The end of the year is a great time to look at your author website statistics. I’ve just done some analytics on the 2017 traffic to dankoboldt.com and uncovered some interesting trends. It occurred to me that this provides a useful illustration on how to understand and use author website statistics.
Don’t be intimidated by the concept of statistics. All of the things I do below are accomplished using two free, easy-to-use tools:
- The Site Stats tool in WordPress’s JetPack plugin, which provides summary statistics
- Google Analytics (GA), which analyzes site traffic and visitor behavior
GA in particular is a powerful tool for analyzing the behavior of your visitors while on your site. Not that I’m tracking you fine folks! Not at all. Because no web site tracks you in twenty different ways. If you believe that, I have a nice private island I’d like to sell you.
Author Website Traffic: Overview
The three basic metrics of visits to a website are users (unique visitors to a site), sessions (each time they visit), and page views (each page they go to). Here’s the audience overview from Google Analytics for the 2017 calendar year:
I like the miniature line graphs, which plot the daily values. The two biggest spikes are due to the deluge of traffic at each semi-annual #SFFpit event. As you can see from the summary, in 2017 my website had:
- 159,430 page views, during
- 120,890 visitor sessions, by
- 95,922 unique users
Now that we have an idea of the size of the audience, there are two obvious questions to ask: how did they find my website, and what did they come for?
My Web Traffic Sources
There are many different ways that people can find your author website. Most people think of social media as the obvious way to drive traffic. Yet as you can see from the pie chart to the right, the majority of my traffic comes from search engines.
A major reason for that is the Science in Sci-fi series, under which I routinely post keyword-rich articles 1,000 words or longer. As you’ll see in a minute, a lot of those drew thousands of visitors who searched for information about the scientific, technical, and medical aspects of science fiction.
Another thing I try to do in most articles is create a colorful title graphic to place at the top of each post. These, combined with the fact that I was an early tester of Pinterest, explain why it drives 1/4 of my web traffic. My Writing & Authorship board there has a modest but loyal following.
What’s surprising is that Twitter accounts for a paltry 6% of web traffic. I’m pretty disappointed, because Twitter happens to be where I spend most of my time online. Furthermore, it takes time and effort to promote content there, whereas search engine traffic comes on its own.
Most Popular Articles in 2017
Now we come to the fun part: figuring out what pages people visited while on my author website. The ten most-viewed articles (excluding two of mine that are runaway Pinterest hits) were:
1. Developing Fantasy Cultures (7,889 page views)
Sociologist Hannah Emery wrote this wonderful post on developing fantasy cultures from Dothraki to house elves.
2. How to Write Convincing Death Scenes (6,288 page views)
Science reporter Bianca Nogrady tackled death, or more accurately, how to write a convincing death scene.
3. A Writer’s Guide to Feudal Nobility (5,408 page views)
Classical actor and history buff Jerry Quinn wrote this “quick and dirty” guide to royal rank and address.
4. How to Design Realistic Magic Academies (5,309 page views)
Sociologist Hannah Emery had a second hit with this post on designing your own Hogwarts.
5. The Science of Jurassic Park (3,744 page views)
This has always been a popular post from microbiologist Mike Hays tackling the science (and hand-wavium) in Jurassic Park.
6. How to Describe Horses in Fiction (3,286 page views)
Horse expert Amy McKenna corrects numerous writer misconceptions about describing horses.
7. Bipolar Disorder for Writers (2,788 page views)
Psychiatrist Jonathan Peeples offered advice on what writer should know about bipolar disorder.
8. Schizophrenia for Writers (2,561 page views)
Jonatahan’s post on schizophrenia was equally popular. Should I be worried that so many writers are this keen on psychiatric disorders?
9. How to Design A Fantasy Army: Leaders (2,521 page views)
Mike Mammay wrote this article about how to build your fantasy army. He just retired after 20+ years as an army officer, so I guess he knows what he’s talking about.
10. Female Professions of Medieval Europe (2,487 page views)
History expert Jerry Quinn offered a wonderful guide to the diverse professions women worked in medieval Europe.
Popular and Unpopular Pages
Two pages on my website remain immensely popular: the Science in Sci-fi main page (8,000 views) and the #SFFpit contest page (7,400 views). Related side note, did you know that a book based on the Science in Sci-fi series will be published by Writer’s Digest this fall? But compiling my 2017 web statistics revealed a number of pages with disappointingly low traffic for the year. Among them:
- My events page, which has all of my guest posts, interviews, and in-person events. I spend a lot of time keeping this up to date, apparently for no one to read it.
- My article on how and why to write book reviews. Maybe that’s common knowledge, but I wish more people would do it!
- The killer book trailer for The Rogue Retrieval that Claribel Ortega made for me. If you haven’t watched that, seriously, go watch it.
As you might have inferred from the snarky comments above, there is a dark side to collecting your author website statistics: you learn not only which posts are popular, but which posts are largely ignored. The numbers don’t lie. Still, even this disheartening knowledge can be empowering, because it helps me plan out the content I’ll develop in the year to come.
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