Posts Tagged ‘Web usage statistics’

The Thinker

Occam’s Razor 2013 Statistics

2013 was not a great year for this blog, at least in the way of demonstrating impressive web statistics. Web statistics here have been on the decline for several years now. However, it’s not all bad news. Readership via subscription is up substantially, and these readers tend to be “regular customers” rather than “drive by searchers”, which to me is a much more meaningful measure. So to all my regular readers: thank you so much!

This change may be because the fundamentals of how people get content on my site is moving from finding random bits of content via search engines to subscription. This site provides subscriptions via feedburner.com.

Unless specified otherwise, statistics are from Google Analytics, which measures human traffic only.

Overall 2013 Web Usage Statistics

  • Total Visits: 18,411 (50.4 per day), down 31% compared with 2012
  • Total Page Views: 24,816 (68.0 pages per day) down 28.5% compared with 2012
  • Percent of New Visits: 85.36% (87.96% in 2012). This is actually good as I am getting slightly more return visitors.

Most Viewed Posts

In general, previously popular content has obviously been ranked lower in search indexes, probably because it has aged. Some of these popular posts go back a decade or more! They still get hits but nothing like they got in previous years. Most viewed posts for 2013:

  1. Blog home page (1,811 page views, but down 16% from last year)
  2. The Illusion of Time (1,188 page views, and up 119% from last year. This is thanks to someone including it on stumbleupon.com.)
  3. Eulogy for my mother in law (975 page views, up 169%)
  4. Craigslist Casual Encounters: Now officially a complete waste of time (923 page views, down 46%)
  5. Eulogy for my mother (934 page views, down 80%)
  6. The Root of Human Conflict: Emotion vs. Reason (754 page views, down 44%)
  7. Craigslist Casual Encounters: Now a crazily dangerous and illegal waste of time (641 page views, up 248%)
  8. Danger: Wal-Mart Customer! (537 page views, down 82%)
  9. Facebook’s Appallingly bad user interface (339 page views, up 13%)
  10. If Aubrey fought Hornblower, who would win? (241 page views, up 10%)

As regular readers have noticed, I’ve given up trying to pretend my Craigslist content is not popular, and decided it needed to be a feature. So now I do a monthly review of postings in its casual encounters section. It seems to be working in bringing in more traffic. Over 2000 of my posts on Craigslist was requested via search engines in 2013, or about ten percent of total traffic.

Top Tags

Tags are a way to organize content that are more discrete than the larger lumping of a category. Top tags in 2013:

  1. Civil War (216 page views)
  2. Craigslist (87 page views)
  3. Battle of Chantilly (84 page views)
  4. Taxes (83 page views)
  5. Blogging and Truecrypt (68 page views each)

Top Category: Life (68 page views)

Top Browsers:

  1. Chrome (29.4%, 5411 visits)
  2. Safari (23.4%, 4305 visits)
  3. Internet Explorer (19.1%, 3515 visits)
  4. Firefox (17.5%, 3221 visits)
  5. Android Browser (5.3%, 978 visits)

The sudden emergence of Chrome as the top browser hitting the site is interesting, considering it has always been Internet Explorer in the past. Safari and Android likely represent mostly mobile use.

Busiest month: October (2,139 visits)

Slowest month: June (1,272 visits)

Mobile (smartphone and tablets) visits in 2013: 3243 smartphones plus 1598 tablet visits

% Mobile Visits of Total Visits:  26.3% (which is double 2012’s mobile traffic!)

Syndication

A lot of you are reading this blog via various newsreaders and content syndication mechanisms, such as feedly.com. Syndication usage is way up this year and I am not sure why. Part of the reason is because a lot of syndication previously came from outside of feedburner.com. WordPress provides RSS and Atom newsfeeds of my blog. I never counted these before. Around October though I installed a WordPress plug in that redirected these hits to feedburner.com, where they were systematically counted. Subscriber counts quickly went up from thirty to 50 percent! So I have been inadvertently under counting my readers all these years.

Here are some syndication statistics courtesy of feedburner.com:

  • 122 readers as of December 31, 2013 (vs. 83 on December 31, 2012, an increase of 47%!)
  • Average number of subscribers per day: 77.89 (vs. 70.02 in 2012)
  • Average hits per day: 206.2 (vs. 198.62 in 2012)
  • Average number of click-throughs per day: 19.85 (vs. 10.40 in 2012)
  • Highest number of readers: 171 on November 26, 2013
  • Smallest number of readers: 0 on March 10, 2013 (I think there must have been a glitch)

Social Media

I now have a full year of social media statistics to ponder. Actually I get them from a number of sources including Google Analytics, Facebook and AddThis. According to AddThis, which adds a tracking anchor to the end of URLs if you hit the site with a browser, there were 183 shares, 516 clicks and no follows. The top sharing mechanism was the address bar (133 times), which basically means someone copied a URL from the address bar and probably pasted it in an email. There were 20 Facebook Like clicks, 12 Twitter references, and 6 GMail shares, and 4 Facebook regular shares.

The Facebook Insights site says I had 3,340 impressions on Facebook, 148 instances of traffic referral and 66 site engagement actions, whatever they are.

Google Analytics tracks social media differently. It looks at the referrer (referring web site) and if it’s a social media site, it counts it. It counts as top referrers:

  1. StumbleUpon (877 visits)
  2. Twitter (178 visits)
  3. Facebook (65 visits)
  4. Blogger (10 visits)
  5. Netvibes (8 visits)

Reader profiles

Quantcast.com has a number of statistics about you, dear reader. You are disproportionately male, ages 25-34, childless, make more than $100,000 a year and I attract an overly disproportionate amount of readers with graduate degrees. I guess this is a nerdy blog. Click on the link on my web site to see more about people hitting my site.

Raw web log statistics

Finally, there are the raw web log statistics, which suggest the blog is overrun with visitors. Most of these are various search engines, not actual human beings, which means there are a whole lot of search robots regularly indexing the blog for a relatively tiny amount of human traffic. My web hosts provide a number of web log statistics analysis tools. I’ll use AWStats. For 2013 there were:

  • 272,909 visits (748 a day)
  • 103,857 unique visitors
  • 827,707 page views (2268 a day)
  • 1,410,089 hits (3863 a day)
  • 89.92 GB of bandwidth

More in 2015.

 
The Thinker

Occam’s Razor 2012 Statistics

January 1st means I spend some time pondering my usage statistics for the last year. I spent some time on this last month when the blog officially turned ten years old. I’ll try not to repeat myself too much. Measured by direct web traffic, 2012 sucked. Measuring subscriber usage and social media usage shows a different story. Unless noted otherwise, my reference is Google Analytics.

Overall 2012 Statistics

  • Total Visits: 26,766 (72.8 per day), down 45.2% compared with 2011
  • Total Page Views: 34,704 (94.8 per day), down 61.5% compared with 2011
  • Percent of New Visits: 87.96% (89.13% in 2011)

Overall, web traffic is obviously down substantially, roughly in half since 2011. There are lots of reasons for this, but the most likely reason is that I am posting less often. This likely makes this site less interesting to search engines. Overall there were 107 posts in 2012 versus 127 in 2011. There are likely other reasons. My posts are less topical, as topical posts are likely to get more hits. Remember that these statistics measure traffic principally driven from search engines. Content on other sites is considered more interesting. I also strongly suspect that Google keeps refining their algorithms for measuring legitimate traffic too, and this is reflected in lower statistics. This blog is affected by a general trend where search traffic is diminishing but syndication and social media usage is increasing.

Most Viewed Posts

  1. Eulogy for my mother (18,980 page views) (#1 three years in a row)
  2. Blog home page (8,631 page views) (#2 three years in a row)
  3. Danger: Wal-Mart Customer! (5,870 page views) (#8 in 2011)
  4. Craigslist Casual Encounters: Now officially a complete waste of time (5,459 page views) (#4 two years in a row)
  5. The Root of Human Conflict: Emotion vs. Reason (4,764 page views) (#5 two years in a row)
  6. You Porn: A Traveler’s New Best Friend (4,056 page views) (Was #3 in 2011)
  7. Sharon Mitchell: Porn Saint (3,524 page views) (#6 in 2011)
  8. Queer as a Three Dollar Bill (3,139 page views) (#7 in 2011)
  9. The Illusion of Time (3,078 page views) (#9 two years in a row)
  10. The Id unleashed at Craigslist Casual Encounters (1,642 page views) (#10 two years in a row)

The list of top popular content proves to be remarkably stable from year to year, continuing to mirror human nature: interests in death, sex and weirdness seem to be themes that interest casual browsers. The one exception is my essay on emotion vs. reason, originally written in 1997, which has some sort of bizarre staying power.

Top Tags

  1. Civil War (373 page views)
  2. Obesity (170 page views)
  3. W&OD Trail (164 page views)
  4. Battle of Chantilly (136 page views)
  5. Battle of Ox Hill (130 page views)

Top Category: Best of Occam’s Razor (187 page views)

Top Browsers:

  1. Internet Explorer (27.46%, was 35.54% in 2011)
  2. Chrome (25.08%, was 17.27% in 2011)
  3. Firefox (22.00%, was 27.36% in 2011)
  4. Safari (17.76%, was 15.13% in 2011)
  5. Android Browser (4.27%)

Overall Chrome is gaining most of the browser usage. Safari is getting marginally more traffic. Both are gaining at the expense of IE and Firefox. Safari traffic likely is due to lots of iPhones and iPads out there. As Android-based smartphones and tablet computers begin to proliferate, their browsers are showing up.

Busiest month: March (3,954 visits)

Slowest month: June (1,461 visits)

Mobile visits in 2012: 3466 (vs. 3904 in 2011)

%Mobile Visits of Total Visits:  13% (vs. 8% in 2011)

So much for Google Analytics. Lots of you are reading this blog via various newsreaders and content syndication mechanisms. Here is where I can document real growth. Feedburner reports:

  • 83 subscribers as of December 31, 2012 (vs. 66 on December 31, 2011, an increase of 20%)
  • Average number of subscribers per day: 70.02 (vs. 63.23 in 2011)
  • Average hits per day: 198.62 (vs. 196 in 2011)
  • Average number of click-throughs per day: 10.40 (vs. 7.81 in 2011)

I started tracking social media usage in March. It’s a bit too early to infer any meaning from those numbers, except they are relatively modest overall.

I am also tracking the site’s web traffic on quantcast.com. I’ve only been tracking it for a month or so. Their expertise seems to be in matching web traffic with user demographics. It gives me insight into your characteristics as a group. In general I attract a younger but highly educated crowd: ages 18-34 with a disproportionate number of you having a graduate education. Statistics are available for your browsing.

More in 2014.

 
The Thinker

It’s official: SiteMeter no longer gives a damn

Once upon a time when you wanted to meter your site, SiteMeter was the only solution. I started metering my blog with SiteMeter around 2004 because that’s what all the cool blogs were doing. Not that my “impressions” (page views) were ever that impressive, at least according to SiteMeter. Their meter went up and down but generally I was somewhere between a hundred and two hundred page views a day.

As I documented elsewhere, their metrics were grossly inflated, as they caught obvious search engines, which are not human beings. Still, it was useful to get a general snapshot of blog traffic. One click got you an up to the minute report. Google Analytics makes you log in and by default you are always a day behind. Despite its shortcomings, SiteMeter is useful. It excels in useful reports that always just one click away.

Around six a.m. on September 24, SiteMeter stopped metering my blog. The reports still come up but they just show zero traffic. Of course, this blog’s web traffic had not stopped, as evidenced by the fact that you are reading this. Both Google Analytics and StatCounter showed the usual site traffic. I thought maybe my tracking code had expired, but when I was finally able to log in to the SiteMeter manager and review my tracking code I found that it had not changed. So then I figured maybe they just weren’t aware that they weren’t catching my blog’s statistics. So I sent them a support request. More than a week later, I still have heard nothing.

Granted, it is hard to give me much attention when I don’t pay them anything. Most of SiteMeter’s customers don’t pay them. This limits us webmasters to the last 100 page views or visits and overall statistics, but they still have plenty of opportunities to make money from me. Every time I go to check out a SiteMeter report I see no less that two ads, one on the top and one on the side, will appear. And I typically checked the site a half dozen or so times during the day.

Go to SiteMeter’s web site today and it suggests that no one is minding the store. Their latest announcement was in February 2009. Their newest widget is for Windows Vista. They will still take your money quickly enough, if you want to pay for their service. It’s not worth paying for when there are so many superior and free alternatives. Why pay for a service when they cannot be bothered to maintain the site or troubleshoot problems? I imagine they hired some hacks to put the whole thing in the Amazon cloud and just forgot about it. To the extent they pay attention to it, it is to collect Google Adsense revenue. It probably pays for plenty of margaritas at the bar close to their deck chair along a beach in the Bahamas.

Not that they have cut off all my metering with SiteMeter. I also use SiteMeter on two other domains, and they are continuing to run fine. Their statistics, of course, are bogus and inflated as well, but I can still look at SiteMeter reports for these domains. For more official statistics, I go into Google Analytics.

However, Google Analytics tells you far more than you need to know. It’s an amazing product, just overkill for all but the most diehard web statisticians. SiteMeter’s user interface is simple, usable and clean. What I really need to do is emulate their reports and tie it directly into Google Analytics. Being lazy, however, I just haven’t gotten around to it. I’ve searched around to see if someone has taken the time to build SiteMeter-like reports for Google Analytics. If they have, I can’t find them or they are afraid of a lawsuit from SiteMeter’s lawyers. However, if I roll my own, I figure they’ll never know. So when I find some free time for the project, I plan to do it. It looks straightforward if you can write some code to parse a XML file.

Like Craigslist Casual Encounters, it appears that tracking your site with SiteMeter is now simply a waste of your time. So I’ll be removing my tracking code. No reason that I should give them my business since they obviously don’t care about retaining it.

 
The Thinker

Occam’s Razor 2011 Statistics

I usually start off the year with a set of blog statistics from the previous year. However, this year I was on a cruise ship on New Year’s Day, and in fact I was off the ‘Net for over a week. So it’s time to catch up with the state of the blog.

A quick note: I am considering ending the blog in December after completing ten full years of blogging. It may be a logical time to stop. Or not. I’ll need something to keep myself amused in retirement.

This year my Google Analytics web statistics are puzzling and probably misleading. As I mentioned in another blog post, in June Google seemed to have changed the algorithm for deciding what is a real page view. Page views dropped about in half toward late June. Anyhow, for what it’s worth:

Overall 2011 Statistics

  • Total Visits: 48,815 visits (134 per day on average), which is down 4% compared with 2010.
  • Total Page Views: 90,205 (average 247 per day) which down 6.8% compared with 2010. I expect 2012 to have a markedly lower number, as January thru June 2011 were likely inflated due to a bad algorithm.
  • Percent New Visits: 89.13%, which is down 2.26% compared with 2010. This is good because it means slightly more of you are return visitors compared to 2010.

Most Viewed Posts

  1. Eulogy for my mother (14,266 page views, up  31% from last year, #1 two years in a row)
  2. Blog Home Page (6,479 page views, down 66% from last year,  but still #2 two years in a row)
  3. You Porn: A Traveler’s New Best Friend? (3,763 page views, down 33% from 2010, but overall moved up from #4)
  4. Craigslist Casual Encounters: now officially a complete waste of time (3,709 page views, down 2%, but moved up from #6)
  5. The Root of Human Conflict: Emotion vs. Reason (3,422 page views, up 15%, moved from #7)
  6. Sharon Mitchell: Porn Saint (3,204 page views)
  7. Queer as a 3 dollar bill (3,125 page views)
  8. Danger: Wal-Mart Customer! (NEW on the top 10 list, 2,835 page views)
  9. The Illusion of Time (2,526 page views)
  10. The Id Unleashed at Craigslist Casual Encounters (1,435 page views)

The drop in the number of page views in the top ten actually suggest a broadening of the content being read. This is good. More people are getting beyond the top ten and are reading more obscure posts than in the past.

I still find it strange that the really old posts still bring people in, but more recent posts overall have people yawning. I guess they are just not very interesting. I am glad my mother’s eulogy is obviously helping so many people struggling with the loss of their mother. But mostly, human nature is what it is and pornography and internet sex seems to be what they want to read the most here. And maybe bizarre stuff as well, given that Danger: Wal-Mart Customer! is new in the top 10 (it was written in 2009). It’s also nice that the blog’s home page still comes in at #2.

Top Tags:

  1. Civil War
  2. Obesity
  3. W&OD Trail
  4. Battle of Chantilly
  5. Fashion

Top category: Best of Occam’s Razor

Top Browsers

  • Internet Explorer: 35.54% (down from 41.6%)
  • Firefox: 27.36% (down from 34.01%)
  • Chrome: 17.27% (up from 10.32%)
  • Safari: 15.13 (up from 11.41%)

So it appears that my users are slowly ditching IE and Firefox in favor of Google Chrome and Safari. My suspicion is Safari is so high because most mobile traffic was via iPhones, which run Safari.

Busiest Month: May (12,671 page views)
Slowest Month: December (3,703 page views)

Mobile statistics are new in Google Analytics.

Mobile Visits in 2011: 3,904
%Mobile Visits of Total Visits: 8%

This site is also accessible as a newsfeed, both RSS and Atom. Most of those reading the blog via a newsfeed do so via FeedBurner. Here are a few FeedBurner statistics for 2011:

  • Subscribers as of 12/31/2011: 66 (up from 59 in 2010)
  • Average number of subscribers per day: 63.23 (up from 54.13 in 2010)
  • Average hits per day: 196 (159 in 2010)
  • Average click-throughs per day: 7.81 (5.23 in 2010)

More of my readers continue to read the blog through a subscription, but growth is modest. It may make up for some of the decline in visits and page views.

More on January 1, 2013, I hope.

 
The Thinker

Web statistics are untrustworthy

Like many site owners, I monitor my web traffic. And every year I rediscover what Disraeli discovered long ago. There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. The problem with web statistics is it is often hard to discern who is lying and by how much.

Most of us site owners care principally about one thing: how many eyeballs are looking at our site. And the answer turns out to be: no one really knows for sure. If you collect statistics using a hosted package like Awstats, it will accurately tell you how many overall hits and page requests you received, but at best it will poorly discern which of these represent eyeballs on the other end, instead of search engine robots and crawlers.

Based on my research, not even the mighty Google really knows. Because Google has tons of resources to throw at the web statistics problem, I figured they should know best. But it turns out that even Google can be fooled. At least that’s what I have inferred because around June 28, 2011 the number of page views on my site per day dropped roughly in half and have stayed that way. The same was not true with SiteMeter and StatCounter, which were also tracking my site usage.

06-26-2011

307

06-27-2011

337

06-28-2011

164

06-29-2011

165

06-30-2011

155

07-01-2011

135

07-02-2011

116

Was I upset that fewer people than I thought were hitting my blog? Not really. I had been thinking for months that Google Analytics was overstating my page views since their numbers were higher than anyone else’s, including SiteMeter. Sure, a higher number is always more flattering than a lower number but the average person arriving by a search engine is not reading three pages on my site, which Google Analytics was suggesting. Get real. No, the average human comes to glance at some post it found via a search engine then quickly move on. Anyhow, as you can see, around June 28, 2011 Google Analytics started applying a new algorithm, filtering out about half the page requests it used to. What I suspect happened is that they realized they were counting as humans a whole mess of automated requests.

At least Google eventually realized their mistake. As I noted some time ago, SiteMeter simply does not care. For years it has included the Google search engine robot, among others search engines and robots among my visitors and page views. Yes, it’s technically true they visited, but clearly no human was looking at my site. I guess if the agent can fire off the embedded Javascript that pings SiteMeter, that’s good enough for SiteMeter. What’s clear is that SiteMeter has basically given up bothering to care. They were one of the first to market in this business, developed a huge market share, and now apparently is only interested in the revenue from selling ad space when you go to their site to check on your statistics.

To get an idea of what’s wrong with web statistics these days, let’s look at visits and page views for this last week. Which statistics provider would you trust? Google Analytics, SiteMeter or StatCounter?

Date

Visits

Page views

Google SiteMeter StatCounter Google SiteMeter StatCounter

10/5/11

143

149

161

174

209

188

10/6/11

125

152

153

143

195

176

10/7/11

105

130

116

124

211

139

10/8/11

80

113

97

100

150

114

10/9/11

104

131

111

119

227

135

10/10/11

149

183

175

179

259

209

10/11/11

116

164

146

123

298

159

Total

822

1022

959

962

1549

1120

Increase compared with Google Analytics

24%

17%

61%

16%

Granted, each may have different criteria for when a day begins and ends. The good news is that since Google now does a better job of filtering requests, it is now consistently showing the lowest number of visits and page requests, hence I am more likely to trust it. But since they made a major change to their count algorithm in June, it throws off all of their statistics for this site for 2011, which makes the overall statistics pretty useless.

SiteMeter obviously does not care, since you simply have to look at the visit details to see that many of them come from googlebot.com. It would be a simple matter to filter these out, but SiteMeter would rather sell ads than improve their filters. Overall, SiteMeter counts 24% more visits and 61% more page views than Google Analytics.

StatCounter appears to be doing a pretty good job. Its numbers are about 15-20% higher than Google Analytics, but at least it tracks proportionately with Google Analytics. Moreover, StatCounter clearly actively maintains its product, so it has some integrity. I have some sympathy for those in this business. It must be very confusing to provide any sort of reliable statistics because there is never any way of knowing for sure whether a human is at the other end or not. Then there are all sorts of “in the background” web hits enabled by Web 2.0 technologies, such as redrawing Google Maps. On the web anyone with the right technical knowledge can pretend to be a human. All a statistics service can really do is make reasonable inferences and continuously change their filters as new trends emerge.

Products like Google Analytics do a great job of slicing and dicing the data they decide to count. I particularly like some of the newer features, like the ability to see on a map those states and cities that are providing most of your hits, and statistics that show many mobile users you have and what kind of devices they are using. Given their inability to wholly discern human traffic from automated traffic, even those statistics are suspect. Still, they are one of the few providers capable of providing any statistics like this, and they do it for free. So even numbers that are probably somewhat off are still valuable.

The ultimate lesson for site owners: take your web statistics with a grain of salt. In particular, realize that SiteMeter is a tainted product, useless for meaningful statistics, and useful only for getting some idea of what pages were most recently viewed. In fact, you might as well get rid of your SiteMeter tracking code altogether.

 

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