Where are they coming from

I was looking at the data collected by the Google Analytics about my website’s visitors and thought that it might be interesting to some of my readers as well. I started blogging in October 2011, hence my data starts with a first full month (November 2011). You can see here top 15 countries where the visitors of Sandatlas are living (or from which countries they visited this site). Numbers represent percentage of visitors from that particular country in a given month. Last column is average for the whole year.

I want to stress that this data is very generalized and anonymous. Google Analytics shows me from which countries people are coming from and how many visits they made together but I can not find out any specifics about one particular person nor do I want to do it. I am much more interested in large statistically significant datasets to see general trends. It would be also very difficult to spy after any one of you because I have hundreds of visits every day. Just to give you a context, Sandatlas has currently approximately 12,000 visits a month (August 2012).


Country Nov Dec Average
USA 47.47 50.13 49.30
Canada 7.77 8.78 8.46
UK 8.57 6.91 7.42
Australia 3.95 3.16 3.40
Estonia 3.95 2.77 3.14
India 2.16 2.43 2.35
Germany 2.28 1.96 2.06
Netherlands 1.79 1.23 1.40
Spain 1.91 1.15 1.38
Russia 0.92 1.51 1.33
Brazil 0.80 1.45 1.25
France 1.23 1.09 1.13
Greece 0.37 1.45 1.12
Indonesia 1.11 1.03 1.06
Italy 0.92 0.98 0.96
Others 14.80 13.98 14.23


Country Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Average
USA 48.57 49.47 48.35 44.20 38.86 38.01 36.45 36.55 45.79 49.07 44.09
UK 9.24 7.45 7.39 7.12 8.83 8.36 7.66 7.53 7.48 6.56 7.60
Canada 8.67 7.69 8.76 7.53 5.29 6.31 6.89 6.33 5.56 7.00 6.91
Australia 3.74 2.82 3.91 3.91 5.72 6.35 4.85 6.54 4.32 3.30 4.45
India 1.83 2.58 1.90 3.35 3.97 5.14 6.39 7.28 5.72 4.54 4.43
Germany 2.18 2.45 2.53 2.10 2.01 2.03 1.91 1.65 1.20 1.16 1.80
Philippines 1.17 1.61 1.08 0.73 0.79 1.43 2.50 2.36 1.99 1.45 1.54
South Africa 0.53 1.04 1.40 0.88 1.54 0.94 1.28 2.02 1.43 1.13 1.24
Brazil 0.70 0.74 1.04 1.35 1.66 1.99 1.43 1.80 0.81 0.72 1.17
Spain 0.77 1.09 1.20 1.32 1.13 1.45 1.04 1.22 0.95 1.09 1.12
Norway 1.01 1.35 1.55 1.03 0.96 1.31 0.89 0.95 0.79 0.65 1.00
Indonesia 1.17 1.56 1.34 1.40 1.19 0.63 0.78 0.45 0.77 0.80 0.96
Malaysia 0.59 0.39 0.92 1.27 1.02 0.86 1.11 0.88 1.04 1.08 0.95
The Netherlands 0.75 1.00 0.92 0.59 0.73 1.22 1.20 1.11 0.91 0.70 0.90
France 1.03 0.65 0.68 0.86 0.96 1.07 1.31 1.00 0.70 0.79 0.88
Others 18.06 18.11 17.04 22.35 25.34 22.89 24.32 22.33 20.53 19.96 20.97

Here are some of my thoughts and questions that emerged when I tried to make some sense of these numbers. The following text was written in August 2012. Since that time I have updated the table above with new data but have not changed the interpretation below.

1. I had only a small number of visitors in 2011. Hence, these numbers are not statistically significant. Take a look at Greece numbers: 0.37% of visitors were from Greece in november and suddenly 1.45% in december. Possibly some sort of link sharing in Facebook or something similar was behind it. Greece is absent in 2012 table (24th position at the moment). Estonia also made it to the 2011 table (5th place overall) but not to the 2012 table (20th place). Obviously the reason behind this is the fact that I am from Estonia and some people I personally know were looking at my blog but now they make up much smaller percent of all the visitors. Estonia as a small country should not be able to make it to the top 15. Otherwise, it would tell something about the quality of my content if only my friends wish to look at it. I am happy it is not so.

2. It should be no surprise that most visitors are from the USA. In december 2011 more than half (50.13%) of all the visitors were from US. However, it seems that so high percent is not achievable anymore. The share of US visitors is steadily declining. What is the reason behind that? I believe that largely it has to be somehow connected to the Geoblogosphere. I gained new readers very rapidly in december 2011 because my posts were automatically tweeted to the followers of @Geoblogfeed. Those who follow this feed are probably mostly Americans.

3. Italy and The Netherlands are in 2011 table but both are missing in 2012. Why? I believe it has to do something with the natural evolution of my blog. Sandatlas existed already before the end of 2011 but it was more like a static website with little information only about sand and sand collecting. Most visitors at that time were probably other sand collectors. It has been my observation that sand collecting as a hobby is somewhat popular in only five countries (Germany, France, The Netherlands, Italy, and USA). Especially Netherlands stands out. Despite its relatively small population, there are surprisingly many people interested in sand. Now I am writing more about general geology and have gained many new readers who may be not so much interested in sand.

4. However, this may explain why Netherlands is missing (it is actually still doing well, 17th position in 2012) but where is Italy? It is a big country, bigger than Spain which is in 10th place at the moment. Why isn’t Italy doing better than Spain? I don’t know that for sure but there may be one possible explanation. I visited Spain last year, took some geological photos and have shared them with you. I have noticed that it helps to attract visitors from the country if you go there and write about it. For some reason lots of people are very interested to read what foreigners say about their home country or places they are familiar with. I guess I should go to Italy next to gain some new followers there.

5. It was really surprising to me that The Philippines are in such a high position (7th place). It is perhaps showing my ignorance but I did not expect that. But if I think a little. With a population of nearly 100 million who are fluent in English… It is not so surprising anymore but I really had no idea before. However, I am still not satisfied. I feel it needs a better explanation. Perhaps Sandatlas has some fans there ๐Ÿ™‚ I would like to know if this is true.

6. India. Another Asian country in a high position (5th) but this time it is no surprise. India is clearly on the rise and I believe that eventually it will occupy the second place after USA. It will take some time to overtake Canada, Australia, and UK but it will happen.

7. Where the hell is Japan? Japan is a wealthy country and very interesting geologically. Many people should have more than enough reason to seek geological info from the Internet. Yet I have few visits from this country. Japan is currently holding incredible 34th position. What can I say. It is well known that Japan was completely closed society for centuries. Not anymore officially but perhaps thay have still retained large part of this isolationism. Perhaps Japanese people are seeking information in their own language and maybe what they find really satisfies their needs. Again, I don’t know but would love to hear more about it. It is really the greatest surprise I had when analysing this data.

8. China. Numbers from China are similar to Japan, 35th position. This time it is more complicated. Yes, China should definitely have a higher place but I suspect that people of this country are not yet used to seek information from outside of their huge home country. It is difficult to understand for me. I am from Estonia, country with a population of one million. I am forced to seek information in English but it may be different if your country’s population is thousand times larger and most people there, as much as I know, don’t speak English. Another aspect worth considering is that China is blocking its peoples access to some parts of the internet. Hence, many people are probably hiding their country of origin with VPN or similar solutions. I don’t know how extensive this is but I also get a fair share of visits from unidentified countries.

9. Norway is holding incredibly high position (9th). I have no idea what is behind that but perhaps Norwegians are interested in geology and I have also written quite a bit about Norway and have used lots of images of rocks from Norway. Maybe that explains something but I do not believe that Norway will be in top 15 in the long run.

10. Overall it seems that visitor numbers from the so-called developing countries are growing (especially Brazil and India) and developed world is declining in relative terms. Maybe it should be that way because the same is happening economically. It would be really cool if conclusions like that can be drawn based on the visitors data of just one blog.

September update

Russia and Turkey are out. The Netherlands and Malaysia took their places in the table. Developing countries continue to rise. The most surprising thing is that USA made a very powerful comeback.

8 comments to Where are they coming from

  • I’ve seen similar surprises — very few from Japan and China, and many from the Philippines. BTW there are quite a few US citizens living in the Philippines — 300,000 in 2012 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_settlement_in_the_Philippines)

  • Hollis, good to know that you’ve seen similar trends. It confirms that it is not just an error in my data or something like this.

  • Ole Tjugen

    Norway checking in….

    I’m fairly certain that a large part of the Norwegian visits are me.

    After several years of looking at sand through a microscope on the offshore drilling rigs, I landed in an office position last November. So when I need to clear my mind of pore pressure estimates and formation strength predictions, I visit geology blogs. Yours happens to be an interesting and well-written one, especially for a “reformed” mineralogist / magma petrologist now working with – sand.

    I’ll see if I can bag you some Jurassic sand next time I go out to a rig. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ole, it seems that our interests are really similar. Jurassic sand from an oil rig would be a valuable addition to my blog. Thanks for your comment, it is encouraging to know that I have permanent readers who like my posts.

  • Mark

    I have followed your postings since I first discovered them last autumn. I don’t have enough “samples in hand” experience to even qualify as an amateur but the rocks have always caught my interest. Living in north- eastern Illinois, USA, the infrequent exposures of living rock are invariably Silurian dolomite. There is also a good deal of glacial wreckage left strewn about (my supervisor picked up a quartz crystal the size of a melon from an excavation at my work site.)

    The quality, quantity and variety of your photos and accompanying descriptions have been a boon. The references I have available give one or two, generally low resolution photos of any given rock/mineral species. They rarely look anything like the shards I hammer off my finds. I don’t usually come away with any certainty that I’ve correctly identified a sample but yours’ is the site I turn to for comparisons.

    Thank you. Keep ’em coming.

  • Mark and Zac, it really makes me feel good to read it. This is one of my goals to make Sandatlas a reference material. I doubt I would do it to just write something. I want it to have some value not only today but in the next year as well. It is a great pleasure to read that you find it useful. It says to me that I am probably moving in the right direction. It has been my observation also that geological references are poor guides to rock identification because their images are still often black and white and of low quality. And there are usually only one example which really fails to address the point that rocks of the same rock type are usually highly variable in appearance. It is no wonder that people don’t know how to identify rocks. How should they learn it? I try to make it somewhat easier here and hope that in the long run people interested in geology will find their way here.

  • Ann

    I have been following you for awhile, and I must admit your blog has become one of my favorite ones to look at. Thank you for all of your time and effort that you have put into your posts. I think you write very well and am good at explaining things so that nongeologists can understand things too.
    I’ve been out of geology for quite a long time and it’s nice to learn about some of the changes that have occurred since I’ve gotten away from it. Through blogs like this, I realize why I enjoyed studying geology so much, it’s all so different and fascinating.
    I have found myself reading some of your posts more than once, and am amazed that I can get so much from them every time I read them. Please keep them coming, even if you feel like you might be repeating yourself there is always something different about it and new insights to be gained.

  • Ann, I’m glad you like Sandatlas. I recently also started to read my old posts. Not because I hope to learn something but I hope I can improve them. I have rewritten several and added or removed/improved sentences in many old posts. By doing that hopefully my articles will be more helpful for my readers in the long run. Several of my old posts are therefore not so old anymore and are perhaps worth re-reading. I will find energy to write this blog as long as I can find interested readers like you. Thanks.