Thursday, November 30, 2006

Blog Management Issues, Search Engine Patterns

I really have to apologise for some of the layout problems in posts. I have been having major formatting problems since I switched across to the new blogger system, especially when I paste material.

I often write quite long articles, much longer than the normal blog format, because I am using the blog as a blog of reflection.

The usual rule of thumb is that a web page should have only 60 per cent of the content of the equivalent printed page to be as easily readable. I often breach this rule. That's bad enough, but it becomes much worse when bad formatting is added in. I have to sort the problem in one way or another.

I have also noted Neil's complaints, here for example, about the difficulties in sometimes accessing the blog. Google has been experiencing periodic problems. Hopefully they will work this one out.

Still on Neil and New Lines from a Floating Life, over recent months I have watched in admiration the steady growth in his blog traffic. It's very well deserved.

Watching Neil inspired me to improve my own site monitoring, putting up bravenet, one of the free site stat packages. I have only a few days stats, but the results have already been instructive.

I created the blog in March as an experiment, little knowing how addictive the whole thing would become. Initially I put up only a few posts, starting regular posts in June, so its all quite new. My gross traffic figures show a steady increase over the period, and that's been fine from my viewpoint.

The new system strips out both search engine robots and my own visits. I also know the source of traffic for the first time. This is not a commercial site so there is nothing confidential about the numbers, nor am I embarrassed about low numbers as such. So I thought that it might be of interest at least to my blogging colleagues if I shared the initial results with you.

The gross site stats that I have show only page impressions. Here the figures have been:

  • July 643
  • August 918
  • September 1531
  • October 2073
  • November month to date 2351

I was and am quite happy with these gross numbers since I could use the month on month figures as a rough guide to increasing traffic.

As an aside, looking back, the most important story that I have written in terms of blog impact was in fact on the New England Australia blog about the death of Alex Buzo (16 August) because of the feedback, bringing me in contact especially with Neil. I find it hard to believe that we have only been in dialogue for three months.

Now that I have some more detailed if still very limited traffic figures I can refine the gross numbers.

If we take 28 November as an example, the gross figure shows 71 page impressions. The more detailed net stats show 53 page impressions from 33 unique (different) visitors. The day before there were 43 page impressions also from 33 unique visitors. While this is miles below Neil's 200 or so visitors per day, I am quite happy with the figures at this stage in the blog.

The numbers are too early for me to measure my regular readership, although it is clear that a lot of traffic comes in through search engines. You would expect this on a site that is already reasonably content rich. However, I was fascinated with what the stats showed me in regard to the things people searched on to find the site.

I have a problem here in that the free package only shows the source of the last ten visitors, so I actually need to record the search engine search queries as I go along to get a real feel. Accepting this, the pattern is much more varied than I would have expected. If we take the search terms people used to find and visit the site in the most recent list they were:

  • gdp australia china (Google France)
  • What do GenY think of baby boomers (Google main)
  • australian idol finale (Google blog search)
  • baby boomers and generation x and travel behaviour (Google main)
  • Brian Barnes one man show (Google Germany)
  • doug belshaws blog (Google UK)
  • rupert murdoch news corp criticism -"OJ" (Google UK)

I have only just started recording, but from passing skims over the few previous lists I noticed:

  • the stories on Australian Idol and the Victorian elections picked up a number of hits and very quickly, so the Google robots must be trawling the site on a daily basis which is very pleasing. Because, in my usual way, the Idol story was a story including a number of names, hits in fact came in mainly on names.
  • drought and rainfall attracted quite a large number of hits from several countries.
  • someone in the UK is very interested in the Belshaw family.
  • then there were quite a few searches on individual topics.

I have only just started recording all this, but as a social commentator I find it all very interesting. In fact, I think that it will give me a whole new source of posts.


Doug Belshaw said...

Hi Jim,

I've come across your blog before - funny that people found yours looking for mine!

Doug Belshaw

Jim Belshaw said...

I think that that's the way things work, Doug.

It was good to see your post. I first came across your work through a linkage from the Learning Circuits blog.

Which part of the Belshaw mob are you from?

Doug Belshaw said...


Not too sure which 'part' I'm from. Back in August I looked at the 'Surname Profiler' which suggests that most people in England with our surname live in, or around, Burnley.

My family (on my father's side) is from County Durham. Did you ancestors emigrate? :-)

Jim Belshaw said...

Following Doug's comment I posted a comment on his personal blog and have begun to add more Belshaw family stuff to this site.