Matt Dorey

A bird is sitting on the grass with a kite

The Sticky Stick You’re Stuck With

Hero image for the sticky stick youre stuck with

Jetpack, the WordPress plug-in, provides, among other things, a link to the hosted service’s stats service. I set it up so that I see the most popular posts that people have visited over the previous week. When I don’t post, people generally tend to visit unless I appear in search engine results, so the figures I see in my dashboard stats are a reasonable proxy for the number of people who click on the link when my post appears in their search results.

That’s quite an intersection of events and so narrows the usefulness of the stats. I can think of many questions I want answering about who visits my blog and that statistic doesn’t answer very many. It is a start though.

The people who click on the link who get my post in their search results are looking for posts about programming computer games, specifically UNO and Carcassonne. These posts are the only serious pieces about programming to appear here (so far) and when I haven’t posted for a while they consistently appear as the most visited. Does that mean that people who look for posts about programming are most likely to click through to links to my blog in their search results? Or is it the games, UNO and Carcassonne?

There is a slight seasonality to the spikes of interest in my UNO posts, so I reckon there is a computer science professor out there who likes to suggest an UNO game as one of their course projects. It’s a project that I would set if I were teaching programming; I wrote that post about UNO because I planned to use the project to motivate a series of posts about object-oriented programming. If you prepare material for teaching others, you tend to firm up your knowledge as you go. I think it is a reasonable endorsement for continuing with that strand of posts.

Another post that receives regular visits is the one about Betty Blue; I have the cover of the DVD included in the post and my screenshot from the film is safe work, meaning that it brings in quite a lot of the Google image search crowd. This also happens with my Jungle Book post. I don’t really know if they bother to stick around, though I do use a related posts plugin throughout the blog to try to give any visitor reasons to stay and read a bit more. If they’re just coming to perve on nude pics that aren’t there, or to grab a copy of the DVD cover to make their XBMC library look better, there isn’t really much you can do.

It’s a similar story with the understated classics. However, there are a couple of posts that have inspired people to comment and as a result the posts in question have started to regularly draw people in from Google. The most successful in this regard is my review of Arbor Bona, Arbor Mala by The Shamen (no. 6). This is probably because I was still trying to get people in and so I posted a link to my review on the page for the album. (Does the link back now break the internet?) Others include the review of Second Light by Dreadzone (no. 8), a link to which was tweeted out by a member of the band; and Nearly God by Nearly God (AKA Tricky) (no. 17) simply because I acknowledge that it exists. Sometimes people come to snatch the artwork, sometimes people are looking for validation of their love for an obscure album: that’s what started me off in the first place.

So, sticky sticks then. That I’m stuck with? I have never bothered with trying to work out a ‘niche’ for this blog, even if the understated classics and album digests tend to be the things that I write consistently. Even after four years I am still not sure what I want people to be searching for when they come here. I don’t think I want people poring through my inner thoughts, at least not via Google. As a result, there are about fifty posts that are currently private. I’m in the process of either fixing those posts to make them less personal, or of deleting them all together. I write more capably than I used to too, so I’m also fixing up a few of the longer posts: these tended to be rather baggy and I want to be proud of them.

And so to the future. I write a lot at the moment, I have a lot of posts on the go in my drafts. While it is not fun to be out of work, I can at least turn my attention to thinking more deeply about the posts I write. I have also acquired a number of tools and techniques for generating ideas for posts and then following up on them. I know it’s not super fun to read posts about writing posts (a bit like this one) but I think practical advice is something that people search for, and I’m happy to share what I have learned with them. Six months from now, we shall see what search results send people here, and hopefully, in the mean time, I can work on making the site more interesting for my regular readers. I hope that I will be able count you among them.

Hero image is Sticky by Ramona Klee (subtly cropped to a 16:9 ratio). (CC-by-SA-2.0).

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