A Season 3 Preview, as Discerned via Site Analytics

("Damn," you are probably saying. "That is one snappy title.")

Last week, for the first time since I started this project, I checked the basic analytics available to me via my website host. It's tricky to figure out how valuable the information is. It's pretty clear that the vast majority of page visits are either search engine spiders or automated hacking attempts, which makes it hard to discern what's signal and what's noise.

However, after looking closely enough at the data, I realized I could use the spikes in pageviews on days when I promoted a piece to get some feel for how often the site is viewed by actual human eyeballs.

As best I can tell:

  1. People are reading this thing, and there are more of them than I'm immediately aware of. Not many more, perhaps, but more.

  2. Even modest efforts at promoting pieces clearly result in driving visitors to the site.

  3. More concerted efforts (like when I posted my Advice for First-Time Burners to the Denver Burners page on Facebook) have very clear effects. People come to check out what I've written.

So even modest efforts have payoff. That's good to know.

Digging a little deeper, I realized that there was a distinct before/after effect in the number of daily pageviews after I posted a link on Facebook to my (sort of) 4/20-themed piece, In Honor of 4/20, a Cannabis Story. The average daily visits clearly rose after that--some people who came to the site via that link have been coming back. On the other hand, since then, there's been little to no growth in the pageviews. That suggests there hasn't been much in the way of word-of-mouth.

Am I surprised? No, not really. I hadn't checked my stats until last week partly because I wasn't really working that hard to grow the site; the writing and publishing itself has been my raison d'etre. I have purposely allowed myself to write whatever comes up without too much concern about, "Is this valuable to an outside reader?" As my dad would have put it, "Don't put the cart before the horse." The practice and focus on craft needed to come first. Makes sense, right?

But now as we're nearing the end of Free Refills Season 2, the practice is established and the craft isn't likely to expand much more without expanding the focus and taking greater risks. Some of that, obviously, will be having the courage to promote my work more assertively. But some of that will be in what I choose to write about and how and when I choose to publish it.

I can't really know ahead of time what will work and what won't. The only thing I can do is play with it and see what happens.

(And yes, I'm aware today is 9/11. I thought about posting my remembrances of that day and then decided against it. I felt like there's enough of that going on elsewhere.)

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