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Wednesday
Feb172010

Why I check my stats and why you should too

I'm going to share a little known fact with you. I didn't start blogging just for myself or for the community. I started blogging for professional reasons. Not because I ever wanted to or expected to make a ton of money writing this blog. Rather, I did it because my day job involves working with organizations to help them improve their websites. I advise my clients on things like search engine optimization, web analytics, social media, web writing and more. Although I know a lot about the theory behind these topics and have had some opportunity to dabble in them in practical terms while working with my clients, I wanted to get in deeper. I needed an ongoing long-term project that would allow me to try out certain techniques and measure their success. So I started a blog. But rather than write yet another blog about search engine optimization (yawn), I decided to write about a topic I was passionate about, one where I felt I had something to contribute, and one where I thought I could get something back from the community. I decided to write about parenting and in May 2008 I jumped into the crowded waters of mommy blogging, not quite knowing what I was getting into or what it would become.

So when Megan from Velveteen Mind raised the issue of stats on twitter today, saying "Hi, my name is Megan and I JUST installed Google Analytics. When I tell you I don't focus on stats, I'm not joking," I immediately tuned in the conversation. It got interesting. Very interesting. The opinions ranged from popular bloggers saying that they never look at their stats to other bloggers saying of course its easy to say that if you are already a big blogger. The conversation was interesting, it was heated at times, and Megan followed it up with a post summing up the conversation and her more detailed thoughts on the issue. In her post she said:
I’m writing this post for the mom blogger in Minnesota that has 10 readers and lets her awareness of other people’s stats make her feel like crap. The one that writes about her kids and their days together.  The one that doesn’t fall into a niche and worries that she should.  The one that lets this stats stuff get her down.

She wasn't writing the post for me obviously, I mean I've only been to Minnesota once ;) . So instead of talking about why the post doesn't apply to me and why it is important for me to check my stats, let me tell you why I think that both the mom blogger in Minnesota with 10 readers and the mom blogger in Oregon with 10,000 readers should check their stats.

  • To know where your readers are coming from: Did your readers come to you from someone else's blog? From twitter? From a message board? From search engines? If you are interested in building your readership, this information can be especially valuable. If someone is sending traffic your way, go and comment on their blog too. If you're not on twitter and people are linking to you from there, maybe you could join and develop some great relationships there. If you're getting tons of traffic from search engines on a particular term and it is relevant to what you are writing about, then you might want to write more on that topic.



  • To understand what resonates with your readers: Some posts generate lots of traffic and not so many comments. Others have lower traffic but almost everyone leaves a comment.  If you aren't checking your stats and are looking at comments alone as an indicator, you may not have a good sense of your reach and what is resonating with your users. I've learned that some of my more informative posts will generate lots of traffic because people use them as a reference and refer their friends to them, but people tend not to leave a lot of comments because they aren't really discussions. For me, those posts are valuable too if I am helping someone. But if I looked at comments alone as an indicator, I may have stopped writing those types of posts a long time ago. Instead I look at how many people are reading them, where they are coming from, as well as whether they leave comments. It also helped me figure out why some posts generate discussion, whereas others only generate traffic, so I know have a better idea what to do if I want people to comment.



  • To not appear ungrateful: I like to link to other blogs. I do so fairly frequently. I used to get really miffed when I would send a ton of traffic in the direction of another blogger and that person didn't even acknowledge it. I just assumed everyone checks their stats and figured these people were snobs. I now know better. I know not everyone checks their stats. I know most of them are not snobs. I try to comment on other people's blogs when they link to mine, or Stumble their post, or tweet about it on twitter. I may not do it every time, but I try to do it frequently, especially if it was adding to the conversation and bringing in new perspectives.



  • To protect your content: People will steal your content. Some of them will give you no link or hint at all and that sucks. However others will copy and paste your entire post and put a link back to your article. That is a copyright violation. It does not fall within fair use guidelines. I have successfully had posts on blogs or message boards removed when they had taken an entire post and I will continue to try to protect my content that way.



  • To protect your reputation: Tone and intent is often hard to read on the Internet. People will put words in your mouth and make assumptions about what you meant. They may attack your arguments with faulty logic or junk science. They may badmouth you. Some people say they would rather not know about it. But I think it is important to protect your reputation.  You may choose not to respond to every instance (I don't), but there are some cases where you may want to jump in to set the record straight. Maybe you can change the other blogger's mind, but even if you can't you may be able to influence or sway the opinion of people reading their blog if you add your own two cents. I worry most about lurkers coming across a critique that I didn't bother to respond to and thinking that means it is true.  Another reason to look at posts that may be criticizing you is to to figure out when you might need to apologize to someone. Not everyone will come right to your blog to tell you what a jerk you've been. They may write about it on their own instead and if you know about it, that creates an opportunity for you to make things right if necessary.



  • You can discover some interesting things: By looking at incoming traffic, I have found out about issues that I otherwise wouldn't have been aware of and had the opportunity to learn from other bloggers or from message board discussions. I've found out that I have fans in Estonia. I've seen that organizations that I write about and their competitors lurk on my blog. I've learned that StumbleUpon is a fair weather friend when it comes to driving traffic - sometimes it is great, sometimes it isn't, and it seems to have less to do with the quality of the post and more to do with pure chance.  I've been able to see which of the links I included in my posts users actually click on and enjoyed seeing my readers turn into readers of other blogs that I love and enriching the conversation there. I discovered that LinkWithin is a powerful tool for suggesting other posts on my site that people might be interested in and that it has increased both the average number of pages people view and average amount of time people spend on the site.


Maybe not all of these seem important to you, but chances are some of them do. I think there are lot of reasons to check your stats and these are only a few.  However, if you know that looking at your stats only upsets you, then don't. Or do, but change your attitude about them. Instead of obsessing on them in a historical sense, look at them for hints about what you could do to connect with more people and to give your readers more of the things they like.  Stats are, of course, not the only answer or even the most important one. Writing well, being passionate, connecting with your readers are all paramount. But stats can give you hints into doing those things better. At least they have for me.

If you are wondering which stats programs I use, I use Google Analytics, Wordpress Stats, eWebCounter, and StatCounter.  I've also heard great things about SiteMeter, but haven't tried it myself yet.

Do you check your stats? Why or why not? If you do, what do you gain from it?
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Reader Comments (80)

I have google analytics on my blog, and occasionally I'll go over and look up my stats. But I don't really know what to make of them. It sounds like what you're talking about here (looking at where everyone comes from, clicking through links back to your posts, etc) would take a good deal of time and it's kind of intimidating to think about. Would you mind writing a follow-up post with basic how-to's of how to navigate stat analysis, like which information to pay attention to and what to do with that info?

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Marcy:

The absolute easiest program to get a quick view of things is Wordpress Stats, which probably won't help you since you're on blogger. There are probably some great posts out there with some of those basic how-to's. I'll see if I can find one to link up here.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I use SiteMeter & Google Analytics. I find SiteMeter is easier to figure out & use but Google Analytics gives more information. I find that I check my stats alot. I wish I had more readers & got more hits. I have improved my stats in the last 6 months or so.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMerry120

I've been thinking about checking my stats. I'm hesitant to sign up on other sites such as stumble upon. 1. Because I feel I have enough to keep up with, my blog, new ning site, twitter and email.
2. I get annoyed when I can quite figure out how to a website works.

I do have a map on my blog. I like to see where people are coming from. That's about it. I would like to know where my readers come from, and what links they are clicking on.
I admit that I do get very annoyed when I leave comments on blogs and the other person never visits my blog. Not even a 'thanks for stopping by my blog' I do think they are blog snobs, and will only comment on the more popular blogs. I could be wrong...

This has been a very interesting post. I do think I will look into checking my stats.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDarcel

On Google Analytics in particular, the report you want to look at is Referring Sites. It will show you the domain (e.g. phdinparenting.com) but if you then click on it it will show you the specific URLs for the post(s) that link to your blog. The default for Google Analytics is to show the past month, which I don't like. The way that I most often use my stats I want to see today or the past few days. You can change the dates in Google Analytics using the calendar thing, but you cannot save the change and make it your default. For that reason, I like Wordpress Stats more because it shows me referring site stats for today and yesterday.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

My new years resolution was to not check my stats as much.

I failed miserably.

I check them all the time. Not just as a pat on the back or kick in the pants but to know who is linking to me. I have found awesome sites that way and get a ton of motivation from seeing posts on message boards singing me praises. Blogging can be so thankless and seeing those links are really powerful for me. Also when I see what people are searching for I can gauge what posts to put up, particularly when people are searching for holiday crafts .

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllie

I check mine! Being on WP.com I have had limited ability to check stats, but I've used theirs and statcounter.com. I have found the first 2 reasons have been the most important for me. How do you use it to protect your content/reputation though?

I finally bought my own domain and set up to self-host. I'm moving there this weekend and hope to set up some of these other programs, like Google Analytics.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMZ

I would love to read a follow-up "how to" post! Loved reading this. I'm just finishing up my site and need to start thinking about this very topic.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaitlin Rose

Like some of the others here I think it sounds like so much work, and something that I think would get obsessive over I I checked them all the time. I have google analytics, but I don't find it to be the easiest thing to use. Plus I just signed up for it, for five years I've just looked at the brief overview typepad gives me (which says basically nothing). I guess the real reason I don't look at them is that I feel like if I wanted to increase my traffic I might have to really change my focus, and I'm not sure I want to. The number one thing I see on articles about driving traffic is to have a specific focus. But since my blog is my about my life and my life is so many things I have a hard time doing that. Interesting to think about though. This does make me want to take another look at it.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber Lee

great post! Again, you're such a smartie pants! Google Analytics IS overwhelming. It can be a full-time job! But it is important. My suggestion for those that are feeling overwhelmed by it is choosing just a couple of things to track. Trends are fun . Trends are truthful: top 10 referring sites, time spent on site, subs .. things like that. After doing this for a few months, don't be afraid to refocus on different trackables if you don't think you're getting what you want from it. Analytics: its a love/hate!

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermumby

I check my stats for all of those reasons.

Except, man, my post would have been REALLY long had I gone into how to use your stats without letting them define you. One post at a time, right?

You are one of the reasons I was so painstakingly clear that I just couldn't write one single post that would apply to every genre of blogger. I'm glad you found yourself in between the lines, though. You may have just saved me that "How to use your stats without them using you" post.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan {Velveteen Mind}

When I started blogging I read stats and read stats and read stats... Then I discovered google analytics, my blog got busy as soon as I figured to link back to those who were linking me!!! And I check about three times a day for folk that link to our blog, specifically to go and comment and say hi and keep it friendly and check folk aren't "borrowing" content. I have found that linked within keeps folk on our blog two if not three times longer than before. Also Commentluv draws lots of readers from other blogs - really glad I have that!!! Great post - I love posts about blogging and never know what to write in them myself!!!

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterse7en

I use Google Alerts to keep on top of who's linking to me (and mentioning me - Google Alerts has the advantage of letting me know when someone mentions me - by name or blog title - without linking), because, yes, I think it's important to know that kind of stuff.

I don't have Google Analytics because I don't want or need to stay on top of the general numbers. I know how well I do (which, yes, is a luxury, and I understand why someone might say that someone with good traffic poo-pooing traffic analysis is like a rich person being dismissive of money), and I keep on top of trends in a variety of other ways (Google Alerts, as I said; Lijit search statistics; Wordpress plugins that tell me which posts are doing best...). I make my living off of this, BUT I never want my writing on the blog to be directed by what's going to bring the most traffic. So I try to keep a healthy distance from the back-end number-crunching side of things.

You make a number of good points, though - as a one-time stats and research geek (and as someone who does track stats closely for other sites), I totally get the reasons why stats-tracking can be good and - of course - useful.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHer Bad Mother

Her Bad Mother:

I have Google Alerts set up as well, but I find that it doesn't even catch half of the mentions out there and it doesn't necessarily catch the most important ones. It also focuses on new mentions, so I wouldn't see if, for example, an older post or thread got revived, which sometimes does happen.

I do understand why some people choose not to check their stats and think it is a very personal decision.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

This stuff has been on my mind lately, so I'm so glad you took the time to write this post! As a longtime blogger (nearly ten years), I've used several different kinds of stat tracking services. I don't think I've ever used them as thoroughly as I should. I think I need to use them more to facilitate connections rather than just see what weird search terms are bringing people to my site (although I do get a kick out of that. Now that it is so much easier to see how specific posts are doing, rather than just the site in general, it makes me want to do better.

But like Catherine mentions, I don't want my writing to be completely dictated by my stats. Not all my posts need to be Big Important Posts. I've thought that way in the past, and I find it makes it really hard to write anything at all.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

Well, as you are aware, I'm trying to give up checking stats for Lent, but I have to say I don't anticipate giving them up altogether. In the beginning, I do think they helped me narrow my focus and figure out how to grow my audience. My stats have pretty much steadily grown, even if slowly, from the beginning, so I actually found them encouraging in the beginning. Even if my hits only jumped to 25 visitors from 20 the week before, it helped me to know I was reaching *someone*. Now that I've reached the level I have, though, I find that sometimes these stats can lead to my anxiety level, and it's easy to get too wrapped up in checking them and analyzing them. I really do think it affects my writing at a certain level, so this month I just want to see what happens (much like my experiment where I gave up the internet entirely for a week) when I just go without.

One thing you mentioned was commenting on blogs that link to you, and now I sort of feel like a tool. I have to say I don't do that unless I know the blogger or the blogger personally tells me they've linked to me. I don't know, I just always felt like maybe they would think it was weird that I was stalking my link backs. And now I realize how crazy that is, so thanks for pointing it out. As soon as I'm checking my stats again I'll be sure to go to those other blogs and tell them thank you for linking to me.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill @BabyRabies

Great post and I am hoping that all breastfeeding advocates, the United States Breastfeeding Committee and all 41 member organizations will read it and use the information. My biggest gripe about the breastfeeding non-profits is that they are doing great work but nobody knows about it. (By nobody, I mean the billions of mainstream people who read mags at the checkout counter, me included). Using stats to drive visibility is something I am learning more about, and am so grateful to have you as a role model!

I recently stumbled upon compete.com, you can compare blogs/websites to each other (visitors for free, if you want to compare pageviews you have to pay for the service). It gave me a realistic view of where we stack up; the nice surprise was that we have more unique visitors than a bunch of websites that have been around for a while and look much bigger than they really are. Unless, of course, the stats that I am looking at are utterly meaningless, in which case I will pull my tail back between my legs and slunk out of comparisons.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBettina

melissa:

I get a kick out of the odd search terms sometimes too and like to post some of them on twitter when they come up. I think search terms in particular are to be taken with a grain of salt. My top search term, for example, is "naked children" (going to http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/07/05/lets-get-naked-helping-children-feel-comfortable-in-their-skin/" rel="nofollow">this post) and I'm guessing people are not finding what they are looking for on this site. But beyond that I learned that it things like Top 10 lists do well on search engines and if you use common expressions/phrases in your post titles it will bring traffic (e.g. I have one called http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/07/31/it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-child/" rel="nofollow">It takes a village to raise a child that does well on search engines).

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I check them to see where people are coming from, I think that helps me to connect well to others & see what material they are interested in (helpful for my food related posts). It's how you use stats that matters, making sure they don't use you or that you become a slave to them but that you take the helpful information out of them & leave what makes you crazy behind.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbeth aka confusedhomemaker

I get an email from Google alerts when someone links to me and I check copyscape dot com to make sure my work isn't being published elsewhere. I very very very rarely check my stats and have them installed only when I need to locate a troll or what not.

There are a million things I could obsess about as a blogger. The latest google apps, social media tools, stats, etc... and in the end it all pulls me away from my family. Even if I check at night, in the company of my husband. If I worried about everything I would be on the computer all the time. Do you know what I mean? It seems like so many things are popping up and people racing to keep up. Blogging is a lot of work.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOHmommy

As someone without a blog, I've been curious about something for a while. I tend to re-check various blogs throughout the day, either looking for additional comments to read or a new post. I also use some blogs' blogrolls to get to other blogs (say that 10 times fast!). For instance, I have your site bookmarked, but I also go to your blogroll, click to a new site, and then come back to your list to pick another site, etc.

What I wonder about is how does this look to the blogger? Does it look like I'm a lurker/stalker? Does it mess up your stats? It probably doesn't matter much to those who have thousands of readers, but maybe it irritates the blogger with only ten?

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

Olivia:

It doesn't irritate me at all or make it look like you're a lurker/stalker. I have noticed that a few people tend to use my blogroll as a launching pad for reading other blogs and I think that is GREAT. That is the reason I have it there. There are also other blogs that tend to send a lot of traffic my way via their blogrolls and I appreciate seeing that in my stats.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Well, I'm a mom blogger from Minnesota and I'm trying to decide if I should be offended or not. I think not. But why pick on Minnesota? Why not Iowa, or Nebraska? ;)

I've used Sitemeter for a few years and it's worked great for me. I check my stats about 1-2x a day. It only goes back (for the free account) every 100 visitors, so if I go too long without checking it, I might miss some valuable referral data. It keeps the overall site visitors and page views data for up to 1 year and you can view it by day/month/year and it has pretty graphs. :) It's been nice to see my readership go up in the last year and that makes me feel good to know that more people are reading my stuff.

I especially find the info on search engines helpful - to see what people are typing into google/yahoo/etc. that brings them to my blog. Good topic! :)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMissy @ The Marketing Mama

"Mom blogger in Minnesota" sounded catchier than "Mom blogger in Nebraska."

But believe me, people are looking for reasons to be offended. Including Nebraska mom bloggers that were not mentioned. ;)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan {Velveteen Mind}

I also use Google Alerts to catch certain mentions that don't make it through my stats. Sometimes I run posts through Copyscape to make sure no one is stealing my work. I have sitemeter and statcounter, but I don't check them that often. Every once in a great while, I run my URL through Technorati to see what pops up.

Mostly, I check my stats to protect myself, rather than build my site. I post pictures of my kids on there, and I want to make sure I am not getting traffic through some gross site.

I also write a blog for my work, about animal health, and I check those stats to try and build the site. We plan to hopefully advertise eventually, and need to have good solid stats to back it up first.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

Hi Bettina,

I would be wary of the results you get on compete.com.

They describe their methodology as follows:

Compete’s clickstream data are collected from a 2,000,000 member panel of US Internet users (about a 1% sample), using diverse sources. Using a rigorous statistical normalization methodology, Compete creates precise projections of the behavior of the entire US Internet browser population on monthly and weekly basis. In addition, Compete provides daily estimates of share of consumer attention garnered by the top Internet sites and the velocity of change of this attention. Compete is the only commercial web analytics provider to make its data freely available online for all Internet users.

The results for my site were not at all accurate. That is probably because a lot of my visitors are not from the United States, but even if I account for that, they are still way off. About 65% of my traffic is from the United States, but they are not even capturing 50% of my unique visitors in their stats. Maybe the data is still useful from a comparative perspective, in that it will be just as "off" for everyone as it is for me, but I wouldn't take it as gospel.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Oh, I also wanted to mention that my site traffic went DOWN when a lot of my readers discovered Google Reader. So I try to not get too hung up on visitors because I know there are a lot of people who just read through Google and almost never click through.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

Blogging sounds like hard work these days. I'm thankful for all you wonderful mama's putting such hard work into your blogs...I recognize a few of you and follow you daily. It has been encouraging to know that there are so many families like mine- raising kids to be thoughtful, and conscience, peaceful and wise. I have been tempted to begin blogging- but posts like this remind me of how time consuming it can be, and I'm already addicted to twitter!
I don't have much to add to the conversation, except that I do find it interesting that so many have found a way to make blogging work for them- I follow women that are using blogs to make a living, find their voice, and aid others. Women that are looking to heal, to find themselves, or to use their blogs to educate others. It is empowering to know that the day I do find time to blog (if ever) I can find a niche, as well as learn from others how to make mine as successful, or personal/casual as I'd like.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjill

Good to know!

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

I want to thank you for sharing this information. I am relatively new to the blogging world, I have a blog strictly for sharing recipes. And I DO obsess a little over the traffic I am getting and how to get more, or why on some days I have few hits while on other days I have many. I realize that different recipes I post will definitely appeal to different people and their appetites. But I have been wondering how to get a consistency towards more readers and more hits, how to become more engaging. Trying to incorporate personal experiences and stories is my new aim. And I do comment on the blogs of bloggers who visit MY site. I will bear your article in mind when I get discouraged. Granted I am barely 2 months in right now, and I realize it's going to take a little more than that to get regular visitors to my site. I've also now created a Facebook fan page for more exposure. Thanks again! =)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I use Google Analytics and was aware of one of the other sites you mentioned but I assumed all the stats sites did the same thing. So I guess now I have some new sites to sign up with today. I've always wondered how some bloggers found info that they would talk about finding on their stats site. I thought I was just having trouble figuring out how to use GA. Now I realize those options aren't available there. Thanks for this post. Very useful. Now off to read Velveteen Mind's post. (I know you want to know who's going over there!) :)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie

I'm learning to appreciate stats for what they teach me, not as a measure of my blogging success or failure...but it's a process...they can still put me in a foul mood sometimes. :) And I enjoy digging into my stats but rarely have the time to do it.
BTW - Lijit is good for search stats. They send a weekly email that I can take a quick peek at if I have the time. Thanks for mentioning LinkWithin - I have now added it to my site and am looking forward to seeing what comes of it.

Another Mom blogger from Minnesota

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMindful Momma

i use statcounter on blogger and on my own domain site, plus the google analytic add ons for my online shops. i should check the stats more frequently than i do cos i am selling something. i do check them, prob not frequently enough (maybe i should give up avoiding my stats for lent), and they've given me great feedback on where i should focus my limited marketing/networking time. for example, they've let me know that most of the interest in my main domain is from local viewers which backs up my hunch that most of my sales were coming from local buyers, in person or at local boutiques. thus i can focus my efforts more efficiently and also know where needs some extra ooomph.
as for stats for my blogging - i'm just amazed peeps find the darn thing (thank you to all my followers!)
thanks! you've given some great tips on the social aspect of stats checking which i should work into my weekly routine too

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterebbandflo aka pomomama

This is reallly helpful for me since I am still pretty new at blogging. Thank you!
I use Google Analytics, and I do check my stats, but there is so much that I still don't understand about what tracking can do. I will need to spend a day sometime just learning how powerful all of this stuff can be.
Great post :)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFinola

I love checking my Word Press stats. As some of other people have said, I love checking the search terms (in fact, my Friday/Saturday post this week is on search terms people use to find my website).

As a new blogger (just over 3 months), I find stats the most encouraging when I look at the month over month stats. The graph is going up (by more hits each month), which I find more encouraging then the smaller, day-to-day stats.

I have one question: do Google Analytics tell you a lot more than WP Stats?

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIronic Mom

Ironic Mom:

The Google Analytics does show a lot more and is much more flexible in terms of the time frames that you can look at. However, I find WP Stats has a better dashboard.

What I really like about StatCounter and eWebCounter is being able to see the path of an individual visitor - i.e. someone clicked here, then there, then there. Gives me a good sense of how people move around the site.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thank you for this post. I am awful about checking stats. When I do, I am always pleasantly surprised. It leaves me realizing that a) I have a readership b) they are really cool! But what I really find helpful are the searches that bring ppl to my site - recipes for sure, and for some reason, a post/craft I did about helicopters/airplanes is still one of my most found via google! ha!

One of my resolutions is to revamp the blog and keep better track as it grows ;)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Wow. I have virtually no stats on my blog. I'm one of those "Mom blogger in Nevada with 10 readers" people so I never thought I needed them. You make some very compelling points. I may have to make some time to get some analytics for my site.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShana

Mindful Momma:

LinkWithin takes a while before it starts making really good recommendations. It has to crawl your site a bit. But once it gets going, it is really good.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I actually stumbled upon the Lijit widget. I thought it was just a search function for my blog, but it actually gives detailed stats. If it weren't for Lijit I never would have known who has me listed in their blogrolls (although, it has missed a couple blogger blogrolls and never catches me listed in a wordpress tab for blogroll). But it's better than nothing and I was certainly able to reciprocate based on that knowledge.

I'm with a lot of other commenters: Google analytics overwhelms me. I have NO idea what I'm looking at and even clicking on those "what's this?" links doesn't help. It's all SEO-verbage and over my head. But I do look at them.

Incidentally, on average 22-23 of the top 25 searches that bring people to my blog are looking for an exercise program and its results that I've written about. *sigh* I have no idea how many of those people actually end up regular readers, though.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica - This is Worthwhile

That's good to know because it seems to be simply choosing the most recent posts right now. I'll keep my eye on it!

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMindful Momma

Very useful post. Thank you. I'm a marketing measurement fiend but rarely even check my blog stats because it's an offshoot of the main Ask Around site. I should do more - but then I should do more of lots of things!

Would love to have a good blogroll. Shall ask members and readers for suggestions.
Thanks as always.
Wendy

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

I got used to reading/interpreting stats for horrible reasons during my earliest years on the internet - while running online forums, they were the best way to figure out how to track/block spammers and trolls. Then they became extremely useful business tools.

I always check my stats, for all of the reasons you mention. I also might never notice that a post has been Stumbled ot Kirtsy'ed or what have you otherwise, and I like to say thanks when that happens.

It can also be quite entertaining or freaky or scary to see the search terms people use to find you... I get so many visits from people searching for specific mantras - usually for some kind of magical power they want, like "mantra to be happy every minute of the day" or sadder ones, like "mantra to make my husband love me."

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTracy (Tiny Mantras)

I use Google Analytics. However, I sometimes think that I shouldn't, because I do have a tendency to be more than a little obsessive about the stats. I am frequently checking them multiple times a day, and it bothers me when they go down, even if I know why. For example, over Christmas people have other stuff to do than read my blog, and I understand that, but it still makes me a little neurotic.

On the whole, I think that checking stats is a good thing. Being aware of what's going on is important. But it's also important to keep it in check and not drive yourself totally insane.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I think the reason I love looking at stats is because I'm nosy. I want to know who is reading and where they came from. Statcounter is my fav and it's great for both blogger and wordpress.

Like Olivia, I'm a non-blogger. Please pardon my ignorance and lack of tech savvy, but I'm curious how all of the information your stats programs provide are collected? I.e. how is location identified? Does my IP address tell you where I'm located? I find the whole idea that all this information can be collected really interesting and exciting, but a little Big Brotherish.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Well put, and the perfect complement to Megan's post. I think it's still possible to obsess too much, even within these uses.

It's all about balance.

Like you, I like to see where people are coming from, what they're reading, what they're searching for, and all kinds of other things. I like to see how participating in different memes and carnivals affects my traffic. I follow my different types of posts to see what my readers prefer.

I don't know much about statistics. I think there are a lot of uses that I'm unaware of. I'd like to know a lot more about my stats and how they work and how to use them, but I figure there's lots of time for that.

And, incidentally, what is the WP Stats that you're all talking about? Is it a plug in?

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTara @ Feels Like Home

Rebecca:

The IP address sort of says where you are located. It certainly doesn't go as far as giving your address, but it gives a general sense. However, how accurate it is depends a lot on your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and how it is set up. For example, mine usually says that I'm in Toronto, even though that is not true. Honestly, your e-mail address (which you provided when you left this comment) tells me more about you than your IP address does.

However, if you did something illegal, I would be able to use your IP address to report that to the police who would then be able to figure out more about exactly who you are if/as necessary by obtaining a warrant to get that information from your Internet Service Provider.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Amber:

If it makes you feel any better, my stats are worse the week of Christmas than any other week of the entire year. So it isn't just your blog that they don't have time to read!

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Tara:

If you're on wordpress.com it is automatically included (if I remember correctly) and if you are self-hosted, it is a wordpress plug in. I highly recommend it. It is the best day-to-day view of what is going on on my blog, I find and accessible right from your wordpress dashboard. The plug-in is called WordPress.com Stats.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

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