Stats. They’re just numbers, but they can get we bloggers a bit excited.
This excitement with stats is natural: we all want to know what we write is read by others, that our ideas have merit, and that our content has value. Numbers are an objective way of measuring this.
The trouble is, like any obsession, a fixation with stats can lead to trouble.
We might have spent ages on a post that we think is absolutely awesome, but not nearly as many people read it as we would like (or think it deserves). It is can feel so disheartening when that happens.
Conversely, we might have a post that goes far and wide, viral even. While that might be the Holy Grail for many bloggers, it can make some feel uncomfortable for various reasons – whether it is the content, or the weight of expectation of the next post having to live up to the viral one.
All this focusing on numbers can mean we are distracted from why we started blogging in the first place. It can make us start to compare ourselves to others, worrying about whether we are in the right ‘niche’, whether our voice is loud enough, whether what we are writing is utter crap – in short, it can make us start to feel really bloody miserable.
We all have enough stress and worry in our lives, and what is the point of adding to them with something that is supposed to be fun?
I would argue that life is too short.
Whatever your motivation for starting your blog, going viral probably wasn’t one of them.
A comment during the ‘Can blogging change the world’ session at Blogfest really resonated with me: going viral is not necessarily an indicator of impact. I take that to mean that a million people might have read a post, had a giggle maybe, but if it is something that they forget two seconds later it has had little enduring impact on them. We all need a few minutes of escapism of course, but on the flip side if only one person has read your post but it makes that one person think, or say ‘phew, me too, I thought it was the only one’ that, to me, has a value that is far greater than the viral post.
While having a post go viral would probably be an ego boost, I personally would prefer to write posts that have an impact on people. My blogging about Hugo is aimed at raising awareness of issues that are important to me, meaning I do care about stats because any awareness raising campaign that no one read would be pretty rubbish. I also like to track where my traffic is coming from, so I can make sure I focus my attention on those channels to reach my readers.
If I could have a post that went viral and made them think, that would be amazing. Sadly, there is no formula for a post capturing the public imagination and going viral (and the person who comes up with one would undoubtedly be a gazillionaire in no time).
I am astounded at the reach my blog has had and that so many people read my posts on mainly sad subjects. However, while seeing stats increase is satisfying, what makes it worth it for me is the comments I receive. Readers have told me that posts have given them comfort in their own baby loss; that they have had the courage to share for the first time a photo of their baby who had been born sleeping; that I have written feelings about baby loss that they had been unable to articulate.
No one likes to feel that they are alone in their feelings. Bloggers have a great power to help readers feel ‘me too’! It’s not just the posts that you might say are more serious in tone that can do this – the funny ones about the trials and tribulations of parenting can do that, too.
So, the stats are important, but they are not the be-all-and-end-all.
Knowing that people read your blog is brilliant. But if a blog post you have written helps even one person – whether to know they are not alone in their feelings about something, to help someone think differently, to make the perfect chocolate cake, or whatever – that is a great gift. I have no doubt that each and every blogger has at least one post like that.