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My top 3 posts of 2016 are all Swagger-related -- lessons learned from 2016 analytics

by Tom Johnson on Jan 17, 2017
categories: api-doc

This past year the stats on my blog showed some surprising results. From about mid-2016 on through the present, there was a notably upward trend in page views. I attribute the upward trend primarily to some posts on Swagger. The larger trend is that all top posts on my site could be classified as documentation content.

Page views and session metrics

Here are a couple of screenshots from Google Analytics:

The blue line is 2016, the brown is 2015. Page views were 778k for the year, up 24% from 626k the previous year. That's an average of 2k+ page views each day.
Sessions were up 31% for the year, to 497k from 377k the previous year. A session is a single visitor's time on the site, not counting the number of pages the user visits.

Top pages

What pages were users visiting? Here are the top 10:

Users were looking for information on Swagger!

Here are links to pages listed in the above screenshot:

Reasons for increase in traffic

Some of the top pages can be explained away as flukes. I doubt people are searching for “quick reference guides” and trying to learn how to create these formats for documentation. They’re probably looking for a quick reference guide for their device and are just typing in “quick reference guide” generally into Google.

Posts about technical writing careers and certificate programs are perennial favorites. A lot of users (hello English majors!) are looking for tech writing information online and searching for career advice.

The JavaScript article is one of those weird instances where a single post shoots to the top based on unpredictable factors (the melting ice caps?).

But the BIG NEWS is that the top 3 posts are all related to Swagger. In fact, that Swagger tutorial is driving a steady stream of visitors to my site. That article brought 104,000 page views in 2016, which is more views than my homepage (the “/”) gets.

If you search for “Swagger tutorial,” my page is in the top 3 results. I find this odd, because it’s not even a very good tutorial.

This tells me several things:

  • The documentation for Swagger is really bad, so people are looking elsewhere for information.
  • Swagger is a hot trend that people are hungry for information about.
  • I should probably fine tune the heck out of that page.
  • People searching on the web often include “tutorial” in what they’re searching for, especially when the official docs are confusing.

The larger trend is documentation

Finally, let’s look at a fundamental trend about all of my top posts. Are they clever examples of storytelling? Are they personal narratives? Are they comedic monologues? Videos? Existential laments? Political rants? Probing interviews? Nope. They are all documentation.

Yes, the top posts on my site are all information-rich posts offering tutorials, instruction, or other guidance. This is what people search for on the web. It’s exactly the kind of content we produce on a daily basis as technical writers. We’re fueling the web with information people want.

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