In Nicks post about Mining Search Data with Metrics he talks about learning what users are looking for when they reach you. I thought I would also talk about the useful information in Metrics, but this time in the referrers section.
I love looking over my referrers. You might already have worked out that I am a stats junkie but it’s not just to look at the usual visitors and views, the referrers information is almost more interesting. These are the other bloggers and sites that are linking to you. Links are the currency of the web, very very important.
If you have trackbacks switched on you might already see some of the links pointing at your posts. Not all links turn into visible trackbacks though. Trackbacks don’t always work, you might not have them turned on, and they might have linked to your homepage. Search engines don’t report all links pointing at your blog and even if they did they are out of date.
One of the nice things to do with your referrer information is to go through and pick out special ones and thank the people who are linking you. You do not have to thank them all (although I guess it would be nice), you could just add a comment to their blog. It’s good to acknowledge people who link to you in some way.
What people are saying about you is always important to keep track of. Technorati does not always pick up all posts. It seems to have difficulty particularly with partial feed blogs. Your own referrers are the best source of tracing back what people are saying. If you find someone referencing your blog and talking about you take a look to see if there is something you can say on their blog. Even if it is just damage control, you are sometimes better keeping the conversation at their blog rather than your own. Of course if it is good news by all means post about it on your blog too “look at what they are saying about me, isn’t it great” etc, heh.
The very best aspect from my point of view is people linking to you are intersted in the same things. That means you might just have struck gold with a new source of ideas for your blog. Add their feed to your OPML and then dig through their archives.Find news you have missed and more ideas for content. If they are following the same niche you ought to find lots of things you can refer to and link to. You might not want to have too many links to the same blog all at once, there is no harm in drip feeding them over time.
Obviously the main purpose of referrers is to discover your biggest sources of traffic (other than search and feed subscribers). Where your traffic is finding you can be important in how you further develop your blog. If all your traffic is coming from one bloggers blogroll you are not doing a good enough publicity job. What would happen if that blogger refreshed their links and dropped you? Also do your traffic sources change over time? I find if I write a good post I will get link traffic from that post for a little while then it trails off and I have to write another to replace it but there is the rare post that gives me sustained traffic from other blogs over time as those referrers remain strong. That is usually when the post is added to someones links list, eg. “my favourite articles on xxx”.
A good result is when your posts are constantly referred to in forums, that means you have become a valuable resource to your niche community and are seen as an authority. One of my blogs was sustained for a long time purely out of that sort of traffic. It helped me ride the rollercoaster of search engine results changes, content theft, hijack attempts and all the rest of it. You can make a start on this by getting involved in forums and dropping your own links where highly relevant. Track performance in your stats to see how successful you are.
Do you monitor your referrers? Let us know how valuable you find them in the comments …