Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Does blog traffic even matter anymore?

When trying to judge the health of our blogs, there are a few common variables that most of us like to use, such as:

1 - Traffic
2 - Links
3 - Feed readers
4 - Comments
5 - Alexa ranking

Now I think traffic is probably the most popular measurement tool that most of us use, or have been told to use.

But is it the most accurate? Or does it matter at all?

I ask because I started doing some digging the other day as I realized that The Viral Garden had passed the 10-month mark. After 10 months of blogging, I found that for the past 9 months or so, traffic here has been in a fairly steady range, anywhere from 125-250 visitors a day on average. January is going to be the best month ever for traffic here, but it barely edges out last July for the top spot.

This seemed odd to me, because the blog appears to be growing at a fairly steady pace.

So I started checking out the other above listed variables. Here's what I found:

1 - Traffic, up about 20% over the past 9 months

2 - Links, up approximately 300% over the past 9 months

3 - Feed readers, up approximately 650% over the past 9 months

4 - Comments, up approximately 50% over the past 9 months

5 - Alexa ranking, from 81K in July, to 70K now

Notice that Alexa, which measures traffic, is also up only slightly. But feed readers, links, and comments, are all up sharply over the past 9 months.

The feed readers are interesting to me, because logic dictates that anyone that wants to subscribe to a blog's feed, does so to read its content regularly. So the blog's traffic only growing slightly, while number of feed readers us growing much quicker, suggests to me that many of the people that are discovering The Viral Garden for the first time, are subscribing to the feed. So they aren't showing up in the traffic numbers anymore, and shift to the 'feed readers' section. Case in point, on Sunday, I had 152 visitors, and 155 feed readers. I think that's a good thing.

Also, comments are increasing. Last summer, there were around 4.5 comments per post. Now there are just over 7 comments per post. That, coupled with the increase in feed readers, suggests that there are more regular readers here, and that they are commenting more frequently. I also think this is a very good thing.

So I guess it's up for each of us to decide why we blog and how we judge the success of our efforts. And we also must each decide what value, if any, we place on our blog's traffic. I think extra traffic is very valuable, as long as it leads to extra readers and more involvement from those readers. But I continue to think that focusing on traffic isn't the answer for most of us, it's focusing on readers and how we can each find a way to contribute to the larger community.

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Anonymous said...

>"...as long as it (traffic)leads to extra readers and more involvement from those readers."

On the money, Mack. My hope is that every unique visitor is either leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed.

An engaging and enduring relationship is the return on investment in blogging.

Anonymous said...

I subscribe to lots of feeds, but only visit a few regularly (2 to 3 times a week, such as yours). The others I might only visit once a month or less to find relevant information that I can use. I couldn't possibly afford to do more and make a living. Blogging for me is a little bit social and a big bit business.

Anonymous said...

I almost exclusively read your blog through Google Reader.

I suppose that links and comments indirectly tell you something about the relevance of your content.

Traffic indirectly tells you what Google thinks about your site, and is in some ways a proxy for your "customer acquisition" efforts. The hope is that people find you, enjoy your content, and then eventually subscribe to your feed.

Feed subscribers, to me, have a lot of meaning --- these are the folks that care enough about you to make you part of their day, every single day. Think about that. Wow.

Bob G said...

Here you are, Mack - snapping your readers back to reality and asking tough questions! Especially that kicker - "does it really matter?" Bravo! I took a fairly extended blog break about the same time I started. In order to answer your questions I need to figure out how to measure a couple things. Maybe you and/or your readers can help! The links I track with Technorati - and they have catapulted one reader at a time due to the good fortune or pure luck. Being part of the VG zlist and 2000 bloggers meme is about the only way to explain it. Plus I like to leave comments. Comments to my blog I can track because Blogger sends me an email. Comments, conversation, and community are the main reasons for my blogging - and learning. I like the steep curve:) And like Lewis - at least part of the reason is social.
I'm guessing that adding different feed readers will give me an idea how that works, right? And Alexa rank? Technorati tells me "not the top 10K" so if I search for Alexa that will lead me down a path of discovery. Whats the tool to measure traffic? Trying to sort this out so pardon the verbosity. BTW - really enjoying MarketingProfs. The best part being the boss is springing for the membership! Thanks for your great work! And, of course, it really matters

Anonymous said...

Measuring or evaluating the robustness or health of your community is where it is at ... and I would love to see a new tool emerge to help out.

I agree that traffic stats dont tell much of a story ... links provide some sense of expanse but Alexa rankings require an audience savvy enough to install the toolbar. I recently stumbled upon a new blog that has fantastic content and generates about 30-40 comments with every post ... but has an Alexa ranking of over 1.2million.

I suppose if you ask yourself "what do I want from my community" ... then you at least have some form of measurement. I am thinking that traffic is low on the list. But that could just be me.

Mack Collier said...

Lewis I understand about the blogging/work balance. So far, my blogging is leading to enough writing gigs/consulting work and speaking requests to justify the time for me. But sometimes push comes to shove and working on a certain project means putting the blogging on the backburner for a couple of days, so I see your point, it's sometimes a tradeoff.

Kevin I agree, I guess it's like saying that the feed readers are town residents, while the traffic is the tourists.

Gavin I don't see many people talking about measuring comments, and I think that's a great way to judge a blog's community. At least for me and many of the blogs I frequent, such as yours.

Mack Collier said...

Bob there are a couple of free ways to track traffic that I am familiar with. One is SiteMeter. You add a small block of code to the end of your blog's template, and then you can track your blog's traffic, page views, and see where the referrals are coming from.

Another is one I just discovered today (See we all keep learning!). I was already using FeedBurner to track my stats on number of Feed Readers The Viral Garden has, but they also offer a way to track the blog's traffic. I'll have to use it for a few days to see how its results compare to what SiteMeter is reporting. So far the results through Feed Burner seem to be similar, but slower than SiteMeter's.

Again, with both of them, just add a small block of code to your blog's template. SiteMeter is the easier to do, you just add it right at the very end of the template, and both show you where to put it. Just make sure you Preview the blog when changing the template to make sure you put the code in the right place.

If that doesn't make sense, email me and I'll try to do a better job of explaining it.

Anonymous said...

We have an interesting controversy brewing on our site with a lively dialog regarding Clear Channel removing a billboard advertisement we had placed. I would be interested in your opinion if you can find the time to visit: www.msco.com/blog/mark-stevens-vs-warren-buffet
Chris Kieff, Editor Unconventional Thinking

Anonymous said...

The value of a blog is as much about the quality of its relationship with its readers as much as the quantity, which, by its very nature, is hard to measure. But like Gavin, I'd love to see something emerge... just not sure what, if anything.

I guess the bottom line is... are you, as a blogger, getting what you hope to or what you need out of your blog, regardless of ranking or outside measure? I suspect that answer will vary, depending on a blogger's defined goals.

Gavin: What's the blog you stumbled upon? Sounds like a good case study.

And Chris: You left the same comment on a completely unrelated post over at the Daily Fix... you aren't comment spamming, are you?

Anonymous said...

"But I continue to think that focusing on traffic isn't the answer for most of us, it's focusing on readers and how we can each find a way to contribute to the larger community."

I like the philosophy expressed in your above sentence, but it's ironic that you're the one who compiles and publishes the weekly marketing "Top 25" list.

Z-list beneficiary

Mack Collier said...

"I like the philosophy expressed in your above sentence, but it's ironic that you're the one who compiles and publishes the weekly marketing "Top 25" list."

Roger it's funny, because almost never does a week go by when I don't consider dumping the Top 25 list. It takes about 2-3 hours every Weds night for me to compile the list, and at this point, I really don't even get a traffic bump from it anymore, and never really saw much of a jump in feed readers because of it.

But on the flipside, it does help bring exposure to other blogs, especially those in the 15-25 range, great blogs that some people might not have found yet.

So as long as I think it's still helping bring exposure to those blogs, I'll keep doing it.

Anonymous said...

By the way, thanks for focusing in on RSS subscribers. Long before I knew what Technorati or Alexa were, I knew how many feed subscribers I had. I figured as long as that number were going up (it jumps around from day to day), I was in good shape.

Several things I don't quite understand about subscriber numbers (and maybe you can help).

-1- I have about 750 subscribers. Since these numbers aren't published, I don't quite know what to make of it or what to compare it to. Can you help put those numbers of perspective? And why does the number go up and down every day?

-2- What's the downside of subscribers?

Anonymous said...

Ann ... in case you haven't seen the site I mean ... it is Maryam's blog about living in Marrakesh. (The same one I have been raving about for a couple of days.)

Take a look at the huge amount of commentary that she receives on EVERY post. Shows how linking an authentic and passionate story with striking imagery can resonate with a disparate audience.

Mack Collier said...

Gavin just found it and you're right, a TON of comments, and I see where the blog was nominated for a Bloggie Award!

Makes you wonder what other amazing blogs are out there just waiting to be discovered.

Anonymous said...

Nice post! You have said it very well. Keep going.