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Statistical Analysis of a Blog’s Traffic

Today blogger and MBA student Eric Rosenberg fromThe Israel Situation and Narrow Bridge talks us through some statistical analysis of the traffic to his blog.

As a hobby blogger trying to increase readers to my Israel blog, The Israel Situation, I have always been glued to my site traffic. What does a spike mean? How can I bring more readers? Is there anything I can do to help my blog grow?

I am currently an MBA student, and I took a statistics class this past quarter. For a class project, I tried to use statistics to prove what you can do to help your blog grow. I used a lot of technical tests including regression, chi-squared, and correlations to prove my theories. Darren gave me the opportunity to share my findings with all of you, and I have translated the findings into plain English to help you grow your blog readership.

I first tested to find a relationship between posts per day and site visitors. I started my blogging believing that the key to more visitors was more posts. Not true! A two sample test comparing site visitors to page loads proved that there is no association between the two. If you are working your tail off to post ten times a day, it might be better to focus your efforts on fewer, better quality posts.

Next up I tried to find a way to drive subscriber growth. I tested the relationship between page views and subscriber count. A two sample t-test (statistics talk for two variable relationship test) proved that again, there is no relationship. At this point, it seemed that no numbers could predict a successful blogger, but I continued my testing.

-1.png

Next, I used a test called chi-squared to find if day of the week had any big impact in visitors. The test is designed to test if proportions are equal across periods. I did find a difference here. I found that there were constantly more visitors on Sunday and fewer on Friday and Saturday. This, I believe, is specific to my target audience. Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, is from Friday night to Saturday night. As a blog that focuses on Israel, many of my visitors are Jewish. This explains the difference. If you have a blog with a niche audience, you might find this variation as well. A business blog, for example, may have a spike in readers on Monday morning at the beginning of the week and less visits on the weekend.

stats-1.png

My next test is the one that applies to virtually every blogger. I tested page views against time. I found that time since starting the blog does correlate to an increase in page views. At first I had trouble substantiating this data. I removed outliers, or non-regular data, and was able to then prove my hypothesis. As you can see from my chart, I was able to demonstrate that days since blog inception closely related to an increase in regular visits. My spikes in traffic, caused by Reddit and hosting the Haveil Havalim blog carnival, did not cause an increase in traffic. Just to reiterate, social bookmarking and other spikes in traffic did not cause a statistically significant increase in blog viewers. You can see the five dots that stick out in the chart below. Those are my big days of social bookmarking and blog carnival hosting.

stats-2.png

To summarize what I found and apply it to you, the most important factor in growing your blog is persistence. Sticking with it will lead to a real increase in visits. If you write good content, it is inevitable that you will gain more readers. Traffic spikes, like the one I hope to get from guest posting here, are nice. However, most people that visit in a spike don’t really care about your blog, they care about the single post. If you can pick up a few regulars, great, but don’t expect a whole lot.

If you are still starting out, do not give up from a low reader count. I almost did a few times, but decided to stick with it because Israel is something I am passionate about. If you are writing about something you love, you will have a readership increase in time. Other than that, the statistics of blogging are fairly inconclusive.

Eric Rosenberg is the author of two blogs: The Israel Situation and Narrow Bridge. He has been blogging for about two years.

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. Math is no a good reference for any body now a days. Nice way to see math help people understand their own web traffic.

  2. Mike Nichols says:

    Thanks for the post, Eric!

    Your conclusions confirm some of my own findings and intuitions, though I did not have a statistical analysis to back them up.

    In particular, I have found that StumbleUpon and similar spikes, though pleasant, do not really add to my blog’s readership. Here in the US, weekends are “down” times, but not always — haven’t figured the exceptions out!

    And I have seen a slow, steady growth in my blog’s readership over time, just as you say. It all goes back to the basic blogging advice: Patience!

  3. Increasing traffic is tough.

    I’d be very interested in the opposite analysis: studying how peaks of traffic (external links and references to your blog) correlate over time to the growth in traffic.

    Does traffic stay essentially flat in between spikes, does it grow continuously… which is it?

    fairbloggers.com – Team Up and Share Ad Revenue

  4. Tumblemoose says:

    I almost hate to admit this, but I’m a stats geek. No, not just my Google Analytics, but any kind of stats.

    It was very cool to look at this statistical analysis. Kinda firms up what I believed to be true anyway.

    Cheers!

    George

  5. Alberto says:

    Hello Eric,

    As a relatively new blogger, trying to increase traffic, I found your post here very informative and inspirational.
    Thanks!

    AMR

  6. PS: and of course, let us know what your mention on problogger.net does to your traffic :-)

  7. Sid Savara says:

    I love it, that’s awesome. Maybe today will be the beginning of Eric’s hockey stick growth ;)

  8. Jake says:

    I found myself wishing I remembered more of my college stats class reading this. Nice article – thanks.

  9. bugsy says:

    It was just earlier today that I was explaining to a friend how I love to quantify anything and everything. There is definitely not shortage of this when it comes to web traffic analysis.

    And you’re right, persistence is king. The more I write, the more keywords, the more traffic, the more interest, the more searchable content and interest from readers.

    What I have today is not an amazing blog, pretty standard. But at a couple posts a week, one year from now, or two years from now, could be something very incredible.

  10. Véro says:

    Thanks for the analysis Eric, sounds true to me as I did almost the same conclusion.

    1- my Pro blog does not see so much visitors on Saturday and Sunday, with a peak on Monday morning as I still blog during the Week-end,

    2- my scrapbooking blog visits have no relation at all with the number of posts published within a day or week, but with regular publication, visits raise up

    3- social networking and all. participate in getting in touch with people and communicating about my sites but do not provide me such a number of extra visitors

    Darren, thanks for opening the door to guest blogging, it gives different views and I appreciate this.

  11. Yes, I’ve noticed the spikes from carnivals or social bookmarks are nice, but no real reflection of true readership.

    Nice article! It’s interesting to the data behind this.

  12. Brenda says:

    Thanks for translating into plain English the data and statistical information. I especially liked the idea of writing about your passion.

    Question for you-What is the best way to track blog statistics?

    Thanks

  13. I run a blog that focuses on templates for Apple’s iwork, and I really find that I get my biggest days on Tuesdays during the work day.

    I have found that just sticking to posting that I get more and more hits every month. Persistance is my best strategy!

    Thanks for the post!

  14. Hiroshi says:

    Building traffic for a new blog is definitely tough. I think its all about the post consistency and frequency. The blogs where I post not much often get less traffic, even when they are promoted at the same medium and pattern where successful blogs are. Second most important thing: How much you care about your readers. When some reader asks something, the blogger who follows and responds honestly by not keeping his blog in mind but the reader’s interest, gets more attention. Blogger is meant to provide what reader is looking for.The whole idea is sharing, giving and putting value to it.

  15. Squawkfox says:

    Is data collected from one blog a statistically significant sample? Just saying…

  16. that was a great post for students wanting real-life examples and for bloggers to have a better idea about the stats values they are collecting.

    what was the poser for the test? cld real change not have been large enough for the t-tests?

  17. Fuzzy says:

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

    While I actually think the conclusions from his results *may* be correct, I agree with Squawkfox that one blog does not make a statistically significant sample.

    The author appears to be using a reasonably large number of data points for his analysis, but these are all from the same site. The only correlation one can show (or not show) is significant for that one blog! Extrapolating this to other blogs is completely meaningless.

    As an analogy, consider a single human test subject whose body temperature is measured as they are exposed to a large number of factors. We can gather lots of data and show that there are certain correlations. But extending these results to all other people would be completely unscientific.

    In both of these cases it is quite possible that any observed correlations *do* reflect the general population, but to show this, one needs to actually go out and use a significant sample from the population. N=1 does not cut it.

    MBA. Statistics. Indeed!

  18. AK says:

    Persistence, with relevant content and submissions are vital for a blog’s traffic graph to reach higher .With active and increasing feed subscribers and your online presence, it can be so easily achieved.

  19. A. Dawn says:

    It can be helpful – if you have the time and patience to plot and analyze these data.
    Cheers,
    A Dawn Journal
    http://www.adawnjournal.com

  20. Ray says:

    I was glad to hear weekends were down times for someone else. I figured that since my blogs are financial based that everyone was taking the weekend away from the markets.

    Thanks, great post!

  21. Thank you, Eric! Your results are very interesting!

    I have 4 very active blogs and another 4 not so active, and I agree with you, even though my conclusions are based on simple daily observations without any special tool.

    I noticed that:

    1. When I post an article with very strong keywords, the blog receives many visitors that keep coming and reading the next articles.

    2. I was not having any organic traffic in one of my blogs because it has too much competition – It is about self-abuse. When I stopped posting articles so specifically related to the problem I was analyzing in the blog, and posted articles talking about different (but related) subjects, I finally started having organic traffic.

    Therefore, it’s always good to diversify the topics you talk about. You don’t have to be always specific – you can find many other things very interesting to write about, and increase this way your blog’s audience, improving your ranking.

    I noticed for example that this blog’s readers (stopcuttingtoday.blogspot) like very much my articles about simple matters, like how to stop being insecure, how to have a humorous mood, etc. It was really surprising for me seeing how many readers suddenly invaded this blog when I posted a very simple article about self-confidence.

    You never know what they really want to read and how you can really help your readers, so keep trying and changing your subjects.

  22. Angel Cuala says:

    Analyzing stats is really a big help, and performing experiments is a good idea. But again, I think it boils down to two points – persistence and patience. None of us can replicate Darren Rowse, but one of us can be greater.

    They key I believe is don’t stop learning, everyday.

    thanks!

  23. At the least, the data is useful in that someone else could copy his methods to test what works best for their site. As people have pointed out, all sites are different, so the most important stats are the ones specific to your site.

    Do you have the type of site that retains regular visitors from traffic spikes on one post? Where do *your* loyal readers come from?

  24. Excellent analysis! I really enjoyed reading this post, great job.

    If I might add one variable to your equation regarding Social Bookmarking. One benefit I found is the forming of relationships with other bloggers I have found or found me through Digg and Stumble Upon. These relationships result in a “sharing” of regular readers back and forth and the big bonus is additional links to your site. Additional, quality links will drive up your search engine rating which will give you more reliable result eventually.

    Therefore slowly and indirectly, Social Bookmarking can result in sustainable gains in addition to singular spikes.

    Again – fantastic article!

  25. mike says:

    Sticking with the blog and keep posting. It takes a long time to build traffic to a blog. Never give up.

  26. increasing traffic is tough but not that tough. people are looking for answers to their problems or their wanderings. if you can provide high quality answers to what they are looking for, than you are half way there. i found out ( i bet most of you did ) that most of the people are not interested in a point of view , especially if you are ” nobody ” when it comes to web authority. In today’s world , time is essential and everybody is looking for answers. Although u might give out the best solution in form of a blog post , that is not enough. One major factor that influences your blog traffic (in my humble opinion) is represented by the post title.Try to compose a title where the keywords are the first words . Also you might want to write the title using all capital letters. For some it might be annoying , but like i said before, people are scanning all the text before they decide they want to waist a period of time on something, and using all capital letters in the post title can/will capture their attention.

  27. Rahul says:

    Well, we too believe that persistence and quality content are the two most important factor to have a good blog traffic. If you want your visitors to return, they should see some good content and regular updates so that they return in the future as well.

  28. ska says:

    I have been a regular reader and subscriber for a while. I even bought your book. Yet you deleted my comment because I complained about a racist poster being given publicity on your blog.

    The poster looks at Muslims and Palestinians as sub-humans. Would you allow the kkk to promote themselves through affiliation with your blog.

    If you delete this comment I will let it be known that not only do you allow racist to post on your blog, but that you support them and censor objectors.

  29. Nice to see a good professional quantitative analysis that cuts through all the nonsense to tell us that there’s no magic formula, just persistence and organic growth.

  30. Ganesh says:

    I’ve never done any statistical study of blog traffic. But I guess studying the stats statistically would be really helpful in determining whether the blog is going up or down. Really interesting stuff.

  31. Rosario says:

    Have to appoint a team to monitor the traffic it seems . Thanks for your great writing.

  32. Kathryn says:

    Thanks for the post – but I have a question: Can you explain the numbers and the significance of the numbers in wordpress Awstats or other programs? Unique visits, page views, etc and the importance of those numbers. The new bloggers out there can get confused about what we should be measuring, where and how!

    Thanks.

  33. Potato Chef says:

    My blog’s niche is very competitive with extremly competitive keywords.

    I do not post every single day and very rarely post more than once during a day.

    My blog is only about 2 months old.

    This is what I have noticed:

    1. Social Media was a great way to get some traffic to the blog in the beginning. Really just to make sure everything was working. For me as an ongoing exercise it was way too much work.

    2. This might make everybody cringe: I submitted my blog to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft (open directory). Everybody says not to do that but I did. As far as I know, to this day, I still don’t have any relevant incoming links.

    3. The number of people who subscribe to my blog are a whopping ZERO. I understand this and never expected for anybody to subscribe.

    4. My blog has slowly and steadly increased unique visitors, page views, and a lowered bounce rate as each day passes.

    5. My Adsense revenue is increasing on a daily basis and my Chitika revenue is increasing on a daily basis. I don’t see how most of the Adsense ads are relevant to my site, but they seem to be working. The clicks I get on my two main advertising sections really is astounding me. I never thought I would get more than a few every few days. It is becoming a common occurance. Very happy.

    6. My traffic, for reasons I have no idea, started almost a straight up trajectory, about 2 weeks ago. I keep looking at Google Analytics to try and figure out why it is happening. I’m guessing I’m not smart enough to figure it out.

    7. Amazingly to me, for such a new blog and a blog with no links, I am getting on average 90% of my traffic from Google. And to be perfectly honest: none of my posts are on page 1 of Google and I have only been able to find one post that is on page 2. I’m not even sure how my post reached page 2. I post everything the same way with the same keyword density and place keywords in the same place. I wish they would all find page 2.

    In conclusion I would just like to say: Sometimes statistics can provide you with answers and is useful….And sometimes dumb luck works best.

  34. I have to agree, spikes are nice but they don’t always convert to loyal readership. I do gain a few and that adds up overtime. I like to think of it in terms of money. Pennies add up so don’t discount them!

  35. Eric says:

    I am glad everyone found this useful. Feel free to e-mail questions to me at eric at theisraelsituation.com.

    Be sure to stick with it!

  36. I write two business related blogs and definitely see things slow down on the weekends. My best numbers, although still small, are weekday early AM, lunch and after dinner. Makes sense.

    Glad to hear the part about consistent posting and quality posts. I genuinely believe my readers are looking for regular but interesting, not constant and self-serving . . .

    No big spikes for me, yet. All in good time.

    Thanks Eric.

  37. Calvin Loh says:

    Eric Rosenberg,

    Thanks for posting your stats analysis.

    Potato Chef,

    Dumb luck is more likely to kick in when you persistently promote and post your blog.

    At 5 – 10 posts (and articles at EzineArticles), I struggled to get even 1 visitor a day. For no discernible reason, my unique visitors jumped to 20 – 30 a day when I hit ~20 posts.

    Using StatCounter, I found that most of my traffic comes from 3 or 4 articles. I’ve used Google Analytics, but found that it seriously slowed down my site.

  38. Krissy Knox says:

    Content is king… Persistence is king… And other things help along the way while being patient and persistent, waiting to build your readership. Some of the things that help build your readership while you are being persistent and helping your readership grow, along with good content are: social media, carnivals, contests, memes, keywords, etc.

    I know content IS king, and persistence and patience DO rule, Other things, I mean methods, should not be downplayed to achieve the end result desired, however, which is to build a steadt readership. There are still other ways of increasing readership than named above. One is a good layout that is legible and attractive. A blog that is hard to read will easily be passed up. Another blog may be frequented because of it’s widgets, such as a frequent commentator’s section (readers like to see their name in print!) and perhaps a poll to participate in. Another interesting thing that may draw in readers could be videos from the blogger speaking, instead of writing. Another draw could be a very interactive blog. This could draw in a lot of readers. And a blogger who interacts by answering comments, or even emails readers, and is very loyal to his readers, will soon grow readership. There are many ways to grow readership!

    While I do know that congent IS king, there are lots of ways to grow loyal readership, especially by being there for your readers and being loyal to them. Be loyal to them, and they will be loyal to you! Reward them with contests, comments, tutorials, help, emails and interactive fun — giving of yourself — and they will reward you with their readership and more!

    Krissy :)

  39. Krissy Knox says:

    Sorry, I put my blog address down wrong. Let me try again. http://sometimesithink-krissy.blogspot.com

  40. Harish says:

    Is there any method o do traffic analysis.I have never done it.

  41. mike says:

    I think more people go online in the winter months because they are not at the beaches getting taned.

  42. Use Google Analytics and you’ll see what is happening at your blog. Of course there are many other methods…

    By the way, I could add to my previous comment the fact that I submitted two articles that I submitted to my blog stopcuttingtoday.blogspot also to my blog freepsychothreapy.wordpress but the results were not the same.

    The readers of blog 1 loved my simple articles about self-confidence, while the readers of blog 2 are used with such topics. Freepsychotherapy is about light daily psychotherapy, while stopcuttingtoday is about depression and neurosis cure.

    By changing the level of the information I was giving, I suddenly received too many visitors – and this was organic traffic.

    This is why I told you that around the possible variations you can make, it’s a very good idea to change completely your subjects and talk about something else, of course somehow related to your main topic, but basically different.

    You could say that the article’s title attracted so many visitors to blog 1, independently of its name and style. However, the same title didn’t do anything special to blog 2.

    So, the combination was very important: simple articles about self-confidence were very successful in a blog were the main subject is depression while they were simply “good” in a blog were the main subject is happiness.

  43. Google analytics is free and works very well for conventional websites. Am not very au fait with blogs (am learning though) so dunno if it will serve your purposes.

  44. gendut says:

    you are very expert…..very deep evaluation…..thanks

  45. Eric says:

    @harish. The best I have found are Google Analytics and Statcounter. Both are free.

  46. If your blogs are on Blogger, you can see then on Google Analytics. It they are on WordPress, you can see their performance there, because WordPress gives you statistics.

    I don’t know about the rest…

  47. Kelvin Kao says:

    This is interesting to me, especially the page loads on week of day thing. Unlike your blog, I get the LEAST traffic on Sunday, and more during weekdays (usually the most on Wednesday, but that’s also skewed by my posting schedule). But either way it shows that people are reading it at work.

    As for the day number and page view graph, there was a line there but by eyeballing it, it actually looks like it might be exponential. Of course, we don’t know that until we have more data.

  48. Dan Tyre says:

    The company I work for, HubSpot http://www.hubspot.com has a set of blog analytics that automatically compiles blog stats- like # of comments per blog article, # of links, # of keywords in the blog article and over time shows you how to maximize your blog visibility. Many of my clients have found it very valuable to maximize their blog visibilty and traffic

  49. Eric, I too have used my blog statistics as variables in a project for my business statistics class. Although my results were just as inconclusive as yours were, it turned out to be an excellent way to actually get me interested in the fascinating results from statistical analysis, especially when your variables have real meaning to you.

  50. Liz says:

    Nice project. I think it would be interesting to do this analysis on a blog with much larger numbers – you don’t talk about the significance of your results, but for example I would say with 24 subscribers (according to your blog) it is difficult to get a meaningful idea of relationships between variables.

    Some people mentioned needing to analyse more blogs: I think that different styles of blogs have different levers so it wouldn’t necessarily give better results (unless you categorise the blogs first). But certainly a larger amount of data does give a more accurate picture so analysing a larger blog would be better. Darren, hand over your stats :-)

    Did you do other tests as well? I would like to test whether there is a relationship between page views / visits and posting frequency for subscribed readers. This is especially interesting given that there is so much debate about whether RSS subscribers are worth having or not.