Wake up. Check my Feedburner numbers. Check my traffic stats for the day so far. Check my traffic stats with a second tracking service for comparison. Check my Klout score. Check my Twitter follower numbers. Check my Aweber subscription numbers. Check ebook sales. Check. Check. Check…
I’m not kidding. Every morning I wake up and check roughly 53,083 different statistics involving my various blogs. And because I’m curious, I check some of them two or three times throughout the day. This is in stark opposition to some of my blogging friends, who only check their stats once or twice a week – or even once or twice a month. Heck, I know people who don’t check their stats at all unless an advertiser asks for numbers.
But I also know that a lot of you out there are like me, checking your stats daily or even several times a day. So the question I want to ask is this: Does it matter? Do statistics really matter to you as you’re trying to build a better blog?
Today, I’d like to make an argument for stats. I know a lot of bloggers out there are telling you to forget stats, to not get so bogged down by them, and although I think that advice can be useful, I’d like to talk about the opposite perspective.
I’m somebody who sets a ton of goals in life. I’m also someone who has action steps written out so I can actually reach those goals, because it bothers me when I set a goal but don’t follow through. When it comes to career-related goals, statistics can actually come in quite handy. If my goal is to increase my readership numbers, how can I know that what I’m doing is working if I don’t look at stats? The concept of “write great content and they will come” is wrong; many awesome blog have closed simply because they didn’t have readers. You can’t just take a cue from other blogs in your niche either. What works for them to build numbers may not work for you.
Without stats, you basically have to try everything – and then continue doing everything. You have to be on every social network. You have to bookmark every post with every site. You have to reply to comments and send out newsletters and guest post and do all those other things that experts recommend for building traffic. What’s working? You don’t know – so you have to keep doing it all. If you track your stats, you can stop doing the things that do not work. If I only get three visitors a month from digg, and I going to continue using that site? Not if I’m getting 3,000 a day from Twitter.
So it follows that tracking stats helps you save time. You not only get to see the progress you’re making toward your ultimate goals, but you’re able to see what’s working and focus your time there.
One of the ways I like to use my stats is for brainstorming content ideas. Check out the search terms people are using to find your site. Those are the topics that they are most interested in, so you may consider writing posts relating to these topics. Which emails had really high open and click rates? Again, that indicates which topics people found most interesting. Did people unfollow you on Twitter in masses following a link to one of your posts? It might have offended people or was otherwise pretty far off base in terms of interest.
Content is the driving force of any blog, so if there are tools that can help me create content better tailored to my readers, you can bet I’m going to use them.
How much are you charging for advertising right now? Let’s say you get around 50,000 visitors per month to your site and you charge $50 for a small banner ad on the sidebar. Awesome. If you don’t check your stats, how will you know when to raise advertising rates?
If your traffic spikes, it might not be kosher to ask for a higher advertising price, but if you consistently raise your numbers, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not raising advertising fees too. Maybe by the end of the year, you’re getting 500,000 visitors per month. Charging that same $50 per banner ad is a little silly if that’s the case. However, if you only check your stats once or twice a year, when you do see that they’ve gone up, your ad price will have to jump drastically. Advertisers don’t like being told that that prices are jumping from $50 per month to $500 per month, even if you have the traffic to back it up. Checking your traffic regularly allows you to raise prices incrementally.
You can also send out notes to advertisers when you see significant spikes, even if you aren’t raising prices. Right now, I’m not working with a ton of advertisers, but in the past (when I was), I would send out quarterly updates, and I got a lot of good feedback from them about doing this. Even when there’s a slow month, they appreciate seeing the numbers and hearing what I’m doing to draw in traffic.
I will say this about stats: it can be an addiction. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I don’t need to check them every day, and I certainly don’t need to check them several times per day. You can waste a lot of time looking at your stats, and if you’re just starting out, it can be discouraging to see small numbers. Heck, when I first started, there were days when my site had ZERO people visiting (other than me). So, take my recommendation to check stats with a grain of salt. Don’t be too lackadaisical about them – but don’t become obsessed either.