Happy New Year! For the first post of the year, I’ll be taking a look at some of our traffic trends and speculating about why things look the way they do.

We’re always curious about how people find the Engineering blog and which items are popular. Wordpress has some statistics gathering built in, but the level of detail isn’t what we’d like. We use both Google Analytics and Feedburner to gather some more fine-grained metrics. From the combination of those two sources, we can piece together enough detail to form a coherent picture of our traffic.

When we ramped up the pace of our blogging back in August, the first thing we started looking at was Feedburner. The common pattern on Feedburner is for a post to get all of the hits it’s going to get within the first week. Here are the posts that are most often viewed in an RSS reader:

1. I’m a Lazy Tester
2. Clean Code – Mutable Local Variables Are Evil
3. Clean Code – Bang is Evil
4. Upping your JavaScript game
5. The Writing is on the Wall

Strangely, of those posts, none are in the top 5 in terms of click-throughs to the site from RSS readers:

1. Post Event Retrospective – Part II
2. Testing Feature-Toggled Code
3. Patterns of Pair Programming
4. Build Nerd Metrics – how?
5. The best part of Feature Toggles: REMOVING THEM

As far as Feedburner is concerned, our least popular posts are basically unanimous in terms of both views and click-throughs: the Phys-Ed posts were a big failure. The funny thing is that they seem to have robbed some traffic from the other posts that went up the same day, so they were a double-fail.

Google Analytics presents a different story. It has more options for filtering and sorting, so it allows us to make an attempt at differentiating internal and external traffic. It also breaks things down by URL, not by specific posts. What’s interesting to note is that internally, people just tend to visit the blog directly, rather than clicking on specific posts. In fact, internal traffic has gone directly to the blog more often than every individual post combined. The only post that has had a significant number of direct visits internally is The Trustworthiness of Facial Hair, presumably because we mailed a link around internally at the end of Movember.

External traffic, as reported by Google Analytics, breaks down like this:

1. A guide to custom themes in ExtJS 4
2. Rally Engineering Blog
3. ExtJS
4. The Trustworthiness of Facial Hair
5. ExtJS4

Clearly, Google searches for ExtJS are the biggest driver for external traffic, encompassing 3 of the top 5 landing pages. Of the others, one is the blog home page. The last is the aforementioned facial hair post. If I lengthened this list to ten, there would be a links to our Jenkins and Continuous Integration categories, another post about Ext, and two random posts.

If we generalize Feedburner traffic as our regular readers and use Google Analytics to see the whole picture, the traffic patterns are interesting.

The majority of our overall traffic is Google-driven and is related to ExtJS. I’m going to assume that’s because ExtJS is a fairly specific topic and all of our posts end up with a healthy pagerank. Specific topic + healthy pagerank = traffic.

Among our repeat readers, the traffic is very different. There’s nothing about Ext in the top 10 posts. The posts most often deal with clean code, testing, or other engineering practices like feature toggles.

So what does this tell us? First, don’t write about Phys-Ed. Next, if we want more search engine traffic, we should be writing more about Ext. Ext posts are the clear winner in terms of overall traffic. Finally, if we’re interested in appealing to our regular readers, we should just keep doing what we’re doing.

Do you read in an RSS reader? If so, what posts cause you to click through? If you don’t use an RSS reader, how do you typically use the site? How did you find us? Let us know in the comments.

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