Web Development

Analyzing Web Traffic: Google Zeitgeist and More

Ever since I started doing the whole web development thing, I’ve been interested and amazed with the amount of information you can gain by watching your website traffic, especially over time to discover trends. I was reminded by this today when Google released its 2005 Year-End Zeitgeist to the world, aggregating billions of search queries to discover what had people’s attention over the year.

Some of the results are surprising, while some aren’t. For me, the Google News top searches was more than a little sad: Janet Jackson topped the list, beating out both the terms “Hurricane Katrina” and “tsunami”. Actually, the fact that someone from pop culture is first on the list isn’t the most surprising part to me – it’s that it’s Janet Jackson.

Google also plotted some trend data over the past year, showing a few graphs that I found interesting. First is the dramatic drop off of searches for “wmd” or “weapons of mass destruction” following the U.S. presidential election last fall:

Google trend graph of searches for wmd

It’s amazing how quickly people lose interest, isn’t it?

Next is the rising popularity of Wikipedia, the free, editable by everyone, encyclopedia. I realized recently that a lot of people were finally dicovering it, but the slope of the graph caught me off guard.

Trend graph of searches for Wikipedia

Last, a few things I hold near and dear to my heart: Apple, the iPod, and podcasting.

Trend graph of searches for iPod, Mp3, and podcasting

I’m surprised at just how much interest people appear to have in the new iPods released this fall, the iPod Nano and the Video iPod. Looking back to January, there’s only a relatively small jump (not labeld) for when the iPod Shuffle was announced and released. Also, if you look at the very end of the graph for this December, you’ll see that interest is almost at the same level as when the last couple of iPods were released. I’d say that’s very good news for Apple.

The other plot line I like is the one for podcasting. You can see that it’s risen from almost nothing in the first half of the year. Google didn’t label the inflection point where it jumped up dramatically, but I’m almost 100% certain it’s linked to Apple releasing podcasting support in iTunes back at the end of June.

For things on a more local scale, I’ve been running Google Analytics on the EduTech website ever since we relaunched about a month ago. This free website analytical tool collects and crunches a lot of data about who visits our site and what they do while they’re there.

First, here are a couple of views of the most viewed content on the EduTech website. Notice how the home page dwarfs everything else. My guess is that a lot of our visitors simply use it to login to their email account, rarely visiting any other pages. Personally, I was surprised that our North Dakota School Websites page gets more visits than almost everything else combined.

Top content

Popular content by page title

Next, you can see that most of our customers make frequent, but short visits – this jives with my theory about them coming to get their email. They also tend to only visit during the school week.

Length of visits

Visitor loyalty

Number of visits

Next, we look at how people get to the EduTech website. You can see that the vast majority either type the URL into the browser, have it bookmarked, or come after using our webmail program. A relatively small percentage get there by searching, with the second graph showing what search terms they used to find the site.

Top referring pages


Finally, we get to see what browser and operating system our visitors use. The different flavors of Internet Explorer are used by almost 90% of our visitors with Firefox and Safari combining for about 10% of the share. Close to 20% of our customers are using Macintosh computers, which sounds about right since most of our visits come from K-12 schools. As you can see, Windows is being used by the majority, much to my dismay.

Browser Versions

Operating System of visitor

So, that’s it. I could have pulled out some more graphs, but I think you get the picture. Nothing really surprising, but informative never-the-less.

One reply on “Analyzing Web Traffic: Google Zeitgeist and More”

Very very interesting.
I am working right now on an article about this.
Zeitgeist and how zeitgeist is influenced by new articles and how some writers just surf the wave of zeitgeist
I invite you to read and to collaborate if u think so.
(unluckily my english is not good enough as to write in english so i write in my native languaje: spanish but there is a translator at hand).

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