Part of the joys of being early adopters in initiatives like this blog server is getting to watch me stumble my way through administrating all these various sites.
My webmaster blog has had an active RSS feed into the “About this site” section of VolState.edu for quite a while now. But our first “real” institutional blog to roll out such a publicly accessible feature is the Thigpen Library. One of the features I sold them on was the ability to track traffic and metrics using Google Analytics. That’s a tool we’ve been using on the main site for around 3 years now. The way I pull it off on this server is using a plugin called Google Analytics for WordPress. Now that the library blog has been live for several days, I got a request to pull some analytics data to share.
Oh no! I didn’t see any data in the profile that was supposed to be collecting it. What happened?!
I stupidly forgot that plugins default to being managed on a per-site basis. The plugin was working on this blog and on the webmaster blog, but I never set it up for the library or several other blogs. Luckily, I found the button to enable a plugin across the entire network of sites. Not-so-luckily, I assumed this fixed the issue. Turns out the plugin has to be configured for each site using it. In hindsight this makes perfect sense. Multi-site functionality in WordPress can run thousands of blogs totally unrelated to each other. Our use for a networked family of related mico-sites is really a fringe case. It was silly of me to assume the same settings would automagically be applied when I activated the plugin across the entire network.
I finally got it set up properly late last week. This morning I pulled the figures over the weekend. That’s not many days, and it can be dangerous to draw sweeping generalizations from such a small sample size. But what I saw impressed me.
Early traffic report for blogging looks promising
Over the 3 day period of last Friday – Sunday, the library blog got a total of 53 pageviews. By contrast, the library home page on the main site got 836 pagevies over the same time frame. That’s really the only point of entry to the blog, targeted at those who have already shown a certain level of interest in library related topics by visiting the library’s main page. So those 53 blog pageviews came from among those 836 home page pageviews. In that sense, we are talking about a type of conversion rate of around 6.33%. If we run the numbers for the official Vol State blog and the home page of VolState.edu that figure drops to about 0.5%. And to be honest I’m quite proud of even that figure.
The Vol State homepage is our single most popular page. Almost everyone filters past that page on their way to whatever content they are seeking at that moment. Most people will be focused on logging into their online classes or checking their email or finding contact information for a specific office and likely not even notice the links to the blog. But a few take the time to look around, and a few of those follow through to the blog.
A similar process takes place for the library blog, of course. But since the topics covered are more specific — and since the audience is already more focused — it would make sense that we see a higher rate of library homepage traffic converting to library blog traffic. That has been one of my major assumptions behind the idea of running our own WordPress server. And I’m very pleased to see the early data supporting that assumption. 🙂