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Search Engine Land: January 2007 Statistics Review

Time for the second monthly update on how
Search Engine Land is growing. As I
said with my review of December 2006 traffic, I hope our traffic statistics will
be both interesting and also provide helpful tips to other search marketers.
This review especially covers social media sites as a driver of traffic. It also
covers the importance of thinking if you can produce "number stories" for social
media sites and how
being an "untrusted" site with Google can give you the frustrating experience of
watching references to your articles rank higher than the articles themselves.

For January 2007, we had about 194,000 page views, or about 6,250 page views
per day. Those are actually "AdViews," the number of times ads were shown as
reported by our ad serving software. Overall, our views went up 109 percent from
the previous month.

Our Google Analytics reports
gave us higher figures: 227,000 page views for the month, with 141,000 visitors.
It’s not uncommon for different metrics programs to give slightly different
figures, and we use the ad server for our official ones. But Google Analytics is
what we use to do the marketing breakdown on where our traffic is coming from,
which I’ll get into more below.

No Miserable Failure With Digg

Let’s do the pretty pictures. This was the traffic in January 2007:

Search Engine Land Traffic: January 2007

The two big spikes you see come from Digg. Early in the month, my
14 "Is
Google Evil?" Tipping Points Since 2001
article

hit
the site’s home page, bringing in the traffic. However, that was nothing
compared to later in the month when my
Google Kills Bush’s
Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombs
article became

popular
on Digg. That was our fourth story to be popular on Digg. It eclipsed all
the others and gave us our busiest day of the year.

How about another pretty chart? This is ALL traffic to the site since we went
live back in November, ahead of our official mid-December launch:

Search Engine Land Traffic: November 2006 - January 2007

The other spikes also come from past Diggs, as I explained in the
report for December.
But as I also said then:

Problogger had a

nice look
recently at how Digg spikes can help build a traffic up over
time. That will be great if it happens here. However, that’s not what I’m
building Search Engine Land upon.

I don’t want Digg to be my primary traffic driver any more than I want to
have a site completely dependent on Google sending traffic. A single source
simply leaves you vulnerable if something goes wrong with that source. More
and more sites are
reporting
that they’ve been banned from Digg, for example. That’s
dangerous for a new site, if their traffic strategy is all about Digg.

So for me, Digg traffic is a nice surprise, the frosting on the cake — but
I’m baking a cake with many traffic source ingredients. I’m successful if the
overall line between the spikes continues to rise.

Indeed, the spikes I’m most interested in are the little mid-week ones.
Traffic to the site is typically highest on a Tuesday or Wednesday. I want to
continue seeing each midweek non-Digg spike get larger. And that’s generally
been the trend, making me happy.

Traffic Drivers

So what sent traffic to Search Engine Land in January? We had 2,440 traffic referral sources,
double the number in December. Here were the top 25:

Source

Visits

Direct Navigation (entered URL directly; clicked
through from feed)

32,266


Google
(search related traffic)

15,628

Digg

14,170


Google Reader

&
Google Personalized Home Page

9,354


Techmeme

5,649

Bloglines

4,244

Matt
Cutts

3,298


Boing Boing

2,824


StumbleUpon

2,627

Del.icio.us

2,021

Fark

1,438

Reddit

1,306

Netvibes

1,266

Search Engine Watch Blog

1,150

Threadwatch

1,136

The
Inquirer

1,096

Search Engine Watch

1,042

Search Engine Journal

991

JenSense

970

Gmail

873


SEOmoz

852

Search Engine Guide

771


Search
Engine Roundtable

732

John Battelle

693

Top Stories & "Numbered" Articles

To cover some of the traffic sources in more depth, I thought it would be
interesting to look at the top five stories posted in January on the site (our
latest Search Month has the top ten
). Those
were, in order of popularity by unique page views:

  1. Google Kills
    Bush’s Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombs
    (22,999 views)
  2. 14 "Is Google
    Evil?" Tipping Points Since 2001
    (9,712 views)
  3. 25 Tips To
    Optimize Your Blog For Readers & Search Engines
    (8,245 views)
  4. 10 Google Feeds
    You Should Subscribe To
    (2,960 views)
  5. 2007 Guide To
    Linkbaiting: The Year Of Widgetbait?
    (2,575 views)

Notice that three of the stories are what I call "number stories," where the
headline begins with the number of tips or nuggets in the article. I’ve had a
good chuckle about this to myself over the past month. More and more, I’m aware
of the need to see if stories can be put into a format of bullet points or
"number of tips" format that seems so popular for the social media sites crowds.

When I first started writing for newspapers, USA Today has just launched,
causing a "news you can use" revolution that freaked many newspapers
writers out. I seem
to recall that USA Today even spent a lot of time and money researching the best bullet
point style to use (the little delta or arrow symbol is what came out), an
effort that opened them up to further mockery. Many at
other papers didn’t want to write dumbed-down bite-size articles that ignored
the "serious" news, as they felt USA Today was doing.

Similarly, part of me wants to ignore the tastes of the social media crowd.
But realistically — why not? None of our "numbered" articles are dumbed-down or
bite-size in anyway. But if putting the headlines in a "number" style makes them
more attractive to a growing new audience, then it’s something to consider.

Stories & Traffic

Now to the breakdown by story:

  • Google Kills
    Bush’s Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombs
    : Digg

    was
    the big driver, about 8,500 visits. Direct navigation came in at about
    2,100, followed by a Boing Boing

    mention
    sending 1,700 visits. I thought it would be a story right up their
    alley, so I used the submit page.
    Google’s Matt Cutts sent another 1,700 visitors. We’d talked about the change
    so I could do the story, and he

    linked
    to my article from his blog. The man’s a traffic powerhouse, as
    I’ve written before. Then
    Fark sent 1,400 people, and The Inquirer
    shot
    another 1,100 our way, followed by
    Techmeme
    at 910. To understand Techmeme better, see my
    Q&A With Gabe Rivera,
    Creator Of Techmeme
    post from last month.
  • 14 "Is Google
    Evil?" Tipping Points Since 2001
    : Digg

    was again
    the big driver, about4,400 visits. Next up was Reddit,
    sending about 900 visits.
    Direct navigation came in at 800 visits, then Techmeme
    sent 567 and Del.icio.us
    sent
    435.
  • 25 Tips To
    Optimize Your Blog For Readers & Search Engines
    : I covered traffic
    from this story in depth in my
    Search Engine Land:
    Top Stories & Stats, Jan. 10, 2007
    post. At the time, it got hot by doing
    well with Del.icio.us. But later in the month, it

    hit
    StumbleUpon. The traffic kept rising and rising to make StumbleUpon
    the second largest referral source, 1,150 visits, just after direct navigation
    at 1,400. Jennifer Slegg who wrote the article was the fourth biggest driver,
    via
    a link from her own traffic power house blog,
    JenSense
    .

    StumbleUpon is one of the most overlooked social media search engines, in my
    view. A self-submission, which takes all of 30 seconds, can easily send you 50
    to 100 visits. If the story gets hot, hang on!

    Watching StumbleUpon send me
    traffic was one inspiration for my Beyond Google:
    Social Media Engines First, Other Search Engines Second
    post. It was a
    wake-up call attempt that you’ve got to consider social media search engines
    right alongside the major general purpose search engines. Also, be sure to
    check out

    Build Super Links and Traffic With StumbleUpon
    from Loren Baker over at
    Search Engine Journal. I kept nodding my head as he described his experiences,
    since I’ve seen the same thing. Lots of useful tips, there.

  • 10 Google Feeds
    You Should Subscribe To
    : This sort of broke my heart, given that it
    seemed like a perfect story to go popular on Digg. It didn’t, but after direct
    navigation with 475 visits, Digg

    was
    the next biggest driver at 340. The lesson here is that even if you
    don’t make it big on Digg, being small can still send a healthy chunk of
    traffic. Those reading feeds via Google came next, 320 visits. StumbleUpon

    sent
    275 and Techmeme sent
    230.
  • 2007 Guide To
    Linkbaiting: The Year Of Widgetbait?
    : Direct navigation was by far the
    leader here, sending 700 visits. It stresses why feeds and email lists are so
    important. Your own site, don’t forget, is also traffic driver. If someone
    subscribes to your feed or an email newsletter, you can reach out to them and
    keep them informed about new content. That brings them back more easily.
    Another 220 visitors came via feed read at Google.

Feeds, Feed Traffic & Email

As I said in last month’s report, getting visitors to subscribe to
one of our feeds or an email
newsletter
is my primary goal with the site. If visitors do either, then I
have the ability to continue my relationship with them more easily over time.
Let’s see how it’s going, starting with our main site feed:

Search Engine Land Feed Growth: January 2007

The chart above shows subscriptions over time, and the number keeps rising.
We kicked above the 3,000 mark at the end of January. That was about a 1,000
subscriber gain from the month before. My goal is 15,000 subscribers by the end
of this year, as I covered
before. If growth
keeps up, we’re well on our way.

Here’s the look at how people are coming to us via the main feed:

Search Engine Land Feed Subscribers: January 2007

As for our newsletters, the
SearchCap daily newsletter
grew from 1,600 email readers to 2,500. Hurray! The
Search Month monthly
newsletter
, in contrast, stayed at about the same 700 reader level. Ugh!

Part of the problem here is that because we use FeedBurner to send email
newsletters, it’s difficult to promote both lists at once. That will change when
we take our lists in-house in a few weeks. It’ll be interesting to see if Search
Month readership then picks up.

Google News & Browse Decline

Last month, I noted how we’d been added to Google News and that this was
sending us a ton of traffic. In particular, "browse" traffic from Google News
(when you show up on Google News pages when people browse stories, rather than
keyword search) sent over 1,200 visits. That plunged to 600 in January.

What’s up? No idea. However, I heard from another site also in Google News

that over the past weeks, they’ve also seen a plunge in Google News
browse traffic. I’ll keep an eye on it. I also have a story on Google News that I’m
working up hopefully for next week.

Search Traffic

Now time to revisit how things are going with the search engines. These are
the top terms that sent us traffic in January:

google

1420

search engine land

1317

searchengineland

492

mapquest

342

map quest

205

ask.com

179

yahoo

175

danny sullivan

152

101 top stories in search 2006
sullivan

145

daniela cicarelli

135

google checkout

118

google universe

90

microsoft

80

goog

80

firefox

64

sex

60

google germany

56

site:searchengineland.com zawodny

55

google news

55

search engines

54

ask city

52

searchengineland.com

52

google earth

45

adsense

45

theseus search

44

Oddities in there, I know. Why "101 top stories in search 2006
sullivan" comes up in 145 queries is a mystery to me, too. The same is true for
"site:searchengineland.com zawodny."

Aside from oddities, I’ve posted previously about how sad our query stream
is, with the site name being the top driver of traffic. So far, things haven’t
changed. All that traffic for "google?" That’s coming off of Google News. That
search traffic for "sex." Google Blog Search (which is why the traffic
is so low!). Most of these top terms are not being
fueled out of ordinary web search.

Why not? Two reasons. First, we’re still building trust with the largest
search engine, Google. I’ve covered
this before, on how
many of our articles are simply not ranking well in Google because we aren’t
trusted enough yet. How about some illustrations?

Since we’re talking about trust, how about Eric Ward’s column here called
Are You In The Circle Of
Link Trust?
You’d expect us to rank well for that, right? Let’s see:

Circle Of Trust

Oh, too bad. For

that
search, we’re ranked 16th. That’s actually progress. In the past, some
queries where we should totally rank put us nowhere in the top 100 at all.

Going back to that query, while I know we have to earn trust with Google,
it’s easy to mock them. For example, we have the source article, and they bury it
on the second page. Instead, coming above it are 3 other articles that simply
refer to it (Techmeme, The Daily SearchCast & Search Engine Guide).

FYI, this isn’t a new issue with Google. "Googlewashing" like this
has been complained about

since 2003
. It was a key part of my 2004
article on
the miserable failure search.

Wait a minute! Did I say miserable failure! Wasn’t there something in the
news about that again recently? Oh, yeah — in fact, it was our top story last
month, as you might recall. And so what happens on Google if I do that search?

Miserable Failure: Feb. 6, 2007

Our story isn’t in the first results. WebProNews, which mentions the story,
makes it to the second page. Search Engine Guide and Search Engine Lowdown with
really short fresh stories on the subject also make it to that page. But our
comprehensive piece? Nah — we’re invisible.

Keep going through the results, and you’ll find other pages that mention our
article, including Boing Boing or our listing on Digg:

Miserable Failure: Feb. 6, 2007 Page 2

But us? Not in the top 100 listings.

Sigh. It’s stuff like this that makes Google sound like a mockery when they
suggest there is no "sandbox" or "sandbox-like effect" that holds new sites
back. Clearly from our experience, there is. It’s easy to find many searches
like the ones above, where other sites that reference our own content outrank
that content. It makes no sense, nor is it particularly relevant.

I know it will change, and I’ll patiently wait while we build up our trust —
though c’mon, just how many trusted links do they want? We’ve got plenty so far!
I’m also increasing our domain registration from the initial year I did to 10
years, which just might possibly make Google think we’re going to be around and
a tiny bit more trustworthy.

Until the trust grows, our top queries will remain coming off of vertical
search engines at Google, such as Google News Search and Google Blog Search. But
then again, those top terms made up 5,500 of our 16,000 keyword driven traffic
— 34 percent, not the majority. Despite not being that trusted, we’re still generating plenty of
traffic of the search
tail
.

To cap off search, who drove the most traffic to us?

  1. Google: 15,628 visits
  2. Yahoo: 297 visits
  3. Ask: 68 visits
  4. AOL: 63 visits
  5. Microsoft Live: 61 visits

Even for an "untrusted" site, Google’s a powerhouse.


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