Statistics Don’t Lie … Or Do They?

KeepCalmThis post was not on my Preview of Coming Attractions, but I’m pissed and felt a need to write it NOW.

Either NO ONE at all is reading me (and I find that REALLY hard to believe seeing as my posts are so unique, funny, etc.), or the WordPress statistics are simply wrong or too confusing to follow.

I know people are, in fact, reading because I have followers (and finally, there are more non-family than family followers), MailChimp says the majority of people on my list actually open their emails, and I get email and comments from readers on Facebook in addition to the normal comments on the blog itself.

Those of you who are experienced, established bloggers probably don’t worry much about statistics these days.  But for those of us just starting out, statistics are the Holy Grail by which we judge our worthiness.

After each published post, a new blogger will go onto his or her WordPress website and check those stats EVERY FIVE MINUTES!  (Well, at least I did/do!)

It took me awhile to figure out that posts read through the RSS feeds are calculated in a different area on WordPress – you have to go into the post itself and check the statistics there, and then it will tell you how many “views” are RSS.  RSS feed readers are not included in the numbers you see on the WordPress Stats page.

Even then, things didn’t seem to add up.  I started getting “followers” who, according to WordPress, had never even “viewed”my page.  Hmmmmmm?  Turns out, people who read my posts through the WordPress Reader page don’t count towards the statistics, and I only know if they’re reading when they sign up to “follow” me.

On one recent post, I checked the stats and learned that I had only one “view” – and that was in Trinidad.  I don’t know anybody in Trinidad (although I am very happy that you found me, whoever you are!).

Well, that was just odd ‘cause I knew from talking to friends and co-workers, from checking my MailChimp account, and from reading my email and Facebook pages, that I had more than one hit on my blog that day!

Am I soooo special that every one of my friends, co-workers, family and other readers jumped onto the earliest flight to Trinidad that day so that everyone could read my blog together?  Or perhaps everyone joined together in a Skype conference to read that day’s post?

OF COURSE NOT!

Don't Give Up

Come on, WordPress, have a little sympathy for us.  I wonder how many new bloggers, after reading their stats on WordPress, have said to themselves, “Eff this – no one cares anyway!” and then simply QUIT blogging?

I almost did just that.

But then I received a PERSONAL EMAIL from one of my non-family, non-related readers in a different part of the country, who told me You’re doing great!  Keep it up.”  [Thank you, A!].  And there’s another non-family, non-related reader in another part of the country who consistently posts positive comments on my blog [Thank you, K!].

Were it not for these two supportive readers at the very beginning of my blogging adventure, I would have been forced to rely only on the WordPress stats, never knowing that there were many others who were, in fact, enjoying my work.  And I would have given up.

There must be a way for WordPress to add a line or column to the stats indicating how many actual “hits” there are (including from the WordPress Reader page), in addition to how many “visitors” and “views.”  Maybe that still wouldn’t  pick up the RSS feeds, but certainly it would be a more realistic indication of who’s actually reading the darn thing.  This little bit of extra information could very well make the difference to someone who’s on the verge of giving up blogging forever.

Anyone else with me on this?  Wouldn’t all you newer bloggers feel better if you knew how many people are really reading your posts?

Thank you for letting me vent.

***

And now, back to the regularly scheduled programming …

_________________

As always, I love to hear from my readers:  cordeliasmom2012@yahoo.com

________________

Images by:  Tammy Strobel/Rowdy Kittens, and Rob Swystrun, respectively

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65 Responses to Statistics Don’t Lie … Or Do They?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm…if we read the posts in our email but don’t go to the blog, perhaps WordPress doesn’t get the count correct? The other thing is, kinda? Eff statistics. I know, I know, easier said than done but seriously? You will drive yourself mad. The one that makes me want to drink and eat chocolate until I lapse into a coma is Klout. If you don’t know about it just LEAVE IT ALONE! Back away from Google, just forget I ever typed anything! And if you do already know, well, I suggest a Chocolate-infused wine to just cut out the middle man. Anyway, the short of it is (1) Trust your readers more than emotionless stats and (2) it’s better to have even 100 loyal readers than 10,000 who are lukewarm.

    Like

    • Even without obsessing about the stats, I can definitely go for wine – anytime, any excuse! I’ll pass on the chocolate wine, though – I tried that once and didn’t care for it. (ooooo, am I having a thought for a future post?) At any rate, it’s good to know others feel the same way I do about those damn statistics – I’ll try really hard to ignore them, well at least until they become astronomical!

      PS: For those who don’t know (because I didn’t) – I don’t believe reading the post only through MailChimp counts in the WordPress stats (although it should count in the RSS feed), but more importantly: for whatever reason the email reformats the posts and sometimes moves the pictures around, and also often removes italics and bold fonts, etc. – so you’re really not getting the full effect of my work unless you read the blog itself. If you have time – click through to the actual blog (I spend HOURS on each post!).

      Like

  2. Karen J says:

    110% agree with you, CM! *This* should-oughta be forwarded to the PTB*** at WordPress – by every person who reads it!
    ***Powers That Be

    Unfortunately (Nay – Inexcusably!), I cannot find an easy (or even difficult or complicated) way to contact said PTB…
    Any suggestions (that work) would be welcome – PLEASE post them here.

    I had no idea that the *real* stats for a blog are all-over-the-WP-place! I do know that my ADD-ish brain is majorly unwilling to go hunting much (especially in obscure places) for information that is so basic, and ought to be easy to find and easy to digest.

    Like

    • I somehow suspect that WordPress will get word of my post – hope they don’t throw me off the site because of it. I love your comments – they’re always right on point and usually more interesting than the blog itself!

      Like

      • Karen J says:

        Thank you, but I highly doubt that “more interesting…” part. It’s quite apparent that you *slave over* your posts with as much care as I use to craft most of my comments. 🙂

        Like

  3. The technical solution is to use Google Analytics. I only use self-hosted WordPress, so I’m not sure if WordPress.com allows that.

    But here’s the real solution, and it doesn’t involve technology or recoding WordPress:

    Stop caring about numbers.

    Every coach of any kind will tell you: commit to the process and don’t get tied to the outcome.

    A person who’s trying to get fit and sees they gained a pound gets discouraged and wants to give up. They see they lost a pound, and the figure they have room to cheat. We’re wired for short-sightedness (see Daniel Kahneman’s tome “Thinking Fast and Slow”) so we get distracted by the shiny object of the number we love. Or hate.

    I wrote a post recently about chasing attention: http://joeldcanfield.com/chasing-attention-is-a-bad-thing-but-its-so-hard-not-to-do/

    You seem to care about your writing, and even have a discernible style.

    Are you writing because you have readers, or because you have something to say?

    If you’re not committed to writing regardless of whether or not anyone ever reads it, you WILL give up. Maybe not this week or this month, but eventually, the social and emotional pressure will wear you down.

    I actually do monitor the numbers on my blog and newsletter, but not as absolutes, as a trend, a pattern. As long as they keep going up, I know my general marketing plan is more or less on track. But in the early days, I had zero apparent readers. In fact, my oldest blog, coming up on 11 years with over 300 posts, has zero discernible traffic. Doesn’t matter. It’s worth writing, so, I write.

    Like

    • Thank you! Actually, Cordelia mentioned Google Analytics at dinner last night. I will definitely check it out.

      I can’t tell you how much your comment helped me this morning. You definitely put the whole thing into perspective, and I saw myself in your chasing-attention post. Yes, I am writing because I want to and not to gain readership, but gaining readership is definitely a plus especially for someone who was told by a high school teacher that her writing was totally worthless.

      Now that I’ve vented through this post (and apparently hit a nerve or two), I will try really hard to follow your advice and not let the stats affect me too much.

      Like

    • Karen J says:

      You’re right Joel – it can be difficult to “get my heart around” your advice. Especially for someone who hasn’t yet dug much into their “what I’m feeling, and why” places (read: newbies, beginners, the Unenlightened, even).
      “Stop caring about numbers” is, for many, as un-real-actionable a piece of advice as “Just DO it”: Sounds good, but the only way follow it is to do internal violence (more internal violence) to one’s soul. “I shouldn’t care…” followed immediately by “But I DO! What’s WRONG with ME??”
      If WP is interested in *nurturing* new writers (surely, a large percentage of their users) it’s on Them to make it easy to find those numbers. Just because the developers have evolved past (or gotten bored with) the status quo, doesn’t automatically mean that all their users are, too.

      Like

      • But Karen, I didn’t say “Just do it!” I wrote nearly 300 words here and linked to hundreds more about *how* and *why* to do it.

        So, your healthiest response would be to take a deep breath, and say to yourself “Here’s how I feel right now. If Joel’s perspective seems reasonable, how can I get from here to there?” and then work on that.

        Newbies and beginners are my target, and I’d rather say “This counterintuitive outcome is our goal; here’s how to get there” than to figger out some roundabout way of leading them down the path and then saying “Look, you’ve got a different goal than you thought you had.”

        Change should not involve internal violence. I used to feel the same way and it’s not productive.

        Change is about moving, however slowly, toward something we want more than what we have now, and focusing on the steps forward, ignoring the steps backward except where they teach us a lesson (and then, it’s the lesson we should remember, not the backward step.)

        Either you believe the numbers are important or you believe they’re not; or at least, suspect they’re not. If you accept the latter, you’re good to go. If you’re still at the former but want the latter, step #1 is not “Stop caring” it’s “learn enough about this to know why I should believe this new thing.”

        We’re not the Catholic Church. You don’t believe because someone told you to. You believe because you’ve analyzed the evidence and chose it for yourself.

        Like

        • Karen J says:

          Oh, Joel! You’re so right, but your assumptions about the vast majority of beginner-bloggers, as expressed here, just hit so many of my sensitive spots… I started this comment with the last one, so we’ll go with that:
          “You don’t believe because someone told you to. You believe because you’ve analyzed the evidence and chose it for yourself.”
          …Maybe – *IF* you’ve learned to recognize that you in fact have “inner beliefs” that color your views of the world and how it should work… AND you’ve already figured ’em out, analyzed where they come from in the first place, and what to do to circumvent or change them. Many, many, MANY folks aren’t that self-enlightened… Like you said, “I used to feel the same way and it’s not productive.” I did too – and I still get caught in that trap! It’s hard to recognize the color of one’s own glasses – we’re just so used to it.

          *I* never went hunting for “more stats” because I had no idea there would be more, plus I’m not so tech-savvy (even the lowish-tech of WP) to be able to find them! Methinks this is CM’s primary point:
          WP *knows* that not all their readership stats are available in any one place, and it would be far less discouraging for the average beginner if they WERE! >:D< (that should come up as a "Big Hug" smilie – I hope!)

          Like

      • Also, new writers should be nurtured by training for the long term, not by providing better Shiny Object Distraction Tools. I think statistical tools should be abolished. I’m thinking I’ll let Sue monitor our site traffic, since she manages our social media, and I’ll turn off the stats on my view because why should I care?

        Like

        • Karen J says:

          ^ That plan makes total sense! 🙂

          Like

        • Karen J says:

          But – But – WP already does provide a Shiny Object Distraction Tool, in the form of that spiffy bar chart on the Dashboard that’s labeled “Stats”! And there’s no clue that it shows such an incomplete picture of your readership.
          What people’s motivation is for blogging, or how to improve their emotional reactions, is none of WP’s problem – but *since* they provide *a* number, it ought to be as accurate and complete as possible.

          Like

          • I agree with Karen. If WP is going to provide numbers at all, at least give true ones.

            And, just a little aside to Joel – it IS possible to be serious about your art and still have some concern about the stats. A comedian can be funny as hell, but what difference does it make without an audience? Likewise, at least in my newbie opinion, writing for the sake of writing only is the basic idea, but I really want people to read me NOW, not after my death or something (which, by the way, I covered in Why I Write (and Will Continue to Write) on Cordelia’s blog. (And thanks for the opportunity to plug that!)

            Like

          • Karen J says:

            “If WP is going to provide numbers at all, at least give true ones.”
            AND – they’re the ones with folks on a payroll, who *know* (or can figure out, once and for all) how to compile them. Why should *each and every one of US*, out here, have to do the hunting ourselves, when what we want to be doing is the Freakin’ Writing???

            (Okay – I’m gonna try again to put my rant hat back in the closet 🙂 )

            Like

            • WordPress, in providing a free tool, has no “shoulds” attached. They owe us nothing. If Matt Mullenweg shut it all down tomorrow, he owes nobody anything.

              In fact, if he intentionally offers deceptive stats because he’s evil, those who choose to use his free tool have all the obligation, 100% of it, to know what’s what.

              I know this sounds harsh, but once you start down the slippery slope of “should” you have people mad at the Indian restaurant who won’t serve burgers for their fussy kids, or the book store that doesn’t carry paranormal, or the car company who won’t make a truck.

              Every single one of those folks is in business to serve their fans. If serving their fans means tweaking the stats tools in WP, Automattic will do it, never fear. And they won’t need us to tell them it needs doing because they use their own tools. They knew it before we did.

              Like

          • I think, Karen, people are missing something here. That stat page moves by effort, not by simply pressing “publish.” People that stare at their stats page after pushing out a post and “hoping” people will come by are pretty silly. Why wouldn’t you spend that 5 minutes going to get 5 people to read that post?

            Like

    • That depends on why you are blogging. We are here to blog, writing is how we blog. Some people are here to promote themselves, thus numbers are everything. I disagree fully with people that try impress on others this idea that “chasing numbers hurts your writing.” They are completely separate actually. If one is affecting the other that person is just not very bright…

      -OM

      Like

  4. It appears I have caused a *ahem* Discussion between two established bloggers. I love it! What fun I have to look forward to as I progress through this whole blogging experience. You are both wonderful and have made me feel very special today. Thank you!

    Like

  5. Teepee12 says:

    I have 600 + followers, but fewer than 100 visitors on average in the stats. I’m assuming most of them follow me in the reader or via email. You get a lot more hits on Blogger because I think they count everything, maybe more than once. But you don’t get anyone commenting. Big numbers, no people. Very weird. Don’t give up unless you really WANT to give up. Because obviously you DO have readers. I found you.

    Like

    • And I am very glad you did find me, and hope I can keep you with me. I am not likely to give up now – I have too much of my heart invested into this. (It’s also good to know that other people have also noticed the discrepancies in the stats.)

      Like

    • Karen J says:

      That’s an interesting point you bring up, Teepee – that different blogging platforms would have different stats-counting systems. It didn’t even occur to me because I’ve never used anything but WP-free.

      Like

    • Everyone follower becomes a silent reader eventually. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have (600 or 50,000) they all go silent. You have to keep getting new ones if you want comments and feedback continuously.

      Like

  6. I’m a newbie with I think 17 followers and I do like to look at my stats but just for curiosity no stress. I’enjoyed this discussion, thanks

    Like

    • Thanks for joining me (and adding to MY stats today)! I’m not very far ahead of you, but I’ve finally accepted the fact that as long as my readership grows steadily albeit slowly, I’m still doing well. And all the more established bloggers keep telling me to JUST BE PATIENT.

      PS: Actually after I wrote this reply, I checked out your blog and you have waaaay more followers than me. (And as of today, you have me as a follower, too!)

      Like

  7. ADDENDUM: For anyone who read the above comments and immediately ran to the Google Analytics site to sign up, like I did — guess what? Google Analytics cannot be installed on blogs being run on WordPress.com – it can only be installed on blogs run on WordPress.org or other self-hosted sites. Ah well, I’ll have to just ASSUME people are actually reading my posts even if WordPress.com doesn’t seem to reflect that.

    Like

    • If you really want to feed your addiction, I can point you toward some good self-hosted WP solutions.

      Like

      • Thanks, Joel. I’m pretty much over it now. It was just that I had Cordelia over to help me install the Google Analytics and that’s when we found out it couldn’t be done on WP.com – her website is self-hosted.
        So I thought I would post that comment to save everyone else some grief if they were inclined to try it.

        Like

      • Going self-hosted is a horrible idea if you want real wordpress traffic. Google searches don’t really mean a thing for most bloggers and we won’t need those hits to gain views. I get plenty of daily views without google…

        Like

  8. Pingback: SPECIAL EDITION! | Cordelia's Mom, Still

  9. Karen J says:

    This incredibly relevant, maybe inspired by this convo? just popped up, from the incomparable @ShannaMann: http://shannamann.com/blog/why-your-open-rates-suc
    She clearly answers several of the “How” and “How come” questions that lurk underneath this discussion. (Love ya, Shanna!)

    Like

    • Thanks, Karen.
      Fortunately, my MailChimp account has never been an issue. I have only a few followers who opted for the email notifications, and almost every one of them actually opens the email. My issues have been, and continue to be, with the fact that the WordPress Reader views do not count into the overall stats. For instance, yesterday WP showed I had just one view – yet I had five “likes” one of which came in approximately a minute after I published the post. And the MailChimp email didn’t go out until this morning.
      But I think we can put this whole issue to rest – since my initial rant about the stats, my WP “followers” have gone up enough to calm down my anxiety, and I’ve also received some very supportive email from readers I didn’t even know I had! I think from here on, I’d rather spend my time actually writing the darn posts than worrying about how much feedback I’ll get from them.

      Like

  10. erinshelby says:

    “statistics are the Holy Grail by which we judge our worthiness.After each published post, a new blogger will go onto his or her WordPress website and check those stats EVERY FIVE MINUTES! (Well, at least I did/do!)”

    Glad to know I’m not the only one!

    That picture is awesome enough as a post by itself just so I could re-blog it. It would make a great screensaver for anyone, any goal.

    Like

    • Thank you! The comments that followed that post actually had me thinking I was overly sensitive about the stats. But heck, it is nice to know that someone other than my family is reading. (BTW all my pictures are from Flickr.com and all are under Creative Commons guidelines.)

      Like

  11. List of X says:

    Just so you know, it is possible for a blogger to “like” posts in WP reader without actually reading or opening them, and reportedly some people click “Like” on everything in their Reader to drive some traffic to their blog.
    P.S. I agree with Joel – we shouldn’t be writing to maximize our stats. If a post gets at least a few views, you can already be sure that your writing didn’t just drop into the void.

    Like

    • I knew “like” didn’t count in the stats, but I was unaware that people “like” everything just to gather traffic. If I “like” a post it’s because I truly enjoyed it. Likewise, I only “follow” blogs that I’m looking forward to reading over and over again.
      Thank you for commenting – which, of course, means you’re also reading me! I’ve decided to stop obsessing over the stats, if I can. I’ve received enough feedback in the last couple of weeks to convince me I really had nothing to worry about anyway.

      Like

      • People that “like spam” get a little traffic true. But it is VERY small in comparison to people that engage other bloggers.

        Like

        • Wow, OM, looks like I’ve taken a chunk of your time today. And I absolutely love it! But as for this whole stats debate, I’m recusing myself. I finally came to the conclusion that while increasing numbers are fun to see, for me the more important thing is to have dedicated followers. And I do have some very special ones! (Karen’s a real kick, isn’t she? She turns up just everywhere.)

          I’ve gotta say, however, that I’m getting a fair amount of traffic off your blog, for which I, again, thank you. It’s always amusing to see what actually stirs people up.

          Like

  12. Pingback: Yes! I Survived My First WordPress Year! | Cordelia's Mom, Still

  13. I have done posts about all of this stuff… another weird parallel in our lives… seriously… you should see a mental health professional…

    Like

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