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?