Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A year of blogging

What are people looking at?

Tomorrow will be the first anniversary of my attempt to write something every single day here, and although I don't like the idea of a blog that just continually discusses itself, it seems appropriate for one day of the year to look back at what I've created so far, and wonder what works, what doesn't work, and what it is people have wanted to read.

To do this, I'm aided by Google, who kindly provide us with free tools to analyse the traffic to this site. However, their generosity really is to a fault: there are at least three tools (Google Analytics, Blogger Stats, and Google Webmaster Tools) they offer, none of which agree exactly with each other. They cover different date ranges (Blogger Stats only arrived in June, for example) and they all have different interfaces, none of which are perfect. And that's before we focus on my incompetence earlier in the year, when I cack-handedly turned all the statistical logging off for four days in January while trying to make the page look prettier.

Anyway, that aside it's rather depressing to find that the most common page anyone has visited in the last year is this one, which I just don't understand. I thought it was people being mistakenly directed to it while searching for "dislocated shoulder" on Google1, which turns out to be one of the most common sources of traffic to here, (which writing this may make infinitesimally more so), but apparently not: it's just people really were that interested in reading about what I did in July of 2006. (Did up a bike, prepared to go to Stockholm for a race, summarised what I'd learned about women to that point, and transcribed a line of dialogue from The 40-Year Old Virgin. Maybe that last one was the overriding factor.)

Next most popular was the news of my engagement (something that I can't repeat all that often, so it doesn't help with driving up traffic in the future) and then some jokes I attempted about volcanoes, at around the time that the inconveniently-difficultly-named-volcano-in-Iceland was messing up air travel across Europe.

Then after that, the curve drops very sharply south, as the graph above shows. I've omitted the vertical scale to save my embarassment. Maybe next year it will be bigger.

It's strange what people did read, and what they didn't; it didn't mesh with my expectations very well. I thought that I'd get lots of traffic for my over-complicated post on how to stuff web traffic data into Excel and get some SEO tips back, but it seemed to be that either it was too complicated for some people, or not involved enough, or just that as the n+1th entry into a crowded field, it was only ever going to subsist deep at the bottom of Google's search results.

I was also quite sad at how few people read what I wrote about The Wire, but again, you have to question how many other people are already gibbering on about their favourite television programmes - that was but one more drop in the ocean.

But perhaps I shouldn't be too upset: this has been a personal undertaking, and it has provided me with various benefits. I can look back at what I was thinking a year ago (although this can be a mixed blessing). Last week I read a few posts from December 2009 and I couldn't quite recognise myself; I knew I'd written them, but I wasn't sure any more that it was the same me, or that I'd be capable of doing them again. I had a similar feeling in early 2009, when depressed for no particular reason, I watched a video of my own comedy performance from a few months earlier, and couldn't imagine how I'd ever been able to do what I'd done.

Further, since I've been more dedicated to labelling my posts since early January, I can now search back for all the times I've written a joke down, so if I need to find that one-liner about recipes for Drunken Chicken, my blog is now serving as a helpful index to at least some of the thoughts that have flitted through my head.

Still, it would be nice to feel that I had a readership. Or a larger readership - those people that do read this and then comment on what I've done are very much appreciated, because it's difficult to know whether you're doing anything right without at least some feedback. Not that Blogger provides a particularly good tool for collecting comments, and perhaps the (possibly) ironic title of this blog puts people off. (I'm describing, I'm not stipulating that there must be no comments. Really.)

But still, on we go for another year. If anybody ever wanted to suggest something for me to write about, then I'd probably have a crack at it, but as this is a long-term public exercise in finding my voice and then improving it, trying to pander to what I assume are the tastes of the general public is probably not going to give me what I want. Apart from formatting changes (and occasionally fixing a bit of HTML, because Blogger seems to delight in ruining my delicately-crafted footnotes), each day's post will remain untouched after it goes up: if I went back and started editting things, it wouldn't be a true record of what it was, and further, I'd probably never get anything new done because I'd be too busy stressing over the correct application of non-breaking spaces.

In closing, then:

  • July 2006 was very interesting for no discernible reason
  • If you put the word "joke" in the title of a post, somebody who is lazily hunting for material on the web may come along and then (possibly) be disappointed
  • Lines of dialogue from films may (or may not) provide you with a larger audience

Some, all, or none of these learnings will be applied in the next 365 days.

1 94.5% of all my search traffic was from Google. If I could make Bing care about me more, my traffic would shoot right up?


Anonymous said...

Wow! Cool that you actually look back and analyze your blog performance. Great job staying committed to it. Please keep it up!

Mr Cushtie said...

Thank you very much for reading!

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