A Case Study in How Your Blog’s Traffic Stats Can Fool You

by Mack Collier

I’ve been blogging since 2005, and in those last 7 years, I’ve learned that every year my blog’s traffic begins to fall off around the 12th or 13th of December.  Every year without fail.

But it turns out that last week was the 3rd best traffic week ever here.  What’s really interesting is that the first two weeks were driven by a spike one day due to a particular post, and then the traffic died down the rest of the week.  But as you can see, traffic here last week was high every day:

So I was excited about that, but as I said, I know that in the past traffic for the blog typically starts falling by now.  So I decided to do some digging into traffic sources to see what was going on.  Here was my first clue that something was amiss:

That’s my search traffic here over the last 7 days.  As you can see, the high point was Monday the 10th, and then it starts dropping.  That is the pattern I expected to see with the blog’s overall traffic as well.  So if Search traffic is acting normally for this time of year, and overall traffic is still up, that must mean that there’s another source of traffic that’s making up the difference.

So next, let’s look at the top traffic sources here over the last 7 days:

Another ‘A-Ha!’ moment.  The #2 source of traffic to this blog over the last 7 days was Paper.Li.  That’s a referral source that I haven’t had in past years, so that helps explain why overall traffic isn’t falling yet like it typically does this time in December.  It seems that the boost from Paper.Li is making up for the fall in search traffic, which is typically 50-60% of my traffic here.

So at this point it’s safe to assume that the traffic I am getting from Paper.Li is coming from The #Blogchat Weekly that I set up, right?  Well, not exactly.  In fact, let’s look at the traffic that Paper.Li has sent here over the last 7 days:

What the hell?!?  From Monday to Thursday, Paper.Li sent about 20 visitors a day here, but from Friday to Sunday, it sent over 250 visitors a day!  That explains why traffic was up Friday-Sunday, when typically traffic on those 3 days is the lowest of the week.

But why the surge starting on Friday?  Because on those days, Paper.Li added a small band at the top of every Paper.Li page that encouraged users to join #Blogchat, gave them the topic, and a link back here.  Additionally, this is a wonderfully smart move on the part of Paper.Li as this month’s #Blogchat sponsor because they understand that the more they can do to help me, the more I will do to help them.  BTW, did you know they are currently offering a month of free Pro service with no credit card required? ;)

So as you can see, never assume when it comes to your blog’s stats.  If I had simply looked at overall traffic, I would have assumed that traffic for this week will be high as well.  But since I did some digging and saw search was starting to fall, I can assume that will continue and as a result, overall traffic this week will be down.  The point is, it pays to understand how your site’s traffic is influenced by multiple sources, because once you understand that, you have a better understanding of the overall health of your blog.

Steve (JoeBugBuster) Case December 17, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I love a good detective story. ;-)

Mack Collier December 17, 2012 at 8:55 pm

It’s like Blogging CSI ;)

Tom Martin December 18, 2012 at 9:45 am

Mack,

Love this post… it’s so easy to just see the GA reports and make snap decisions…but the marketing strategy devil is in the details.

As Tom Webster likes to day, do the work…. because if you do, you’ll be rewarded.

Good stuff friend.
@TomMartin

Mack Collier December 18, 2012 at 9:47 am

Thanks Tom, never assume ;) Happy Holidays!

Kelly January 2, 2013 at 3:02 am

Hi Mack,

I don’t know how this past snuck past me last month!

You’re right, I’m guilty as charged ;) I purposely placed a banner linking to your site 3 thursday-Sundays during December to drive traffic to your site. And as you mentioned it was to show good will. After all, from a marketing perspective it makes sense to send traffic your way…

There was a another reason too. I not only wanted to say Thank You by driving traffic to your site I also wanted to introduce my community to a fantastic new site, resource and community they might not yet know about.

In the long run I want to secure our community’s trust as much as the trust between sponsorships and partners. Our community needs to know that partnerships and sponsorships Paper.li chooses are going to be good for them, too. And #blogchat was the awesome partnership for that!

Mack Collier January 2, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I was very pleased and appreciative of that surge in traffic, Kelly ;)

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