Back in March, I noted that I had inadvertently done an experiment to see what kinds of posts bring the most hits. That week, I posted one peer-reviewed post every day, along with a bunch of other articles, and I looked at the traffic stats to back up my contention that hard-core science blogging is not what racks up the page views.
The question came up again at the conference this past week, which reminded me that at the time, some people argued that the science posts weren’t a big immediate draw, but would build up more posts over the long term. I thought it would be interesting to go back and look at the data in Analytics, and I generated the following table comparing page views from the week of March 9-15 to the page views from March 9 to September 12:
|URL||Mar. Views||Sept. Views||Change||Mar. Rank||Sept. Rank||Rank Change|
|Talk Like a Physicist||1215||4510||3295||1||1||0|
|Pimp Me New Blogs||453||524||71||2||5||-3|
|A User’s Guide to Vacuum Pumps||432||864||432||3||3||0|
|Tips for Speakers||333||367||34||4||7||-3|
|A User’s Guide to Vacuum Pumps (part 2)||331||523||192||5||6||-1|
|FutureBaby Playlist A-B||317||333||16||6||8||-2|
|Art and Animals||275||276||1||7||14||-7|
|Lab Visit Report: Biophysics||258||293||35||8||12||-4|
|Lab Visit Report: Francium||256||730||474||9||4||5|
|Lab Visit Report: Cavity QED||251||322||71||10||9||1|
|Lorentz Contracted Asteroids||244||258||14||11||15||-4|
|Lab Visit Report: Cold Plasmas||236||282||46||13||13||0|
|Score One for Physics||184||181||-3||15||19||-4|
|Lab Visit Report: Four-Wave Mixing||179||305||126||16||10||6|
|FutureBaby Playlist C-G||174||174||0||17||20||-3|
So, what can we say about this?
Well, I’d say it’s a mixed bag. There are science-related posts that saw big gains between March and September, but the proportion of science content in the top ten posts doesn’t change–in fact, the second most popular post over the full span is just a picture of a zoo animal with a movie-reference title. One research blogging post moved into the top ten, but it just replaced one post that fell out– the total number of serious science blogging posts in the top ten remains the same.
It is true that if you just look at the top ten posts in terms of the change in the number of views, five of them are science-related (three research blogging posts and the two vacuum pump posts), but the other five are fluff of one sort or another.
This is a small sample of posts, of course, and there are innumerable factors that can influence these things, but at the very least, I would stick to my original conclusion that serious, detailed blogging about science is not a significant driver of traffic for this blog.
Which is not to say that science per se does badly– life-in-the-lab stuff does quite well, as shown by the performance of the vacuum pump posts. I have no intention of stopping that stuff, and as I said in Waterloo, I think it makes a useful contribution to the community. But it’s not what brings in the big bucks.