Did you know that there is a button on WordPress blogs that will go through all your blog posts and insert the publication date into the URL? Neither did I until I pressed it by mistake. It wouldn’t normally be that big a deal because you can reset it fairly easily. Except that I didn’t realise I had done it for about a week. By that time Google had noticed the change and altered all the references in Google searches. So when I put it back to how it was originally suddenly most Google searches were sending traffic to non-existent pages.
Well I had nobody but myself to blame, so I set about the task of tediously monitoring the visits that failed and setting up a redirection so the next time somebody tried to get to the post in question they would end up where they wanted to go.
This has led me to spend a lot more time looking at how people interact with this blog than I would have done otherwise. Although I wouldn’t choose to do it again it has thrown up some interesting observations.
This whole thing started when I undertook a pretty major blog revamp. I did lots of things to improve the look and the performance of the blog. These generally had positive results, and I have just about doubled my regular traffic. This is all good stuff of course. Nobody wants to write a blog that nobody reads.
It turned out that some of the blog posts that I had regarded as relative flops at the time have continued to attract regular visitors. This all builds up over time. So things that seemed like a waste of time when I did them maybe weren’t so bad.
It was also interesting what kinds of posts have continued to pull in visits over time. It seems that interesting news stories don’t really retain their interest for very long. The other observation is that all the website optimisation advice you get from a lot of places on the web doesn’t really help all that much. I only follow that kind of advice intermittently, but it seems to make no difference to the popularity of a post whether or not I consciously try to make it Google friendly or not.
A related observation – having increased my statistics by about 100% I didn’t notice anything like the same increase in enagement. The number of comments did go up, the number of links in my articles that were clicked grew and the number of referrals on other websites also increased. But it was nothing like the increase in the raw numbers. On balance I’d rather have fewer more engaged readers. I won’t deny I like the feeling of seeing large numbers in my reports. But if people aren’t staying long or paying much attention it is a bit of an empty achievement.
The other big observation is that social media referrals and links from other sites don’t really count for much. Google is where people find you. If Google doesn’t like you, you are dead. As to social media, for a long time Twitter has been my main source of social traffic. But Facebook has been gaining ground and has now overtaken it.
And one last observation – all the time I have been obsessing over my traffic and my stats I haven’t been doing any blogging. This is a bad side effect, and I wonder if a couple of good posts would have been a much better time investment than spending time improving the font and the layout?