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Reflections on Sources of Traffic

In the last week I had a post which has been on a real journey.

It’s a post on how to photograph fireworks that I’ve mentioned already when I spoke last week about Using Digg to Improve your Content but a post that since this time has continued to evolve. I hope you’ll forgive me for sharing a few more reflections upon my experience with it.

The post was posted a week ago in anticipation of 4 July celebrations and as I mentioned in my previous post on the topic it got picked up by Lifehacker, Digg and then Boing Boing.

What followed after these link ups have been a number of other waves of traffic as a number of other sites linked up including Wonkette, Wired and more recently one of Yahoo’s Tech Blogs by Christopher Null.

So after a week of links from some pretty amazing sites I’ve found myself today amazed by the big differences in the types of traffic that they have sent. Here’s a few observations:

Digg – sent a lot of traffic very very quickly. The first hour the post made it to the front page it sent 8000 visitors. The hours that followed saw this number decreases each hour afterwards. Over the day it must have sent around 30,000 visitors. AdSense earnings that day were definately up but despite traffic being 10 times higher than normal earnings were only a bit over double the normal level. The other benefit of being Dugg that day was that I had 200 people sign up for my newsletter. Lastly there have been a few secondary links on blogs from digg readers.

Lifehacker – in comparison to Digg, Lifehacker sent a lot less traffic. I don’t have the exact numbers but the amount of traffic they sent was probably under 1000 visitors in the 24 hours after their link. The difference was that this traffic came at quite an even rank and lasted a couple of days. The other difference was that the Lifehacker link seem to trigger both the Digging but also a lot of other sites linking up (I know of about 30 other blogs that linked up and credited Lifehacker as being the source of the idea).

Boing Boing – sent quite a lot of traffic over a three day period (as it slipped down the page it sent less as you’d expect). The earnings didn’t seem to increase much at all from this traffic and I didn’t get many signups in my newsletter the day it happened. The traffic seemed to visit and then leave pretty quickly. There were a handful of secondary links though from this link up.

Wonkette – the link was reasonably obscure so there wasn’t much traffic at all (I was a bit surprised about how little actually).

Christopher Null’s Yahoo Blog – this one was the real surprise of the week. The traffic over the last 36 hours from this link has been very large (it’s around the same as what Digg sent – ie 30,000+). The difference to Digg though is that this traffic is doing two things. Firstly they are signing up for the newsletter (today I had 1000 new subscribers!) and secondly they are clicking ads (they’re clicking ads 4 to 5 times as often as Digg traffic did). As far as I can see there are few (if any) secondary links coming from this traffic.

Of course it’s not as easy as just saying that a particular site’s traffic does certain things – it does depend on what type of link it is or what the blogger writes – but it does illustrate some of the differences between sources of traffic and how they can be useful for achieving different goals.

Another quick observation is that different sources of traffic SEEM to be having an impact upon the click values I’m getting on AdSense. I can’t really prove this as I don’t do this type of tracking – but there have been significant differences in click values from day to day on that blog this past week. This could be to do with the source of traffic but it could also be to do with the day of the week.

Lastly – this who experience has also amazed me as to the power that a single post can have to drive traffic and how a series of links feeding one another can keep it going for a length of time. While my DPS blog has had quite a bit of interest in it’s ten week life, this one post has taken it to a new level.

Fun times.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Ohad says:

    Darren,
    This is the first time I’ve seen a fellow blogger publish his traffic sources and how they affect the blog’s success in measures such as subscribers and ad clicks. Your post was very interesting to me and got me thinking that I need better tracking tools to manage my site.

    Which tools are you using?

  2. John says:

    Cool info. Makes sense, I guess; Digg and Boing being more or less hype machines, whereas Null is a real actual blog.

  3. Could you tell us how you went about contacting the photographers whose pics you used in the piece, did you just email them?

    Many thanks

    Craig

  4. Jon says:

    As for click values, it is not uncommon for them to drop for the last couple days of a month, as advertiser budgets run out. Then when the new month starts they may spring up again. Not sure if this is the pattern you were seeing but it may be the calendar that was accounting for the fluxuations rather than the traffic source.

  5. Jim Logan says:

    Thanks for sharing the information. I believe the most valuable tidbit you imparted is this…the power that a single post can have to drive traffic and how a series of links feeding one another can keep it going for a length of time.

    There is a lot of talk about frequency in posting. And for good reason.

    But the power of one great post is under-talked. Quality wins.

  6. Great blog as usual, I especially like your inherent modesty in the face of some serious rock star attention.

    But this leads me to a question. What is to stop a blogger (and this is in no way an accusation just hypothetical) from just pretending to be doing amazing things (especially offline things that are hard for online users to monitor)?

    I mean I read a certain personal development blog, and again no accusation, but I could start a similar blog and pretend to be doing all kinds of cool super-self-disciplined stuff – who, apart from my missus, would know?

    Just a cheeky thought – maybe I should start the “Hey kids look! I can FLY! blog”

    anyway, Best…

  7. Darren Rowse says:

    Ohad – Most of these stats came from a combination of Sitemeter and AW stats

    Seamus – I guess there\’s nothing to stop someone blogging falsely, although I\’m pretty sure it would be difficult to sustain. I find blogging tiring enough when I\’m being myself let alone trying to be something that I\’m not. I guess what I\’d say is that over time a blogger\’s true character comes out and people work out whether they are telling the truth or not by whether their story is consistant and whether the \’expertise\’ that they say they have is actually backed up by being good information that works.

  8. drew says:

    I’ve noticed the same exact thing with my sites. Digg, fark, etc will throw a huge amount of traffic at your blog, however the traffic is worth only a very small amount per visitor. Links from topic-related sites have easily 10 to 100 times the value per visitor that they drive to your site.

    For example, recently one of our blog posts made the front page on digg:
    http://digg.com/gaming_news/Looking_for_a_college_Choose_based_on_who_plays_the_most_Warcraft_
    However the users left quickly and in general did not return. The CPM for the digg visitors was approximately 20% that of our normal visitors.

    However when our main site was posted to the official World of Warcraft website, the visitors not only maintained our usual CPM, but many became regular visitors.

  9. Peter Cooper says:

    There’s definitely a gulf between different types of visitors. I get lots of clicks from people coming in to post archives directly via Google, yet NONE (whenever I’ve tested) from regular visitors / front page visitors. I quite like it this way though.

    Seamus: There have been a few interesting blogs built around that concept. They were fiction passing off as reality. They were eventually found out, of course.

  10. Vincent says:

    I think you are on to something with your holiday theme posts since it catches peoples attention. I look forward to future entries: “how to photograph pumpkins” at Halloween, “how to photograph Santa” at Christmas and “how to photograph drunk people” on Melbourne Cup Day.

  11. Terry Zulit says:

    It really amazes me how some posts surprise me and bring steady traffic, yet other posts you “think” will be popular don’t result anything as far as interested visitors.

    My motto….less thinking……more fluent writing.

  12. I actually saw that article linked from the Yahoo homepage (I think). I didn’t put two and two together (I’m bad with names) until I visited your site. The stats you’re quoting arre pretty impressive! I think we all aspire to get that much mileage out of a single post. Congrats!

  13. Mike says:

    Well anticipated, and you are in chilly Melbourne where there probably aren’t too many firework shows going on at the moment. Goes to show timing is everything.

  14. Andy Merrett says:

    Amazing, as always. Just when I think I’m no longer going to be surprised by how well you’re doing, you throw another one in. That much success on a non-networked blog 10 weeks in? Wow, how do you do it? (that’s rhetorical)

    If I could get only a 5% of your traffic on a blog that young I’d be impressed with myself!

    Congrats, as always mate.

  15. Rob says:

    Darren – had you noticed this site?:

    http://www.photobird.com/learn/top5tipsfireworks.html

    Seems to have a lot of your content on there…

  16. Dan says:

    Rob – The link you sent seems to be the work of a professional and accomplished photographer who started his site 3 years ago…

  17. Nicolas Mirkovic says:

    Great job ! This also goes to show the relevancy of posting the right info at the right time ie “Taking great firework pictures” a week ahead of the 4th of July.

  18. jhay says:

    Yup, Digg really works in increasing traffic. I had a surge in visitors last weekend all thanks to Digg and to the gracious folks who dugg my posts. Now I have to focus on producing good content to keep em coming back.
    Strange thing though, traffic via Google makes up just 8%, probably because my site is still a few weeks old.

    Now if only Adsense clicks would surge as sharply as traffic….(wishful thinking)

  19. Lisa says:

    Very interesting. I find that more traffic does NOT necessarily mean for more adclicks or more regular traffic, and it is usually the unexpected posts that do well traffic-wise. In the case of your article, great tips and you definitely deserve the traffic.

  20. Jason says:

    I can only imagine getting that kind of traffic. I am the master!

    No really, I can see how the cycle goes. That’s interesting. I guess it all depends on who stumbles upon your prolific post, eh?

  21. Jason says:

    Did I mention that you disgust me? =)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] A great recent example of this is ProBlogger Darren Rowse who posted an article on his Digital Photography School blog about how to photograph fireworks, and then posted on his Problogger blog about the “holiday explosion” he got in traffic. He also followed it up with another post about the traffic sources and what it did for his revenue and newsletter subscriptions. What’s great about this is Darren is in Australia, so he’s taking advantage of a holiday not even celebrated in his own country, now that’s a smart blogger. This theory can be applied to almost every subject for almost all the holidays. A knitting site could have an article about knitting an American flag sweater for the 4th of July, a video game site could have an article discussing the games with the most firework-like explosions, a dating site could have an article about the best 4th of July date ideas. You just have to be creative. [...]

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  3. [...] 8: The average number of ad clicks you should expect to get as a result of being Dugg, Farked, Boing Boing-ed, etc. Here’s some proof. [...]

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