Solving An Air-gapped Traffic Mystery

Over the last few days there was a sudden uptick in NimbleText sales. Normally this kind of thing happens either when I've put out a new version or when I've been sent traffic from some popular source (as happened last christmas when Scott Hanselman listed NimbleText as one his top 10 most useful utilities in his much-loved Tools list).

On this occasion, looking in Google Analytics, it was a bit of a mystery. There were no new referrers. More bizarre: the traffic spike was caused by an increase in organic search traffic. In particular, it was an increase in people using the search term "NimbleText". (My most popular search term is usually Text Manipulation)

So this meant that something had happened, out there in the world, that made people spontaneously search out NimbleText. There was a stimulus, then an air-gap, then people searching for the product. It could be that someone put up a billboard in Times Square... except that would be revealed by geolocation. It could be a mention on a podcast, it could be any other "offline" channel.

Fortunately, I'd set up google alerts to notify me whenever google found an article that mentioned NimbleText. And I remembered a notification had come through recently. The source of the traffic was this piece at Visual Studio Magazine. It mentions NimbleText, in glowing terms, but doesn't link out at all. So a bunch of readers must've been inspired to perform their own search.

The lesson is that google analytics won't show you the source when there's an air-gap. In this case, Google alerts was the necessary tool. So if you have a little product, set up alerts for those too.


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