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Editing is part of Stack Exchange culture. We see a question with a typo – we fix it. Some go further and clarify a question, or add metadata (tags) to a question, or caption an image where one might be lacking.

Some adopt a more spartan editing philosophy: remove what is superfluous, redundant, or not strictly needed ;-) A tag not likely to be "followed" (by active knowledgeable users of the site)? Nuke it. Title too long? Shorten it. Fifty-dollar word used? Substitute ten-cent word.

I believe most folks undertaking to edit a post intend to make the site better. Yet, how do we know the end result with respect to other metrics we value, such as traffic? Lack of consistent traffic growth is one factor responsible for keeping a site in beta forever — trust me, I know!

What we're lacking when we make changes, sweeping or otherwise, is some detailed feedback from the most prolific users of our site: search engines, and the mostly read-only viewers arriving through them.

I'd like to think I inspired the existing analytics mod tools. But I still believe they're just a good start. As moderators, we have access to high-level analytics tools providing an idea of aggregate traffic and search keywords over time. We can also see view counts on individual question pages (in fact, everybody can.)

However, there's nothing to tie the two together, or relate anything back to a specific edit. If a question has 150K views, when did those occur, and why did those occur? Was the question popular at a particular point in time, or consistently popular? Did a specific edit make it popular? Might a specific edit have ruined the question in the eyes of a search engine? e.g. Day N: edit made, days N+1 etc.: traffic dropped off?

I'm asking to improve analytics functionality. My specific feature requests are these:

  • Provide a way for moderators or high-rep users to see the keywords that are responsible for the views attributed to a given question page. Give us a link, on a question page*, that lets us "see behind" the question and into detailed traffic and keyword information for the page.

  • Provide a way for moderators or high-rep users to view a graph of traffic over time for a given question page*, perhaps with annotations indicating when edits were made to the page. (Title changed, tag added, tag removed.) What edit caused a question's traffic to "pop" or "crash"?

  • Provide a report say, in moderator tools, indicating the top N questions where traffic has significantly risen or dropped over some time period compared to a previous period, or w.r.t. average site traffic growth over the period, enabling moderators to find questions that may have been positively or adversely impacted by recent edits.

These features would inform curators of a site as to which title keywords, tags, or kinds of edits are actually helpful. Else, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best.

* Clarification: The link to this additional data need not clutter the existing interface. One could, for moderators only, make a question's existing view count text be the link to such behind-the-scenes analytics data for the question. It all relates to the view count, anyway.

share|improve this question
@Yannis Certainly related, but not a duplicate. The other question is asking for referrers ("just the domain would do") and I'm asking here for detailed traffic numbers and keywords. What we have in common is we're asking for more detail at the question page level. – Chris W. Rea Jan 30 '13 at 15:12
Considering the fact that the overall stats are pretty secret, I really doubt that high rep users would get access to these stats, if implemented. These stats are more prone to abuse, if anything. – Manishearth Jan 30 '13 at 15:17
Very well written, +1 to that suggestion. It'd be very helpful to have, and I'm sure the data is already there. But I'd also consider only giving out this data to moderators. – slhck Jan 30 '13 at 15:18
@Manishearth You're probably right. I mentioned high-rep users to be polite and inclusive since they do much of the editing, but if functionality necessarily needs to be mod-only, c'est la vie. – Chris W. Rea Jan 30 '13 at 15:21
Bah another interesting feature request that is asked for moderators only. You guys are only supposed to be exception handlers, not overlords of the site :p There are plenty of analytical minds out there who would be very interested in doing some number crunching to figure out trends or stats, but that aren't interested in investing time and energy towards becoming a moderator of a SE site. – Rachel Jan 30 '13 at 15:29
@Rachel Currently all analytics are moderator-only and moderators are told not to make them public. With that in mind, restricting requests for additional analytics to moderators is fairly reasonable. – Adam Lear Jan 30 '13 at 15:33
@AnnaLear Makes sense :) I wasn't aware there was already some analytical information available to moderators. Is there a reason why its only available to moderators, and not available to the site's community (or at least "trusted" or "established" users in the community)? – Rachel Jan 30 '13 at 15:35
@Rachel Moderators must accept some terms & conditions of moderatorship, for one. – Chris W. Rea Jan 30 '13 at 15:38
This FR needs more bold. I'm not sure what to make of consistent traffic growth prolific search engines there's nothing to tie the two together keywords given question page when edits were made to the page. – Shog9 Jan 30 '13 at 15:43
@Rachel: I'd say the best reason for not wanting this particular feature to be generally-available would be that it sounds incredibly noisy. There's already a ton of related information and meta information attached to question pages - do you really need search keywords cluttering that up? – Shog9 Jan 30 '13 at 15:46
@Shog9 It's not just an "analytics" link somewhere on the site that you can click to access a separate area for site stats? Jeff's answer here makes it sound like it's a separate panel displaying some analytical information, not something that's embedded all over the site :) – Rachel Jan 30 '13 at 15:58
@Shog9 Never mind, I read the specifics of the feature request again and see what you're referring to. I was envisioning an area where moderators could view the top search keywords on the site, or optionally enter a post ID and see stats pertaining to that specific post. I can see how the OP's wording makes it sound like this request would just add more clutter to the existing question interface :) – Rachel Jan 30 '13 at 16:02
@Rachel We have access to a list of search keywords, and it's awesomely informative: – Yannis Jan 30 '13 at 17:26
About a year ago Google started using SSL everywhere (for logged in users) and stopped sharing search keywords. Although I'd love to see your feature implemented, I'm afraid if the percentage of "not provided" keywords is as high everywhere as is on Programmers (screenshot in my previous comment), it wouldn't really be useful. – Yannis Jan 30 '13 at 17:30

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