February 26, 2011 | | Comments 23

Weekend Musings: My Name Is Ben And I Am a Stats Junkie …

Hi. My name is Ben and I am a stats junkie.

[Here is the part where all of you are supposed to say collectively ... Hey, Ben ...]

It’s true. I can’t peel my eyes off the stats on chowtimes. I guess that is one of those things that keeps us going with the blog. We use a variety of tools to keep track of the traffic. Our primary ones are sitemeterFeedjitStatCounter and Google Analytics.

I like Feedjit because it is realtime and the sound it makes each time someone hits a page … ding-ding-ding-dong-dong-ding-ding … sweet music. LOL! Every time when furious dings emitted from the computer, we are alerted that something is up (most likely visits from our dear friend, Google bot).

Suanne loves statscounter but I hate it. She likes that because she likes to see what keywords that Google brings traffic to the site. I think I know why. You see Google brings more new readers to chowtimes via recipe posts than restaurant ones.

The Flagcounter is a pretty one but it is quite useless for us. This is located way at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar.

I think we had maxed the number of flags already because for the past six months there had not been any addition of countries. I think there are either 100 flags or 104 flags (so hard to count those tiny flags).

It goes with saying that most traffic is from Canada. Although a lot of the content in chowtimes are Canadian, the traffic from the US is pretty high too. So it is good to know that the reach of chowtimes does extend beyond the 49th parallel.

The UK and Australia took 3rd and 4th spot while Malaysia and Singapore was not far behind.

Of particular interest to us is China (2,924). There used to be … negligible traffic from that country languishing with 20 pages or so. Then a few months ago, the increase of traffic was encouraging. Yeah, if there is one country that we hope chowtimes gets know in, we want it to be China because of the potential growth.

Our favourite stats tracker is still the one that we had used from day one — sitemeter.

We love the simplicity. We track many stats but one what we took pains in growing is pageviews. I figure if there is one metrics that would provide the measurement “size”.

This stats gives us motivation to blog and grow chowtimes. It is just me … I want to see how far I can take the site.

It is great to see it growing. I remember it was just back in November last year when Mia Stainsby wrote a piece on chowtimes (newspaper article here). I was telling her that we were averaging 8,500 pageviews a day. A couple of months later, chowtimes was also featured on Fairchild TV’s Timeline documentary (see documentary here).

It goes without saying that the traffic skyrocketed for days. Since then it had stabilized at the 10,000 pageviews mark. To us this is a major milestone, achieving 10,000 pageviews a day is phenomenal. Actually we had not seen many Vancouver area blog with this level of traffic (checked against compete.com and alexa.com).

Oh I want to show you this. The above was the traffic that came to chowtimes at the very moment that the Fairchild TV program was shown. That show was broadcasted four times on TV. The first broadcast was in Toronto and we caught it on TV. We witnessed that 2 seconds right after the word “chowtimes.com” was flashed on the TV, Feedjit ding-ding-dong-dong went off the roof.

In the video above, you will see the moment starting at 1:20.

Three hours later, when the show was shown again in Vancouver we were ready to capture the video above.  Let me tell you, this 2nd broadcast was nothing compared to the first one. In the first broadcast, there was 2-3 pageviews every second.

Hehehe … exciting times!

People asked us this question a lot: “How did you do it?”

Well, part of it is to create pages and posts that people can use and come back again and again to. If you see the top pages/posts of the past 6 days, you will notice a few pages that are not really posts.

The Chowtimes Blogroll was a great success. So it was worth the while building it and then maintaining it is so simple. Yet it brings in lots of traffic everyday. You see, many of our friends use this page as the launching pad for their daily dose of food porn. AYCE food porn — it is all there.

We tweaked our site to tightly integrate Google Search into chowtimes. This is done so that even when you perform a search, you don’t leave chowtimes.com at all. It was technically challenging for me doing this but it pays dividends. It also helps that chowtimes has amassed a big content base to search into. So chances of you looking for something you want using our search widget is not bad.

“All-Pokemon” is our latest star.

The “All-Pokemon” page has nothing to do with food at all. This page (link here) was part of this post on Cake-Ya.

We publsihed the Cake-Ya post on February 17th. It took Google a few days to index this page and then starting on February 20th, it took off. For some reason, the “All-Pokemon” page was indexed Google Images as the #1 image for the “all pokemon” keyword and top 10 for the “pokemon” keyword.

So, yeah. These types of posts and pages are the staple pages on chowtimes which accounts for at least 10% of all hits.

People are beginning to tell me that it is getting too difficult to follow the discussions on chowtimes. on the average, there are 30-50 comments made each day. So following the comments are difficult.

I have no simple answer for now. In the near term, I am working on a way so that I can make chowtimes a forum but at the same time make sure it is essential a blog of “Ben and Suanne”. For sure we need a better way for everyone to follow the discussion in the same way like what you see on chowhound. It is tricky but I am sure I’ll get there.

But at the meantime, I want to call out two very small features that you might not have noticed. See the picture above. You can click on the “+” bottom (shows only when you hover your mouse over the comment) to expand on very long comments.

There is also a “Older »” link at the bottom of the comment sidebar. Clicking on that will show more (older) comments.

The other alternative is subscribe to the comments. You can subscribe to comments at the bottom of each post (see above).

I don’t really recommend this because you would likely end up feeling spammed by dozens of emails. The system delivers one email per comment made which is pretty dumb.

Yesterday, I had someone writing to me asking for a Chinese version of chowtimes. He was telling me that his mum wants to read our reviews but she doesn’t read English. Wow, that was interesting to know.

I guess the only way to read chowtimes in Chinese (or other languages) is to use the Google Translate feature (see above). I don’t know how the translations are but frankly I am not surprised if it is terrible and the translated texts might not make much sense. :-)

Has anyone used that? Is the translation OK?

Alright … thanks for listening. Excuse me while I go back and check the stats … oh wow, it is 10:30 AM and “All-Pokemon” pageviews are already 273 …

Hi … my name is Ben and I am a stats junkie …

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  1. Elaine says:

    Most of my visits come from your blogroll Ben =P

  2. WS says:

    You have more statistics regarding visitors to Chowtimes.com from Canada? The vast majority would be from the Vancouver-area(maybe approx. 70%)? How many vistors from Eastern Canada(where I’m based)? Can you be even more specific(are you figuring out, how many vistors approx. from Montreal daily besides myself)?

    For subscribing to comments, I would like another option like getting all the comments per topic(s) once per day(when they’re new comments) at a designated set time(instead of just the option, one e-mail per comment). That way I can subscribe to many more Chowtimes blog posts, & not be flooded by e-mails from Chowtimes. Someone brought up already, that I also like is an edit option. So I can edit my posted comments(like make spelling corrections, or adding more info) within a short period. At some of the discussion boards that I post, that have an edit option, I can edit a comment if it’s done within 2 hours or so.

    • Ben says:

      Hi WS: Sure. Here is the breakdown of chowtimes traffic by Canadian cities. What can you deduce from this?

      • WS says:

        I don’t know what I can deduce, but I just find it interesting. Toronto & Calgary has more daily visitors, than several BC towns. I don’t know BC towns well enough, to know how close some of the BC towns are to Vancouver. Doesn’t New Westminster have a big Asian population, & next to Richmond, but they have less daily vistors to Chowtimes, than either Toronto & Calgary?

        • Ben says:

          Hi WS: New West, as New Westminster is popularly known, was the capital of British Columbia before Victoria. Although on the map it does look like New West is adjacent to Richmond, in between them are farm lands. Driving from Richmond to Delta or Surrey feels even nearer than to New West. Ben

    • Ben says:

      Hi WS: Excellent feedback regarding the management of comments. I like your ideas. The main problem is that chowtimes is built on WordPress and WP is basically a blogging platform which does not readily lend itself to be a forum. There are plugins to extend WP functionality but none of them does everything that I need. Am still researching them and am attending a workshop relating to implementing a forum sometime in March. Hope I’ll learn a bit more on how to do it right. Ben

  3. Lissa says:

    Oi! Only now we get the link to the Fairchild documentary? LOL! Or did I miss the announcement in your previous posts? :)

    • Ben says:

      Hi Lissa: No-lah, I did not want to create a single post for that yet. I will do that when I get the file to load into the chowtimes YouTube channel. :-) Ben

  4. Kevin says:

    So I need to figure out how to incorporate pokemon into my posts from now on …

  5. Doug says:

    I think the edit comment need to be added. Too many times I had made a word or grammar mistakes and it bugs me that I can’t change it! >.<

    • Ben says:

      Hi Doug: Hehehe … seems like LotusRapper and you had a lot in common! :-) Hey, can I ask you a question? Someone wrote me an email yesterday that Sherman banned a certain Doug from his post on the GGW (this post). Were you the Doug who was banned? The offending comments were removed so I don’t know what the issue is. What caused Sherman’s ire? Hehehe … I am curious. Ben

  6. Doug says:

    Someone was using same name as Doug and made awful comments about my restaurant and made false advertisement, then the same person or another person use the name Doug and made awful comments on other post. In the future, I have to create an account to clear up that silly mess.

  7. Crispy Lechon says:

    I confess I am a Chowtimes junkie. I have been one for the past 4 to 5 yrs. I dont think I can be cured of this addiction if Chowtimes continue posting yummy food posts and pictures. :( LOL

    BTW, I’m probably one of the biggest user of the blogroll. I use it instead of the RSS or my own bookmark. Keep up the good work Ben. I applaud you for always thinking of making your blog followers’ experience better. Actually, I like the idea of the Chowtimes forum too although it may mean more work for you and Suanne to maintain it.

  8. NewJersryYan says:

    Yea, Ben, I made up one of the stats of followers from the US. I came across your website when I was trying to find out how to make “bak Kua”. Then you got me all curious with your blog about food. After a few weeks, I tell myself “Why bother to read Ben’s blog cos I don’t even live in Canada and have no access to those delicious food at all”. Yet, each day, when Chowtimes appeared in my inbox, I automatically click on it and read it and drool…. Well, maybe it is an addiction but I think it is because you are a Malaysian and I am a Singaporean and I could relate to your love for food and how you described them and what you like. For example, you like meat with layers of fat, food with lots of gravy “jhup”.. I totally get it. So, I hope someday that I can visit Richmond to try some of those wonderful food that you blogged about. Keep blogging Ben!

  9. Jean says:

    Not surprising that there maybe unexpected strong readership in less heavily Asian/foodie oriented areas. Calgary: lacks alot of good Asian restaurants. So people need to read food porn. Just can’t eat it. :)

    As for maybe less B.C. readers: I mean look, not everyone is interested in food porn. And not alot of people can afford to eat out often at restaurants.

    Congrats. on those readership stats.! What metrics software do you use to group cities of readers? Am working on another blog to reach a broad audience…

    • Ben says:

      Hi Jean: The software I use to group cities of readers is nothing but just Google Analytics (GA). When it comes to trying to analyze web analytics, nothing beats GA. GA is suited for aggregated data. Let me know if you have any specific question and I would love to help. Ben

    • William Waung says:

      Also, Toronto and Calgary have larger populations than New West.

  10. WS says:

    Ben, what is your set-up at home to run the whole Chowtimes.com operation? I think you mentioned before, you have 5 computers connected? You have back-ups if one or two computers goes down?

    • Ben says:

      Hi WS: It was nothing fancy except that we store the photos and site on a RAID-5 NAS. That RAID-5 storage provides disks redundancy and spreads the data out to several disks. If one of the disks fail, the NAS will continue to function. Also the contents of the NAS are also replicated off-site, albeit not online. Yeah, we have more computers and notebooks that we can ever use. :-) Ben

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