Blog Traffic and Engagement: One More Piece of the Puzzle

One reason it’s useful to have access to three blogs is that I get to compare the stats. That allows me to have a much better picture of what works and what doesn’t, what times are good for posting, etc., than I would otherwise have. I’ve been puzzling over a curious thing about Sourcerer’s and Part Time Monster‘s stats for awhile now: For most of our blogging careers, Sourcerer has generated the same number of page views as PTM with many fewer followers. I think Diana and I may have figured out why. It’s about a fundamental difference in our blogging styles.

First, a brief history.

Part Time Monster did much better in terms of views and followers for the first two months we were blogging. This was expected. I was mostly posting videos and reblogging here during November and December. I was doing most of my real writing at The Writing Catalog and the Monster.

Sourcerer caught up to PTM in views in January, but not in followers. We had a crazy-good month at both blogs, but Sourcerer did better. This also makes sense. We did a solid week of contributor debuts early in the month, and I got very lucky with link placement in both the pingback index and the discussion forum during the first couple of days of the Zero to Hero Challenge.

From that point until mid-March, Sourcerer and Part Time Monster gained followers at about the same rate and generated almost exactly the same number of views. We crossed every thousand-view milestone up to 9,000 within 48 hours of one another.

In mid-March, Sourcerer’s follower growth stalled and I noticed that PTM’s daily traffic seemed to be stabilizing. We still got the same number of views on a weekly basis, but Sourcerer’s views tended to come in spikes. At that point, I figured it was only a matter of time before PTM began to pull away, and I was right. That happened in April.  Part Time Monster’s about 1,000 views ahead of Sourcerer at the moment, and will soon have twice as many followers.

Here’s why I think Sourcerer kept pace with PTM in views for so long, despite lagging behind in followers. Aside from award posts and the occasional article that she just has to comment on in a post of her own, Diana doesn’t really link to other blogs, and rarely reblogs. During a normal week, when I’m not involved in a blogging challenge or otherwise too occupied to read a lot of blogs, I link to other blogs a lot. I do roundups. I reblog on the weekends and any time I need an update but don’t have a piece ready. I put shoutouts at the ends of posts now and then. That’s the only difference in what we’re doing that’s significant enough to explain why I’ve gotten the same views with a smaller following.

Those days are over now, I think. Part Time Monster passed 10,000 views almost a week before Sourcerer did, and I expect the Monster to reach 12,000 before we reach 11,000 here. By midsummer, I expect PTM’s audience to be so much bigger than Sourcerer’s, I’ll have done everything I can do from this blog help build the Monster’s audience. At that point, a major social media restructuring will be in order, and we’re already thinking about how to do that.

Now, a few other observations for those of you who are trying to build an audience for your own blogs:

The April A to Z Challenge is one of the reasons PTM is pulling ahead in views now, and one of the reasons PTM has almost twice as many followers. I did the challenge with The Writing Catalog, for two reasons. That’s the blog that needed the help the most, and doing it here would have required us to interrupt the flow of our normal content – something I really didn’t want to do when I signed up for the challenge in February.

A to Z has been good for both PTM and The Writing Catalog – we’re both still seeing increased followers from it 10 days later. But Sourcerer’s traffic took a nose dive during the last two weeks of April because I was too busy to maintain my personal presence here.

Another reason PTM is doing so much better for followers is that Diana uses her WordPress reader consistently to like and comment on other blogs. I didn’t use my reader very much from Mid-March through the end of April because I was too busy. The week after I stopped using my reader every day is the week Sourcerer’s follower growth stalled. Our traffic appears to be recovering, and all you have to do is scan our archives from the last week to see why.

I posted three short, easy-to-comprehend posts about Twitter early in the week and we ended with a great Batman post from @quaintjeremy on Friday. In between we had a 6-month anniversary post, some photoblogs, and music. In other words, aside from the fact that we didn’t talk about inequality this week, we’re back to our normal routine. I’ve also been using my WordPress reader religiously for the last week, and it’s definitely made a difference. Which brings me to a few blogging tips.

Not everyone cares about audience, but if you’re consciously trying to build one it’s important to understand that a blog is not just a publishing platform you use to communicate with social media. Blogs are social media in their own right. It’s not enough to simply post and go on about your business, no matter how good your content is or how consistently you publish. The principle of reciprocity applies to blogs just as much as it does to Twitter. If you want people to read and like your work, you have to read and like other people’s work unless you’re willing to just pay for traffic. Here are a few things that really help:

  1. A unique gavatar image. It doesn’t have to be a photo of yourself, but it needs to be something that allows people to recognize your likes if you visit their blogs regularly.
  2. Make sure your gravatar points people to your blog, and make sure your account is set up to link your WordPress handle to your blog when you comment.
  3. Set your blog up so that post likes are clickable from your front page, and turn on comment likes. Comment likes are a good way to acknowledge that you saw a comment when you don’t have time to respond, or don’t really have anything to add.
  4. Respond to as many comments as you can, even if you just say “thanks for stopping by.” This is especially important if you’re only getting a few comments, and for first-time visitors to your blog.
  5. When you comment on other blogs, don’t just say “nice post.” Say that, and then find one specific thing you liked, and write a sentence about it. Substantive feedback is nearly always appreciated, and lets people know you actually read.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. It’s simple stuff, but it’s important.

 

 

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35 thoughts on “Blog Traffic and Engagement: One More Piece of the Puzzle

  1. I like how your observations/tips on the social media/blog engagement and audience are very clear. I totally agree with how replying to as many comments as you can is important, even if it’s just to thank the person for stopping by.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It will increase your likes, I think. I put them on the front because I never truncate posts until a day or two after they publish – generally I go through and truncate posts five or six at a time, when I start to notice them affecting the page load time. And because it’s a PITA to go to a blog and have to click the headline to give them a like.

      Also, thanks for blogrolling Utopia or Dystopia. I love that blog, and haven’t given it enough love. Interested to know if you found it through me or if our taste is just that similar. Just added it to Sourcerer’s wordpress reader and will blogroll it soon.

      Like

      • Hm, I have no idea how I found Utopia or Dystopia. I remember noticing a comment from you there at some point and thinking “Hey, small world!” so I probably found it some other way, although my reader does indicate I was following you at least a bit earlier. I wanna say it was one of the blogs suggested on the side of my reader, but I’m not sure at this point.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Totally agree with those tips! It’s all about interaction – the comments are what keep me blogging. I’ve ‘met’ so many great people. If someone just wrote ‘nice post’, I would think I had done something wrong – that there’s nothing worth commenting on but someone is just being polite. Luckily, I usually manage to offend someone so that hasn’t happened yet 😉

    Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, I don’t use the raw follower count as a measure, really. I use following vs. views and the quality of my comment threads as crude measures of engagement, since free WordPress stats don’t tell me much.

          And I tend to interact with people who either answer my comments or like my posts frequently enough for me to recognize them. I follow so many blogs, I’m sure there are lots of bloggers out there who would put me in the “Followed and Disappeared” category.

          Very pleased with this thread and the overall response, btw. If I’d known it would be this well-received, I’d have saved it for a weekday.

          Like

            • hehe. Monday morning to Friday afternoon is prime time around here. And I don’t do insulting, but I’ve done a smackdown or two, and they performed very well in terms of views and visits, not so well for comments and likes.

              Like

            • I think I do funny but other people seem to find it insulting 😉
              Yeah, I guess weekends are usually a little slower – people prefer to surf on work time 😉

              Like

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  4. Thanks for the thoughtful piece. As I’ve commented before, I struggle with managing the technical aspects but will try to make sense of the Like thing.

    So many page hits are passing glances (or even non-humans – are they called web-crawlers?). I assume that you hypothesise a proportion of all page views are actually page views (and not 1 second passers-by). Do you have stats for ‘time spent on the page’? This would be the only way to estimate actual reads, wouldn’t it?

    Finally, do you have thoughts on the meaning of total ‘Comments’? It seems that this much smaller figure would be a stronger indicator of reads.

    A lot of questions. You might want to store ’em up for another post! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol, indeed. it’s so nice to see you stopping by. I’ll try and answer some of that stuff here, some will just have to be stored away, though 🙂

      The stats that you get with a free WordPress account are paltry. We’re not exactly flying without an alitmeter, but that’s really all we have. I haven’t been able to find anything about time-on-page. The best way I have of judging that is unique visitors .vs page views, using the ratio to make guesses about how many of our visitors clicked a second link. And those are just guesses.

      In the beginning, we got lots of non-human views, and had to learn to separate the bots from the real people. We’re good at that now, and we have enough followers that we don’t get all that many true bots. The bot theory for wordpress seems to be to catch blogs when they’re first set up and convince the bloggers who run them that the bots are real people.

      As far as how to encourage real reads goes, I allow my posts to be read in their entirety from the reader, and I don’t truncate them when they’re first published. I go in and add the “More” tag to half a dozen posts about once a week, and I only do it when I notice that having the full posts on the front page is starting to affect my page-loading time. (Page-loading times are very important. Two extra seconds can cost you a real reader.)

      That’s all the wisdom I have ATM, and I am no guru. I’m a smarter-than-average guy throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks, hehe.

      Cheers 😉

      Like

          • BTW, I found your comment about the blogsphere being social media accurate and helpful. Although you didn’t tackle the vexed question of ‘available time’ (that is, the more I visit and comment to gain visits/followers, the less time for writing), your observation highlights that this is not a traditional reader-writer relationship, but something more symbiotic.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes! And I have trouble balancing the reading-writing thing, as well. When I don’t read, I don’t get new followers and my regular followers don’t engage. But when I don’t write, well, I have no content.

              That’s one of the reasons I insisted on having a few contributors from among my friends before I ever started. A blog is a hungry beast, and you can only do one thing at a time. You can either read, or you can write. Can’t really do both.

              We have an insane number of writers and other types of content-producers following us, relatively speaking. We love them all, but they tend to spend their time producing content (which is what we do). We’re trying to figure out how to use the social media to find pure readers at the moment.

              Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for explaining all this. It appears I already do have likes on my front page, although I wasn’t sure until I looked. Now I want to check if my handle links to my blog when I comment – so here goes.

    Like

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