7 Blogging Statistics Rules - There is Life After Page Views
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.
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.
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.
- The Developer Theory of the Third Place
- Twitter: The Uselessfulness of Micro-blogging
- Slashdot Traffic, Site Statistics and dasBlog Performance
- Blog Stats are Confusing - GETs, Views, User-Agents, Readers, Eyeballs