Saturday, December 02, 2006

End Month Stocktake - November 2006

I have just completed my end month stocktake across all my blogs. This may seem very self focused, but I am now putting so much time into blogging that measuring performance has become important to justify the effort.

Total traffic was up about 3 per cent, a much lower increase than the month before. Traffic on this blog actually increased by 36 per cent, an increase largely offset by a decline in managing the professional services firm blog.

I don't fully understand the decline here - I think that it is largely a statistical abberation associated with fluctuations in search engine traffic. Certainly the more detailed statistics that I have been getting in the very recent past show solid performance, so I am not especially worried.

As I indicated in an earlier story, the more detailed stats - only on three blogs unfortunately, I can't afford the more sophisticated paid stats packages - show that search engine traffic is far more important to total traffic than I had realised. In that post I also provided an indication of my first impressions on the patterns of search engine traffic.

I now have a little more information that I can share with you.

Looking at this blog, the first thing that stood out was the number of countries, no less than 12. I had no idea of the country reach involved.

The second thing that stood out was the variety in topics. This was actually quite fun, because going back to the original search request took me down some interesting paths into areas that I would not have found otherwise. It's always interesting to see what other people are thinking about!

I then tried to group requests by main topic, recognising that there were only a limited number of days involved. Without attempting to be too scientific about it, the most popular topics included drought and rainfall, the Victorian elections, Australian Idol, public administration, Brian D Barnes, baby boomers etc, economic questions (GDP etc) and the Belshaw family. Then there were a very large number of individual topics.

The last represents what is often called the tail, the very long tail of individual searches. For those who manage sites, the tail is interesting because it suggests new topics. If you just focus on the main hit areas, you can get locked into specific focus areas in a chicken and egg way.

Many of those who visited must have been dissappointed, especially where the ever-changing front page is involved. But some at least would have been very pleased simply because my habit of providing supporting information, links and references would have carried them through to just what they appeared to want from the search.

We all write blogs for our own reasons. But it does no harm to take your viewing audience into account since we all also want to be read!

Looking at the pattern of posts, in November I posted 31 stories to this blog, by far the largest number of stories posted in any single month. Even then, I had many more things I wanted to write about, other things I had to follow up.

When I look across blogs, there appears to be a clear difference between the multiple daily post blogs, the regular but lower post blogs. I straddle to some degree, but in doing so I have to discipline myself to remember my purpose.

All human beings are multi-faceted. Take David Anderson for example.

David now has three blogs.

In view italy, David pursues his passion for things Italian. Since I started reading this blog earlier this year, I have learned more about the detail of Italian life than in the previous decade.

But David is also a business professional. Here in Small Business USA, he pursues his professional interests, looking at aspects of business management. The quality is the same, but the content and tone are very different.

Then, too, David is a political animal, believing that things are wrong with current structures and systems. Here he believes in things like the importance of quality, the need to protect the small person, the corruption introducced by the combination of Big Government and Big Business. So David now has another blog, After the Vote, in which he pursues these issues. More differences in tone and content.

Three blogs, three different facets, one linked person. The views David expresses in After the Vote are influenced by his Italian experience, reflected in his support for the Italian family business that he sees as central to Italian, reflected in his belief in quality that he sees as central to Italy's competitive advantage.

Yet while the core views are the same, their expression is and has to be different because each blog serves a different purpose and audience.

The same thing applies to me. I began Personal Reflections as a way of recording and reviewing my own thoughts and experiences. The blog evolved into one of commentary and analysis, if always with a personal view. That is the niche I have set myself, based upon my own experience and knowledge as well as my personal beliefs. I want to explain, independent of my own personal views.

In practice, this requires considerable discipline. I share many, not all, of David's views. Sometimes I really want to persuade, to lead the cause. But when I do so, I lose the blog's core focus. So with every story I try to ask myself what am I providing of use, what is the core message of this story, what is my contribution?

While I am human and would therefore like to appear in the blogger A list, I do not see this happening. I have to work on a smaller and more specialised canvas. If each month I can interest and inform ten new individuals on a topic, them I will have 120 in a year, 1,200 in ten years.

Tiny numbers I know, and I am probably doing better than this already. But if each of those individuals can influence 10 more, if each of those 10 can influence a further 10, the numbers build. In this context, I do not care whether people agree with me or not. I only care about my ability to make people think.

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