Saturday, September 08, 2007

How do people get to your site?

Ananas, 7" x 5", pen and ink
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Saturday seems to be turning into 'techie' day. Here's another post about a tool which can help you raise the profile of your blog.

I recently upgraded my Statcounter stats package and now have oodles of information about the visitors to my blog and more importantly which key words bring 'casual' visitors to my blog.

What does Statcounter tell me

Statcounter has the most comprehensive range of statistics I've seen so far. These include the following (right click on each link to identify what it means and what benefit it offers). Alternatively click on this link "Features" which explains all the different aspects on one page.
Invisible Counter Option, Configurable Counter, Configurable Summary Stats, Magnify User, Drill Down, Popular Pages, Entry Pages, Exit Pages, Came From, Keyword Analysis, Recent Keyword Activity, Search Engine Wars, Visitor Paths, Visit Length, Returning Visits, Recent Pageload Activity, Recent Visitor Activity, Country/State/City Stats, Recent Visitor Google Map, ISP Stats, Browser Stats, O.S. Stats, Resolution Stats, JavaScript Stats, Email Reports, Multiple Site Management, User Access Management, Public Stats, Blocking Cookie
The ones I look at most often are:
  • popular pages - this enables me to identify those pages which get the most visits - which interestingly doesn't always turn out as I expect which provides me with a lesson or two. This then tells me something about what people find interesting or not as the case may be.
    • It's particularly good at highlighting popular subject matter.
    • It's also great for identifying if the feed is malfunctioning in some way if a potentially important page just doesn't seem to be getting readers.
    • I'm also now using this to repeat links to popular posts at the bottom of my blog page (scroll down the bottom and take a look). However I don't include those which are rating highly for no obvious reason or where I suspect a page has received extra 'help' with the number of hits it gets.
  • came from - This particular indicator tells me how people are finding my blog and which sites generate referrals for my blog. For example, people who have my blog in their blogrolls appear in this list. It's also very helpful because it also ranks sites by the percentage of referrals they produce so I can see which are more and less important. It also helps me to guage how I've achieved my objective of reducing my dependance on just one site for traffic.
    • For example, for a long time my only presence on the internet was as a member of the art forum Wet Canvas. I started this blog after I realised that virtually all the traffic for my website came from just one source - Wet Canvas. Now having always subscribed to the notion of not putting all your eggs in one basket, I decided I needed to try and find alternative ways of reaching a wider potential audience for my work. This blog was the first result of that strategy and my stats now tell me that I now get a huge amount of traffic from all over the internet. Wet Canvas produces about 1-2% of the traffic for this blog and has reduced very dramatically as a source of traffic for my website. Other sources have increased dramatically with one of the primary sources being this blog.
    • What I'm finding very interesting is just how important my various squidoo lenses (Resources for Artists) are turning out to be as feeder sites for this blog and my website. I think this is probably because they rank well within squidoo and on Google.
Traffic from search engines is the lifeblood of most websites, and many webmasters are familiar with the importance of ranking high in search engines for keywords relating to their site. This tool allows you to view the keywords used to reach your site, ranked by their popularity. This can help you identify keywords that are working, and those that aren't, so that you can optimise accordingly.
  • keyword analysis - last week I wrote about why it is important to use labels in Blogger and the importance of keywords. My aim is to write for people who are interested in the same things I'm interested in so I naturally want to know whether they find out about my blog posts.
    • This particular indicator helps me look at the impact of keywords and to understand whether or not my posts get highlighted in the search engines for those people who search using key words relevant to my posts. I can drill down and see the searches made, which blog posts they related to and how long people stay to read them.
    • One thing which has been very positive is the way in which the name of the blog has made a massive climb up the listings of key words to very near the top which suggests to me that people now just key in the name to access it.
    • I'm also very pleased that my very long list of keywords now contains a broad coverage of various keywords all of which are very relevant to the art world - and all of which relate to topics covered by this blog. In other words the key words reflect me and my interests and I'm happy with that.
  • recent keyword analysis - I find this one helpful to tracking sources of new referrals to my blog. For example, if I get a surge on one particular keyword - as has happened a few times - I find that it's usually because somebody has linked to a post on my blog, is using it as a reference for a project and all those participating are now turning up to read the relevant post! (Hi Marion and thanks for the links!)
  • visit length - I keep a close eye on this one. Lots of hits but visitors who stay for less than 5 seconds means a site is not effective at drawing people in. One that has got significant numbers of visitors staying for more than 5 minutes is much more effective so I look at this one to see how long visitors spend on my site. What I've found very gratifying however is to see the growth in the relative proportions of people who spend longer periods on my site (eg 20+ minutes / 1+ hour) which is of course endorsed on a regular basis by the comments I get from those who've just spent two hours reading my blog!!! I write much longer blog posts than most people so it's a concern for me in terms of whether long posts turn people off. The message seems be that on the contrary that long and informative posts can do well.
  • returning visits - getting lots of hits can be very satisfying on the face of it but not if they don't stay long and never return. How many make a return visit is one of the significant indicators for me. What I'm looking at is the growth in returning visitors over time. I get a lot of casual visitors - which is not surprising because of the breadth of interests I have and key words I use - however both the number and the proportion of returning visitors is rising over time in a steady way - which is very pleasing.
Why Statcounter?

I use more than one source of statistics for my blog site as I find they all give slightly different results. Since I'm one of those nerdy types who quite likes looking at numbers, I try and work out why this is. Forgetting to set the blocking cookie for your own IP address is of course an old favourite for newbies!
What is a blocking cookie? A blocking cookie is stored in your browser to prevent your own visits to your websites from being logged by StatCounter - this ensures that your sites' stats are not skewed by your own visits.
Statcounter is a webware product of an Irish software firm based in Dublin and has the advantage of giving you lifetime summary stats for all visitors and exceptionally detailed stats for a specific number of 'last visitors' to your site. You get detailed information for the last 500 visit for free and can then upgrade beyond that for a fee.

The man who started Statcounter 16 years ago (when he was just 16!) seems to make a habit of winning awards. Earlier this year Aodhan Cullen was named the Young IT Person of the Year at the ICT Excellence Awards and in July he won Businessweek's Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Europe.
Cullen's company stood out for its strong growth. StatCounter currently has more than 1.5 million users and tracks more than 9 billion page views per month across its network of 2.2 million Web sites. Cullen won't discuss revenues for the privately held company, but says he's signing up 1,500 new members per day. That helps explains why Alexa Internet Web Search (AMZN), which ranks sites by traffic, currently lists StatCounter as the 34th-most-visited site in the U.S., ahead of household names like Adobe (ADBE), Dell (DELL), and Wal-Mart (WMT), as well as Internet fixtures such as CNET Networks (CNET), (IACI), and Expedia (EXPE).
BusinessWeek 17th July 2007 (McGraw-Hill company)
What's interesting is that Statcounter's success comes from targeting its product at people operating smaller sites - people who want the information but don't want the cost associated with some of the products on the market. I'm very happy with the information I'm now getting and am happy to endorse this product for those who want to know more.

And just for the record, this post is completely unsolicited. I'm not an associate of or have any other connection with Stat Counter - I just think it's a good product which is worth highlighting.

Note: The small pen and ink drawing of a baby pineapple will be appearing in a rather large mat as a portfolio work at an exhibition near me next week. See details in tomorrow's post!


Tina Mammoser said...

Thanks for the Techie Saturday! Another great checklist of things - some I know, some I needed reminding of.

You are rather unique in the long blog writing. Nothing wrong with that, it's your "thing" and probably why people like your blog. You offer something other bloggers aren't. I'm more the hit-and-run style blogger. ;)


Katherine said...

Thanks Tina

I think the thing that's important is to be authentic to your own voice and own way of doing things. I've always loved research, sharing knowledge and explaining things so the long blog post seems to suit that. I'm not averse to reading the quick ones though - but some of my favourite blogs also have long posts!

.....and mine just look longer because I won't reduce the font size to make them look shorter! ;)

Casey Klahn said...

You techie, you. I looked at the StatCounter upgrade this week but couldn't even find the button for "upgrade".

Do you think that StatCounter misses a lot of hits? I talk with people who have read, or consistently do read, my blog who never show up on my StatCounter.

I have a feeling that there are referrals that are 100% invisible. In my mind, I wonder if there aren't 10-20% more visitors than my counter reveals.

"JeanneG" said...

I was surprised at the small percentage from Wetcanvas but then realized you are not as active there as you were when I joined. Especially when you were leading the class.

Katherine said...

Casey - I didn't do the newsletter upgrade. All I've done is increased the number of hits I can have detailed information for. I found that the free 500 just weren't enough - that a lot less than a day's worth of page loads for me now.

Katherine said...

Casey - people can have their sites set up so they are masked when they visit sites. I've got mine set up so I determine the fate of each cookie which tries to set itself up on my computer. I block all those I don't feel a need to accept.

Freiluftmaler said...

Hi Katherine,
very interesting again. Do you use google analytics and how would you compare it with StatCounter ? I can confirm 100% what you say about Squidoo.

Katherine said...

Thanks Martin - which is your squidoo lens. I've not done any searches recently to find ones to add into my general group.

Google Analytics is on my list of things to look at more closely. I have to confess that I have an aversion to Google taking over my computer completely and like to split things out between different sites.

Katherine said...

Also - for those who are interested and/or get a lot of hits to their sites, can I recommend a daily detailed stats report from Statcounter. I've just set mine up and find the over-arching view of yesterday's stats very interesting.

You need to go into the stats report bit and set it up - it doesn't happen automatically.

Freiluftmaler said...

Hi Katherine,
I have put a up a lens on Monotype printing. There is not too much traffic,but those who come from squidoo to my blog have a real interest in monotyping and spent much more time on my website than any other group. So again thanks for the tip on Squidoo.

Katherine said...

Thanks Martin - I've added your lens into my Resources for Artists Group on Squidoo

juj said...

Stumbled here from another blog - I'm sorry that I've forgotten from where, tho you can probably figure it out from stat counter (lol). Just wanted to say I've enjoyed my visit, and I LOVE this sketch of the pineapple. Simply gorgeous!

artything said...

Hi Katherine!
Perhaps you could clarify a couple of points in a futer blog for me?
About copywright if you quote from a book, I have just quoted fom a book on my blog but attributing the book title, who published dae it was published and page number.
Use ofimages from musuems gallerys i have got round this by linking in the main. I aalso read somewhere that when you link it takes away someones bandwith so they are not always happy about it,also because you always have so many interesting links can you tell how many get lost and do not return to your site?

Katherine said...

Chris you've asked quite a lot there - and if you are wanting to be clear I suggest you look at the post about copyright which I did back in May - "To copy or not to copy - what is the law?"

Also as that post recommends - there is a lot more material about copyright in my squidoo lens on Art Business - Resources for Artists

Your quotation about Turner sketches was interesting. However I'm inclining more and more to only take notice of critical comments from those who have actually sketched themselves. So much is written and interpreted because the author lacks understanding of the practice - and the range of practice. I'm not sure I'd lay much store by the observations of a medical student!

Katherine said...

Casey - I have an answer for you re stats. I've just discovered that it's possible to miss a lot of info because of how your feed is picked up. I've just redirected my feed to feedburner and noticed a big difference! I'm going to do a future blog post about it.

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