Thursday, August 20, 2009

On Index Page

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
World Map courtesy GoogleAnalytics

I’ve been nudged to review my stats this month, something that I normally do as a matter of course but I’m reporting on it here.

Tony Karrer’s post, Alternative Views of Blog Content, reminded me that the last time I’d reported on the Index Page Project was in March this year.

The Index Page for Blogger in Middle-earth was a project I embarked on in January 2009. It was initiated by Tony’s First Time Visitor Guide, which provides a brief description of what his blog is about with selected posts listed under general topic headings. I admired his Guide, and as I was already thinking about building a blog index, it prompted me to start one.

Initial novelty value

The new Index Page certainly caused a lot of interest for a few months after it was published, during which time it was the most popular post on the blog. I suspect that this was more its novelty value. The time spent on the page suggested that it was being inspected rather than used directly for the purpose I’d intended.

In recent months activity has settled with a steady flow of visitors who obviously use it as an index – its favourable bounce rate of 27% indicates this, as does the 1:17 time on the page.

There is a significant correlation between activity on the Index Page and the dates of new posts. This tends to suggest that those hits are made by newcomers to the site, though this is not entirely conclusive.


I'm inclined to tinker when it comes to some aspects of blogging. Perhaps I put more time into tweaking and trimming than I should – who knows? That’s purely my own judgement of how I make peripheral adjustments to posts. Part of it is curiosity to find out what works best.

For instance, I’ve found that putting in links to related posts like the ones at the base of this post, though time consuming, actually provides some access to posts that might otherwise become time-capsules.

When this activity becomes a chore, I’ll probably give it a miss. The time spent updating the Index Page is nevertheless much less, perhaps only a minute or so each time I publish a new post – a small percentage of the total time I spend on the hobby of blogging.

Usefulness as an index?

I’m probably the most regular user of the index. With now well over 200 posts on the blog, I find it increasingly difficult to locate one of my own posts unless I use the index. GoogleAnalytics has indicated that the latest category, the monthly archives, is being used by visitors as are the post-label links.

This last period it ranked 8th in popularity, and attracted 3% of the total visits to the blog. Considering that it received more than twice the activity of hits in its first few months, the Index Page is undoubtedly the most popular post on the site this year. It does not have the long-tail profile of a typical post, which makes it quite unique.

Usefulness as a first-time-visitor guide?

The jury is still out on this one. Laurie Bartels gave me a lot of support in her comments in the first two months and I am grateful for those.

So far there have been no comments that indicate there’s any need for improvement! My suspicion is that the need is there nevertheless.

If you have a useful suggestion, why not nip over to the Index Page, check it out, and tell me what you’d like to see there? Go for it!

Nāu te rourou nāku te rourou he pai te iwi kātoa.
With your food basket and my food basket our tribe will prosper.

( 6 ) << - related posts - >> ( 4 ) ( 3 ) ( 2 ) ( 1 )

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


Tony Karrer said...

Thanks for this post. Helpful information.

Sue Waters said...

All I will say to both of you (as per usual) is let me loose with a WordPress install on both your blogs - then tell me if you really need an index page. Yeah she is a broken record :)

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā kōrua!

Kia ora e Tony. Yep, it's a project that is yielding some interesting stats.

Kia ora e Sue!

How does a blogger prove that visitors need an index page?

Visitors don't find my Index Page on their RSS Readers. It's no hoodwink. They have to get there by their own choice and they're welcome to comment if they think it's a waste of time. So far the comments have been positive. The post is polling 6th on GA at the moment, moved up from 9th since this post.

Somebody out there must think there's something worth while in that post, even if it's just to find a post or two on the blog.

On average, visitors spend one minute thirty seconds on the page, and in the last 30 days there have been 134 visitors - the hit rate is rising.

I'm not defending the Index Page here. The raw stats show clearly that it's being used and by a significant portion of visitors. What's more, the stats on posts show that a portion of these visitors come to them from the Index Page. That's all I need for me to keep maintaining it.

For me to remove it and replace it with something else would need convincing evidence that suggests there is a visitor benefit in doing that.

I'm open to being convinced.

Catchya later

Sue Waters said...

Alternatively the question is "How do I prove a blogger doesn't need an index page?"

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Sue!

Now you, as a scientist, must know that proof needs to be explicit and unequivocal. I'd rather not prove or disprove a need. Frankly, I don't think a blog needs an index.

But what my results do show is that there is a correlation between the existence of the Index Page and activity on the blog. Now you, as a blogger, must concede that any correlation between what's offered on a blog and visitor activity is a matter for investigation. That's what I've been doing here.

I'm up for all sorts of experimenting with blogs. I took PostRank off my blog for a week just to find out a few things and I did. I could just as easily take the Index Page off for a similar period, and for the same reason. I might do that yet!

I believe Tony may have done similar research to what I've done. I followed him, because here was a blogger who'd successfully managed to maintain a First Time Visitor Guide for a year or so before I'd even started blogging.

The fact is, we never know what affects visitor activity unless we observe and experiment.

For me, the Index Page has been a phenomenon on my blog. Of all the types of posts I've created (over 200) the Index Page is the most unique in terms of its visitor activity - never mind the content! For one thing, it is a post that has never had a long tail, at least, not something you could call a tail.

Wouldn't you agree as a scientist, that investigations around such a phenomenal post would be a good idea?

I don't know about any need for an index, for I have no real evidence that suggests that such a need exists. But I do have evidence that suggests that a whale of a lot of visitors are interested in this particular post, and it has continued for almost 8 months. The opportunity to experiment with that is absolutely implicit.

You know what's funny? This week's activity on the Index Page has shot up so that if it continues to rise, its visitor activity will soon reach double what it has been for than last four or so months. Show me any other post that would do that.

Catchya later