Very early this morning someone from Australia hit on my blog by searching for the blog name in quotes followed by the word “brat” which wasn’t in quotes but is now because I added them. A closer look at my stats told me this was actually the person’s second visit to my site this morning after spending nearly eight minutes reading posts I’ve labeled as pertaining to my daughter. So the person spent time here reading about my child and decided to enter that particular search string to see if it brought him/her back here. I guess congratulations are in order to Sherlock Holmes for being able to surmise that my child can be a brat sometimes.
This visitor made me curious. From all appearances he/she hit on me initially by simply typing in my blog URL. I know stats trackers aren’t 100% reliable when it comes to finding out how people find you, but if this person found me the second time by typing in the aforementioned search string, then it stands to reason the initial search string would have registered as well. That tells me this person didn’t need a search engine to find me in the first place because she (let’s just use “she,” shall we?) already knew where to find me.
Oh, but there’s more. During this person’s second visit she searched the site for my daughter’s name, the world “bitch” and the word “annoying.” What the hell, Australia? I happen to like Baz Luhrmann movies and think Hugh Jackman’s native accent only second in sexiness to Christian Bale’s, so don’t start making me nervous with your questionable intentions.
Of course I have no idea who this is and can’t exactly start drafting that nastygram to the suspected guilty party, but I think this incident is impetus enough to provide the non-blogging Web 2.0 public a primer on what we bloggers see when we look at our traffic stats. I’ve actually wanted to write this post for some time but could never figure out how to broach the subject without painting a vivid picture of myself as some crazy hag hunched over her computer stalking the very folks who care enough to pay a visit. I’ll go ahead and give it a try anyway.
Every blogger wants traffic. We’d like to be able to judge our traffic through the comments we get on our posts, but unfortunately only a small percentage of readers actually comment. And that’s cool. I read a lot of blogs and only comment on a few so I can’t complain that my subscriber count is a lot higher than the number of comments I receive. That would be why a lot of bloggers use a stats tracking program to view their actual traffic.
If you start with a hosted blog on WordPress or Blogger, both platforms are kind enough to let you insert a bit of HTML code into your blog from a third-party stats tracking service such as Sitemeter or StatCounter. Both of these services are free and provide the blog owner with a semi-detailed report about their visitors; how they found you, what search strings they used to find you, their IP addresses, how long they stayed and what links they clicked (if any) when they left your site.
I run a self-hosted blog through a web hosting service using WordPress. I’ve used Sitemeter for as long as I’ve had the blog but last year decided to upgrade my monitoring capabilities and invested in a license for Mint. I won’t go into all the things Mint can do. You can click on the link and check it out at your leisure, but I will say Mint gives me a much more detailed report than Sitemeter, which I continue to use for the occasional quick and dirty stats check. I get whole IP addresses with Mint where Sitemeter provides only the partial IP. With Mint I’m able to practically recreate someone’s visit, especially if they spend a significant time on my site like Australia did this morning. It tells me what pages she visited while she was here, how long she spent on each page and the search words she used while she was here.
The last thing I want anyone to take away from this is that I’m keeping Big Brother-ish tabs on them when they visit. I know it probably sounds like I am and I’d be lying if I said I don’t pay close attention to who’s visiting. I get very little traffic so it’s easy to pay close attention, but I do it because I need to protect myself and my child. If I get even a whiff that you might be a threat, you can bet your fuzzy koala I’m going to do something about it.
Keeping that in mind, if any of you self-hosted blog owners out there need to know how to block a particular IP address from making that return visit, let me know in the comments and I’ll hook you up.