A difficult year – attested by numbers

Now that the series on Site Tools vs. cPanel is finished, the plan was to resume my micro-entrepreneur mini-series. However, after going through the new Traffic tool from SiteGround – the so-called substitute for AWStats – I was curious to see how my websites were doing1. Would this trying year affect the traffic toward my sites as well? In numero veritas!

From AWStats to Traffic

As detailed in Site Tools (vs. cPanel) – part 9: Statistics, the Traffic tool proved to be a poor substitute for AWStats indeed. Now, even if all the AWStats data would have been available through the new tool – a dishonest statement from SiteGround – a direct comparison of the statistics with those from the previous month (from AWStats) would have been misleading. It’s apples and oranges; let me illustrate this with actual numbers.

The Unique Visitors graph shows how many unique IP addresses opened up your website.SiteGround

If I would have relied on SiteGround above statement, I would have thought that my blog had a 228 % increase in the number of unique visitors in January. What a progression! Did one of my posts become viral? Nope. The so-called “Unique Visitors” info is the total number of visits to your website; not the number of unique IP addresses that have accessed your website. The information about the number of unique visitors to your website is not available anymore!

“What about comparing this data with the ‘Number of visits’ (i.e. the total number of visits to your website) instead?”

Again, with this approach, I would have believed that my blog traffic benefited from a nice 104 % increase! Regrettably, this is not the case. As explained in the aforementioned post, the new tool provides aggregated statistics (i.e. both HTTP and HTTPS combined) – an artificial way to inflate your visitors’ stats.

Even if HTTPS is forced, you will get records for the non-encrypted version because hits are recorded before the redirect.Hristo Pandjarov

For these reasons, I had to process all the stats from the very beginning using the same tool, namely Traffic (as AWStats is now gone). Instead of an increase, the real statistics revealed that my blog traffic suffered a 27 % decrease. This means that not only did no post get viral2 in January, but it was also the end of a steady progression – uninterrupted since April 2020.

Keeping in mind the limited data available, I decided to upgrade my Excel tables (where I put together the data for further analyses). In doing so, I brought out some important points!

Chicago in Bulgaria?

As explained in Getting my web host, it is a good idea to choose a server that is located near your potential visitors; hence my choice for Chicago. I was curious to know whether this was a good call and, using the info from the Audience tab (i.e. Pageviews by Countries), I computed the proportion of traffic originating from the USA. This rate was rising very slowly, but surely, until February 2020. Surprisingly, there was a dramatic hike in the percentage in March – from 5.58 to 37.50 %. Wow!

“This viral post, again?”

On Wednesday, March 4, starting from 01:01AM CST, we will perform an infrastructure upgrade and migrate your account(s) from server us131.siteground.us to a new server with the latest hardware in our new Google facility in Iowa.The SiteGround Team

It didn’t take me long to figure out the reason for such a dramatic increase; still, something was not making any sense. A major proportion of this extra US traffic was in fact due to maintenance from SiteGround (e.g. Cron jobs), not from actual visitors. Correct me if I am wrong, but Chicago, Illinois, is in the USA! Just like Iowa is. It is not in Bulgaria. How come my “Audience” – as in Cron Jobs or other maintenance tasks from SiteGround – was originating from Bulgaria before?

A projected fall?

As explained in 100th post – a bittersweet celebration!, new priorities forced themselves upon me last summer. While I undertook to keep up with the demands of a weekly publication schedule (i.e. every Thursday), I hadn’t reckoned with other adversities. The bottom line is that my time was extremely scarce and I had to resort to delaying tactics such as the mini-series on Post Formats or the micro-entrepreneur one. Inevitably, the quality of my posting was seriously impacted and I was expecting my traffic to plateau out.

Unexpectedly, my blog traffic kept growing steadily during this period – a 137 % increase in few months. Of course, this was not due to the posts published during this period, but to those belonging to the CogitActive saga; the last of which – GDPR part 9 – Comment form adjustment concl’d – was published on July 2, 2020. However, after the migration to Site Tools, the anticipated plateau turned out to be a 55 % fall instead. How come? In fact, according to the data provided by the Traffic tool, none of the 26 posts I have published this year did receive a visit (a page view to be accurate). None!

No way!

Something is wrong, but what?

“Not a single visit recorded since the switch to Site Tools?”

This is impossible. Indeed, I do visit my blog and read my posts, if only to double-check that everything is fine. Each week, I also check – from a different computer and what is more a different IP address – if the current post is correctly published (i.e. in due time). Therefore, even if nobody but me was visiting my blog, I should still have at least some pageviews for some posts. Moreover, according to the Traffic tool, I have some visitors finding my blog through search engines (i.e. with specific keywords pointing to some of my recent posts). Something is odd…

Website under construction

I have also noticed a surge in the number of 301 redirects and 404 errors. You may not know, but after the ill-famed migration, I was “welcomed” with SiteGround ‘under construction’ page instead of my #253F8C blue header. Could my blog be still inaccessible to some of my visitors? Likewise, given my recent mishap with SiteGround Anti-Bot AI (see I am not a robot!), I was wondering whether they have faced the same issues trying to reach my blog posts.

From AWStats to Traffic to what?

Six months in a row with not a single visit (i.e. pageview) recorded in the Behaviour > Most Visited Pages section of the Traffic tool. Importantly, it’s not that there is no record at all. In fact, I have one recurrent entry:

/wp-includes/wlwmanifest.xml

wlwmanifest.xml

The wlwmanifest.xml link was used by Windows Live Writer, a discontinued3 desktop blog-publishing application by Microsoft. The wlwmanifest_link() function, introduced with WordPress 2.3.1, does indeed display the link to the Windows Live Writer manifest file in your header:

<link rel="wlwmanifest" type="application/wlwmanifest+xml" href="https://yourdomain.com/wp-includes/wlwmanifest.xml" />

Owing to the end of Windows Live Writer, there is no reason to keep this code – the link is indeed useless – and there was a ticket (#8318) on that matter. Nevertheless, the code that was supposed to be removed in WordPress 2.7 is still there. Now, there are many recycled 10-year old articles recommending you to remove it for security reasons4 or to speed up your blog. However, according to security.stackexchange, there’s no point in removing it.

A question remains, why are these requests all over the Most Visited Pages section of Traffic? Only now! There is almost no record of these probing attempts before the migration (to be exact, only one occurrence maximum each month). Did SiteGround change something in their firewall rules? Anyway, this does not explain the dramatic fall in my blog traffic – again, since the migration to Site Tools – yet, it might be the reason why there is no blog post listed in the Most Visited Pages section anymore. There is simply no more space available with all these /wp-includes/wlwmanifest.xml entries.

There is a glitch in the matrix!

During these moments, I am about to regret my decision not to use the Jetpack plugin (see What about Jetpack?). In short, among the many modules available I was interested only in very few, but one in particular: Site Stats. For the reasons explained in the aforementioned post, I have decided not to go for Jetpack. While I was fine with AWStats, now that I see how disappointing the Traffic tool is, I might have some second thoughts. I still remember these enchanting music and singing voices:

Do you know which of these posts gets the most traffic?

Click on the Set up Jetpack button to agree to our Terms of Service and to share details with WordPress.com, and gain access to in-depth stats about your site.

“I must not heed the siren’s call.”

Please, use the reactions buttons below; just to let me know that you have visited this page. If by the end of this month, I can have some evidence that some people (other than me) have read this very post – you don’t have to comment – and the Traffic tool is still telling me that there is not a single pageview, then I will know that this tool is useless.


1 After the switch to Site Tools, and the suppression of AWStats, I could not check my websites’ traffic anymore; at least not the way I was doing it before. Due to a lack of time, I postponed my assessment of the statistic tool of Site Tools until recently. ^
2 Actually, one post has been particularly popular with an astonishing, steady high number of views since its publication in May 2020. It is currently my top post. ^
3 According to Wikipedia, the last major release of Windows Live Writer came out in 2012 (end-of-life), and the software was completely discontinued in January 2017. It was part of the Windows Essentials 2012; I have used it back then. Why does WordPress keep it in his code is another question. ^
4 Removing this link will not improve security; this is just a static file with no essential info. That being said, the requests (for this file) are clear attack or probing attempts. ^

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