Friday February 4, 2005
As I've mentioned before, I pay close attention to the visitor and referer stats for this blog. Although it's only a hobby and I have no plans to start including ads or anything like that, I'm still interested in getting more readers—I wouldn't write these posts if I didn't want people to read them, and I've got almost a year of old posts that don't get much traffic. I've noticed over time that most visitors only visit a single page, but don't explore further. This is true of visitors referred by search engines as well as visitors from the occasional Logalanche or Hatalanche. A few weeks ago I made some improvements intended to encourage these new visitors to stick around, and this is a brief report on the effectiveness of those changes.
The improvements I made were to my sidebar. I removed the calendar—it looked nice, but wasn't very relevant to the way this blog is organized, since it's not a diary or current events blog and the posts aren't strongly associated with a particular date. I replaced the calendar with two new lists of past posts: a list of the "Linguistics in SF" posts that are the major, if intermittent, focus of this blog, and a list of "Greatest Hits" (an idea blatantly stolen from Language Log), which are posts that receive a lot of search engine hits or that I particularly like. My idea was that single-page visitors would be more likely to continue reading if a selection of the good stuff was immediately visible on every page in the site.
This seems to have paid off. I made the sidebar changes on January 15th, and my first post after that was one about The Languages of Pao on January 20th. As you can see in this chart from my Site Meter statistics, which shows the number of visits and page views every day for the month ending February 1st, there was a sudden increase in the number of visits on January 20th. (Ignore the last day's data, it's only partial.)
This increase was due in part to links to the January 20th post from a number of science fiction blogs that don't permalink to this blog. However, there was also an increase in the number of page views per visit after the 20th, as shown in this chart for the same period:
The trend is a little harder to see in this data, but a 5-day moving average (I'll spare you the Excel chart) shows a significant increase in views-per-visit after the 20th. There are still quite a few visitors who only hit one or two pages, but in among them there are an increased number of visitors who apparently notice the sidebar, and go on to read 5, 10, 15, or more posts. For example, the big spike on the 29th resulted from several such visitors on the same day, and there was a visitor a few days ago who read 74 posts (!).
In short, it looks like my sidebar changes had the intended effect. Another possible explanation of the increase in views-per-visit after the post about The Languages of Pao occurred to me, namely that the increase resulted from an influx of visitors unfamiliar with this blog who were more likely not to have read any of my previous posts. However, I don't think this alone can account for the observed increase, for two reasons. First, even before that post, most of my referrals were from search engine hits, which presumably have been producing a steady stream of first time visitors all along. Second, without the sidebar changes, visitors who came to read the January 20th post would not have found the other "Linguistics in SF" posts nearly as easily. Therefore, I'm going to declare the new sidebar a success, and suggest that you consider making similar changes if you'd like more readers to see your old blog posts.
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It's well known that if you want more visitors, you have to talk about boobies. It's as simple as that.