01 March 2011

(tech) Determining your blog readership.

This post is because of a question on readership post a few days ago.

This one is tricky.  Getting an absolute number is very very hard.  Getting 'comparitive' numbers is very very easy.  Comparitive numbers is good enough.

In this post, I will use some technical jargon.  If something is tricky, skip it and continue with the next question. 

In this post :

  • What tools exist to determine readership, and the weaknesses of them?
  • Why using indicators is good enough?
  • What indicators so I use?
After the break reads like an advert for google.  It's not meant to be, but they do provide the tools that I use.


    What tools exist to determine readership?

    Webserver logfile.

    This is the original method of tracking traffic, included for comparison purposes, but I do not use it.
    This can (but does not always) track:
    • The apparent client IP address
    • The web resource accessed. (Web page, picture, RSS feed are all seperate requests)
    • Date and time information.
    All the web server knows about you is what address the request came from.  Most work places use a 'proxy server' to ask for your web pages for you.  So, if there are two of you at the same worksite, then you appear as a single 'client IP address'.

    Some users bounce around the website often once per page and often multiple times from a home page. Other read several pages via an RSS feed in one hit. Proxy servers (see above) can 'remember' the last time a page was read and only retrieve it once.

    Not only that, but as a user of the free blogger service, I do not have access to this logfile.

    Blogger stats

    Every user of blogger has this, as a 'tab' on the top right.  It has a very nice set of stats, showing a guess of pageviews, traffic sources, with some drilled down information.  I use this as a primary measure of readership.
    It also has shortcomings (this is my observations that may or may not be correct):
    • It think it does not capture people reading with feeds, unless they click through to your page.  I have many readers using feed readers.  I read many websites just from their feeds, using a feed reader.
    • I thnk it relies on users with javascript enabled.  I normally disable javascript using noscript.  About half of my known readers use Firefox, so I expect I am missing many users.
    • I think readers who block tracking (either employers or personally) will be missed.


    Google Analytics

    It does not matter what blog software you use, provided you have the ability (both permissions and technical skill) to modify the page headers, then Google Analytics works.  It seems to form the basis of Blogger Stats above.  The same shortcomings for Blogger stats above apply.

    Google Webmaster Tools

    I use google webmaster tools primarily to track RSS subscribers, but it also provides more information regarding web searches and 'pagerank' information.



    Why indicators are good enough.

    Bloggers have a vanity streak.  We have something to say, and think enough of it that we want you to read it too.  But unless you are getting paid per page impression, the exact numbers don't matter so much.  What matters (to me at least), is what makes my readership go up or down.

    Sometimes it is systematic, (Cata comes soon - readership goes up. Cata released - readership goes down).  Sometimes it is site specific (no new pages, political rants vs a method to get 7 guild levels in one day). 
    I have an additional advantage of being able to see the readership of a meta wow blog site network.phase3profit.net to assist with determining site specific stuff with general trends.

    What I want to (normally) do is write posts that interest both myself and the community.  Increased readership shows that whatever I am writing of is interesting.  Decreased readership shows that it is not. 

    What indicators I use.

    Primarily I use blogger stats.  It is there and easy to access.  However, I use all three of the tools available to me (google analytics, and webmaster tools) to look at additional information. 

    And for the record :

    • If you are reading my blog, you love reading posts about upcoming stuff - especially major content.  This applies when I post known stuff, or just guesses.
    • If you are reading my blog, you like reading posts about the in's and outs of glyphs.
    • If you are still reading this post, it is because you also are a blogger, or are thinking about becoming one
    • If you read my political posts, you either live in Australia, or will read anything that I publish.

    3 comments:

    1. I've been having lots of fun keeping tabs on my Stats tab in blogger. It's amazing to watch were the traffic comes from.

      One area I'm really interested in is what search terms are getting people to my blog. I may need to start looking into this SEO thing I've been hearing about these last few years.

      That said I'm a fairly big user of reddit (and /r/wow in particular). Right now I get some of my biggest spikes when I submit one of my posts there. (I'm very careful to try to not come off as spammy though. It's a community and there is a saying about not going potty where you eat.)

      That said I've been seriously been considering spearheading a new subreddit for the gold making community. I'll keep everyone posted if undecided to take the plunge. Are there any other redditors out there in the gold making community?

      ReplyDelete
    2. It may be an interesting experiment/test to create your own survey for your readers and see if this data matches with all the google tools available.

      ReplyDelete
    3. @Anon. While it may be an interesting exercise, voluntary surveys suffer from two issues.

      1. Only a small but highly variable percentage of readers participate in surveys.
      2. Of those that do participate, some may decide to 'vote' multiple times.

      ReplyDelete

    Due to the blog mostly being inactive and the only comments recently being anonymous spam; I have restricted comments to "Registered Users"; hat includes anything google recognises as an account (google, openId, wordpress etc). I am still (mostly) active on foo-eve.blogspot.com

    Blogger comments supports basic html. You can make a link 'clicky' by <a href="http://yoursite/yourpage">yoursite/yourpage</a>

    Disagreements are welcome - especially on speculative posts. I love a great disagreement.

    I have a comment moderation policy (see the pages at the top)