Use page views wisely

Fortune cookie reads: You have an unusual equipment for success, use it properly.

A page view is only one metric and it literally means only one thing: an HTML page was rendered by a web browser. The number of views that a page generates is valuable only if you understand how to use it. If your article or blog post is viewed more than the average post, don’t just pat yourself on the back, use your analytics program to dig up related data to provide the context necessary to figure out what to do next.

  • Referring page: Did another web page drive people to that blog post? Visit that site. Subscribe to its RSS feed. Read the post that linked to yours. Read the comments. If appropriate, contribute to that conversation. Find out the author’s name. Find and follow her on Twitter. Thank the writer for mentioning and linking to your post.
  • Search keywords: Did people get to your post from a search engine? What were they looking for when they found it? You might be surprised to find that it wasn’t what you thought was the most important part of your story. Investigate those topics and find out why people were so interested in it. There could be a good follow-up post for you to write.
  • Previous page: Did readers get to the popular post after visiting another part of your site? What was the page that readers were on before getting to your post? Was it a tag or category archive page? If so, make sure all related posts are properly categorized and/or tagged. Was the previous page another blog post or article? If not, you need to start linking to related content on your site.
  • Mobile: You might have spent days fine-tuning a Flash piece for your post, only to find that most of your audience read that post from a Flash-incompatible iPad or iPhone. If you discover that most of your popular posts are heavily read on phones or tablets, make sure your site is easy to read and navigate on those devices.
  • Social: Assuming that you want your content to generate conversation, and not just views, take a look at who linked to your post from Twitter. You might find some people you want to follow and/or engage in conversation. How many times did Facebook users like, share and comment on your post (use RealShare)? Is your content popular on reddit or StumbleUpon or Digg? If so, join and explore those networks.
  • Geography: If you are trying to attract an audience from a certain geographic region, make sure that your popular posts are popular with that crowd. If not, you reconsider that topic of coverage or the way in which you cover it.
  • Day/time: Was there a particular time and/or day when the post saw a spike in page views? Try to figure out why that happened. Cross that information with the referring page and social network mentions. You might find that one blog or person was particularly influential. Do not try to “pitch” all your future stories to that person, but follow her and learn from what she shares.
  • Weather: If you had a traffic spike on an rainy or intolerably hot day, some of that might simply be the result of people staying indoors to keep dry or cool. Make sure you have some extra posts reserved literally for a rainy day, and roll those out when the demand is high.

This is the second of three posts about page views. The first in the series is Page views mean so little. The last is Page views mean so much.

Image courtesy of James Sullivan on Flickr