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Your Statistics: More Than Just an Ego Boost

Or more than just an excuse to down a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and vow to give up blogging…

Or more than just an excuse to down a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and vow to give up blogging forever, as the case may be.

Most of us look at our stats more than we probably should; it’s natural to want to see whether anyone’s paying attention, and undeniably gratifying to watch the graphs go up, up, and away. But if you’re trying to build a readership and are not using the world of data lurking in your stats to inform your blog and boost your traffic, you’re missing out. Your stats page is way more than a bunch of charts with the power to boost or kill your confidence — it’s a bunch of charts that give you the ability to see into the minds of your readers and shape your blog accordingly.

Before we go any further, a caveat. This post is simply intended to help you pull information from your stats that might help you boost traffic and engage readers, but we know that for some of you, that’s not the point of blogging. There are plenty of people who use their sites as personal spaces to muse, vent, play with words, make one-on-one connections, or do a thousand other things that aren’t about building traffic. If that describes you, then keep on keeping on and ignore this post! If you’re looking to build more of an audience for your site, read on.

There’s a huge quantity of data captured on your stats page. For today, we’re going to focus on overall views and visitors, top posts and pages, and tags, and search engine terms.

Views and Visitors

This is the big ol’ graph with the light and dark blue bars right at the top of the page. Here’s ours:

statschart

This chart tracks both views and unique visitors; the light blue bars represent views, and the darker blue represents unique visitors. A view is counted every time anyone loads a page on your blog (for example, your “About” page or an individual post’s page), while a unique visitor is counted whenever a user visits your blog for the first time that day, week, or month. If your mom visited your blog twice today and clicked on three pages, she’d show up as three views and one unique visitor for the day.

At the top of the chart, you can choose what time period it covers — days, weeks, or months. Day view is great for seeing the impact of specific posts, but week and month view give you the data that helps you grow.

Looking at your stats in week or month view, you can see  what happened when you started posting more frequently, introduced that new feature, or changed your theme. You can see whether there are times of the month or year that are bigger for you; maybe you write a food blog and see holiday season spikes as the internet descends on your killer cranberry sauce recipe, or your pop culture blog gets a boost from tired workers killing the last few hours of a Friday afternoon.

Use this information to inform (or create) your posting schedule. You can either map out a calendar in advance (“I’ll prep eight Passover recipe posts and roll them out as the holiday approaches.”) or just time your posts to coincide with your visitors — there’s no need to rush to hit publish on a post you wrote on Saturday if your traffic spikes on Tuesdays. These stats might also give you insights into your content, especially if you write about multiple topics. Perhaps there’s one topic that resonates with more people, or different topics are more popular at different times. Which brings us to…

Top Posts, Pages, and Tags

“Top Posts & Pages” collects data on, um, your top posts and pages:

toppostspages

While “Top Tags” does the same for — you guessed it — tags:

poptagsandcats

You can quickly see what readers were most drawn to yesterday and today, and click on “Summaries” to access historical data and see what’s been popular in the past week, past month, or over the lifetime of your blog. Make sure you’re tagging your posts effectively to get the most out of these stats.

See if there are particular topics where your blog shines, or if you can spot trends among popular posts. Then, you can give you readers more of what they enjoy: try a follow-up to your most popular post, or introduce a new series based on reader interest. If a series or topic is falling flat, you can consider retiring it and experimenting with something new based on what people are responding to.

You might also use menus and widgets to direct people to your best stuff. Link to your greatest hits right from your “About” page, or add a widget listing your most popular posts — drive new visitors to posts that will suck them in, and they’ll be more likely to stick around.

It’s also smart to see what pages are racking up the views so you can keep them up-to-date. Since pages are static, we can easily forget about them and let their content grow stale. Your “About” page is a prime candidate — when was the last time you looked at that thing? (If yours hasn’t been refreshed since you started your blog, check out About 101 and 201 for help breathing in some new life.)

Search Engine Terms

The search terms data is the piece of your stats page most likely to make you snort ginger ale out your nose in laughter, horror, or both. These are the terms people Googled (or Yahoo-ed, or Bing-ed, or whatever-ed) to find your site. Here’s a sample of ours:

comedy

As you can see, we’re popular with both bloggers and hopeless romantics.

Thanks to the wonders of search algorithms, these stats will be full of hilarious, confusing, and infuriating terms that you’ve probably never written about, ever. At the very least, you’ll get fodder for the ever-popular “Look at these ridiculous search terms!” post; at best, you’ll find more useful data on what subjects people are interested in and what kinds of key words and phrases will make your posts and titles sing.

There’s lots of other helpful information on your stats pages, like readers’ countries and sites that refer readers to you; we’ll touch on that in a future post.

Have you used your statistics to inform your blog, or are they just a fun distraction? We’d love to hear from those of you who have used your stat data to engage and grow your readership!

108 Comments

  1. Michelle,
    This to me is the most useful post written by your team on blogging. Stats help you measure your success, where the traffic comes from, what keywords are the most popular. Although more basic, WP’s stats are as useful to a blogger as is Google Analytics is to a website: it’s a powerful tool to fine tune your content, and the layout of your blog. Kudos on this post.
    Le Clown

  2. I love analyzing which posts attract readers since so much time goes into each of them. It can be a surprise.
    Love your SEO’s! I got “Underwear tubbing” a couple of days ago. What is that???? I am sure they weren’t disappointed when they came to my blog.

  3. I noticed a jump in my readership when I started blogging more often, and also that Fridays are my “hot” days. The stats page is such an addiction though! Thanks for this.

    1. Yeah, me too.
      Ideas for blog posts haven’t been flowing recently for me though. I usually aim for more or less four posts per month but only published two in April. I definitely notice more readers when I blog frequently. I just wish I could persuade them to engage with my blog more, other than just liking posts. Comments make a blogger’s heart sing!

      1. You’re so right about the comments! My comment community is very slowly growing as well, but I noticed more of them when I reached out to others, and even more when I became active with social media sites. Have you tried that?

      2. Thanks for your reply. :)
        I joined Twitter a few months ago (I’m @cultureblogger) and I’m gradually starting to network via that. I definitely agree with you about reaching out. When I visit blogs and read posts that I like, I always try to leave a thoughtful comment, other than just “Great post!” or something like that. And I found that getting involved in the Weekly Writing Challenges from WordPress sparked activity and comments. I need to do them more often!

      3. I agree! I only participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge, but it does bring new traffic to my site. I always have too many ideas of my own to participate in the writing challenges! I’ll add you to Twitter.

      4. I am doing my blog daily, and weekends are not the popular time for my writing! And I find it so funny the things that people like or don’t like, sometimes I’ll write something quickly and halfheartedly, and its ‘liked’, but sometimes I will really take the time and…crickets! But I’ve only been doing it for two months now, and I’m told that this all takes time—Grace @ Cultural Life, do you keep a notebook for blog ideas?

      5. From what I’ve heard, I think weekends are quiet times for many bloggers. My stats are always low, especially on Sundays. I guess it’s because for a lot of people the weekend is a time for family, worship (for some) and relaxation.
        Oh, I know! It’s so frustrating when you put time and effort into a post and then….zilch! One of my favorite bloggers, Pegoleg (http://pegoleg.com), is currently doing a series called “Freshly Pegged” where she chooses posts that had bloggers “muttering, ”THIS One Should Have Been Freshly Pressed” and gives them a “Freshly Pegged” award. :D It’s great fun! I’m sure many of us have posts that we longed to be Freshly Pressed for after we hit the Post button!

        I keep a very messy record of notes for blog ideas. I should really organize myself and buy a notebook purely for blogging, otherwise my notes tend to get jumbled up with all the other clutter I seem to accumulate in daily life. I definitely think it helps to write ideas down, especially if you have a great idea just before going to sleep and then….darn….when you wake in the morning it has gone! That has happened to me before.
        Happy blogging!

      6. I have several notebooks: in my purse, one I keep at work, one in my office–sometimes just a few words, or a title, or just an idea. It’s hard to have something going on daily, so I always try to have a few reserves just in case–have you ever been ‘freshly pressed’? what does it take to get there do you think? x

      7. That sounds like a very organized method! :)

        I had the honor of being Freshly Pressed a couple of months ago. My FPed post was a Daily Post weekly writing challenge that I took part in; I wrote about saying goodbye to my mother a few moments before she went into surgery, knowing that 2 in 10 people did not survive the surgery. It was a very emotive post to write!

        I think it takes perseverance (I’ve seen some WordPress bloggers be FPed after only a few months of blogging whereas it took me nearly two years before I got lucky ;) ), good writing, interesting content and perhaps a little bit of luck to be FPed.

        Here’s a link to a WordPress support page, entitled “So You Want to be Freshly Pressed?” http://en.support.wordpress.com/freshly-pressed/

        There’s also a Daily Post series called “What Makes a Post Freshly Pressable?” which I find interesting and helpful.

  4. Great post. I’ve also seen that the stats help you understand your blog better–the drift that your blog is taking, what readers want, what you want as a blogger and whether these last two points are in sync.

    If you have more than one focus for your blog, sometimes you may observe that most readers are coming to read posts on a particular topic while you may really have a goal which focuses on another topic which is becoming unpopular. So, on the whole, even though hits and followers might be on the rise, stats become a good way to take stock and check if the blog remains inkeeping with your larger goals whatever that may be–creating a community, using the blog as a platform or something else.

    Sometimes this may help you change the focus of your blog or split your blog.

  5. Wow, I’m so glad I read this informative post. I had basic knowledge on how to use the stats but no idea these charts were so valuable. I plan to write series from my most popular posts and tag my posts more effectively. Thanks.

  6. I started blogging as my 40th birthday came near, once i got the hang of it I opened up to more options but my stats page, specifically the popular topics list you offer showed me that those posts (turning 40) were the most read, I have continued down that path on a more regular basis now… so thanks for this info :) alexandra

  7. It is difficult to address topics you could write about but don’t know your audience is searching for, but sometimes the search terms hint at an audience you might be missing, ot hit on content that your natural audience is looking for.

    I had a “How do I…” post that addressed some specific points, but thanks to a searcher who was looking for something similar (but not exactly what I had posted), I realized my ommisssion and wrote more on the subject, covering what they had been looking for.

    While I doubt I was able to benefit the original searcher, hundreds of others have searched for the new content and found it on my site.

    As for the hit counts, I have found that my business posts bring in the business on the weekdays, while the posts that affect people personally tend to see a lot of action on the weekend.

    And while I don’t do much with the international stats (other than keep a dwindling list of the countries that haven’t sent me traffic yet), It did make me aware that there are visitors from other nations and cultures, visitors who might miss some of the humor in my posts (if they are lacking some of the social and idiomatic context) and have made a point to acknowledge in my post when a joke may not hit home with my global audience.

    1. Thanks for sharing! The point on international visitors is an especially good one, and especially relevant if you’re writing more how-to/informative-style posts.

  8. I have been trying to keep an eye on my stats to see what time of day I publish helps the most. But it’s been varying so much as to not really matter. I probably just need more data :)

    1. Yo, Ruty. I’ve noticed that when I have big page views, I don’t have as many visitors, but when I have a lot of visitors, I have fewer page views. I wonder what’s with that. I haven’t yet figured out which days are most popular, though weekends seem to be pretty dead. Usually. Then other times I get a spike when I haven’t written a post. Wonder if they’re telling me something.

      1. I attribute big page views and less visitors to a lot of back & forth commenting –
        I’d have to think about the other scenario.

        I can’t tell anymore with all the spambots that now subscribe to my blog what exactly is going on.

      2. I accused one poor guy of being a spambot and he was real! My bad. In my defense his avatar is of a box of immodium. Good blog, though, so nice to find that. I don’t dare touch the other suspects for fear of computer cooties.

  9. It is helpful to see what people like and not, but sometimes it is totally baffling why a post that’s been up for months ignored by everyone suddenly get a couple of hundred hits for no apparent reason. If only one could see into the minds of readers, now that would be a fine trick!

  10. I noticed a boost in my stats when I started writing about posts on the daily posts, and using more humor in my writing as well. Thanks for the extra info on this!

  11. Your post was most helpful and answered clearly questions I have had that was not clarified enough in the support/help section. I have found it very useful studying my stats page each day for how I can improve readership and keep things alive on my blog. Thanks for posting this.

  12. I’m no longer on .com… having made the transition to .org (I still love you .com!!) and now that I have access to google analytics, I see that their stats report my pageviews at nearly 3x’s wp! Can you explain how they might be calculating differently? (And yes, I’ve excluded my ip address.)

    1. An initial investigation tells me that part of it is due to visiting bots that WP.com screens out but Google does not, although I wonder if there’s more to it. The investigation continues!

  13. Thanks for the information. Being rather new to taking blogging a bit more seriously, I have made a to-do to sift through my stats to get a better understanding of readership. Thanks again!

  14. I find the “views per visitor” the most interesting number on the stats page. I love it when that number is above 3. How wonderful to know that not only are people coming to read a specific post, but that they liked it so much they are sticking around to read more. A lovely ego boost!

  15. I hit that Stats Page update button like a crack pipe…

    this was an informative article–I’m already using most of the tips you mentioned, but I’ve completely dropped the ball on pages! Now I’m looking forward to revamping my About page and incorporating pages about my main topics. Thanks!

  16. Interesting stuff… specially to understand what is making my site click with the search engines. And yes you are right while most of us struggle to find the right key word for blog, when I see the search terms people use to land on my blog I can only wonder in disbelief.

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