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What I Learned From A Little Extra Mustard And A Ton Of Traffic

Posted Sep 09 2008 2:16am

Sports Illustrated’s Extra Mustard

When I posted the 2008 College football helmet schedule about a month ago, I never expected it to be my most popular post with close to 17,000 hits in two days and over 2,800 downloads.

When I logged into my Wordpress dashboard last Thursday, my jaw dropped and almost hit the floor when I realized that I got a link back from Sports Illustrated’s “ Hot Clicks ” by Jimmy Traina. Apparently Sports Illustrated gets some serious traffic because from that one single link I’ve received > 16,000 hits. Seeing that kind of traffic on my blog made me realize how tiny Building Camelot is in the grand scheme of things. I guess college cheerleaders and football are more important to most guys than wanting to become better men, husbands and fathers.

Niche blogs like mine don’t typically see a ton of traffic on any given day. After this traffic spike I thought I’d share some of the things that I learned and hopefully help educate other bloggers about traffic spikes, bounce rate and visitor behavior.

Building Camelot Traffic Dashboard :

Google Analytics: Dashboard Stats for Building Camelot

If you use Google Analytics then this screen shot will look familiar to you. If you’re not familiar with Google Analytics, and you’re serious about wanting to build a better blog, I’d highly suggest getting it set up for your blog. It’s free, easy to install and provides you with some incredible insight into your blog readers and traffic sources.

I also use real-time stat tracking software from Woopra but I exceed the 10,000/day hit limit with my beta account. It was amazing to see 100 people on my little blog at one time. I typically average just a few visitors at a time so to see this many people reading my blog at the same time was a real eye-opener.

Traffic Spikes Do Not Always Mean Good Traffic :

I’m happy and thankful that I got a link back from Sports Illustrated and don’t get me wrong, but the traffic was pretty poor. Well, either the traffic was poor or my website didn’t have enough “sticking power” for all of those visitors.

In the screen shot above you’ll see 2 small, bright green boxes highlighting two key metrics all webmasters should be aware of… bounce rate {on the left} and average page views {on the right}. How much time and effort you put into improving those metrics is up to you. Maki over @ Dosh Dosh wrote up a great article about bounce rate appropriately named: How to Analyze and Improve the ‘Bounce Rate’ for Your Website.

Basically my bounce rate sucks …it averages around 80%! That means that 8 out of 10 people that visit this site don’t look at even one other page. It’s a little disheartening to see those kinds of numbers and it’s something that I try to improve regularly. When I had all of those visitors my bounce rate was ~83%. That’s only 3% above average, but if you consider how many people visited my site that day that’s a big jump.

Bounce rate’s web metric buddy is average page views. Obviously if you have a high bounce rate your corresponding page views will be low. I’m no exception… average page views for Building Camelot is around 1.3. During the traffic spike my page views dropped to 1.2. Not a big drop, but again, considering how many people were on my site tell me something…I need to make my blog stickier by making my popular content easy to find.

Bottom line is that I wasn’t able to capitalize on all that traffic and engage them enough to become regular readers through RSS or email updates.

It’s Tough Out Here For A Blogger :

Another thing that I learned is that nobody, and I mean nobody clicks on advertisements. I’m not looking to get rich as a blogger, but it would be nice to offset some of the cost (and mainly time) that goes into blogging. Granted I only have one ad running in my right sidebar, I thought maybe a few people would have clicked on the ad. I would be a little more encouraged even if 1% of those visitors clicked on an ad (about 170 clicks). But, it’s all a learning lesson.

I’m considering changing from banner ads to text link ads to draw a few more clicks from visitors. Text link ads tend to blend in better with your content and won’t distract people from finding your real content. By the time you read this, I will probably have updated my ad in the sidebar. I don’t plan on embedding text ads into my posts because I think they are distracting and overall they just aren’t worth it to my readers.

I’m currently testing and using ads from the Pepperjam Network. Why Pepperjam and not AdSense? Well, one of the main reasons is because I can control what ads I want displayed on my site. One thing that bugs the crap out of me is when I’m on a site and none of the ads are relevant to that site’s content. Adsense “tries” to match ads with the content of the page, but all too often the ads don’t add any value to the page. If you’re on my page, I want to show you some ads that you might actually click on. If you’re looking for better control of your text links, you have to consider the Pepperjam Network.

Be A Boy Scout And Be Prepared :

My hosting provider, Blue Host, probably never notices the activity and bandwidth usage of Building Camelot on a day-to-day basis. But when 2,800 people downloaded the 1.5 MB zip file, my total data transfer amount was over 4 gigs! That’s nowhere close to my total allotted bandwidth, but it made me appreciate hosting my site on a stable server. If anything came out of the traffic spike is maybe someone will remember my site and come back later on, If my site had been down, there would be no chance for potential repeat visitors.

Another important element that helped keep my site visible to everyone was the WP Super Cache plugin. This plug in is available for Wordpress and helps ease the load on your web servers in the event you have a large spike in traffic. Now, my spike wasn’t anywhere close to 200,000 hits (click the link for example) and I’m not sure how much the plug in had to kick in, but it’s nice knowing that my site is ready for that kind of volume.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’ve learned as blogger and if you have experienced any spikes in traffic. Leave me a comment below!

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