2006-10-16

#49 on the Charts

As of right now - and who knows what will happen in a few hours - Flatbush Gardener is listed as #49 on Top 100 Gardening Sites. If there's any advantage to this counter, it's that my blog now appears on Page 1.

Now, I'm a geek, and I don't put much stock in this particular counter. For one thing, there's no way for me to exclude my visits to my own blog, which happens whenever I edit a page, modify the blog's template, and so on. I also check out how my blog looks in different browsers, at different settings, especially if I suspect there's a formatting problem.

This points out that it would be very easy to load the dice (stack the deck, mark the dominoes ...) and artificially inflate my count, just by repeatedly visiting my own blog. I suspect this has happened, inadvertently: this particular hit count was around 1065 just over the weekend; it's now at 1510. Hell, I am a geek, after all: I could just write a program which repeatedly visits my blog - say every minute or so - and hit #1 in no time.

But homey don't play that.

I mainly pay attention to two other visit counters I have in the footer: StatCounter and SiteMeter. Both offer limited tracking information for free. And both allow me to block my own visits, so they don't skew the counts or stats the way Top 100 does. Both also offer additional information besides simple counts, including:
  • The referring page
  • Entry and exit pages
  • Duration of visits
  • Type of browser
  • Monitor resolution
  • Location
and so on. When I showed my partner how much information was available about my visitors, he had one word: "Creepy." I would take it down a notch and call it "Spooky," but I understand his reaction. Nevertheless, knowing the technical profile of you, my visitors, directs me to take care that my blog is viewable to you. For example:
  • About half of you have a monitor resolution of 1024x768. But a significant number of you, around 7%, have your monitors set to 800x600, and many more, about 25%, have monitors set to 1280x1024. This told me I needed to customize my blog's template to use flexible sizing instead of hard-coded pixel widths, so the content will flow according to the size of the browser window.
  • The majority of you use Internet Explorer as your browser, though a significant chunk use Firefox. So, although Firefox is my browser of choice, I also need to check out how my blog looks in Internet Explorer when I change the template.
StatCounter and SiteMeter complement each other on some stats which the other doesn't provide. For example, SiteMeter reports color depth: 32-bit, 24-bit or 16-bit. StatCounter distinguishes between first-time and repeat visitors; it needs to set a cookie to do that, so if you see a cookie from statcounter.com, that's what it's for. They also report the length or depth of a visit - multiple pages in a single visit - in different ways.

The combination of all this information is stuff I look at frequently, several times a week, if not every day. It helps me to see what's working, and what's not working, even when you're not leaving comments. I much prefer your comments, so please, comment away! But even when you don't, know that I gather up the crumbs from your cookies, watching over your cumulative visits, like a beneficent demi-god.

Or something.

10 comments:

Janet said...

LOL! Oh beneficent demi-god, deign to hear my petition!

Or whatever.

The main value I get out of the top100 thingie is the occasional visit from their page. Otherwise, it's pretty well meaningless, as you've pointed out. And I must confess to a love of Sitemeter and StatCounter too. When nobody's commenting, they do assure you that people are coming anyway, which feels good. I'll take my encouragement any way I can get it.

lisa said...

Wow, your royal geekiness :)...that's cool how you can check all that stuff out! I WAS having problems visiting your blog from work about 2 mos. ago-it kept giving me "timed out" errors. May have had something to do with the browser settings, I dunno...but you got it fixed, whatever it was. Glad for that, cuz' I missed visiting your blog, and it was hard to do from home before also, only beacuse my connection there is excruciatingly slow! But I'm back now...like it or not! ;)

Xris said...

Janet: Yeah, watching the counts roll up has its own addictive nature to it. Another thing is looking at the search keywords. That's how most first-time (and often only-time) viewers find me.

Lisa: If you ever have a problem with my blog, please let me know, either with a comment or direct email.

Regarding: Connection speed. That's one thing I don't have any information about, so performance problems are something I need folks to tell me. I've thought of starting to use a "Below the fold ..." link for my BIG posts, especially those with lots of photos, of which there are many. This would give folks visting the home page a chance to bail, or selectively browse. That would also give me a second link within my blog when folks continue reading, which would give me a better idea of whether people are simply leaving right away, or spending the time reading the home page.

The other thing I'm keeping an eye on is the amount of "bling" on my blog. I try to keep it to a minimum, but even I sometimes notice that I'm waiting for a particular external site to respond.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Interesting... I use Firefox at home and I am stuck with IE at work, but I have not really noticed a significant difference from one to the other in regards to the appearance of my blog. Then again, I'm using a "Blogger-approved" template, so maybe it's "approved" because it's optimized for both?

Annie in Austin said...

Without Sitemeters or StatCounters my blogging is more like throwing a message in a bottle out to sea.

Knowing how things are measured makes me wonder if the way I look at blogs may have altered some of the measuring! For example, I may leave a page up while I disappear into the garden for a few hours, or accidently back up to a site I've visited while intending to return home, and I periodically delete all the cookies and start over.

Even when we don't comment, we like to read your stuff, Xris!

Annie at the Translplantable Rose

Rick Anderson said...

The site-meter thing is good but whoa!!! Google Analytics is way over thr top. More than anything you ever want to know. And may I offer another http://103bees.com/
Another great site that breaks down search terms to your site. If you are into site-meter you'll flip over the others.

Xris said...

BlackswampGirl: It depends on the template. The template I started with was Roudners 4 by Douglas Bowman. I chose it because of the green theme, and because it originally had a leafy graphic in the header. The problem was that the "round" corners depended on fixed widths for the header, body, and sidebar. They couldn't be resized, and left lots of wasted space. So I changed the widths to be percentages, which automatically resize. That meant I had to get rid of the corners and other graphics.

The other problem which remains is that the lines around things don't work the same on FF and IE. It's a minor thing, but it still bugs me.

Annie! One thing I've learned is that youre my biggest fan! You visit my blog even more than my father does. So I know you read my stuff, even when there's no comments. [g]

Don't worry about how your interaction with a site might affect the stats. Just use it the way that makes sense for you!

Rick: Thanks for reminding me! I'd forgotten I'd also signed up for Goggle Analytics. I just did it earlier this month, so I haven't gotten into the habit of checking it out as frequently as I do the others. I'll have to check it out and compare.

I get search terms from StatCounter. That's a whole topic in itself. I'm amaazed at how people find me. I signed up for their 1000 account, which was very cheap.

Thanks for the tip about the "bees". Will check that out!

Annie in Austin said...

Hmmm, I should be freaked out, but guess it's too late to worry about it.

The only 'bling' on my page is the Garden Rant button and the photo, which is partly your influence, Xris. I was inspired when you mentioned using a black & white photo that was vintage rather than current.

Kati said...

yawn. oh, I know I should take more care about the technical stuff. when I started the blog I had tried, I honestly did, to learn more about what I was doing. so, I admit, if my blog looks wonky, it's because I am easily frustrated by the technical stuff. yeah, I know, I'm into instant gratification -- anything else sounds like too much work!!

Gefreiter said...

BLOGS AND BLOGGERS, GOLDEN AGE AND GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES
I am the truly proud father of the Flatbush Gardener. I must say that I have no memory of naming an offspring as “Xris”. DNA samples worked out all the problems. My wife and I are in the @#$% “Golden Age”. We were “Depression” kids with all that implies. I worked for 43 years as an engineer. My first computer experience was with a single channel analog computer made by Ease/Berkeley. One of those room and a half thingies. This was around 1955. We had all the series “I” and “II” Apples, in order, and then IBMs.
Now my son has a group of computerists working for him in a Federal agency. He tells me how to do things.
We are up-to-date Seniors; our home has three computers, two desktops and one laptop. Not too rotten.
Then comes this email out of the blue in which Xris tells me he has a Blog ! …. So, I figure he bought some exotic pet, perhaps a crossbred frog. At least that would not have required so much care and maintenance.
I have been a fan of the “Flatbush Gardener” since he introduced me. When he was here in North Carolina two weeks ago, we discussed in great detail what a “Blog” is and how it is to maintain. It is a WORK… of love.
Luckily he is a high speed typist with great photo talent and a terrific organizer. He took over 500 photos here which he, of course, edited down to some that went on the Blog.
His Mom and I were both born in Brooklyn but we’ve lived all over the U.S. We are familiar with the locations he writes about. That part is fun, the recognition. We are faithful readers but are not always into the subject of every writing. GREAT macros of insects but I care no more about their breeding than I do my own.
(Bugs have a whole SEASON ??........Damn!.......OK, so I’m a little jealous.)
I can not read, absorb or retain data covering a broad field of interests the way he can. I can, however, continue to be a bragging Dad and so very proud of how the little Punk turned out.
So, his Mom and I get up every morning and first, read the obituaries, just to make sure. Then we check our e-mail, just to make sure. We skip the daily comics in the paper and go directly to Flatbush Gardener.
This is our source of learning (never too old), a status source for his garden, home, scientific news and occasional political disagreements. We find that, whether or not the subject is of direct interest, we are smiling as we read. Now THAT'S entertainment !