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The Slashdot Effect

15th May 2004

I recently had the honour of having a site featured on Slashdot - one of the world's biggest online communities with over half a million members. Slashdot is so popular that sites often get an enormous amount of traffic as a result - called the Slashdot Effect - and this can often take a smaller sites offline, especially if they're graphically rich, in which case it becomes Slashdotted.

Being features on Slashdot is both an honour and a curse. The story I was in wasn't a particularly popular story as these things go, only a medium amount of comments. However, the traffic was still significant, and the Slashdot after-effects are worth noting.

The Slashdot Effect on Traffic

 Slashdot Effect - Hourly Traffic
Chart shows unique visitors per hour over a five day period

The message was posted at just before 3am in the morning UK time, which was very late evening in the US. Between 3am and 4am, the site received over 1,800 hits and the traffic remained at over 800 hits an hour for the 12 hours the link was on the main Slashdot page. In the course of 24 hours, the site received 15,806 visitors, compared to the usual level of about 500 visitors in a day. In other words, Slashdot generated an entire months traffic in one day.

On thing to notice is that this isn't a very smooth graph - Slashdot readers can be anywere in the world, and additional peaks can be seen due in part to time differences, but also because secondary referral sources then started to kick in.

On Alexa the traffic rank shot up from a rank of about 250,000 or so to better than 35,000th place in the rankings. For a small niche site, that's a very high ranking indeed, even if just for one day.

The Slashdot Effect on Referrals

However, even as the story vanished into the Slashdot archives, traffic kept coming from many secondary sources that picked up on the original Slashdot story.

Prior to being featured on Slashdot, about 58% of traffic came from Google, 4% from other search engines, 10% from other sites and 28% from direct type-ins, bookmarks and mailing list subscribers.

Three days after being featured on Slashdot, traffic levels were still more than double that of before, with 30% of traffic from Google, 5.5% from other search engines, 45% from referrals and 19.5% from bookmarks and type-ins. Only 2.5% of traffic overall actually came from Slashdot on that day.

 Slashdot Referrals - 3 days after

It can be seen quite clearly that Google traffic remained fairly constant in actual terms, but the article created a great deal of new inbound links and repeat visitors.

It's difficult to judge exactly how many inbound links were added to the site, but my best guess is around 40 new inbound links were created of assorted value.

Slashdot Visitor Behaviour

Slashdotters tended to view 1.9 pages per visitor, rather than the typical average of 3.2 for normal traffic, however they were much more likely to my site from their own web page. Slashdotters also didn't bother much with advertising on the site - normal visitors were four times more likely to click on one of the ads at the top of the page.

In other words, Slashdotters won't make you rich, they don't hang around for long, but if you can impress them enough, then they can give you an enormous boost in terms of web presence.

Long Term Effects

It's hard to say what the long term effects are so soon after the event. It will be interesting to see how this might impact of Google PageRank and long-term visitor base. Watch this space!


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