I've discovered yet another trend with traffic on my site.
Firstly, traffic here seems to wane on weekends. I'm perfectly OK with that, and I can usually boost weekend traffic by publishing a controversial article or two. The blowback from controversy on a Saturday is far less than and I'd see on, say, a Tuesday.
Second, the majority of my traffic comes within the first two hours after I publish a post. I've been publishing daily at 8am Pacific every day this year. I see traffic start to pick up at about 7:30 and drop off around 10. If I re-post my article to Twitter around lunch, a smaller spike of traffic usually follows.
Trying to figure out the best time to publish has always been an iterative process.
The new trend I've noticed is topical.
I see the most traffic when I write technical articles.
Obviously the world sees me as a developer, so more people tune in when I'm writing about developer-y topics. Some of my most-read articles are tutorials on version control or configuring Vagrant on Windows.
I'm OK with people tuning in for these articles. That's why I wrote them in the first place - partly to help teach others, partly to help validate my own learning on the subject.
When I write about anything else - business, faith, politics, writing itself - my traffic drops as much as 60%. I'm still receiving some visits, but usually merely thanks to search aggregates pointing new readers at my existing tutorials.
When I publish a somewhat popular technical article, I might see total daily traffic of 600 unique visitors - 120 of which are hits to the newly-published article. On low (non-technical) days, I see traffic of maybe 350 uniques - 30 of which are hits to the new article.
It's definitely a non-trivial difference.
Ironically, I usually see more audience interaction with my non-technical posts.
My tutorials usually receive a handful of re-tweets or response posts. My non-technical articles, however, receive these kinds of interaction in far greater numbers; sometimes people are retweeting a post on hiking months after I published it.
The number of email, Skype, Twitter, LinkedIn notes, and even site comments I get from readers in response to my non-technical posts absolutely dwarfs what I get from their technical cousins. Come to think of it, I've only ever had one person talk to me directly[ref]I.e. reach out via email, Skype, or any channel other than a blog comment.[/ref] about one of my technical posts.
People contact me weekly to discuss my non-technical work.
Like anyone else, I am a complex individual with a multitude of interest. I will not stop writing about the things that matter most to me: technology, faith, business, politics, and creative writing. However, I do recognize that each topic speaks to a different audience.
Once upon a time I separated this site into multiple discrete sites - each with their own domains. My business site contained only business content. My creative writing site only creative writing. My faith site only articles about faith. At the time, I was just getting started in blogging on tech, so I had a decision to make - spin up a separate site or abuse the topical separation of one of my existing domains.
I chose neither option. Instead, thanks to insight from Ipstenu's post about categories and WordPress MultiSite, I merged the three existing sites into one, cleared out some legacy "hello world" content that had little to no value, and introduced my new personal blog.
It's been great to move all of my content under one domain, and has definitely made the process of producing daily content far easier on me. But it's come at a cost to my readers. If you come here for technical content, there's no guarantee that I'll be meeting your expectations tomorrow.
I've actually had people subscribe via email based on a tutorial, only to angrily unsubscribe (and yell at me about it) the next day when I post an article discussing scripture or prayer.
Are my site topics different enough to warrant separation into discrete sites? Maybe, but managing three sites does little to aid cross-topical discovery. Some of the most encouraging comments I've received are along the lines of, "I came to read a technical article and found your post on Philippians. Thank you so much for this! I didn't expect to find both in the same place!."
For this reason alone, I want to keep all of the content on one site. I do however, want to make it easier for readers to opt-out of seeing content they don't care about. I also want to make it easier to surface unexpected content that might benefit the reader.
I also want to work towards a way to produce more content across every category rather than sticking to just one post per day. Unfortunately, I only have a finite number of keystrokes in me, and I'm not sure I can do that all on my own.
The next few months will see me more regularly experimenting with content formatting and organization. Perhaps even inviting a few guest bloggers (or even a ghost writer or two). It's up to you to let me know whether or not any of these changes are effective.