I’ve had a few of conversations with colleagues in the past week about how many people read this blog, and it made me think I should do some proper analysis rather than rely on off the top of my head numbers. I’m sharing the results of this analysis here today.

Most weekdays I see between 20 to 50 page views on the site. Weekends are often in single digits. The biggest day was around 250, but days greater than 100 are rare. I can see how many people click on links and therefore generate multiple page views – as a result I’d estimate around 80-90% of people visiting read one story only per visit. What I can’t estimate is people who come to the homepage and read multiple recent posts as this only counts as one page view; and this is a good proportion of the total traffic. As the homepage viewers outnumber the link clickers, it should be safe to assume that page views on this blog can be taken as a proxy for the minimum actual unique visitors, and that posts read by those visitors must average a number fractionally above one. As I’ve probably been averaging around 3 new posts a week over the past few months, I’ll estimate from the website approximately 60 readers per post.

Regarding subscribers, most of them wouldn’t come to the website very often as I’ve set up the email and RSS feed in a way that delivers full content; therefore I’m confident I am not double counting. Many other website feeds only show the first one or two paragraphs as a teaser to generate traffic to the site, but personally I find this annoying when it happens to me and on more than one occassion it has resulted in me unsubscribing from a blog feed. At the time of writing this post, the number of subscribers via Feedburner showed up as 37, but a few weeks ago it was over 40. As the drop occurred in a week where I was too busy to make even one new post, I conclude (large margin of error) that RSS subscribers have a low tolerance for people like me taking up valuable screen real estate, and it is they and not email subscribers that will pull the plug pretty quickly if the content is not updated frequently. I’m guessing email subscibers are more likely to unsubscribe if there is more frequent content that is boring or not relevant to them; if I’m not posting, then they won’t be reminded to unsubscribe as they’ll receive nothing. How many subscribers actually read each post is hard to know for sure; I’ll take an educated guess based upon some limited stats I receive plus anecdotal feedback which would indicate around 50 – 75%. Forwarding of subscriber emails you will never capture, but I doubt this number is anything significant. So let’s assume around 20 subscribers read each post – this may be a little conservative. For those reading this blog regularly and who haven’t subscribed, you can click here if you feel so inclined.

dart on targetBased on the numbers above I get a rough estimate of 80 people reading each post. Some of these people are clearly competitors, colleagues and other bloggers. As an almost total stab in the dark I’m guessing that they in total account for 30%, leaving around 70% as airline employees, but this is the weakest part of my analysis in this entire post. Part of this estimate is driven by the number of airline employees I meet who tell me they have read the blog without any prompting from me, but clearly there is a much larger number of airline executives in my target market who have never read it! Someone telling you they read the blog gives you no indication of whether that means once or frequently, but it is still always nice to hear, especially when it comes from someone working for an airline internet site or call centre. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this blog has had a positive impact on my job, as customers and prospects that read my posts are usually much more willing to engage in a wider range of conversational topics when I meet them. As a result, the selling process becomes much more consultative rather than adversarial, and both sides win.    

When I started the Shearwater Blog in January 2009 I said I’d give it a year and then reassess my committment to blogging. The content is very targetted at a specific group, and my job has expanded to cover much more than direct channels these days, but I continue enjoying writing here very much. I’ve definintely noticed that dropping the posting frequency from 5 times a week earlier this year to approximately 3 posts a week these days has dramatically slowed down any growth in readership. I’m guessing that if I drop below 2 posts per week it may start going backwards, so I’ll wait until the end of the year, look at number of readers at that point along with my overall job responsibilities, and then make a decision for 2010. Thanks very much for reading.