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Site Analytics: 2011 in Review

Let me begin by offering a few helpful dates and some words of clarification: All the data and charts below are from Google Analytics, which is wired into the main site of WoKJ (it's not wired into the forum). We launched the new version of WoKJ on Jan 19th, 2011. Any analytic data prior to that date can be attributed to the private alpha we ran. Prior to the new site, we weren't using Google Analytics, which unfortunately eliminates comparisons to the past (more on that later).

Visits per Day 2011:

For a long time we've known WoKJ's traffic is affected by the seasons. People are more likely to find us, and visit frequently, when big name films are in theaters. During the summer, you'll see noticeable spikes on the weekends of Green Lantern, Harry Potter, Captain America, and Planet of the Apes, as well as spikes on weekends in general.

I like looking at the graph breaking our traffic down weekly, it smooths out some of those peaks and gives a good overview of volume in a manageable time frame. Let's take a look at how our traffic fared at a high level over the course of the year: The new site launched on January 19th and we settled in around 1200 to 1400 visits a week throughout January, February, and March. In April and May, the average bumped up to a fairly consistent 2100 visits. June, July and August improved moderately, stabilizing above 2200 each week with peaks up over 3100 visits a week. Traffic then fell into a 1550 to 1800 range for September, October and November, before climbing to average more than 2400 visits a week in December.

Visits per Week 2011:

What's this tell me? It can be a lot to digest, and this is just the high level. I start pondering questions like: Did Google's referrals change at all? Are the people on the site behaving differently now than when we launched? What do I want to change in the underlying numbers? How can I create that change?

Once the cacophony of questions subsides, one of the realities I'm faced with is an inability to compare these numbers to prior data.  Without prior data, conclusions are relegated to guesswork due to the seasonality of traffic.  I can infer a variety of things, but I would love to compare Q1 of 2011 to Q1 of 2010. Unfortunately, that type of comparison won't be possible until we start looking at 2012 numbers. Still, there is valuable information here.


Google

For better or worse, Google is the traffic cop on the Internet. A major site upheaval effectively wiping a web site's prior content from the face of the Internet can be detrimental to the traffic Google sends your way.  Funny, that's exactly what we did.  After our initial launch, our Organic Search traffic was steady around 220 visits a week, and it continued at that volume all the way until the end of March. Between March 26th and April 23rd something changed, and we gained about 120 visits a week, each week, landing at around 700 visits a week in Organic Search Traffic. This bump directly correlates with the overall visits bump we saw in the yearly visits graph, and is the primary driver of the increase.

Organic Search Traffic by Week 2011:

The seasonality of our traffic at first glance also seems to apply to Organic Search traffic, with noticeable bumps coming in the summer and winter. However, drilling further into the drivers of those bumps you find that Game of Thrones drove a huge amount of summer traffic, while Anne Hathaway and Catwoman are the cause of the huge spike in December.

The key in this sector is that our overall Organic Search traffic trend is a positive one. We launched the site with a small volume, and have been able to grow the amount of traffic coming inbound via organic searches. I expect this trend to continue, and it's my hope that we do better in 2012 than we did in 2011. The articles that do well via organic search are fairly random, and just happen to hit the right keywords at the right time. The more articles we have, the more volume we should see.

Back in October, I linked our Analytics account with our Webmaster Tools account. What that gives us is the ability to see the volume of impressions our site is generating on Google. I think the graph helps illustrate the general upward trend I hope will continue:

Google Impressions by Day 2011:


Top Content

We had four articles crack the top ten most visited pages on WoKJ in 2011. Those were the Game of Thrones Reference and Resource Guide (9016 hits), Evolution of Catwoman (5671 hits), Movies 2011 - January to March (3541 hits), and Top 5 Best Rom-Coms of the '00s (3252 hits). Each article took it's own unique route to a high volume of traffic. Game of Thrones saw massive volume throughout the TV shows airing, then tapered. Catwoman saw very little volume throughout the year, but had two massive spikes of traffic. Movies 2011 - January to March did very well seasonally, but had a continued trickle for the remainder of the year. The Top 5 Rom Coms has been steadily consistent throughout the year, with it's volume ending the year at it's highest point.

Overall, we had 64,829 page views, from over 50,000 unique people. Below you can see the top ten articles of the year.

Pageviews by Week 2011:

Top 10 Articles by Visits 2011:

Google Analytics recently added the ability to integrate with your Adsense account (which WoKJ uses to serve ads), so we can now also track how all aspects of the main site do generating revenue. We turned it on in October, and from that point until the end of the year, we made $4.89 off of 22,495 ad impressions. Here's a breakdown of the top 10 money making pages on our site:

Top 10 Articles by Revenue 2011:

It's at this point we need to offer a huge thank you to all of our writers. The traffic that finds WoKJ comes here to read your content, and without it, this site goes back to what it was before you: an inconsistently updated website with no voice. You are the voice, and we can't thank you enough for letting us be your soap box.

 

Demographics

The demographics section can be a lot of fun. It still amazes me the reach we have, and how much of the globe visits WoKJ.

Location Map 2011:

Top 10 Countries by Visits 2011:

Location Map in USA 2011:

Top 10 States by Visits 2011:

I also enjoy taking a quick look at what browsers our users are visiting with, and their screen resolution. In both metrics, we skew technically savvy.

Top 10 Browsers by Visits 2011:

Top 10 Screen Resolutions by Visits 2011:

 

Closing Thoughts

Well, that about closes the book on 2011. We launched the new site, the future of WoKJ, and above are the results. Moving forward, we want to increase visibility to the amazing content on the site by improving content discovery as well as taking the time to finish fleshing out the unfinished sections, bringing the site out of beta in late 2012.

I'll be back in April, July and October with articles looking at Q1, Q2 and Q3 of 2012 in comparison to 2011. I'm excited, I hope you'll keep reading, writing, and offering your feedback! 

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Total Comments: 8
Patrick Ferrara
Patrick Ferrara    Jan 14 2012 12:47am
Karl where's the discrepancy between Analytic's article counts and WoKJ's own article view counts? Are Analytic's numbers only unique page views? The horribly-in-need-of-an-update GoT Reference & Resource Guide shows it has a little over 14,000 page views; could it have gotten another 5K views in the first two weeks of January alone??

Just gonna shout this out my GoT Season 2 coverage will destroy the 2012 traffic lists. BRING IT CRUX WITH YOUR CATWOMAN SCOOPS!
Patrick Ferrara
Patrick Ferrara    Jan 14 2012 12:48am
By the way great year overview, love these site analytics articles.
Jack Sparrow
Jack Sparrow    Jan 14 2012 1:06am
As always amazing article and intriguing data to read :)
Karl Schneider
Karl Schneider    Jan 14 2012 1:17am
Pat,

You've pointed out one of the flaws of Google Analytics, it simply doesn't register every single hit a page receives. If you want the true, raw data, you need to go to the server logs. Yet, the power of Google Analytics is how deep into the data it lets you dig, server logs don't provide the pretty glanceable graphs.

Our view counts ups the count each time the page is loaded (so long as it's not the author loading the page). It is more accurate than Google Analytics, which sometimes misses hits. From a statistical perspective, Google Analytics doesn't need to show you each and every hit for it's analytical depth to provide value, it just needs to capture a valid cross sample, which it does.
Karl Schneider
Karl Schneider    Jan 14 2012 1:20am
I should also address: Google Analytic's article counts are not only unique page views. It separates between unique and returning visitors, and gives you quite a few tools to dig into each group and how they use the site.
Bluebomb
Bluebomb    Jan 14 2012 9:25am
Wow, one of my articles made it into the top 10 of the year.

By the way, what do Bounce Rate and % exit mean?
Karl Schneider
Karl Schneider    Jan 14 2012 5:14pm
Bounce rate is the percentage of people who landed on a page and left the site after that page. Bounces are always one page sessions.

Exit rate is the percentage of people who left your site from that page. Exits may have viewed more than one page in a session. That means they may not have landed on that page, but simply found their way to it through site navigation, and decided they were done after that page.

You want a low exit rate on pages that are supposed to be facilitating navigation, like the home page for example.
David
David    Jan 16 2012 9:13am
Cool, my Twilight review was the most profitable. ;-)