How to be a Dumbass

Every now and then I get a brainwave and decide to ‘improve’ something and, at least in principle, there is nothing wrong with that. However, on the web, you always have to contend with the inherent latency between cause and effect. If you are constantly tweaking (which I am) you sometimes come to a point when you notice a negative effect, or trend, and then you can have a great deal of difficulty correlating it with what you actually did to produce it.

For example, whilst looking at my Adsense stats recently I have definitely noticed a slight downward trend in visitors to the blog. Overall, the site is doing fine, but why should the blog be getting fewer visitors especially when, for a period of several months, the blog traffic was increasing very nicely?

If you look at the first graph below (this is my overall site traffic) it doesn’t look too problematic. You can see growth during June – September and then the traffic levels off in October – November. However, if you look at the second graph (blog traffic for the same period) you can see the problem clearly. Blog traffic was growing during June – September, but after September, it is actually on the decline.

So the question is why?


And I don’t know why. 🙁

The reason I don’t know why, as I explained above, is that there can be so much delay in between cause and effect. Things just don’t change instantly, so any tweak you make takes time to produce an effect. But it seems clear from the above that I changed something around September/October time and I don’t know what it is because, as I said, I am always tweaking.

Here are some possibilities:

  • I renamed the blog
  • I dropped Categories from the blog home page
  • I removed Recent Posts from the blog home page

Any of these changes, or the combination, might ultimately be responsible for the dip in traffic and, of course, it may turn out to be something that I have not even yet identified as a possibility. So, I called this post ‘how to be a dumbass’ because sometimes learning is painful and in retrospect, you just wonder why you didn’t leave things alone when they were working well in the first place.

Of course, the reason is that you are trying to improve and if you are committed to improving, you are simultaneously committed to constant change, so you cannot abandon the process of continual improvement. What you can do is get better at tracking your efforts and this is where I think I could have done better. To put things right, I will just have to start reintroducing those elements and then seeing if they have an effect. This is both time consuming and inefficient. So how could I have done better?

The answer is to journal every major tweak to your site. If you rename it, if you remove Categories or Recent Posts, whatever you do, make a note of the change and journal it so that you have the date of the change. That way when you subsequently start poring over your stats, you will be in with a decent chance of figuring out the causes of the effects you are observing.

So that’s my lesson learned for today. I hope my experience is of benefit to someone else.

2 thoughts on “How to be a Dumbass

  1. Vatsala Shukla

    So true Will. I know this post is an older one, but your observations hold true. I do maintain notes of changes that I make on my blog and then assess the effect on a weekly basis. It’s worked so far and my page visitors has increased. So I must be doing something right!

    Still working out whether it is because of the changes I keep making to improve the blog or the social networking actions that I have been taking to widen my readership!

  2. Mickey Owen

    You are so right. Documenting something Does two things. It keeps you on track and keeps you busy as you can’t hide from the facts. If you are showing a lack of activities, you know where you’re going wrong. The second thing is like you say, it’s documented for scrutiny once the effect from the cause has taken place! Good post!

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