I only analyze my blog’s statistics annually, usually on January 1 for the previous year. The more I study web statistics however, the more I realize that they can lead you astray. For example, about 50% of my web hits come from referrals from search engines. This explains why my most popular web content is old, in some cases a decade or older. Just 7% of my web traffic was from a known referral (such as another website) and 4% came via social media links.
The blog’s home page is still the most hit web page, but it’s just 8% of all web page requests. This means that from the perspective of those using a browser this blog is more of an archive of potentially interesting disparate topics than someplace to go to get some insight into current issues. Increasingly those interested in current content on my blog are getting it indirectly through feeds. My stuff pops up in whatever technology they are using, perhaps a Tumblr account or in their Feedly instance. I can’t blame them. This is exactly what I do too since it is much more efficient.
So my web hits are a lot less important than they used to be and don’t measure all my traffic, which partially explains my declining web hits over the years. In 2007 when feeds were relatively unused, I started reporting web hits to Google Analytics. Mostly since then my web hits have dropped, some years precipitously, but at least some of that traffic moved toward feeds instead.
In any event, I intuitively trust Google to provide reliable web statistics. Here are my annual web statistics courtesy of Google Analytics, which shows a 9% drop in sessions in 2015 compared with 2014 and a 12% drop in page views. For 2015 there were 17,950 sessions, 16,800 users and 22,871 page views. That’s on average 49 sessions a day and about 63 page requests a day. Presumably it is all human traffic. Overall though, web traffic has been pretty flat the last three years.
Next is a chart of my daily web hits over the year, as measured by Google Analytics. I noted a major spike beginning in November that has continued into December but seems to be receding. I don’t know why as no new post registered lots of hits. But I know most of these new hits are coming from Germany. Can someone from Germany leave a comment if you know what’s going on?
I also track hits with StatCounter and Quantcast. Quantcast recorded about 16,300 visits (which is roughly equivalent to Google Analytics sessions) and about 24,000 page views. Note: statistics for December 31, 2015 are not available yet.
StatCounter counted 14,523 unique visits, 14,041 first time visits and 18,374 page views, so it’s recording a fraction of what Google and Quantcast noted. I think this is mostly due to pings getting lost or blocked on their way to their servers.
While my web hits sagged compared to previous years, I’m at least doing well with feed (syndication) hits. A year ago I had 198 readers. Today I have 643 readers. A few weeks ago I hit 2096 readers. Feedcat, my feed broadcaster, won’t give me raw numbers but it will give me a traffic graph for the last six months:
Feeds show interest in current content by measuring how many times a single client polls the feed. So these numbers are good news as it suggests that over the course of the year I tripled interest in my current content. It also shows a surge in readers starting in November, with 43% from Germany, with lots of daily spikes up and down since then. This is not unexpected, as I don’t normally post every day. Thanks again to all the Germans and others who are reading my blog. I do appreciate it.
Now I’ll delve into what people were reading in 2015. Feed hits are for current posts and tend to represent a bundle of posts (usually the most current ten posts) displayed at once. I can only count web hits here so presumably a lot of people were reading my current posts. I get few comments, probably because commenting through a feed is a hassle. (Note: this should now be much easier as I have addressed the spam comments issue with a Cleantalk subscription. So go ahead and click and comment; you should not have to go through a CAPTCHA.) From my web hits though I can see what’s hot and what’s not for those in browser-land.
Most viewed posts
If you wonder why I feature a monthly review of local Craigslist casual encounters post, you can see evidence here. Three of my top ten posts are Craigslist related. People read this stuff, albeit irregularly and mostly through web searches where a post matches some particular search term. My Google Analytics dashboard shows at least 2284 Craigslist pages viewed, and there’s much more from feed readers. I’m not sure if it’s because the web surfers are kinky, super horny or like me just find some humor in the bizarre stuff found on Craigslist. It’s for the latter reason that I also read the People of Walmart site daily.
- Site home page (1779 views, #1 last year too)
- Eulogy for my mother in law (1282 views, #2 last year too)
- The Illusion of Time (761 views, #7 last year)
- Craigslist casual encounters: now a crazily dangerous and illegal waste of time (663 views, #3 last year)
- The Root of Human Conflict: Emotion vs. Reason (380 views, #4 last year)
- Craigslist casual encounters: now officially a complete waste of time (366 views, #5 last year)
- If Aubrey fought Hornblower, who would win? (334 views)
- Craigslist casual encounters weirdness: May 2015 (Hartford CT) edition (322 views)
- Eulogy for my mother (286 views, #6 last year)
- Facebook’s appallingly bad user interface (238 views, #9 last year)
I tag every post with one or more tags. A tag archive contains a collection of posts with the same tag. These were my top five most popular tags in 2015:
- Craigslist (325 views)
- Taxes (265 views)
- Las Vegas (198 views). This is basically my Sinless in Sin City
- Porter Stansberry (179 views)
- Battle of Chantilly (164 views)
Top category: Sociology (89 views)
Looking at browser usage is interesting to me and these usually follow web trends in general. Chrome is now dominant and IE, formerly the 800-pound gorilla, is fading quickly as Microsoft has largely give up this game and is promoting its new Edge browser instead. It’s curious that my Firefox traffic actually increased, bucking the general trend.
- Chrome (45% of traffic, up from 31% last year)
- Safari (22% of traffic, down from 23% last year) – This is probably mostly hits from iPhones and iPads
- Firefox (15% of traffic, up from 11% last year)
- Internet Explorer (13% of traffic, down from 23% last year)
- Android browser (2% of traffic)
Busiest month: December (3443 sessions)
Slowest month: August (969 sessions)
Mobile sessions in 2015: 3580 smartphone and 1761 tablet sessions
% Mobile visits of Total Visits: 30% (unchanged from last year)
Quantcast used to provide demographics of my readership. This year it tells me it can’t. Google Analytics though think it knows. Here are some things it says about you readers:
- The highest segment of readers is ages 25-34 (23%), but these statistics are incomplete due to highly sporadic sampling
- Men mostly read my blog (62%)
- 53% of traffic comes from the United States, 24% from Germany, 4% from the United Kingdom and 3% from Canada
Why people bother to read my blog is a mystery Google will probably never understand, as it tends to be theme-less. A general survey would help but I have no way to get a representative sample. For those who subscribe to the blog, I suspect its appeal is that its scope is wide, which makes it relatively unique. The web excels at narrowcasting and my blog has more of a broadcast flavor.
According to AddThis, which adds a tracking anchor to the end of URLs if you hit the site with a browser, there were 161 shares in 2015, with 134 sharing by copying the address bar in the browser, 6 Facebook likes, 8 Twitter tweets, 3 on Pinterest and 10 other shares. This is miniscule and nothing to brag about. It also says there were 5,508 visits, but I’m not sure what that means. The top content shared:
- Eulogy for my mother in law (111 visits)
- Craigslist casual encounter weirdness: May 2015 (Hartford CT) Edition (55 visits)
- Facebook’s appallingly bad user interface (36 visits)
- Craigslist tag (35 visits)
- The root of human conflict: emotion vs. reason (32 visits)
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:
- StumbleUpon (608 sessions). These appear to be almost entirely for my “The Illusion of Time” post.
- Pinterest (78 sessions)
- Twitter (44 sessions)
- Facebook (34 sessions)
- Tumbler (22 sessions)
Raw web log statistics
Finally, there are my raw web log statistics. Most of these hits 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. Here is my AWStats summary for 2015:
- 277,672 visits (down 19% from 2014)
- 112,365 unique visitors (down 21% from 2014)
- 853,172 page views (down 7% from 2014)
- 5 GB of bandwidth
More in 2017.