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An interesting thing happened on this blog over the past couple of weeks: The Tossing It Out posts have been decreasing in page view numbers. Through an analysis of the situation I have determined the reason. I can blame it on President Barack Obama, the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), and the disastrous HealthCare.gov website and I have the evidence to back up my claim. In this post I will explain what has happened.
Yes, this post is about the dreaded topic of blog stats. You may be thinking of leaving right now, but I say wait and let me present my case to see if I can influence your thinking on this. I'll try to keep it as interesting as one can do when it comes to talking about numbers. Trust me--I truly believe there is an interesting and very helpful story to be told in the blog stats. If you will go along with me and then give me your thoughts in the comment section I think we can learn something that may be of use to all of us. And there is a payoff at the end of the post that will tell you about the wrap-up of this series coming in my next post.
Can Blog Stats Be Trusted?
Many weighed in with the opinion that blog stats are essentially unreliable. Numbers of many thousands of pageviews, thousands of comments, and thousands of followers were cited by some of you. All I can say about that is show me the numbers. I don't have much to say about those instances without seeing for myself so I can make my own analysis. If you want to offer some links for me to follow, then do so in the comments. And even then what we see is not always the true story.
For example, Alex J Cavanaugh mentioned a blog he saw with over 58,000 followers and 5000 comments per post, but as Alex pointed out "it wasn’t someone famous, and the posts weren’t anything out of the ordinary". What else do we know about this blog to tell us why those numbers are there, if they are accurate, or if the blogger is reliable? The real numbers from real stats don't lie, but people do. And people can falsify the stats to come up with false number readings that can lead outside observers to come to the wrong conclusions.
In his follow up post Alex said, "Overall, most of you thought blogging was about community and comments more important than pageviews." I think this is a correct statement. But I don't think that it follows that pageviews are not important. I strongly believe that certain bloggers who have certain goals in mind should be thinking about their pageviews.
Blogging is about community and friends in part. There is a community of bloggers who focus on community and friends, but there is also a world (blogosphere) of bloggers who focus on many different things and the building community bloggers are a portion of that world. Like I said in my previous post, much of the debate (disagreement) arose from the fact that there were different sides talking about different subjects.
Forget About the Content, Let's Stick with the Numbers
Denise Covey left the comment on Alex's post "What Constitutes Quality Blog Content? that seeemed to be the most common concern expressed by those commenting concerning stat numbers when she said, "I read Arlee's post and I'm with you on page views. They mean little and just frustrate you if you see you've had 700 pageviews and only 50 commented."
My question to anyone who is thinking in this way is are you extrapolating relevant observations and reasonable conclusions from the data you have available? The numbers by themselves can deceive and discourage if they are not put into context. If you don't have any idea why the numbers are what they are it can be easy to avoid them or assume they are unreliable or untrue.
Now Back to my Own Diminishing Numbers
Regarding blog stats I can only speak based on my direct experience and observations and come to conclusions based on those things. With this in mind, I'm giving you the stats from the previous six posts at Tossing It Out and explain my interpretation of what happen. The stat page is as it appeared at about midday on Tuesday October 22, 2013. The order below has the most recent post (Oct 21) at the top and descends to the last post on the list which the earliest (Oct. 11). Here are the numbers:
Oct 21 Do You Respect Yourself 33 comment count
41 view count
Oct 18 Defining Respect as a Blogger 41 comments
63 page view
Oct 16 Respecting the Reader +6 37 comments
152 View count
Oct 15 Battle of the Bands +2 34 comments
58 view count
Oct 14 Do You Feel Respected? +13 97 comments
303 page views
Oct 11 Tossing Out. Another.... +1 23 comments
1792 page views
Oct 11: At first I was puzzled as to why my counter was showing 1792 views for a post that had relatively few comments. I was sure that the counter was daffy and in error. But then I realized what I had done and the numbers made complete sense. In this post that I intended to be a flippant filler with rather light content, I mentioned the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, and CGI Group which were all over the news on that day. Some of the hits may have come from search engines, but I'm more inclined to believe that many entities (government watchers, Obama staffers, journalists, and others with an interest) were set up to get notifications of mentions of these terms on the web and my post was among those. When these entities went to look at my post they saw that it was regurgitated material from other sources that was of no interest to them and moved one. I'm pretty sure that is the explanation for that post.
Oct 14: This was a post intended for a very specific audience in my normal readership. No buzzwords or terms that would attract attention. However this post did contain a plea to share and the readers kindly responded which resulted in many more hits. Visitors were also very compliant in leaving comments as I had requested. Two days after the post Alex J Cavanaugh mentioned it on his site and the post had another significant spike. Thanks Alex! And thanks to all of you who spread the word about the post. I also did a fair amount of networking concerning this post.
Oct 15: This shows a big drop because it is a Battle of the Bands post and these are not my most popular postings. But they are among my favorites and I enjoy doing these BOTB posts. The comments and views are higher than previous BOTB postings but probably because of the tie-in to the "Respect" series.
Oct 16: This was a guest post and probably shows a spike for that reason.
Oct 18: Since this is another very specialized post that is part of the "Respect" series the target audience is very specific and has dropped from the initial post on Monday. It's somewhat deep post material that does not attract many readers. However where Monday's post had about a 33% ratio of comments to visits, the Friday post now has closer to 66% of visits generating comments (intense very good comments) which shows that these readers are more invested in the series.
Oct 21: We see another drop to some of the lowest stat figures I've seen on my blog in a long time. However the comment ratio increases again with high value comments, showing less general reader interest in the series, but more investment by my niche audience for the topic.
The point is that though we are dealing with very small numbers, the stat recording system seems highly accurate and variances are easy for me to find an explanation for. Of course there are not overly high numbers to try to understand, but if there were I think I could find a logical explanation. If I could not then I might believe that stats are inaccurate.
There are many variables in stats as well. Are you counting your own hits to your site? If so there is a setting to change that. Is there something on a page that people are hitting multiple times like a Linky List? Are there highly searchable terms that may draw viewers from outside the community like Brandon and Bryan at A Beer for the Shower experience on their post about Amanda Bynes. And just who is Amanda Bynes anyway?
If there is anything in your numbers that seems to be inaccurate, there is probably an explanation to show that the numbers are not as off as they seem.
Enough Rambling and Back to the Point
Do pageviews matter? Ah yes, that was the original question.
If the content is right when the viewers get there I think the pageviews can matter in a very important way if you are looking for new readers who will keep returning. Once you've got your community loyal to you it's important to keep them interested, but if you want an even broader audience then the content has to capture the interests of both new readers and established readers. Maybe not such an easy task!
It's the same principle of the Blogfest or other audience outreach events. You want to attract more readers. Then once you have gotten the readers there you have to entice them to come back.
Here's an experiment for anyone daring enough to try it. If you regularly get a lot of comments, try going for a month without commenting on anyone elses blog or doing any social media notifications. Watch to see if anything different happens to your comments and pageviews. I've somewhat done this and seen the numbers drop. I'm not foolhardy enough to do it completely because I don't want to hurt my standing in the blogging community that I've been a part of, though my blog has seen the effects of some of my cutting back.
Blogging Is Marketing
We can consider that all aspects of blogging is marketing to some degree even if you are trying to sell your personality and wit to get more online friends. Yourself, your beliefs, your books, or your business or whatever other reason you are blogging, you are also marketing in some sense of the word. Marketing is sales (not always literally selling a product for money). Successful selling comes with numbers. I realize I'm losing some of you now who I didn't lose early on in this post. But that's essentially the way I see things
Community is great. Friendships are valuable. And I respect every reader out there. I imagine I could have made this post more clear, but my brain is roiling with ideas. This post--this series could go on and on if I let it.
Instead of going any further with my thoughts, I will end my portion here today. There is still one more installment to this series which essentially started with the concept of creating that exceptional post that goes viral with consequence and possibly big benefit to the blogger who created that post. So next we will touch upon the concept of the viral blog post.
On Friday I will have a very special guest interview with a blogger who did go viral in a very big way. She has an interesting story to tell and some thoughts about viral blogging that may make you give the concept a bit more consideration. Please be here on Friday for this very special blogger interview.
Do you have any stats you'd like to share? Have you determined why some of your posts have gotten very large numbers of page views without the comments to seemingly justify it? Do you purposely add key words and phrases that you think will score high on search engines? Do you keep track of things like Alexis Rankings, Klout, and other blog evaluation sites? If you actively promote your posts other than commenting on other blogs, what methods do you think work best?