Sep 23 2009

Webmaster’s Musings

I’ve probably said this before, but blogging is a strange business. Running any web site is, really. When I was in the pizza delivery business, sales traffic was pretty straightforward. We’d open at 3pm, and it’d be slow until the supper rush started about 5, and then it’d be slow and steady through prime-time, then die until a flurry when the bars all closed. On weekends, there’d be more sales throughout the evening and from the hotels. On Sunday evenings when the college cafeterias were closed, the store on the campus side of town would get hammered. If we put out coupons for something in particular, we’d sell more of that. And so on. It was all pretty predictable.

You can get some of that predictability with web traffic—if you want to pay for it. Just buy pay-per-click advertising through a service like Google Adwords, and you can pay a set amount for each visitor you get to your site. If you’re selling something, and you have a good idea what your average profit/visitor is, you can do that.

But if you’re just running a blog, or trying to start a site that doesn’t make any money yet and may not for a long time, you’re probably going to have to count on “organic” traffic: people who find you on their own through search engines or other sites that choose to link to you. That’s where things get unpredictable. Here’s a graph of my traffic for the last couple weeks:

Traffic Bump

Traffic Bump

When I saw that big jump on Sept. 15 (nearly double my normal amount of traffic), I thought maybe a popular site linked to my article on introversion, since that was about when I posted that. But that wasn’t it. When I dug through the stats, it turned out the extra hits were on some of my Latin lessons, sent there from Google searches. Not new lessons or a particular one, but a few different lessons, and the searches used lots of different keywords.

So, for whatever reason, Google suddenly bumped some of my Latin pages up in value. Since I have no idea why, I can’t do anything to make it keep happening, and it could go away any time. And that’s what I thought happened, when it dropped back down after three days. But then it went back up again—not quite as high as the peak, but 50% higher than my usual level. Will it stay there? Who knows.

This is why I resisted doing SEO work for years. When people asked me how to get ranked higher on the search engines, I’d tell them it couldn’t be done. Over the last couple years, I’ve been forced by circumstances to learn about it, so now I know a lot of things that can be done to improve search engine placement. But no matter how much you study the search engines, it’s still more of an art than a science, and there are many times when you just don’t know why a site is getting traffic (or not getting traffic, usually). If I can’t figure out exactly what’s going on with my own site, imagine how hard it can be to figure out someone else’s.

On the bright side, that boost means last week my site got the most visitors ever! (It would have been the busiest week by pages viewed too, but on August 23, someone in China viewed 244 pages on my site. Go figure.) Now I just need to write more, to give these new people who are showing up something to read.

I’m also thinking about moving my blog to another domain. I bought when the .biz domains were fairly new, since was long taken. Apparently the spammers also snapped up a lot of the .biz and .info domains when they first came out, so now some spam filters and other programs tend to turn their noses up at stuff coming from .biz domains. I don’t know if that’s hurting me with the search engines, but I don’t know that it isn’t, either. Also, when I came up with the name Commentarii Mei, I thought I’d do a lot of quoting other people’s writings and commenting on them, which hasn’t happened, so I’m not sure the title fits. Also, a name people have trouble pronouncing probably isn’t a great idea from a marketing perspective. Since I’ve got a .com domain I like, it might make sense to move it there.

If I do move it, this domain will redirect people there, so it won’t change anything for readers. The search engines may lose me for a little while, but better to have that happen now than someday when I’ve got a lot more on the site. I just have to make the time to do it. ┬áIn the meantime, thanks to everyone who keeps reading.

If you enjoyed this article, why not rate it and share it with your friends on Twitter, Facebook, or StumbleUpon?

GD Star Rating

WordPress Themes