Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Odd Tails – a post for bloggers

Kia ora tātou – Hello Everyone

It is usual for a blog post to attract nearly all its visitors during the first few days after being published. This is so much so that the term
‘the long tail’ is often used to describe the shape of the visitor profile of a typical post.

Now and again a blogger may spot an exception.

Digital Natives? Digital Immigrants?’ is a post I published in mid-July this year. It was popular and attracted a couple of comments.

Normally even the tail of a popular post would dwindle quickly over a period of less than a week. After two or three months, only the occasional visitor would be registered by visitor tracking.

I use Google Analytics (GA) to track one sector of visitors to my blog.
It gives a fair indication of comparative popularity.

The July post is an exception to the long tail trend.
Its visitor profile is at the top of this post. It has received recent attention of a magnitude not unlike what might be expected of a newly published post, yet it was published over four months ago.

I first took note of its unusual visitor profile when comments started to appear, again, as if out of the blue. It has since attracted a significant number of comments.

Occasionally posts generate very long tails that never really dwindle to nothing. Working With Online Learning Communities is such a post, published 1 April 2009. Its visitor profile shows recent steady traffic.

Posts with visitor profiles of this type tend to have been cited and linked on popular blogs or web pages.

Isn’t it heartening that not all posts receive the same fate as a time-capsule?

NASA's Voyager Golden RecordCourtesy NASA

related posts - >> ( 5 ) ( 4 ) ( 3 ) ( 2 ) ( 1 )

Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes


Michael Hanley said...

Hi Ken,
This is a real challenge for bloggers; the quality of a given blog post obviously doesn't change over time, so why should it be the case that the number of hits on a post diminish over time?

In my view it's partly the nature of blogs - posts are displayed and stored chronologically, with the newest at the top, and partly it's the nature of blog readers. Here in Ireland (and in the UK too) there's a saying that "today's newspaper headlines are tomorrow's chip (french fries for Americans) wrapper." That is, news (or content) gets old very quickly: people are always search for the new rather than necessarily for the good. This is why the same topics keep coming up again and again, usually written by differnt people on different blogs, to varying degrees of quality. Here's a (non-blog) example of this tedious recurrence. Come January, every newspaper in Ireland (maybe in your part of the world too) will run a series of articles about "de-toxing" - whatever that is - after the Christmas blow out. It will be 90% similar to the same papers series of articles on the subject from last year, and the previous year. And so on.

The paper won't simply say "here's a reprint of last year's articles covering the same subject." Rather cynically, it will repackage them, add something like "New research shows that a lemon juice diet detoxes you 40% faster than a citrus juice diet" (or whatever).

So that's the problem. What's the answer. I don't know really. "Top 10 most popular posts" links in your blog nav pane kind of works, but that can at best only represent a proportion of your blog output. At the moment, I'm doing a "from the archive" series on Twitter to try to remind people of posts I wrote earlier in the year which I think they might find interesting. I won't know if this has succeeded until I check my metrics at the end of the month, though. It's a tough one to overcome


PS - just a head's up - I nominated your blog as "Best Teacher Blog" for this year's Edublogs Awards. Best of luck!

V Yonkers said...

What I find interesting is that regardless of when I write a blog, my highest readership is on Thursdays. An odd day to be sure! The second most popular day is Tuesday.

I do find that when I've been cited on another blog my readership goes up. It also goes up the more I post comments on other blogs. It is possible you posted a comment that lead others to the blog.

The other thing I find of interest is that when I get a skewed readership over a time period, often there will be readers from the same region. This leads me to believe that there is a cluster where they are sharing my post as a reference. I use blog posts as reading assignments, so it is also possible that there is that going on also.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā korua!

Kia ora e Michael

I think you are right about the nature of the blog. I have looked at various methods of drawing readership attention to past posts, most of which I use on my blog. Other bloggers use them too:

links in side bars as you say,

internal links to related posts,

relevant links to other posts on the blog within the text of posts - which is good practice.

What I find fascinating is that some of these methods are fairly effective. Even the annual topics, as you exemplify in your comment, offer opportunity for recycling and resurrection of past themes.

Kia ora Virginia

It's curious that different bloggers find that activity occurs on different days dependent on the blogger. Presumably it is the readership which can often be unevenly distributed for reasons I won't go into here, but you alluded to part of that when you spoke of clusters.

I have several clusters, and the patterns that they carve out can often overlap, making it an analytical exercise to interpret what it all means. I usually don't bother. But when it happens so clear cut as it did in the profile at the top of this post, I makes me think about readership distributions, and where the activity comes from.

Since this post was published the profile highlighted has continued to develop, so much so that the associated post has reached my Top Five list for the second time - very unusual.

Catchya later