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I've been studying my site statistics a lot lately. As a web site owner, it's something that is important to do. I'm always interested in seeing how many people are visiting my site, what pages they are viewing, etc. One thing I've been noticing lately is a huge increase in the bandwidth my site uses per month. The below chart is a graph of my monthly bandwidth usage from June 2006 through today (May 18, 2007 ) Here's the info:
In 7 months, my site has gone from less than 1GB per MONTH to over 10GB this month SO FAR - and the month is only half over!
What has caused this? Once again Spider-man rears his webbed head. My Spider-man 3 trailer preview has managed to obtain an amazing (to me) 12,000 hits! Now for a site like Amazon or eBay, 12,000 hits is a drop in the bucket. For a tiny little site like mine, this is a flood. It's a mini Slashdot Effect. Call it the 'Spider-man Effect.' It boggles my mind that this little article would garner so much attention. The article with the next highest number of hits on my site has maybe 1,000 - 2,000 hits.
Or maybe I should say that it used to boggle my mind. Once I did some research in my site statistics, the reason for this bandwidth spike became clear. The images on my Spider-man article are big. One of the images - the 'New Goblin' image, is 173K in size! I never even realized that the image was that big. To make things even more interesting, if you do a Google Image Search for New Goblin, my site comes up as the first hit! I'm at the top of the Google search! How'd that happen? :) In fact, images.google.com is the number 1 referer on my site, by far. Now, multiply the fact that my most popular image is 173K times a few thousand hits per month and you get a lot of bandwidth burned. Combine that with the fact that there are several other images on the article, and that one page probably feed 250K or so worth of data for EVERY page view!
My first reaction when I discovered this was to panic and immediately trim that image down to cut down on bandwidth. When you run a small web site on a shared web host, you are given a limited bandwidth. Depending on your web host and web hosting plan, you could be limited to 10-100 GB per month. Not too long ago, I was seeing many web hosts that limited you to 1GB per month! Had I been on one of these low bandwidth sites, I would have been in serious trouble. At 10GB this month, I would have blown past my limit 10 times over! That would have cost me a lot of money in overage charges. Now granted, web hosts are starting to bump up their monthly bandwidth allocations significantly, but not long ago, this kind of bandwidth would have killed me. Fortunately, last year I changed to a new web host who provides a positively sick amount of bandwidth - 5TB (yes TERAbytes!) per month! That's over 5000GB. At 10GB this month, I haven't even hit 1% of my bandwidth limit. 10GB is a drop in the bucket for me. That means, that my big images are going to stay. Obviously this massive spike in bandwidth was caused by increased interest in the Spider-man movie as we got closer and closer to it's release date. The release date has come and gone. While my site hits did drop off significantly a few days after the movie's release, they are still averaging about 3 times what they were last year.
That one image has been quite an education for me as a web developer. Here's some things I discovered:
- If you have just one popular image, it can burn an amazing amount of bandwidth.
- It has taught me the sheer power of Google. Probably 80-90% of the traffic on my site comes directly from Google. I've never advertised this site anywhere.
- It has taught me that Google Adsense is pretty much worthless to the small web site owner. I've made a grand total of $0.91 for the one small Google ad I put up on my site. And you don't even get paid by Google for Adsense ads until you hit at least $10.00. That means that 10 months from now, I'll get $10? What's the point?
- It has taught me that people will steal your images. Months ago, I discovered that several pretty high traffic web sites were directly linking to that 173K New Goblin image on my web site on their web site. This means that I was essentially giving them 'free bandwidth' to use my image on their site! This kind of direct linking can easily be done so that noone is the wiser. You'd never be able to tell that the image was coming from a separate web site. Now, because I have so much bandwidth on this hosting account, I really didn't care much about this 'theft'. I was happy about the fact that people liked the image. However, once I discovered this, I decided that I was going to take advantage of their theft to give my site some free publicity. I modified all the images in my site to have a small semi-transparent watermark at the bottom of the image. This watermark contains the URL of my web site. By adding this watermark, I have just guarranteed that all those web sites linking to my images will be giving me proper credit. I could be nasty replace the images with something nasty, such as hardcore porn but as of now there is no need. Should image theft become a problem I can easily shrink the images, rename them, or do whatever I need. I am in complete control of these images. Don't these people realize I could really screw with them if I wanted to? It is not a smart idea to surrender control of a big part of your web site to an outside party of of your control.
- It has taught me just how important it is to be as 'search engine friendly' as you can. Make sure you have a robots.txt file. Make sure you maintain a sitemap XML file and submit it to Google and Yahoo regularly. Make sure you do not try to 'game' Google by trying to falsely boost your Google ranking. If you do this kind of thing, it's a good way to get removed from Google's index. Should this happen, your web site may as well not exist. Google wields such power on the web that should they remove you from their index, it could easily put you out of business.
Yesterday, I posted an article on the new Transformer's live action movie that is coming out in July. While it is nowhere near as involved as that Spider-man article, it does contain some good images from the movie trailer. These images are fairly large, though not as large as the ones in the Spider-man article. I did learn my lesson on this one. It's probably only 150K or so in total size for all the images and text on that article. Will this blog increase my bandwidth and my hits. Probably (and I hope so). Naturally, I'm going to keep track of things and make sure it doesn't get out of hand, but otherwise, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the ride!