Let me know if this sounds familiar:
You wake up in the morning, put on a cup of coffee, get dressed, wander around in a haze but fairly soon go over to your computer.
First things first. Let’s check how many views you got last night. Hum not as many as you hoped. Well, maybe you didn’t plug that post on your social media sites enough. Time to give it a bit more juice and send out a reminder across all your social medai services.
After a while at work you realize that your latest post is about to go live! Better check out the stats before it hits. Okay you’ve got the before numbers and….pow! We have lift off! Blog post one is accelerating into…hum, only a few people are reading it…hmm… What’s wrong with it?
You gave the blog post a title is cleaver and interesting, right? Your friends liked it (liars), it must be your sense of humor. That’s it, the internet hates you, you might as well give up and go…oh, a few more people have read it, only a few! Disaster.
The afternoon wares on and by the end of the day you’ve probably glanced at the stat count a good 20 times and the post from lunch time has done reasonably well (actually it looks like you do have a good knack for headlines after all).
You can’t wait to get home and get your next post ready for lift off (oh and hit up a couple of sharing sites to try to get the post shared some more.) You get home, do all the regular chores, put the kids to bed and then it’s writing time.
You write your post with regular 10 minute breaks to check your stats…they haven’t really changed much in the last hour but you keep checking just in case. An hour or so later you finish your writing (Wow that took a while! It’s not even that long)
Does this sound familiar?
I’m not surprised if it does. Stat watching catches many people and an unhealthy obsession with stats can prevent you from doing the work you should. at the same time stats are a powerful and useful tool that when used properly can help you make the most from your blog
So how can you use stats correctly?
Why Stat Watching Is Bad
Stat watching is like watching paint dry, not a lot happens and it stops you from doing anything else.
Let’s put it another way if you spend 1 minute each time you check your stats (which if allowing people to change between windows, scan the key data, decided if that is good or bad and then fiddle around on the site for a bit, could be longer) and you do check them even for 10 minutes a day that means 10 minutes wasted.
Add to that the stress when stats are lower than expected at a time when they should be better which can prevent you from thinking up new ideas and induce self-doubt.
Moreover, stat watching tends to be focused on the immediate changes and not the long-term. It doesn’t matter if the post has 10 extra views today than yesterday, what matters is if over the last 3 months you have been getting more views than before.
Oh and let’s not to mention that it’s much better to stick to one task for a good length of time rather than switch between hundreds of task. The Myth of Multitasking has been well and truly busted.
Why Are People Obsessed With Stats
But why do people obsess with stats?
We know that they probably won’t have changed but they just might have! Well there are a few things that encourage stat watching.
Habits are caused by prompts and rewards A habit starts when you have a constant prompt like, logging on to your site and happening to see the overview of your stats when you first log on. And when you have a reward for the action. Obvious a positive reward is better but any reward will do. It how we condition dogs, we make them associate something with completing an action so they do it instinctively.
When you check your stats and see an increase it’s a reward. Now it get’s really interesting with conditioning. If the reward is unpredictable then it encourages people to do the action more.
Think of it like this, in a computer game if you know that you will get three coins every time you log on then you want to log on but you only miss out on three coins if you don’t log on.
If it varies between one and seven then you have to log on to make sure you get seven when you can. (For a practical example look at most online computer games like World of Warcraft where you don’t know what a boss will drop…so you have to kill them again and again.)
With the erratic nature of stats you may get a small boost in views of a giant boost – who knows.
What Is The Right Mindset To Have With Stats
The right mindset is one where we know a trend we want to track, we allow for a proper sample length, We try to keep variables to a minimum so we can focus in on one difference. For example
How You Can Use and View Stats Properly
1. Limit the number of times you check out your stats
I don’t mean say that you will reduce the amount of times you will check, actually limit it. Use a tool like Chrome nanny to blog your access from Google Analytics during the week, Hide Jetpack stats from your homepage (I have removed the instant stats from my own). Instead I set aside 30 minutes at the weekend to really look over my site stats and check out how they have done that week and why.
2. Choose a factor to track over time
Don’t just look at the number of views and think things went well or not. Check a wide variety of statistics like the traffic source, check how long they stayed on the site, check how many pages they viewed, look at conversion rates, look at the number of new visitors vs returning visitors.
Oh and make sure you check your email/RSS feeds as well. For a while I thought I wasn’t gaining any readers…then I noticed that I was, I just had people switching for first time encounters to following.
3. Experiment with doing something different
Try changing things around on your site. What happens when you move your side bar to the other side? What happens if you get rid of your sidebar? What happens if you change your social media sharing strategy, or maybe you want to use a different blog theme?
Experimenting is a great way to grow your blog and you will learn a lot more than just blindly following some social media tactic from a guru somewhere.
4. Make sure you check out the side effects
Sometimes what we expect to stay the same wont, and what we expect to change…won’t. Don’t just look at your traffic increasing and then realize that fewer people are actually sticking around. Make sure that no unexpected surprises are occurring when you change something.
5. Rinse and Repeat
Start the whole process again. Blogging isn’t about doing one thing once, it is about repeating things over and over again and constantly learning and adapting. Stats can help with that but they can also distract you from more important tasks that you should be doing.