Tuesday, April 08, 2008

5 lessons I've learnt from blog stats

Prompted by recent stats-related posts from Nick, James, Robin and Jemima and the imminent arrival of my 70,000th unique visitor (it could be you :), I thought I'd publish this blog's traffic stats for the first time and share five things I've learnt from them since I signed up for the rather marvelous StatCounter back in April 2006.

1.) In space, no one can hear you blog (it takes time to grow an audience)

As the above chart illustrates, my first year of blogging was essentially just me shouting down a well. Admittedly I wasn't posting very often and when I did, it was in a rather scattershot fashion, without any real unifying theme beyond the strange meanderings of my mind. Well the latter hasn't really changed any, but I did start posting more often and towards the end of 2006 traffic started rising and has continued trending in that direction ever since (recent weirdness excepted - see points 4 and 5). The moral of the tale: keep writing (regularly) about what you find interesting and eventually some like-minded souls will find your blog.

2.) Small can be beautiful (think quality not quantity)

Whilst there is unquestionably the potential for addictive/compulsive behaviour around anything which can be charted, be wary of actively chasing extra visitors in order to keep the graph heading upwards. Small can most definitely be beautiful when it comes to blog readerships (or any other online community for that matter) and a huge influx of new visitors can easily cause you to question if not the wisdom, then certainly the desirability, of crowds. Last summer's round-up of DIY live video streaming services earned me not only lots of new visitors but also what remains my all-time favourite comment on this blog: "You are on serious crack. You run a Mickey Mouse blog and your biased rating system proves it." (Thanks for the feedback, do come again...)

3.) A subscriber in the hand is worth two in the bush (check your FeedBurner stats)

Just like the print magazine business, a key measure of success for any blog is its subscriber base. Whilst there will be a proportion of regular readers who like to keep it old school and check back for new posts by visiting the blog, the vast majority will subscribe to the RSS feed instead. As a result, your feed stats can be more meaningful than your site stats in tracking the growth (or otherwise) in your regular readership. The below chart shows how subscribers to this blog's FeedBurner feed have recently overtaken daily unique visitors to the site (although this does coincide with a change in domain name which has reduced traffic to the site - see point 4, below).

4.) Changing domains can lose you traffic (but is worth it in the end. probably)

Despite reassurances from Google that all traffic to my old blogspot address would be seamlessly forwarded onto my .com domain, the stats tell a different story, with unique visitors dropping from 1,500 to 680 in the week following the move. Unfortunately the longer-term impact of the move is being masked by a comparison piece I wrote on lifestreaming services which caused traffic to spike to a record 2,000 visitors a couple of weeks later.

5.) Being Dugg isn't all that (beware the locust effect)

I take a perverse pleasure in reporting that my most dugg post to date (the aforementioned post on lifestreaming services) received a measly 35 diggs. Whilst Digg, StumbleUpon, reddit, et al. can be a boon for introducing new readers to your blog, they can also herald something of a false dawn, more akin to a swarm of locusts, who arrive on masse, eat all your bandwidth and then piss off, never to be seen again.

Right, that's me done. Anyone else care to share their learnings from blog stats...?

Related fabric of folly posts:
Towards a more meaningful conception of online performance


Lisa Romeo said...

Thanks for this -- easy to follow and puts things in perspective for neophytyes like me, who haven't even figured out yet how to add those RSS and other icons to their blogs!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for share this info.
How many Mb is the bandwidth limit in a blogspot account?

Dan Taylor said...

I don't believe there is a bandwidth limit for blogspot blogs.

Carl and Luca said...

Hi Dan, This is really interesting and I'm really liking your blog...so much so you are the first (or second on my new blogroll) - Take it easy, Carl