The Holiday Traffic Drop

A few people have asked why the blog RSS readership dropped below 1,000 over the Christmas holiday. The answer should be pretty obvious, but for the new webmasters experiencing their first holiday on the Internet, it may seem like a crash.

The holidays are only financially good for retailers and E-tailers. It’s not good for content based sites, which is what this blog is. There are simply less people online during the holiday season. It’s the same reason why traffic is lower on the weekends – think of the holidays as a one week long weekend. People are either spending time with friends and family or they’re out shopping for after Christmas bargains.

The traffic drop can be quite drastic but no one would have noticed it if I didn’t have a FeedBurner RSS counter which shows how many people subscribed to this blog. The counter dropped from 1,300 into the 800’s on Christmas day. A little explanation on how the FeedBurner counter works is in order.

The number the counter displays is not how many people have subscribed to the RSS feed. The counter shows the number of people who use RSS to access the blog yesterday. Right now, the number is 1,148. That means that 1,148 people use their RSS to read this blog yesterday. If nobody uses RSS to read the blog today, the counter will display zero tomorrow. The neat thing about the RSS counter is that it mirrors blog traffic. If the RSS numbers are up, chances are overall blog traffic is up.

I don’t expect traffic to return to normal levels until after the New Year. Christmas maybe over, but we’re still on holidays. This will have a negative effect on blog income. However, I still expect to be able to beat last month’s income level. I’ll report on that next year.


43 thoughts on “The Holiday Traffic Drop”

  1. HMTKSteve says:

    I’m still curious as to whether or not you have experienced a drop off since your Digg banning?

  2. Very interesting. I was wondering why my RSS feed fluctuated so much. One day I had 7, the next day, 4. I thought people were dropping like flies on me.

    Now it makes more sense ;o

  3. marlon says:

    Thanks i was wondering what that was all about my blog slowed down to not like i had much traffic but my other site http://www.dodigg.com hit a all time record today weird eh! I think it is because it is a site where you watch tv shows and movies anyway keep up the great work.

  4. Rod says:

    John – Thanks for that explanation. I was under the impression that it showed the number of subscriptions, not the number of polls in a day. Now I don’t feel so bad when I drop a few.

  5. Alex Becker says:

    That is obvious. What I wonder is if traffic decreases in the summer because people are out more?

  6. Mike says:

    I also wondered why the figure varied so much. Thanks for the explanation!

  7. Ed says:

    I thought it was rather obvious. I mean, who’s going to read our sites during the holiday season?

  8. girlrobot says:

    oh i had no idea that’s what that number meant!! thanks for the clarification

  9. Yes, it is obvious less people will visit sites during the holidays. But what a few of us didn’t know was what the RSS number represented. I assumed it was total subscribers, which is why it was baffling to see the number fluctuating so frequently.

  10. Mubin says:

    Yes, thank you for the explanation John. I was also under the impression that it had to do with the number of subscribers.

    Your blog isnt the only one with traffic going down, 21 of my proxies are experiencing all time lows, but luckily still ENOUGH to cover the huge server fees for this month.

  11. Nick says:

    It seems like all sites are taking a hit this time of year…around what time does the traffic really start to pick back up again?

  12. Michael Kwan says:

    Yeah, I figured it was obvious that traffic would drop, but I didn’t know about how Feedburner’s counter worked. Thanks John.

  13. Andy says:

    Thats interesting – I always though that FeedBurner said how many people have subscribed to the feed

    That makes it ridiculous that some sites have FeedBurner stats in the XXX,XXX range or even in the millions

  14. Tony says:

    Wasn’t your FeedBurner counter up at 4000+ at some point? Just for about a day though.

    Anyways, FeedBurner stats are estimates. One doesn’t actually have to read the feed, having your Firefox’s live bookmark ping the feed for updates is enough for a counter to hit.

  15. John Chow says:

    Tony – Someone adding my site to his or her feed creates a hit. On the day when the counter went pass 4,000 was the day after the high tech urinal story. Thousands of people added the blog to their RSS, but for whatever reason, they haven’t checked it since.

  16. Gdog says:

    This is normal, it’s also the same during the summer months when people are outside enjoying the hot weather. I’m on a vacation right (Dubai/RAK) now–both on my blog and in real life. It’s nice to take a break! 🙂

  17. Yep I see seasonal trends across most of my sites, primarily the few days up to and including Christmas, then a slight uptake again (people getting bored of pressies, eating, and relations?!), and then another dip around new years eve and new years day.

    Its obviously even worse for some industries, such as educational sites (who the hell wants to study over Christmas holidays!)

    I wasn’t aware that was how the feedburner counter worked, so thanks for the explanation.

    Matt

  18. Justin says:

    Me for one check the blog everyday 😉 lol

  19. Richard says:

    And here is my obligatory mention of web counters as a great compliment to the feed counter.

  20. Stephen says:

    For the most part, there seemed to be a drop, but on Dec 26, my traffic shot up and continued to climb back up and beyond normal levels as of today. The blog is still climbing out of the hole, but Mac Daddy Futurelooks.com is back where it should be.

    Traffic will peak again as I head to CES in Las Vegas to cover the show. I’m already on track to destroy last years numbers.

  21. Nomar says:

    I am expierincing this to.. I had under the 200 visits on my blog during the christmas days.. and yesterday also..

    thats too bad.. but it will probably getting back next week

  22. Zoltan says:

    Hey guys, have you heard about the quake in Taiwan? If not, just read my blog about it:
    http://www.unitedwebsite.com/zoltan/2006/12/27/earthquake-in-asia-no-or-slow-internet-access/
    So, if you have traffic from Asia, most probably your Asia traffic is down to about 15-20%.

  23. Leftblank says:

    Thanks for the info John, you’re right, it’s pretty obvious, though thinking from a students perspective the holidays are one big internet session 😉

  24. HMTKSteve says:

    I don’t trust feedburner stats. When I check my stats it always has about 40 hits in the last 2 hours but the overall number of subs is stuck near 30.

    Most people do not use my RSS feeds as I get the vast majority of my hits from Google.

    I have seen an upswing in traffic since Christmas because I review games and run articles on Pokemon.

  25. Leftblank says:

    HMKTSteve, you’re right of course, those stats are only reliable when you’ve actually got a somewhat big group of returning visitors, not to mention that the average Pokemon player/gamer doesn’t know too much about RSS so they perhaps wont sign up for it at all.
    I’ve tried using FeedBurner on my website as well, but I’ve only got a couple of RSS subscribers, so it’s not really useful to me either.

  26. ashwin says:

    I have noticed this on other sites I visit. One day its 1200 and the next its like 1000. I always wonder about that.

    Great blog John.

    http://www.tech1024.blogspot.com

  27. HMTKSteve says:

    Leftblank –

    I’m a techie and I hardly ever use RSS!

    The only time I use RSS is when I use live bookmarks in Firefox. In that case I love RSS!

    As for using a dedicated RSS reader… Maybe if I was on dial-up but with broadband it’s far easier to just go to the website.

  28. Great site! Finally an explanation on the sudden changes of RSS feeds. Thanks

    SIK
    http://www.studentinkorea.blogspot.com

  29. Andrew says:

    Like HMTKSteve, I have been curious about the effects of the Digg ban as well. This was a good POST, I never realized the effects of the holidays on blogs. Very interesting.

  30. HMTKSteve says:

    Though many people are not online during the holidays there are some sites that do benefit from the run-up to the holidays.

    Mostly tech review and game review sites get a big boost during November and December. This is caused by people looking for information before they make a purchase.

    After the holidays you will see a surge in traffic on game “cheat/hint” sites.

    I check my server logs often and I saw a large spike in Google traffic based on people searching for hints, tips and cheats about Pokemon games. Granted those folks do not often click on ads and those ads are in the nickel range…

    I can only hope they find the site useful and come back to read more content later.

  31. Thilak says:

    Haha.. I had already speculated that Traffic and RSS Readership might drop!!
    http://tech-buzz.net/2006/12/17/prepare-for-a-traffic-dip-ahead/

  32. Andy says:

    The days after the holidays are often the best time for online bargain sites like a few I run – that and Black Friday/Cyber Monday off course

  33. Nearly all of my sites witness traffic lows around christmas, after a year of online business it’s something you get used to. It’s good in some ways, less traffic = less emails = less work. Christmas is of course a busy time for e-tailers, they love it!

  34. Andy says:

    Unless of course you are Amazon
    They reported over 4 million in orders one day around Christmas this year

  35. Tony says:

    Similar to HMTKSteve, I saw a noticable spike in Google traffic for ‘computer programming help’ for the entire week, but before the holidays (arguably because the school projects were due that week), followed by a crash for the holidays themselves. So yes, ‘seasons’/special-days/etc have an effect on certain user demographics.

  36. HMTKSteve says:

    I need to get off my ass and write my review of Pokemon Ranger! I also need to ramp up on some of my Pokemon advice articles.

  37. Derrich says:

    While I don’t get the same traffic you do, I’ve definitely experienced a drop…except when I post videos, which get linked on numerous forums. I get heavy spikes upward for a day or two.

  38. nsusa says:

    I did not see a major drop in traffic except on 12/24 and 12/25 on most of my websites (majority is non ecommerce). So, I guess it also depends on the niche market a webmaster is catering.

    Christoph

  39. David Mackey says:

    I noticed a similar dip in traffic on my website. I agree with you, at the same time I find it funny b/c my web surfing usually goes up on days off.

  40. While I have naturally and seasonally dipped in traffic from all-time high 2,500+ daily unique visitors and 9,000+ daily page views and $17 Dollar daily Adsense income to present, less than 700 daily unique visitors, 3,000 daily page views and $6 Dollars daily adsense income respectively during the season, My FeedBurner has climbed from 777 in mid December to the present 1,052 without letting up daily.

    This, strangely to me defied the correlation theory that we all discuss here. Can anybody explain this FeedBurner aberration?

    I am a traffic-induced person. Anytime I see 150+ online on my blog. I quickly post fresh things for my content-hungry audience. It’s like chatting live with them because, responsive commentaries suddenly follow those posts.

  41. All content based sites seem to witness traffic drops around Christmas, and user demographics of course vary from time to time. Unless of course the content within that site is particularly relevant like how to setup and use the hottest selling presents. Other than that the festive season is mainly beneficial to the retailers and e-tailers.

  42. Jane says:

    When did you experience back to normal visits to this site John? I noticably saw a big drop on our site. Since we just started we were averaging about 100 visits per day before the holidays. Just last week we got back to that level and have tripled in traffic.

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