Google Analytics: Fireworks Display Event – Growth of Mobile

I say Fireworks night because that’s what Guy Fawkes night really means to people!

Each year fireworks are the big attraction on the Saturday nearest November 5th at the Watford Council organised event in Cassiobury Park.

fireworks-bonfire-relative
Relative areas from counts of “bon” and “work” in referring keywords  – cc(0) clker.com

Looking at the search terms queried which resulted in a visit to CassioburyPark.info on November 5th showed that traffic sent by fireworks related keywords outnumbered that from bonfire searches by 33-to-1.

It isn’t all Fireworks though.  The bonfire remains but gone is the Guy Fawkes judging contest, and effigies of him or “celebrities”.  Along with the main display there is also an earlier Fireworks display for small children and a stage featuring music from local musicians.

No Fireworks Firework Display

“Sounds like the worst ‘firework’ display ever” writes Mike Duce on Twitter. (yF).

 

Traffic

For the past three years there has been a noticeable rise up to the day of the Fireworks display which has been the busiest day of the year.

Guess when the Fireworks were!

There has been massive year on year growth in the number of event related searches.  This year saw more mobile visits to the site on the day of the event than visits from all platforms to the site a year ago.

Comparing November 5th 2011 with a year earlier (November 6th 2010):

  • Desktop visits increased 125%
  • Mobile visits increased 398%

On November 5th 2011:

  • 38% of visits were from a mobile device
  • Heavy use of Apple devices saw Safari as the most used browser

Cassiobury Park 2011 Fireworks Mobile Traffic Per Hour

Mobile visits peaked in the same hour as total visits but the significantly slower falling limb on the graph below shows that people were accessing the site from their phones whilst attending the display.

Social Media

Interaction increased.  There is a one-click Twitter follow button on the homepage of the site which helped the associated account gained the greatest number of followers it has added in a single day.  Throughout the day I tweeted photo updates from the park many of which were retweeted, and there were several @mentions in the evening.

The effect on the @CassioburyPark Klout score can be seen below – very temporary though due to the decrease in tweeting levels after the event.

 

Variants

On the day of last year’s event on Saturday 6th November 2010 it was colder but perhaps more importantly for the past 3 years events I had been away at University so wasn’t able to nip over to the park to provide regular updates and as a result social activity last year was considerably less.

That said for both years the site featured Fireworks on its homepage and full details on the events page.

What mobile devices are people using?
Apple devices are the most popular by far with traffic from iPods exceeding the total mobile traffic served from the SymbianOS, Windows, Nokia and Samsung operating systems combined!  They other devices aren’t all phones either with iPads accounting for about 20% of all mobile traffic.
Mobile OS Nov 5th 2011 CP
The proportion of mobile visits which were made from an Apple device fell from 81% in 2010 to 73% in 2011 but this was more than offset by a 342% increase in the absolute number of iOS visits.

 

Keywords and Google Suggest


Continued evolution of Google Suggest and its ability to impact search queries is apparent with 3 of the top 4 search terms ending with “2011” compared to just 1 ending “2010” the previous year.

The average length of each referring search query also increased, from 2.8 in 2010 to 3.2 in 2011.

 

How does this compare to the rest of the year?
In every year for which Analytics has available data, there was a higher proportion of mobile visits on the day of the event than over the year as an average. This is unsurprising given there are few other times a year when there are tens of thousands of people in the park at a time.

Both the proportion of and absolute number of mobile visits are increasing year on year.   The growth in mobile traffic from 2010 to 2011 was 300%, and the proportion of visits made from a mobile device has risen rapidly from 9% in 2010 to 22% this year.
 

The site

There isn’t a separate mobile version of the site and truth be told I haven’t ever seen the site on a mobile phone other than my own.  I will have to try accessing it on some of the most popular devices to ensure that the site looks okay on them.
 

The Event

In the old days an “anything goes” approach was taken to bonfire building.  Nowadays it’s much smaller and pretty much all pallets.

Cassiobury Park Bonfire 1990s
Me standing in front of the large bonfire in 1999.

In the 1990s there was the Computacenter hot air balloon, glow sticks, sparklers, hot-dogs barbecued at various places and the crowds were held back by rolls of orange mesh fencing.  They even used to let cars park on the grass.

Nowadays the park resembles a building site by the end of the preceding week with large steel fences rather earirly erected around nothing but empty parkland in the days before the event.  The barbecues have been replaced with a semi-circle of professional catering trucks, a truck load of portable toilets are dropped off, the bonfire has moved up the hill, the fences further back and cars aren’t allowed to park near the event.

Don’t get me started on the Rainbow Festival.

Bonfire 2011

Knowsley Council Blog Spam

If you want a free dofollow gov.uk backlink you can get lots from Knowsley Council’s blog.

I’d seen this previously but never wrote anything about it until I was prompted to when I was looking at the inbound links to an affiliate site and saw it had one from the Knowsley.gov.uk domain.

The Knowsley’s blog section of the their website (last updated June 2009) is no longer linked to from the council homepage (PR 6) but the main blog is PR3. It contains just a handful of posts all of which have at least 500, mainly spam, comments. The first few comments on most posts are genuine messages left by local people or those involved in subject of the blog, a Chernobyl Aid Convoy. One of these posts is currently attracting new SEO comment spam at the rate of about 10 per day.

Two of the blog posts actually have a Page Rank of 1 except I can get neither of these to load because the pages throw ASP exceptions!

Here are some examples of some of the many domains that Knowsley Council’s domain links to. It should be pretty obvious which are legitimate links and which are comment spam!

The ASP exception page suggestions that the CMS being used here is Immediacy, couldn’t find any prices on their website so no doubt it costs an arm and a leg.

Pretty sad to see Knowsley Council taxpayers money being used to promote all these websites.

The effect of a @mysite.com email address

Using a email@yoursite.com address on a blog’s “contact us” page seems to encourage far more people to email than posting the address of a  free e-mail account.

The page in question here is GameMaker Blog’s contact us page.  The page is short but contains contact details to which people can send Game Maker news tips.  It currently contains my personal MSN/WLM address, a link to the GMB Twitter, a button to send me a private message at the official Game Maker forum and an e-mail address – “philip.gamble (please spell my name correctly!) @gamemakerblog.com”.

I set up the email address a couple of months back which took at most two minutes including setting up forwarding to and sending from my gmail account.  It seems to have encouraged more and higher quality emails (and yes multiple targeted unsolicited requests from a certain download site).

I considered a few reasons why the new email address has had a better response rate:

  • More professional – makes the site seem less ‘fly by night’ I presume (though we are 3 years old).  Maybe even gives the impression that the organisation is bigger/more powerful/part of a larger network.
  • Replaced what is effectively junk with a readable name – the previously displayed email address (freeg131@) would probably be seen as meaningless rubbish to most people who might think it looks spammy.
  • Personal – a real name contact.  People believe that their message will be read and dealt with as opposed to a general contact@website.com

I could experiment with an on page “email us” form. I use one of these on another site where I judge the average user to be considerably less tech-savvy than a bunch that are making their own games. However I fear this might encourage pointless, poor quality messages by making it just too easy to send me a message – and of course people could fill in a fake ‘from’ address which would benefit no one.

If you run your own website and currently have a free e-mail address posted on it I would highly recommend you change to a your.name@yoursite.com address.

Keeping Game Maker Blog up to date

Game Maker Blog HomepageThe most trafficked website I run is GameMakerBlog.com

As the name suggests it is a blog about the Game Maker game development tool. Articles on the site include news about the company behind the software, YoYo Games, the development of the program and community projects, websites, media, competitions and games.

At three and a half years old it is also probably the longest online project I have stuck with.

Over the years we’ve had some good exclusives as well as reporting on breaking stories and some more run of the mill stuff.

It isn’t the most profitable as it does require quite a bit of time to keep in order. Along the way I’ve been helped by more than 10 fellow writers and countless Game Maker users. One big problem I have experienced throughout the past couple of years is finding regular contributors to create fresh content for the site.

There are people willing to help, approximately 20% of all articles on the site are written by someone other than me, but there are often long dry spells when all the posts are written by myself.

Slightly out of date alias-heavy pie chart below (I prefer to use real names on the site)

Game Maker Blog Contributors

I am very grateful for every post other authors write but it seems to me that more than ever the site is a one-man band.

Recently this was bought to my attention once again. 15 minutes after I left the house YoYo Games released the results of their latest game development competition. More than 5 hours later I returned home and saw I had received a message sent just a couple of minutes after the results had been released telling me that they were out.

A 5 hour delay may not seem long but I think it makes the site look bad. It isn’t an exclusive, it isn’t a hard to get story – effectively all it requires is a quick re-writing of a blog post made elsewhere.

Breaking a story or finding something relevant not currently featured at one of the Game Maker forums or on other prominent Game Maker websites can sometimes be exciting (more so than it probably should be).  Sometimes I have to hold off a story to get verification from another party or find more evidence which can be frustrating but we’ve reported a fair amount of YoYo Games news which they have either not reported themselves or have only later acknowledged.

Despite this people expect us to get the basic stuff right and online quickly – from what I hear some people have begun to rely on the site for all things Game Maker and I don’t like to let them down.

Anyone can set up a half-arsed attempt at a Game Maker news blog – there have been many. If all you want to do is re-write blog posts from elsewhere hours or even days late you won’t gain the followers or respect that we have worked so hard for at GMB.

As an early adopter of Twitter I am pleased to see it has become one of the better known social networking tools.  @GameMakerBlog now has over 400 followers and Twitter is the fourth largest referrer of visits to the website.  A good number of Game Maker users have also, for some unknown reason, chosen to follow my personal account where they get to find out my opinions on formula 1, university, the things I watch on TV and other random but effectively pointless things I say and do.

The people

Such a horrible phrase. The Game Maker community is made up of programmers, artists, game designers, web developers, reviewers, gamers and authors. Through my involvement with Game Maker Blog I have come into contact with an incredible bunch of people from around the globe.

Game Maker Blog Global Reach Map

Obviously I know some better than others. If you’ve got me added on both Facebook and MSN you’re in the minority (I don’t accept random Facebook requests).

I’ve been helped by forum members, moderators, administrators and YoYo Games staff.  People willingly give their time to send news tips my way, answer questions and organise longer articles such as interviews and book reviews. If this is you, thank you. You make things so much easier and help us do things that would not otherwise be possible.

Despite the fact that I’ve never made anything half decent in Game Maker, I have been welcomed by the community.  There have been bad times but the good ones outweigh them.  The efforts people put into game maker games, magazines and other projects as ‘labours of love’ whilst having good time doing it means that Game Maker is far more than just a development program.

Whilst it’s handy being in the same time zone as YoYo Games the worldwide community means news is happening 24/7 so contributors from abroad are a valued asset (even if most seem to have faulty “u” keys on their keyboard).

We had a couple of failed attempts to launch a reviews series then third much more successful attempt spierheaded by Andrew McCluskey following the demise of GMTech. (Also contributions from Jack Brockley, Josh Conley and Matt Scorah.)  Andrew then only went and launched Rekame Mag and got himself a job at YoYo Games!

GMTalk

GMTalk was an accident. Josh and Jono at GMVision had a fortnightly live radio show which improved after a shaky start but quickly got pretty tired. After two shows in a row were plagued with technical problems it was apparent that I wasn’t the only one wishing for something like GMCast to appear on the scene. A few hours later Andrew, Jack and myself recorded the first episode with our guest, James Garner from DS Game Maker.

If you listen to GMTalk you’ll find that we have a mini obsession with magazines. Game Maker magazines can be great if done right but oh, they can be dire.  They simply don’t work for run of the mill news because by the time they are released it isn’t news.

If you’ve ever been on a show (we try to get through different guests each time to keep things fresh) you’ll know how different the initial recording is from what gets published. “Chaotic” could certainly be used to describe our antics at times and often recorded content cannot be included in the final release. When recording more often than not it feels like we are low on usable material but it always seems to work out allright in the end and the positive reception we have received makes me feel all warm inside. To know that people have actually sat and listened to 3 young British guys and our assortment of guests ramble on about geeky computer stuff sometimes worries me, but to hear that they actually enjoyed listening makes me proud (and all that time in Audacity worthwhile!).

Some stats

GMB Pageviews

From launch until the Autumn of 2009 growth was pretty steady with occasional dips in traffic when there wasn’t as much happening to write about. At the end of 2009 version 8 of Game Maker was released which almost doubled our traffic, initially as new features were announced and betas made public but also thanks to a series of logo related posts.

In recent months traffic has declined slightly.

It’s hard to predict traffic levels and the kind of reception a story will receive in the comments section. Posts about YoYo Games’ financial status, which I find interesting and extremely relevant, often don’t get much attention at all – perhaps because the majority of our readers don’t understand them or care about what they mean.  Of course traffic also varies based on the news which is out of our control – both the size of announcements and the number of things available to report on.

I don’t write blindly attract traffic but it doesn’t take a genius to work out which topics result in lots of traffic.  I try not to focus on a narrow path of news but know that the site is very media-heavy and games and development light. I haven’t been able to effectively implement most of what people said they wanted in our survey.

Talking of financials here is a graph of the site’s very low advertising revenues since launch.

GMB Revenues

The site uses a variety of ad networks, most of which are immediately obvious if you don’t have an adblocker/noscript.

TLA robbed us of our pagerank and then buggered off just after our record month. This has left revenues in a less predictable state with jumps of a third on a month by month basis now not uncommon.

Direct ad sales were a nice bonus when they unexpectedly came along but I haven’t actively been trying to sell them.

Costs are pretty static at less than $10 a month on the domain and hosting.  Prizes and accessing documents filed by YoYo Games are easily covered.  The site certainly doesn’t loose money – costs aren’t really an issue – time is.

The future

I graduate in July.  I won’t have the time/energy/drive to work on the site nearly as much as I do now.

I hate to say it, but don’t know of any reason why I shouldn’t, but recently I have been having these thoughts more often. I wrote a bit about the obvious incompatibilities between keeping GMB as it is and having a full time job a few months back in Rekame Mag 2.

Ideally the blog will continue, and continue strongly in to a future which is looking more and more exciting as YoYo Games hire more people to work on some exciting new ideas. For this to happen I would either need to find a slightly younger care-free version of myself or a small team that can commit to keeping the site fresh and encouraging existing and new contributors. Neither of these will be easy to find.

More people are going to be drawn towards Game Maker as a development tool as games appear on device running the iPhone OS, Android and on PSPs.  I think it would be a shame for there not to be a decent blog for them to read.

Google Analytics Individual Qualification

Last night I took, and passed, the Google Analytics Individual Qualification exam.

The test, which lasts an hour and a half, consists of 70 questions on various aspects of Google’s web statistics program. Lots of information is provided by Google to help you prepare for the exam in the form of videos as well as the help center and Analytics API.

The questions are all multiple choice though by no means easy.  You have the ability to pause the test, go away and research the answers, then return at a later date – indeed Google encourages this as in one question it advises you to go and use the Google Regular Expression builder to answer a particular question about filtering out a range of IP addresses from site statistics.

To pass you need to score 80%.