I’m Breaking the Blogger Code of Silence and Talking About Numbers

by Jodifur on April 9, 2012

I recently read a post by Melissa about numbers and being counted and what numbers really matter.  And she was talking about comments, but what it got me thinking about was my stats counter.  I’m not  a blogger who obsess over my stats counter, but lately I can’t help but notice the fact that my stats are plummeting.  And I’m not really sure why.

One of the first blogging conferences I ever attended was the BlogHer outreach tour in DC.  It was a really great day.  Small and intimate and I made some great friends.  People I still talk to daily.  One of the presenters said, if your stats are here you are small and if your stats are here you are medium and if your stats are here, well,  you are probably a professional blogger.  I was medium at that time and was feeling pretty good about myself.

Except in the past year my blog traffic has fallen until the small zone and I keep going back to that day at BlogHer DC.  How proud I was to be falling into some arbitrary category.  And how upset I am every time I log into my stat counter now.  And how ridiculous it all is.

I don’t blog for money.  It is not even my career and probably never will be.  Doug rightly points out that people interact with me on all sorts of other platforms like twitter and facebook and pinterest and lets talk about that fact that I just realized people leave you comments ON YOUR INSTAGRAM PICTURES.  (Hi, sorry, I’m not ignoring you, I didn’t know.  I’m an idiot.)  There is so much more social media noise than there was 5 years ago.  Or even a year ago.

Bloggers have written about taking their stat counter off their blog and maybe it is time I did just that.  Because my stats are not going anywhere but down.  And I’m starting to feel like if you blog in a forest and no one is reading it, why blog?  But that is the exact opposite reason of why I started blogging.  I always say, I blog because it is fun, and when it stops being fun, I’m not blogging anymore.  My stats obsession is making it dangerously close to unfun.

What numbers make you obsess?  Stats?  Comments?  Twitter followers?  Facebook likes? Pinterest pins?  Instagram somethings. (I’m going to start paying attention to that, um, soon)?

{ 36 comments }

Anne April 9, 2012 at 9:22 am

I love your blog and am a loyal reader but infrequent commenter. Why do I read your blog? I’m a lawyer and mom of young kids in the DC area. I like your writing and enjoy your insights into lots of different topics. Why don’t I always comment? I don’t always have something to add to the discussion. But I always enjoy reading and I hope you keep your blog going!

Shannon April 9, 2012 at 9:24 am

Well, I’m reading you.

I went to BlogHer last year and got so upset about the obsession with Twitter followers and Klout scores. As another attendee said, it’s like a high school popularity contest, but now you have an actual numerical ranking.

I’d like to say that I don’t care about that stuff, but, let’s face it, it’s natural to want people to read the stuff that you spend a huge chunk of your time writing. Still, like you, I remind myself that I do this as a hobby, and I have no intention of quitting my day job to be a blogger.

Side note, I saw one of your pins repinned on Pinterest, You Are Drunk, and I was all, “OMG, I know her!” Except, you know, I actually don’t.

Corey Feldman April 9, 2012 at 10:11 am

Ever since I started blogging most daily, and blogging very personal stuff at that. Plus the poetry series I want to turn into children’s books (which is actually harder to post and more personal than the anxiety depression, ADHD stuff). I have been obsessed with my stats. And I have to admit it drives me nuts that I get so few comments. I know I tend to get a few comments in Facebook on the posts, but its not the same. And while my readership has gone up more since I started blogging regularly, it hasn’t gone up as much as I would have expected. So what are these numbers by the way. What are the small, medium, big metrics?

Janine April 9, 2012 at 10:27 am

I do think it’s the fact that there are so many other places to comment. For example, you post a link to this article on Facebook. I click over to read it but might click back to Facebook to comment if other people are having a discussion about it there.

I think it’s ok to ask people to let you know there are here once in a while.

Cheney April 9, 2012 at 10:32 am

Yes, I’d also love to know what these numbers were that were spoken of, even if it was a few years ago and they may be outdated now, it would give some perspective.

My stats are what I consider very very low – maybe only between 5-20 unique visitors per day, haha! I don’t mind that though, because my new blog has only just begun, and it’s a new venture where I am sharing more with people in real life as opposed to just promoting myself on the blogosphere.. but what bothers me is seeing those visitors and not getting comments. I don’t care about stats as much, because they don’t really mean anything to me if people aren’t talking…

Jennifer April 9, 2012 at 11:25 am

I’m not sure what time frame you are meaning, but I’ve noticed that things have been very, very slow over the last month or so. It has kind of been freaking me out. I keep reminding myself that I do this for me and it is an outlet I desperately need so I’m not going to stop. I just wish other people needed the interaction as much as I do.

cagey (Kelli Oliver George) April 9, 2012 at 11:29 am

My numbers have always been small, so I don’t really pay attention to that. I primarily pay attention to where folks are coming from and keep an eye out for spikes (for me, spikes are bad, I’ve never gotten a good spike!)

Kirsty April 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm

If I started obsessing about my stats, I’d go insane – my blog is (pretty much deliberately) low key, and I don’t have enough real confidence in my mad writing skillz to go out there and tell everyone to read it. Plus, I’ve so far managed to keep most “real life” friends completely in the dark as to its very existence (when my not-quite-at-that-point-ex found my blog by rootling about on my computer, things got very, very nasty and that freaked me out; in reality, I wouldn’t care if most of my “real life” friends found it, but I do enjoy the freedom of blogging anonymously-ish).
The numbers I obsess about at the moment are the (rare) black ones and the (almost permanent) red ones on my bank accounts. I live, dream, breathe money right now. This year has, amazingly, been WORSE than 2011 so far and money problems are devouring me alive.
As for your blog, I read you pretty much religiously – I love the way you write, I love how “normal” you sound, I love your honesty. Without wanting to sound weird and stalkerish (I’m neither, I promise – plus I’m safely thousands of miles away!), I feel like we could be friends in real life. Please don’t stop enjoying your blog! I’m even trying to get up the courage to take a picture of a lovely pair of shoes I bought back in the winter before the wolves got to the door (I hate my feet and there isn’t a clear space on the floor so I’m scared everyone will think I live in a municipal dump…). Purple suede T-bar sandals with a heel I can barely walk in!

Mel April 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I do think that other sites defuse the conversation. Meaning, if some people are commenting on Facebook and some on Twitter and some on your blog, the conversation is probably going to be less because conversation begets conversation. People see things in the comment section and respond too. It’s something pretty much out of your control — you can’t control where people choose to talk — but I think it is a cause of defused conversation.

I get hung up on stats too. Then I start worrying about how my validation is coming from something external. Josh brings external validation too, but I believe he’s in it for the long-haul. So I don’t mind trusting that as much as I get scared trusting stats. So then I try not to think about stats. And then, inevitably, I look at them and the cycle starts up again.

I’d be really curious to hear those three levels. And I wonder if that person would use the same numbers now, or if the game has changed since 2008 (wasn’t that the DC event? G-d, do you remember how long my damn hair was at that event? I just remember eating so much candy from the candy bar. These are my memories whereas yours are of the useful information — what does this say about us?).

Mara April 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm

What about people like me, who read your blog daily but through google reader? I only ever click over if I want to comment (and it’s very rare that I comment). Don’t most people who follow blogs do so on a reader?

Stacy April 9, 2012 at 7:26 pm

So if you’re reading on google reader it wouldn’t show up in stats for the blog? I’m obviously uninformed about how it works but if that’s the case it makes me feel better about my numbers and the fact that friends who say they are reading aren’t showing up in my stats. Because yes, I totally obsess over them!

Heidi/The Closet Coach April 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm

No, they don’t count the same. Numbers for Reader/RSS views are different from numbers for a website; you actually have to visit the website (hit the server) for the site analytics script to fire and count you.

Which just means that you actually have 2 sets of numbers you can obsess over ;)

Angela April 27, 2012 at 11:03 pm

That’s just what I was thinking as I caught up on your last 15 posts in Google Reader. Plus, omg I’ve been so busy since moving to VA that I haven’t even been keeping up in Reader, I’ve dropped off twitter totally, I’m lucky to do anything on facebook other than use my drawsomething app while in line at the store (or in traffic, yes I’m bad). And my poor poor blog is lucky to get a post a month at this point. I think my main hope from Blogher this year (my first ever Blogher) is to figure out how to keep at it. I don’t watch my stats (I know they’d be depressing except for the 90 million hits from my mom) but I value my blog as my own data resource on what’s happened in my life. My online diary/baby book/communication tool. I don’t want to lose that.

Dawn April 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Don’t worry Jodi, I visit here daily and try to comment often (not as often as I’d like – have to sneak it in at the office and all that.) I haven’t really been tracking numbers but I did take a 6 month break so I wasn’t surprised when visits and comments plummeted. I think that you are a wonderfully talented writer and you do an amazing job with balancing how much of your personal life to share. Sending good juju for blogging to be fun for you again.

Elena April 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Um yes. I would agree with what everyone else has said about there being more places to interact which takes down the numbers for stats as well. But would also add that I think the added places have changed the focus of what does well on a blog. Between pinterest & instagram it seems like th more visual the post, the better it does. Which puts those of us that are less crafty and more verbal story teller in the weeds when it comes to traffic. I wish I could say I didn’t care about the numbers, but I do look. More than I should.

Jessica McFadden April 9, 2012 at 2:25 pm

You are one of the BIG blogs, so just deal with it! (Ha ha, I mean that in the sweetest way possible…)

I think there is just SO MUCH out there now that both traffic and comments are diffused and dispersed. For instance, before starting a blog myself I just read other blogs and once in a while uploaded a photo to Frienster. (Yup, I used Friendster.)

Now there is just so much to do online – who can keep up? I believe everyone’s numbers are dropping. I blame Facebook.

Andrea (Lil-Kid-Things) April 9, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I cycle in and out of caring as well. I will never quit blogging because it is too much a part of me. I might not make any more money or maybe I will, but stop? No. Part of me also wants to hear those 3 levels, but then my insecure self is screaming NO! Don’t tell me! I would rather be blissfully ignorant.

Kelly {the Centsible Life} April 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I so hear you. My blog stats fluctuate so much due to incoming links. If I look at my core audience I have a solid number of people, it’s the rest of the growth that’s puzzling. Then I look at all the other forms of engagement and on every one I’m growing (twitter, Facebook, pinterest, G+ {yes it’s a social network too}, and on and on). When I talk to people who are interested in working with me I focus on the areas I think would fit them, and if someone asks for everything I share it all. I think it’s tougher to measure by numbers now than ever before, and it’s more relevant than ever to look at engagement and interaction numbers. I think the idea of influence being pageviews is on the way out.

Mike April 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm

What numbers make me obsess? My accounts receivable and check book balance for starters. People following me on Twitter doesn’t pay the bills! (Although Twitter is how I found this article!)

kim/reluctant renovator April 9, 2012 at 8:16 pm

*like*

Jamie April 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Is your counter RSS aware? I rarely see your site directly unless there’s a specific reason (like commenting, checking out your new look, etcetera, etc., e…).

Chrisor (ynotkissme) April 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I’m sorry the stat game has got you down. I’ve never had more than a handful of readers to mine except once when a popular blogger retweeted my link on Twitter. So I guess it would be hard to have a lot of traffic and feel like it’s dropped off. A good reason for it could be that there are more social media apps and blogs showing up daily to distract people and suck their time. There’s only so much time per day or week that people have for reading blogs and maybe checking out someone new has kept them away from yours for a few weeks, etc. I don’t think you should take it personally without knowing for sure it’s you. You need to examine WHY you’re blogging if the numbers keep being that important to you.

I think a large part of your appeal is how often you post. It’s fun to keep up with someone’s life when you can almost daily see what is happening with them. Yes, like a soap opera which I’ll always have a special place for in my heart. BTW, I don’t know if I told you how much I like your revamped blog header! :-)

Issa April 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm

I read…even during tax season. Am horrible about comments from say February – the first week of May. But whatever.

I took mine down last year when I took down BH ads. It made me all paranoid when I didn’t post, because I felt like oh if I don’t post this week people will never come back. At this point for me, it’s freeing to not worry about it. People come when they come. Numbers made me obsessive.

Melanie April 9, 2012 at 7:11 pm

When I first started blogging on a platform in the early 2000s, I started living and dying by my stats. It was crazy. So about six months in I decided to stop looking. I still have to remind myself to go look at them (or I only look when someone asks for numbers). As you say, there are so many more ways to determine the value of what you’re doing and who you’re reaching.

Stacy April 9, 2012 at 7:36 pm

My blog is only a few months old and I’m slowly building readership. I’ve shared it some with RL people, but not broadly and I haven’t been tweeting posts or linking them from Facebook. I’d like more readers but I’m still struggling to figure out what I want the space to be for me. I try and remind myself that the reason I started it was because I needed to get the blog posts I was writing in my head out “on paper.”

Like others, I really enjoy reading your blog and I do hope you stick with it!

Niri April 9, 2012 at 9:15 pm

I think we all have gone through the same – mine has dipped in some places and I am A-OK with it. There is so much running around to get people to comment/stumble a post etc it feels all too exhausting and a bit unreal. It is what it is, and I like a few readers but deeper ones than several fleeting ones

Leticia- Tech Savvy Mama April 9, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I think stats can drive a person bonkers! Despite being tech savvy, here are my confessions: 1) I don’t know my numbers off the top of my head. Whenever someone asks, I always have to look them up. 2) I don’t get caught up in who might be visiting my blog by checking my analytics for IP addresses and other telling info. Friends of mine will often say to me oh- so and so big company X is on my blog for a gazillion minutes then speculate about why. I figure that if someone stops to read, great but do I expect them to contact me? No. Sometimes it’s just better to not look 3) I believe that good consistent writing is always the best way to build a reader base and you, my dear have done that!

I totally agree that when you get so hung up on numbers that it becomes an obsession that the joy in doing what we do disappears. So keep doing exactly what you’re doing and feel free to take down that statcounter if it’s driving you insane! Because it’s your blog! Do what you wish with it! :)

Corey Feldman April 10, 2012 at 10:40 am

You have 23 comments and counting. Community and engagement is what counts, you have that in spades!

Hope April 10, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I have always had tiny stats, so I don’t really look at them. I blog because I enjoy it and I know not that many people are reading. I guess the bright side of that is, I never have to worry about my numbers plummeting.

I wonder if some of the lower numbers is from people reading in RSS feeds? I make a point of commenting on most of the personal blogs that I read, but otherwise I’d just read everything in Google Reader and call it a day.

the weirdgirl April 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm

I’ve always had lower stats as well (so I’m used to that) but mine have also dropped over the years. The thing I miss are comments because I like the interaction and I used to be at least steady with those and now my comments are scattered across different mediums. However I continue to get followers which is sort of weird. I’ve visited some other bloggers and it seems like almost everyone, even some of the big name bloggers, are down in comments from what they used to get. I think it’s a combination of there ARE so many social network platforms now and there are also so many more people online. It was a lot easier to visit/comment/support other bloggers when there were only so many of us. Plus, I think the parent blogger community starts to grow out of only talking about parenting. You know what I mean? At least that’s where my blog has started going and it’s a different audience.

Jessi April 11, 2012 at 11:01 am

Mine have been going down recently too. And I was small to begin with. It’s kind of like high school and you just worry what you did wrong anyway.

Heidi/The Closet Coach April 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Putting on my analytics geek hat here …

First, you’re absolutely right to think about whether numbers should matter at all. Do they cause you to write differently? Less frequently? More often?

If you decide that they do matter, then think about *which* numbers matter. Do you need them to set rates for ads that are running on your blog? Then pageviews and unique visits matter. To feel like you’re validated? Then Loyalty (frequency and recency) may be more important.

And worry less about absolutes than trends. If the numbers are going down, see if you can figure out why. Did your referring sources change? (Maybe a big name site used to link to you and now it doesn’t.) Did your RSS subscriptions go up in the same period? (Maybe more people are reading you through Google Reader, like me, which means we won’t get counted as site visitors or pageviews.)

If you decide that they don’t, but you still want to look at your site analytics, think less about “how many” and more about “who.” Who is visiting your site? Are they mostly local or scattered over the country? What languages do they speak? What search keywords led them to you? What other sites linking to you did? This kind of data exploration can make the numbers more fun, I find anyway.

Hope this helps!

Jessica @FoundtheMarbles April 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm

My last couple of months have seen a drop in audience as well and it is very frustrating. I am not going to change how I approach my site because of the decline, but I know that numbers do matter for many potential clients. Let’s keep on trucking!

M&Co. April 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm

How do the readers fit into this? I read all the time but rarely click over.

Joanne Bamberger aka PunditMom April 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm

This is all so inscrutable when it comes to stats. But the thing that makes me sad is that it’s part of a conversation about how writing has been devalued. So many times today getting paid to be a writer isn’t dependent on the quality of writing, but on the eyeballs the writing gets and how much you can “drive” people to content. I used to make a living as a writer, but I can’t anymore because traditional outlets don’t pay as much or they don’t pay at all anymore, and online pay isn’t enough to make a living on for most people. I love writing and reading other people’s writing, but when one woman who actually won a Pulitzer Prize said to me that she’s not sure she can make a living anymore with her writing, what are the rest of us supposed to do? :(

Suzy Q April 18, 2012 at 8:41 pm

I read your blog fairly regularly but don’t always comment. Since I don’t have a blog of my own, I have never understood the obsession over stats. I especially don’t understand obsession over Twitter followers and unfollowers and RTs, etc.

Someone up there said, “People come when they come.” Wise words, if maybe not so comforting.

One thing I will tell you is that, as a commenter, I will always favor blog writers who give a follow-up response, especially if it’s a blog with not so many comments. It lets me know he/she is actually reading my comment and paying attention. You crave feedback? Well, so do we.

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