Blogging

How Do Readers Get to Your Blog?

How do readers get to your blog? - graphic of arrows pointing toward a blog

Blog stats can easily drive you crazy, and numbers themselves don’t really mean all that much. What can be interesting, though, is looking at patterns over longer frames of time, like the last quarter or the last year. Changes in ratios can also be far more enlightening than changes in absolute numbers, and they don’t fluctuate as randomly as the numbers themselves appear to.

The WordPress.com premium plan and higher can use Google Analytics, which can give more details, but it’s also a lot more complicated than WordPress’s stats. For this post, I’ll be talking only about the stats that WordPress gives you access to.

Referrers

The referrers section of your WordPress stats tells you how people arrived at your blog.

For me, the WordPress Reader is by far the biggest referrer of traffic to my site. Over the last quarter, let’s pretend I got 100 visitors from WP, just for the sake of easy numbers for comparison purposes. Coming in at #2 was search engines, which brought in about 60 visitors. Number 3 was Pinterest, which brought in 24 visitors. Facebook, which I don’t even have an account on, is #4, coming in at just shy of 2 people in relation to the 100 visitors from WP.

WordPress lumps together most search engines, but Ecosia (an eco-friendly search engine) appears separately. If you have traffic from Google, that’s broken down further into the different countries’ versions of Google that sent people to your site.

Search engine info is kind of fun to have a closer look at. The vast majority of Google traffic I get is from the U.S. site, but I’ve had some come from more interesting places, like Turkey and Romania. My traffic from Bing is about 1/3 of the traffic I get from Google. That surprises me, in the sense that I didn’t realize anyone actually used Bing. For details on which search terms are bringing people to your site, you can get that info from the webmaster tools available from Google and Bing.

Your referrer stats can also give you some idea of who’s linking to your page. You may learn that people are arriving at your site by clicking a link on another person’s blog that you hadn’t realized was there.

If you see a strange-looking referrer that looks something like https://mentalhealthathome-org.cdn.ampproject.org/, that comes from Google. AMP (accelerated mobile pages) is a format that lets Google serve up an AMP-enabled page really quickly, without leaving Google. WordPress.com posts (but not pages) are AMP compatible.

Most popular posts/pages

Your most popular posts that are shown in your stats will probably reflect, at least to some extent, how readers are arriving at your blog. If you don’t get much traffic from places other than WordPress, you may already have some sense of what posts have been viewed the most, even without looking at your stats.

If you’re getting a fair bit of traffic from elsewhere, though, some of your most popular posts may surprise you. A random Pinterest pin or other social media share might happen to get spread far and wide and bring in a lot of visitors to the post that it links to. Or maybe some of your posts use great long-tail keywords in the title, so they end up ranking really high in search results and getting more clicks.

For my blog, the most popular posts that are those that get a lot of search engine, and to a lesser extent Pinterest, traffic. WordPress traffic tends to be more diffuse, spread out over a lot of different posts.

The most popular is my home page, and coming in not too far behind is “home page/archives”. My blog page (which isn’t my home page) is also up there near the top.

In the last quarter, my top 5 posts are:

  1. A glossary of psychiatric terms (published April 2018)
  2. Online mental health workbooks (published June 2018)
  3. COVID-19 coping toolkit (published 2020)
  4. Applying spoon theory to mental illness (published January 2019)
  5. Cell phones on psych wards – yea or nay? (published April 2019)

Looking at all-time stats, my top 5 are:

  1. Identifying emotions (published September 2018)
  2. Online mental health workbooks
  3. Applying spoon theory to mental illness
  4. A glossary of psychiatric terms
  5. Cell phones on psych wards – yea or nay?

The link between popular posts and referral sources

None of those top 5 are particularly stellar posts, and certainly not what I would pick out as my favourites. With the exception of the COVID coping toolkit, they’re all older posts. They were published when my blog had fewer followers and was getting a lot less visitors from WordPress than I do now. What these posts really reflect is my search engine traffic. Sure, there’s variability in how how many people are reading each post around the time it’s published, but that’s not what these top 5 are reflecting.

The identifying emotions post that’s #1 all-time was all because of Pinterest. A blogger with a popular site (not on WordPress) included one of my pins linked to identifying emotions in their post. I don’t get a lot of traffic to that post anymore, but for a long time there was a steady stream of visitors every day

The traffic to the COVID coping toolkit (which is actually a page rather than a post) is also in large part because of Pinterest.

The mental health workbooks post is a mix of Pinterest and search engines. I’m actually really surprised by just how much traffic it gets. The rest of the top 5 posts are largely from search engines.

I find it very interesting that none of my most viewed posts are in that position because of WordPress. And non-Wordpress visitors interact differently with posts. They don’t like, and they’re far less likely to comment.

Does any of this matter?

Probably not, at least for most bloggers. But it can be interesting to get a clearer picture of what’s happening on your blog, especially if you’re interested in growing your blog, whatever the reason. The key thing, though, is to try to avoid getting caught up in absolute numbers. It’s the patterns that will give you insights. Absolute numbers are an extremely poor indicator of the quality of both a blog itself and the interactions on it.

Do you pay attention to these kinds of patterns in your stats?

A new blogger's guide to WordPress from Mental Health @ Home

The New Blogger’s Guide to WordPress page includes tips on topics like blogging etiquette, making the most of your WP experience, and using the block editor.

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The Up Your Blogging Game page covers a variety of blogging topics, including using images and implementing SEO strategies.

23 thoughts on “How Do Readers Get to Your Blog?”

  1. I keep wondering about Pinterest, having heard so many get a good proportion of traffic via it. I did set up an account and pin 1 blog post cover a few weeks ago but I’ve attempted nothing further since. I just don’t know if I’ve got the energy to learn a new site 😂

    I also hadn’t realised so many actually use Bing either! x

    1. I’ve pretty much given up on every social media platform except Pinterest. And even when I can’t convince my mind to do much of anything product, I can still faff about on Canva creating graphics to pin.

    2. Ah I’m so glad someone else is struggling with pinterest! I’ve also heard so many bloggers talk about it, but I’m really doubtful about whether it’s worth it given I have a very small number of readers and all the guides I’ve seen recommend pinning a few things daily D:

      1. I think there’s definitely an element of luck with it, especially early on. It does take effort, but I find that’s the same to have much of an impact on any social media platform, so it probably makes sense to concentrate your efforts on the platform that you like the most aside from blog promotion.

  2. Pinterest has always been my biggest referring site, following by search engine results. The Mighty and WordPress kinda tie after that depending on the week, followed by a consistently inconsistent mix of Facebook, Twitter, and instagram. 😊

    I’m really trying to build my community here though, I treasure the WordPress community.

  3. I only have a couple pieces on The Mighty and they are cross posted pieces that published here too. Except for one.

    I think some of it is timing luck … posts that catch a prime time wave and then end up in the key algorithm.

    That’s what happened to me on Pinterest I think, I have steady traffic across my profile but three pins specifically draw tens of thousands of impressions each month.

  4. I don’t pay attention to stats at all anymore because I just can’t figure them out, haha. There was a short period where I was attempting to figure out SEO and write things with more “keywords” in them but those actually received far less traffic than the posts I just write off-the-cuff. It could have something to do with my blog not having a central theme to tie it all together; I don’t know.

    When I was writing daily I was of course at my peak traffic because my subscribers would be at least clicking “like” on my posts even if the majority of them weren’t reading anything. Almost all of my traffic comes from India, curiously. Connected to that traffic, most of my followers are Indian “how to blog” writers. My blog apparently attracts droves of the “if I follow you, will you follow me back?” crowd, unfortunately. That might be why I’ve run out of steam a bit. If I’m going to just write for the sake of writing without any belief that anyone will read anything, I may as well just write in a journal.

    I may take the time to figure blogging out in the future. It seems like it’s just getting too crowded and analytics are too easy for worthless sites to manipulate.

    1. I never write with keywords in mind. It feels much more natural to write and then do a bit of tweaking afterwards if needed.

      I think a lot of blogs get followed by people fishing for a follow back. I’ve found the volume ebbs and flows, but it never stops.

  5. Before I wasn’t really a social media person so when I wanted to start blogging I had to start from scratch. I now have a Instagram , Pinterest and Twitter. So instagram has been my biggest site for referring people ,but now that I have made a Twitter that has helped as well still getting use to getting the followers and stuff it can sometimes be a lot bc it’s like I want to be put my all into getting an audience. With a full life in front me of me you know. But no giving up hope . In time I know exactly what’s needed will come.

  6. We didn’t know these stats existed! Our home page is almost the only page being viewed lol. WordPress reader is source of 99% of our views. Bing is next. We weren’t really surprised at our most viewed posts except for one that was more of a diary post.

    1. I’ve never bothered trying to adjust my posting times. I post when it works for me, and if that’s not the best time, that’s fine – I don’t really care.

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