I came across a question that was asked 10 months ago and didn't have any comment or any answer. But it has got 3k views: "Were you able to" and "are you able to", when to use which?

The timeline of the question doesn't show anything. Usually a question attracts visitors when it becomes A Hot Network Question, but this one hasn't become hot. Why then did it attract so many visitors?

  • (I've posted an answer to that question now.)
    – Void
    Jan 2, 2021 at 17:29
  • At the very least, it doesn't seem to be shared publicly since searching for "ell.stackexchange.com" 238979 (the domain URL and the question ID) didn't return any external sites.
    – Andrew T.
    Jan 10, 2021 at 21:09

1 Answer 1


It may bit hard to realize (at least it is for me), but Stack Exchange sites get 95% of their traffic from search engines. If a question has not been in the Hot Network Questions list, which is indeed one of the main drivers for views, it's often a top hit in Google and co. For example, this question is the top hit when searching for “Were you able to” or “are you able to”.

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(from the site analytics, visible to users with 25k reputation and ♦ moderators)

Granted, that's searching with double quotes (which most people don't do) and results might be skewed since Google knows my preference for Stack Exchange (though I could reproduce in a private window), but perhaps there's a more often used search query where this question is high in the search result list.

To give you an idea about what people are searching for when they end up here: here is a list of questions with the most views on the site.

  • Ah... it makes sense now. I was astonished because the question was asked recently and got so many views.
    – Void
    Jan 2, 2021 at 17:38
  • The last link is extremely useful! It's what I've been looking for for ages, but didn't know how to get it. Thanks!
    – Void
    Jan 2, 2021 at 17:44
  • 1
    You're welcome. The site itself doesn't offer the option to sort on view count (the Frequent tab comes close but it sorts on the number of duplicate questions) but SEDE (and the API) are really useful for this kind of information.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Jan 2, 2021 at 17:50

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