How did you get here?

If you’ve just landed on for the first time, I need your help. I’d like to know how you got here. (Feel free to jump to the last couple of paragraphs).

There is a type of blogger who specialises in blogging about blogging. It is a short cut to getting engagement: it attracts bloggers who are interested in blogging. They will shower you with likes and comments, as long as you play the game, and lavish your own likes and comments on their blogs about blogging.

If you think this sounds incestuous and dull, you’re not wrong. So please excuse me for joining in with this dreary game. But I seek the answer to a mystery. The graph above shows that during the last week the number of visitors to Ramblings has increased roughly tenfold, although I’ve made no extra effort to promote the blog. Naturally my first reaction was that at last the quality of my writing has been recognised. However, as I thought about it further, this conclusion seemed optimistic.

My web host, WordPress, provides some information about how visitors have reached my site. Some come from WordPress itself: actual followers who want to read what I have written, friends and family who are being loyal (and I appreciate it), or fellow bloggers who hope that if they follow my site, I will follow theirs. Some come from social media: I might sometimes plug a post in a Facebook group – and one ex-politician with a decent following once linked to my post on his Twitter. Day to day, though, most visits come from search engines, which have found my site in response to users’ search terms.

WordPress sometimes lists which search engines have provided hits to my pages: Bing, DuckDuckGo and even Baidu feature. (I assume the Communist Party of China is monitoring my blog carefully to defend against the risk of counter-revolution.) But presumably the great majority come from Google, in line with their market share – perhaps their algorithm has somehow moved my blog up its search rankings?

About 90% of the recent surge in visits comes from search engines, very few of which are identified. Fewer still have their search terms specified. The percentage of visits to my homepage – where you can scroll down through all my posts – is also about 90%, with only 10% landing on individual posts.

This is surprising, because a Google user will find it far more useful to land on the particular short post matching his search terms than on the homepage, where it might be buried under scores of other posts. Why are these searches not being directed more accurately?

I’m wary of this apparent surge in popularity, because it hasn’t been accompanied by any increase in engagement, such as comments showing that the reader has read and understood, maybe even enjoyed the post.

(Although many comments are spam: some are outright gibberish, while others say generic things like “Great Post!”. One comment on my Edward Lear trail blog even said “Thanks! I found your post super informative and helpful!”. Followers of that blog will realise immediately that the comment could not have come from an actual reader).

Likes, while always welcome, are a much weaker form of engagement. Many come from other bloggers simply trying to get more likes for their own blog in return. WordPress gets far fewer likes as a percentage of views than Facebook or Twitter, because most people who land on the page are not signed in – they need to register for a WordPress account before they can like or comment on a blog, and few go to that trouble.

The absence of any comments or likes from all these extra visits makes me question the depth of interest – possibly even the existence – of these new readers. What were they looking for, and did they manage to find it in my blog?

So, if you’ve landed on this blog for the first time, and feel like helping clear up my confusion, please take a minute to log in or register on WordPress, and either message me or post a comment below, letting me know:

  • Which search engine you used
  • What your search terms were
  • Whether you found what you were searching for in my blog.

Who knows, I might even be able to help you find what you’re looking for. That would put you one up on Bono.

6 thoughts on “How did you get here?

  1. 🙂 Hi, Rik. This is the first time that I am visiting your blog; I found it via the WordPress Reader (I was checking out those blog posts that had the “Blogging” tag.

    The title of your blog post piqued my curiosity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Rik, just some ideas… do your WordPress stats give any feedback on referral sites as opposed to search engines? Or perhaps geographical location of visitors, or any other meaningful or otherwise parameter? I suspect it is simply down to those notorious Google algorithms that now seem to dictate the inner workings of the world. Which posts are most popular? Maybe music based ones? Any most popular search terms? Try searching Google for Rik Edwards Ramblings yourself and see if anything leaps out. You might find some surprises!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Clive, very useful thoughts.

      Yes, WordPress stats do give a fairly full breakdown between search engines, WordPress Reader, Facebook and Twitter, although in the recent surge about 90% have come from unspecified search engines. And there is a geographical breakdown too: in descending order it’s UK, USA, then a big drop down to other English speaking countries like India, Australia, Canada and then a long thin tail including most other countries.

      The most popular are those on a musical or cultural theme (e.g. the Everly Brothers or Blackadder) which I’ve promoted on Facebook groups, or the ever-popular “No Dragon Wood” which has an inscription on a local gate serving as an advertisement. Unfortunately WordPress supply very few search terms.

      When I search for my own blog, it usually does return the homepage containing all the posts. You can search on the page to zero in on your search term, but if it would only take you to the individual post, you probably wouldn’t need to.

      You’re probably right, it’s that mysterious Google algorithm. I’ll keep researching it. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

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