Is Google Analytics The Only Viable Traffic Entity?

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was doing an experiment on one of my other blogs by writing a blog post a day for a month. Tomorrow ends that month and, though it’s been harder than any other challenge I’ve ever given myself, I’ll close out the month by accomplishing that feat; yay for me! lol

alex logo 1
Creative Commons License brar_j via Compfight

Yet, something happened that I thought was really strange. Usually having a lot of content helps your traffic ranking go up; at least via Alexa, which is the only easily visible tool I have to go by. Instead, every day my ranking went down until, with a week to go, I was suddenly unranked. What the hey?

Last year I wrote an article talking about how writing a blog post a day didn’t work for one of my other blogs for December 2015. However, I figured that one out, realizing it had more to do with mobile speed than anything regarding the actual content. Yet, even then my ranking didn’t drop, but pretty much stayed the same.

This time though… well, I was a bit dismayed by what I was seeing. I figured it was time to do take a look at my traffic via Google Analytics, which is always recommended, as the first step towards a traffic audit.

You can imagine my surprise when I saw that, instead of my traffic falling, it had actually increased over 300% from the previous 30 days. A couple of the posts actually got some pretty nice traffic, which is rare for that blog since most of the content is about local stuff. So then… if my traffic actually increased, why did Alexa drop me into the void?

I don’t have anything definitive; truthfully, I’ve always seen Alexa as kind of a global barometer of website health and nothing overly specific. I’ve never added the toolbar because the way I saw it, I’d be ranking myself against only other sites that used it instead of everyone. It sounded good on paper.

I decided to do what I do; research it. I came across this post titled Alexa Rank Dropping Fast in April 2016 – [Case Study], which looked at a lot of very popular and large sites and tracked how their traffic had decreased drastically… at least via Alexa. One of the funny stats is that Alexa’s own site lost ground as well.

The article alluded to a blog post by Alexa themselves talking about an increase in the size of Alexa’s Global Traffic Panel… whatever that is. Supposedly by doing this particular thing, more websites would see their rankings increase; nope didn’t happen. Actually, it was intriguing to find out that Alexa even had a blog.

After that… there were very few articles about it that were recent. Most of the discussion traffic was on forums… and that was fruitless, with most of the responders saying “why are you concerned with Alexa anyway?” A couple stated something about it being related to something in our .htaccess files. I did notice that a couple months after changing those on all my sites when I was working on my mobile speed that Alexa stopped showing my traffic growing and all of them started going in the other direction. The timing was close but a bit imprecise so that doesn’t seem like a viable conclusion in my case.

I get that. I’ve heard that one for years, and while I’ve always taken a slightly different view about it’s importance, I also recognized that those same traffic numbers didn’t quite match what I was seeing in my Analytics panel, let alone matching up to what I was seeing on other blogs whose traffic I knew was less than my own. At the same time, I was usually only doing month by month comparisons, almost never looking at 90-day totals, which Alexa is based on.

Regardless, after all these years I’ve finally come to the conclusion that Alexa isn’t getting the job done any longer. At this juncture, the only site I know that’s giving me accurate traffic numbers… even if I don’t always like them. I’ve removed the app I’ve always used to track Alexa and I’m not replacing it with anything. I realize it’s time to track my traffic using Google and nothing else for the moment… unless one of you responds and tells me of something else that’s worth taking a look at to compare with other sites.

Traffic numbers are important because all of us hopes to get as many people as possible to look at what we’re doing on our blogs, whether we’re trying to make money from it or not. Looking at your traffic and how people are finding you is pretty important stuff. Most of it probably has to do with how you decide to market yourself but content is, in my opinion, as important as the marketing piece. As long as you’re using a credible tool, at least you’ll have an idea of what you might need to do to change things.

Alexa, unfortunately, isn’t it…
 

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Google Analytics And Your Blocked Keywords

About two weeks ago I read a post by our buddy Darnell Jackson of youronline.biz titled Is Google Blogger Blocking? His premise was that if you look at your Google Analytics and check to see what keywords you’re being found for that your highest number will be blocked and thus Google’s withholding critical information all of us who do SEO work or try to optimize our content for certain words and phrases can’t fully get the job done. He also sees it as a monetary thing of sorts, and he points to the reality that you could be number one for your search term but if someone ponies up the bucks they’ll actually show up ahead of you.

Bank of America security trying to prevent me from taking a photo during the Iraq war protest
Steve Rhodes via Compfight

It’s a post that should be read, and I did leave a comment on it. However, I was getting ready to go out of town for a conference and didn’t have time to really look at it. That’s what this post is about, and it’s not pretty. I agree with Darnell on a lot of it, but I’m not so sure about the money side of it all; here’s my thoughts and research.

I decided to scan the net to see what others were saying about this. I came across many articles for when this first started occurring. What Google determined to do was not show searches for people who were signed into their Google account. They would count the search, but wouldn’t reveal what terms were being searched for. Matt Cutts also stated at the time that this figure would end up being a single digit percentage, which was his way of saying that this information wouldn’t be all that pertinent to us anyway.

You know I had to check that. I went into Analytics and looked at this blog. The terminology Analytics uses is “not provided“, and the percentage of terms it accounts for… 78%! I’m thinking that doesn’t look like a single digit percentage to me. I had to look at my other blogs. My business blog: 85%. My local blog: 55%. My finance blog: 92%. My SEO blog: 74%.

Kind of staggering isn’t it? The remaining search terms make absolutely no sense; there’s nothing one can do with most of them in knowing what to try to work on.

I wondered if it only had this type of effect on blogs, although I was betting the answer would be no. My thinking was that it’s possible that because there’s so much content on blogs when compared to regular websites that maybe the figures would skew differently. The numbers? Main business site: 51%. Secondary business site: 56%. Medical billing site: 34%. Anti-smoking site: 69%. Sales/marketing site: 51%.

This indicates that overall the numbers are lower with regular websites, but they’re still quite punitive aren’t they? Do you think this is helpful at all? What’s the point of having something called Analytics if you can’t get any Analytics? For that matter, why hide search terms when you’re not going to identify the person whose using those terms?

On this front I totally agree with Darnell. It’s unfair and illogical and I’m surprised more people aren’t up in arms about this. Actually that’s not quite true; lots of people wrote about it when it first occurred, but the numbers were much lower then. There are some folks who are writing about it now along with Darnell and myself, such as this article from Website Magazine, but it’s hard to find new stuff. It seems that most SEO folks have resolved to live with it or find another way around it. I have to admit I haven’t paid much attention because I use a Firefox plugin called Rank Checker & type in search terms I’m trying to rank well for on many websites.

Where I don’t agree with Darnell as much is that it’s about money. People have always been able to pay their way to the top, and that hasn’t changed one bit. Instead, what I believe is that Google is working harder on authorship and search related to people we know when we’re signed in.

Over the past couple of years Google seems to have been pushing for “relationship marketing“, if you will, and one of the things I’ve talked about is how you can search for something and see things people you know have either written or recommended in some way before almost anything else. I’m adding the word “marketing” because I think their initial intention was that people would review restaurants and stores and then Google could find ways of contacting those stores, showing them the numbers, and then getting them to pay for extra advertising.

At this point I doubt it’s working quite that way, but I think that’s where they’re going, and though it touches upon money, I think it’s more about relationships, at least right now.

Overall I don’t like it, but other than use something like I’m using there’s little anyone can do about it. Have you checked your Analytics lately? Are some of you using other programs to check statistics with?
 

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Google Analytics Real Time Reporting

By now I’m betting that most people know that if you run Google Analytics you can look at your websites and see if anyone is on there that moment and what they’re looking at. If you didn’t know it, well, you do now. If you did, I’m betting that 90% of you haven’t gone to take a look, and that 90% of you that haven’t gone to take a look aren’t even sure how to do it. I’m taking care of that for you right now.

The first thing you do is to log into your Google Analytics program. Then you decide which website you track is the one you want to look at. If you only have the one then you’re good to go; I’m tracking more than 20 so I have to click on the website, and once it opens I click on the link next to the word “default”.

Once you have your main window open and you’re looking at the stuff you’re used to seeing you go up and click on the word “Home”. Once you’ve done that you then click on “real time (beta)”. That opens up something that looks like the image below:

What you’re seeing here is that when I went to look at whether or not someone was on this blog at the time I was looking at it, I saw 2 people were there. At the top you’ll see that it tracks how long someone is on the site at the present time, and if there were any bars on the right side at the top it would mean they just got there and had been there less than 60 seconds. On the left side at the top is minutes; the small bars tells you how many minutes a person has been on a particular article, while the big bars tells you how long someone’s been on your site. I have to admit that looking at this it’s kind of freaky that someone’s been on the site for that long, but then I don’t always close the windows of blogs or websites I visit when I’m done looking at them.

What you can’t see in this picture is that below here it will tell you the keywords someone used to end up on your site, if they came through a search engine, and then where in the world the person’s accessing your site from. Man, I never knew there were that many cities in the world I’d never heard of, let alone can’t pronounce.

When you look at your menu (where “real time” is) on the left you can check out location, traffic sources and content, which closely mirror what you see on the main real time page, but will give you a bit more if you have more than one or two people on the site at a time. I’ve been checking in on this here and there for about a week, just getting used to seeing it. It’s late night here on the East Coast of the U.S. as I’m writing this, so only seeing 2 people on this late at night makes sense; one of the people was in some city in Asia, but I can’t tell you where (I don’t think it’s Carl, but I wouldn’t be surprised). During one day I did an experiment where I tweeted a link to an article just to see what would happen and I had 6 people on at one time; that was kind of cool.

Just something else you can do with Google Analytics that I should I’d share; give it a shot some day.
 

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My Failed Sidebar Experiment And Why I Can’t Change It

Sometimes you read something that sounds pretty cool and decide to give it a shot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time you just correct things or change things and move on; this time, it’s not happening.


by striatic

If you look to the left side of this blog you’ll see something that I’m calling my Top Ten Favorite Posts. I don’t even remember which blogs I read this on, but at the time it really sounded like a great idea. The belief was that if you shared your top 10 posts with others, not only would they get an idea of the types of things you write about on your blog but that they’d become some of the most visited pages on your blog, which would help your rankings because people would be paying more attention to some of your older posts.

I went through my blog and selected what I considered as a pretty representative list of my top 10 favorite posts and popped it over there. I didn’t use a widget because my these doesn’t support widgets on the left side. I actually have to code everything that’s on the left side of my blog by going through the Editor, which most of you new folks or non-technical people shouldn’t even try. I removed whatever else was using that space, put those posts there, and figured life would be sweet.

I’ve had those posts there for 5 weeks, which of course means more than a month. I checked Google Analytics and the results are in; that idea is a flop. Out of the 10 articles, only one cracked the top ten, the one on diabetes, and it’s sitting at #50. As a matter of fact, it’s the only one in the top 100 as well. Major come down from what seemed like a great idea.

I wanted to replace those and pop something else in there. I also want to remove the Chitika ad on the side and replace it with something else because I’ve noticed when I check my blog via my smartphone it pops something up that’s actually quite irritating, and man, I hate being irritated (this is in reference to a guest post I recently wrote on Basic Blog Tips, which I just linked to above).

I went into the leftsidebar.php file of the editor and tried to remove all those links. When I went to save it, I got sent to a 404 page instead; what the hey? That’s never happened before, and I have to admit it was confusing. I kept trying but no dice. Then I checked on my other 3 blogs and found that I had the same problem, with different themes, on two of them; one of them is fine.

And what’s the deal with the last blog? I haven’t upgraded it to WordPress 3.1.3 yet. I started thinking that might be the issue, and indeed it is. I’ve been searching the entire internet looking for a fix for the problem. It seems that someone else had this same 404 problem a year ago when upgrading to WordPress 3.0. After trying everything he could and looking for information he tested it on another site and found it had the same issue. His thought then was that it might be a server issue so he contacted his host and indeed found that his host had blocked something because it saw a bunch of some type of errors coming through. They removed the block off his site and got it working.

I called my host; no dice. They’re blaming WordPress; then again, so am I. So I’ll do what I can, and we all know that at some point I’ll figure it out; I always do. Actually, I already know a fix but it’s ugly and I really don’t want to do it. However, now I’ve forgotten what I was going to put into that space; sigh…

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Count Per Day Plugin

One of the people I write for had this WordPress plugin on his site that I hadn’t noticed until relatively recently, and I thought it would be interesting to run it at least for a little while to compare it to Google Analytics.

It’s called Count Per Day, and it’s creator, I believe, must be German, since you initially will see German on the site, but if you scroll down you’ll see it in English as well. Anyway, what it does is give you all sorts of stats about your blog, similar to Analytics, except it’s real time. In other words, if I left the blog for 3 hours and came back to look at the stats, they’d be different, even if only slightly. Well, that’s assuming I had visitors of course.

I wanted to see if the numbers I got from Count Per Day would be much different than what I get from Analytics. Strange as it always seems to me, you get different numbers from different places even though they’re supposedly looking at the same thing. I stopped looking at the numbers from my host because they just seemed, well, overwhelming when compared to that Feedburner box you see on the right side there. Analytics seems to make more sense, but every once in awhile it goes wonky; no idea why.

Since I installed it on September 9th, I decided to do a comparison from that point. Since it’s a live plugin, I know the numbers won’t match totally, but if they’re close then it’s all good. Count Per Day, which I’m now going to call CPD, shows I’ve had 6,211 visitors since September 9th; Analytics says I’ve had 1,119. I’m thinking that’s a pretty drastic difference. CPD shows I had 516 visits yesterday, Sunday; Analytics says 80. Already this isn’t going all that well.

Let’s look at some individual posts. Both show that my post on cleavage is still my most visited post, but CPD says it’s been visited 845 times since the 9th, while Analytics says it’s been visited 460 times. After that there’s no agreement on the rest of the top 10 at all, and I mean which posts have been visited the most by whom.

Am I confused? Absolutely! But who do I believe, and what to make of it? Man, I wish I knew. My mind tends to believe Analytics more than CPD. I keep thinking if I were actually getting the number of visitors the plugin tells me I’m getting that I’d almost have to be generating more income from this blog than I do. At the very least I should have way more subscribers to my RSS feed than I have with those kinds of numbers.

I’m not sure how long I’ll keep the plugin, especially if I’m not believing the numbers. My ego loves them, but the logical part of my mind doesn’t trust them. If you want to give it a try and see if your numbers are closer to reality, go for it.

Money Machine







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