Meaningless ‘Records’

Oh dear, it appears that, despite all the effort put into more or less successfully curing its main carriers (Guido and Iain Dale) Nadine Dorries has now come down with a bad case of Dale’s syndrome

If anyone is interested by the way, May was a record month with 674,000 hits – June was down a bit to 547,000.

I can’t actually believe those figures – what’s going on?

It’s actually very simple, Nadine… what’s going is that you don’t understand what a ‘hit’ means and how it relates (or otherwise) to valid metrics like the measure of absolute unique visitors provided by Google Analytics, which Iain Dale and Guido have now, finally, adopted.

It works like this:

Dorries’s site does not use any third party trackers or metrics systems and so, when she talks about ‘hits’ she’s taking a count from her server logs as supplied by her hosting company, Acidity.

A ‘hit’ is therefore recorded any time a resource, which could be a page of HTML output, a javascript routine loaded by that page or an image file, amongst other things, is accessed on her server.

This means that. if, on the first day of the month, she posts a text only article and someone visits her ‘blog’ and reads that article, that single page impression will generate in her logs:

One hit for the HTML page, itself.

One hit for the CSS file used to format the look of the page.

Two hits from favicon images, one of which – if you use firefox – puts a very small picture of her in the browser tab in which her site is loaded.

Four hits from four javascript routines loaded as inclusions.

Six hits for images used as ‘page furniture’, i.e. the page header, backgrounds for the calender and the RSS and Acidity logos.

And buried in the page but not visible are three 1-pixel spacer gif images the use of which I had thought had gone entirely out fashion. These relate to a hidden form containing three advertising links the relevance and purpose of which is entirely unclear and, perhaps, irrelevant other that for the fact that they generate three more hits.

So one visitor reading one piece of text on her ‘blog’ will generate a total of 17 hits, and that’s before she gets around to posting article with picture in the them – and by the end of June her ‘blog’ page for that month included 28 images, all hosted on the same server.

So a single new visitor would, by the end of the month, have added a total of 45 hits to her server logs for a single page impression – remembering that her site doesn’t support permalinks or display individual posts – and that’s assuming that, as an Active Server Pages based site, any server-side processing used to generate pages for display doesn’t add even more hits to her logs.

In short, all her talk of a ‘record month’ is absolutely meaningless – if she wants to set a new record this month all she need, given that she’s relying on hits, is double the number of picture she posts over the month and she’s easily rack up a bigger, but still meaningless, headline number.

So what the real picture?

Well to figure that out we need a known reference against which to make comparisons – like this blog.

Now I know what my own readership patterns are – regardless of whether I’ve written something new or not, I get around 300 visitors a day during the week reading at least one full article by way of regulars and people coming in from search engines plus another 100-150 who just pick up the RSS feed to keep tabs on the blog and see if anything new has been posted, and that will generally drop off to a couple of hundred visitors at the weekend.

And if I have posted something fresh then I’ll get generally get an extra 200-250 readers within a day or so of posting, plus referrals if a post gets a link on another blog, the number of which will vary depending on who’s doing the linking – and as far as referral traffic goes the sites that refer the most readers when they link here tend to be one’s like Dr Crippen and Bad Science, which is have a sizeable audience beyond the confines of the UK. When it comes to the ‘big’ players in the UK’s political blogosphere, a link from Iain Dale will generally add less than half as many readers as either Crippen or Ben Goldacre and only a matter of 10-15% more than the likes of Bloggerheads and Devil’s Kitchen.

In all, and having lost a lot of residual traffic with the enforced shift from the .org.uk to .me.uk domain last November, I’m back up to a solid 6-7,000 absolute unique visitors a month as long as I post something every couple of days and if I strike it lucky on a story and get a couple of decent links from good referring blogs, that can hits 10,000 absolute uniques on peak and around 12,000 on those few occasions something I’ve posted gets a bit of MSM pickup.

So there’s your reference point and, to make a comparision (and despite its limitations) I turned to Alexa’s traffic monitoring system from which I found that, over the last month or so, there were only two days where I’d posted something on which posted something on here on which Dorries got more traffic going to her site. One was the 9th June, the day I posted an update on the ongoing complaint to the Commission for Parliamentary Standards, which linked to her site and fed her some of my traffic, and the other was the 17th of June, a day on which I made my first post for a week and Dorries was drawing traffic from a spat with Caroline Flint that grabbed a bit of attention.

And give this a bit more context, Dorries best day for traffic over the last 2-3 months was the Monday before the abortion vote in parliament, in which she had press coverage in both the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, all of which translated into about the same amount of traffic to her site that I got from one recent article on NHS top-up payments which got picked up and linked to by Dr Crippen.

To borrow a term from the publishing industry, MoT is a mid-list political blog and that suits me just fine, not least because, traffic-wise, it puts on a par with other established solo blogs like Mr Eugenides and Chicken Yoghurt and I’ve always taken the view the quality of the company you’re keeping is a best measure of ‘success’ as a blogger than the amount of raw traffic you generate. if that’s what I was interested in I’d switch to writing about techie issues, gadgets or celebrity gossip which, if you look at Technorati’s top 100 list is what consistently draws high numbers, even if a couple of the big political blogs (Huffington Post and Kos) are currently riding high on the back of the US presidential campaign.

But even then, I, and most of the other established mid-listers still routinely pull in more traffic than Dorries on a regular basis – according to Alexa, Mr Eugenides was getting more visitors than Dorries for the whole of last week, and he was on holiday and putting up only a pre-scheduled daily placeholder post containing a Youtube video.

UPDATE

As a bit of a quick aside, try searching Google for ‘Nadine Dorries’ and you’ll find that five of the top ten links paint something of an uncomplimentary picture of her and her activities, including Ben Goldacre’s shredding of the infamous ‘Hand of Hope’ posts, a typically robust commentary from DK and a link to the Nadine Dorries tag at this site which brings up the full archive of material I’ve written covering her anti-abortion campaign.

  • Incidentally, Monday 14 July has been set as the day for the final House of Commons consideration of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill in which Nadine Dorries’ renewed attempt to amend abortion laws may be heard – or more likely may not be selected for debate by the Speaker.

  • I’m a proper, fully fledged regular. As I haven’t figured nout how to do RSS feeds, I just click on you in my favourites every day, seeing whether there’s a post. It gets a bit annoying when some of my favourite bloggers don’t post for days on end. Also it makes me a bit sad. But you’re delivering the goods šŸ™‚

  • Heh. I applaud your patience.

    If the post includes the words “hits” without a full definition, then move on.

    There’s an issue to be unpacked about newspaper traffic figures vs blogger traffic figures, in that all the papers report ABCe figures. In my experience these overestimate relative to the “hosted” services (Statcounter, Gostats) by between 1.5 and 3x.

    I’m covering various questions in this area and I’ll get on to it before long. There’s also the matter of brain-dead MSM commentary on stats to deal with.

    And newspaper “celebrity” linkbait and SEO is interesting. I did a “Unity” on one last Sunday:

    http://tinyurl.com/63jgyl

    Matt

  • >There

  • And newspaper

  • images, one of which – if you use firefox – puts a very small picture of her in the browser tab in which her site is loaded.

    Just what you’d always wanted!

  • Do not read tory blogs they are evil blogs. The reason tory blogs to so well is we read them. Do not read them!