Dead Blog CSI: Analyzing the Traffic to My Dormant Blog

On November 15, 2010, I stopped blogging.  Then, on April 5, 2011, I started blogging again.

In the five-ish months that this blog was dormant, my traffic (which previously topped 10,000 unique visitors per month) dwindled to less than 9,000 uniques in total during that time.

On one hand, that’s entirely expected, since I wasn’t producing new content.

On the other hand… I wasn’t producing new content, so what the hell were 2,000 people reading every month?

Here’s what Google Analytics tells me about my downtime:

  • 9,553 page views
  • 8,080 unique visitors
  • 85% of my total traffic came from new visitors
  • Single days with more than 100 views: 1
  • Average time spent on site: 1:48
  • Average page views: 1.6
  • Bounce rate: 75%

The top 10 most-viewed posts during my downtime?

  1. 10 Tips for Running a Successful Coffee Shop (1,033)
  2. 10 Tips for Funding a Successful Kickstarter Campaign (863)
  3. Tips for Running a Profitable Coffee Shop (553)
  4. The 10 Reasons Anyone Follows Anyone on Twitter (522)
  5. Can Another Company’s Branding Damage Yours? (351)
  6. 10 Words That Don’t Mean Anything (196)
  7. Talk Less, Do More (187)
  8. Calling Bullshit on Socialnomics (140)
  9. 10 Tips for Making New Year’s Resolutions You Might Actually Keep (131)
  10. 3 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Chronic Underachiever (115)

And, since 55% of my traffic during that stretch was search-driven, what were the top 10 keywords that fueled this traffic?

  1. kickstarter tips (194)
  2. talk less do more (95)
  3. stephen fry interview (58)
  4. how to run a successful cafe (54)
  5. successful coffee shops (43)
  6. words that don’t mean anything (43)
  7. excuse me kickstarter (33)
  8. how to run a successful coffee shop (31)
  9. mike bradecich (31)
  10. socialnomics review (31)

Quick observations:

  • People love lists and tips — especially when they’re searching.  Call them the poor man’s excuse for creating a post headline, but they obviously work.
  • I just ran a search for “kickstarter tips” (no quotes) and my blog post is the top return, which explains its prominence atop my traffic results.
  • 7 of my top 25 inbound search results involve some variation of “successful cafe” (no quotes), which accounts for both of my cafe-related posts retaining their long tail popularity.
  • Those cafe-related search terms also result in some of my lowest bounce rates (under 70%) and above-average page views (1.7 to 2.06), which leads me to believe that if someone finds one of my two cafe-related posts, they’ll click through to the other (which is automatically suggested as a “Possibly Related Post” at the end of both posts).

As for the wild card in all of this, you may be asking yourself: Who is Mike Bradecich?

He’s the actor who plays the “If it fits, it ships” postman in all the US Postal Service commercials, and the underhanded Verizon FiOS guy in the Comcast commercials.  It’s that duality which prompted my otherwise inexplicably popular “Can Another Company’s Branding Damage Yours?” post.

(NOTE: You know what the really weird part is?  That post had my lowest bounce rate of all — 52%.  Since it’s the only time he’s mentioned on the blog — except for here — I’d love to know what made half of the people who were searching for Mike Bradecich decide to stick around and browse through the rest of my blog.)

So, Why Am I Telling You This?

Because I think three takeaways may help guide your own long tail blogging strategy.

TIP #1: Variety Is the Spice of a Long Blogging Life. Even though I wasn’t updating or actively promoting my blog during those 5 months, I was still attracting hundreds of cumulative views across a wide variety of posts.

Granted, those views may have been more useful to me if they’d all been aggregated around a smaller central core of topics, rather than such a wide, unconnected variety.  But I wasn’t actively looking to convert that traffic into anything during my hiatus, so it was a moot point at that time.

TIP #2: Keywords Matter. Notice how often the search terms that prompted traffic were phrases already found in my blog titles?  As basic a lesson as that may be, it helps to see it proven in the data.

TIP #3: Don’t Waste Good Keywords on Bad Content. No one likes finding exactly what they want and then discovering that it’s anything but.  Now that I see what people are stumbling across without me even trying, I can see which topics I should be creating more (and better) content to support.

And now that I’m blogging again on a regular basis, all those dormant numbers are already being outperformed.  Yesterday’s post (What Mashable Isn’t Telling You About Facebook) garnered 1,627 page views in its first day, which means I’m on pace to resume my former traffic levels within my first month back in the saddle.

Of course, it helps that I didn’t completely de-network while I wasn’t blogging, and that 718 of my subscribers stuck around (according to Google Reader).  But I’m still surprised — and flattered — that my numbers have bounced back this quickly.

Now, what to do with all this traffic…

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  • Matt Martin

    Good to see some data support a variety of posts on a blog. Most bloggers preach that you have to have a consistent theme to generate good traffic. I think that if you create good content, make it searchable, build good relationships online and offline, your site will be found.nnGlad to see you back!

  • Justin Kownacki

    Thanks Matt! I’d actually agree with the “one topic is more” argumentrn*if* a blogger’s business was built around a specific theme orrnservice. But I’m also a fan of diversifying revenue streams, whichrnmeans I’m also a fan of building a blog that provides value tornmultiple audiences. Having a plan in place to make use of thatrntraffic diaspora would be the next step, and it’s one that I’mrnconsidering now. Cheers.

  • Anonymous

    I know I linked you maybe once or twice pointing people to relevant posts when talking on Twitter (when I could find and remember specific ones).nnAlso I checked weekly or a couple times a week as your blog was in that folder in my bookmarks. Habit, less than a second wasting a click when no new post was presented.

  • Jason Cable

    I didn’t visit the website, as I rarely visit blog sites, but I did keep you in Google Reader… Keywords are everything. As an owner of 2 stagnant blogs, I see quite a bit of traffic also via good keywords.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for posting this and sharing your data. Very interesting and useful. While my subject matter is extremely different, I have been wondering about ways to create content that has a longer shelf life, and that isn’t so connected to the topical news. Lists are something I’ve not really tried to do. I’m going to work on that. nnAppreciate the reminder about keywords as well. So, often I think I select keywords that are too general, and need to work harder to use keywords that will find more specific content.

  • Justin Kownacki

    Keywords really are a knife fight. The sharper they are, the morernspecific your inbound traffic will be, but at the expense ofrngenerality. One way to make up for that is to link back to your ownrnrelated posts often, and using alternate keywords that you didn’t usernin your original title. If your post is called “How I Quit Cable,rnFell in Love with Roku and Never Looked Back,” you can always refer tornit later with phrases like “easy way to quit cable,” “the benefits ofrnRoku over cable,” “reasons to quit cable,” etc. If you make your longrntail strategy into a habit, you’ll cover your bases in both directionsrn(title + inbound).

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