Where our first 250,000 visitors came from

By Clifford Singer

MyDavidCameron recorded 340,486 visits from 252,641 unique visitors in its first six weeks, measured from Friday 8 January to Thursday 18 February 2010 (we launched on 7 January, but 8 January was our first full day). More than 1,200 posters were submitted to us during this period.

These statistics underplay our full reach for several reasons, including:

  • Much of the activity around MyDavidCameron has taken place through social media, principally Twitter and Facebook, but also numerous discussion forums. This does not register in the data below (except where it has led to a visit to our site).
  • Due to the rushed way in which the site was set up, we did not measure visits to individual images (only to our home/landing pages) for much of this period. We estimate we missed around 10% of visits due to this.

The following graph tracks our unique visitors over the first six weeks:

First 6 weeks - unique visitors graph

Our traffic spikes have tended to be prompted by one of the following:

  • Being tweeted by high-ranking twitterers (among them Alan Davies, Graham Linehan, Neil Gaiman, FHM UK, UKLabour, Armando Iannucci, Ross Noble, Jon Hicks and Pop Justice).
  • Uploading new posters and announcing them through our own (relatively small) Twitter and Facebook groups.
  • Being mentioned in popular email lists (particularly b3ta – who also sent considerable traffic via their website – and Popbitch; we didn’t start our own mailing list until very late in the day – through accident not design – and it remains small).
  • To a lesser extent, being mentioned on popular blogs and mainstream media websites. The most significant has been Andrew Sullivan’s blog, where a single, brief post brought several thousand visitors in one day.

Our big initial spike, from 12-15 January – the point at which we went viral – was a cumulation of the first three elements.

The table and chart below show our top 50 traffic sources. By far the biggest single source is direct traffic – principally, we believe, people emailing each other (and, to a lesser extent, receiving email from organisations like b3ta and Popbitch). This is followed by Facebook, Andy Barefoot (who created and hosts our highly popular automatic poster generators, and reports similar traffic patterns to ours), and Twitter. In recent weeks it’s been fashionable to downplay the significance of Twitter, but, as we’ve explained previously, for us it has played a key role in encouraging peer-to-peer networking outside of Twitter – our big surges in direct traffic have almost always followed increases in Twitter and Facebook activity.

Traffic sources - first 6 weeks

A few more points about the above data:

  • The direct traffic recorded is an underestimate. An additional 10,000 visits came via web-based email services such as Yahoo Mail and Google Mail, which might be better considered as direct traffic. In addition we received around 15,000 visits via Google and other search engines. Most of these were from users simply entering our url or some variation of it. (Search engine traffic from users entering genuine search terms has been low. We’d already gone viral before we were even listed by Google, and our high image-to-text ratio limits our search engine-friendliness.)
  • These trends support the view that email rules – although we remain wary of online campaigns that appear to measure their success by the size of the email lists rather than how they mobilise people.
  • The figure shown for Twitter is perhaps 15% too low, as doesn’t it doesn’t include some Twitter clients (eg Twitterific by Iconfactory, which is listed separately as our 21st highest traffic source), or the url shortening service Ow.ly, which is mainly used by Twitter users (and is at 16th place in our table).
  • The social bookmarking website StumbleUpon was a significant traffic source (with Reddit the only other social bookmarking site of note).
  • The Guardian, Independent and Mirror websites also generated reasonable amounts of traffic. Judging by the number of comments (including the one revealing that I’m a pseudonym for Derek Draper), it’s likely that this early appearance in the Daily Mail did too, although we couldn’t measure it as they didn’t include a live link. After Andrew Sullivan, Liberal Conspiracy was our highest-ranking blogging source.
  • Outside of this top 50, there is an extremely long – and very thin – tail of approximately 2,000 traffic sources, comprising 30,000 visits (9% of the total).
  • A significant proportion of this long tail is composed of online discussion forums. In addition to the higher ranking forums shown in the table above (b3ta, Motley Fool, Digital Spy, Fitlads, House Price Crash and UK Climbing), traffic was generated by forums at Drowned In Sound (indie music), Mumsnet, UK Youth Parliament, Dogs on Acid (drum and bass music), Gallifrey Base (Dr Who fans), and a surprisingly long list of football forums, including Football365, Footymad, Blue Kipper (Everton), MUFC (Manchester Utd), Waccoe (Leeds Utd), Owls Talk (Sheffield Wednesday), Saintsweb (Southampton), and many others.

And finally…

To demonstrate the power of the “celebrity twitterer”, here’s what happened when Bill Bailey tweeted about a couple of our images at 3pm on 1 March 2010 (outside of the six-week period discussed above).

March 1 2010 traffic graph

And, to more modest effect, here’s us announcing through Twitter and Facebook (at 4pm the following day) that we’ve uploaded a new Ashcroft poster:

March 2 2010 graph

• See also earlier article: Statistics from our first fortnight.

Posted 5 March 2010, 11.30am. Updated 12 March 2010, 11.52am.


Thanks for sharing the data. It makes very interesting reading.

Personally, I think you’ve done some excellent work through social media. It’s great to see someone doing it well for a change.

Keep up the good work.

Posted by Guy Weston at 02:33am on 29 March 2010

Great work chaps. I see Labour are jumping on the crowd sourcing bandwagon. Something tells me their stats won’t come close to yours…

Posted by IGMorrison at 04:58pm on 29 March 2010

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