This blog went live on April 1, 2011. My most sincere thanks to all of you who have come here since then to read, comment and participate.
It’s been a pretty amazing year. I’ve published five books and spent most of the last year learning how to promote them and otherwise be a decent citizen of the digital planet. I’ve made some really great new friends online and found real love in the real world.
And I’ve written about a wide variety of topics, more or less as they occurred to me.
That is not the way you’re supposed to do it. Huffington Post and a million other sites will tell you to find out what people are searching for and keep writing about those topics, because they already have a built-in audience. However, even if I wanted to do that, it’s easier said than done.
Let’s look back at the first year’s numbers, collected with the help of Google Analytics, and see what stories they tell.
In almost a year, I’ve had approximately 4900 visits from 3542 unique visitors. Almost 30% of you returned multiple times, you averaged 1.82 pages per visit and 14% of you viewed these pages on computers operating in languages other than English. The most popular ‘other’ language is Russian, which is real interesting, considering Max Renn’s history.
I’ve had an amazing variety of visits from foreign countries: 102 countries, to be exact.
Countries with multiple and recurring visits include: Ireland (the highest return rate, you know who you are), New Zealand, Reunion(?)(!), Latvia, Macedonia, Canada, Vietnam, UK, Russia, Poland, Norway, Thailand, Japan, Ukraine, Turkey, Philippines, Germany, Malaysia, Australia, Spain, Italy, Brazil and India.
Countries with the most visits (other than the US) include: UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, India, Poland, Russia, France, Mexico, Spain, Netherlands, Malaysia, Hungary, Indonesia, Philippines and Sweden.
I’ve had 7 visits from Iran, 5 from Bosnia/Herzegovina, 3 from Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Sri Lanka— I find this a bit mystifying. I’m a relatively unknown author who’s published almost entirely in ebooks, which have not (yet) caught on overseas anywhere near as quickly as here but these folks came back several times (thanks!). I’ve had extensive email contact with Nigerian princes (or their intermediaries) recently but nobody from any of those countries.
The largest number of visitors here inevitably looked at one page only. But the number who looked at two pages is very similar to the number who looked at 26-50. And the number of people who looked at 51-100, 101-200 and over 200 (that has to be me) is considerably higher than the number seeing four or five. I’ll take that as an encouraging sign.
You are 75% Windows users, Chrome and Firefox the most popular browsers, the rest of the visits divided between Android, iPhone, iPad (interesting Google breaks them out separately), Linux and 10 visits from some determined person on an iPod (write me an email, whoever you are—I owe you a beer!).
Now for the meat and potatoes: Only 37% of my traffic came from search engines but those people found me through 656 different searches. These are the pointers Huffington Post would tell me to study—that’s the way to build an audience! In that spirit, would you like to know the most popular search topic on my site in the last year? (drumroll!):
So from now on, I’m going to be writing exclusively about Latin jazz and musicians wearing really cool hats and shades…okay, maybe not.
Other popular search topics included Humvee, the Iraq War, Occupy Wall Street, Dick Cheney (the hits he sent me were more good than he’s done anyone else in a long time) and, inevitably: the mockingbird!
Some of my favorite searches (that somehow led to this site) include: ‘famous sociopaths’, ‘hunter thompson ayn rand’ (obviously a philosopher or a shrink), ‘bruce and clarence’, ‘crackle vector’ (?), ‘for choke damn miners carried canary in a chage’ (sic), ‘f**k you ted krever’ (don’t ask), ‘lake ronkonkoma’, ‘shower wisdom’, ‘enjoy your illusions’ and ‘why we listen to people?’ I also like ‘best science-fiction books,’ the searchers who actually knew my name and the ones who typed search terms in arabic and/or Cyrillic and ended up here.
The most popular post overall was ‘The Subway in the Parking Lot‘ . This got picked up by several other sites (a new one just a few days ago), which helped juice the numbers. But others that pulled hits all year included the Iraq excerpts (Part One here) (Part Two here) from ‘Mindbenders’ and a piece I wrote about our veterans called ‘Canaries in a Coalmine.’ I can testify to the frequency of searches for ‘Iraq War’ on the Web every day, all kinds of versions and every language you can imagine.
I use Facebook to announce each new blog post. And, of course, Facebook has its own numbers. And, of course (because it’s my life we’re talking about here), the numbers totally contradict each other. On Facebook, the posts that tell a story (such as the Subway car, Fish Story or The Boat ) get as many or more hits than my (hopefully) charming reminders of how wonderful my books are or my occasional ill-tempered political rants. But the hits on this site don’t always reflect those numbers. So, after looking all this over, all I am is more confused.
Therefore, having done my homework, I’m going back to the seat of my pants. I’m an independent writer. I don’t owe anything to agents, publishers, focus groups or anything but my own best judgment. I like the story posts and plan to do more of them as they happen. I’ll still let you know when one of my books gets a review, sells well or hits some sort of milestone. And the first Mindbenders sequel should (hopefully) be ready this fall, so there will certainly be a lot of activity leading up to that.
But what form that activity will take on a day-to-day basis remains, like life, mostly a mystery. The stories come out of nowhere, out of my imagination, the headlines and my (nowadays-pretty-wonderful) life.
And that’s the way I like it. Hopefully, that works for you too.