoloyg.

    Perry, I think you have a great blog – humour, insight, news, cool technology and you share an awareness of your stage in life which means that you can reach out to and inspire other mature souls who are active on the internet. I think it’s no accident that “Curse of Aging” got a lot of hits; an increasing awareness of aging is something all of us over-40’s can identify with, and we want to know that others are feeling their years, unlike the irritating vacuous celebrities with their stretched and tanned skins, perfect smiles and designer clothes.

    That’s what I think anyhow 😉

    Reply
  2. Perry Post author

    Wow, Colm. Thanks for your comments. This is a case where the comment surpasses the post itself, I think.

    I tend, like you, to be unwilling to do some of the things required just to get traffic (i.e., self-submit to the ranking services, etc.) because I’m not that concerned about increasing my readership. As I’ve said often, I already have more readers, and more loyal readers, than I have any right to expect. But some of the tips, such as better titles for posts and trying to focus more precisely on some of the areas of my interest, are within the scope of what I’m willing to do. I do want to explore submitting a sitemap to Google, since so many people use Google and gaining a higher pagerank with them can have an effect on one’s traffic I think.

    As an aside, this morning I have been exploring StatCounter and its services. And I am blown away by all of the services they offer for free and by one of the features in particular, called Recent Visitor Google Map, where you can drill down to see the location from which a visitor to the site logged in. Of course, you can’t identify the individual person, but this is amazing stuff!

    In any event, thanks again for stopping by and for commenting. I always enjoy hearing from you and learning from your insights.

    Reply

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