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Stats Wrangling III: Top Posts and Pages

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Stats Wrangling III: Top Posts and Pages

We did the 36,000-foot, airplane-over-the-Grand-Canyon view of your stats page, and last month, we walked up to the lip of the Canyon and peered down at the days, weeks, and months views. Today — if I may labor the metaphor — we’ll hop on the stats donkey and ride down to take a closer look at Top Posts and Pages.

(We’re done with the Grand Canyon thing, promise.)

Taking a look at your Top Posts and Pages gives you a quick, clear idea of what’s most popular. You can use this valuable data to inform future posts, but also to make sure your perennially popular content is polished and primed to turn a casual visitor into a die-hard reader.

Where you’ll find ’em

Log in to WordPress.com, and head to the stats tab in your Reader. Just under the main graph tracking your daily views and visitors, you’ll see Views By Country on the left and Top Posts and Pages on the right:

Top Posts and Pages

Top Posts and Pages are in a single chart — items aren’t broken out according to whether they’re posts or pages. Click “Yesterday” to see the prior day’s data, and “Summaries” to access data for the last seven days, 30 days, quarter, year, or for all time. (Check out Stats Wrangling II for great tips on how to use short- and long-range statistics.)

Summary View

You’ll probably see your home page near the top of the list, followed by your other popular content.

How to use ’em

With short- and long-term statistics you can capture specific data and identify trends; both will help you shape your blog and grow your readership. Here are a few basics to pay attention to:

What’s most popular aside from your most recent post? You’ll likely see your latest posts on the list, but what else is there? Are people reading your new posts digging into older, related content? Maybe you should write more on that topic, do a roundup of related posts, or create a page on the topic to keep your best stuff in the spotlight.

Is there anything unexpected on the list? Is a much older post unexpectedly at the top of the list? Maybe it’s being shared on Facebook or Twitter, or other bloggers have linked to it. Maybe a blog you often read and comment on is getting attention, and an older comment you once left is attracting new readers to your site. Maybe you’ve been mentioned in a post or article elsewhere on the internet.

Check out your Referrers data (just under Views By Country) for info on where visitors are coming from to corroborate your hunch, then think about how to make hay while the sun shines. Maybe you can publish a new post welcoming readers and directing them to related good content, or return to the other blog and leave some more comments for another participation bonus.

Are there posts or pages that appear on the list repeatedly? Some posts enjoy constant popularity, either because they’re compelling enough that they’re regularly shared on other sites or because they rank highly in a particular Google search.

I once wrote a post about the show “Iceberg Hunters” on my personal blog (don’t ask). Since few other bloggers are on the “Iceberg Hunters” bandwagon, my post appears on the first page of Google results for that term and is always near the top of the popularity heap, second only to my “Home” and “About” pages:

KOS stat summary

Similarly, over on The Daily Post, we get a lot of hits for people looking for guidance choosing a good blog name — a post from last year gets constant attention. In response, we decided to give people searching for advice more of what they want by turning the original post into a seriesthat profiles bloggers with clever, quirky, or just plain perfect blog titles. (I’ve opted not to leverage my “Iceberg Hunters” attention in the same way.)

A few parting words

Along with using this data to come up with a posting strategy to increase your traffic there are a few general issues to pay attention to, no matter which posts and pages are your most popular:

Spending a little time getting to know the Top Posts and Pages stats is a small investment with the potential for a big payoff. Learn more about what your readers enjoy and where they go when they get to your blog, and make the most of that knowledge by gently helping them discover other posts they’ll love.

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