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Eight million pageviews later..

I signed up for Google Analytics in November of 2005. Since then, some 8 million pageviews have been tracked by their software, allowing me (and of course them), to learn a lot of useful information about page performance and popularity.

Analytics isn't entirely accurate. It depends upon a bit of Javascript imbedded in the pages, so if a visitor has Javascript disabled (very common nowadays, especially for Firefox users), Google can't count the page view. That Javascript is also usually installed near the end of the page, so if the page doesn't load completely (because the visitor quickly clicked away or because of Internet problems), that view can't be counted either. For these reasons, you can't entirely trust Analytics figures. However, you can believe that if Analytics says your page was seen 50,000 times, that's a minimum figure and it is likely real people (because spiders don't ordinarily execute Javascript).

So what have I learned in almost four years? Let's take a look at some figures. First, the Top Twenty in the past year:

Top Twenty pages 09/2008 - 09/2009
PagePageviewsUnique PageviewsAvg. Time on Page (seconds)
Google Earth Street View - June 200674,83358,54975
Using the shell (Terminal) in Mac OS X - December 2002 65,31157,114157
PTR records and why you care - July 200460,70056,065262
The Gimp: Making Colors in a GIF Transparent by Crouse - January 200455,45550,852301
How can I recursively grep through sub-directories? - February 2008 53,56048,751193
Getopt and getopts - September 200349,75042,135276
Using sudo - February 2002 49,57844,903257
Perl Getopt and GetOptions - September 200348,76442,251295
Lost root password (Linux) - December 2003 40,95035,253241
Home Page (1997)36,19127,180119
Mac OS X Dual Monitors - February 200833,68428,536141
GPG/PGP Basics - November 2001 32,33127,909274
Writing and Compiling C programs on Linux - December 200432,08027,162182
How can I send attachments from the command line? - 199724,43722,187240
Perl Input - October 200320,91619,120281
Perl Net::FTP - September 200320,26817,723408
Mac OS X ipconfig - July 2006 20,24618,169165
Linux Logical Volume Manager (LVM) on Software RAID - November 2002 18,65217,022258
Virtual PC for Mac OS X - July 200318,17414,57082
Understanding PAM - March 200517,13715,350280

I have no idea why that Google Earth post gets so many hits. Notice that the "Time on Site" isn't all that high, but then again, it's a short article - it doesn't take long to read.

The rest of the table makes sense - those are useful posts about commonly encountered problems or concerns. If you want to write popular pages, studying that list might give you some ideas.

When we look at the whole period that Analytics has tracked for me, the picture changes a little. That Google Earth post is still well into the top twenty, but it's not at the top (on the other hand, it wasn't written until June of 2006). Everything else follows the same pattern as we see in the past year: articles about common problems are the most popular.

Top Twenty pages 11/2005 - 09/2009
PagePageviewsUnique PageviewsAvg. Time on Page (seconds)
Lost root password (Linux) - December 2003 207,560181,727277
Using sudo - February 2002 191,976176,098299
The Gimp: Making Colors in a GIF Transparent by Crouse - January 2004186,861171,473330
Perl Getopt and GetOptions - September 2003166,820145,332333
Using the shell (Terminal) in Mac OS X - December 2002 164,212147,478214
Google Earth Street View - June 2006156,236119,56176
Home Page (1997)154,349115,12786
PTR records and why you care - July 2004150,578138,687270
Getopt and getopts - September 2003122,010107,398319
GPG/PGP Basics - November 2001 108,93794,877284
How can I recursively grep through sub-directories? - February 2008 99,61691,960211
Perl Net::FTP - September 200390,50476,404358
Linux Logical Volume Manager (LVM) on Software RAID - November 2002 82,83575,239277
Writing and Compiling C programs on Linux - December 2004 82,61572,513262
UNIX Basics: JOB SCHEDULING by Steggy - May 2004 75,68069,869322
Perl Input - October 200373,09567,911332
Windows 2003 Terminal Server, Remote Desktop, thin clients and all that - November 200461,16455,375221
Tightvnc, Chicken of the VNC - October 200359,86051,724166
How can I send attachments from the command line? - 199758,81854,147287
How can i mount a ISO Image CD ? - July 200457,63250,759105
Panasonic LF-D201U DVD-RAM - September 200156,24549,869149

The articles that made both lists here (current year and past four years) are broken out below, and can help show whether each article is gaining or losing popularity.

Some articles (like the one on Virtual PC) have fallen out of the top because whatever they were about is no longer of interest. You have to expect that, of course. Others disappear for no apparent reason: perhaps someone else wrote a better post on the same subject and has taken the traffic? Or maybe they've just been pushed down because other posts have become even more popular.

Common Pages
How can I send attachments from the command line? - 199724,43722,187240
How can I send attachments from the command line? - 199758,81854,147287
Perl Input - October 200320,91619,120281
Perl Input - October 200373,09567,911332
Writing and Compiling C programs on Linux - December 200432,08027,162182
Writing and Compiling C programs on Linux - December 2004 82,61572,513262
Linux Logical Volume Manager (LVM) on Software RAID - November 2002 18,65217,022258
Linux Logical Volume Manager (LVM) on Software RAID - November 2002 82,83575,239277
Perl Net::FTP - September 200320,26817,723408
Perl Net::FTP - September 200390,50476,404358
How can I recursively grep through sub-directories? - February 2008 53,56048,751193
How can I recursively grep through sub-directories? - February 2008 99,61691,960211
GPG/PGP Basics - November 2001 32,33127,909274
GPG/PGP Basics - November 2001 108,93794,877284
Getopt and getopts - September 200349,75042,135276
Getopt and getopts - September 2003122,010107,398319
PTR records and why you care - July 200460,70056,065262
PTR records and why you care - July 2004150,578138,687270
Home Page (1997)36,19127,180119
Home Page (1997)154,349115,12786
Google Earth Street View - June 200674,83358,54975
Google Earth Street View - June 2006156,236119,56176
Using the shell (Terminal) in Mac OS X - December 2002 65,31157,114157
Using the shell (Terminal) in Mac OS X - December 2002 164,212147,478214
Perl Getopt and GetOptions - September 200348,76442,251295
Perl Getopt and GetOptions - September 2003166,820145,332333
The Gimp: Making Colors in a GIF Transparent by Crouse - January 200455,45550,852301
The Gimp: Making Colors in a GIF Transparent by Crouse - January 2004186,861171,473330
Using sudo - February 2002 49,57844,903257
Using sudo - February 2002 191,976176,098299
Lost root password (Linux) - December 2003 40,95035,253241
Lost root password (Linux) - December 2003 207,560181,727277

If we are trying to find the magic formula for popularity, we need to go beyond this. We need to look at the source of the traffic - search or links? We need to compare page length, readability and the level of expertise the articles are aimed at. We need to filter out transient spikes such as might be caused by a mention on SlashDot or Linux Today. Analytics can't give us all of that, though it can help.

For any of the authors who have posted articles here: I'm happy to provide Analytics data for your posts - just ask!



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© Anthony Lawrence







Thu Sep 24 15:57:49 2009: 6967   TonyLawrence

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By the way, I don't mean "flash" popular - getting a few tens of thousand hits on the first day of your post and then nothing. Some people want that sort of traffic, which is why they beg for Diggs and try to get mentioned on SlashDot.

99% of the time, that sort of traffic is useless - big spike and then nothing. I want long lasting posts that draw traffic year after year. YMMV, of course.

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