Time for the second monthly update on how Search Engine Land is growing. As I said with my review of December 2006 traffic, I hope our traffic statistics will be both interesting and also provide helpful tips to other search marketers. This review especially covers social media sites as a driver of traffic. It also covers the importance of thinking if you can produce "number stories" for social media sites and how being an "untrusted" site with Google can give you the frustrating experience of watching references to your articles rank higher than the articles themselves.
For January 2007, we had about 194,000 page views, or about 6,250 page views per day. Those are actually "AdViews," the number of times ads were shown as reported by our ad serving software. Overall, our views went up 109 percent from the previous month.
Our Google Analytics reports gave us higher figures: 227,000 page views for the month, with 141,000 visitors. It’s not uncommon for different metrics programs to give slightly different figures, and we use the ad server for our official ones. But Google Analytics is what we use to do the marketing breakdown on where our traffic is coming from, which I’ll get into more below.
No Miserable Failure With Digg
Let’s do the pretty pictures. This was the traffic in January 2007:
The two big spikes you see come from Digg. Early in the month, my 14 "Is Google Evil?" Tipping Points Since 2001 article hit the site’s home page, bringing in the traffic. However, that was nothing compared to later in the month when my Google Kills Bush’s Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombs article became popular on Digg. That was our fourth story to be popular on Digg. It eclipsed all the others and gave us our busiest day of the year.
How about another pretty chart? This is ALL traffic to the site since we went live back in November, ahead of our official mid-December launch:
The other spikes also come from past Diggs, as I explained in the report for December. But as I also said then:
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 reporting that 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.
Indeed, the spikes I’m most interested in are the little mid-week ones. Traffic to the site is typically highest on a Tuesday or Wednesday. I want to continue seeing each midweek non-Digg spike get larger. And that’s generally been the trend, making me happy.
So what sent traffic to Search Engine Land in January? We had 2,440 traffic referral sources, double the number in December. Here were the top 25:
|Direct Navigation (entered URL directly; clicked through from feed)||
|Google (search related traffic)||
Google Personalized Home Page
|Search Engine Watch Blog||
|Search Engine Watch||
|Search Engine Journal||
|Search Engine Guide||
|Search Engine Roundtable||
Top Stories & "Numbered" Articles
To cover some of the traffic sources in more depth, I thought it would be interesting to look at the top five stories posted in January on the site (our latest Search Month has the top ten). Those were, in order of popularity by unique page views:
- Google Kills Bush’s Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombs (22,999 views)
- 14 "Is Google Evil?" Tipping Points Since 2001 (9,712 views)
- 25 Tips To Optimize Your Blog For Readers & Search Engines (8,245 views)
- 10 Google Feeds You Should Subscribe To (2,960 views)
- 2007 Guide To Linkbaiting: The Year Of Widgetbait? (2,575 views)
Notice that three of the stories are what I call "number stories," where the headline begins with the number of tips or nuggets in the article. I’ve had a good chuckle about this to myself over the past month. More and more, I’m aware of the need to see if stories can be put into a format of bullet points or "number of tips" format that seems so popular for the social media sites crowds.
When I first started writing for newspapers, USA Today has just launched, causing a "news you can use" revolution that freaked many newspapers writers out. I seem to recall that USA Today even spent a lot of time and money researching the best bullet point style to use (the little delta or arrow symbol is what came out), an effort that opened them up to further mockery. Many at other papers didn’t want to write dumbed-down bite-size articles that ignored the "serious" news, as they felt USA Today was doing.
Similarly, part of me wants to ignore the tastes of the social media crowd. But realistically — why not? None of our "numbered" articles are dumbed-down or bite-size in anyway. But if putting the headlines in a "number" style makes them more attractive to a growing new audience, then it’s something to consider.
Stories & Traffic
Now to the breakdown by story:
- Google Kills
Bush’s Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombs: Digg
was the big driver, about 8,500 visits. Direct navigation came in at about
2,100, followed by a Boing Boing
mention sending 1,700 visits. I thought it would be a story right up their
alley, so I used the submit page.
Google’s Matt Cutts sent another 1,700 visitors. We’d talked about the change
so I could do the story, and he
linked to my article from his blog. The man’s a traffic powerhouse, as
I’ve written before. Then
Fark sent 1,400 people, and The Inquirer
another 1,100 our way, followed by
at 910. To understand Techmeme better, see my
Q&A With Gabe Rivera,
Creator Of Techmeme post from last month.
- 14 "Is Google
Evil?" Tipping Points Since 2001: Digg
was again the big driver, about4,400 visits. Next up was Reddit,
sending about 900 visits.
Direct navigation came in at 800 visits, then Techmeme
sent 567 and Del.icio.us
- 25 Tips To
Optimize Your Blog For Readers & Search Engines: I covered traffic
from this story in depth in my
Search Engine Land:
Top Stories & Stats, Jan. 10, 2007 post. At the time, it got hot by doing
well with Del.icio.us. But later in the month, it
hit StumbleUpon. The traffic kept rising and rising to make StumbleUpon
the second largest referral source, 1,150 visits, just after direct navigation
at 1,400. Jennifer Slegg who wrote the article was the fourth biggest driver,
a link from her own traffic power house blog,
StumbleUpon is one of the most overlooked social media search engines, in my view. A self-submission, which takes all of 30 seconds, can easily send you 50 to 100 visits. If the story gets hot, hang on!
Watching StumbleUpon send me traffic was one inspiration for my Beyond Google: Social Media Engines First, Other Search Engines Second post. It was a wake-up call attempt that you’ve got to consider social media search engines right alongside the major general purpose search engines. Also, be sure to check out Build Super Links and Traffic With StumbleUpon from Loren Baker over at Search Engine Journal. I kept nodding my head as he described his experiences, since I’ve seen the same thing. Lots of useful tips, there.
- 10 Google Feeds
You Should Subscribe To: This sort of broke my heart, given that it
seemed like a perfect story to go popular on Digg. It didn’t, but after direct
navigation with 475 visits, Digg
was the next biggest driver at 340. The lesson here is that even if you
don’t make it big on Digg, being small can still send a healthy chunk of
traffic. Those reading feeds via Google came next, 320 visits. StumbleUpon
sent 275 and Techmeme sent
- 2007 Guide To Linkbaiting: The Year Of Widgetbait?: Direct navigation was by far the leader here, sending 700 visits. It stresses why feeds and email lists are so important. Your own site, don’t forget, is also traffic driver. If someone subscribes to your feed or an email newsletter, you can reach out to them and keep them informed about new content. That brings them back more easily. Another 220 visitors came via feed read at Google.
Feeds, Feed Traffic & Email
As I said in last month’s report, 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. Let’s see how it’s going, starting with our main site feed:
The chart above shows subscriptions over time, and the number keeps rising. We kicked above the 3,000 mark at the end of January. That was about a 1,000 subscriber gain from the month before. My goal is 15,000 subscribers by the end of this year, as I covered before. If growth keeps up, we’re well on our way.
Here’s the look at how people are coming to us via the main feed:
As for our newsletters, the SearchCap daily newsletter grew from 1,600 email readers to 2,500. Hurray! The Search Month monthly newsletter, in contrast, stayed at about the same 700 reader level. Ugh!
Part of the problem here is that because we use FeedBurner to send email newsletters, it’s difficult to promote both lists at once. That will change when we take our lists in-house in a few weeks. It’ll be interesting to see if Search Month readership then picks up.
Google News & Browse Decline
Last month, I noted how we’d been added to Google News and that this was sending us a ton of traffic. In particular, "browse" traffic from Google News (when you show up on Google News pages when people browse stories, rather than keyword search) sent over 1,200 visits. That plunged to 600 in January.
What’s up? No idea. However, I heard from another site also in Google News
that over the past weeks, they’ve also seen a plunge in Google News browse traffic. I’ll keep an eye on it. I also have a story on Google News that I’m working up hopefully for next week.
Now time to revisit how things are going with the search engines. These are the top terms that sent us traffic in January:
|search engine land||
|101 top stories in search 2006 sullivan||
Oddities in there, I know. Why "101 top stories in search 2006 sullivan" comes up in 145 queries is a mystery to me, too. The same is true for "site:searchengineland.com zawodny."
Aside from oddities, I’ve posted previously about how sad our query stream is, with the site name being the top driver of traffic. So far, things haven’t changed. All that traffic for "google?" That’s coming off of Google News. That search traffic for "sex." Google Blog Search (which is why the traffic is so low!). Most of these top terms are not being fueled out of ordinary web search.
Why not? Two reasons. First, we’re still building trust with the largest search engine, Google. I’ve covered this before, on how many of our articles are simply not ranking well in Google because we aren’t trusted enough yet. How about some illustrations?
Since we’re talking about trust, how about Eric Ward’s column here called Are You In The Circle Of Link Trust? You’d expect us to rank well for that, right? Let’s see:
Oh, too bad. For that search, we’re ranked 16th. That’s actually progress. In the past, some queries where we should totally rank put us nowhere in the top 100 at all.
Going back to that query, while I know we have to earn trust with Google, it’s easy to mock them. For example, we have the source article, and they bury it on the second page. Instead, coming above it are 3 other articles that simply refer to it (Techmeme, The Daily SearchCast & Search Engine Guide).
Wait a minute! Did I say miserable failure! Wasn’t there something in the news about that again recently? Oh, yeah — in fact, it was our top story last month, as you might recall. And so what happens on Google if I do that search?
Our story isn’t in the first results. WebProNews, which mentions the story, makes it to the second page. Search Engine Guide and Search Engine Lowdown with really short fresh stories on the subject also make it to that page. But our comprehensive piece? Nah — we’re invisible.
Keep going through the results, and you’ll find other pages that mention our article, including Boing Boing or our listing on Digg:
But us? Not in the top 100 listings.
Sigh. It’s stuff like this that makes Google sound like a mockery when they suggest there is no "sandbox" or "sandbox-like effect" that holds new sites back. Clearly from our experience, there is. It’s easy to find many searches like the ones above, where other sites that reference our own content outrank that content. It makes no sense, nor is it particularly relevant.
I know it will change, and I’ll patiently wait while we build up our trust – though c’mon, just how many trusted links do they want? We’ve got plenty so far! I’m also increasing our domain registration from the initial year I did to 10 years, which just might possibly make Google think we’re going to be around and a tiny bit more trustworthy.
Until the trust grows, our top queries will remain coming off of vertical search engines at Google, such as Google News Search and Google Blog Search. But then again, those top terms made up 5,500 of our 16,000 keyword driven traffic – 34 percent, not the majority. Despite not being that trusted, we’re still generating plenty of traffic of the search tail.
To cap off search, who drove the most traffic to us?
- Google: 15,628 visits
- Yahoo: 297 visits
- Ask: 68 visits
- AOL: 63 visits
- Microsoft Live: 61 visits
Even for an "untrusted" site, Google’s a powerhouse.