This guest post is by Courtney Mroch of Haunt Jaunts.
Statistics and their interpretation is often a popular topic on ProBlogger. One of my favorites about the subject was a guest post by Mark Seall called Who Cares How Many Subscribers You’ve Got?
I loved the way he pointed out that some, if not most, of us will never reach 20,000 subscribers, based purely on the nature of our niches. He created a color-coded diagram of measures we should analyze our success by instead. They included both things we bloggers can directly impact, as well as those we can’t. His point was to focus on what you can influence and not get hung up on, or weighed down by, the rest. Good advice.
On the other hand, Deb of Science@home wrote a guest post called Do You Spend Enough Time Looking at Your Stats? in which she defended the importance of paying attention to them. Namely, she suggested using stats to see who’s visiting from where, and what topics tend to pique their interest most. Then you can cater your posts more to their liking to retain your audience.
I’ve adopted a bit of advice from both Mark and Deb into my stats analysis and blog post development. However, what I’m most concerned with these days is how wisely I’m spending my precious social networking time.
Which social networks are really driving readers to my blog?
When I first started tracking my blog’s stats and paying attention to referral sources, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, respectively, were always the top three referral sources. They drove in a significantly larger amount of traffic than any of the other top ten referrers.
However, at some point I decided I wanted more followers. That’s when I discovered StumbleUpon. Shortly after, my stats revealed something startling, something Marcello Arrambide of Wandering Trader touched on in his ProBlogger guest post A Blog Traffic Strategy: Quality vs Quantity: follower numbers can be deceptive.
Large follower numbers don’t necessarily translate into big visits
In no time flat, StumbleUpon blew Google, which had been Haunt Jaunts’ top referral source, out of the water traffic-wise. Not only that, it brought in more traffic than Google, Facebook, and Twitter combined. Where Google, FB, and Twitter brought in 1,200-1,500 views a month together, StumbleUpon was bringing in 7,000-8,000 all by itself.
But what was even more shocking was I had maybe 20 followers on StumbleUpon at that time. Haunt Jaunts’s Twitter followers were nearing 3,000, and its Facebook page had several hundred. You’d have thought that, together, they’d be bringing in the most traffic. Not even close.
Noticing trends, tracking down followers
These days StumbleUpon is still Haunt Jaunts’ top referral source. However, it’s dropped considerably. I noticed it after SU made some changes. People got mad and stopped using it as much.
Instead, I saw more people flocking to Tumblr, as well as Pinterest. The former seemed to appeal to many ex-Stumblers because it let them do a lot of what they used to be able to do on StumbleUpon, yet have a little more individuality. The latter seemed to appeal to those who especially liked Stumbling photos.
Facebook traffic also dropped. Coincidently, that happened around the same time Google+ became available.
And then there was Twitter. It dropped off my Top 10 Referrers list entirely. In fact, it wasn’t even in the top 50 anymore. It’s since dropped off as a referral source altogether.
Adapt or die
After analyzing my stats, it was time to re-evaluate my social networking strategy. I thought of Dona Colins’s guest post Is Twitter a Waste of Time?, since I found myself having to contemplate that question, not just for Twitter, but for all my social networks.
Where was I going to spend my time? How much effort should I continue putting into the old sources? Which new platforms should I take a gamble on?
I decided to stick with Twitter. It doesn’t bring in any hits, but I do continue to make valuable connections that lead to other projects. Facebook continues to hold strong in the Top 5, so I’ve also kept it.
I decided to expand into new-to-me social networks, including Google+, TBEX (a travel writer community), Pinterest, and Tumblr.
I’ve found a group of fellow TBEXers who also use StumbleUpon. We’ve sort of banded together. I’ve seen a slight increase in SU’s referrals thanks to this. Not like the results I was once getting, but it’s still my number one referral source.
I don’t know how much traffic Google+ is responsible for yet, but it didn’t even take Tumblr two weeks to climb into my Top 10 referrers once I started using it regularly. I’m curious to see if it will continue to climb.
And then there’s Pinterest. So far it’s generated zilch traffic. I have, however, found it’s a delightful way to spend time that could be better utilized researching, writing, or social networking elsewhere. It’s a dangerous one for me to linger on very long.
What about you? Does your biggest referral traffic come from your social network with the most followers or not?