Steven Hodson of WinExtra posted a screenshot of his personal WordPress stats for the last three years last night. I then posted my stats for a similar period of time, and Steven shot back with some question about traffic, and the ebbs and flows of readers.
Being the stats nut that I am, I went and pulled the data from my own tracking data, and came up with this.
I made a conscious choice to analyze what year the posts being read were posted in. I wanted to understand when people read my content, which content kept people coming back over and over again. The chart above speaks for itself: through most of the last year it’s clear that the most popular posts were made in 2005.
What is also interesting is the decreasing interest in 2007 posts as 2008 progressed. Posts from 2006 remained steady, as there are a number of posts in that year that amount to my self-help guides to Web compression, mod_gzip, mod_deflate, and Web caching for Web administrators.
This data is no surprise to me, as I posted my rants against Gutter Helmet and their installation process in 2005. Those posts are still near the top of the Google search response for term “Gutter Helmet”. And improving the performance of a Web site is of great interest to many Apache server admins and Web site designers.
What is also clear is that self-hosting my blog and the posting renaissance it has provoked has driven traffic back to my site.
So, what lessons did I learn from this data?
- Always remember the long tail. Every blogger wants to be relevant, on the edge, and showing that they understand current trends. The people who follow those trends are a small minority of the people who read blogs. Google and other search engines will expose them to your writings in the time of their choosing, and you may find that the three year-old post gets as much traffic as the one posted three hours ago
- Write often. I was in a blogging funk when my blog was at WordPress.com. As a geek, I believe that the lack of direct control over the look and feel of my content was the cause of this. In a self-hosted environment, I feel thta I am truly the one in charge, and I can make this blog what I want.
- Be cautious of your fame. If your posts are front-loaded, i.e. if all your readers read posts from the month and year they are posted in, are you holding people’s long-term attention? What have you contributed to the ongoing needs of those who are outside the technical elite? What will drive them to keep coming to your site in the long run?
So, I post a challenge to other bloggers out there. My numbers are miniscule compared to the blogging elite, but I am curious to get a rough sense of how the long tail is treating you.