Musings on the Musings

Having now past the 500 000 visitors mark, it seemed a good time to look back on this blog and see how things have progressed. WordPress does have some decent stats and lists of things about the blog and from that I can draw dome reasonable inferences based on them, my own habits and what people have told me about this blog and their own. None of this is likely to be too surprising, but it might be instructive to other bloggers and certainly I’d be interested to see what patterns others have observed on inferred.

First off, the basic number of visitors over time:

As you can see this Musings has basically shown a simple but pretty consistent growth over time. This month has of course been bolstered by Zhuchengtyrannus and some previous high months have been achieved by major new taxa (Darwinopterus, Limusaurus and especially Linheraptor). There is also a major dip from last summer where I spent both a long time in the field and my posts rather dried up for a while for a number of reasons. This certainly matches a more general pattern I see on my daily posts – I can easily drop a couple of hundred visitors or more a day when I don’t post anything, though while this drop-off occurs instantly, it can take a few days to creep back up, even if I am posting again just 24 hours later. This also speaks of my inability to grab new visitors – I get peak high days when a new taxon or whatever brings in a whole bunch of hits, but the next day it drops back to the previous level – I’m not gaining any significant new readers from such events.

Moving on, which posts are the most popular:

Obviously the homepage is streets ahead of the rest, though this perhaps also masks a number of other posts. Since I don’t use folds much, you can visit the site and read a dozen posts without clicking on them so perhaps the numbers are low for many posts. A few patterns are obvious though – real ‘bait’ like Tyrannosaurs vs Giganotosaurus and Jurassic Park are high, but also some of the most general posts I have done, and new taxa are clearly popular. In short, the things I tend *not* to write about and think are less important / exciting do indeed seem to be the most popular. Though of course these are perhaps  popular because they focus on things I don’t usually cover and so draw in extra readers, rather than my usual audience. It’s also noticeable just how quick the drop-off is, a few hyper-popular posts and then a big drop. Once you’re past the top dozen or so, we’re into 2000-ish and lower.

It’s also obvious that posts with numerous comments also tend to have far more reads and this makes me suspicious that this is linked to my (often) low number of hits for individual posts. With few comments and discussions, most posts clock up a single visit from any given reader and this *may* keep my numbers lower than some other sites. This is in itself informative but perhaps unsurprising again, because of my style of writing. I tend to produce short and simple posts that basically review well-known things or show off bones or museums or whatever. Other than my own work and guest posts, I don;t tend to cover exciting new papers, or controversial issues, or complex problems meaning there’s little for people to question or want more of. Coupled with my target audience of interested people who already know the basics, that again fits with what I would expect. I don’t think the lack of comments is down to a lack of readers.

On the subject of extra readers, how are people getting here? First off, links:

Well, I probably owe Bill Parker a drink or two for starters, and perhaps Darren Naish too. Still, I also send quite a few their way as we’ll see in a minute. What is noticeable though is generally how low these are. With over half a million reads, this top 20 has been worth only about 30 000 links which in context doesn’t seem very much. In other words, most visitors know the blog and are coming back regularly. This fits with my general impression of a small but consistent audience and the rapid drop-off as soon as I stop posting. The search terms that bring people in show a similar pattern to the popular posts:

What’s bringing people here seems to again be a combination of new taxa, a few keywords (like pterosaurs) and perennially popular things like fighting dinosaurs and genuinely useful things like making posters and understanding trees. Finally, where am I sending people:

Well as noted, Tet Zoo and Chinleana have done quite well out of me as have a few others, but again, much as not too many links are driving people to me, I’m equally not sending my readers out into the wider world. This is likely in part because I have a short-ish blogroll that doesn’t provide updates on latest posts (and such a feature on other sites does often catch my eye, I admit). Still, the referrals here are quite even, there’s no huge drop-off or disjunct between the top and bottom of this bit of the list, so I seem to be spreading the love around so to speak.

I’ll leave it there. I’m not sure I’ve done much here for myself other than confirm my own suspicians. As noted though, this might be of interest to other bloggers looking to drive up their hits and I am certainly interested to see what patterns others have noted though their efforts or just their visiting patterns.

9 Responses to “Musings on the Musings”

  1. 1 mattvr 29/04/2011 at 9:22 am

    Now you’re just showing off. 😉
    Linheraptor gets me quite a few hits as well, though Quetzalcoatlus is a bit more popular than I expected.

    Strangely, it’s not tyrannosaurus, or Linheraptor that people search for to get to my site, of all things it’s these two words: ‘creepy forest’
    Never would have picked it.

  2. 2 Josephine 29/04/2011 at 10:14 am

    I think this is only about the fifth time I have actually been to your blog in person; otherwise I read it through my Google Reader, and I suppose plenty other people do the same. (Pesky, lazy readers, withholding hits like that!) Anyhow, I just thought I’d cease this opportunity and say that I’ve been reading this blog for bit more than a year, and it ranks among my favourite ones, with consistent and interesting posts. Here’s to many more in the future!

    • 3 David Hone 29/04/2011 at 10:21 am

      Well thanks for the nice comments! I’m not sure how WordPress handles things like Google-reader. It does mark out ‘sindicated’ hits, but these tend to be absolutely tiny (like a handful a day) which makes me think that it’s not recording people like you (there must be more than 5 who use Gr surely?). All of this is really naval-gazing, if I was that interested in getting more readers I’d be writing about tyrannosaurs, fights between theropods, and new taxa / papers to the exclusion of all else. Still i am intrigued to see what audience I have picked up as that informs me what I’m doing right or what goes down well.

      • 4 Mark Robinson 30/04/2011 at 4:32 am

        Yeah, fights between dinos is so last century. What you need to do is post about who would win out of Allosaurus and Megatherium or Tyrannosaurus and Deinosuchus in one and a half metres of water, if you wish to restrict yourself to Archosaurs. 😉

      • 5 Mike Taylor 04/05/2011 at 2:40 pm

        My guess is that Google Reader shares its downloaded copy of your RSS feed between all its users. So you’re only seeing one hit there where you may be getting a hundred.

  3. 6 David Orr 29/04/2011 at 1:53 pm

    Your google reader subscriber number is 294, so it only accounts for a small number of your readers. For example, you get about four times the monthly visits I do at Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs, but only 80 more subscribers in reader! I’ve also noted my debt to Bill Parker in the past, as I get a similar percentage of hits from Chinleana. I think a lot of folks use him as their “home base” when reading paleo-blogs.

    Anyhow, congrats on such a steady rate of growth. It reflects the excellent content you provide.

    • 7 David Hone 29/04/2011 at 2:01 pm

      Hi David, thanks for this, all extra info is good. Bill has said to me he thinks a lot of his hits come from people using him as his central database and i know I do.

  4. 8 Josephine 29/04/2011 at 9:45 pm

    If a reader in Reader doesn’t click to go to the post on the blog itself, it won’t be visible to any statistics as the post never was “read”. Of limited interest, maybe, considering how you only have ~300 readers in Reader, but perhaps of interest never the less. 🙂

    • 9 David Hone 29/04/2011 at 10:06 pm

      Well if these generally are not being registered then yes, another 300 or so people (potentially per day, since post almost daily) would add some 30% to my number of visitors on a daily basis. That’s a potentially massive audience I was unaware existed.

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