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Making Sense of Stats

Statistics get a lot of hype. They let us know that people are reading what we have to say. While…

Statistics get a lot of hype. They let us know that people are reading what we have to say. While it’s easy to focus on the numbers, site stats are about much more than how many people have visited your site.

Essentially, whenever someone loads your site, you’ve got a page hit. On WordPress.com, we use a small, smiley-face image that counts as a visit each time the icon is downloaded onto someone’s browser. Every time we record a site visit, WordPress.com also notes where the icon was downloaded (i.e. your home page or an individual post), any links that the visitor may click on, and where your visitor came from to help provide you with information about  your readers and how they got there.

Aside from knowing how site stats work, in what ways can they help us with our blogging? Looking at the bigger picture of your page hits can let you in on trends for your site, giving you a more holistic view of who’s visiting your site, when, and why. Generally, blog owners see a slight boost in page hits after publishing a new post, but using the summary tables link on your stats page shows you how your site’s traffic has been growing or shrinking over an extended period of time.

Through your referrers, you can see where people are finding your site, demonstrating what’s been successful for you and how to improve. For example, if most of your page hits are coming from an interesting article you wrote in the past, try revisiting the topic for a refresher to bring in new readers. If most of your visitors are coming through Facebook, make sure you have Publicize enabled so your posts are automatically shared on your Facebook profile. Use your stats information to glean any extra steps you can take to promote your site and your writing.

If you’re a total stats junkie, you can also set up Google Webmaster Tools. Webmaster Tools will let you know how many times your site has been included in search results, and exactly how many people have come to your site through search results (and which searches brought them to you).

Using site stats as a self-analyzing tool can generate new blogging goals, ideas, and even relationships as you see who’s been most active on your site. Ditching the numbers to focus on the trends is a great way to see the big picture and how far you’ve already come.

What do your site stats mean do you? Is it something you use to hone your blog’s focus? Or do you hardly look at them?

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  1. Total stats junkie. Rabidly so. So much so that I have a spreadsheet that I use to analyze the data.

    Which day of the week is it best to post on topic X? What topics are users responding to? What do the searches that people are using to find my site tell me about what they are actually looking for (vs. the content actually on the post they went to)? What should I be posting more information on? What new content should I post about?

    An example of what I mean…

    I did a post on one thing that I thought might be helpful in answering the job interview question “What have you been doing since your last job?”. Within a couple of days, I saw a search term that found my post that indicated that the searcher was looking more for a pat, canned answer to the question. So I wrote a second post, detailing my thoughts on that subject.
    Of course, the search terms don’t tell me what searches people ran who didn’t come to my site, the missed opportunities.

    One thing I use my stats for is to brag when a post hits a milestone (1000 page views, 10,000 page views, etc), giving Twitter followers another chance to hear about a post they might not have noticed I made. Since these milestones indicate that a post has been found to be relevant and helpful by others, it increases the likelihood that others may find it useful too.

    Another thing I use my stats for is to prompt me to write more… when my hit rate slows down, I know I have been too lazy recently and need to get cracking on some new material.

    Finally, for the moment, watching my stats respond to my promotional activities (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) I can see the results of putting a little effort into promotion – what venues are good places to find an audience for particular topics? Where am I spinning my wheels?

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  2. I also check the stats everyday and use them in much the same way as Jim, but I didn’t think about sharing the page views like that – great idea Jim! I am using the ‘popular posts/pages’ widget to keep the very best work in front of people, and that stops useful past articles from slipping down into the depths.

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  3. Site stats mean at this point, for me, an unknown territory waiting to be discovered and hopefully successfully applied in the near future.
    Thanks, I needed this one…

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  4. The stats can be really encouraging for me. Seeing a boost in views after a right a new post is great motivation for writing my next one! I check them every day (and, I admit, several times a day). This is a really helpful post, thanks!

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  5. When I first started blogging, I was looking at them every day. But now, more than a year later, I care less about it.
    I still think that stats are important to overview what your readers like, but I like more the monthly overview, so I can check things more generally. What does it matter if people looked up things on day X or Y? It’s not possible that my stats are the same every day and I like to focus on what people like and not the numbers.
    Because that’s not what blogging is about. For me, it’s the fun of writing reviews and sharing them with (online)friends that matters!

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    1. Hi there! You really have summed the relationship between the Blog itself and the stats. I am the same; It’s been almost a year for me now and I too was overly concerned at the start with the stats but now it’s about coming up with new writings, replying to every single comment and the stats get a look in maybe every couple of months.

      I do see some in my Dashboard, but they reflect what I have come to know that Posting=Views. So I am less hung up on them now just like you. Thanks for summing it up so well and stating what the whole point about blogging is about!

      Imogen :-)

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  6. I had a huge spike in numbers after one post. So I looked at what search words or phrases were bringing people to my blog. It was connected to my post on “Vigilante or Self-Defense,” and a new development had happened involving the Stand Your Ground law. One of the men accused of killing another, following a robbery, was never charged. A few months later, that man wound up being an innocent victim in a deadly drive-by shooting. So that information prompted me to write an update on my original post.

    As most of my posts are not news-oriented, I use the stats to check for trends in viewing. They’re helpful, but I’m still trying to figure it all out.

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  7. I have a question about these “ever important” stats! Today, out of nowhere my blogstats show more than 4700 views from Japan. Weird. I’m a South African farmer’s wife minding my own blog quietly (mostly) and have had no more than 200 views a day. EVER. Any idea if errors can occur with regards to stats? Somehow I don’t see the Japanese fascination with my blog? ( although I don’t mind being BIG IN JAPAN just for a day,ne? :)

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    1. Wow, 200 views in a day-that’s Fantastic!! :-) I did laugh however at your ‘Japanese’ dilema! Maybe they really DO love your blog??!! :-D On a more serious note, maybe that really is where your audience is….I think it’s good whatever the case may be. Congrats! :-)

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  8. I don’t see the country stats that I was seeing at first. It only takes me to WordPress.com and when I click on Stats it does nothing.

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  9. Thanks for this, I do check my stats but maybe need to put the info to better use. I just love writing/blogging about topics I’m passionate about. One of those topics is health and wellbeing. I’m starting a new feature tomorrow called Wellbeing Wednesday ‘all about refreshing the middle of the week’. So check it out and join in on August 1. I’m always looking for useful feedback. It will be interesting to see if my stats go up as I’ve been publicising it more than the usual. Thanks!

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  10. mostly I ignore the stats – just another neurosis waiting to happen. Getting hooked on being liked, noticed, analysing the whys and wherefores of how visitors landed etc. Mine is a personal blog so its a pleasure when visitors stop by but thankfully its not essential

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  11. Sometimes it’s happy too look at my stats. it ‘s beause the hits are growing. but if in a opposite situasion, if only have little visitors a day, i am little bit dissapointed. to prevent ups and down of my feeling, i have stopped looking at the stats. i have just focus for writting

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    1. Good point – it’s good to know how stats work best for you. It sounds like you’re finding a balance in terms of when to look at them and when to leave ‘em alone and write :)

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  12. Stats can be fun, but…can also be diverting and sometimes misleading. I wrote a post called Mount Everest – it’s my most popular post by far, most searched tag – but not because I wrote about a big (ok the biggest) mountain – I didn’t. I wrote about the challenges of looking forward when you have a child with autism. So…all those lucky searchers who hit my post got a very different take on what Mount Everest is – from my perspective. So yeah, thanks for the numbers, but they are not exactly meaningful in this situation.

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  13. Ericva, this is a REALLY helpful article. I’ve never thought of stats in quite that way before, with reference to blogging. Shall implement some of your suggestions asap.

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    1. I totally agree with you! :-D I look at my stats periodically now and know enough about the trending but my Blog is my main focus and why I started it in the first place. Well said! Imogen :-)

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  14. Love stats. Although I post mostly about home life, my most often searched topic is the lonely post about my grandmothr’s quilts. I also get quite a few on her wringer washer. These are constant.
    Also, I’ve learned that if I post daily, Monday is my best day.
    Love stats.

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  15. Hi there! Great article breaking the Stats info down. I know mine are primarily post-related. If I haven’t posted in say a week, my visits gradually go down and only get a few views. However, when I am on fire ;-) and I post say 3 x a week consistently then this is reflected in my stats as well. So for me Posts=Visits.

    The nice thing that I have found also is as I have been blogging almost a year now, people are visiting some of my less recent posts which I really like; plus I have older posts that I can go back to and rework. So the patience and perseverance advice that wordpress advocates when starting a blog has been invaluable. I’ve grown too as well as my site!!

    Thanks You! :-D

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    1. Thanks for sharing! It’s definitely a good feeling when you see people are coming back to look at earlier posts, up to your more recent ones.

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  16. I started my blog at the end of January 2012 and check my stats most days. It’s been cool to watch my hits rise over the months and knowing what search terms people are using to arrive at my site is useful too.
    The “problem” I have is that I have little means of comparison. Eg. Is 2,500+ daily views good after over six months of blogging or not so good?
    I’d also like my stats to reveal a bit more – like how many returning viewers am I getting and how many are new or unique views?
    Still, I probably don’t need anything extra to obsess over, so I guess I better get back to my blog!

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    1. That’s a great question! 2,500 daily hits is certainly great – and I think site stats work best when you compare compare your daily page hits against your own goals/expectations. For example, if you find that you want more recurring visitors, you may pay a bit more attention to how many people are subscribing to your site.

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  17. I get an average of 200 to 250 per day and it only goes down when I don’t post for several days. For me, having those stats go crazy is more important than having followers who don’t even leave a word if they find your site worth the second visit.

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  18. Thanks for the information regarding site stats! being a statistics graduate i did wonder at the efficiency with the bar graphs presented themselves day after day with the number of views and words being searched for. I hope I witness some progress in this field as i think its an amazing tool to keep track!

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