State of the Variance Hammer: One Year Out

Variance Hammer is a little over a year old, and I thought it might be worth doing some introspection – seeing how traffic is doing, where people come from, where they go to when they follow links, and what kind of posts people like.

Not going to market this post particularly heavily, but it might be of interest to some people – especially those considering blogging – so I figured it would probably be worth making it public.

Where Do Visitors Come From?

The lifeblood of any blog, and the motivation behind writing it, is naturally the readers. Without them, you’re mostly just talking into the void, and while that can be amusing for a time, it’s hard to keep the motivation up. I’ve been exploring how to drive traffic to the site – mostly via posting links in places I think feel relevant. So where exactly do the visitors to this blog find it?

incomingClearly, Reddit. Which makes sense – nearly every post on here links to Reddit, it’s a high traffic site, and I’ve been posting there for awhile. The next biggest single source is search traffic – mostly “unknown search terms” (thanks WordPress), but also searches regarding F.A.T. Mats, Secret Weapon Miniatures bases, Valedor formations and the Eldar Codex, roughly in that order. So basically, reviews appear to be search engine bait, whereas the more opinion/analysis based posts are better for social media sites.

The Bell of Lost Souls blogroll was a surprise to me in third place. It’s a nice passive way to drive some traffic, but the number of actual clicks is higher than I figured it would be. Pleasant surprise.

Forums generally provide hit-and-miss traffic. Big surges (occasionally bigger than Reddit) around the posts that catch their interest (the LVO analysis, Codex reviews, etc.) but they don’t last very long. And none of it’s organic – like Reddit, every link there is something I’ve posted, save perhaps for RPG.net, which is my “internet home”, so there’s some traffic from idle mentions, my signature, etc.

The balance come from other sites – the Independent Characters, Frontline Gaming, and Twitter. These are great sites to engage with people – they’re smaller, more intimate communities, but they’re not major drivers of traffic.

Where Do I Send Them?

The F.A.T. Mat review, among others, has resulted in a weirdly almost symmetric traffic pattern between Frontline and this site, which is interesting. And apparently it means the review works (seriously, I don’t have enough good things to say about their mats).

Thanks to this site, 39 of you now know how to properly pronounce “Tripartite”. This alone is a success.

And while I was skeptical about the utility of posting the code for some of the analysis work on GitHub, it seems that at least 16 readers are interested enough to take a look at the iPython Notebooks, which is cool. If any of you want to contribute, let me know…

General Traffic Patterns

Beyond the whole question of where people are coming from – what are the time trends for traffic? Are the visitors to the site growing or shrinking?

Views

 

After a fairly big start with the original analysis of the LVO, the blog kind of soldiered along at a low level, but in recent months traffic has picked up as I’ve started posting more aggressively. This is actually a really good illustration of the traffic patterns for the site – it can manage ~ 750 views a month on organic search traffic and the like, but as the major source of visitors is folks following Reddit links, and that scales with the number of posts I make, there’s a very linear relationship between traffic and posts:

Posts

But that’s really true of any blog, podcast, etc. It does unfortunately mean that Variance Hammer is a little vulnerable to…life disruptions. Working on fixing that, possibly by creating a backlog of posts to help ride through busy times.

What Kind of Posts Generate Traffic?

Someone on…Frontline’s site, I think, suggested I was trolling with this post, when I disagreed with the changes made to the ITC rules. Assuming that the purpose of said trolling is to drive traffic…well, it failed, because that post was at most low-middling in terms of visitor volume. Generally, what kind of posts do people read?

Types

I classified my posts into four basic categories – Analysis (anything with lots of code), Meta (anything about the site itself), Opinion (which should be self-explanatory), and Reviews (reviews of a particular product – codex reviews fell under Analysis).

First off, nobody likes meta-posts. That’s to be expected – I honestly expect this one to not get a whole lot of traffic either. Reviews go either way – the F.A.T. Mat review has received the most page views of any post I’ve made, driven I suspect mostly by the search traffic coming from people looking for that review. The other products I’ve reviewed are definitely niche reviews, and generally in terms of 40K content, are the lowest traffic generating posts.

The one I’ve been genuinely interested in is the difference between Analysis and Opinion posts – I occasionally feel a little guilty about posting opinion pieces, between them being slightly less work and being one more person opining on the internet. Oddly enough though, while the average Analysis and Opinion piece get about the same number of page views, the analysis pieces have a more tightly clustered pattern (driven mainly by very similar views for the entirety of the many, many part Eldar codex review), and many of the opinion pieces get higher page views than the analysis pieces.

The point of Variance Hammer is those analysis pieces, but these patterns ensure that the opinion pieces are going to keep coming when the mood strikes, and hopefully folks will continue to read and enjoy them.

So there we have it – a view of the inner workings of Variance Hammer. If you’ve enjoyed reading the posts here, they’re all thanks to the generous folks in our Patreon campaign – they’ve helped defray the costs of hosting, the new logo, etc.

2 Comments


  1. I read exclusively through an RSS reader – do my views come across, or is it only tracking real page hits?

    Reply

    1. This is only looking directly at real page hits. Partially because I didn’t bother with something like FeedBurner, and the default/built-in WordPress RSS feed system doesn’t actually track how many subscribers the site has. I’ve been assuming its “Small, but active engaged which is awesome”.

      Reply

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