Traffic Generation Progress Report, 2006 - 2007

This is my latest update in my Traffic Diary, which documents my ongoing effort to build traffic for my self-promotional web site, KeenerTech.com.

This is #4 in a series of articles about creating KeenerTech.com and my efforts to try to build up the traffic for the site. Here are the other articles in this series:

Other Articles in This Series

I've had the web site for several years, but I've only gotten serious about it over the past year. So, this is basically the first anniversary of my effort to turn my web site into a useful resource that generates significant traffic. It also marks six months since I began using a home-grown content management system (CMS) to manage my online content.

If you will, this is going to be my one-year report card on how well I've done. It will also provide a number of key strategies that I think will help build traffic for the site in the future.

Traffic

Now, without further ado, let's take a look at the site's traffic.

August 2005 to August 2006 shows a representative baseline for the site in its raw, unadvertised state, i.e. - this was the time period when the site had limited content and no active steps were being taken to promote it. Traffic since then has been a good bit higher, peaking in March 2007. Statistically, traffic is 10.7 times as high now as it it was when the site was a "brochure" site, i.e. - without significant content or timely updates.

Let's see if we can interpret some of the highs and lows of the last year. March 2007 was the peak; coincidentally, this was when the site was updated with the most new content (and when the content management system was launched). Since March, I've been heavily involved in project work at AOL, so the amount of new content has been lower, although I've nevertheless steadily added more content each month.

There is an unusual downward trend in December 2006, but this is explainable. First, I was on vacation during the early part of December, so there were no updates to spike traffic. Second, there was a web site outage in December that took my site down for over a week, until I managed to get AccuWebHosting to address the problem. Third, by the time the site was back up, people were heading off to Christmas vacation, so there was no chance for traffic to recover.

Some trends are pretty obvious. The more frequently I update the site, the more traffic there is.

The Long Tail

If you graphed page views with the number of page views on a vertically-oriented Y-axis and time as the horizontally-oriented X-axis, the long tail represents the extended portion of the curve as the number of page views tapers off. Even at KeenerTech.com's relatively small size, the site is still large enough to experience a fairly significant long tail effect.

Every article or blog entry that I put up has generated page views every month, without fail. If all else stayed the same, the site's traffic would trend upward by degrees solely due to the increase in the amount of content. One can see where a trend like this could be exploited nicely by large content-rich web sites, particularly social-networking sites with audience-generated content.

Just so you have some numbers, there are 77 publicly accessible web pages currently for the KeenerTech.com web site. Over 50 of these are technically-oriented articles and blog entries. This is sufficient to begin seeing a long tail effect.

Search Engines

In March 2007, I used a service provided by AccuWebHosting.com to submit KeenerTech.com to "lots" of web sites. How did this work out?

Well, basically, I got diddly-squat from the search engine submission service.

According to the web logs, 96% of the traffic I received from search engines comes from Google. None of the other search engines, including Yahoo, are even a factor in the site's traffic. Fairly dismal, in my humble opinion.

I suspect that Google's attention to my web site derives more from its ability to identify sites with real content than it does from the search engine submission service. Some of the articles on the web site are, quite frankly, of professional publication quality (this shouldn't be too much of a surprise, since I am a professionally published author). The fact that Google has identified my site as a useful resource is a testament to Google's technologies, and serves rather well as a showcase of just how much better Google is than the other search engines.

It would be nice to build up my traffic from search engines. This is clearly a key area that needs improvement. I could pay search engines like Yahoo to index my web site, but that seems rather like paying the other search engines for being inferior to Google.

Ego Searches

OK, I know, this isn't really a meaningful measure of anything, but it's still interesting. If you search for "David Keener", my web site is the #1 result using both Google and Yahoo. This is certainly an improvement. All you other Keeners out there, eat your heart out.

Audience

Who the heck is reading my web site? Where is my audience coming from?

About a third of my audience comes to the web site from Google, where they've done searches that have brought up some of my technical articles or blog entries. Rails articles seem to be more popular than Java or ASP.NET articles, which in turn are more popular than all of the other article types. Of course, this could be because the universe of Rails articles is far smaller than the other technologies, so it's therefore easier to receive notice for a suitably authoritative article.

The rest of my traffic comes to the site directly. This typically means that users have typed in the URL directly, accessed a link in one of my emails or used a bookmark in their browser. However you slice it, there seems to be a core audience of people who periodically check out my web site.

I'd say that about two-thirds of my traffic is currently generated as an indirect result of my own activities as an IT professional. In good promotional fashion, the URL of my web site appears on all of my emails, presentations, etc. Obviously, in the long term, I'd like to get more web-generated traffic.

Suggestions for Improving Traffic

I'm fairly happy with the site's increased traffic. Obviously, the traffic isn't high, but then again it's not like I work on this web site full-time either. Nevertheless, there are a bunch of ways that traffic can be improved. Here are some ways that I'll be implementing over the next few months:

  • More Articles: Concentrate on adding articles in some of the most popular categories, notably Ruby on Rails.

  • Home Page Real Estate: Unsurprisingly, the statistics show that articles listed on the Home page get more traffic than those that are buried deeper within the site. Ergo, the Home page design should be re-worked to emphasize more content.

  • Suggested Articles: A lot of people come to the web site and only view a single article, i.e. - the article that Google found for them. More traffic could be generated simply by having a list of suggested articles at the end of each content item. The goal would be to encourage users to browse through related articles, thereby increasing the number of articles that they view during a session.

  • Articles vs. Blog Entries: There's not really much difference between blog entries and articles on my site, although the articles do tend to be slightly longer and more authoritative. It may be worthwhile to get rid of the distinction between them and just make everything a blog entry. I'm still pondering this one.

  • Better Name for the Blog: The "Blog Spot" is a moderately lame title for my blog. From a marketing perspective, it would probably be better to come up with a more exciting name. How about the "K-Spot"? Anybody got a better idea?

  • RSS Feed: A lot of blog traffic is generated by so-called aggregation sites like Technorati and other similar sites. The accepted way to work with these sites is to create an RSS feed and register it with them. Over time, if your content is useful, people rate your articles, so interesting and/or useful content tends to rise to the top and generate even more traffic. This is likely to be particularly effective with Rails articles, since the universe is smaller for this relatively new technology.

  • Search Engines: OK, search engine traffic for the site basically sucks except for Google. A key goal will be to increase the traffic from the next three top search engines after Google — Yahoo, AOL and MSN.

As someone once said, "A goal is a dream with a deadline." In any endeavour, it's always worthwhile to set a series of goals. The peak traffic for the web site (in March) was about double the current traffic. The next goal will be to raise the average monthly traffic to that peak level by the end of the next six months.



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