Long Term Traffic Analysis: Learn from the Trends and Improve the Future

Most bloggers and website owners check their stats on a regular basis. For some that may be weekly, daily, or every 2 hours. I’m like most people and I log in to check stats briefly at least once a day. At the end of the month I’ll also check on the monthly stats as a whole, but that’s typically as far as it goes.

Now that the blog has been around for a while I thought it would be interesting to look back on six months worth of data. The blog technically launched in March of 2007 but was not taken seriously until late June or early July, so 6 months goes back to mid July.

Even though I do check on the stats consistently, I found some things that were surprising. Hopefully I can use some of these findings to improve the blog and I’m writing about them because I have a feeling that many of you could learn similar lessons from your own stats.

I looked at stats from July 15, 2007 – January 15, 2008. Here are some of my findings:

- StumbleUpon was my number 1 source of traffic, which I knew. However, I was surprised to find that it was extremely close to producing double the traffic of my number two source of traffic, Digg. The traffic from SU is obviously more consistent than Digg, but I was surprised by the huge gap. I have only had 4 posts hit the front page of Digg, so I’m not saying that SU is overall a better source of traffic for everyone. The 4 posts received huge spikes of traffic from Digg, but aside from those brief periods of time, Digg traffic was almost non-existent.

I really don’t promote SU on the blog posts themselves because the traffic comes from SU regardless, but I’m thinking that it would be worth the experiment to see if providing a button for StumbleUpon could help even more. Obviously many of my readers are Stumblers.

- My number 3 traffic source was direct traffic. I didn’t realize that the direct traffic would rank this high, and I’m happy to see that it does. I think having direct traffic helps to decrease dependency on search engines and social media.

- My number 6 source of traffic was DZone, which proves to me that targeted niche sites are very much worth the time (assuming they have an audience and visitors of their own). CSS Globe and Design Float ranked 9th and 11th respectively, and I anticipate Design Float rising a bit higher in the future because it is still a fairly new site itself. Sphinn is one niche site that I have not given the attention that it deserves. I plan to target these smaller, niche sites more in coming months as opposed to Digg. Digg hasn’t been working for me recently, and the niche sites send much higher quality traffic. I’m not done with Digg by any means, but I’d like to see how I can increase the results with some other sites.

- My number 7 source of traffic was popurls, a social media site that links to popular stories from the major social media sites. I see a good bit of traffic from popurls on days that I have success with del.icio.us (which was my number 4 source of traffic) and those rare occasions that I’m on Digg. I find this to be interesting because most of us place so much attention on getting popular with other social media sites that we forget about the traffic from popurls being a nice added benefit.

- My most-viewed blog posts were many of the resource lists, including 77 Resources to Simplify Your Life as a Web Designer, which was number 1 by far. These posts tend to do very well with social media, so I was not at all surprised that many of them were in the top 10 posts.

- All 3 “gallery” posts (collections of web designs) had similar results to the resource lists and were all in the top 15 posts, despite that fact that 2 of them were just published in January.

- Posts that focused specifically on web design (or resources for web design) received much more traffic than those on other topics such as blogging, seo, making money online, and even social media. The blogging category has more posts than any other category besides design, but no posts from the blogging category were in the top 20, the best one ranked 21st. This is one of the most significant things I got out of this traffic analysis. There is a clear difference in the amount of traffic the average post on web design received as compared to the average post on blogging. While I do think this is extremely significant, I think it is also a bit misleading because several niche social media sites send traffic to posts on design, but the blogging posts don’t receive significant traffic from comparable niche sites. Many posts on blogging and social media have generated a very positive response from readers, but the web design niche has such strong social media sites that the traffic isn’t comparable.

- The only mullet linkbait page that I created ranked 14th, which I consider to be a success.

- I’ve been aware for a long time that my number of page views per visit is lower than I would like, but I have not had much success increasing that number. A big contributing factor is the high % of traffic that comes from social media, which is known for being one-and-done. However, the page views per visit were pretty consistent from July through January, so even as the blog has grown the page views average has not increased. This is one of the most significant findings for me as it confirms that this is an area I need to focus on.

- Along the same lines, my bounce rate has always been higher than I would like. I thought it had been pretty consistent, but I found that it actually increased very slowly, which is another issue that I need to remedy.

If you look at your stats over a span of several months, what do you notice? If you do a little poking around I’m sure you can find some things that will help you to improve your blog.

Looking for hosting? WPEngine offers secure managed WordPress hosting. You’ll get expert WordPress support, automatic backups, and caching for fast page loads.

17 Responses

Comments are now closed on this post.

  • Dustin Brewer, January 17, 2008

    Great article. My biggest source of traffic seems to be stumbleupon, I get a lot of traffic from that social media site specifically. The other vary a great deal and are all pretty close to the same dzone, designfloat, delicious, etc.

  • Ruchir, January 18, 2008

    I think that seeing the stats of over a period of a month or a couple of months is more beneficial than seeing the stats per day. I mean if it’s over a large period of time you can easily see what’s working and what’s not and where you need to improve.

    In my opinion, seeing your stats daily is kind of a waste of time. I’m limiting myself to watching my stats once in 2-3 days…

  • Wayne Liew, January 18, 2008

    As the number of your social media traffic is going up, your bounce rate will be going up as well since there will be more touch and go traffic.

    As for me, your blog domain is already in my brain which makes me visit your blog via direct visit. Also, your blog is in my bookmarks which makes all my visits are counted as direct traffic.

    I have one question (if you are using Google Analytics to monitor your traffic). Do you have a portion in the pie chart showing the percentage of your traffic source being labeled as “Others”? What will be meant by the “Others”?

    I don’t know why I enjoyed this traffic post. :lol:

  • SEO Web Design, January 18, 2008

    Social media is indeed the best way to gain exposure and traffic to a site with good content like yours. Stumbleupon is currently second below Google for our site but the figures are actually quite close. Love to see stumbleupon rising ahead of Google in the near future.

  • PixelHead, January 18, 2008

    Steven, are you using Google Analytics or just your server stats?

  • PixelHead, January 18, 2008

    Since many of your visitors are Social media users, most probably use the Stumbleupon tool bar so, putting a widget is not really necessary, but perhaps a comment at the end to remind to stumble would not be unwise. Sorry for making two comments, I forgot to click subscribe button on my last comment.

  • Jon Henshaw, January 18, 2008

    If you really research ALL of your referrers, then you can also discover new sites. Sites that you can not only discover, use and blog about, but sites you can also utilize for promoting your own site.

    Great article for pondering search traffic and strategy. Thanks!

  • Vandelay Design, January 18, 2008

    A bit of a longer time definitely shows a more complete picture. You’re right. Traffic can very so much from one day to the next.

    I’ve had other show up once or twice, but it’s only 1 or 2 visitors so I’ve never really tried to figure out what it could be. Sorry I’m no help there.

    That’s not a bad thing that Google is 1st (as long as you can maintain those rankings). I’d imagine that the Google traffic you get is higher-targeted than the social media traffic that I get.

    Yes, I’m using Analytics. I know, most of the stumblers are using the toolbar, but like you mentioned, I think a widget or button can sometimes trigger/remind someone to give a thumbs up. It’s worth a try I think. I haven’t used one here in a long time because of the fact that most people use the toolbar. I think I’ll give it a shot at some point.

  • vhxn, January 19, 2008

    Great article you have spotted the importance of social book marking.

  • DoFollow Directory, January 20, 2008

    Digg gives me the most traffic, could you tell me on average how much traffic Stumble Upon gives you per day, per post ?

  • Nick - road2blogging, January 20, 2008

    Most of my users come from stumbleupon too, but the problem is that these visitors don’t visit much more than one post when they do visit. So, I’m trying to move away from stumble as my main traffic and concentrate on other social media networks like facebook to boost the visits and subscribers to my blog.

  • shelah@zug.com, January 27, 2008

    Great article!

    We’ve been doing humor hook linkbait on the web since 1995 at Zug.com

    It would be great to get your feedback on the comedy linkbait angle!

    Marketing Assistant

  • Hi. We only check stats on our clients sites once a month as we are tracking a few hundred different accounts, daily would just take too much resources.

    We do however have a second urchin on some of our sites purely to track trends in the B2B SME market here in South Africa over time.

    There are business sites, most without blogs and Google accounts for about 40% of all traffic.

    Thanks for the interesting reading above

    Wishing you all an exSEOllent 2008

  • Cliff Posey, April 10, 2008

    My best traffic and pr builder is using social bookmarking sites.