Dougal Campbell's geek ramblings

WordPress, web development, and world domination.

Analytics Observations

Over the years, I’ve variously either obsessed over or ignored my site stats. I’ve always found website analytics interesting, but since I’m not selling anything here, I don’t have a lot of motivation to really dig in and try to make sweeping changes for the sake of increasing clicks or search engine rankings. Oh, I have dabbled with things here and there — related posts links, the SEO Super Comments plugin, etc. — but my major motivation is typically to 1) make it easier for my readers to find useful content, and 2) make it harder for spammers to slip through my nets.

Still, I do glance at things from time to time, and my interest was piqued again recently by playing with the Analytics360 plugin. A couple of things caught my eye, surprised me,  and got me to look a little closer. I thought I’d share a few of those observations here. “SEO Experts” can probably go ahead and move along — you’ll probably just chuckle at my amateur findings.

First, it’s important to note that due to my inclusion on Planet WordPress, and therefore in the Dashboard of numerous WordPress users, my WordPress posts get big surges of traffic (relatively speaking). On the first day of a new WordPress post, my site typically sees 2-3 times as many hits as it does during a quiet phase when I haven’t posted in a while. This usually tapers off over the course of the next few days until traffic returns to ambient levels. So you’d expect that over time, those posts would stay on top of the list of most visited articles on this site. However, I’ve found some exceptions that surprised me.

First, take a look at my traffic graph for the month of July 2009. Those orange dots are when I made blog posts. As I said, the traffic spike is pretty obvious. This is the result of several hundred people clicking in from their WordPress Dashboard, or to a lesser degree from RSS aggregators like Google Reader.

Now, look at what happens when you look at page visit totals over the month:

Notice how my six-week-old post on Must-Have iPhone Apps got more traffic over time than some fairly popular WordPress posts, despite the obvious initial advantage that the WP posts had. And that post on Firefox Autocomplete is hanging in there even though it’s nearly five years old? Crazy! Conclusion: content really is king.

I won’t bore you with another table, but I’ll also point out that “organic” (search engine) hits account for roughly 50% of my overall traffic. From what I understand, this is a Good Thing, and is obviously the reason why those older, “off-topic” posts rank in the chart above. And in fact, the phrase “must have iphone apps” was the top keyword drive here for the month of July. And yes, this does tempt me to write more posts about the iPhone. Will I? We’ll just have to see. I write about whatever strikes me, but I’m only human, and I do like the ego boost of a popular post. ;)

Have you found anything in your own stats that surprised you?

About Dougal Campbell

Dougal is a web developer, and a "Developer Emeritus" for the WordPress platform. When he's not coding PHP, Perl, CSS, JavaScript, or whatnot, he spends time with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat in their Atlanta area home.
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5 Responses to Analytics Observations

  1. Matthew says:

    My #1 article is still a guide for how to get the most recent World of Warcraft expansion to work on Linux :-P It retains strong numbers from search engines despite having been out since early 2008.

    I recently decided to hide all my analytics stuff. I still have it collecting data in the background, but I took the panels off my dashboard and stopped visiting Google Analytics. It was consuming too much of my attention and I disliked how worried I was becoming about generating higher numbers and fussing with SEO. I like that popularity boost too, but I don’t want to lose sight of my purpose: writing because I enjoy it.

    That being said, I’ll definitely write a new Linux guide when the next WoW expansion comes out. No one else had one for a long time and chances are no one else will when the next game drops. The boost to numbers is undeniably nice ^_^

  2. Daniel says:

    My personal home page and blog has roughly 100 visitors daily. That is at least what Automattic’s WordPress Stats tells me. When I compare that number to what Google Analytics indicates, then I’m in for a surprise: According to Google, I have only roughly 30 visitors a day. I am at a loss. The only explanation I can come up with is that the two systems count visitors differently. Although both systems, or the plugins I use for their purposes, claim that they don’t account for administrator visits. Only other visitors. Either Google Analytics or WordPress Stats, or maybe both, is lying to me.

    The other thing I find astonishing is that the one post that is more than a year old about what my new apartment looks like (after I moved) has the most hits still today. From search engines. It seems I should change from being a computer professional to doing interior design… :-)

    • Dougal says:

      The difference could be because WordPress Stats shows you “pageviews” by default, but Google Analytics shows you “visits” (unique visitors). So if the average visitor to your site views 3 pages during a session, that could account for the difference.

      For example, my WordPress Stats for yesterday says I had 899 pageviews. But Google Analytics says 626 visits. However, if I go into Google Analytics, change my view to “compare two metrics”, I can compare “visits” to “pageviews”, and see that GA recorded 932 pageviews. Which is close enough to the 899 number in my book: roughly a 3% difference.

      Of course, it is always possible that for some reason, one script or the other is not loading for all visitors, but I would expect that would only happen for a small percentage of visits.

  3. Wine of Month Club says:

    I wish I could get to 50% organic traffic…I guess good things come to people who wait. I am impressed though that you choose not to make any profit from the site, I would consider at least throwing up adsense or something….it doesn’t hurt anyone and you could buy a nice dinner a month with it at least.

  4. Amanda Fern says:

    I’m in charge of driving unique visitors to my site and there isn’t a more anticipated time of the month for me than checking the analytics account I have measuring my website’s traffic. It seems like you have some great blog posts that have caught on and become somewhat “viral”. Congrats. Once you break through the clutter once, it will become easier and easier to get another piece of content seen by an extended audience.

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