Mac Musings

Search Engines, Page Links, and the Worldwide Web

Dan Knight - 2005.03.03 - Tip Jar

Running a website such as Low End Mac is an interesting business. What began as a couple dozen pages on my personal web space in 1997 has grown to thousands of pages. Low End Mac began with every page linked from the home page and is now part of a huge web of links within the site, from other sites, and from search engines.

In the early days of the Web and of any new website, nobody drove traffic to your site. Nobody linked to pages within your site. People had to discover your site, and once the search engines (Yahoo, AltaVista, Excite, and others - this was before Google) discovered and explored your website, you were gold.

So you registered with Google, AltaVista, Excite, and the rest. And you hoped they'd add your site soon.

I've tried to have a fairly flat file structure and navigation system on each of my websites. At one point, my goal was that every important page be no more than two clicks from the home page. You might go Home, then choose Quadras, and then view the profile of the Quadra 840av. Or you might go Home, choose Mac Musings, and read my article about Gil Amelio's departure from Apple.

As the site grew, we moved away from that. Today you might go from the home page to the Editorial Index, follow that to Miscellaneous Ramblings, and then select on of Charles W. Moore's recent columns - or look through one of several archive indexes covering older articles.

In short, it's become a lot more messy than we originally envisioned, and the best way to find something on Low End Mac is often typing something in the search box at the top of each page and having Google tell you where it is. After nearly eight years of growing this site, that's the only way I can find some pages.

Where You Come From

Search engines remain the key to website success. Almost 80% of visitors to Low End Mac are coming here through a search engine - and Google is the runaway top choice. Here are the nine search engines used by LEM visitors that showed up in our December logs:

  1. Google, 87.4%
  2. Yahoo, 7.06%
  3. MSN, 2.79%
  4. Ask.com, 0.79%
  5. Netscape, 0.68%
  6. AOL, 0.51%
  7. AltaVista, 0.37%
  8. Dogpile, 0.28%
  9. Earthlink. 0.14%

If there's any question that Google is "the Microsoft of search engines", these statistics lay it to rest. Google has well over ten times the traffic of the second-place search engine, and third-place MSN brings us about one-third the traffic Yahoo does.

LEM visitors also come through links from other websites. 11.7% of our incoming traffic comes from sites identified in our logs, and another 9.6% comes from sites that send less than 200 visitors a month our way and don't appear in our logs.

For Mac-related websites, the key to building new traffic is having your new articles linked by MacSurfer's Headline News, which accounts for over half of the traffic reaching LEM from external links. Here are the Top Ten sites sending us traffic based on our December logs:

  1. MacSurfer, 56.5%
  2. Xopy.com/Net41 hosting, 6.20% (Dec. only)
  3. RDS Yahoo, 5.00%
  4. PC Magazine, 3.71%
  5. MacDailyNews, 3.38%
  6. Slashdot, 3.31%
  7. About.com, 1.90%
  8. hinnavaatlus.ee, 1.72%
  9. discussions.info.apple.com, 1.55%
  10. MacSpeedZone, 1.51%

External links are great, and while they don't bring in nearly as much traffic as search engines - or Google alone - you can see why MacSurfer is one of the most important sites on the Mac Web.

One other way to look at the logs is to sort the Google search engines used and find out what parts of the globe you live in. It's no surprise that the United States tops the list - and that the list is dominated by English-speaking nations.

  1. US, 76.8%
  2. Canada, 5.33%
  3. UK, 4.41%
  4. Australia, 1.74%
  5. Germany, 1.64%
  6. France, 1.14%
  7. Netherlands, 0.87%
  8. Italy, 0.85%
  9. Sweden, 0.54%
  10. Japan, 0.54%

Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, India, and Finland round out the top 15, followed by New Zealand, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, and Denmark - and at least 15 more Google sites around the world also appear in our logs.

We are truly an international community.

Where You Go

Our logs also tell us which pages you visit within the site. Our home page is the most popular one on the site, but it accounts for only 1/8 of the pages served. Here are the most-visited pages on LEM:

  1. Home page, 12.3%
  2. Power Macs index, 1.68%
  3. Mac OS Downloads, 1.53%
  4. PowerBooks index, 1.27%
  5. Best Used Macs index, 0.89%
  6. Power Mac G4 (Sawtooth), 0.85%
  7. Power Mac G3 (beige), 0.82%
  8. Power Mac G3 (blue & white), 0.72%
  9. iMac index, 0.72%
  10. Used Mac Dealers, 0.71%
  11. PowerBook G3 (Pismo), 0.68%
  12. Early Macs index, 0.65%

Of these pages, only the computer profiles are not linked from the home page and nearly every page on the site.

Once you've reached Low End Mac, odds are you'll visit another page within the site. With a quarter million visitors per month and about a million pages served, the average user sees two pages per visit and visits twice per month. Many visit just once, and a dedicated core visits frequently.

What You Use

You'd think that most people visiting a Mac-related website would be using Macs, but you'd be wrong. Macs, which probably make up around 5-6% of all computers on the Internet, account for 40-44% of our traffic in a given month, while all the versions of Windows account for 44-50% (two-thirds of that Windows XP).

About 2% of you use Linux or some other Unix-like operating system, and WebTV accounts for less than one-twentieth of one percent of our visitors, followed by a few OS/2, BeOS, Amiga, and Atari users. On average, about 8% of our visitors are marked "OS unknown" in the site logs.

You're a diverse group - Mac users and Windows users, native English speakers and those with English as a second language, North Americans and Mac fans from around the world.

We're happy you find Low End Mac a place to visit, and we're working on ways of making the site even better before our 8th birthday.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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