Monday, October 14, 2013

How to Open Shortened URLs, and Analysing Blog Traffic.

George Boole, artist unknown. (Wiki.)

There are a number of free and handy tools for independent online publishers.

When analyzing web traffic on my Blogger blog, I see some shortened URLs. I’ve been blogging along for three or four years now without paying much attention to them, but it would be kind of nice to know who that is, right?

If a story gets fifty hits and half of them come from a shortened URL, then that’s half your readership, and mostly likely a social networking site where the author posted, or it was automatically fed, or where someone else had reposted or retweeted the author’s post.

Otherwise it represents search engine traffic, which is an automated search by categories and key words by someone looking for something specific, and for whatever reason your name or your content came up. This happens if someone uses the same key words in your search as you put in your tags, the title, the author name, and of course the content of your post. Every site and blog has a ranking, and you want to be ranked as high as possible because few people will ever go past the first or second page of links on any given search.

An example of this is if a site is about carpentry and some carpenter is looking for work—he might type in ‘carpenters’ (or contractors, home-builders, etc) when searching for a job opening. Some list of names comes up, and most likely he makes his own list of addresses and phone numbers, and it’s helpful in his job search.

Now, if the author only had a hundred and fifty connections on that site, or friends, or followers, then this demographic group might bear some closer attention. In comparison with a social site where the author has two thousand ‘friends’ and where the author got maybe two or three hits on the same story, this is a good group because they are interested in your particular content.

If you are developing a website or a blog for its own sake, say you want to run a magazine or something, a newsletter or website, possibly as an adjunct to sales or promotion, then content is king.

Not all sites and blogs are created equal, and so they don’t have equal appeal to any given demographic group. (Your site can be tightly focused on one small niche or with wider content; it may appeal to a wider audience or readership.)

Facebook might be more popular with one age group, and a website like Instagram might attract a much younger crowd. Twitter followers are different than Pinterest users, and each of them represents a different set of opportunies and pitfalls.

There is a tool for opening short URLs. It’s a URL ‘opener’ and it traces the link back to its original destination and tells you who they are and displays the URL in question.

Now you know if the bulk of your traffic is coming from Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Twitter, Wattpad, Facebook, et cetera..

If you have two thousand connections on LinkedIn and get maybe one percent of your traffic from there, then building up your list on the platform is less effective than adding forty or fifty people on another site, where the exact same story got twenty-five hits or reads.

Also, some platforms may have peak hours, and different readers may be all over the world, where the time zones are different, and I bring that up because I just noticed traffic from the U.S., but then there was traffic from China, half the world away. There are something like a hundred million English speakers in China, so that is something to think about. 

(That traffic was on another blog, as you can see by the content this one is relatively new.)

And now you're analysing me. That's not so hard, eh?

Here is a link to a page with two or three other link opening services. There is also a service where an author or webmaster can get their own shortened URL, in case yours is unusually long, or if you have something really cool in mind.


The Art of Analysis

There are several stories on my blog that come up regularly in the stats, even though I haven’t posted them anywhere recently, sometimes possibly even not in months or years.

Certain stories come up all the time. If a story is getting twenty or thirty hits a month for no effort on the author’s part, and if that traffic is sort of building, then the author or webmaster is doing something right.

In this particular case it would be the subject matter, it would be the key words, but more than that—and this is important when gaming those all-important human algorithms, is that people are interesting in this particular content, and more than that, with this one particular tool I can now find out where those people are finding that content.

Then I can do several things at once.

What I can do is to build up that ‘audience’ and post more of that particular content. Not only that, but we can go looking for other social platforms where more of that particular demographic group seems to hang out.

It’s all done on an experimental basis, and of course that takes time. But over time the author builds the network, his presence on different social networks, and over time the readership grows.

Right? None of this might get quick results in the short term, but in the longer game it does seem to work.

Using a few simple ideas, I took another blog from 5,900 hits total in about June of 2012, and about a year and a half later, within the next twenty-four hours I will have my 100,000th hit on that particular blog. What can be done with one blog or website can be done with another, each targeted to different groups, whether by ages or interests, needs, aspirations, hobbies, consumer categories or whatever.

I can predict that with some accuracy, ladies and gentlemen. 

I have more questions and no doubt the average reader will too. Let’s face it: there might be a hundred things I haven’t thought of yet, and if I was doing a bit of a better job on some of those unknowns, maybe I’d have a million hits by now.

I should point out that it is purely an assumption that blogging or having a website helps to sell a book or anything else, although conventional wisdom is that it is an important aspect of an author marketing themselves and their works. Conventional wisdom isn't always wrong, but perhaps it is more a question of doing it well.

It’s definitely experimental, but an experiment is designed to get data. It gets you a new fact, maybe even more than one. Maybe you get two facts. I’m just sayin’.

A blog, on its first post, with no network or readership built, would be lucky to get a half a dozen reads from friends and family. Even a simple blog has the potential to get hundreds of thousands or even millions of hits in a year. A couple of days ago I got 341 hits, and today only 166. That’s a lot better than six hits in a day or a week.

That much is obvious, but it took me three or four years to figure it out and to get it this far.

Simply put, a well put-together package, over time, will do better than something with no thought and no foresight put into the actual content, (and the readers are who you want to reach with your blog or website, right?)  And there is also some timing, analysis, et cetera.


Here’s George Boole, who is really cool, and he is credited with laying the mathematical groundwork for the computer revolution.

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