Wednesday, November 2, 2016

October numbers are bad news

October analytics for showed nothing but red ink for site traffic. Sessions, pageviews and time on site were all down compared to September. While traffic was still above average, remember that average includes the summer months when the site attracts very few visitors.

Chart from Quill Engage
The Quill Engage report the paper gets each week and month included some numbers that might help sort out the problem:
• Mobile, tablet and desktop sessions were all down from the month prior. Desktop sessions represented the most traffic; mobile visits had the most in September.
• New-user numbers were up, but the newcomers tended to spend less time on the site. That means people who came to the website to read a particular story didn't stick around to read more. One way to keep them longer is to add hyperlinks to stories that send readers to related content on the site.
• At the same time, referrals were down. Redoubling the social-media effort would help turn that around.
• About 55 percent of site traffic came from search engines, about the same level as September. That number could get bigger with more attention to writing headlines that contain keywords.
• While page views were down, people who came to the site actually read more pages than the month before. That may sound like it contradicts the previous point, but I think October represented a return to last year when a large group of regular readers were using like a traditional newspaper, navigating to the home page and looking for stories to read. Promoting the website could help grow that core group and improve traffic overall.

My own opinion, based on four years of looking at numbers like these, is that the lack of strong breaking and enterprise news stories is behind the slump. Traditionally, those sorts of stories have been the big driver of traffic to, but few of those stories appeared on the website in October and fewer were among the top 10 stories viewed. I do think, though, that livening up the sports and arts and entertainment efforts to take advantage of the web -- more video, more nontraditional storytelling, as we discussed in section critiques the past several weeks -- would also help.

This would be a good discussion for the next ed board meeting.

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