Over the last couple of months there has been a bit of a slow down in traffic to this site. Not particularly surprising as I have been posting far less frequently. Then, yesterday, my web traffic shot up: three times as many visitors as I’ve been having the last few weeks.
The reason? Seemingly a slight change in Google’s algorithm in my favour. The site has gained no new links, there are no new posts worthy of note, Google have just changed the significance of one of their many ranking attributes and it has changed in my favour.
This can be seen most clearly when taking traffic from one of Google’s sites in isolation:
It doesn’t matter for this blog. Its purpose is not to make money, just provide a place for some of the random thoughts that creep into my mind.
There are, however, many business that rely primarily on search engines driving traffic to their web sites, and such huge variations in traffic can only cause difficulties. Whilst social media is changing how many of us find information, search engines are still very powerful, and Google is too powerful.
Looking at your Google analytics or Feedjit can occassionally provide insights into some very strange minds. Earlier today Google directed someone to my site looking for paddington bear porn:
Once I had gotten over the shock, and taken Paddington to see a local counsellor, I had one question that I knew Google Insights for Search could answer. Who is the fictional bear of choice in the world of porn?
Whilst neither paddington bear porn or rupert the bear porn have enough search volume to produce Google Insights for Search graphs, both winnie the pooh porn and care bear porn do (at this point my knowledge of fictional bears ran out).
Whilst Winnie the Pooh is, without a doubt, the bear of choice in the world of porn, it is pleasing to note that it is seemingly an industry on the decline.
One of the pleasures of Feedjit is you sometimes get to see patterns upfold that are missed in the vast quantities of data you collect with an analytics service such as Google Analytics. Today I spotted this one:
The above information shows me that not only did someone find my post about programming for Flickr in Python, but they found the page useful enough to visit each of the links I had placed. Not merely glancing at the linked-pages, but spending time reading, and probably acting, on them: It was 40 minutes between the visitor’s arrival and their final leaving.
Obviously it’s nice when a user finds plenty of interest on my site, but I am just as happy to know that I have pointed someone in the right direction.
After forgetting all about server-side programming since first attempting it back in September, I decided to have another go, more specifically using Yahoo BOSS. Yahoo BOSS allows you to send unlimited queries to the Yahoo database; a great tool for a webometrician, if only I could program. Anyway, whilst knocking up a VERY basic search interface:
…it occurred to me that successfully building a search engine into your site is potentially a good way of building traffic. Every time I visit a site from my new search page it will register in the site analytics of the page that I visit that a link has been followed from my web site, a fact that will also be advertised on the increasing number of pages that include a Feedjit-like widget. If people are half as obsessed by their analytics as I am, it is sure to increase traffic.
nb. The ‘search engine’ is very much a work in progress…
One of the joys of Google Analytics is watching the map slowly filling up as you get traffic from different parts of the world. However, whilst North America and Western Europe quickly fill up, other parts of the world have been more reluctant to visit my Webometric Thoughts. Almost a year after I started using Google Analytics there has still been no traffic from many countries in Africa.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave… is wondering how to start filling his map, hoping to attract visitors from Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, and Moldova. Whilst I am also waiting for some traffic from Belarus and Georgia, at least I can sleep comfortably in the knowledge of 28 visits from the Ukraine, 2 from Armenia, and 1 from Moldova.
Whilst the gauntlet has been thrown down by Kim at Oh, what a tangled web we weave…, I would expect the Belarusian, Georgian, and Armenian traffic to arrive by the end of the week (especially as I have sensibly included the demonyms as well as country names). And whilst Kim has decided to include the terms Google and Facebook in his post to increase the liklihood of traffic, I’m going with the Google Insights for Search suggestions of Minsk, Tbilisi, and Yerevan.
Update: Ooops…just realised I was chasing Armenian traffic after already having had Armenian traffic. So it should really say “I would expect the Belarusian, Georgian, and EXTRA Armenian traffic to arrive by the end of the week”
Today is the one year anniversary of my Webometric Thoughts blog! Unfortunately, despite having a Google anniversary logo commissioned especially for the event (way back in January), Google have decided to give preference to another Olympic logo today instead.
Over the last year I have managed to blog fairly regularly (this is my 286th post), and this has been reflected in a steady increase in traffic. Since I started using Google Analytics in October I have had 15,484 absolute unique visitors:
Most importantly, the number of unique visitors can be seen to be increasing month on month. This increase can also be seen in my Alexa ranking:
When checking my Alexa ranking back in September my ranking was 8,926,204, whilst in January it was 3,816,072. Whilst Alexa changed its ranking algorithm in April, today’s results show an improvement on the 1,607,649 I got then. Even Technorati shows an improvement, as I am now in the top half a million blogs!
So, what are the aims of Webometric Thoughts over the next year:
-Break into the top 100,000 web sites (according to Alexa)
-Break into the top 100,000 blogs (according to Technorati)
-Make the blog self-financing (since starting to use Google Ads in March I have earned $14.05…I need to earn approximately $50 a year).
-And, obviously, write higher quality posts.
I am unashamedly addicted to Google Analytics. If I am not looking at the number of visitors, I am investigating where they are coming from, and for Webometric Thoughts, many of them are coming from Google Images. I have had visits from 53 different country-specific Google Image search engines, and a little probing finds it is probably driven (bizarrely) by photos of me in different t-shirts! Whilst I found I am the top result for both‘blog t shirt’ and ‘qr t shirt’ (as well as appearing in the results for similar queries), I was surprised to find that other people have used my image on their blogs!
Along with the rest of the blogosphere, my blog does occasionally use other people’s images to illustrate a point. Personally I am never sure whether it is better to embed the image, thus using the other person’s bandwidth, or to copy the photo to my server. Whilst embedding the photo is less likely to be a breach of copyright, copying the photo seems to be the politer option.
But really people, are photos of me really the best illustration you can find??
There can be huge variations in the number of visitors you receive from one day to another, thus making it difficult to determine whether the overall trend is up or down. Google’s latest beta feature is likely to be broadly welcomed as it allows the aggregation of the number of visitors that have been received over a week, or even a month.
The difference can be clearly seen in the two graphs below, covering the period from 1st Nov. 2007 to 31st March 2008 for my own blog.webometrics.org.uk. Whilst an increase in visitors is discernible in the first graph (the traditional daily aggregation):
The noise makes it difficult to determine exactly how much of an increase in traffic there has been, this is clearly discernible with a monthly aggregation:
A four point manifesto was published on Read Write Web yesterday about how to avoid a Google media monoculture. The manifesto is aimed squarely at the advertising side of the Google behemoth. In truth we are in need of a far wider ranging manifesto, even those who dislike the extent of Google’s power find it creeping into their lives.
My own (daily) Google shame includes:
-Google Search Engine (approximately 50% of my searches)
Google infects my online life due to a combination of habit, ease, and lack of alternatives. Whilst I can try to wean myself off of search, I have no idea how easy it would be to change the blogging software (without losing everything), whilst once you have started one analytics program you are loathed to change to another which calculates the numbers differently. At least I can hold my head up when emailing (Hotmail), reading my RSS feeds (Newsgator), reading the news (BBC), or doing a bit of social networking (anything but Orkut).
Regarding the 4-point manifesto, in addition to wishing for a wider ranging manifesto there is one point I do disagree with: a push towards cost per action (CPA). Whilst I understand that steps are necessary in preventing people clicking on their own links purely for the ad-revenue, CPA would tip the balance too far in the advertisers favour. Why should I have ads on my site that earn nothing because the advertisers product isn’t wanted on closer inspection? It also doesn’t bear thinking about how long I would have to wait for someone to not only click on one of the ads, but to actually do something on the advertiser’s site. After almost three weeks of Google ads, and 1,438 page impressions, I have only had 2 ads clicked on!
It is often stated that we are now in the age of the perpetual beta as web services continually evolve to gain competitive advantage, never reaching a final finished product. Whilst we may enjoy the new additions to a favourite web site it can establish bugs in previously stable software. The effect of these bugs can range from the annoying to the potentially disastrous. Google Analytics seems to be having a number of these problems at the moment, hot on the heels of its not displaying graphs properly earlier in the month, I now find that it is refusing to acknowledge “absolute unique visitors”.
When investigating a day’s traffic it is always the absolute unique visitors that I am interested in rather than the total visitors, after all I often visit my own site more than once (and occasionally so do others). However, at some point yesterday Google analytics stopped being able to distinguish an absolute unique visitor. The results say I had a mere 27 absolute unique visitors yesterday, despite visitors from 33 different cities, whilst it currently says that I have had 27 visits today, of which there is not one single absolute unique visitor!
The perpetual beta works when innovation is more important than consistency. For me, in the cases of site statistics and email, consistency is more important than any new innovations.