Metrics and Statistics
All content creators have a natural curiosity about their audience and exactly how many people are accessing their work. There is nothing wrong with this and it’s perfectly reasonable to want to know who you’re connecting with and how far is your reach. Blogging, streaming and podcasting is after all a two way process. However in my experience this thirst for statistical knowledge can be a double edge sword. Information of this kind can both motivate and paralyse, therefore it is important to ensure that your sites metrics don’t become the focal point of your endeavours.
Unless you are already a known quantity online, all new content creators have to work at building up an audience. There are no real shortcuts with regard to this. The only practical solution is to write, stream and podcast as often as you can and build up a body of work. When it comes to Google ranking, content is king. Publicise your posts using social media, comment on other sites and if possible write guest posts for other established sites. Resign yourself to the fact that after two weeks you are not likely to be commanding an audience of millions.
There are practical reasons why you may want to keep an eye on your audience numbers and see if you can determine what material has generated the most traffic. You may also want to see if certain times of days and the weeks are more beneficial for publishing. This is where statistical packages become useful and provide valid information about your audience. However it should be noted that metrics are only data and not a judgement of your work. Low numbers do not say anything about you personally or the quality of your content. They simply show how many people found your material.
Humans are emotional creatures and one of our biggest shortcomings is our habit of filling in the gaps in our knowledge by jumping to conclusions. At a subconscious level we tend to fashion sticks to beat ourselves with it and for content creators, statistics often is our stick of choice. If you obsess over your sites metrics, they will impinge upon your work and output. You may find yourself writing out of character or jumping on the latest bandwagon in an attempt to get more traffic. By spending the entire day constantly checking numbers you’ll lose your focus. Disappointment over not getting the traffic you would like can ultimately crush your will to write, stream or podcast.
Metrics are simply a tool and like most tools their effectiveness depends upon how you use them. If you have an appropriate mind-set then checking your statistics in a measured and dispassionate way can be an extremely useful. The data can help you set growth targets and allow you to determine what content is proving popular. However metrics only reflect what content has received traffic which is not the same as “why”. Therefore use any statistical data as an aid to your editorial decisions and not the sole factor determining them. If you feel that the reality of your statistics will disappoint you or prove a source of distraction, then refrain from consulting them.
So far I’ve been approaching the subject of metrics from the perspective of the amateur content creator. If you are writing for commercial reasons then stats have a different connotation altogether. Professional writing requires nerves of steel and a hide as thick as an ox. It is hard work and is seldom the gateway to wealth and fame, as many erroneously think. Writing to specification or providing commentary for a third party, requires a degree of detachment from one’s personal perspective and a more willing attitude to embrace the prevailing consensus. Many non-professional writers and podcasters do harbour a desire to be a commercial success, though many will seldom admit it. Sadly the reality of making a viable living from writing about MMOs or discussing the latest gaming news, is not very likely.
Something I’ve learned after eight years of writing online is unless you have a specific reason to do so, don’t unnecessarily bandy your statistics about. Some stats packages have an option to place a link on your site. Think hard about whether you want to do this or not. Publicly showing your traffic numbers can prejudice some new viewers. A You Tube video with a low number of views may send a message to some that it is low for a specific reason and therefore best avoided. This may well be a flawed philosophy but it undoubtedly is a factor.
Linking to other sites and trackbacks can be a useful way to obtain traffic. However it is prudent to consider who or what you are linking to. It’s a sad reality that despite the fact that blogging was created specifically to share information; people are very avaricious of other sites traffic. Successful content creators are also very cautious about endorsing and supporting up and coming sites. Conversely, if you have attractive numbers you may well find yourself targeted by other content creators that wish to capitalise on your success. Be careful before joining networks and who you associate with. Ultraism sometime needs to be tempered by common sense and even a quid pro quo.
As usual there is no universal rule of thumb when it comes to metrics and ultimately you have to do what is right for you. However you will find that obsessing about stats is a universal refrain you’ll hear from a good many bloggers, streamers and podcasters. If you have placed something that you have created in the public domain, it is only natural to be curious about what others think about it. However the consensus is not to be focused solely upon statistics but to put your heart and soul into your content creation instead. We may not live in a true meritocracy but if you let your work speak for itself, then you will find an audience.