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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