The Case Of The Mysterious Blog Traffic Spike
December 1, 2015
On November 19th, the Jacobs Media blog saw an unusual spike in website traffic. Nearly ten times as many people were visiting our site versus the traffic we see on an average day. Fred Jacobs asked me to investigate the incident, which gave me the opportunity to play Sherlock Holmes. Let me show you how I solved the mystery so you, my dear Watson, can do the same.
Looking at his Wordpress analytics plugin, Fred could see that the item attracting this high activity was his recent blogpost titled, "The Beginning of the End for Radio Traffic Reports?" The column pondered the future of on-air traffic reports in the age of mobile apps like Waze. The post was generating dozens of comments, many of them coming from professionals involved in traffic reporting at highly respected radio stations around the country.
The game is afoot!
A quick peek at the Google Analytics data for the blog confirmed that this post was, by far, the top landing page (the page by which people first come to the site) on that day. In fact, the traffic was heaviest between noon and 4pm. But how were these people finding out about this blogpost?
To answer that question, I drilled down into the Acquisition section of the Google Analytics data. I could see that nearly two-thirds of our new sessions had come from social media. In fact, half of the traffic was coming from Facebook and 44% was coming from Twitter.
So who was sharing our post on these social networks?
That's easier to figure out with Twitter than it is with Facebook, so I started there. Unfortunately, whoever shared the blogpost failed to include @JacobsMedia or @FNJacobs in their tweet, so the incriminating tweet didn't show up on my radar screen. I would need to solve this mystery the hard way.
I headed over to http://twitter.com/search, where I pasted the URL of the blogpost into the search bar. This allowed me to see who shared the link on Twitter. This video will show you how I did it:
Sure enough, a number of tweets had shared the link. But I was immediately drawn to one which was posted at 9:52 am on November 19th:
Do you Still Find Radio Traffic Reports Useful? https://t.co/BB7KR6kZs5— waze (@waze) November 19, 2015
With over 188,000 followers on Twitter, Waze was the most likely suspect. To confirm my suspicions, I navigated to the Waze Facebook page. Sure enough, I found more corroborating evidence:
This status update, posted at 12:50 pm, fit the timeline. With over 1,600 likes, more than 140 shares, and 330+ comments, I knew I had found the culprit behind our mysterious website traffic spike.
Waze did it, with the link on social media.