This Sunday to mark April Fools Day, the University of Rochester homepage was overrun with kittens.
The homepage itself has of course reverted to normal, but the gallery lives on.
I did a little number crunching this morning and found that homepage itself received 34,604 pageviews yesterday; the average number of pageviews for the homepage on a Sunday for the current semester is 11,868, so we saw nearly triple the average traffic. So as a sheer driver of eyeballs, kittens it would seem are fairly successful. 38% of those visitors came from inside the University network, which is fairly typical.
The number of unique visitors to the website was also significantly higher this past Sunday than on an average Sunday. We had 16,500 unique visitors on April Fools, which is a 55% increase over the Sunday average this semester of 10,616. This tells me that we had both more people coming to the site and more people hitting refresh more often to see the images. We also had a much lower exit rate than normal – 32% compared to 55% – and most of that difference seems to be accounted for by people going right to the lolcat page – which accounted for 19% of the “next pages” clicked off the homepage on Sunday.
The homepage photo gallery was viewed 2,287 times yesterday, and about 8.7% of those visitors clicked through to one of the secondary pages listed in the kitty captions (About Us, Majors and Programs, Grad Studies, etc.) The “lolcats” gallery was viewed 3,444 times. 38% of that traffic came from Facebook, 25% came from the homepage, and 13% came to it directly, which I take to mean came from our weekly student e-newsletter which delivers at 8am every Sunday. (We don’t have clickthrough data for Weekly Buzz — which we’d changed to “Weekly Purr” with a kitten masthead for the day — but if I’m analyzing this right it looks like about 460 people clicked on the link to the lolcat page out of about 5,500 recipients). The lolcat page also had a significantly higher time on site number than the site average (1min 47sec compared to 1min 9seconds) but also higher exit and bounce rates than the site as a whole. Which is reasonable, I guess. People came and read all the jokey lolcats, rated their favorite ones, but then didn’t move on to anything else.
Recommendations: This year for the first time we tried to integrate the April Fools jokes with facts/messaging about the University. In hindsight, I would have done this even more, especially on the lolcats page where people did seem to spend some significant amount of time reading. Bottom line: kittens are good drivers of traffic. But when making lolcats, MAKE MORE LOLCATZ!