The Tale of the Tape

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In honor of recently passing 100,000 page views and shortly hitting 150 posts (at this writing I have just under 130,000 views and this is post #149), I’ve decided to release some statistics: what has drawn visitors and what hasn’t, and why. I hope this will be of interest to future and current bloggers.

When I started the blog three and a half years ago, my writing was almost entirely fiction, although “based on a true story”. I wrote fiction stories that mimicked my in-game adventures, much like CSM 8 member Mike Azariah does. I got very positive feedback and won or placed in a few fiction contests. While I occasionally got some good hits, big pile-ons were rare. Then after a time AFG, I wrote a post about the new nebulae on Sisi (the EVE test server), and it exploded with hits. To this day, it is by more than double my most popular post, until a few weeks ago even surpassing even the home page itself. That experience made me decide that I should start a set of experiments to determine what, in fact, drove hit count on an EVE blog.

Locations

First, let’s set a baseline. EVE is a very international game – who reads my blog?

AllTimeCountries

The top 10 are above. The next 10 (not shown) are heavily represented by European countries (Iceland comes in at #19). Unsurprisingly, four of the top five are English-primary countries. And the top 5 countries make up 74% of my page views (for those doing the math, this is based on a lower total, since WordPress has been tracking location for less time than I’ve been writing) – 66% are from the US, UK and Canada. So if you’re looking for what matters to the Japanese audience (#32 with 250 hits in 2 years), this might not be the best place.

The Top Tier

So here’s a screencap of my top 20 posts (plus two “pages”).

AllTimeHits

So… what works?

  • Analysis of forthcoming expansions. This one far and away is the top hit producer. 5 of the 10 top posts are directly related to forthcoming releases and events. Nebulized was a preview of many of the new nebulae for Crucible when they were still on Singularity (SiSi) the test server. It May Not Make Sense At First was an analysis of the names of the SOE ships before their release in Rubicon. Odyssey Art Speculation and Crossing The Rubicon drew interest before those expansions and Smashing The Villard Wheel gave a preview of where CCP would take their ill-fated pre-Rubicon Live Event, laying out a nice roadmap for all participants before it was announced (I think had there been more time, this would have been an even bigger hit – as it was I posted it the morning of the event). If you want hits, read up, and get on Singularity – however since these are point-in-time they are generally big, short spikes with little staying power.
  • Producing hard, referenceable work. These are almost the opposite – long, sustained hits at a lower daily level. This is why I love reading The Nosy Gamer. He does actual research, knows his topic, backs everything up. I don’t generally have the time to do that. But when I do (or post on behalf of someone who does), it gets long-term sustainable hits. The Shattered Datacore is not strictly a post – it is a summary of posts and was the base from which I built the EVElopedia Shattered Planets page. It May Not Make Sense At First also falls here as well as above. It is the only post I’ve had with two major spikes and ongoing high readership. Unbreaking Local was an extensive review of the “Local problem” and what CCP could do to decouple chat from intel. It built on the earlier posts of a couple of other folks, but this post drove the start of a blog banter, Twitter debate, and generally constructive discussion across the blogosphere on the issue. The EVE W-Space Alpha, while not much work for me, is an introduction to a great wormhole tool built by with loads of blood, sweat and tears by my corpmate Marbin Drakon. I expected a brief and low spike. But it gets hits every day. The Hangar, while not a ton of work (many, particularly EVE Outtakes, have done it far better), it also gets hits constantly as a reference. People love these comparisons.
  • Finding the EVE Funny Bone. I’m not always very good at funny, particularly in writing. But sometimes I get a solid hit when I write an analysis with tongue firmly planted in cheek. The Cycle Of Fear, about how everyone in EVE is afraid of everyone else, got some great laughs and great comments with a lot of knowing nods. Of Mice and Pirates, attaching labels to the denizens of Lowsec, also got a lot of commentary and interest.

What hit the top 20 but not as high?

  • Lore analysis. People are fascinated by the lore and like to see what lies at layers underneath it. It May Not Make Sense At First hit here again. Please note (see below) that this doesn’t necessarily mean fan fiction enjoys the same interest. The Humans Are The Real Monsters and Misdirection also fall in this category.
  • CSM commentary. I did a ton of writing on the CSM this year, especially in the spring. The biggest draw was Nondisclosure, the results of my research and petition to CCP Dolan requesting the text of the CSM NDA. I honestly expected CSM interest to be higher. Regardless, I’m happy I did the stories and I like to think my analysis was solid and valuable to some of the voters.
  • After Action Reports. I don’t write many of these, but turning it from a boring recount to a story helps. Wrath of Bob was my best.

So what didn’t work as well?

  • Controversy. When I say above that I “started experimenting” what I tried first was what we’ll call the Poetic Stanziel method. I was pissed and I wrote a rant in the run-up to Retribution called An Open Letter to CCP basically saying that they were releasing an unacceptable product. It did generate a lot of hits for the time, but has faded to insignificance quickly and was rapidly replaced on the charts by the things above. Maybe that worked for Poe, but it didn’t for me. While it got my point across, it also generated a lot of defensive, unproductive discussion and today is at #23 all time.
  • Original Fiction. As much as I hate to admit it, the audience for fiction just isn’t what it is for analysis. Yes, there are three fiction pieces in the top 20 … at number 17, 19 and 20. All the rest, including all of my award winners, are down the list. This was the impetus for me to start trying other things. Fiction isn’t bad, and I like and still do write it. But if you start a fiction blog, just accept that it won’t draw big traffic.

Traffic Drivers

So how did people get to the site? What drove them here? Let’s start with what didn’t. Namely direct word-based searches.

AllTimeSearches

Here are the top five. Out of 130,000 views the top hitter has 183. What do they lead to? Nebulized and The Hangar. So having dispensed with that, where did they come from?

AllTimeReferrers

“Now wait,” I hear you say, “You said searches weren’t important.” No, I said word based searches. The bulk of the “Search Engines” section is actually Google Image Search – people do find my blog via the many pictures I leverage in it. I would imagine Drakarn and Mark726 also get big hits from picture searches.

Of course, with so many hits to the front page, many of these are returning readers, not referred by one of the above at all. From the rest, there are two real workhorses and one (or two) spike drivers.

  • Reddit. Posting a good post on Reddit r/eve drives a ton of traffic. Reddit was the primary driver of the double spike of It May Not Make Sense at First. It was a major driver of many of the posts in the top 20 above. The key however is not just putting any old post there. Post the ones you think were hard work and good content. Ideally, someone else will start posting your stuff for you.
  • Twitter. This is my own advertising. I do two tweets per post. One when it goes up, usually late USTZ, and another the following morning. Those that get retweets, unsurprisingly, drive more traffic.
  • Facebook and mail.live.com. These two lines are almost entirely for only one post: Nebulized. CCP Manifest linked that post on Facebook, in a monthly Eve Online email newsletter, and on Twitter. Nebulized got about 12,000 of its 20,000 hits in a two-day span from the Facebook link. It is my #1 post heavily due to this promotion. Want hits? Get Manifest’s attention. Unlike the two above, however, they result in a massive, but brief, surge.

What about the others?

  • Eveonline.com, wiki.eveonline.com & forum.eveuniversity.org. Most of these are people linking from EVElopedia to the Shattered Datacore. Some others are people linking from my EVE-O or EVE University Forum posts.
  • Evebloggers. This site posts when you do, and if you hit it right can get some good traffic within the couple of hours you’re on the front page.
  • TheMittani.com. This was mostly links to Unbreaking Local or my columns.
  • Other Blogs. I’m not part of the Blog Pack, I don’t post consistently enough. So most of the traffic from other blogs is simply the very nice feature of Blogspot.com that updates other peoples’ pages when you post. The blogs you see in the list above did do some direct links, but most of the inter-blog traffic I get is not from a link the blogger put up about a story, but rather from this automated blogroll updater. So thanks to the community for that!

It’s been a fun road so far. Thanks for riding along with me.

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10 Responses to The Tale of the Tape

  1. mark726 says:

    Congrats on the various milestones! Here’s to hitting many, many more

  2. Ali Aras says:

    Yeah, CSM stuff doesn’t do as well on TMDC either. My best post there is my hacking minigame post, which is reference content. After that, expansion previews. My CSM 8 “how it works” piece about the SMA loot drop thing? Lower than every other non-CSM EVE piece, including quick one-offs about fights or rebalances or minor events.

    This is why my big question for 2014 is “how do we get people to care and be involved?”

    • Rhavas says:

      Thanks for the comment, Ali – I wish I knew. In particular, I wonder how we can reach the blocs of people who are currently blissfully unaware of many things. I haven’t seen the demographic data Dr. Eyjo mentioned, but you have … how does the demo data compare to the voting data? I would bet that if you cross referenced “voting blocs” with those demos, you’d see where the advertising needs to be pointed. We know it’s not nullsec blocs or wormholes. 🙂

    • Druur Monakh says:

      fwiw, I liked the “How It Works” piece – probably because I face similar problems in my rl work place as well, so I’m always curious how other companies handle it.

      But in general, I think it’s simply a fact that not many people want to know how the sausages are made, only which condiment goes best with it. If that much.

      And I’m not blaming them – it’s always only a minority which gets really engaged.

  3. Druur Monakh says:

    “if you start a fiction blog, just accept that it won’t draw big traffic.”

    And that’s why I don’t look at my own analytics. If I get a comment in a year, I am happy. If I get two, it’s reason enough for celebratory pub crawl.

    The problem with fiction is that even fictionalized in-game events are still disconnected from the game itself: readers have to be willing to forget everything they do in the game, and spend the time to dive into the author’s world, without gaining any direct gain for their own gameplay from it. This is a significant commitment, and especially for stories told in installments the audience simply might not be there.

    I notice it in myself when reading Kirith’s Fiction Friday, or Emergent Patroller’s stories: I tend to not read them for weeks, until they have an hour or two worth of story accumulated, then I read multiple posts in one sitting.

    • Rhavas says:

      Exactly. And even more unfortunately, fiction writing is hard, harder than research and really hard compared to simple off-the-cuff commentary. So these days I only write fiction when the spirit moves me, I don’t try to make myself write any more.

  4. OzOxEve says:

    Really informative. Thank you so much.

  5. Noizy says:

    Thanks for the shout out! And you’re right about the hard, referenceable work pulling in a lot of steady hits. The only problem is that you can’t always figure out what people will keep looking up. A post I made about the death of the RoidRipper bot got steady hits for 2 years and is my third most popular post of all time.

    As for controversy, the reason it worked for Poe is that he worked really hard at self-promotion. The only problem with controversy is that he had to keep trying to top himself in order to pull in the traffic. That’s not just specific to Poe; you can see that in a lot of the political blogs as well. Eventually, you run out of tricks to stir up outrage.

    One other thing that used to help in the old days in attracting traffic was getting on other bloggers’ blog rolls. But with RSS readers, people don’t visit blogs nearly as often anymore. But if it helps, I have you on my EVE blog roll.

    • Rhavas says:

      Thanks man – happy to be there. 🙂 You’re right, I don’t think blogrolls per se drive traffic any more, but those little Blogspot rolling blogrolls do. Not a lot of them, but over time it adds up. Thanks for commenting!

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