How important is Twitter to your blog's traffic stats?

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Last Friday I wrote a blog post on my own blog about The Impenetrable Layer of Suck and did what I usually do with blog posts these days: I Tweeted it. I saw a few people reTweet it, so thought I'd check my stats. This is what I saw:

How important is Twitter?

I've heard many a time from friends at Guardian Technology, who all regularly Tweet links to new articles and blog posts, that Twitter is a greater driver of traffic than Google News. I've found it to be true here as well. On days that I Tweet a link, traffic is much, much higher than days I don't.

I rarely see links from other websites listed in my referral stats, apart from my own site where there's a feed in the sidebar and weekly roundups. The decline of the trackback is an interesting, and sad, thing. They got so polluted by spammers that they became unworkable for most people and now I rarely see functioning trackbacks. Blogrolls have also fallen into disfavour, probably because they were such a pain to keep up to date and the technology to look after your blogroll didn't develop much functionality beyond very basic add/delete/sort links.

This is a shame. In the early days of blogging, I felt like I really was a part of this huge network of bloggers, all passionate about the opportunities this new technology gave us, all excited about the democratisation of publishing. Now blogs feel much more isolated from each other, less connected, less like the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. More like lone voices howling in the storm.

Twitter brings traffic, as sometimes does Facebook, but it doesn't make me feel that this blog is connected into a wider network. Whilst information flows through my network, just as it did before, that flow is mostly invisible. Twitter doesn't show me whose Tweet is sending me the traffic, it's all just a nameless wall of http://twitter.com. The network has slipped behind a veil.

It's great that Twitter brings readers, but I miss that sense of connection that my referrals stats used to bring me.

So, how important is Twitter to you, compared to other sources of traffic? Do you get most of your referrals from Twitter? Is Twitter now where you find most of your news?

10 Comments

Used correctly, Twitter is an incredible source of traffic. For me personally (and I am talking about a Twitter blog), only long-term organic Google traffic and direct visitors beat it.

If you shorten all your links with bit.ly, you can get a better breakdown of where the clicks came from by analysing the retweets on a per-user basis.

Installing the Tweetmeme retweet button on your all websites is, in my opinion, essential.

Also, Wordpress users can install Wordpress Stats, which links specific Twitter accounts as referrers (i.e., twitter.com/sheamus, etc).

With these tools (and using Google Analytics, etc) I can very easily determine how much traffic I'm getting from Twitter and which users I need to thank. :)

Sue, your referral stats mirror mine. Fewer and fewer trackbacks. Fewer and fewer comments on my blog. Balanced by a steady stream of links from Twitter and referral traffic that flows from them.

And like you I miss the sense of community when other bloggers commented on my posts and better yet, started a post referring to something I'd written and then taking the idea forward.

Sigh.

My experience is more of a 50:50 split between Twitter and other blogs, including referral through blog comments. I agree with your assessment of trackbacks, moderation of which is a real pain (given the immense levels of spamming).

The blogroll comment is interesting. The solution would seem to have something organic/dynamic rather than static (or a hybrid). In other words a rolling blogroll based on links in articles, or connections derived through the Social Graph. It could have both static and dynamic elements. Perhaps I'll build it!

I tweet all my blogs. Of course if you don't get many retweets, you'll get less traffic. Plus the traffic you get is just a spike, but you never know some traffic can stick. That's why I tweet the same material at least once a day at different times. Besides, any traffic is good traffic.

Sheamus, thanks for the tips on tracking Twitter traffic to blogs! Bit.ly I use to some extent. Tweetmeme is new to me, I'll check it out. And the WP plugin is great, for WP. Less useful if you're on MT! ;)

Joseph, I've noticed an overall decrease in the amount that people link to my blogs in the last few years. Maybe it's just that there are so many blogs about now that the chances of getting linked to are lower; maybe it's just a cultural thing that people are linking to more mainstream sources; or perhaps the people into social media are more interested these days in 'proving' their own expertise with big long think pieces and less interested in linking to the community within which they (theoretically) sit. I'm not sure, but I do feel a bit like there's less of a community now around social media, which is a shame. I miss feeling a part of something bigger.

Steve, I'm sure there are blogs that still get linked to, but I have noticed across all my blogs that the number of links has definitely gone down. I wonder how much the decline of Technorati has played a part in this. New blogroll services would be great! They would certainly have to be dynamic to some extent, but also would have to not reveal one's private obsessions, say, with Icanhascheezburger.com. *cough* I wonder if Kachingle.com might actually end up playing a similar role - I know it's at least part of their intent.

MrPooper, yes, the size of your Twitter network matters. And, of course, Twitter can be a fickle thing. Some things I Tweet go crazy, lots don't. It's hard to tell what will take off and what won't! But yes, any traffic is good traffic, apart from the damn drive-bys from Google Images… (long story).

Personally, I don't like to shorten links with bit.ly, because I would like the audience to have an idea where they may be sent to. Too much spam has made me wary of those mystery links on Twitter.

Interesting question Suw. Twitter is the largest referral source for my by a fair margin. However, the number of feed readers that I get every day is usually equal to or greater than casual traffic.

Also, on average I get more traffic for each trackback from another blog than I get from each RT.

Overall, traffic on my blog has about tripled since I started using twitter more effectively - and I use it both to share ideas from other people as well as to let people know when I have a new post (I try to follow Chris Brogan's 9:1 ratio for that).

Finally, I second the recommendation for tweetmeme - it's a nice tool.

Blogs have been unbundled.

There is not enough attention to go round, so loyalty for, and subscription to, any particular blog has plummeted.

People just peck, on the basis of a tweet here or a search there.

I think we're reaching a point where blogs don't exist - at least not as a sustained relationship between blogger and readers. "I read your blog" means "I merely read/skimmed over one of your blog posts". That's all a blog is now, a loose collection of individual posts that happen to have similar URLs.

Along with the "decline" in use of feed readers, I think it incentivises shock-value posts and cheapened analysis.

(For all but the strongest of bloggers.)

All my assertions here are anecdotal and mainly based on hunch! Maybe somebody can debunk them.

While Analytics displays the authors and keywords actually employed to click to your web site, Google Webmaster tools also displays the relevant top keywords along with your search position even if they didn’t result in any visitor clicks (statistics tab -> query stats). This oftentimes shows up several searches being utilized that you may not have considered before providing you to add more of these keywords to your message and capture more visitors. For example, although my internet site is about a B&B in the Cotswolds I can pick up I am rating an average position 9 in Google for the search “highest spot on the cotswold way”. The other thing I do is in all likelihood bordering on loco but each time I get about a computer I launch a search engine and issue a search applying my preferred keywords. I then discover my site in the results and click on it. I’m positive this causes the search engines believe my website is the relevant site to go utilizing these keywords and as such improves my results position.

Hi Suw,

We run a multi-author blog (closing in on 60 writers) and I have been researching/testing Twitter, Facebook and StumbleUpon as mechanisms to drive traffic to us for quite some time now. I wrote an article there you may find interesting and hopefully useful to you.

I found your article through a Google search for "overall blog traffic stats". I was hoping to find something that showed overall web traffic (ALL blogs) per week or month to see if there are ebs and flows. Have not found that yet, but, I did find you!

Nice article, well written. I sure hope that you are able to rediscover that sense of community you are missing. That's one of the big problems with mechanisms .. we often get lost in the dust the create!

Here is the link to that article. Feel free to comment and say hi. Hope you like the blog too. Its .. shall we say .. eclectic!

http://lifeasahuman.com/2010/media-tech/social-media/tweet-stumble-and-ping-driving-traffic-with-social-media/

Cheers,

Gil

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