Blog Stats – Should We Pay Them Any Attention At All?

A disclaimer right from the outset – I’m a bit of a stats geek.

Numbers, tables, graphs, trends, I lap them up.

More importantly, I love how they can show patterns and changes over time, and give us useful feedback about what’s going on, and how we can improve what we’re doing.

For WordPress bloggers, there are a plethora of stats available in your dashboard. But are any of them any use?

Here are the ones I look at, and how I try to make sense of them to influence and improve the path I take with 35hunter.

Views per month

This shows how many page views 35hunter has had each month. It’s useful to see the trends, and what it shows me lately is that, aside from a significant spike in January, I’ve averaged around 8500 views a month for 20 months.

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This is pleasing in many ways, but slightly perplexing in that having published around 20 posts a month all of this year, in the months prior to that I’ve got the same or more overall views with only 12-14 posts per month.

Is, say, 15 posts a month the saturation point for 35hunter readers, and beyond that some posts aren’t being read at all?

Would I need to push through to another level, say posting daily, to consistently see more than 8.5k views overall per month?

Views per visitor 

When you hover over any month, you get extra stats, including views per visitor.

This is helpful in that it shows that over that same 20 month period I’m averaging around 2.7 views per visitor, and in 2019 only, it’s averaging 2.95.

Or, in other words, every time someone visits, they look at nearly three pages on average.

This has increased from only around 1.8 in 2017, so it’s reassuring that people are not only visiting more often than back then, but reading more each time they do visit.

Comments per month

As I’ve talked about before, conversation and community is the life blood of this blog and why I run it.

If I had no comments from you the reader, there are limited reasons to continue, certainly at the publishing rate I do.

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This graph of total comments per month shows far more variation than page views.

Over the same period from Jan 2018 to present, the peak has been 439, the lowest 135, less than a third of the maximum.

Some of this will be down to variation in how many posts I’ve published.

But even since January this year, where I’ve consistently shared a new post every 36 hours, the comments have varied between 213 and 383, quite a range.

I guess we can only put this down to the content of the posts, and how compelled (or not!) you were to discuss the topic(s) further.

To be frank, I don’t know how to reproduce that month of nearly 400 comments every month, and wish I did.

Average comments per post

Finally, under the Insights tab, you can see a review year by year of a number of stats, unsurprisingly called Annual Site Stats.

One that’s most interesting to me here is the average comments per post. This of course takes into account the overall total comments, plus the number of posts.

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2015-2018 shows a very satisfying rise, to almost 20 comments per post.

But you can see that again despite the greater frequency of posting in 2019, it hasn’t meant the same level of commenting around each post.

In fact the average has dropped back to around 14 per post, the same as 2017 when I was only publishing about every four or five days.

Conclusions

Well, if you’ve read this far, thank you, you must be as much of a stats geek as me.

This analysis has been quite surprising.

One of my intentions overall with posting more frequently this year (every 36 hours) was to increase views and interaction (ie comments) overall.

But this doesn’t really seem to have worked, from the raw stats.

It would suggest that perhaps 15 posts a month – or one every 48 hours – would give the same overall views and comments as 20 posts have been.

Certainly one of my concerns with posting every 36 hours is overwhelming even the most devoted reader with just too much content.

If I think of the blogs I follow that post most frequently (one publishes every day, the other six days a week), I don’t read all of the posts immediately.

The daily one has fairly short posts, so typically every three or four days I’ll catch up with three or four posts at once.

The other blog I read many of the posts, but not all. If they posted two or three times a week, I’d probably read every one.

Which I fear is what is happening with readers of 35hunter too.

The only way to test this out is, well to do just that, test it by publishing every 48 hours for a couple of months and see what impact it has.

Potentially, with less time needed to write 15 posts rather than 20, I could try to use that extra time to try to raise the quality (and interestingness, if that’s a word) of those fewer posts, and encourage more interaction around them too.

Sounds like a plan.

The title of this post is Blog Stats – Should We Pay Them Any Attention At All? 

My answer is twofold.

1. If you’re going to obsess and pore over every aspect of your stats daily, then fret when you have a dozen fewer readers today than yesterday, when you could be spending this time responding to comments or writing new posts, then no, this isn’t a good way to use the stats.

But..

2. If you use your stats to review the lay of the land over one, three, six, 12 month periods, I believe it can provide considerable insight into how your blog is working for you (measured against your own personal aims for it, not anyone else’s), and give some ideas of how you can evolve the content and frequency of your posts to make it better.

Personally, I’m off to further mull over changing my posting rate to every 48 hours rather than every 36.

But how about you? How do you make use of your blog’s stats? What tips can you share with us?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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8 thoughts on “Blog Stats – Should We Pay Them Any Attention At All?”

  1. Hi Dan. As someone who is whatever the opposite of a stats geek is, this was very interesting. I was a little surprised that people track such things, or indeed that it was even possible. I am down to just a few blogs now, I cut down about a year ago, and the majority of those have either gone silent of post so infrequently that I almost forget they exist. I always read Jim’s blog and yours pretty promptly, but don’t always comment unless I feel like I have something to add. Honestly, I’ve been in a deep funk lately and have little to no interest in photography at the moment. A post every 48 hours seems like a good plan. I do always take something away from your posts though.

    1. This is the trouble with so many blogs, or any other kind of websites worth reading, they come and go too often.

      Partly I do feel this is a symptom of our times, with all the three second attention span social media and advertising that we’re constantly fed.

      For some whose diet is only these tiny bite size morsels, I imagine digesting a whole 500 word blog post must seem like eating an elephant. Goodness, what must a novel be like??

      What’s happening with your photography Jon? Is it a photography specific “deep funk” or in your life in general? Maybe just try something really simple, photography wise, with no expectations? Or have a complete break for a few weeks, again with no expectation?

      1. I can certainly understand how it happens Dan, I know Frank is having a lot of life getting in the way of his blogging, And if I had a blog, I wouldn’t be doing it right now either. I’m in the midst of a general funk after losing my job. I’m just taking some time off from taking pictures right now, I’ll probably take it up again in the Fall.

      2. I guess the trick is making it such a fundamental, you don’t really question stopping.

        I’m pretty good with stuff like this – I’ve had a morning yoga and exercise practise for nearly nine years and only missed a handful of days through illness, and blogging is something I just do in some form virtually daily too, and have done since the early 2000s. These things are almost on the level of eating, sleeping and breathing, they’re just a fundamental part of life, then other stuff gets added around them.

        Ok perhaps a change of season will give you fresh inspiration. I love the autumn!

      3. Yes, I’m with you Dan, Spring and Autumn are my favorites as well. It’s interesting that Jim posted basically the same thing today about how he keeps his blog going. It’s pretty much the first, or one of the first things he does every morning. For me that used to be my cigarettes and coffee (The American Breakfast) but I quit a month ago.

      4. Yes, I was quite surprised to see just how similar my and Jim’s approaches are, but I guess that shows these strategies work.

        I don’t really have the time in the mornings, and with three young kids (the youngest being 9 weeks old!) and our nights not yet without multiple interruptions, getting up earlier to write isn’t the most practical approach for me!

        I’ve been pretty “straight edge” most of my life (never smoked, don’t drink coffee or anything else with caffeine, very rarely drink alcohol) so your American Breakfast sounds pretty horrendous to me! I’ll stick with my fruit and kefir yogurt, fresh water and home baked spelt bread. ; )

        The last week or two we’ve had some damp mornings where the fields have a layer of dew, and more cobwebs are appearing. A sure sign that autumn is almost upon us…

  2. I don’t have a blog, so can’t obsess over it’s stats. However, as a physician, I sometimes find I become too focused on the numbers of patients in the practice, etc. I agree with you that the benefit of stats is to help spot trends and guide future plans. I enjoy your blog, and usually find it stimulating. In my personal situation, with a busy family and professional life, I can’t get to some of the posts. I think I will likely comment more if there less posts, giving me more time to concentrate on them.

    1. Thanks Martin, yeh I think that’s the key, seeing patterns over time, rather than getting bogged down in untypical ups and downs.

      I do plan to try the 48 hours approach, once the current batch scheduled every 36 hours are all live.

      Thanks for reading!

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