What now?

If I choose a template that shows the tag line of ZeroRatio, you will see:

“A blog about everything is a blog about nothing. Oops.”

which is true. In the past month I’ve been writing about whatever comes to mind, playing little games with my blog traffic here, telling little stories in different languages there, fun stuff.

But when I look around for the most visited blogs, I notice they all have one thing in common: they focus on one topic. Maybe it’s advances in science, maybe it’s debates over religion/politics, maybe it’s someone’s travel blog. I seldom come across personal blogs that are consistently popular, unless they have a consistent theme or writing style.

Which makes sense, because why would anyone come back to read this blog if they don’t know what will be up next? Those who like science might bookmark the science blog, those who like politics might bookmark the politics blog. Those who like a blogger probably like his or her style/content, which can never happen if the blogger changes all the time.

Without consistency, the only consistent visitors to a blog will be the blogger’s friends. Without many consistent visitors, a blog’s traffic can only linger around the bottom. (Unless, of course, a right post at the right time causes a traffic surge, but that’s bound to subdue.)

So what do I do now? Pick a theme and fix my attention?

Nah, that might be good for the blog traffic, but that won’t be fun for me. This blog will continue to be about everything in general, nothing in particular. I guess my readers would just have to bear with me, and be ready for surprises.

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Commenting and Blog Traffic Experiment (Week 3)

The Commenting and Blog Traffic experiment started here.
Last week we found that the traffic to this blog spiraled below 20 views/day, and was heading towards 15/day.

This week, I started visiting random blogs and leaving comments. The goal was one comment on one new blog per day, and I’ve attached my commenting history at the end of this post.

The preliminary result is out: commenting-and-blog-traffic-week2.png

Commenting seems to increase traffic.

Now, this is a very preliminary result, and there are some significant problems with it.

  1. Did my comments on other people’s blogs attract more views, or did I write more interesting posts in the past week?
  2. Or simply because there are more blog entries for people to browse through this week than last week?
  3. Why are the traffic for Saturday and Sunday of week 1 so high?
  4. What’s up with the dip on the Sunday of week 2?

Answering #1 is difficult, because I don’t know whether my comments on other blogs attracted traffic directly. I think people who follow the link from my comments to my blog are not registered as being “referred” to me, whereas if you click on a link in Website X to this blog, then Website X is registered as a “referrer”.

However, my popular posts such as “Shood hands with Stephen Lewis” and “How good should we feel when we take the bus?”, both of which were written during week 1, showed similar traffic generation pattern in posts in week 2 (“Tina is Legend“), where each post got around 13 visitors on the first day, and the number dropped dramatically to 1 or 2 in the subsequent days. So no, I didn’t write more interesting posts in week 2.

#2 may be of some concern, because the old posts are still generating traffic. However, in the last weeks of this experiment when I stop commenting, if we see a decrease in traffic, then we know commenting is a traffic booster.

#3 give me a headache. I think it’s the residual traffic from the initial launch hype (record making 142 visits on January 10th), which throws off this experiment a bit. But that should be remedied by more data.

#4 This is the problem with doing this experiment on a small blog like mine. I only have a few dozen visitors, and if they happened decided to take the same day off reading blogs, then this experiment is thrown off.

* * *

Besides these findings, I also found some other things and decided to change the experimental design accordingly:

  1. Finding a good blog to comment on is HARD!!! It takes me an average of 20 minutes to finally find something interesting and commentable. As a result, I might drop the 4-comments/day week, depending on the result of the next week.
  2. To be consistent, I try to write one blog entry a day. If I can’t do that, I try to find old posts to hopefully attract readers. If I skip a day or write many entries in one day, then of course the traffic will be different.
  3. The data for Fridays, where this experiment transit from one phase to the next, will be discarded because it’s unclear which week the traffic should belong to, and listing the posts that I commented on below may also increase traffic, which is not part of this experiment.
* * *
Here are the places I left comments:

Commenting and Blog Traffic Experiment (Week 2)

It’s Friday, and we all know what that means: it’s the start of Week 2 of the Commenting and Blog Traffic Experiment! (fine, I am probably the only one who remembers the existence of this experiment )

Below is the summary of Week 1 (no commenting on other blogs):

commenting-and-blog-traffic-week1.png

As you can see, my blog traffic is on a continued decline, kinda like the US stock market in the past few days. Since Friday isn’t over yet, I suspect that the total page views will climb up to somewhere around 15.

The decline may be attributed to the visitors getting busy with school or work, or they’ve read the blog once and that’s enough time-waste for a while. New visitors may also view more pages than returning visitors, who only look for newest posts to read.

I will now start Week 2 of the experiment, picking and commenting on 1 new blog every day. This is pretty exciting for me; hopefully it will turn the decline around and end my week-long misery of watching my blog dwindle.

More on the experiment next Friday then!

Confused by wordpress’ category and tags? You’re not the only one.

It turned out that enough people found this blog by searching “wordpress tags vs category” for me to add this post, in hope to remedy the inadequate rant before.

Category

  • used to describe multiple blog entries that share a common attribute (theme, style, genre, or topic)
  • People generally use at most 2 or 3 categories to describe their posts.
    • For example, I blog in both English and Chinese, so they are the two biggest distinctions for my entrie.
    • Within each language category, I have several sub-categories (diary, fiction, announcement, etc). I expect I will write many more entries that would go under “diary”, for instance.

Tag

  • any keyword that can be used to describe a post.
  • It’s not uncommon to see people using a dozen tags to describe a post.
    • For example, I may not necessarily write another entry that talks about “confused”, so this is a tag, not a category.

A good test that I use:

What does this post talk about? These are its tags.

What other posts have you written or you might write that are similar to this post? They can be grouped into the same categories.

More technically, categories can be heretical, so it’s easier to organize and present your blog in a logical manner. Tags are random, scattered, and is used to capture what’s going on in a blog entry or the entire blog at a particular instance.

WordPress stat shows: people should get fired

I almost left a comment on a friend’s blog, which would have compromised my Commenting and Traffic experiment. So instead, I wandered off to check out what’s around WordPress, and stumbled across the posting and traffic stats of the entire WordPress community.

wordpress-stat.png

As you can see, the pulse of the blogging community follows closely with the calendar, especially before the winter break. The red lines indicate the end of peak activity, which lasts about 3 days every week.

Now, the question is: which days of the week do most people blog and visit blogs?

And the answer is: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. (The red lines mark Thursdays).

I guess bloggers need to grab some beers on Fridays, sleep in on Saturdays, and grab more beers on Sundays. Oh, and everyone is too busy to blog during winter break. Gotta get those turkeys, you know.

Commenting and Blog Traffic – an experiment

I will test the hypothesis that commenting on other people’s blogs increase visibility of, and thus increase traffic to, my own blog.

Procedure:

  1. For week one, I will not visit nor comment on any new blog.
  2. Week two, I will visit and comment on a post of 1 blog that I have not seen before every day.
  3. Week three, 2 blogs every day.
  4. Week four, 4 blogs everyday.
  5. Week five, back to 0 blog.
  6. Week six, still 0 blog.
  7. Average overall traffic to my blog for each week, and compare the average (and standard deviation, etc).

I chose to do this over the course of a week because there may be significant fluctuation in overall traffic throughout the week.

Week five and six is to show that how sustainable the traffic is after discontinued commenting.

I will read the post in entirety and write a meaningful, 2-line response to it. I will pick a post at random, using WordPress’ “random post” function. I will find which ever blog on wordpress.com that interest me. I don’t think there’s a “random blog” function 😦

More about this experiment on next Friday morning then!

Tags and Traffic experiment – 16hr mark

16 hours later, the morning after the Tag and Traffic experiment for North Americans, which I suspect is the major audience of WordPress blogs.

First, there is a dramatic 60-fold increase in the total traffic to my blog (See Figure)Figure 1.(lol, that sounds so much better than saying I went from 1 visit to 60)

But there has been no more traffic from the tag portal since the 2hr mark: 2 for Life, 1 for Politics, 1 for Blogging. I found a small flaw in the experimental design though, because there are three entries from me that are tagged with “blogging” along with the experimental post, and that traffic result may be “tainted”.

The decline in traffic from the Politics and Life tag portals suggests that most people read posts that are earlier in the pages, meaning they are more recently added. Few people read posts beyond page 2.

The lack of traffic from the lower ranking tags such as Christianity and Hip-hop suggest that people don’t even look for posts from the tag portal for these tags. For these topics, I suspect that people would visit their regulars instead of looking for new blogs, whereas people would look for new blogs for Politics to find supporters or enemies, and Life to read other people’s stories.

In terms of generating traffic, only Baking soda has one new visitor since the 2hr mark; that ties with Ecology, Politics at 1 visitor, and closely follows Life at 2 visitors.

This suggests that specific, obscure tags receive visits from a source different from the popular tags, and everything in the middle does not receive much visit at all.

P.S. Now that the posts on the tag portals are flushed to obscurity, I expect future traffic to these experimental posts would be from other sources.

P.P.S. If the total traffic to my experimental posts add up to only 6, where are all the visits from? Well, turns out I couldn’t resist telling a few friends about this blog, and I suspect they would account for much of the traffic. I sort of cheated and used a temporary homepage too, and people need to click on an extra link to get to my blog, and that also count as page views. And of course, the experiment itself attracts more traffic than any other posts.