It’s an important piece of information, which potentially helps you establish whether the time you spend gaining WordPress.com followers is a productive venture. But if you’ve ever looked in your WordPress stats for evidence of users reading via email, chances are you’ve found a void. Inherently, WordPress doesn’t tell you when visitors to your posts have clicked through from email. You’ll see the page visits registered, but no indication of where they came from.
When you’re publishing a brand new post, it’s going out in RSS form to a world way beyond the blogging platform itself, so, many of those unattributed visits can be from people unrelated to WordPress, coming in via a variety of sources.
You can, however, gain a picture of the kind of traffic volume your new posts get, without the distortion of regular RSS hits, or hits from the WordPress Reader. In other words, you can isolate traffic which is very likely confined to clicks from your followers’ emails…
Firstly, you need to make sure your Reading Settings are set up accordingly. You can find the appropriate parameters via Settings > Reading on your main Admin page.
Make sure that the Syndication feeds show the most recent selector is set to a relatively small number, like 10 or fewer. Then make sure that the For each article in a feed, show checkbox is set to Summary. This limits the contents of your blog’s RSS feed to only your very most recent posts, and ensures that email readers can’t read your whole post without clicking through to your blog.
The settings are depicted in the image below…
Now make a new post, BUT, backdate it so that it falls outside of your ten most recent publications (or whatever number you set for your Syndication Feed). To backdate, go to the Publish section of your Add New Post screen, and change the date beneath Publish Immediately. It’s highlighted in yellow on the capture below…
If you ensure that the publication date of your new post is earlier than that for the last ten posts on your blog, the new post will not appear in your short RSS feed. It WILL, however, still go out as a new post via email to your WordPress followers.
The backdated post should also stay clear of the visible areas of the WordPress Reader (so as a happy side-effect you’ll see a conspicuous absence of the usual ‘Like-spammers’, etc). But if you want to make sure the post doesn’t appear on the Reader at all, don’t tag it (at least not until your experiment is over), and backdate by over a year.
Now simply monitor the visits that your new post gets over the next day or so. You know the post is not in your RSS feed or showing on the WordPress Reader, so email aside, the usual traffic sources for brand new posts are now cut off. It’s possible that some blogs will be remarkably friendly with Google, to the extent that new posts start getting a significant number of search referrals almost straight away. But for most users, this won’t apply, and realistically, if your new posts get significant Google traffic from Day One, you’ll probably have long since stopped caring about whether followers do or don’t read their emails.
For most users employing the above measures, the only realistic source of visits on the day of publication will be from WP subscribers’ emails, so you should get a good sense of how many email readers you really have. It won’t be 100% accurate, but it should reveal the difference, if any, from a post published under normal circumstances and fully syndicated. The difference may be very stark indeed, or it may be negligible.
Please be aware that there are disadvantages to backdating posts and taking them out of your RSS feed. You will almost inevitably lose traffic carrying out this experiment, and you could be bypassing a substantial number of readers who rely on being notified in a certain manner. You can correct the date of your post once your experiment is over, but once readers have missed it, they may not take any steps to look for it retrospectively. Remember, they don’t know it’s there.
So this is something you should consider a one-off experiment, and should not try when publishing an important post.