A Look at the Metrics
The reach of PALS has grown significantly since our start in the late summer of 2015. PALS ended 2017 with almost 17,000 visitors and nearly 25,000 page views. The increase in visitors and views for 2017 represents almost a doubling of the same numbers in 2016. The audience increase stems from the hard work of regular and guest contributors and their consistent creation of great content each week. Content is king. The site wouldn’t exist without content on the blog. The social media content wouldn’t exist without content to promote. It seems simple, but additional content means more things for a site visitor to experience. More content means more potential hits when users search for teaching related content on a search engine. The PALS audience size can’t compare to other blogs, like The Junto, which focus on much broader topics of interest for both a specialized and general audience. Still, our reach is great for a site focused on teaching American literature.
How Do Visitors Get to PALS?
How exactly does a visitor to PALS end up on our site? Where do they come from? To answer that question we did some number crunching that looked at site referrals between 2015 and 2017. Site visitors come from 4 sources: search engines, Twitter, shares (via email, websites, and other things) and Facebook. In the section below I’ll talk about referrals from search engines, Twitter, and Facebook. The shares, which come from a variety of sources, are difficult to track; I’ll close with a discussion of the “share” referrals. Get ready for some numbers!
I’ll start off with Twitter because it is cool, academics love it, it seems like we are all on there, and PALS does have a have a nice presence on Twitter.
Percentage of Site Referrals from Twitter:
Twitter now represents a small portion of our audience referrals. The number of referrals from Twitter has gone down drastically, even with our increased Twitter audience. Twitter has changed drastically over past few years in order to monetize their site. Twitter’s changes do not benefit PALS, in fact they hurt us. It takes a lot of work to generate content for Twitter. We’ve experimented with different forms of engagement, but we don’t seem to get much traction. Whether we tweet a lot or a little doesn’t seem to matter. The average daily link clicks from Twitter was under 7 for 2017. (Currently we’re experimenting with being the Steak-Umm of collaborative academic blogs. We’ll report back again on whether we’re successful.) Twitter is not a great for the site in terms of a work to referral ratio. Twitter is a lot of work for the results; however, Twitter does seem to help promote the efforts of individual contributors to PALS.
In short, Twitter occupies a large (and perhaps over-emphasized) place in the sphere of today’s academic discourse and interactions. Twitter is not the top source of referrals to PALS. It is a small part of the audience. The work required to be good at the Twitter Dot Com might not be worth it compared to the results.
Percentage of Site Referrals from Facebook:
Our Facebook referrals have decreased over the years since our inception. Our audience on Facebook is small, much of it overlapping with our Twitter users. We don’t do much to curate content on the site. Much of the content on Facebook comes via the linking of our Twitter account to Facebook. We try to share things on Facebook from other pages, but if Facebook hides content libraries, archives, and museums, then it is hard to share that content. Facebook, just like Twitter, is trying to monetize their content. They have instituted many changes which don’t do us, or other pages, any favors.
Search Engines: The Set it and Forget Referral
Percentage of Site Referrals from Search Engines:
Search engine referrals are off the charts. The likelihood of internet users reaching our site has grown significantly as our writers have contributed consistently to generating content over the past few years. PALS would not have the search engine success without the hard work of contributors.
Search engines are the best resource that we have for the site. Like social media sites, search engines want to monetize things. We can’t afford to promote the site, but we can still use the free tools we have to ensure our site is optimized in search engine results. It makes the most sense to cultivate our referrals from search engines because it’s easy, doesn’t take effort, and we can just “set it and forget it!” Right now all we can do is try to write great titles, use tags, and write buzz-worthy content. I often joke that we can greatly improve our search engine referrals by including posts on works like The Great Gatsby, A Farewell to Arms, and other works popular in the high school classroom. Seriously, if you want to write about those works—hit us up. Again, the search engine referrals would not exist without the hard work our contributors.
Over the life of PALS we’ve received over 2,300 referrals from sites that aren’t search engines, Twitter, or Facebook. These numbers are harder to crunch and interpret because they’re from a variety of sources. WordPress provides data on various referrals, often providing links. When we click on these links we are often prompted for login credentials. We are guessing, based on the login requirement and the site addresses, that a lot of PALS content is being shared via email, course management systems, and similar methods. We can’t read much into this information, but it is great to imagine site users actively sharing the links through email, perhaps class readings, and other reasons, too.
We also consistently receive referrals from contributor pages, other blogs, and pingbacks from pieces that link to our site. The numbers aren’t huge for these referrals. However, when our site is linked by another site– or a post is linked another author’s post– it provides an affirmation for the work that we do. We are grateful for those links from other sites.
What are People Reading?
We have several consistently high performing posts. We’ll highlight the top 5 for 2017.
Teaching Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: 2,157 views
“The Yellow-Wallpaper,” Close Reading, and the Introductory Literature Classroom: 1,281 views
Teaching the Long Short Story: Alice Munro’s “Vandals” in the Literature Classroom: 955 views
Teaching Nella Larsen’s Passing: 875 views
Teaching In Cold Blood: 614
Many of these posts were also in the top five in the years prior. We can infer a few things from the top 5. First, topics like teaching close reading or specific genres are in demand. Second, the pieces of literature discussed in these blog posts are popular in the classroom. Third, we can infer that current events and popular culture shape our top five results. Fourth, nearly all the post titles follow the format of “Teaching X…” and that helps with search engine hits. It makes sense that in the wake of the 2016 election that The Handmaid’s Tale would be popular. Add in the premier of an adaptation of the novel and renewed interest in the dystopian novel. Well, it makes sense. Our post on teaching Thoreau leads on views for the first month of 2018. Perhaps changes at the EPA, concerns about global warming, and increasing interest in teaching the Anthropocene drives this new trend? We can revisit that hunch in December.
Best Day Ever!
Our best ever single-day for site views occurred in March of 2016. Guest contributor James Van Wyck posted an interview with Jordan Windholz. Van Wyck’s interview with Windholz, on the topic of teaching authors that aren’t dead, was picked up by LitHub. LitHub retweeted our tweet promoting the piece and they featured the post on their LitHub Daily. This taste of the viral was a great affirmation for James and the work that we do. It remains one of our consistently popular pieces. Regardless of the changes Twitter and Facebook want to make, our best day ever shows the importance of sharing and amplifying voices on social media platforms. We often worry that we retweet too much on Twitter, but isn’t that the point? To amplify voices? To share ideas? We think it is important over-share things since the corporate forces are shaping the content we see. Fight the algorithm!
Other Fun #Metrics!
Sites like WordPress and Twitter provide limited statistical information; they want users to pay for the good stuff. However, we have some interesting numbers to share with all of you. Between 2015 and 2017 our contributors have generated 201,221 words on the site. Our posts are getting longer. The 2015’s average word count was 1,108. The length of posts is trending upwards. 2017’s average length: 1,651. PALS is a blog and we try to keep our content short, but we recognize that the site is a standing resource that uses a blog as a platform.
Twitter’s provided data paints a picture of our followers that doesn’t match what we know regarding the difficulties facing the profession. Here are a few choice #metrics.
- They think 61% of our audience households earn between $60,000 and $99,000
- They think you like “premium brands.”
- They guess the gender breakdown as 65% “female” and 35% “male.”
- They think you’re here for “politics and current events,” “books news and general info,” “Business and news,” “nonfiction,” and “science news.”
- 62% of you are here for the “comedy.”
Apologies if this post sounds like business speak about promoting our #brand and ensuring that we continue to grow our #metrics through the creation of great #content. It is. A lot of the data also fits the advice you might read about starting a collaborative blog or website. Yes, much of that advice reflects the reality of the market forces, but that is, sadly, the world a site like ours faces.
This site would not exist without the work of regular and guest contributors. The site, and all its fancy metrics, for that matter, wouldn’t exist without you, our readers. We are thankful for everyone that visits our site. We are extremely grateful for your support of PALS.