So long 2014 from CerebralRift

So long 2014 from CerebralRift

Introduction

So, this has been a fairly incredible year for The CerebralRift.  I’ve owned this domain for over six years, and this has been the strongest year ever for growth.  So, as we say goodbye to 2014 I want to take a look at a few of the achievements for this year, and maybe speculate on a few things that I have have been thinking about for next year.

By The Numbers

I have to start with a confession.  My numbers for this year are not completely accurate.  As I have made changes throughout the year some of the numbers have been affected, but these estimates I am using I believe are on the conservative side.

In 2013 I restarted working on the site, kind of feeling my way around and deciding what I wanted to do.  I didn’t have any specific goals, or any idea of where events would lead me.  And the numbers tell that story:

  • 2013 Total Views: 20,600
  • 2013 Monthly Average: 1720

By the end of last year I had an initial strategy: focus on three major areas: eCigarettes / Vaping, Cryptocurrency and Creative Commons art.  I have to admit, I thought it was a good plan.  The idea was that I really wanted to focus on Creative Commons artists, musicians, and their work.  To bring in more people I would write about other topics and try to generate cross-pollination traffic.

It didn’t work.  Why didn’t it work?  Well, there are a lot of reasons, but two major ones became apparent after several months.  First, most viewers come in from another source (we’ll look at that a bit more).  When a viewer comes in from Google or a search engine, they are looking for a specific article and are likely to read that one article and then leave.  This works great for hot topics (like vaping and cryptocurrencies) but not well for topics that aren’t as trendy.

Second, the idea that the viewer can be drawn to a different subject is mostly a fallacy that I had bought into.  The idea that someone who comes to the site to look at an article about vaping will migrate over to CC music reviews, or some other topic is a bad one.

[su_note]One of the reasons for the inaccurate statistics for this year is that I switched to a different analytics system. This analytics system I am using now has two advantages: (1) it lets me examine a user’s session from start to finish, seeing all the articles that have been viewed. (2) It provides better privacy. All of the information that is gathered is directly under my control and does not get shared with any third-party.[/su_note]

So, having learned my lesson, I refocused my content and started working on ways to expand on that content.  So, even with those changes the numbers are phenomenal:

  • 2014 Total Views: 190,000 (Apprx)
  • 2014 Monthly Average: over 15,800
  • 2014 Daily Average: over 790*

* Quick explanation about that last number: it’s calculated on the five-day week that I publish, instead of on the literal seven day week.

Overall I am amazed that the site has grown this well.  Those numbers represent an over 900 percent increase in traffic within the space of a year.  And that is based completely on the content that I’ve written in the past year with nothing to sell and no gimmicks (okay, there have been a couple of gimmicks).

A few other numbers:

  • Articles published: 245, not counting CerebralMix show notes
  • Day I most consistently published on: Tuesday, with 50 posts.
  • Longest streak without a “break”: 9 days, Dec 15 – Dec 23.

I don’t know how the writing is going to go next year.  There’s a lot of stuff that is happening in the next few weeks that will set the stage for how much writing I can do.  Hopefully it will be close to as much as before, and hopefully I will be able to bring a few new people in to write some articles.

Looking At The World

I like to know how people are getting to my site, and where they are coming from both virtually and physically.  This numbers are quite interesting.  First, looking at the traffic by country:

US 74.71
UK 11.42
Canada 6.70
Australia 1.81
France 1.16
Germany 1.07
Russian Federation 1.00
Indonesia 0.81
Ireland 0.68
Netherlands 0.65

[su_note]These are only the Top 10 countries. These numbers are estimates, which may vary by up to 0.5 percent. They do not add up to 100 percent. In fact, because of rounding they are 0.01 percent over.  [/su_note]

Search engines are the single most dominant driver of traffic to just about any website these days.  And, as many will note, there is just one search engine that is clearly the most significant:

Google 98.5
Bing 0.52
Yahoo 0.36
Ask.com 0.16
AOL 0.14
Comcast 0.08
Duck Duck Go 0.06
Yandex 0.02
Other 0.12

[su_note]These are only the Top 9 Search Engines. These numbers are estimates, which may vary by up to 0.5 percent. They do not add up to 100 percent. [/su_note]

I have to admit to be slightly surprised by these numbers.  Not by the dominance of Google, but by the showing of AOL, I barely knew they were around.  And Yahoo, one of my subjects early in the year, I thought would have made a bit stronger of a  showing (honestly, I thought they were ahead of Bing).  And, I am disappointed to see Duck Duck Go so low in the numbers.

Now for the part that is probably the most contentious part of all the stats I’ve been following Social Networks.  There is a lot of disagreement about the utility of Social Networks in improving the overall visibility of a site. I will say this about it: I’m surprised by the #1 position, but not by #2.  And I will have a comment on the last three entrants after the table:

Facebook 48.32
Twitter 22.63
Reddit 9.00
StumbleUpon 4.66
G+ 4.64
vKontake 4.62
Musique-Libre 3.68
Ello 1.22
CCTrax 1.20

[su_note]These are only the Top 9 Social Networks. These numbers are estimates, which may vary by up to 0.5 percent. They do not add up to 100 percent. [/su_note]

Now, Musique-Libre and CCTrax might be a bit of a surprise in this list.  I was surprised, but the analytics system has decided that they are in the same category with the other Social Networks.  And, isn’t it nice to see these sites being categorized in this way? Ello is a great surprise as I’ve only been on it for a couple of months now.  I expect that it’s more organic model of interaction will fit with The CerebralRift even better over time.

G+ is the disappointment.  I was pretty well set on it at the beginning of the year, I thought it was going to be the number two or three network up there. The fact that it’s eighteen percent behind Twitter says a lot. Also, the Reddit numbers are a bit of an anomaly as far as I can tell.  I had a few articles that were posted there for Cryptocurrency and Vaping topics and that’s where the traffic came from.  As far as I know almost no traffic has come from Reddit for Creative Commons topics.

Making Changes

The site has been through a lot of changes this year, some cosmetic, some major behind-the-scenes reworking….

The Changing Face of The CerebralRift

The website has gone through several different templates and layouts throughout the last year, before setting on the current layout.  I started the year with a theme I mostly liked, except that it was doing a few things that are known to not be best practices in theme design.  (A subject I got into a fairly healthy debate about, and I still maintain that I am correct.)

I tried to make corrections to the theme, and then extend a few things in it to make it work a bit more in the way I wanted. However the primary issue was so deeply embedded it was going to require me to redesign the theme nearly from scratch, and I am not a theme designer.  Without support from the author of the theme, I was left with no choice but to look for something else.

That went on for several months.  Finally someone pointed me to a couple of plugins that solved a couple of the bigger issues I was having, and they work well with the theme that I have selected to use.

The current design hopefully makes the site navigate a little more like a magazine.  The front page is the table of contents with recent articles in each of six major sections: News, Reviews, Interviews, Editorials, Features and The CerebralMix. The menu along the top is kind of for the masthead, appendices, etc.

A few pages like the Review Submission Page and the OO Radio page underwent major redesigns as the result of the new tools and templates available with this system.

The Changing Back End of The CerebralRift

If the talk about the changes to the front end were geeky sounding, the changes to the parts that you can’t see are even more geeky.  So, I won’t go into too many details, but will say that I am still making changes.  The main point to the changes has been to (a) improve the performance of the site, (b) add more features and functionality.

To this end, the single biggest change has been moving the site to DreamHost.  Using their DreamPress system the improvement has been dramatic.  Things are running substantially faster, and the amount of downtime has been reduced (I had an argument with the previous hosting company about what constitutes down time, but that hasn’t been an issue in the four months since the site was moved).

This move is also part of the issue that messed up my statistics for this year a bit.  Under the old hosting company, it wasn’t possible to both systems running at the same time and be able make a smooth transition.  Now, I’ve had them both running for a month.  When you read this, I will probably have turned the old system off.

The other thing I will mention is that I have started using a few other tools on the back end.  Basically I have an administrative system I’ve been putting together that allows me to do some things that until now I’ve had to manually do. The single largest of these tools allows me to track what other sites are doing — yes, spying!  But not in a bad way.  It just allows me to benchmark the changes that I am making on the site to see if it is improving relative to other sites.

I can say this now: my changes this year have created dramatic improvement overall.  for example, the global ranking of The CerebralRift has been approximately 85% since the beginning of the year.  At one point the Alexa rank for the site broke the 1 million mark (but that was only for a single day, and was totally unexpected).

Okay, enough of all this geeky stuff.

Into the Future

I’ve hinted at a few things already, both in this article and in a few others:

  1. I really want to bring on more writers.
  2. I really want to expand the range of topics on The CerebralRift.  We’ll still be focused on Creative Commons, but want to get into eBooks, AudioBooks, Films / Videos, and anything else that fits.
  3. Add more features for artists / creators. I want this to become more of a portal for artists to get information out to people, like when they are performing, reading or having other public events.
  4. Formalize a few things a bit more.  I have resisted trying to put too many formal things in place up until this point.  But now if I am going to proceed with my plans, things will need to be spelled out a bit more.
  5. improve on privacy issues.  There’s a lot of little details involved in running a site that involve privacy. I am constantly running into some of them – such as the old analytics system being hosted by a third party.  Personally I trust the third party with the analytics data, they haven’t given me any reason to suspect them of anything.  But they have let me down in having the ability to maintain ownership over that information…  And that is something I owe to the viewers of this site: the knowledge that their information isn’t going past my control.
  6. Improving the overall site stability and performance.  This part is going extremely well. I expect the last major thing I need to do will be done tomorrow (turning off the old analytics system).
  7. Grow the audience, grow the presence of The CerebralRift.  I’ve managed quite a bit in the last year, but there is a long way to go to reach my goal.

To be honest, there is a lot more to this, but I’ll stop with those seven for now.  We’ll see if in December of 2015 what I can say about those seven items.

A Thank You

Finally, before I close out this article, I would like to thank a lot of people who have worked with and supported me in the last year:

  • All of the artists and netlabels that participated in the interviews.  We published thirteen interviews last year.  Hopefully this year we will get to do more interviews.
  • All of the artists that have talked with me about reviews.  Many of you have been very supportive, event when I screwed up on details or didn’t even know the first thing I was talking about (I still like being unencumbered by the thought process at times).
  • The netlabels.  So many operators of netlabels have been supportive of this work it is astounding.
  • My friends on The Kernel Panic Oggcast, and Hacker Public Radio.  I couldn’t do this stuff if you hadn’t inspired my curiosity about these issues and given me the space to explore some of them through what you do.
  • The support of many other writers and broadcasters I’ve talked with on the Social Networks.  I feel like I have learned a lot from you and have been (slowly) improving the work that I am doing here.
  • The support of my comrades over on the OO Radio stream.  We’re an odd bunch, but somehow we make it work.
  • The donators.  I’ve had one person who has tipped several Litecoin after the broadcast of CerebralMix most weeks throughout the year.  To date he has tipped over 85LTC.  Wow.  Now if an 1LTC were still worth $10-$20 USD….lol. There is another listener on the OO Stream that has tipped 5-10LTC over the last year.  And, I’ve received several Flattr’s this year.  All of this is wonderful as I use these tips to other maintain the site, or send them on to the artists that I work with on the site.
  • And to all of my friends back home.  I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of friends.  I appreciate that several of you take the time to listen to and read the ramblings on this site.  And I appreciate all of the input that you’ve given me along the way, bot on the site and in personal messages.
  • …and anyone else that thinks they haven’t been mentioned here.  I do think of a lot of people all the time.  And I know that if you’ve had any impact on my life I think of you more frequently than you realize, even if I don’t say it.

Okay, that is all I have for now.  Now onwards into 2015!

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