Lab Report: the Effects of the Google Doodle

Google DoodleOur lab site, FreshPlans, was featured when people clicked on Google’s doodle for Bunsen Burner Day, March 31st.

On March 30th, as people in Asia and Europe woke up and admired it, we received 9,036 visits, compared with our typical daily 500-600 for the site.

On March 31st, we received 36,159 visits. The Bunsen Burner Day Lesson Plans page was visited over 45,000 times in 24 hours.

Had this been our business, we might have been rushed off our feet on that day and everyone would have gotten a bonus. As it was, it just meant that Shan, our webmaster, was rushed off his feet. We’d never have known had it not been for Google Analytics.

The thing that interested me was whether this sort of sudden traffic spike would have any lasting effects.

We’ve seen traffic spikes before. When I was featured in the Wall Street Journal, when one of our sites was featured in the WordPress showcase, when our site or clients’ sites get noticed at Digg or StumbleUpon, we can often see spikes which — while not quite that extreme — are noticeable.

Let’s delve more deeply into the results so far.

The page that made all the fuss had been viewed two to six times a day in the ten days before Bunsen Burner Day, and has been dropping since: a couple hundred a day for the first week after Bunsen Burner Day and a hundred or so a day since.

searches for Robert Bunsen Here you see the global searches for “Robert Bunsen,” the keyword that brought the most visits to us, and below you can see the chart showing the visits to our page.

While not every searcher visited us (thank goodness), you can see that the shapes are similar.

People don’t think about Robert Bunsen as much when it isn’t his birthday.

visitors for Robert BunsenHowever, there are people who think about Robert Bunsen and Bunsen Burners at other times besides Bunsen Burner Day.

We have had visitors this month looking for “bunsen burner games” and “cool things to do with a bunsen burner.” These possibly rather dangerous people may really like our site and come back. People visiting us looking for “bunsen burner lesson plans” and “science lessons bunsen burner” are absolutely in the right place. Our visitor loyalty scores have actually increased.

That was a surprise to me. You’d figure that an enormous influx of new visitors would mean that the percentage of people who have visited just once would increase. Nope. It’s down by about half a percentage point. We have thousands more in the two to four times slots, which suggests that at least some of the people who discovered us on Bunsen Burner Day have returned.

About a quarter of the people who visited our Bunsen Burner Day Lesson Plans page this month have gone on to check out other tech-focused pages.  Our traffic for the ten days following the spike is up about 50% over the ten days prior to the spike. We’ll see whether there’s any lasting difference in traffic, but we ought to be pretty solid for rankings on the terms bringing searchers in to see that page.

So what does this mean for your site? Working for a mad fluke of a spike in traffic isn’t a good strategy. But putting effort into getting a marketing video to go viral, developing a tool as linkbait, or gaining good press — those are high-risk strategies that can pay off. So far, it looks as though they might be worthwhile.



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