Newbie Blogger Initiative 2016 – Statistics and Metrics
One of the first subjects to come up when discussing blogging is that of statistics and web traffic. All bloggers have a varying degree of curiosity about their readership and exactly how many people are visiting their site. There is nothing wrong with this and it is perfectly reasonable to want to know about your audience. Blogging is after all a two way process. However, in my experience this thirst for statistical knowledge can be a double edge sword. It is therefore important to ensure that it doesn’t become the focal point of your writing endeavours or your primary inspiration.
Unless you already have an established online presence, all newbie bloggers have to work at building up an audience. Despite what a lot of questionable websites may tell you, there are no real shortcuts with regard to this. The best approach is to write as often as you can, so that you create up a body of work and ensure that you promote it via social media. Engage with your readers and respond to any comments that are left. It is also prudent to comment on other blogs. If possible write guest posts for other established sites. Although all these tasks are a bit of a grind at times, they will pay off in the long run. Furthermore Google likes this approach. The site that is healthy and regularly posts content is more likely to show up in search enquiries.
Resign yourself to the fact that as a new blogger you are not likely to be commanding an audience of millions two weeks after you launch your site. However, keeping an eye on your metrics can help you determine which posts are generating the most traffic. You may also wish to determine if certain times and days of the weeks are more beneficial for publishing articles. Stats packages can be useful in this respect and provide you with some answers. Just remember that statistics are just data and not a judgement of your work. Low numbers do not say anything about you or the quality of your writing. They simply show how many people found your site and read your posts.
As writers we crave an audience and if the statistics show that our expectations have not been met, then it can be disheartening. There’s a fine line between stats being a useful tool and a burden. If you obsess about them too much you’ll find that they will impinge upon your work. This can lead to writing out of character in an attempt to get more traffic. It’s very tempting to post some click bait, although it does more harm than good in the long term. Ultimately the pursuit of traffic and a fixation upon stats will undermine your writing. Too many bloggers have fallen into the trap of constantly monitoring their metrics and the have lost the desire to write due to their misplaced sense of disappointment.
So my advice to anyone starting a new blog is to consider the following. If you feel you can keep your need to know in check, then use a stats package to monitor your progress. Check them in a measured way and try and remain dispassionate about them. They can be used positively, such as setting yourself growth targets or for determining which posts are popular (very useful if you have a featured posts section on your site). If you feel that the reality of your stats will upset you or be a distraction, then uninstall the package from your blog or simply make it a policy not to consult them.
I recently had an epiphany with regards to my own web traffic. As a result I changed the way I used my statistical data and stopped using several external tracking services. Firstly because they were inaccurate (internal stats packages are far more comprehensive) and secondly because I no longer feel the need to chase an audience. I now write for the pleasure of writing and to engage with others. It also keeps me from over indulging my other vices. If you are writing for commercial reasons then naturally stats have a different connotation altogether. Traffic is often directly linked to financial remuneration, so data of this kind is of far more importance
These are just some of the issues that can arise with regard to your blog’s statistics. As usual, there is no universal rule of thumb and ultimately you have to do what is right for you. However you will find that obsessing over stats is quite common place and that many bloggers have flirted with it to some degree. The universal consensus is not to do it and to put your heart and soul into your writing instead. There’s a good chance that by the time the numbers reach a significant level, you won’t really be concerned by such things anymore.