Search Engine Land: December 2006 Statistics Review
here’s the first in regular monthly updates on how Search Engine Land is
growing. I hope the traffic statistics look will be both interesting to the curious
and informative about how various places can turn into traffic generators.
For December 2006, we had about 93,000 page views, or about 4,400 page views
per day. Actually, those are "AdViews," the number of times ads were shown as
reported by our ad serving software. We only began showing ads from December 11
onward, so I have to turn to our Google Analytics statistics to talk about the entire
month. Let’s dive into them starting with a chart:
The chart shows you the overall trend of visits and page views for the month of
December. Note that for the first two days after we launched, December 12 and
13, we have no stats or minimal ones because our stats tracking code was
accidentally left off as we brought the new web design up.
Overall, we had about 135,000 page views for the month, conservatively
rounding up for the missing days — or about 4,400 page views per day, matching
what our ad server reports. Visits were about 85,000 for the month or about
2,700 per day.
The two big spikes are traffic from Digg. I already
covered the first
time we hit Digg in December. The
second time was for my story on the
disappearing sex blogs
at Google. FYI, we also hit Digg a
third time just after the New Year, for my
Google Evil?" Tipping Points Since 2001 article. That also resulted in a big
There’s no denying that Digg is a huge traffic driver, especially for a new
site. Search Engine Watch, my alma mater, was Digged occasionally. Given the
huge traffic it received from other sources, Digg made a spike but nowhere as
high in proportion as I see with Search Engine Land.
That’s something I want to correct, of course. Problogger had a
nice look recently at how Digg spikes can help build a traffic up over time.
That will be great if it happens here. However, that’s not what I’m building Search
Engine Land upon.
I don’t want Digg to be my primary traffic driver any more
than I want to have a site completely dependent on Google sending traffic. A
single source simply leaves you vulnerable if something goes wrong with that
source. More and more sites are
they’ve been banned from Digg, for example. That’s dangerous for a new site, if
their traffic strategy is all about Digg.
So for me, Digg traffic is a nice surprise, the frosting on the cake — but
I’m baking a cake with many traffic source ingredients. I’m successful if the
overall line between the spikes continues to rise.
Of course, December was a tough month to look at traffic patterns. Many
people aren’t online as much during the holiday period, at least for a "work
blog" like ourselves. In addition,
we didn’t formally launch the site until December 11. January will be our first
real "normal" month.
Still, there’s plenty to learn from December. What were those other
ingredients in the traffic cake? We had 1,417 overall traffic referral sources. Here were the top 25:
|Direct Navigation (people
estimated to have typed in our URL directly)
Google (search related traffic)
Google Personalized Home Page
|Search Engine Watch Blog||
|Search Engine Watch||
|Search Engine Journal||
|Search Engine Guide||
There were some big differences from my
preview of December
stats just after we launched. Digg, I’ve already covered. Direct Navigation I
didn’t mention before, because I’d used a slightly different chart from Google
Analytics, Referral Conversion. That shows all the traffic where there’s a known
referral source as reported by your browser (IE, the browser tells your web
server the last place it came from). Instead, the chart above is the Source
Conversion report. That shows all sources sending you traffic — referral links,
search engine traffic plus direct navigation.
Direct Navigation From Press Mentions?
One thing I was curious about with Direct Navigation was whether press
mentions made any spikes. I get a lot of calls from the press. Some of them
result in quotes and mentions of the site. Typically, these online mentions
won’t have direct links. But does having the name of the site out there
alone generate more visits?
One recent article I remember was USA Today
at Google’s traffic. That came out on December 28, so potentially I should have
seen a rise. And the chart says?
Indeed, there was a spike. Direct Navigation sent 806 visitors on the
27th, the day before the article. That dropped to 682 ,the day of the article.
Then it leapt to 1,536 the day after it ran (and 940 on Saturday, December 30).
So there’s your proof. Press mentions do pay off, even without links. Well,
maybe. Why didn’t the traffic go up on the day of the article? One reason could
be that the story also hit the wire services, so it might have made it into
other papers over time. Plus, people might not have gone online to check out the
site until after reading it.
Also complicating things is the fact the Direct Navigation spike came around
the time both Digg and Boing Boing sent a lot of traffic. That spike might be
due to people simply hearing about the site from these sources and visiting it
directly, perhaps after an initial visit.
Going forward, I’m going to watch Direct Navigation traffic more closely
after a press mention, to see if I can pin that down more definitively.
Our third big driver of traffic, searches on Google, I’ll deal with
separately below. Similarly, I’ll deal with Google Reader and other feed reading
services in a section on feeds.
Drill Down On Traffic Sources
Boing Boing was a new traffic driver for us, all related to the sex blogger
story. I think there’s also a lesson here on how traffic can result because of
an active participation in your community, as well.
The sex blog story hit when I was off for Christmas. When I’m gone, I usually
take a day upon returning just to dig out and catch up on things that are going. Then for a
big, complicated story, I want to spend more time trying to look at what’s
happening rather than just blogging away.
I’d seen the sex blog story as part of my regular review, when I got back. It kept growing and
growing until it
Boing Boing. I reviewed that story, and I couldn’t help but feel that Google
deserved some more credit than it was getting. I dropped an email over to Xeni
Jardin, who I’d talked with last year several times about Google issues. Could
she add a postscript with some of my comments? I thought they’d help provide
Xeni did (thanks, Xeni!). And there was even a link, which started driving
traffic. But getting a link wasn’t my prime motivation. Trying to get some
balance and information out was. I routinely comment on blogs or email people on
issues relating to search. I put a considerable amount of time into it,
actually. I do this because I’m passionate about the space. But a side benefit
is that occasionally, that type of sharing gets returned as people link to you.
I went on and then did my
own story on the
topic. It was a long look at the sites involved and some of the issues. This type of original content is both my chief goal for Search Engine
Land and for myself personally. I know we do a lot of referring to what others
are writing about. That’s not going away. People write great stuff, and I want
my audience to know about that whatever the source. But I personally find
nothing better than being able to roll up my sleeves and dive into a story to
try and make sense of it for others.
The story resulted in a
second Boing Boing mention — plus it also got Digged.
Lesson? Good content gets rewarded, something I’ve talked about since I started
writing about search engines back in 1996.
Now what’s that The Daily
that sent so much traffic? Pretty simple. My guess is that whoever runs it noted
that I was listing all my referral sources when I did my stats preview and figured if they could send me
enough traffic, they’d get listed. You did.
The Daily has a number of start
pages. Perhaps you’d like to see a different woman in a bikini each day.
Here you go. And right at the
top, there are three links. For a period in December, we were one of those three
links. Hey, it’s not all about bikinis. You can also
see a different scenic shot
each day, or a different
animal or just a page of links.
But yeah, it’s the bikini page that seems most popular. Of the 2,200 visits from
the site, 74 percent came from the bikini page, followed by 19 percent from the
scenic page, then the rest from others.
Planet Internet was another traffic driver. This came off a news
story over there, referencing my
The Lies Of Top Search
Terms Of The Year article. Again, good content (well, I thought it was good)
can bring in the traffic.
In my preview, I’d already mentioned how Search Engine Watch was one of the
top referring sources to Search Engine Land. That remained the case, as the
month ended. From the SEW Blog, about half the traffic (47 percent) came from my
going away post,
with another 17 percent from Elisabeth Osmeloski’s best wishes
the going away time now over, I’d expect that traffic to drop. FYI,
Engine Roundtable, Google Blogoscoped
and Search Engine Guide sent traffic
primarily based on the site launch.
A more typical "spike" from Search Engine Watch would likely be the 148
visitors referred our way from a
our article on Google
Patent Search, for example. And that’s another lesson about original
content. If we’re not providing something new, we aren’t going to get the
referral traffic. Rest assured, original content will continue to grow. That
was also the top traffic driver for us from ResourceShelf.
Several other search engine blogs I’d noted in my preview still made the top list.
Threadwatchers especially loved
the news of our SMX search marketing
conference happening this June, judging on clickthrough from the site.
SEOmoz sent a bunch of traffic, but because
of the way Google Analytics drops the ?ID= portion of SEOmoz’s URLs, I can’t
tell what particular topics drew interest. Grrr — stop that, Google Analytics!
I’ll do a post on this in more depth in the future. The same problem means I
can’t tell what Search Engine Journal
John Battelle’s SearchMob — a Digg for search stories — showed some legs,
with a post there
about me sharing site stats sending along 61 visitors. Most traffic from
related to the quick
news we posted on the Yahoo reorganization. That story also sent traffic
Our post no real original content. But I had the release up from
what Yahoo emailed me faster than I think Yahoo itself got it into a HTML form that
people could link to, plus I quickly added links to more commentary. While
original content is key, covering key search news even if briefly is part of our
mission — and that, too, can pay off.
Finally, I’ve only listed the top 25 traffic sources. Remember, I said there
were 1,400 in all. The other 1,375 collectively drove about 15,000 visits.
There’s a long tail
to referral traffic, just as there is with search traffic. As a new site owner,
I deeply appreciate those links and references from any site, even if they aren’t
in the top 25.
Feeds, Feed Traffic & Email
Search Engine Land offers a variety of feeds and email newsletters, as
covered here. Getting
visitors to subscribe to one of our feeds or an email newsletter is my
primary goal with the site. If visitors do either, then I have the ability to
continue my relationship with them more easily over time. How’s the relationship building going? Let’s do some charts:
That’s the subscribers to the main
Search Engine Land feed
since it was offered when the placeholder site went up back in November. The
stats are as reported by
FeedBurner. Unfortunately, I can’t
narrow it down to just the month of December. It’s either one day, last 30 days
or all time — so I thought I’d kick off with the all time view.
Overall, the feed is showing a pattern I want to see, spikes each week that
keep getting higher. It plateaus a bit during the holiday period, which is
understandable. Fewer people are hitting their feeds then, and subscribers only
register as they make an active call on their feeds.
Over at Search Engine Watch, our feeds grew to hit the 15,000 level over
time. So that’s my goal with Search Engine Land, hit at least that level or try
to go past it. I know there’s at least that many people interested in search
news on a regular basis.
(FYI, any Search Engine Watch stats I mention here or going forward are all
in the public record, things that have been reported on Search Engine
Watch in the past or currently. So I’m not passing along anything confidential, in case you
I was figuring you had loads of traffic already with most SEW readers
converting to SEL?
The reality is that Search Engine Land is new, habits are hard and readership
is broad. This site has a lot of goodwill from the community, but it still has
to prove itself over time as deserving a larger readership beyond just the core
search community. In addition, it’s one thing to tell people you’ve moved and
another thing for a chunk of the audience to make the actual effort to add a new
In short, Search Engine Land is very much an underdog. And that’s fine —
I’ve always liked underdogs. My goal has always been to hit that 15,000 level
not in the first month but by the end of the first year.
By the way, I mentioned a "core" search audience. Look back at the feed, and
you’ll see how it quickly spikes up to the 1,500 level. I think that may be the
hard-core search audience that’s out there, the influencers. Or maybe it’s just
1,500 people who like me and the others here on Search Engine Land!
Where are these people coming from? FeedBurner breaks them down like this:
Google Analytics tells a different story, but we’ll come back to that. Let’s
look at the SearchCap feed,
SearchCap is a post we do each day recapping everything that was on the blog.
You can take it in feed form, but it’s also offered as an email newsletter.
Given its alternative newsletter format, it shows two key differences from the
Search Engine Land feed:
- Weekend drops are minimal
- Most people get it via email
Look at the Search Engine Land feed, and you’ll see there’s almost always a
midweek rise, then a plummet at the weekend, then a new midweek rise. That
mirrors a regular work week, where you tend to have a lot of people online
during the week — and most especially in the middle of the week — and offline
on the weekend. The feed stats, as I said, reflect feed calls. You only have a
"subscriber" if that subscriber issues a call to get your feed.
Newsletters are much different. Once you have a subscriber, that subscriber
stays with you every day, even if they are offline. You only lose them if they
unsubscribe. So the stats are more regular.
In fact, the drops you see for SearchCap are only due to the relatively few people who take SearchCap by feed.
They contribute to the tiny midweek rises. If they weren’t there, SearchCap
would be mainly a steady rising line.
Of the roughly 2,000 SearchCap subscribers we have, about 1,600 of those take
it via email newsletter. After that, Google Desktop is the next biggest draw,
As with the Search Engine Land feed, I also have a goal for SearchCap. That’s
to hit 35,000 email readers in the next two years. Over at Search Engine Watch,
the daily SearchDay newsletter is around the 35,000 mark in readership. That
largely built up over a course of four years, as Chris Sherman
took the helm
of it back in early 2001. Once that figure was hit, it stayed largely stable
over time. That makes me feel there’s a core email newsletter audience of that
size. But gaining email subscribers is harder in these days of increasing spam
and feed alternatives. Two years might be too optimistic. We’ll see!
That leads me to Search Month. I ran the Search Engine Report monthly
newsletter for a decade. Now I’m doing the new
Search Month monthly
newsletter for Search Engine Land. That takes me from a readership of about
90,000 to 100,000 to a current one of about 700.
Ouch! I don’t know if we’ll
ever hit the 100,000 level, something that took Search Engine Watch about five
years to do. I’ll go with a more realistic goal of 50,000 over the next three
years. One thing that helps is that the
first issue is out.
Check it out — I think anyone who wants a regular monthly recap of search news
will find it useful.
By the way, both SearchCap and Search Month are full-text feeds, unlike the
Search Engine Land feed. The main Search Engine Land feed may go full-text as
well. There are some issues to consider there, and I’ll explore these more in a
future post. But I’m leaning that way for a change in the near-term.
Now back to Google Analytics. Remember my big chart of referral sites above?
Here’s the breakdown of sites that are newsreaders or email referral sources:
Google Personalized Home Page
That combined Google Reader and Google Personalized Home Page figure? Google
Analytics actually reports that as "google.com [referral]." But when you drill
into it using the Referral Conversion tool, you can see that about 2,600
visitors are coming from Google Reader (google.com/reader/view) and about 1,400
from Google’s Personalized Home Page (google.com/ig).
Both of these are feedreaders. Neither is showing up in my FeedBurner stats to any significant
degree. That’s probably down to Google not providing readership stats the way
some of the other feedreaders do, but it might also be that FeedBurner needs to
make some of its own adjustments. I’ll be checking with both companies and do a
follow up in the future.
Also keep in mind that Google Analytics is showing page views, while
FeedBurner is showing feed views. A chunk of people might not be loading up our
pages, simply reading whatever is in the feeds. FeedBurner can track those
people, while Google Analytics is tracking those who come to the site or load
content directly from the site.
News Search Traffic
As a news site, Search Engine Land naturally wants to tap into a key vertical
search space that’s suitable for us, news search. In my preview, I’d noted how
the site had already been picked up by
Techmeme. Traffic from there continued on,
ending the month with 1,500 visits.
That’s nothing compared to Digg. However, Techmeme is heavily read by
influencers, people I know will be linking to us or making mention of our
stories. I love being part of it and appreciate the traffic.
Indeed, out of curiosity, I checked my new visitor to returning visitor
stats. For Techmeme, about 40 percent of those coming are return visitors. For
Digg, that’s about 4 percent. Now in raw numbers, that 746 people from Digg as
returning visitors to Techmeme’s 600. So Digg still can produce a net gain, but the
audience at Techmeme is clearly much more different and much more in tune with
what we’re writing.
In my preview, I also discussed how much I missed being part of Google News.
Later in December, when I felt we had enough content to prove our worth, I
formally made an inclusion request using the
Google News inclusion
were added about a week later. In that short period, Google News sent over 1,200
FYI, I plan to revisit both Google News and Techmeme from an inclusion
standpoint in the near future. So stay tuned.
Keyword-Driven Search Traffic
Now for dessert, search marketing stats. Here are the top terms that drove us
traffic in December
|search engine land||
|tracking santa 2006||
|norad tracking santa||
|norad tracking santa 2006||
|santa and norad||
|santa on norad||
|tracking santa norad||
|top google searches 2006||
|tracking santa on norad||
|mobile local search for the rest
of us greg sterling
As was the case in our preview, our top terms tended to be those relating to
The terms google and goog are mostly driven off of Google. Google Analytics
unfortunately doesn’t break down where on Google these are coming from — Google
web search, news search, blog search, etc. I hope they’ll change that or make it
an option in the future. But from spot checks I recall doing, these seem to be
from Google News and Google Blog Search. That underscores the importance of
vertical search. Hey, I’d love to rank tops in Google web search for "google."
But there’s plenty of traffic for the term in other types of vertical search
areas. Don’t neglect those.
You see a bunch of terms relating to tracking Santa. These come mostly off
Google web search, from a
post I did in
Another term that leaps out is "search engines." That’s us
ranking in the top results for
engines at Ask. I’m used to seeing traffic for that term when I was at
Search Engine Watch, since after being a resource for 10 years, the site’s in
the top results of Google, Yahoo and Ask for that phrase. I’d obviously considered "search
engines" as a key term I’d like Search Engine Land to be found for. However, I
didn’t expect this would happen for at least months.
Instead, sometime in December, we hit the first page of results at Ask. Currently,
we’re on the second page. I’ll follow up more with Ask about this, because the
first thought many may have is that Ask has simply altered the results to get
Search Engine Land higher. Alternatively, Ask has long talked about ranking
sites not based on all links from across the web but links within a community of
sites. In that case, it makes more sense for Search Engine Land to do better, if
it has quickly gained enough trusted links from within a relatively small search
Just to benchmark, at Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Live, Search Engine Land is
not in the top 100 results for that term. Here’s hoping that will change over
the next few months. Any link donations to help make it happen are happily
In my preview, I talked about how paltry my query stream was. Overall, it’s
not gained much, but it’s still early days in the content building business. But then again, don’t forget the
search tail. The terms above
make up about 3,000 visits, about half the search related traffic. Another 3,000
visits came from the remaining 1,900 or so terms not shown.
Two more issues on the search term analysis. Remember above, I said Google sent
search related traffic of 6,172 visits? That’s also precisely the same amount of
traffic of ALL search related traffic that search engines have sent, according
to Google Analytics. The figures shouldn’t be the same. The figure for ALL
traffic should be Google’s traffic plus some of the other search engines, making
it at least slightly higher. I suspect that Google Analytics is counting things
differently using different reports, and I’ll try to track this down further in
Meanwhile, here’s the breakdown on traffic sent by search engine, according
to the ALL search engines report:
- Google: 5,618 visits
- Ask: 187 visits
- AOL: 117 visits
- Yahoo: 114 visits
- Live: 10 visits
- Others: 126 visits
Overall, Google sent 91 percent of our overall keyword driven traffic. For
this site, at least, that helps confirm
the view of Google
being by far the top search engine based on referral traffic.
Finally, what did most people read? Here are the top articles:
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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