Stats Wrangling III: Top Posts and Pages

We did the 36,000-foot, airplane-over-the-Grand-Canyon view of your stats page, and last month, we walked up to the lip of the Canyon and peered down at the days, weeks, and months views. Today — if I may labor the metaphor — we’ll hop on the stats donkey and ride down to take a closer look at Top Posts and Pages.

(We’re done with the Grand Canyon thing, promise.)

Taking a look at your Top Posts and Pages gives you a quick, clear idea of what’s most popular. You can use this valuable data to inform future posts, but also to make sure your perennially popular content is polished and primed to turn a casual visitor into a die-hard reader.

Where you’ll find ‘em

Log in to WordPress.com, and head to the stats tab in your Reader. Just under the main graph tracking your daily views and visitors, you’ll see Views By Country on the left and Top Posts and Pages on the right:

Top Posts and Pages

Top Posts and Pages are in a single chart — items aren’t broken out according to whether they’re posts or pages. Click “Yesterday” to see the prior day’s data, and “Summaries” to access data for the last seven days, 30 days, quarter, year, or for all time. (Check out Stats Wrangling II for great tips on how to use short- and long-range statistics.)

Summary View

You’ll probably see your home page near the top of the list, followed by your other popular content.

How to use ‘em

With short- and long-term statistics you can capture specific data and identify trends; both will help you shape your blog and grow your readership. Here are a few basics to pay attention to:

What’s most popular aside from your most recent post? You’ll likely see your latest posts on the list, but what else is there? Are people reading your new posts digging into older, related content? Maybe you should write more on that topic, do a roundup of related posts, or create a page on the topic to keep your best stuff in the spotlight.

Is there anything unexpected on the list? Is a much older post unexpectedly at the top of the list? Maybe it’s being shared on Facebook or Twitter, or other bloggers have linked to it. Maybe a blog you often read and comment on is getting attention, and an older comment you once left is attracting new readers to your site. Maybe you’ve been mentioned in a post or article elsewhere on the internet.

Check out your Referrers data (just under Views By Country) for info on where visitors are coming from to corroborate your hunch, then think about how to make hay while the sun shines. Maybe you can publish a new post welcoming readers and directing them to related good content, or return to the other blog and leave some more comments for another participation bonus.

Are there posts or pages that appear on the list repeatedly? Some posts enjoy constant popularity, either because they’re compelling enough that they’re regularly shared on other sites or because they rank highly in a particular Google search.

I once wrote a post about the show “Iceberg Hunters” on my personal blog (don’t ask). Since few other bloggers are on the “Iceberg Hunters” bandwagon, my post appears on the first page of Google results for that term and is always near the top of the popularity heap, second only to my “Home” and “About” pages:

KOS stat summary

Similarly, over on The Daily Post, we get a lot of hits for people looking for guidance choosing a good blog name — a post from last year gets constant attention. In response, we decided to give people searching for advice more of what they want by turning the original post into a series that profiles bloggers with clever, quirky, or just plain perfect blog titles. (I’ve opted not to leverage my “Iceberg Hunters” attention in the same way.)

A few parting words

Along with using this data to come up with a posting strategy to increase your traffic there are a few general issues to pay attention to, no matter which posts and pages are your most popular:

  • Make sure your home page looks good. You may think most people go straight to individual posts from your Facebook links or because they subscribe, so you can get around to correcting that typo or fixing that wonky widget on your home page tomorrow. A look at Top Posts and Pages will show that, for many of us, the home page is our most popular. Don’t miss that chance to make a good first impression.
  • Keep popular pages up to date. You wrote a killer “About” page when you started your blog — engaging, funny, sure to intrigue any new reader. Problem is, you started your blog in 2009.  Make sure popular pages are current and fresh, and use them as an opportunity to funnel readers where you’d like them to go by providing links to your greatest hits.
  • Revisit popular posts to add some link love. A post that attracts a lot of eyeballs is a great place to highlight other content. If you’ve got an older post that’s always a traffic draw, take a few minutes to add some extra shine — add an update at the end, or link to some related content.

Spending a little time getting to know the Top Posts and Pages stats is a small investment with the potential for a big payoff. Learn more about what your readers enjoy and where they go when they get to your blog, and make the most of that knowledge by gently helping them discover other posts they’ll love.

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Michelle W.

38 Comments

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  1. Grace @ Cultural Life

    First impressions definitely count.

    I’ve been thinking that maybe I should add a small photo of myself along with a brief bio on the front page of my blog, so that readers don’t have to click to my About Me page. Personally, I know that I am much more likely to follow a blog if the blog author has a photo of themselves on their About page or somewhere on the blog home page. I think that having a photo of the author allows readers to establish a connection. Having a photo and a brief bio just makes it seem more friendly!

  2. Dwfmedia

    my stats are nowhere near yours OMG …However my mind don’t work on numbers just great content,but it would be nice if I had this many appreciating people on my page :) good read thanks.

  3. jhorta

    Good article/tips. Always good to take a step back and see where you’re going right/wrong.

    And Dwfmedia, right there with ya’. I focus on the content as well, but some numbers/appreciation sure doesn’t hurt. Just started following you and best of luck!

  4. John Hayden

    Rarely does a day go by that I don’t glance at the stats (yep, just another slow day at the blog). The information in this post seems obvious, but I really hadn’t thought about it. Thanks for reminding me that I can drill down into those stats.

  5. Ron Scubadiver

    One of the things that stats told me was I got fewer hits with a static front page. For me i works better to serve up the last 7 posts all at once and from there the viewer can scroll.

  6. susielindau

    Summer seems to slow down stats a bit, but updating my “about page” and “blog” is always great advice!

  7. Linda dulani

    This is very helpful thanks a lot. I’m a new blogger and l can’t help but look at the stats. As a person you just want people to like you and your stuff so it is very difficult not to take the too seriously. Great tips though!

  8. Jordan River

    Great info. I like your advice about updating the About info and adding some links there to the top content etc.

  9. audreywilliamsmusic

    I would like to have those stats too. I would consider myself to be a casual blogger. I’ve been told that I should post something everyday. I wonder if that would work for me and my specific subject matter???

    • michelle w.

      It all depends on what’s sustainable for you. Don’t post every day just because you feel like the numbers will go up — you’ll end up forcing it, and readers will see that. Post when you have something to say, and make sure you’re also spending time interacting with the rest of the community.

  10. Eric Tonningsen

    I feel like I’m beating a dead donkey. (Okay, Grand Canyon done here, too.) This is known and understood information. The tools are easy to use and helpful for we who track. But WHEN is WordPress going to acknowledge the need and request for a widget that captures top posts, all-time? Surely this is not a server/storage matter? And the programming to capture same isn’t complex. Why isn’t this key element/feature available?

    • michelle w.

      Hi, Eric! Please feel free to post this in the “Ideas” section of the forums: http://en.forums.wordpress.com/forum/ideas

      (And if you already have, thanks for taking the time to do that!)

      I know this isn’t automated, but you could create the same functionality with a text widget (or image widget, if you want to include thumbnails). Since you can track all-time views, you could use a text/image widget to link to your all-time top posts.

  11. ismailimail

    I have 6,555,xxx hits overall in my stats (front page widget). My All Time stats in the dashboard is showing 2,816,xxx next to Home/Archive title. How is this possible? Shouldn’t the two match or be close to each other?

    • michelle w.

      Your overall hits includes hits to every post and page on your blog so it’s bound to be higher, while the 2,xxx,xxx number is just for views of the home page. Looks like you’re doing something right!

      • ismailimail

        Thanks. Another question if you don’t mind. I see a new entry in the stats called WordPress.com Media. I already have Video stats. How about a specific entry on Audio/MP3s? You have an Audio Player widget. Can it count the stats when people play the audio, along with the count of individual plays through the audio blog posts?

  12. PiedType

    I check my stats several times a day. They are invaluable! One thing that keeps throwing me, however, is that on the main stats page, Top Posts and Pages appears on the upper right. If I click to a previous day, I find myself reading Search Engine Terms by mistake because Top Posts and Pages has moved into the left column and farther down the page. Seems like it should be in the same place no matter which day you’re looking at.

    And a reminder: Clicking on the spark line (the little bar graph) in the administrator’s bar will take you directly to your stats from anyplace on your blog. No need to go to the Reader first.

  13. awax1217

    should I redo some of the older posts as it appears that readers do not look to far back in the archives but tend to look at what is just published.. What do you think?

    • michelle w.

      It’s fine to revisit topics you’ve already written about and include links to your older posts, although I’d probably shy away from simply republishing them as-is (although reblogging an occasional blast from the past is totally fine).

      • awax1217

        Thank you for your input. I am trying to understand the Grand Canyon reference. I went there four times but fortunately never fell in. What does it all mean? I am trying my best and it has become a labor of love. I write a lot more and use my brain so this is great. Any suggestions. I know about the prompts but my brain goes in different directions. Should I ignore my gut reactions and do the prompts? What do you think?

        • michelle w.

          Ah, it’s just a silly metaphor — it doesn’t really mean anything :)

          If the prompts don’t inspire you, don’t do the prompts. Your blog is your space — go in whatever direction your brain takes you.

          • awax1217

            Thanks, I needed that. I was afraid of falling off the cliffs. By the way the safety measures of the Grand Canyon are signs that say Watch Your Step. I am honored to be looked at. Thanks for making me feel good.

  14. Paul Bowler

    Very helpful post, full of great advice.

  15. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    I like your Grand Canyon metaphor, no problem! :)

    Ha ha all those stat views!!! OMG!!

    Great post. I never look too closely at my stats though but for a curious peruse, as they never change much. Yet I see there’s a lot can be read from them. I love wordpress! :)

  16. lagosbooksclub

    …thanks,,,surely an angel led me to WordPress!..

  17. christrocks

    Great advice! As for your parting words, I’m probably going to rewrite my about page this weekend, if I have the time.

  18. theclocktowersunset

    I’m new as well, still trying to get a good grasp on how all this works, but my main goal is to try to get more visitors. So I’ve been trying to post a variety of things just to see what’s comfortable and easy to enjoy. Checking the stats is kinda a small surprise everyday, just to see how many and where people are checking me out. Not very, sadly, but always interested in some pointers to jump start things. Maybe anybody cruising these waters give a boost alittle, or some updated news, freshly awake after months in a deep sleep,(coma), Thanks guys.

  19. Inside the Mind of Isadora

    I never looked at stats in this way. Thanks …

  20. john (@auntyprunear)

    I am new to blogging and I appreciate that there are resources like this to help me thru my journey. Thanks John

  21. Valentina

    This is great, thank you. I do watch my stats every day and I am so surprised to see that readers find older posts from three years ago. Well, now I might do something different thanks to your advice.

  22. Jean

    One thing for certain, I have some top blog post hits that I never dreamt would be popular. I suspect the hit on art commemorating the Chinese-Canadian railway workers building the historic transcontinental railway in Canada, is due to school kids looking for info. Same for the museum on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

    And my About Page is very popular. Is everyone else’s?? Or is it because my blog title is creative and gets people wondering “What??”

    Just yesterday I discovered a new statistic…popular time of day reading….7:00 pm. Who knew?

  23. ddresults

    Great info. I like your advice about updating the About info and adding some links there to the top content etc.

  24. dilmilgaya

    Thanx for the stats info. Why do my blog stats often show visits from 4 different countries but three visitors & several views? It just doesn’t add up because 4 countries should show at least 4 visitors which has led me to ignore the stats since they are wrong. I have tried posting the question on the forum but no response received. Can anyone help?

  25. dawnhosking

    I’m new to blogging and Word press so this is really helpful, thanks.

  26. Katharine Trauger

    All this would be easier if most of my search terms were not “unknown” or “other”. Doesn’t help much! But thanks so much for all the wonderful stats that do help!

  27. Jason Dutton-Smith

    Thanks Michelle, great simple advice. I’m now going to do a blog on the last 12 months most popular blogs to see if they will be shared or linked to more.

    I also have a superstar post on ‘famous American bridges’ that was completely random and never would have thought it would garner so much attention everyday. Trick is to find more of these gems! Will have to keep exploring the vast canyon right ;-)

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