Thank you to all the loyal readers who have helped make A Distant Soil a success online. This graph shows the huge jump in traffic and visitor counts between 2009 and 2010.

I had a website for 10 years with blog and message board for six of those years, posting comic pages regularly for 70 weeks. Yet I saw no significant rise in my traffic or sales between 2003 and 2008.

In January 2009, I hired DC McQueen to redesign and reformat the website, and to make the webcomic the lead feature. The old website was shut down. The old posts could not be imported into the new format and were either scrapped or restored one by one.

The new site and webcomic did not show any increase in traffic or sales for months. In fact, after an enthusiastic, initial blip, traffic plummeted after the new site went online, bottoming out in April 2009 at only 8328 page views for an entire month, down about 15,000 page views per month from the old site.

The number on the left represents page views. The number on the right, unique visitors.

Dead low daily traffic count:

About a month later, traffic began to rise again, and stalled until November of 2009. Then, this happened.

The majority of the traffic for 2009 can be accounted for in the last two months of the year:

Traffic dropped again, then jumped back in August 2010. Traffic then doubled between August 2010 and December 2010.

For those who like to click on the Project Wonderful ads to get a look at other people’s traffic, my PW ads are back up ads and do not show accurate traffic levels for my site. They tend to rank a full third lower than my internal stats. EDIT: Also, keep in mind that PW ads can show very different results depending on where they are placed on a website. They do not reflect the traffic of an entire site, only the page views for the ad.

Note that I make a distinction between page views and hits. Lots of folks like to conflate their popularity by bragging about their hit count. One website which shows an Alexa ranking of about 5 million (which is very low,) claimed 5 million hits in six months. Millions of hits makes the site sound pretty popular, doesn’t it?

Page views account for each pair of eyes on an individual page. Hits are the packets of information sent from the site to the server. Depending on how many bells and whistles a website has, a single page view can account for 5-50 packets of info.

My site sends about 6-7 hits per page to my server. Here is a screen shot of my page views versus my hits for the month of December:

The left hand column shows the page views per day. The right hand column, the hit count.

The second bottom: the daily average. The bottom number, the totals for the month.

So, with 347,673 page views, I got 2,139,472 hits.

A combination of a wide variety of factors can account for the site’s rise in popularity, but I’m not entirely sure what they are, and I welcome your observations.

Most of the traffic on the old website was driven by blog posts. Most of the traffic on the new website is driven by webcomic readers. The more attractive pages later in the series account for much of the site’s appeal. Webcomic readers have short attention spans and are unlikely to stick with a site if the first page they see is unappealing. Earlier ADS pages are less likely to grab new readers and keep them. Later pages show a significant increase in staying power.

Still, A Distant Soil has a lot going against it:

1) Few long form serial dramas do well online. I can count successes on my fingers.

2) I can count the number of successful Western print to web comics on the fingers of one hand.

3) My work is copy heavy, which is garlic to the webcomic vampire.

A Distant Soil will run M-W-F through 2011. The sales on the site are up, the site is self supporting.

GOALS:

1) Triple traffic in 2011.

2) Work part-time on ADS in 2011

3) Full time throughout 2012. It could happen.

4) Jeff Smith plans to finish Rasl in 2013, I plan to finish ADS in 2013. We plan a victory tour together in 2013.

Nice goals. Hope to see you at the finish line.

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