Our top 5 Posts Ever

I’ve never done one of these, but I’ve seen them around. Taylor Grace does them regularly; you can find her latest one here. Typically, it’s something I’d look at monthly or quarterly, but since this is the first one, let’s look at the top five Part Time Monster/Sourcerer posts from the past eight months. These are in order, based on post views, starting from the top.

1. On Teaching Our Children: White Privilege, Ageism, and Maintaining an Open Dialogue

freshly-pressed-rectangle

This one was Freshly Pressed, and deservedly so. Nothing else touches it. Only a couple of the other posts on this list have even half the views this one has. It’s Diana’s, published at the Monster.

2. Finnick ODair: The Hooker/Gladiator with A Heart of Gold and Feminine Masculinity.

Another of Diana’s. I have no idea where all the views came from. I wasn’t paying that much attention to referrals and such at the time. She timed it perfectly to catch a Hunger Games trend if I recall correctly, though.

3. Is Batman a Marvel Character Trapped in the DC Universe?

This one is Jeremy’s. It’s Sourcerer’s most popular post ever because it gets search engine hits every single day. Sometimes 15 or more. We got lucky with the headline, the choice of media, a reblog, and a Stumble. It’s a top ten Google search for “Is Batman Marvel?” And apparently it answers the question in a way that makes people curious. I believe this video of Batman and Superman fighting has a lot to do with its success.

4. Snowmageddon 2014: A Report In Memes

Another of Diana’s. She’s just good at appealing to people, apparently. This was a spur of the moment post that turned into a perfect Facebook share at a time when the entire southeastern U.S. was snowed in, but most of us had power. We actively tagged our friend with it and got so many Facebook looks that it attracted search traffic for weeks afterward. It’s also one of my favorite posts we’ve written so far.

southernsnow

5. Penny Dreadful Seance Review.

Diana, again, at Sourcerer this time. This one is also on the list because of search traffic. Diana and I had chat at the beginning of the Penny Dreadful season and compared notes about search engine optimization. She wrote a review every week for the the whole Penny Dreadful season and tailored her posts to be searchable. It worked, and this one turned out to be the most popular of her reviews.

A few further notes:

  1. PTM’s about page, Meet the Monster, is the only page we have that’s as popular as these five posts. If I’d included pages in this list, it would be #2.
  2. The Seance review is actually tied for #5 with a post I wrote about the Phil Robertson dustup, as of this writing. I didn’t include my post because all the views I got from it came from Facebook within a few days of me writing it. The Seance review is the clear winner because it’s attracting people from searches, and I expect it to pull ahead by at least one view any minute now.
  3. My most popular post at Just Gene’O is currently sitting at about a quarter of the views that the Seance Review, #5 on the list, has.

I love posts like this. I find them helpful as a blogger and interesting as a reader. I’ll try and do them periodically.

Blog Traffic and Engagement: Stats Edition

I’m always a little uncomfortable sharing numbers because it feels like discussing my income. Yet every time another blogger shares their numbers with me, I learn something, so I’m sharing numbers today. Before I start,let me be clear that I’m not bragging or complaining. I know three other bloggers (at least) who have done MUCH better than this during their first 8 months of blogging. I’m happy for them all. I know plenty who haven’t done as well, and that doesn’t make them worse bloggers than me. I’ve had a lot of help, and I’ve gotten lucky many times this year.

These are Sourcerer’s monthly page view totals through June 30. I’m pleased with them, but not because of the raw totals. It’s the overall trend,  a consistent monthly increase aside from one outlier, that pleases me.

  • November 2013 – 426
  • December 2013 – 432
  • January 2014 – 3,424
  • February – 1,411
  • March – 1,878
  • April – 2,174
  • May – 2,976
  • June – 3,434
  • 2013 Total – 858
  • 2014 Total – 15,293

In November and December, I actually did better than I thought I would with a new blog. December doesn’t represent a real increase, because I didn’t start this blog until Nov. 7. But on the other hand, Dec. 23-Jan. 1 is a terrible time to be blogging. I think it’s probably the worst nine days of the year for social media.

January is the outlier and it surprised me. I was hoping to end January with more than 1,000 views. The reason it looks so good, compared to December, is that I got lucky four times during January:

  1. I did the Zero-to-Hero challenge and got my first post out early enough to get good placement in the index for Just Gene’O, which was The Writing Catalog at the time. I was also one of the first people to comment on the very first forum thread, and because I was a noob, I had my gravatar pointed at this blog. So I got tons of views that way, and from liking things on the Zero to Hero Tag.
  2. I was able to do debut posts for five contributors, all in a week, in early January, and promote them.
  3. All of the Southeast was snowed in for the better part of three days at the end of the month, but most people did not lose power. That got me two days off from work at a time when everyone in my geographic region was snowed in. Part Time Monster and Sourcerer posted 12 times in two days during that, and Diana got really lucky by titling a meme post “Snowmageddon,” which we shared it all over Facebook and got good traffic at both blogs for.
  4. Our first real StumbleUpon traffic happened this month, because Jeremy Stumbled a bunch of our links during the blizzard.

I knew February would not match January. No way, no how. February is only 28 days long, and four lucky breaks in a month is a lot, especially when they all come at times when you’re in a position to capitalize on them. Before January was even over, I knew that February was going to give me a new baseline. I was hoping to just top 900, because that would mean I’d hung onto 450 readers from January and doubled our steady traffic for the cost of a month’s work. I’ll take that any day of the week.

Since February, there’s been nothing but increases here. I’m not going to break every month down. April surprised me. We had a lot of drama here in March, and drama typically means one-time traffic. And I was barely present at all here in April, because I was doing the A to Z Challenge with Just Gene’O. May was sweet, and June was even better. Here’s why the increases in May and June:

  1. Search engines. We’ve managed to get one of Jeremy’s posts such a high search ranking that it’s bringing in 8-12 views every single day. Diana also wrote a Penny Dreadful series and consciously structured her headlines and leads for searches. It worked.
  2. StumbleUpon. We got really lucky several times in both May and June with some of Jeremy’s shares. We’re still not sure why, and haven’t been able to figure out how to do it consistently. But I’m stumbling things now, too. Mostly other bloggers. Trying to get my account active and figure out how to be effective there. If you wake up one morning and find hundreds of referrals from StumbleUpon in your stats, do let me know. Chances are, it’s either me or Jeremy experimenting and trying to help our blogging buddies at the same time. StumbleUpon doesn’t really like you just sharing your own stuff, so we are always looking for things to share.
  3. Frequent posting. I am absolutely certain frequency matters now, at least if you blog the way I do. All our best days are days where we posted three or four times, even if two of the posts were just photos.

I don’t expect July to match June. I’m looking for a new baseline number at the end of July or, at latest, the end of August. True Blood isn’t getting us what Penny Dreadful got us from Google, we have no idea when or if we’ll see another massive day from StumbleUpon, and we can’t keep the frequent posting up past the first week of August. I’m hoping for 2500+ in July. That’ll give us a new baseline to work with, and it will mean we’ve increased our steady traffic by 1,000 views per month since February. I can live with that.

Now a quick word about average views per day. This stat is important, because it helps you make sense of the monthly totals. June only topped January by ten views. But June was the better month because it’s a day shorter, and because the June traffic wasn’t just a matter of blind luck and opportunism. Work and strategy got us 4 more views per day in June than we were able to get in January with godlike luck. If I didn’t have this stat to look at, I would have no way of knowing that. Average monthly viewers per day for Sourcerer:

  • November – 16
  • December – 14
  • January – 110
  • February – 50
  • March – 61
  • April – 73
  • May – 96
  • June – 114
  • 2013 average – 15
  • 2014 average – 84
 Now, here are Part Time Monster’s monthly views through June 30, so we can compare the two blogs:
  • November 2013 – 1,031
  • December 2013 – 573
  • January 2014 – 2,579
  • February – 1,524
  • March – 2,217
  • April – 2,527
  • May – 3,305
  • June – 3,077
  • 2013 Total – 1,613
  • 2014 Total – 15,230

Observations

  • PTM slipped a little in June. I’m hoping we can manage to stay above 3K in July. If we do, I’ll take that as the new baseline.
  • If you compare these numbers, you’ll see that Sourcerer has matched PTM in views this year on the strength of two good months. I see this every day in our stats. The Monster’s traffic is more consistent. It doesn’t swing as wildly as Sourcerer’s.
  • Those two good months are months where Sourcerer posted several times per day for long stretches. For the most part, PTM posts once per day. What that tells me is, all things being equal, a single post at PTM is worth almost twice the number of views that a post at Sourcerer is worth.

Here are Part Time Monster’s daily averages:

  • January – 83
  • February – 54
  • March – 72
  • April – 84
  • May – 107
  • June – 103
  • 2013 average – 26
  • 2014 average – 84

Observations

  • You can see the same thing here you see with the monthly views. Sourcerer is only better for average daily views in January and June.
  • Part Time Monster topped January for average views in April, partly on the strength of the A to Z Challenge.
  • The only reason Sourcerer is keeping up with Part Time Monster is because of views from StumbleUpon and search engines. That is mostly Jeremy’s and Diana’s doing. It’s their posts that people are reading, and I don’t mind that at all. My role is to give advice, keep the content flowing, and analyze things. They have much better instincts when it comes to writing things that people actually want to read, and I’m glad we’re a team.

Just a few thoughts to wrap things up:

  • There’s really no substitute for partners, unless you’re just that good. People working together can accomplish much more than people working independently, most of the time.
  • Part Time Monster has a big advantage, because it rides on two peoples’ social media. Aside from a couple of exceptions, everything published at the Monster sends links out to all my social media accounts. Sourcerer doesn’t share Diana’s accounts that way. I set that up at the start, for very good reasons, and I think my instinct was a good one.
  • Contributors, both at PTM and here, have been the real driving force behind this success. A multiplicity of perspectives is just interesting, it seems. If we suddenly found ourselves without contributors, I’d have to rethink my entire way of doing things.

That’s all for today. 1500 words is my absolute limit, and I’m at 1495. If you have questions, or would like to compare info on the thread, feel free to comment.

Blog Traffic and Engagement: Off-Peak Posting?

I snagged the July stats from Part Time Monster and this blog the minute they rolled over on July 1. I’ve already got them pasted into a draft, and will discuss them here next week. Today I want to talk a little more about best times to publish. I wrote about my posting schedule a while back and we had a good discussion about it. Since then, I’ve read an article which I sadly did not bookmark that’s got me tinkering with the idea of running a little experiment.

The article claimed that a lot of businesses who are using social media to interact with potential customers have stopped posting on Facebook at peak usage times. Instead, they are posting at the troughs between the peaks. The theory is that, even though the pool of possible readers is smaller, it’s easier to get your content seen because there isn’t so much stuff competing for peoples’ attention.

I’m willing to buy that the Internet is so big, off-peak posting might be a viable strategy. Since I have access to the stats of several blogs, two of which have generated almost exactly the same number of views since January with similar posting schedules, I’m thinking about running one of them on an off-peak schedule for a month.

Since this post is so brief, and I promised to share my Time Zone Tables a couple of weeks ago, here they are. The dates are for the day I copied and pasted them. It’s the differences in the hours that matter. I created them using the world clock feature at timeanddate.com, which is a great resource.

9 a.m. Central Daylight Time

New Orleans (U.S.A. - Louisiana)     Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 9:00:00 AM                               CDT  UTC-5 hours    
London (United Kingdom - England)    Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 3:00:00 PM                               BST  UTC+1 hour     
Tbilisi (Georgia)                    Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 6:00:00 PM                               GET  UTC+4 hours    
New Delhi (India - Delhi)            Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 7:30:00 PM                               IST  UTC+5:30 hours 
Singapore (Singapore)                Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 10:00:00 PM                              SGT  UTC+8 hours    
Sydney (Australia - New South Wales) Midnight between Thursday, April 24, 2014 and Friday, April 25, 2014 AEST UTC+10 hours   
Honolulu (U.S.A. - Hawaii)           Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 4:00:00 AM                               HAST UTC-10 hours   
San Francisco (U.S.A. - California)  Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 7:00:00 AM                               PDT  UTC-7 hours    
Corresponding UTC (GMT)              Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 14:00:00      

Noon Central Daylight Time

New Orleans (U.S.A. - Louisiana)     Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 12:00:00 Noon CDT  UTC-5 hours    
London (United Kingdom - England)    Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 6:00:00 PM    BST  UTC+1 hour     
Tbilisi (Georgia)                    Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 9:00:00 PM    GET  UTC+4 hours    
New Delhi (India - Delhi)            Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 10:30:00 PM   IST  UTC+5:30 hours 
Singapore (Singapore)                Friday, April 25, 2014 at 1:00:00 AM      SGT  UTC+8 hours    
Sydney (Australia - New South Wales) Friday, April 25, 2014 at 3:00:00 AM      AEST UTC+10 hours   
Honolulu (U.S.A. - Hawaii)           Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 7:00:00 AM    HAST UTC-10 hours   
San Francisco (U.S.A. - California)  Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 10:00:00 AM   PDT  UTC-7 hours    
Corresponding UTC (GMT)              Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 17:00:00  

3 p.m. Central Daylight Time


New Orleans (U.S.A. - Louisiana)     Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 3:00:00 PM                               CDT  UTC-5 hours    
London (United Kingdom - England)    Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 9:00:00 PM                               BST  UTC+1 hour     
Tbilisi (Georgia)                    Midnight between Thursday, April 24, 2014 and Friday, April 25, 2014 GET  UTC+4 hours    
New Delhi (India - Delhi)            Friday, April 25, 2014 at 1:30:00 AM                                 IST  UTC+5:30 hours 
Singapore (Singapore)                Friday, April 25, 2014 at 4:00:00 AM                                 SGT  UTC+8 hours    
Sydney (Australia - New South Wales) Friday, April 25, 2014 at 6:00:00 AM                                 AEST UTC+10 hours   
Honolulu (U.S.A. - Hawaii)           Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 10:00:00 AM                              HAST UTC-10 hours   
San Francisco (U.S.A. - California)  Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 1:00:00 PM                               PDT  UTC-7 hours    
Corresponding UTC (GMT)              Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 20:00:00

7 p.m. Central Daylight Time

New Orleans (U.S.A. - Louisiana)     Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 7:00:00 PM CDT  UTC-5 hours    
London (United Kingdom - England)    Friday, April 25, 2014 at 1:00:00 AM   BST  UTC+1 hour     
Tbilisi (Georgia)                    Friday, April 25, 2014 at 4:00:00 AM   GET  UTC+4 hours    
New Delhi (India - Delhi)            Friday, April 25, 2014 at 5:30:00 AM   IST  UTC+5:30 hours 
Singapore (Singapore)                Friday, April 25, 2014 at 8:00:00 AM   SGT  UTC+8 hours    
Sydney (Australia - New South Wales) Friday, April 25, 2014 at 10:00:00 AM  AEST UTC+10 hours   
Honolulu (U.S.A. - Hawaii)           Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 2:00:00 PM HAST UTC-10 hours   
San Francisco (U.S.A. - California)  Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 5:00:00 PM PDT  UTC-7 hours    
Corresponding UTC (GMT)              Friday, April 25, 2014 at 00:00:00   

I hope everyone’s had an awesome weekend. I know I have. We’ll be back to our usual shenanigans tomorrow.

 

Blog Traffic and Engagement: More on WordPress Tags

UPDATE – Since I posted this, I’ve had two people tell me they use 15 tags + categories all the time, check every topic, and see their posts in them all. So it seems I was worrying over nothing.  I’ve also had a friend tell me he’s also not getting a lot of referrals from the WordPress reader. However, it’s curious to me that I’ve got more than 1,000 all-time referrals from the WordPress reader and 325 for the last quarter, but only 28 for the month. I’ll add more to this when I learn more.

I spied a conversation this morning on last week’s Blog Traffic and Engagement post about WordPress tags that’s got my wheels turning. I’m not sure the tagging strategy I laid out last week is optimal, and it may even be harmful. Since I don’t want to steer anyone wrong, I decided it was best to go ahead and publish this today.

First, Hannah of Things Matter asked me if perhaps the WordPress penalty for over-tagging starts at 16 rather than 15, as I was thinking. Her question was prompted by information she read at WordPress support here.

Planetary Defense Commander has actually experimented with 15 .v 16 tags, and he says WordPress removed the posts he tested this with from some or all feeds starting at 16 tags + categories. So there’s that. The absolute maximum is likely 15 rather than 14. That’s a minor error compared to this next bit, though.

All this prompted me to re-read the original support article on tags that I used to develop my tagging strategy, and this paragraph makes me think using the maximum number on every post might not be such a good idea.

However, you don’t want irrelevant content showing up on the topic listings or search, and neither do we. That’s why we limit the number of tags and categories that can be used on a public tag listing. Five to 15 tags (or categories, or a combination of the two) is a good number to add to each of your posts. The more categories you use, the less likely it is that your post will be selected for inclusion in the topic listings.

Now, here’s the kicker. I’ve been paying closer attention to my stats than usual lately because I’m monitoring search traffic and StumbleUpon referrals very closely. I don’t think I’m getting what I should be getting from the WordPress reader. These are my top all-time referrers. This covers a period of about seven months. No other source has generated 200+ referrals for me at this point.

Search Engines 1,825
Facebook 1,081
WordPress.com Reader 1,071
StumbleUpon 942
Twitter 843

I could wank on these numbers all day, but I’ll focus on the WP reader and discuss these other sources very briefly. Right now I’m sitting at about 15,900 views, so these four referrers account for a little more than 25% of my all-time views.

Until a month ago, the WordPress reader was my top all-time referrer, but the search engine traffic has passed it by. Very little of the Facebook traffic is coming from the fanpage. Ninety percent of it has come from a handful of posts with very specific characteristics which were shared on personal timelines. Most of the Twitter traffic has come in the last 4 months. The WordPress reader should be out-performing Facebook and should be bringing us a LOT more views than Twitter, but it is not. And look at StumbleUpon. That’s mostly from five or six lucky shares.

Here’s my top referrals from the last 30 days for comparison. I’m including so many because that’s how many it takes to get to the WordPress reader in this list. We’ve generated about 3,100 views this month, so the referrals here represent half our monthly traffic.

Search Engines 957
StumbleUpon 334
Twitter 177
Facebook 51
quaintjeremy.wordpress.com 38
tumblr.com 30
WordPress.com Reader 28

As you can see, this month accounts for about half our all-time search traffic, a third of our StumbleUpon traffic, and a quarter of our Twitter traffic. The Facebook number is about average – less than 2 referrals per day. But look at the WordPress reader. It’s gotten us less this month that a Tumblr page which I barely mind and don’t even have comments enabled on.

Our average monthly traffic from the WordPress reader, just based on a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation, is about 150 views per month. Obviously, that comes in spikes like all the rest, and I haven’t been paying attention to the reader traffic specifically, so I don’t know just how low this number is compared to what we’ve been doing. But I think, given the size of this blog and the amount of blogging we do, 28 views from the reader this month is not enough, and an average of five per day over a 7-month period is way too low.

Part Time Monster is sitting at 842 all-time referrals from the WordPress reader with about 16,700 all-time views. Given the differences in the way we operate, PTM is doing about as well with the reader as Sourcerer. However, because of those very differences, I don’t think we should be doing the same. One of us should be doing better, I’m just not sure which one. I could make a case either way, but that would require an entirely separate post because there are so many variables to consider. Once I drill down beyond our all-time views, there are no other similarities of this sort in the numbers. It can’t be a coincidence.

Since we’ve been using the same tagging strategy from the beginning, and since both our numbers are so low, that’s got me thinking I need to experiment more with the tags. So here is how I’m tagging my posts for the month of July.

  • Use only tags that are strongly-related to whatever I’m posting about, even if this means I only use 5. So no more dropping the name of an author who’s mentioned once and barely discussed, for instance.
  • Cut my average number of tags back from 13-14 to 7-10.
  • No general tags like “all,” “random,” or “thoughts.”
  • One category only.

Here’s my reasoning for this move. WordPress is a smart and powerful assortment of technologies.  That sentence I highlighted in bold at the beginning of this post can be interpreted to mean that WordPress is telling you what the absolute maximum is, but suggesting you use many fewer than that.

Given what I know about WordPress’ philosophy, and their other ways of controlling spam like the rate-limiter on likes from the WordPress reader, it may be that the way I’ve been going about this is technically ok, but frowned upon by the powers that be. If so, I have no problem with that, and I obviously want to be a good citizen. I also want more views from the WordPress readers.

I’ve never once checked every single tag on a post to see if it was included in every topic. It’s entirely possible that even with 15 or fewer, there are other things going on that we don’t know about. Like I would think WordPress could very easily scan a post as it’s published and exclude it from feeds if there isn’t enough content related to a particular tag. In fact, that link Hannah shared to the WordPress help file on topics suggests this is exactly the way it works.

It is also possible that there’s an element of randomness to feed placement, and WordPress includes posts in some number of feeds, up to 15 at the very most. If that’s happening, and I have a comics post with 7 good tags, I think it’s a bad idea to give WordPress the option of including it in the “all” or “random” topics. I’d rather WordPress have only comics-related tags to choose from for that post. And really, for most posts, seven or eight tags are the most I can come up with without getting creative.

We’ll look at my referral numbers again at the end of July, see if we notice a difference, and draw what conclusions we can from there. I think we’ll see a significant difference. I’m so sure of it, I’m kicking myself already, and I’m not including last week’s post on my Better Blogging page until I get this sorted out.