Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On Blogging and Traffic Patterns

If you follow my blog you might be aware that WIP Podcast episode 22 is out. You will also know that it has an interview featuring me talking about my blog, posting to the blog three times a week and the affects this routine has had on my career. Since the original recording of the interview in November I have had some time to reflect on what I shared. I have also had a chance to look at the traffic numbers and flow patterns for my blog and website. Today I would like to share some follow up thoughts and anecdotes as well as some pretty graphs!

Within an hour or two of taking part in the interview with WIP at Illuxcon I found myself talking about my blogging habits with Jon Schindehette. I was commenting to him about my uncertainty about making the decision to post three times a week and about the time and energy commitment that it requires. Jon is no stranger to blogging and having to find the right balance so that it does not become too overwhelming. Durning our discussion Jon told me about two bloggers that he was aware of that had recently reduced the amount that they posted. One had dropped the post rate to once a week, the other down to once a month. Both reported huge reductions in the amount of followers and traffic. Apparently the blogger that reduced it down to once a month saw their follower rate reduced to almost zero within two to three posts. Though I was initially surprised by this, in the end it made a lot of sense. People want "new" and "more", it is that consumer aspect of our nature.

Do these two anecdotes show that more activity means more traffic and higher numbers? I would have to say yes. I see spikes in my traffic each and every day I post to the blog. The thing that is the big mystery though, do higher numbers and more traffic equal more work and opportunities? From a straight forward numbers approach I would think yes. With more people looking at the blog, hopefully more people are talking about what they see, passing it to friends and coworkers and eventually this would mean more people with the need for an artist would see the blog. Of course it could mean that my networking with fellow artists is simply increasing the number of artist following my blog. I can say without a doubt that I have seen an increase in interest and offers for my service the longer I have had my blog. My website was around for many years before my blog, but it was not until I had my blog that contacts for work began to come in through the website. Yes, you can say that my abilities in the last two years have improved to a point that I am now being sought out. You could also say that is just takes time for my work to trickle out into the web for people to discover. In the end though, if not for the blog and website, would these perspective clients have found me? You need to have the web presence, posting more often just strengthens that presence, in my opinion. The blog has definitely begun to proceed me and people are aware of who I am and what I do before meeting them for the first time. I am still not use to this, but it is flattering to meet people familiar with my work. It is also a great ice breaker!

I have been talking a lot about traffic and numbers, lets start looking at some examples to see what we can make of it. This first chart shows a sample week from just after I started the blog, a sample week a year later and finally a sample week from this month.

March 13, 2009 - March 20, 2009 / March 13, 2010 - March 20, 2010 / February 11, 2011 - February 18, 2011

Though I started the blog in February 2009 I did not start using tracking software until the beginning of March. I use, they have not done me wrong and are easy to use, there are many others services available, find the one that fits you best. As expected, when I started my numbers were REALLY low, and I would not be surprised if some of this traffic reflected my presence on the blog. A year later my numbers had increased greatly with some really high spikes on page views. The graph from earlier this month shows more growth but not nearly as big of a leap as the previous year. You can see the Monday / Wednesday / Friday spikes from new posts going up. Though there was not the amount of growth from 2010 to 2011 as was seen between 2009 to 2010 I think the usage of the blog is more consistent and increased overall.

February 14, 2009 - February 21, 2010 / February 21, 2010 - February 21, 2011 / February 14, 2009 - February 21, 2011

Looking at the number tread over the two years of the blog's life I am happy to see continued growth and active use. The one thing I attribute this growth (beside the fact that my work is so super awesome everyone just comes a runnin' - JOKE) is that I tell EVERYBODY that a new post has been made, what the post contains and that people NEED to go see the post NOW. Thanks to the internet and connectivity of many of the websites and services I use this has been made really easy. My Twitter account is linked to my personal Facebook account and Facebook Fan Page account, my Linkedin account and even my Myspace account. I tweet twice a day about the new blog post and that radiates out to all these other sites letting people know there is an update while providing a link. Also, my blog is connected through NetworkedBlogs which is linked to both of my Facebook accounts, when a new blog post goes up in automatically posts a link to my Facebook walls. If it is a particularly big post, for example a look at my process or when a big project launches, I will also go to Deviantart and post a journal entry directing traffic to the blog. Finally, on my own website I direct people to the blog to see what is fresh and recent with my work since my plans for updating the site have stretched out a little longer than expected. More eyes looking at my blog more often. As for hard number that I can track, I have 318 followers of my blog through NetworkedBlogs, 487 fans of my Facebook Fan Page, 751 Facebook friends, 144 Followers through Blogger and 349 followers on Twitter… as I write this. Yes, there are probably numerous people that are counted among more then one of these lists, but this is still a lot of people and the numbers keep slowly ticking up. For every person I do know on these lists there are two that I don't. Again, how does this affect getting work, hard to quantify, but more eyes can't be a bad thing. I have joked with friends, "It is all about the numbers!" All of this has taken two years of promotion, time and effort on my end. It also meant putting myself out there, trying to find new opportunities to talk to people and say my URLs over and over again. It also has taken posting to my blog three times a week, hoping that at least a majority of the post are interesting or entertaining.

The one thing I am sure I can attribute to my blog habits is that I am a faster artist and I am producing more work then I did two years ago. Yes, this can also be attributed to my skills improving and the natural speeding up of the process over time, but I do think the blog has had it's part in this. Having to fill three posts a week has left my needing to create content for those long spells between projects getting released. It might mean taking part in a ceiling tile painting contest at a local restaurant or taking time to attend a local mini con or just spending my lunch working a new monster drawing. I am making time and putting forth the effort to continue to create. If I had not made the commitment to myself and to the blog's followers to keep updating three times a week there are many many drawings and projects that I just would not have gotten around to or made the time to finish. It has been a burden from time to time but it has also been a great motivator! Maintaining the blog has also improved my organization and planning skills. Since I know I have three days to fill each week I have my posting schedule planned out several weeks in advance with back up ideas if something falls through. In a pinch I now know I can just draw something new! I actively search for opportunities that will lend themselves to a blog post or preferably, POSTS. The blog has also been a great opportunity to share work that has never been seen from earlier in my career as well as work that would not lend itself well to a official promotional website gallery. I got a lot of blog milage AND traffic from all those suits of armor I designed for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. A fellow artist commented to me last year that when she went to my blog all she sees is armor. I may have go a little overboard with my posts, but I had created a lot of armor and the blog was the perfect venue for it.

Now that I have mentioned armor and the traffic it has generated let me impress upon you the importance of tagging or otherwise labeling your blog posts. Posting often is all well and good but making the most of labels makes a world of difference. Blogger is a google subsidiary which has it's benefits when it comes to people searching. Words like "Armor" and "Tiefling" have brought a great deal of traffic to my blog (*NOTE: The day after I wrote this sentence I received an email about using some of my Tielfing armor in a tattoo). My labeled blog posts have led perspective clients to me. If you Google search "Dreamblade" there are two links to my blog in the top 10 links, not bad in my opinion. Another useful tool is Google Alerts. Google Alerts allows you to set up searches for keywords or phrases and will send you email reports at a variety of intervals. I have searches set up for my name, web address, and blog address and you would be amazed at the things I have found. I would really recommend you setting yourself up an account if you do not already have one. It is nice to see so many people that use my work without permission at least credit me.

Now lets look at some long term numbers. I have been tracking my website a lot longer then my blog so I can take a broader look at my presence on the web. This graph show unique visits to my blog during the month of January since 2007, five Januarys in total.

Unique visits to during the month of January 2007 - 2011

Save between 2007 and 2008 the total numbers are all steadily going up. What does this tell us? No idea, except there are more eyes looking at the work I am creating… "It is all about the numbers!" What this does tell me is that I better have the BEST of the BEST work on my website and that I need to get in gear and get those updates to my site finished. These numbers also encourage me that maybe what I have been working on and working towards with my blog and other promotional activities might be turning into something tangible. Ask yourself, did you have any clue I even existed five years ago? Four years? Two? One year ago was I even on your radar? If I had been complacent, not made the effort and not taken the chances I would probably still be off the radar of a LOT of people. There would have been a huge number of friendships and business connections that I would have never made if I had not put forth the effort. If you made a time investment versus profit generated analysis I am not sure you will find that my efforts on my blog have generated a financial profit. BUT, If you add in the amount of friendships I have made and the amount of opportunities I have had because of my efforts on the blog I do think I have gotten way more out of blog then I have put in. The fact I was on the WIP podcast last year for the first time was because of my blog, the reason I went to Gen Con last year for the first time was because I was on the WIP podcast. It is also a two way street, you need to go to other peoples sites and blogs and see what they are saying and talking about. This is a community after all!

I will leave you with one last graph. The day I posted my thoughts on Using Reference on my blog the link was shared on a Fur Affinity forum…

January 21 - February 2 2011. Not even ArtOrder has been able to spike my numbers like this.

I am thrilled to know my post was so well received and that it has been seen by so many people. The idea that it will possibly be helpful to even more folks is really exciting. Never underestimate the power of the internet and be receptive to your audience, they may surprise you! Being able to monitor your traffic and who is linking to you is very important. I went for my evening bike ride on that Wednesday and by the time I got back less then two hours later my numbers on the blog had tripled. Thanks to my tracking software I was able to zero in on the source of the spike. It was exciting to see hit coming in from literally all over the world because of Fur Affinity.

I think that I have rambled enough for today. I hope that my thoughts have been useful or at least slightly entertaining. If you have any thoughts or questions regarding anything I had to say just let me know and I will try to address them in a timely manner!

That is all for another exciting Wednesday on the blog, see you back here on Friday! Until then...

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  1. so much 'crunch'. So do you have a graph that compares your traffic with your commissions?

  2. Hey there, Jon. I really wish I did. That would be the golden ticket of blog traffic info. As of right now I can not tell if there is any actual trackable data that I can find that relates to jobs coming in compared to traffic patterns or volume. I do see spikes in general traffic when I post new work or when I do my year in review posts. Days leading up to work coming in do not stand out in anyway. I can tell when clients of mine are coming to the blog because I recognize the city (Renton) listed with the incoming IP address or the IP address is listed with the companies name (FFG). It is good to at least see that people I have a working relationship with are at least checking in with the blog. Another reason to keep it up to date with new and interesting content. It was a lot easier to track when the traffic to the blog was lower... not that I am complaining. The hard data that links blog activity to actual work is still outside my grasp. ...but it has all worked pretty well for me the last two years! :)