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Understanding the traffic on your blog – Part 2: Traffic Quality

Posted on Jun 19th, 2009 by

funny traffic lights tree

In Part 1 of this series we concentrated on the quantity of your blog visitors. We used a case study based on the 300,000 visitors on The Road to the Horizon, my personal non-profit blog.

In Part 2, we will focus on the quality of your traffic: Based on the 7 main groups of traffic generators (Search engines, Social bookmarking sites, Direct traffic, Discussion forums, Blog catalogs, Social Media and other websites/blogs), what is the most valuable traffic? And where should we allocate more time on?

Where do most of the new visitors come from?

First and foremost, a repeat: As a blogger, your returning visitors are your most valuable resource. As a serious and target-oriented blogger, one of your main goals is to turn the occasional visitors, into returning visitors.

As we showed in the previous post, our case study blog had 15% of all traffic as returning visitors. So 85% of the 300,000 visitors are new visitors. Where do they come from?

New blog visitors by traffic source

New visitor traffic by source

This graph shows, for each traffic source, the amount of new visitors. So for example “.95″ means 95% new visitors and 5% repeat or “returning” visitors.

The largest source of new visitors are social bookmarking sites (95% new visitors, 5% repeat visitors), search engines (91% new, 9% repeats), and discussion forums (88% new, 12% repeats). These are the people we need to get interested in our blog, the ones we will need to baffle with the quality of our content, our website layout and the ease of navigation during their first visit. We need to turn these into our loyal visitors.

It is also significant to flip back to part 1 of this series to remember social bookmarking and search engine traffic accounts for 77% of the traffic on our blog, a huge market!

So.. the majority of visitors on our blog, are first time visitors, a lot of potential!

The visitors coming from social media sites (Twitter and Facebook in my case) are mostly frequent visitors (38% of them). This is no surprise as both for Twitter and Facebook, one automatically creates a social community of people one interacts with frequently, people with the same interest as you. As I post my blogpost updates on both Facebook and Twitter, members of that community frequently visit my blogposts through the links I place there.

No surprise neither that the direct traffic are mostly repeat visitors. They are my core readers community, who know my URL by heart, or have bookmarked it.

How much time do visitors spend on the blog?

Time visitors spend on a blog

Average time visitors spend on the blog, per visit (in seconds)

Here we come into the ‘quality’ aspect of blog traffic. This graph clearly shows that, for the main sources of new visitors, we have little time to convince them our blog is worth while reading.

Visitors coming in from social bookmarking sites are the most volatile, giving us 20 seconds before they are gone. Those directed by search engines spend an average of 56 seconds. That is 3x as much as Social bookmarking visitors. If anything, this shows that the SEO for this blog is done quite well: the search results give to the users relevant links. On the other hand, these figures encourage us to spend more time on giving meaningful titles to our posts in social bookmarking sites.

Of course, the people from our core readers’ community, coming in via direct traffic don’t spend the most time on our site: they type in the home page URL, read what is interesting, and after an average of one and a half minute, they are gone. No problem here.

The visitors referred by other websites – sites who link back to our blog- spend the most time on our blog. Clearly the ‘other’ blog got them interested enough to click on their link, so they spend the time, almost 2 minutes per visit, to actually read the content. One more reason to see these linkbacks as very valuable: people coming in through link backs are actually very interested in our content. Quality visits!

The biggest surprise to me, is the visitors discussion forums generate. I am not active in a lot of discussion forums. I have about 2-3 I post on regularly, either to comment or to refer to a post which might be interesting to the topic at hand. Clearly when well done, this can generate quality traffic: people who spend the time reading your contents.

Another surprise is the quality from blog catalogs, but here I think we have a particular case. Most traffic comes in from who started a new social action section. This means most of the people I interact with over there, are also socially aware, and will find the topics on my blog more interesting. In general, however, blog catalogs generate little traffic, and low quality traffic. They are only good to get your blog known, when it is still fresh and new.

Which visitors actually read more than one page?

Page visits per type of blog visitor

Page visits per type of visitors (in pages)

This graph shows the amount of pages an average visitor reads, according to the source of traffic. While at first impression, there is not much difference, remember that each visitor reads minimum one page: the “landing” or “entry” page. So the differences ARE significant:

Social bookmarking sites generate the type of visitor that comes in, and goes again. 10% reads anothere pages. This behaviour confirms what we found in the first graph (remember: they only stay about 20 seconds?): Low quality traffic.

We are quite a bit more successful with visitors coming in from search engines, blog catalogs and social media, where of the 100 visits, 30 other pages are read. This means these three types of traffic sources are important in turning an occasional visitor into a repeated visitor.

As search engines generate 39% percent of our traffic (see part I of this series) and of the 100 visits, 30 read another page. This shows a sign of interest, and an increased chance they will turn in to a loyal visitor. Rather surprising to me, as I thought search engine traffic was trashy. The figures proved me wrong.

This is once again a reminder of the importance of some basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to increase the quality of your blog’s visits through search engines, as briefly described in “Five things to do after creating a new blog”.

Clearly, amongst the most interested readers are our repeat visitors, our direct traffic, but look at those coming in via discussion forums and backlinks from other websites! Another proof of quality traffic from these sources.
You should be grateful for backlinks from other websites and blogs, and encourage people to link back to you. One simple way is to put a clear remark in your copy rights notice that you encourage people to use your content, as long as they link back!

But this graph also shows the quality of the traffic coming in from discussion forums: Once a visitor comes in from a forum, he or she will actually flip through the pages more than an average visitors.
As a blogger, I think we spend too little time in looking for discussion forums covering our interests, and we are not active enough on these forums. Or maybe we are too modest to point people to a related post on our blog? Do so! Quality traffic guaranteed…

A similar graph shows the “bounce rate”: how many people will come in on a link, read the page and then leave your site without reading one single other page?

Bounce rates per blog visit

Bounce rates per blog visit

While the previous graph showed how many pages are read per visit, this graph shows how many people read a page and ‘get out’. The lower this figure, the better: we want people to come in, and read at least one more page before going again. Preferably 3, 10, 100 other pages! :-)

Once again, this graph shows the low quality visits from social bookmarking sites: only 7% of visitors referred to us by bookmarking sites go to another page before leaving the site.

Similarly, the highest quality traffic is from the direct traffic visitors and those coming in from discussion forums and other blogs/websites, confirming what we said before.

What have we learned now?

  1. Most visitors on a blog are first time visitors and spend little time before making up their mind if they want to stay. The first impression of content, appearance and speed of your blog are important to convert them into returning visitors.
  2. - Once again – the quality of the Search Engine Optimization is important to generate quality visitors coming from search engines.
  3. Backlinks from other blogs and websites generate quality traffic, so encourage other blogs and websites to link back to you. Make it easy for them through a liberal copyright policy.
  4. Discussion forum traffic is quality traffic. Invest time on forums, and don’t be shy to include a link back to your site for relevant content.
  5. While the volume of traffic coming in from social bookmarking sites is very high, the quality is low. Make sure you have the right tools to publish a post to a bookmarking site easily and fast so you don’t spend much time on it. Put care in giving a good title and description to your bookmarked posts.
  6. Unless if you find a blog catalog geared towards your interest, catalogs generate little traffic of low quality.

In the next post, we will draw our main conclusions.

Picture courtesy Shamus O’Reilly

2 Comments to “Understanding the traffic on your blog – Part 2: Traffic Quality”

  1. LucyW says:

    It would also be interesting to see some graphs over period of time.. How they evolved as the blog got “to be known”…

  2. admin says:

    Thanks, Lucy… Think this is a good idea!


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