Scott Hanselman

7 Blogging Statistics Rules - There is Life After Page Views

March 26, 2008 Comment on this post [50] Posted in Musings
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A lot of folks spend a lot of time analyzing blog traffic. Josh Bancroft wrote a very good article in January about "Site Statistics I Care About as a Blogger" where he talks about the various and sundry statistics that Google Analytics provides and how you should read them. Ultimately this all comes down to two things:

  • Do you care who reads your blog?

and if so

  • Will you change your behavior given statistics on who reads you blog?

I used to care deeply about my blog, the way one cares about tending a garden. I'd watch it every day and revel in each new visitor. Now, after almost 6 years of pretty active blogging, I now think more about people than pageviews. You can't trust a referrer or a trackback.

Rule #1 of blogging stats: The only way to know if a human is reading your blog is if they are talking with you.

Given that realization, I look at my stats maybe twice a month, and I'm most interested in seeing what posts folks really liked that month. I used to (maybe 3 years ago) look at every referrer and stats daily, but then I realized that my personal litmus test for my blog's success or failure is comments and other folks' blog posts, and nothing else.

I feel like we've (that means me and you, Dear Reader) have a little community here. When you comment, I am happy because I feel more connected to the conversation as this blog is my 3rd place. I blog to be social, not to have a soapbox. I'm even happier when the comments are better and more substantive than the post itself. I would take half the traffic and twice the comments any day. If you're a "lurker," why not join the conversation?

Anyway, some blogs use their stats as a measuring stick (to measure all sorts of thing) and some keep them secret. I was thinking I should just publish mine occasionally, and perhaps others would do the same. You can't trust stats, usually, as on never knows how many bots are visiting their site spidering. I know that Google Analytics and any analytics package worth its salt filters out spiders. DasBlog, for example, doesn't do this, so the statistics you'll get from DasBlog (any many other blogging engines) will be artificially inflated. The same thing happens if you just run a script over your web server logs looking for HTTP GETs.

Rule #2 of blogging stats: HTTP GETs don't equal warm bodies.

I was "tweeting" with Brendan Tomkins of CodeBetter about this and he thought it would foster a sense of openness and give everyone in our tiny slice of the blogosphere an idea of who's out here.

There's a little FeedBurner chicklet up there in my blog that shows a ballpark number of how many subscribers I have. Here's more on how FeedBurner comes up with that number. That number goes up and down based from day to day by 10-20%, depending on such mundane things as whether your computer was on to make the request.

I have only had Google Analytics on since March 3rd so I'm not sure how accurate this data is, but here's the stats since then. There seems to have been some kind of ramping up process, so this is about a 2.5 to 3 week (not a full month) slice, as I'm not sure how to count the ramp-up days.


Notice the regular dips? Those are weekends. The peaks? Mondays. Folks love to read on Mondays.

Here's another rollup:


Rule #3 of blogging stats: PageViews don't equal warm bodies.

See the difference between Visits and PageViews? You can't take a number like PageViews and correlate that directly to "# of humans" although you'll see that a lot when folks quote stats.image

Rule #4 of blogging stats: You have a worldwide audience!

(Hi Sri Lanka!)

Folks come from all over!


...using lots of different OS's...


Rule #5 of blogging stats: If it can browse, someone will visit you with it. 

Not sure what to do with the 2,200 visits by 800x600 people. I have made an effort to make the site mobile friendly though.


Rule #6 of blogging stats: People like what they like

This I thought was really interesting - the number of URLs (posts/comments URIs) views vs. number of views, and the top pages for this ~3 week period. The Programmer Themes Gallery is popular this month, as is the tools list and my Outlook GTD post. Also, I can see that folks do enjoy the Weekly Source Code, so I know I'll keep doing that. I can also see that referrals via search sent 94,850 total visits via 64,239 keywords over this period.

It's funny, the posts that I like writing, the deep technical stuff, programming languages stuff, it seems like no one cares about. I think this is the Digg influence. If you post a Gallery or a List or anything post with a Prime Number and the word "Rules" in the title, you'll get traffic. You post smart, compelling content, you need to be wicked smart before folks take note. That said, here's rule #6.5

Rule #6.5 of blogging stats: Blog for you.

You can certainly use these statistics make decisions on what to blog and only blog things that the largest number of people would like, but "meh." Would you really want to do that? I continue to blog about Baby Sign Language and Diabetes and I get no traffic for those topics. Ultimately, I blog for me, and that's why I keep this blog on my own server where the content is my own.


I also use FeedBurner, which provides RSS-specific and site specific stats, and it sometimes offers differing stats. This might have to do with how many people browse with Javascript turned off (gasp!) or use an Ad Blocker like IE7Pro or AdBlock for Firefox. FeedBurner has an interesting view that breaks down the details of how many folks subscribe in what reader.


Rule #7 from Mark Twain: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Don't trust any of these values. If you've got an engaged audience, they'll comment, blog, talk, chat, twitter, email and generally engage in the conversation. All else is poo.

I've only been using Google Analytics for a few weeks, as you can see, but I think I'll install Microsoft adCenter's Analytics Package side-by-side and do some comparisons and see what kinds of stats I can get out out of it.

As Josh so rightly said, and I'll steal borrow from him, if you ever want to flatter me, just subscribe to my feed (and leave comments!) 

Well, that's all I've got, so Dear Reader, Blog your Stats and let's learn from each other what works.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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March 26, 2008 5:31
Scott - nicely done explanation of what it all means, and how to make sense of the interesting world of stats. There is no SINGLE answer, but at least by combining the stats from the RSS and "blog traffic" views (rather than raw GETs), you can get SOME sense as to what's floating people's boats.

In the end though, absolutely agree that engaging in conversation is the ultimate measure. Can't get enough of that!
March 26, 2008 6:04
This is an interesting analysis. We are constantly trying to find the "sweet spot" for our company's online product. With SEO, SEM, and Analytics it can drive a perfectionist (like me) crazy trying to turn all the knobs. However, Blogging is completely different. I think you theory is correct in that the true "sweet spot" for a blog is to blog for yourself. Build it and (those that you care about and will care for you) will come.

Great post!
March 26, 2008 6:06
Every post has a life of it's own. Most of my readers subscribe via RSS, but Google is very good to me.
March 26, 2008 6:07
Thanks for the link to Raganwald! Somehow I had never seen or heard of his blog before, but that is a true gem. Instasubscribe.

Oh yeah, the rest of the post was good, too. :-)
March 26, 2008 6:09
Those are good rules, so I'll show you some love :) I started my blog as an attempt at building my personal brand, but that goal hasn't seemed hugely relevant to me recently; I don't think it made the least bit of difference the last couple of times I was looking for work. I agree with the blog-as-conversation idea, but what does it mean if we all want the conversation on our own blogs? If I comment on your post on my blog, will you respond there? Does it matter if I trackback? What if I comment on Twitter?

Scoble said this week that he'll go wherever the conversation goes. I wonder where it's going next?
March 26, 2008 6:16
Ben - great question. I usually got where the conversation starts, so if it's your blog, I'll comment there. I use technorati to find conversations.

Paul - I like that, each post does have a little life of its own.
March 26, 2008 6:31
One big thing that can't be emphasized enough is that all those stats are only for folks viewing the website. People who are reading via an aggregator aren't included unless they come to the site to participate in the conversation (which, by your #1 rule, makes them people you care about).

You can gather a variety of demographic data from stats, but with 25,000 RSS readers, and a whole 6 of us who have commented (thus far), you probably don't know much about your RSS readerbase at all.
March 26, 2008 6:35
I used to visit your site daily to read your blog but then I had other blogs most of which you had pointed me to so I started using Google reader and just load that up daily instead to get an overview of what all my bloogers have posted. Most of the time I read your blog straight out of reader the RSS feed and don't actually visit your site at all unless there is some wide format text etc which I want to take a deeper look at. I am curious how this would affect the statistics.
March 26, 2008 6:38
great stuff. i've often wondered why people put the feedburner chicklet on their site (or technorati authority as i have on mine). does that information matter to the reader? are the likes of scoble and other more relevant or enticing because they have massive subscribers. it reminds me of the good old geocities hit counter days. maybe i'm weird but i'm not sure why having that information surface to the end-reader matters. content is king. i come across things that i find interesting all the time and it matters not to me if i'm the first subscriber or the millionth. i guess i've convinced myself...going to remove that technorati badge now.

but great stuff to learn from!
March 26, 2008 7:21
Aaron - Actually, that's not true. There's a hidden 1 pixel graphic in each post so I know which posts are viewed in any aggregator that loads images. I know which items are forwarded as well. All those views are
separate stats that count for about ten+ thousand views per day. I know as much or more about RSS Traffic (to the item level) as I do about web.
March 26, 2008 8:36
You may not get much traffic for Sign Language and Diabetes, but for those of us who use a feed reader, and I don't grab graphics with mine, we get to read those items anyway.
I always like to be able to read some personal stuff about bloggers whom I read regularly. I suppose it helps in getting to know the whole person. Othewrise you remain a faceless non-person uber-guru. I like the fact that the people whose opinions I respect are real live people with real joys and real problems. It shows that you belong to the same species as I do, and if you can solve some esoteric technical problem, then maybe I can too.
So, please keep blogging about family, sign language and diabetes.
March 26, 2008 8:48
Thanks Richard!
March 26, 2008 11:31
This is great information. Been blogging for a couple of years now (I have 2 blogs now, one that I just launched this month) and never really knew what to make of my stats. Thanks!
March 26, 2008 12:08
Nice informative post :-), i use feedburner as well to track down my blog, but i have seen often that differnent statictisc engine gives differnet results, is this because of crawlers and bots ? And i miss that in feedburner as well, it does not shows me which of users is crawler, i guess we can find that out easily by browsercaps and IsCrawler stuffs, so i am curious to know why it is not there ? :-)
March 26, 2008 13:13
Hi Scott,

I found your blog via your tools list (which I come back to like a kid looking for desert every once in a while), but stay with you for you VisualStudio post and just general admiration for you as a human. Your diabetes posts (especially the altimeter one) helped me to understand some friends whos 10 year old son has the disease, and your WAF gave me a new insight to my wife, so those type of articles are very worthwhile to me.

I am clearly a lurker, but despite the lack of comments, let me assure you that I find your blog excellent. You have a nice mix - a worthwhile mix - that enriches me in various ways.

March 26, 2008 14:43
You make some very good points Scott, but you mustn't forget that you have a large audience base. This means you are pretty much guaranteed feedback to every post and can use the quantity of feedback as a guide to what is popular and what isn't.

I've been running my blog for about nine months and get less visitors per month than you do per day. Only a fraction of my posts get even one response. For small-scale folk like myself, the number of page hits is all we have as a guide to the number of visitors. Whether those visitors are real people or not isn't that important. Most of my visitors are friends and colleagues after all. In fact a visit from a search engine is probably more useful in terms of eventually getting new visitors than a visit from a friend! :D

I've bookmarked this page though as it'll no doubt be a lot more useful if and when my readership grows significantly.
March 26, 2008 16:57
Hello Scott, I stumbled upon this from reddit. Nice article. When I installed analytics on my own blog, I did the same as you: checked the numbers every day. Then, I skipped a day, and another, and now, I barely look at it. Maybe I should even remove the code, so my page is snappier to load. I have feedburner to track my feed stat, which is probably how most people are reading my text anyway.

Thanks again, and have a nice day !
March 26, 2008 17:00
Scott, just wanted to chime in and say that I come here primarily for your diabetes posts; they are always informative and insightful. I first heard about amylin from your blog, believe it or not. My techie husband is a regular reader of your blog for . . . all that other stuff. ;) When he found out that you had Type I he sent me a link immediately. "Ever heard of this Symlin stuff?"
March 26, 2008 17:05
Hey Now Scott,
There is one body right here, your content is great. My favorite are the pods, original posts, & weekly source code reviews.
Hanselminutes Fan,
March 26, 2008 17:10
I can´t halve the hits you get but i can contribute to the doubling of comments! :-) I come here almost every day (maybe i should check out google reader).

Greetings from Iceland

March 26, 2008 17:27
It was really refreshing to read about your posts about Baby Sign Language, home building and wiring etc.
Reading the blog has become a part of my daily routine regardless of the subject matter.

March 26, 2008 17:45
I completely agree with Baggio, reading your blog regardless of the subject matter is my daily routine. I actually do look forward to the various "other" non-techincal posts. I really enjoyed your posts about you kids development, I have a son who is just a bit younger and it was nice to see what might be coming (of course all kids are different). I also feel that I have a deeper appreciation of what it is really like to live with type 1 diabetes. Basically, keep all of the various blog posts coming, and thank you for sharing your thoughts.
March 26, 2008 18:17
Thanks for helping make sense of Feedburner statistics. The fluxuating number of subscribers doesn't make sense at first, as if people are constantly unsubscribing and resubscribing. I think Feedburner could use a better way of counting subscribers. I still find other Feedburner stats inscrutable. For example, I've seen the number of visitors to my blog go up while the number using each individual operating system goes down. I don't think this was attributable to robot traffic because visitors by city and by screen resolution were up.
March 26, 2008 19:03

It's funny, the posts that I like writing, the deep technical stuff, programming languages stuff, it seems like no one cares about.

I think I speak for lurkers everywhere when I say keep the technical stuff coming! (As someone considering parenthood, I think the BSL stuff is great too :)
March 26, 2008 19:21
Very interesting post. Any chance you'd be willing to discuss your ad click-thru rate and how it relates to pageviews/visitors? I would be interested to learn if and to what extent they correlate, for those of us who hope to make a few extra bucks from our hard work as bloggers through supporting ads on our blogs.
March 26, 2008 20:59
Scott, I know you mentioned how you can tell the difference between RSS and non-RSS traffic, but what about people who only use the RSS view to read? 90% of the time I read the blog entirely through RSS. If I want a slightly cleaner view or to look at comments, then I click in. Have you considered changing the RSS to only show a preview of each entry? It might force people to actually click into the posts they're interested in (and give you better stats). I'm sure some/a lot of people might not like it, but it is your blog. :) Other blogs I read only give the first few hundred characters or few dozen lines. It is enough to get my interest. Either way, keep up the good blogging.
March 26, 2008 21:05
I've been reading your blog for a good 3 years at least and I appreciate the wide variety of posts. The difference between your blog and a straight technical blog is that you seem like a real person just be reading. As an example of the opposite, a lot (though not all) of the posts from are pure, technical content. Good for information, but not for reading, if that makes sense. I'd just as soon Google over for information than subscribe to a lot of them. Knowing that there really is a person behind the writing makes a big difference.
March 26, 2008 21:09
Hi Scott
Can you explain how you do this trick with the "hidden 1 pixel graphic in each post so I know which posts are viewed in any aggregator that loads images. I know which items are forwarded as well. All those views are separate stats that count for about ten+ thousand views per day. I know as much or more about RSS Traffic (to the item level) as I do about web"?
March 26, 2008 21:26
Hi Scott,

Just wanted to say thanks. I became a reader of your blog about a year ago. I like the fact that you include the full article txt in the RSS feed since I use google reader and I don't really like the blogs that have just a short paragraph and expect me to go to the site to read more.

I follow 99 subscriptions right now and I begin my day reading all the posts. I want to read everything in one place so I use Google Reader (before that was newsgator via Outlook). So thank you for having your blog so accessiable. Your blog is one of my favorites and I look forward to each new well thought out and interesting post.

I'll try to become lesss of a lurker and more of a participant in your community.
March 26, 2008 21:36

"It's funny, the posts that I like writing, the deep technical stuff, programming languages stuff, it seems like no one cares about"

Please don't stop with the highly technical articles. Sometimes they zoom right over my head, but that usually prompts/helps me to research more. Either way, I always learn something. Keep up the good work Scott.
March 26, 2008 22:17
You hit the nail on the for yourself. I have a fledgling blog that I write for the sole purpose of enlighting/reminding myself about development fundamentals...and hopefully along the way someone will be able to use a snippet or concept I blog about...or maybe a new developer will find a place that doesn't have a ton of TLA's and other sometimes daunting jargon.

Anyway, big fan, occaisional poster here standing up to be counted as a body.

March 26, 2008 22:55
Blog for yourself. Couldn't agree any better. My blog primarily serves as my notes available to me wherever I am for as long as I could connect online in case I need it for myself or need to share something it with someone.

But if I may also add, looking at stats will give a glimpse of how you make other people benefit from your blog which is to me as equally important. I simply don't want myself to benefit from my own notes but somehow hoping that one way or another it might benefit another soul.

I don't even want to start on how many subscribers (i do have a few) I have and how many comments I have in my blog as of now (a clue = "1" and guess what I posted that comment myself). But that will not stop me from blogging because one of my goals in the first place is to take notes for myself (having no readers if ever would not affect that) and secondly, hey I have a few (not just one soul) who somehow (hopefully) benefits from one of my posts or two and I'm happy with that. It would be nice and ideal if there was more comment but who knows they must just be "lurkers".

Also, seeing someone from somewhere half the globe actually read some of your posts (and have some returning users) is more than enough reason to smile. And "actually read" is actually just an assumption but I think somehow the "Time spent on a page" or "time spent on the site" might also be worthy of mention.

Blog in any way to share anything that may be beneficial to others but definitely keep blogging for yourself.

Been a lurker for sometime but love your blogs (who doesn't) so keep them coming... :)
March 26, 2008 23:10
Oops, bloopers. Always being a "lurker" makes you not even get a comment right. Even had my last name spelled incorrectly and my home page an extra "s" at the end. That name doesn't exist but this corrected one does so you can now count me as a "warm body" Scott (and not some phantom commenter) :)
March 26, 2008 23:36
I'm primarily a lurker that subscribes via the Windows Live Mail reader - I also listen to your podcast. Keep up the technical posts and the personal ones - I like hearing about your adorable boys and your traveling adventures as well as the tech stuff.
March 27, 2008 0:00
Thanks for this post Scott, it made a lot of sense, and maybe added a little sanity to the whole stats thing. One thing I'd be very interested in is a follow up on Microsoft Analytics. I live in Germany and from here the AdCenter site is dreadfully slow. Maybe you could post about it in a couple of months and let me know how it feels from over in the states?

March 27, 2008 2:02
I started reading your blog when ASP.NET MVC was first being blogged about and you had one of the only three posts on it. I'm glad I became a subscriber, and recently a listener. Keep up the great posts and podcasts.

I've avoided posting stats or displaying a feedburner chicklet on my site since I only have six readers or so. Mabye, I'll post stats in the future, but right now they're not really helping anyone out so there's no point. It's surpising to me to see visitors from all over the world finding my blog. This Internet thing sure has changed communication.
March 27, 2008 2:14
Scott thanks so much for the great blog. I've learned a lot from you already I can honestly say that this is my favorite ms blog. Watched your guerrilla video from Alt.Net of ScottGu introducing MVC and it was an amazing presentation. You are the perfect presenter for Microsoft because you cross "party lines" and I feel that you are even-handed as far as what to use. Also please keep up the posts about C# language features, I learned about ?? and implicit and explicit from your posts too. I think of you as more of a real person than a masked uber-geek beause of the personal posts about baby sign language, your home office, and your wife. Kudos!
March 27, 2008 16:20
Hey Scott, How about a "deep technical" delve into the new IIS Log Reporting module? Be interested in your take.

We use Google analytics for our customer sites (not blogs) but really treat all but the OS/Browser versions etc. as potentially meaningless. Activity on your site whether it's comments, sales, sign-ups whatever will always be the marker by which you should judge whether you are doing a good job - or not.

But you're right, it can be flattering to get past the x hundred/thousand/million 'real' people coming to see what you are offering, that's what this is all about right? People.
March 27, 2008 23:11
Wow! Alaska sure like this blog ;)

March 28, 2008 2:41
Just found your blog today while search for solutions for the XSD hell I've been tossed into. Already added to my RSS feed. I'm all of two months into blogging and have enjoyed it quite a bit but reading through a few of your posts I am shocked by the quantity (and quality) of text you are able to pump out on a regular basis.

Really great stuff in here Scott - I'm just pissed at myself for not finding this earlier.
March 28, 2008 6:40
A longtime lurker comes out :)

One of the best things I like about is the layout, especially the fonts. No other blog has this kinda layout that's fascinated me for so long :)
March 28, 2008 19:58
Love all that you do Scott! You have great content, and you're a great asset to the community. If you really want traffic (comments) on your site, you should post about politics and/or religion :)
March 31, 2008 1:49
@Mark.S: Well i do post about politics and/or religion and i'm not getting any (serious) traffic. Oh the life of a D-list blogger... Still, it's kind of nice to see that i'm viewed by an average of twenty pair of eye-balls daily, considering i don't interact with an average of twenty pair of eye-balls on a daily basis otherwise.

Oh, and Scott, don't worry about blogging what you want compared to what's popular. I've been a subscriber to your podcast for a year now, and being the non-programmer guy that i am, i do enjoy the less technical and less programming-centric podcasts more. There are even times (gasp!) that i've skipped a podcast ten or twenty minutes in the programming when i realized that hearing about the specifics of data binding isn't going to make my life any richer. Still i keep myself subscribed because i may get an idea about the idea you're podcasting about. Like that even if your testing has full code coverage, you've only tested your code given those specific parameters. It's like science. Having tested something shows that some thing or other works (or fails) given those specific test settings and one may at most extrapolate from there.

Anyway, i just thought i wanted to stop by and say hi and thanks before heading back to my blog to say hi and come back to my single visitors from Slovenia, Czech Republic, Cambodia, Serbia and Montenegro, Iceland, Timor-Leste (the country previously known as East Timor), Morocco and Syria! It's kind of a revival from the times i checked the httpd logs of my first topical web pages (back in the early 90's) to see that i have actual visitors from abroad :)
March 31, 2008 5:25
Yes I'm a lurker, and I have a good reason for that: I'm not a native English speaker and writing takes way more time for me than reading (and unlike you, I do sleep ;) ).
But it is part of my new year's resolution to be more active in online communities (I'm speaking about the new Persian year, 1387, which started 10 days ago).

Anyway, thanks for your great content, I sure enjoy reading every one of your blog posts; you're in my essentials folder in Google Reader.

PS. Plz don't use the word "lurker" again! :(
March 31, 2008 17:24
"Not sure what to do with the 2,200 visits by 800x600 people."

Just what you are doing: keep your daily (blog) content to the left, and your sidebar to the right (where viewers can sidescroll if they choose.) I'm an 80x600 person, and this set up suits me just fine.

: )
April 02, 2008 0:23
People in the Sahara desert don't seem to be interested in your blog :(.
April 02, 2008 5:50
I do care about the "deep technical stuff, programming languages stuff". Actually, that's what I come here for.
I think you are fun to read, you write without care, and that is pretty nice.
Anyway, I wouldn't change it, so, whatever you're doing, just keep doing it. :)
April 02, 2008 8:27
Interesting analysis. I also agree that you can't rely on the numbers of hits to gague traffic. Personally, my blog doesn't get very many comments as it is highly targeted and strangely disorganized at the same time; therefore, I gague traffic based largely on incoming referrals from Google (and based on the query... I wrote software into the blog to extract the queries and store them).

- Posted by zi255_TrackBackBot
April 02, 2008 16:16
Great article, but I think for my website direct link, search engine and referrer are all important.
April 04, 2008 2:03
Hi Scott!
Say, I was reading about your web site stats and was wondering if you had any ideas about using Googles web optimizer? Maybe your already using it. I'd be curious about your thoughts.


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.