Comparing Blog Traffic: RSS Love vs Overall Uniques

My oh my, that’s a serious title! Anyhoo…

I have this theory that those who come to my site from from an RSS Feed will click through to different posts than social media users, who will in turn head to different pages than Search Engine users.

I want a sense of what characteristics draw in what users. I’ve been guessing that the most popular RSS click-throughs won’t be the same as the posts that get the most overall traffic. Now that I’ve been here a few months I have some statistics to play my hunches against, so here goes.

I am RSS Curious

Most of my traffic comes from Social Media. When I am active, I get traffic. I post, I comment on other blogs, and people get curious or start doing what passes for “talking” in Social Media – we Stumble and tweet and send out little IMs and PMs and such. No posting means very little traffic for yours truly.

The backbone of Social Media traffic becomes subscribers. Subscribers are subscribers. Both RSS and Social Media “friends” will have a loyalty not to the current flash-in-the-pan traffic going through whatever Social Networking site, but to the site itself. With Social Media, a post’s initial rush of traffic may be 97% “new visitors”, but those who comment and bookmark get to be familiar faces.

SU toolbar referrals are not clicks on web site links. The SU toolbar referrals who don’t bounce become users who purposefully clicks on links. The lion’s share of toolbar traffic is more like a flow of window shoppers making their way down Social Media Avenue. A user may subscribe based on a single post in a newly found blog that they’ve wandered through along the way, and decide later if the blog is a good fit. I suspect this may be especially true for StumbleUpon users; unlike Sphinners, Stumblers are a diverse group.

Where does my traffic come from?

Here’s a frame of reference for the last six months, based on Google Analytics, AWStats and Feedburner’s Site Stats.

  • toolbar referrals – 63-75%
  • direct traffic about 10-15%
  • all search engines (organic) – 4-6%
  • (SU profile clickthroughs) 3-5%
  • about 2-4%
  • about 1-2%

What do they see?

Below, I’ve used FeedBurner’s statistics for the last 30 days. Though no one source of statistics is completely accurate on its own, I’m operating under the assumption that the relationship between FeedBurner’s RSS “Item Use” stats and FeedBurner’s web site stats “Pages” visits will be consistent.

Web Site Stats “Pages”: the top ten posts

(Feed Stats “Item Use” in parentheses)
“n/a” means the post does not appear in the “Item Use” top ten.

  1. (6) How to Have a Blast With a Crash
  2. (n/a) Mother’s Day Brunch
  3. (n/a) AbleReach home page
  4. (n/a) Twitter – A Digital Game of Hot Potato?
  5. (1) My Bouncing Baby Benchmarks
  6. (8) I’m Your (Twitter) Pusher Mom
  7. (n/a) Personal Branding, Personal Connection
  8. (7) Cre8Green: Small Steps for Big Causes
  9. (2) I Dofollow Comments
  10. (n/a) Random Bytes On Naked Blogging

By the way, #10, Random Bytes, is the oldest post that shows up in these two top tens. It has had an ongoing trickle of Stumble traffic, and only one recent visit has been from a search for “naked blogging.” ;-)

Feed Stats “Item Use”: the top ten posts

(Web Site Stats “Pages” in parentheses)
“n/a” means the post does not appear in the “Page Visits” top ten.

  1. (5) My Bouncing Baby Benchmarks
  2. (9) I Dofollow Comments
  3. (n/a) Free Beer? Not From Most Brochure Sites
  4. (n/a) RSS Subscribers Got Green Hunger?
  5. (n/a) WordPress 2.5.1 Adds Security and Bug Fixes
  6. (1) How to Have a Blast With a Crash
  7. (8) Cre8Green: Small Steps for Big Causes
  8. (6) I’m Your (Twitter) Pusher Mom
  9. (n/a) A Preface to my Bouncing Baby Benchmarks
  10. (n/a) Questions for Readers, and a 101 Day Roundup

Do you see what I see?

The web site “Pages” group has more of a feelgood bent. There is nothing like “Mother’s Day Brunch” in the RSS group. Someone like me would read the Hot Potato post, Personal Branding and Random Bytes for entertainment, like an editorial piece in a newspaper.

Four posts in the top ten web site “Pages” did not appear in the “Feed Stats” top ten.

  • 2. (n/a) Mother’s Day Brunch
  • 4. (n/a) Twitter – A Digital Game of Hot Potato?
  • 7. (n/a) Personal Branding, Personal Connection
  • 10. (n/a) Random Bytes On Naked Blogging

The “Feed Stats” group is a little more businesslike, with its WordPress 2.5.1 post and the Benchmarks and Roundups posts. When I posted about WordPress 2.5 becoming available it got some feed views and clickthroughs, too.

Five posts in the top ten “Feed Stats” pages did not appear in the web site “Pages” top ten:

  • 3. (n/a) Free Beer? Not From Most Brochure Sites
  • 4. (n/a) RSS Subscribers Got Green Hunger?
  • 5. (n/a) WordPress 2.5.1 Adds Security and Bug Fixes
  • 9. (n/a) A Preface to my Bouncing Baby Benchmarks
  • 10. (n/a) Questions for Readers, and a 101 Day Roundup

And, though I don’t have enough search traffic to be statistically relevant, about 50% search for “ablereach,” 10-20% find me through very specific WordPress terms.

What do I think this means?

I’m blogging in three directions – feelgood, businesslike and WP-techie. The main disadvantage is that establishing a presence in a split niche is harder. For me, the pros are bigger than the con: as long as I keep blogging “me” the feel will be diverse, there will be more to keep my interest, and there will be more room to grow into.

I still feel like I’m just getting going.

I remind myself of the two little apple trees in my front yard. They may give me a first apple or two this year, or it may be next year. In the meantime, I’m enjoying seeing them start to leaf out more densely this year than last year.

Are you are a feed subscriber who happens to remember the title of a post that inspired you to click through to my site? Tell me about it. Leave a comment. ;-)

I’ve shared mine. Now it’s your turn. ;-)

And while you’re at it, if you haven’t subscribed, you know what to do next. The full feed can be yours. Click, click!

My Bouncing Baby Benchmarks

My measures of success are a little different than most blogs. Though I like traffic and subscribers, at least a little, at this point my priorities are more towards personal connection, enjoying writing and the occasional nerd post. I’m all about the personal value judgment.

I did promise some statly benchmarks, so here they be. Get ready for a journey into Elizabeth brain gently seasoned with stats.


Benchmark: I want some. LOL.

Specifically, I want enough to tell what you like and how what I am doing is working. Other than that, I’d rather have a life than put my all into growing quickly. If this blog was all I did, or if there were two of me, I’d be doing whatever it takes to post something substantive five or six times a week for the first few months.

I started this blog not expecting much traffic, and not intending to chase traffic for a while. I, errr, Stumbled into traffic and then I wanted it and watched for it in spite of myself. I started out at absolute zero in late November, and gradually built to about 100 uniques a day by about the end of the second week of February. The third week in February I hit a wall, desperately needing time to myself, posting here only once. Ironically, that week’s post, Creative Blogging: Plans Versus Experience, is still getting a trickle of traffic from Stumble. Nice. I want that, too.

By March 1st I was up to 1,000 uniques a week, and then I needed a break again. No matter how hard I want to push myself here, I also I need to feel free to pull away now and again to, well, incubate elsewhere.

Right now I’m at 250-350 uniques a week, and I try not to worry about traffic, though I check it every day and I’d like it not to go away, please!

For the next few weeks, my goal is to average four posts a week, two of which I have a strong personal connection to, because I want what that kind of productivity does to my readership interaction.

Creative pressure is one nice side effect of a traffic goal. How goals work out depends on what you want, and how you’re wired. I am learning that, for me, writing with a sense of personal connection requires incubation time. When I’m on a roll I’m the ever-ready blogger, and when I need incubation time that’s all there is to it.

Writing for SEO is more straightforward, more of a get it, got it, good: know the audience; pick and research the topic; check the terms; outline the article; check the facts; write the article; re-check the terms. If I were here to to build traffic and sell widgets, I’d map out a framework of SEO-oriented posts and sparingly sprinkle in spirit-connection posts as needed to keep myself sparky and readers entertained.

Bounce Rate

Benchmark: LOL. Don’t tempt me to say anything sparky about the term “bounce rate.”

Are you beginning to see that most of my benchmarks for AbleReach consist of my own engagement?

My bounce rate is ginormous and becoming ginormouser – now up to 83%, after a low of 39% in January. I expected a high bounce rate, because social me has gone after Social Media traffic. Actually seeing it in my stats has been a heart-stopper.

When my traffic was at its highest, my bounce rate was 39% – not nearly as terrible as 83%. My theory as to why is that once Social Media users come to a site they are going to be hungry for more, especially more that is new. So far, it looks like when I have more than one fresh post that Social Media users like, my bounce rate for that day can shoot right down to about 40%. I think that this is helped by adding forward/backwards links between older and newer posts.

It is important to remember that Social Media traffic does not behave like search traffic: Social Media users are grazers, not concrete searchers.

Returning searchers may be coming to a site for the keywords, independent of any loyalty to a site. Returning searchers may be information driven, looking for search terms that they know are covered on a particular site.

My belief is that though Social Media users are attracted by titles and pictures and what their contacts have bookmarked, returning social media “grazers” are more likely to be fans of the specific site. They need to be attracted – a little different from information driven users. We’ll see how that plays out.

Feed Subscribers

I have two personal benchmarks for RSS subscribers:

  1. More, please
  2. Enough subscribers to give me insight on what motivates clicking through to my site. I find motivation to click to be verrry engaging.

My subscription number is a little higher when I have built anticipation of what will be appearing next, and it goes down noticeably when I post less than two or three times a week. I’m learning that I should not promise ahead. Creativity flows, but not necessarily as projected. The best possible situation is to have some “get em, got em, good” SEO-type posts written ahead. I’m not there, yet – LOL – and, until I am, there will be fewer promises.

The momentum needed to build an RSS subscriber base can be grueling. Anyone who calls blogging “passive income” has not done it for real.

Clicks are cool. Feedburner’s graph of RSS users’ clicks back to my site shows a dramatic increase that seems to be paralleling my dramatic bounce rate, click-through volume going as high as 80% of my total subscriber number. This fascinates me, especially since I offer full text feeds. RSS subscribers already have the full text, so why are they coming to What should I be looking at?

Time on Site

Time on site is my favorite statistic. I have no benchy mark for TOS because I can never get enough. TOS can be…. heartwarming, in an admittedly nerdy way. Is “heartwarming” a benchmark?

For instance, my favorite TOS numbers come from my WordPress tutorial pages. It’s very rewarding to look for what pages have the highest TOS and see that users have spent 8-14 minutes looking at a sidebar tutorial. I imagine that they are working through my tutorial, with their WordPress install open in another tab.

My average TOS is just under a minute, with about 1.36 pages per visit, more TOS for returning visitors and less for first-timers. Most posts are too long to read in under a minute.

I have a few theories for the low Time On Site. RSS readers who click through may have already read the page. Sphinn traffic, I am convinced, either doesn’t read or has already read a post elsewhere in feeds or through other social media. Social Media traffic in general can be made up of skimmers who stay just long enough to decide if they wanted to be there at all. When my SM traffic is high, TOS is really, really low. Most of my new visitors are from Social Media. New visitor TOS is averaging about .26 minutes, whereas returning visitors, including SM, average about two minutes.

Though my TOS goals are strictly feelgood, my version of feelgood always wanders over into user experience. For instance, I wonder if my SM TOS will increase if I start adding images to break up the page a bit: would that help skimmers read? So many things to experiment with, so little time.


Got ’em and love ’em, and am always pleasantly surprised.

For a newer blog, comments are like a magical life force. Once in a while I even get personal emails. I especially like getting personal emails on slow traffic days, because they remind me to have faith that my invisible friends are reading and enjoying their feeds.

I enjoy the give and take of comments. Here, I’d like to encourage lower traffic bloggers who want more comments to do three things:

  1. Directly ask friends for feedback – email, chat, telephone, whatever it takes to reach out and touch someone
  2. Be available for the same for them
  3. Leave meaningful comments on other blogs
  4. Link to those you admire
  5. Link to friends and fans
  6. Enjoy the process


For this site, now, my definition of conversion is when readers are motivated to do more than read what is in front of them. For instance:

  • RSS subscribers clicking through to the site
  • Readers leaving comments
  • Readers who Stumble, Sphinn or bookmark

Keeping an eye on what seems to be causing these three things will continue to give me ideas about how to get more of them, as outlined in various sections above. Though my priorities are a little different, I still can use what benchmarks are reported for similar sites to give a heads-up on where I may have problems. IMHO “problem” is another word for “unmet potential.”

Four months into this blog, having identified these three things as “conversions” gives me a frame of reference for measuring success, and that’s what benchmarks are for.