One of the most enjoyable aspects of running a blog is, let’s admit it, checking out its statistics.  You can gain insight about your readers and figure out where your traffic is coming from. Above all, you can determine what’s working and what’s not in terms of content and marketing strategies.
Just for fun, today I’m going to share with you the top ten articles from various blogs I run, ordered by number of views. I’m also going to show you the main channels through which each of these sites gets traffic.
I’m going to share an “all time” temporal window, so that you can see what content and traffic sources worked for me in the long run.  Of course, newer posts are penalized by this approach.
Hey, why not start with this blog? These are the top ten articles here to date:
The relatively few articles and long hiatus for the past year or so are clearly reflected in these statistics. Three articles absolutely dominate traffic wise. Not incidentally, they are genuinely useful articles, arguably much more so than the rest. I mention this to restate once again that providing something that’s genuinely useful to your reader is almost always rewarded.
So let’s take a look at how you got here:
Occasionally the content of this blog is suitable for submission on Hacker News and Reddit, but the lion’s share belongs to Google search. To me this stresses the point that content, both quality and quantity, are still extremely important. The more content you have, the more Google can send readers your way. The higher quality, the more people will stick around, link to your posts,  share them, etc.
Zen and the Art of Programming
Alright, let’s get more serious. Let’s take a look at the top ten for Zen and the Art of Programming, my programming/technology musings blog.
We’re doing a little better traffic wise. Here are a few lessons and comments I feel are worth making about these numbers:
- The top post is a statistical outlier, due to a complaint I made that went viral back in the good old days of Digg.
- Shootouts were a series of benchmarks I used to run that were quite popular in the Ruby community. Some considered them useless or misleadings, but most found them interesting or even useful.
- Opinionated articles drive crowds. Take a stance when you blog.
- When you have a large amount of posts (325+ in this case), the corpus of articles is far more important than the occasional outlier that does really well. Unlike Technical Blogging’s stats, you can see that the top performers only accounted for a couple percentage points of the total site’s readership.
Let’s see where readers came from:
Google is again king of the referrers, bringing in more than a third of traffic. Due to the subject matter, Reddit and Hacker News also did pretty well.
Math Blog is my brilliant, yet sadly far too often neglected child. It’s a blog with a world of potential but for one reason or another, I never end up dedicating the time it so deserves. Despite my relative lack of attention to it, Math Blog does extremely well traffic wise. Here are its top ten articles:
A couple of points about these numbers. With only 125+ articles, the blog is at a stage where a few top performers can still bring in the majority of traffic. If you add them up, the top ten articles bring in over 50% of all the site’s traffic. It’s also worth noting that list based posts do really well, as expected.
You won’t be surprised by now, but yeah, Google is the top source of traffic for Math Blog as well:
This blog has received the odd spike of traffic from social media or popular blogs linking to it, however in the long run, once everyone has forgotten about your fleeting minute of fame, Google still remember that you’re there. To me this is an important reminder of playing nice with Google and not trying to trick the system by adopting black hat techniques. Doing so is simply not worth it.
Okay, this is my wife’s blog, not my own, but I thought it would be interesting to see how a completely different demographic (95%+ female), that is generally speaking far less technical, would fare.
Here is her site’s list, which is not necessarily her own top ten in the sense of the posts that she personally feels demonstrates her best writing or the topics that she believes have been the most helpful to her readers. This is often the case when blogging, however there is a correlation in general between your best effort and your most popular content.
Here again, lists are popular. What’s interesting about her blog is the limited variance among her top 100 articles, not just top 10. The fact is, her blog is fairly niche and there isn’t a huge community out there for it. So she works it piece by piece, by producing what has now amounted to multiple books worth of interesting, diverse content.
Having recently hit 1,200 posts and counting, her blog is definitely a member of the long tail party. It doesn’t overly matter how well a particular article does traffic wise. It’s the whole aggregate of content that gets her a wide viewership and scores of devoted readers. Can you guess what her traffic referral looks like?
As expected, an even greater contribution by Google (and search engines in general).
There you have it – these are my numbers. I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into the stats for a few of my, our I should say, our, main blogs and that they’ve inspired you to take a gander at your own to see what valuable information you can glean from them. 
- Like all things, checking statistics can become addictive and a potential productivity killer. Don’t overdo it. Once a day, or even once a week, is plenty. ↩
- These are ballpark, conservative estimates. Many of these entries do not include visits from alternative URLs which can easily amount to a few thousand more visits. ↩
- Of course, people linking to your article will aid your search engine rankings, which in turn will bring more traffic. ↩
- Those who bought my book will see how some of the numbers I shared within it have changed over time. ↩
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