Neuroanthropology @ 500,000! Top Posts and Statistics

500000 Romania reached 500,000 onsite visits this week. It’s a great milestone, so thanks to everyone who has come by!

We accomplished that in 22 months, or roughly 23,000 visits monthly. Since last December, we have averaged 31,700 visits a month. That’s good growth, especially since in our very first month we got 1267 visits.

Since starting in December 2007, we have written 827 posts, which gives an average of 605 visits per post. (Note: all these statistics are based on what WordPress provides.) Out of all of those, here are our Top Ten, with a brief reflection on what has made that post popular.

Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone (19,621 hits)
Our top post has excellent content and is written by a leading expert. It’s also accessible in the way it examines an important and often controversial issue. Finally, the post has been promoted in lots of different ways on the Internet, from StumbleUpon and Facebook to lots of smaller discussion board.

Wednesday Round Up #47: Obama Is A Neuroanthropologist! (10,079 hits)
This round up came out during his inauguration, so its initial success was driven by being both timely and comprehensive. Since then the big numbers have been through searchers for the image of Obama used in the post, which has been on the front page of Google Image results at times.

What do these enigmatic women want? (7,757 hits)
A comprehensive critique of a NY Times Magazine article, that also provided in-depth content while discussing sex and sexuality – always a good combination.

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City (6,709 hits)
While this post has good content as the synthetic video game piece we’ve written, its success has come largely through searches for its accompanying Grand Theft Auto image.

Cultural Aspects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Thinking on Meaning and Risk (6,252 hits)
Once again, good content on an important and timely topic, given the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our Blessed Lady of the Cerebellum (6,123 hits)
This post shows the success of niche reporting, of taking on a story that resonates with a lot of people but that doesn’t quite hit the mainstream. It’s also a heartbreaking story, and we covered it in more depth than most other people.

The “Best of Anthro 2008” Prizes (5,287 hits)
Funny, comprehensive, and with links to lots of content that could be difficult to find elsewhere – a great combination for the internet.

Lose your shoes: Is barefoot better? (5,165 hits)
Niche reporting meets in-depth analysis. This post examines a rising cultural movement (barefoot running) with an understanding of how our bodies work. Lots of people were interested, and searches on “barefoot shoes” have helped this post continue to chug along.

Fear of Twitter: technophobia past 2 (5,044 hits)
A timely topic with in-depth analysis. A lot of the subsequent success has been driven through searches for “twitter”.

Synesthesia & metaphor: I’m not feeling it (4,731 hits)
A critical examination of a popular neuroscientist, on a narrow topic that nonetheless is followed by a large group of people. These types of posts help deliver the bread-and-butter of neuroanthropology.

500000 Brazil
Reflections on Success

For driving big numbers, content and images are king. Timeliness and controversy both help. Niche coverage and guides to internet content are also useful.

Put differently, as with traditional media, on the Internet content matters. The in-depth coverage and analysis provided here brings people back, especially to the posts that prove popular over the long-term. Being timely and targeting an issue that people care about also help to bring readers to a site.

Yet the Internet also offers too much information, and providing guides to that content can help other people out there. People want to cut through the information, they want to have their interest piqued, they want to have that diversity presented in a more manageable size.

Finally, the Internet offers contrasts with traditional writing (in particular academic writing). Images, humor, video, live links – all these offer advantages and possibilities that traditional scholarly writing often avoids. Having people come here because of images is actually a good thing. A small percentage will look at the rest of the site, and those are people who might never have thought about something like “neuroanthropology”.

Looking specifically at search engines, labeling images with relevant titles and providing search-engine friendly titles help move site-specific material to the first page of search results. In the list of the top fifteen search terms below, the importance of images is clear with “obama” and “grand theft auto.” So is creating a general brand – “neuroanthropology.” But specific post titles, such as orexin and brainbow, also help bring in traffic.

Other sites also help drive an enormous amount of traffic (see below for more specifics). StumbleUpon is the service that has most consistently produced big numbers for us. A link from a specific site can also bring traffic. For both of these, content, timeliness and unique coverage all help propel people to read that post and often times, check out other links. In fact, though I didn’t include it in the Top Posts above, our “About Neuroanthropology” tab is actually the seventh most popular post on the site, with 5,747 visits.

In the end, providing something interesting and relevant to people helps drive traffic. That relevance is not defined by the specifics of a site. Co-sleeping, an image of Obama, and a guide to anthropology blogging are not specifically about “neuroanthropology.” But the importance of biocultural approaches, developing synthetic views of ourselves, and the relevance of anthropology are all things that this site advances!

500000 RussiaSearch Engine Terms

Top 15 Search Engine Terms:

Obama (7,190)
Grand Theft Auto (4,944)
Barack Obama (4,110)
Neuroanthropology (3,355)
Twitter (3,206)
Orexin (1,511)
Barefoot Shoes (1.098)
Raves (947)
Brainbow (889)
Auto (747)
Crystal Skull (704)
Sexual Intercourse (699)
Brain (638)
The Usual Suspects (622)
Plus (543)

Referring Sites

I’ve broken referring sites into aggregating services and specific sites. I haven’t included specific stats here, as WordPress often tracks multiple referrals from sites like StumbleUpon and Facebook.


Google Reader

Of these, StumbleUpon is by far the biggest contributor – it really drives traffic on specific posts. Google Reader is more general than that, and of later, Facebook has also really upped traffic on a few posts.

Specific Sites:

Mind Hacks
Orlin Grabbe
Bad Science
Savage Minds
Maggie’s Farm

Mind Hacks is the biggest contributor here, as the popular site also links to us with some frequency.

500000 VietnamNote on Subscription Reads

The way WordPress keeps statistics, subscription reads do not count as on-site visits. There too we’ve had great growth. I started tracking the number of subscribers in Google Reader last October, when we had 506 subscribers there. We’re now at 1304. So that’s a big jump.

Another way to track subscription reads is through WordPress, which does provide numbers on subscription reads for individual posts (but not the site as a whole). Looking at the weekly Wednesday Round Ups, average subscriptions reads averaged 535 back in May-July 2008. During August and September 2009, the subscription reads averaged 702.

Another way to look at subscription reads is to compare recent popular posts with early popular posts. Looking in the first half of 2008, posts in our top 20 from that time come in at an average of 374 subscription reads. Looking at 2009, popular posts have an average of 805 subscription reads.

Even More Posts!

Finally, for those of you who want even more, here are the next five popular posts:

Encephalon #71: Big Night (4,328 hits)

Girls gone guilty: Evolutionary psych on sex #2 (4,258 hits)

Understanding Brain Imaging (4,224 hits)

Talent: A difference that makes a difference (4,087 hits)

Trance Captured on Video (3,793 hits)

2 thoughts on “Neuroanthropology @ 500,000! Top Posts and Statistics

  1. Daniel’s analysis of our trends over the past going-on-two-years and a half million visits is spot on, and there’s a lot here for me to think about in terms of working with and appealing to the people who faithfully follow this weblog. Although it’s always exciting to write something on a topic that’s new for us and watch it take off, many of you probably realize that Daniel and I are in this for the long haul, trying to promote in both popular and academic channels the synthesis of brain science and anthropological research (more on that latter channel when we review the conference — I’m finally feeling like I’ve recovered from the post-conference illness that I carried back from the US).

    One of the things that I’ve found terribly interesting is that a disproportionate number of our most popular posts are also our most substantial ones, including some posts that, frankly, are REALLY long and involved, seemingly in a format that’s not terribly web friendly. I’ve actually found that a really positive trend, one that encourages me not to just point light or fluffy quick links to things without comment. That is, I suspect our distinctive niche, if we have one at all, is really the more in-depth working over of particular ideas, articles, or new research in ways that other sites might not do. In plain English: do what we do well, and don’t try to do what other sites can do better than us in a shallow or less competent way.

    As I reassess and think about where I want to go, this means for me that I want to commit to writing more of the longer essays 2000-6000 words, drawing fairly heavily on the research available, in areas that are of special interest to me in neuroanthropology (sensory perception, skill acquisition, sex and gender, evolution, embodiment, human-animal relations, sports, childhood…). I don’t know how other researchers are, but I find that I have a lot of collateral ideas when I’m working in my core research, putting together grant applications, reading PhD students’ work, and the like, and I’m going to try to continue to make sure that this thinking appears here.

    In other words, although I very much want to be a timely, entertaining weblog, I also want to continue to stitch together posts on specific areas of specialized research so that people who are interested in these topics, when they find us, can dig much deeper and find substantial reflections on emerging brain-culture research. When I think about some of the science blogs that I read most frequently, most faithfully and most rabidly (like Mind Hacks or John or Sports Are Eighty Percent Mental or many others…), they have this depth and sustained engagement, like reading chapters on the same or related topics written by a smart author over a number of years, so that you can see the development of the ideas, the integration of new findings, and the expansion of the discussion.

    In addition, Daniel and I will likely be talking more about this publicly, but we are definitely moving toward the production of a book manuscript in this area, and want to make sure that we help to establish the academic profile of this area of work, not just a popular presence on the web. We’ve already exceeded the goals that I had to set for the year for the site (Australian academics have to write these annual plans with goals like we’re regional sales managers for seed corn and fertilizers).

    Finally, and on a lighter note, the fact that the term ‘neuroanthropology’ shows up so often as a search term leading to us is satisfying in the very simple way that it suggests to me that choosing this particular neologism was not a terrible idea. Somehow, people come looking for us, even if they actually think they’re looking for something else when they start. It’s one thing to be found because someone’s looking for a picture of a dingo — it’s another thing entirely to have people come looking for the intellectually intersection we specifically hope to grow, develop, and promote.

    Thanks to all of you for coming to visit and for encouraging us to continue this project. We’ll keep trying to do better what people seem to enjoy the most about

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