A Blogging Evaluation

Word Cloud of the AiA Blog

A word cloud of the AiA Blog, in which the words are sized according to how often they appear in text. Source: worditout.com.

Almost two years ago, I started this blog for the Archaeology in Annapolis project. A little over a year ago, it occurred to me that we should try to understand who our audience is by collecting site traffic data. Though it began as a means of justifying the blog’s existence by showing that people from around the country—and even the world—are interested in our research, it has since turned into an introspective look at how our blog functions, what topics we are discussing, and who is listening. Last week, I realized that the readers of the blog might be interested to learn who else is in their company and what I’ve learned.

Using a word cloud, which takes all of the words used in an accumulation of text and sizes them according to their frequency, I was able to visually represent the most important topics on the blog so far. The cloud, shown above, demonstrates a focus on individual stories, making sense of the past, landscapes, slavery, and communities. Making this cloud has also shown me how overshadowed our Annapolis research has been by the Wye House, which I will try to remedy in the future.

Visitors by Country

Visitors to the blog by country outside of the United States. Source: Google Analytics.

In the year that we’ve recorded this data, there have been 1,180 total visits to our blog from 572 unique visitors. The average time spent reading it is 2 minutes, which seems like enough time to read one post, or skim through several. A vast majority of our visitors (93.5%) come from the United States, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn how wide-reaching the blog was outside of our country. Aside from the United States, your fellow readers represent at least 21 different countries, including Brazil, Israel, Japan, and Trinidad and Tobego.

Visitors by US State

Visitors to the blog by US state. Source: Google Analytics.

Within the United States, it was not unexpected to find that most of our audience comes from Maryland. With our research localized in Annapolis and the Eastern Shore, it has been my goal from the beginning to encourage local residents to read about the archaeological work that we are doing in their backyards—often literally. It was also my hope that students at the University of Maryland could use the blog to understand what archaeologists do in the lab and field and make decisions about pursuing archaeology at our school. The bulk of our posts come from the writing of our field school students during the summer, sharing their experiences and discoveries, and this seems to be a great way to learn what our project does and what it can offer a student.

Blog Traffic

Blog traffic from December 2011 to January 2013. Source: Google Analytics.

It comes as no great surprise that, throughout this past year, the greatest spike in our blog readership came during the summer months, when the field school students produced near-daily content. This is reinforced when looking at the ten most popular posts of the blog so far, according to the number of visitors:

Where the Buffalo Soldier Roamed 94
Homo Faber 73
The Basement: “Small Find Heaven” 60
Emerging Scholars Research Project 59
Farewell Annapolis 52
Goodbye Annapolis, Hello Wye House 52
Summer in Historic Annapolis 49
Week 3 in Annapolis 37
Understanding What’s Underground 33
Archaeology in Annapolis Week 1 2012 32

These posts were almost entirely posted during the field season and almost entirely by our field school students. They represent the heart of this blog, and the reason many of you take the time to read it.

Although I can see these numbers, and although I can explain them in general terms of what is popular on the blog, and who is reading, what these graphs and metrics do not tell me is what I most want to know: what do our readers do with it? Unless a visitor comments on a post or sends us an e-mail, these numbers remain completely anonymous points of data. We are all of us connected through a digital network of content creators, commentators, and silent observers, and after two years I’m still having trouble understanding the actual connections that we make and what we all take away from this. In the 70 posts to the blog so far (without including this one) and 572 visitors this AiA blogging network consists of 91.4% observers, 5.8% post contributors, 2.8% commenters. Although this imbalance is not at all unusual for an interactive website, I still want to strive toward greater participation and discussion.

The blog will continue, and it will evolve when I graduate and pass it on to the next generation of students. I hope they grapple with the same questions that I do. I hope that we can provide more and better information to the public, and I hope that we write posts that inspire visitors to ask questions and add their opinions to ours.

If you’re a regular visitor to this site, what interests you in our blog? How do you use our research? What topics would you like to see addressed in the future?


Leave a Reply