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How are stats helpful for bloggers?

July 21st, 2005 · 10 Comments

For example, here’s an aspect of blogging Susan Mernit and I have discussed while planning for our upcoming Blogging 101session: statistics. Are they helpful or not helpful for beginners? Do they discourage or encourage? Should you ignore your blogging statistics? How do your statistics influence the ways you post and think about your blog?

Earlier this week I came across this post titled Numbers and Blogging, written by David Bayly, a blogger (and pastor) who was involved with Terri Schiavo and therefore received a lot of traffic at one point in time.

Not only are numbers important to bloggers, the more you blog the more you want other bloggers to link to your blog. The result is a self-referential series of quid pro quos wherein we mention other bloggers positively and link to them so that they will in turn mention and link to us.

More often than not, this circularity is accompanied by rather obsequious expressions of praise from smaller blogs to more prominent blogs in the apparent hope that the more prominent blog will link back to the lesser-known blog–a form of vassal-lord relationship in which the vassal renders fealty and honor and the lord in turn grants a place in the penbumbra of his blogging glory. In the end, the outcome is a self-reinforcing system of mutual admiration.

Because pride is a constant temptation to bloggers who pay attention to links and stats I’ve made certain decisions about my approach to this blog. First, I’m no longer checking our stats. If I don’t know how few people view this blog each day, I’m not disappointed and my pride isn’t bruised if we decline (and bruised pride is still sinful pride). Conversely, if I never see how many are reading the blog, I won’t be as likely to derive pride from increased numbers.

[Bonus link: Joe Carter describes his traffic, experience and statistics, to prove that being mentioned in the paper may not help one's blogging: I spent a year attempting to rise to the level of Mortal Human in the TTLB Ecosystem. Traversing the stages from Insignificant Microbes to Flippery Fish to Large Mammal, I checked the page daily and longed for the glorious age when I would reach the upper echelons. ]

[Thanks to Ilona at Truegrit for her excellent collection of helpful links titled The Blogs We Want, and Why We Want Them.]

Perhaps you don’t agree with David Bayly’s beliefs. But do you feel the disappointment? The bruises when the numbers aren’t what you hoped? Does it become obsessive? What would you recommend to a beginning blogger? Which numbers and sites would you check – and which ones would you ignore?

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10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 COD // Jul 21, 2005 at 5:10 am

    I think if you are blogging the only person you should worry about is yourself. If you are happy with the blog who cares how many page views or incoming links you have? I check my stats once a month, primarily to find other interesting blogs that may have linked to something I wrote. It’s not the incoming link I care about, it’s the blog on the other end.

  • 2 Elisa Camahort // Jul 21, 2005 at 7:36 pm

    It clearly depends on the purpose of the blog. If a small business person starts a blog, having heard about the Tinbasher blog or some other business blog, then clearly they want that blog to have some “pay-off” for the time they invest.

    If someone is starting a new blog for the purpose of archiving their life, expressing themselves, because they love to write…any number of good, personal reasons, then yeah, I don’t think it really matter…and you do find yourself distorting your own voice if you worry too much about getting the kind of “A-List” attention that drives traffic. It’s icky.

  • 3 didier // Jul 21, 2005 at 8:46 pm

    You know,numbers don’t tell you that much.Especially if you provide a full RSS feed: when your feed gets pulled x number of times, you can’t tell how many people are reading and how many times they’re pulling your feed.

    You could at the number of unique vistors, but a fair number of visitors include bots, search engines, search engine results, etc. In short, those visitors are either not real or won’t stay for long.

    Some stats help, link other people mentioned: weblogs linking to you, and “popular” posts. But mostly, the current way that web stats programs work is not terribly helpful to bloggers.

    Technorati, Bloglines and co. are more tailored for this, althought they provide an incomplete picture.

  • 4 Beth // Jul 22, 2005 at 8:53 am

    Instead of looking at stats as a personal thing, think about them as a data information point. For instance, a cool site like BlogPulse can get you thinking about blogs as a way of measuring what people are interested in as a trend, which is fascinating!

    http://www.blogpulse.com/

  • 5 ilona // Jul 22, 2005 at 12:40 pm

    As hard as it is on the ego, I pretty much agree with David Bayly. I used to think I was immune to stats, but I found myself a little discouraged by them of late.

    In a way, they do serve for purposes other than ego: 1) you have an idea of whether you are speaking topics that affect people enough to want to link, and 2) it is a type of feedback. -the trouble being you can’t judge the basis of your popularity or lack of. You don’t know whether to take it in stride or not because it doens’t have a context to interpret.
    It’s nice to know that Joe Carter was once checkin’ and hopin’ and wishin’ like me:)
    On the obsequious thing: it is hard to strike the balance between trying to be encouraging and express praise and being obsequious. When you think of the power of a kind word in season… I think it might be good to err on the side of seeming to flatter, rather than withholding praise to seem less needy.

    Great thoughts in this post- and of course I grovel at your feet for linking me… much thanks, really!

  • 6 Roland Tanglao // Jul 22, 2005 at 9:39 pm

    I agree with Bayly and also Steve Gillmor. It’s not about page views or hits; it’s about who pays attention to you which includes who bookmarks you, who links to you, etc.

  • 7 Elisa Camahort // Jul 22, 2005 at 10:03 pm

    So, does that mean that people who don’t have blogs or webs sites are unimportant? As far as I recall the last couple of Pew studies have shown a steady ratio that only 1 in 5 blog readers is a blogger.

    That’s why I so object to the link-based measurement of, well, anything, because it discounts the value of 80% of your potential readership.

  • 8 Bob V // Jul 23, 2005 at 9:45 pm

    As an author of a blog of my own (http://bobvis.blogspot.com), I am shamed and apalled at the pandering others engage in that I wouldn’t dream of doing on my own blog (http://bobvis.blogspot.com). It is this kind of self promotion that people like me (http://bobvis.blogspot.com) would never dream of engaging in.

    I (http://bobvis.blogspot.com) am proud that my blog (http://bobvis.blogspot.com) stays above the slavish servility I see almost everywhere else. After all, if you write interesting posts, readers will find you. It is the shameless gimmicks that some bloggers engage in that prevents them from reaching greatness (http://bobvis.blogspot.com).

  • 9 Jenny // Jul 25, 2005 at 11:13 pm

    I like what Bob V wrote:)!!! I just recently realized that stats stress me out. I find my motivation to blog becomes driven by keeping my numbers at least consistent if not to grow them. Since I made the decision to not allow my stats to have weight, the existence of my blog is not stressful to me.

    As a result, my numbers have gone down. The frequency of my posts have been random at best – but that is because my life does not allow more at this moment. I want blogging to remain a joy and treat rather than a pressing duty.

  • 10 Roland Tanglao // Jul 26, 2005 at 12:13 am

    elisa:

    sorry if i was confusing
    non bloggers count if they pay attention to what you write, podcast or videblog

    the hard part is measuring that attention

    traditional web stats don’t really help because they don’t measure attention, so what if 8 million people view your page if they skim it and get nothing out of it?

    i would argue that people should ignore web stats and focus on creating cool stuff constantly!

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