Sunday, June 1, 2008

Do You Want Traffic or Readers?

Personally, as far as this blog goes the historical answer has been neither. :-) It started as an experiment and I don’t love the domain name on this site much (at least not for the type of things I mostly want to write about). I have, but I need to go through some hoops of bureaucracy with Network Solutions and inertia is winning.

So while for this blog it’s neither, for TVbytheNumbers it’s probably both – we want traffic and readers. Ideally, we want traffic that has the highest chances of converting people to regularly reading our blog. It’s a niche though (television industry metrics, largely focused on the Nielsen ratings) so we’re not going to have millions of readers. But, the interest in the niche itself is bigger than I thought it would be.

Good Traffic or Bad Traffic?

There are easy metrics for this. Traffic that bounces immediately after arriving isn’t good traffic.

I bring any of this up because I took a glance at our blog stats for today shortly after noon and we’re on pace to have one of our biggest days of the week which is odd because Sunday is usually our worst day. I could tell that traffic was up and that it was largely bad just at a glance because the average time on site which is normally around three minutes was one minute.

The Culprit?

The traffic came from writing a brief post about the MMA (mixed martial arts) matchup featuring a Kimbo Slice. The ratings (which I still haven’t seen) are interesting to me and on-topic for our site because it’s the first time an MMA bout had been aired on broadcast network television. I largely put up the brief post before bed because I wanted to note that although we’d sooner or later see the overnight ratings, as they only go through 11pm and the broadcast, including all of the Slice/Thompson bout were on after 11pm, we’d not see the ratings until Tuesday. I also indicated it was fairly brutal and probably something better to watch in low definition than high defintion and did a very brief write-up on the last bout.

The Real Culprit: People Love Pictures

Because we’re a multi-author blog and do at least one and usually more daily post and are a multi-author blog, we were accepted into Google News. Normally it doesn’t drive a ton of traffic because people aren’t generally using Google News to find out about ratings. But the weekly ratings posts, posts about DVR viewing and any post at all mentioning Battlestar Galactica do get some traffic even via Google News. News both was and wasn’t the culprit for the traffic spike. It wasn’t in this sense: people were not actually arriving at our site via browsing and searching in Google news.

But, I’d posted a picture in the post and Google News made a thumbnail of that picture and what happens is that on organic Google searches, if there is “news”, it is displayed at the top of the organic search results. And while our article isn’t ever displayed itself, Google rotates the pictures and every so often the picture is the one from our post, and then bam – traffic spike. Below is an example of how it works in Google search – sometimes our site appeared where the picture that links to “Bleacher Report” is:

Mixed Feelings

87% of the traffic to that page bounced. I don’t love high bounce rates. On the other hand, it was a pretty high number (2000 visits by noon just for that page) so there were around 250 people who stuck around and poked around. As a preference I’d rather write something that makes people want to stick around. But you can write something that 20 people will see and like, and bookmark or subscribe to your site’s feed. Or you can write something that 2000 people will see, that only 250 will be interested in, and only 20 people will like enough to come back again. In the end it will drive some repeat traffic, but it also caused a lot of people to think, “Nope, that’s not what I want.”

The nature of things is that if you write about things like historical NBA Post Season Broadcast Ratings, some people will find it via searching just on “NBA finals” and that will produce high bounce rates as well (as high as 95%!). I don’t think there’s really any way around that until Google and the other search engines figure it out someday.

Until then, It’s probably best to not obsess over bounce rate, but I don’t want to deliberately create content that will mostly bounce just for the traffic either. But even the bad traffic will bring in a few good readers.


Shashi Bellamkonda said...

Hi Robert,

Good post and I agree you can get all the traffic you need that doesn't have value if you don't convert them to readers.

I work for Network Solutions and would liek to help if you need it.



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if you want to learn more about your traffic give Pagealizer a visit. they help you analyze your page traffic by showing you how long people stay on your page, when they click and how far down the page they scrolled.

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