Thursday, December 08, 2005

Blogging Stats

The following information is provided as a public service, so that you may know what information is revealed about YOU when you visit a website.

Judging by my frequent lapses in blogging activity, it may seem that I'm not interested in building readership.

The fact is, I'm always trying to find something new and interesting to share with you, and in fact I've even contracted with a blogging statistical service to tell me how many people have visited the blog. You can see that in my STATSCOUNTER, which incidently is the name of the service I use.

But I'm not only interested in how many people visit, I'm also curious about where they are located. The stats service tells me this. See the partial list of countries above? This is an accurate accounting of the country-of-origin for the last 1100 'hits' on this website.

Naturally, most of the hits come from the USA, because I usually write about events and issues which are of national interest.

Still, over 20% of the people who view this blog are 'extra-nationals' . . . people who don't live in the USA. (Unfortunately, due to size limitations, I've had to trim the last dozen lines from the graphic.)

In case it concerns you that I'm collecting information on my readership, you should be aware that I don't know WHO you are. Although I may know the town where you live and your Internet Provider, certain characteristics about your computer and your browser, your personal anonymity is assured.

For example, if you are a subscriber to AOL and you view this (or any other Internet website) through your AOL browser, the screen-name you're signed into isn't available to me.

This statistical analysis is not an unusual for a website owner, and especially for a blogger. Anytime you visit a weblog, you are likely to see a hits-counter somewhere on the sidebar. The same service which provides this counter will probably also provide statistics, and this service is so frequently offered free of charge (at least for the last 100 hits) it costs the webauthor little or nothing to sign up for, and receive, these statistics.

So, although we don't know who you are, personally, we know quite a lot about what 'you' look like.

For example, we know where you came from . . . that is, if you visit a website as a result of a link from another website, we know the URL of that originating website.

We know whether you're using Internet Explorer, NetScape, AOL, Mozilla or some other browser.

We know your display settings: 1024x768, 1280x1024, 80x600, 1152x864 are represented in a 503/303/122/77 ratio(with miscellaneous resolutions not referenced here.) This information is of importance to the webauthor because it helps to know what size of images can be readily viewed by the readership.

This may seem intrusive to you, but actually it is a service to webauthors.

The first thing we know about you is how MANY of you access the website every day. This is part of the Summary, which is provided as a graph.

Because, bloggers know what articles (and on what subjects) they post every day, by knowing which days receive the most activity they can keep track of the subjects which seem to be of most interest to their readers.

As a surprising side-benefit, for those of us who don't submit new articles as often as we would wish to, we may note that we still have visitors on days when no new articles have been published. This suggests to us that we have a certain number of readers who aren't referred to the website necessarily by links provided by other websites, but because either (a) they are regular readers, and they check the website often to see what has been added, or (b) they have visited the website because they have searched the internet for keywords that are of interest to them, and the author's website has registered a 'hit' on those keywords.

In fact, there's a special set of statistics kept on that very criteria. STATSCOUNTER keeps track of the keywords that result in a hit, and summarize it by frequency and number of hits. We also can see what search engines are used to generate those hits. In fact, we can summarize it by search engines used . . . FYI, GOOGLE is the most common, YAHOO is next, then MSN and EARTHLINK on a 22/10/1/1 ratio.

Getting back to the subject of LINKS, you should know that people who provide internet content are inclined to provide links to similar websites so that their readers can research the basic information they have been given, or so that they can easily identify websites with similar or associated content. Thus, you will see that Cogito Ergo Geek provides an extensive set of links on the sidebar (that funny looking blue area on the right side of the webpage.)

Bloggers blog for a lot of reasons, but most commonly because they have a primary interest and they not only write about it but they read about it as well. When they find another website which provides valuable content, they may . . . and should ('blogger etiquette') include this link so that their readers can enjoy the fruit of their web-surfing labors.

Part of 'blogger etiquette' is that, when you (as a blogger) find that people are visiting your website because they found a link to it , you (as a blogger) are obliged to provide a link TO that originating website. Thus, you have not only acknowledged that there is another website which provides interesting content to a common readership, but you have thanked that other author by the most valuable resource possible, a cross-link.

There are services which take advantage of this cross-linkage, and the service I use is Technocrati. You will see an icon on my sidebar with the icon, and the text "blogs that link here". When another blogger includes a link to my website, that information is captured and summarized in a special webpage which identifies the blogger, the blogpage, and a short description of the content of the originating blog which cites the link.

(This information is available to me, I see no reason why it shouldn't be available to you.)

Only those websites which have signed up for the free TECHNOCRATI service are cited there, but the statistics are only cited if someone actually USES the link to move from one website to another.
Probably the most interesting statistics are CAME FROM, RECENT VISITOR ACTIVITY, and ENTRY PAGES. These statistics provide a lot of information, but most importantly they tell us specifically which 'other' websites privided a link which led you here, what page you saw when you first entered, which was the 'exit page' (the last one you looked at before you left the website), and how long your visit lasted.

If you stayed for 10 seconds and left, I know you were unimpressed. That doesn't give you time to read more than a few lines of a Geek-Length article. On the other hand, if you stayed for several minutes, I know that you were either interested in the content, or you were interested in the images presented. This provides information that I can use to design web pages that are more convenient for you to use, or are more interesting to you . . . either graphically, or in terms of content.

Alternatively, it may suggest that you were accessing the website from a slow access method (dial-up?) and just weren't patient enough to wait for the images to download so you left immediately; or, there were no images at the top of the page, so you read the text and that held your interest while the images downloaded. I don't really know WHY you didn't stay very long, so I'm left with trying to interpret the raw data. That's good for you, because you don't want me to know a lot about you; it's not so good for me, because I'm forced to use trial-and-error techniques to determine what web design and what content is most interesting to you.

The implication is that I am doing a better job if I tend to push images further down the page, so you can read text while you're waiting for the page to load. Of course, a short visit may also indicate that you found nothing of interest, so you dropped in and immediately dropped out again because you're bored.

Or it may be that you just stopped by to find a link that you knew I had embedded in my webpage, and clicked on it to move on to the website you REALLY wanted to visit. In that case, I'm content that I'm providing a valuable service, because if nothing else I'm helping you to find the information you want and need.

The statistics provided to a webauthor are not definitive, they only help to indicate directions we can go to in our web design and the selection of our content. The most valuable feed back available is the comments you leave behind. Unless you are a webauthor whose only interest is in leaving a link to YOUR commercial website, there are very few comments you can leave behind you which are not welcome by any responsible webauthor. For example, if you don't agree with something that I have said, I appreciate it if you say so. I may not change my opinion because of your comments, but it will certainly make me stop and rethink what I have said that caused you to react negatively.

And at least I know you're reading, and thinking about, the value of what I have written.

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