Which Statistic is Most Crucial to Your Blogging?

Yesterday at the conference I was attending I was speaking with a blogger about his blog’s workflow and we were talking about the temptation to check the many different types of blog stats all day long and what a time waster it can be.

Off the cuff in the middle of the conversation I asked him a hypothetical question that I thought I’d as everyone:

‘If you could only check one statistic on your blog what would it be?’

Note – I’m not talking about what statistics package (ie Sitemeter, Google Analytics etc) – I’m talking about one statistic from any such stats package.

Would you want to know visitor levels, your adsense total earnings, affiliate commissions, page views, referrers, outgoing links…. etc

I don’t think there’s necessarily any right or wrong – but I think the answers we give might say something about the motives we have for blogging – or maybe not :-)

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. runs on the Genesis Framework

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  1. Aaron says:

    Personally, I always check my entry pages based on Search engine results. Gives me a good idea why people are visiting a certain page.

  2. Jon says:

    It’s all about page views. Without that you’ve got nothing. With it you have all the options to achieve your goals [money, fame, influence etc].

  3. jim says:

    Referral strings… I want to know how someone got here and why (search? link from another site?).

  4. Mike Sansone says:

    I agree with Jim. If I were to pick one – Referring link. How’d they get here, what prompted their visit (article, search string, email, etc.)

  5. John Hamman says:

    Unique Visitors i think would be the most informative and benifitial, because when it comes down to it, more traffic means more money.

  6. Jesse says:

    visitor’s countries.

    not really. probably page views. Every site I’ve ever run has always gotten 1.5-2 page views per visitor, so I can guess that.

  7. katiebird says:

    I like referring link combined with pages viewed — I know this is technically 2 statistics. But, I want to know if the people who come through links (particularly in this case search engines) are finding something useful.

    I hate to see that 0 seconds/1 page combo in the details screen.

  8. prasoon says:

    Well, the only thing if you ask me what I’d be concerned about is the “source” i.e. which referral worked for me – solely i noticed that the more i leave comments, the more hits come on my blog n so, in a way it tells me where to hit for everyday hits on my blog :)

  9. Jon Heizer says:

    Pages views. I know I always get about 2.5-3.5 page views per visitor and the more views, the more income. :-) wonder what my motive is… hehe

    So Darren, what’s your pick? I think if I had your encome, I would just stare and earnings all day and smile!

  10. Dave Starr says:

    I would certainly have to opt for referral strings. It’s important to know how people found me and (at least by inference) what they were looking for.

    This ties most directly to my goal of ‘giving the customer what they want’.

    Best regards

  11. Andy Merrett says:

    Referrals I guess.

    By the way, I moved my stats over to AwStats on the server, and it only updates once per day – therefore I am now much less inclined to check stats. I can still go and take a look at the latest access log if I’m really desperate :) tail -f access_log usually does it in a terminal window :)

  12. Referral link is not accurate and doesn’t tell much all the time.
    Sometimes it doesn’t tell you anything..I mean it can be very vague.

    For example, I was checking on my site for referrals and then went to that link and found nothing on that page that would attract visitors to my site.

    But i guess that doesn’t happen much.

    Bottomline, I think all these stats software are not accurate enough. I have even tried putting two stats on the site and they even don’t match.

    I think they all have different way of looking/calculating page views, hits, etc.

    I think if your site has volum eof traffic then it might make lil sense. It i smaking sense with my other main site that has bigger traffic than my new blog site.

  13. As blogging is just my hobby, the only thing that matters to me is something very difficult to measure: pleasure.
    I know the pleasure I get from my blog, but would really like to know the pleasure my visitors have when visiting my blog. How do you measure visitor pleasure? I would say by looking at how often they come back. If my users come back often, I must be doing something good, so that is what I would like to see.

  14. Ravi says:

    Unique vistors count and the time each one spent on the blog would be my desired statistics.

  15. Robb D says:

    I don’t think that just one stat is nearly enough to be of significant use by itself, however, if I can only choose one, I think that I would like to know what keywords visitors search for on various search engines to find my site.

  16. Nils says:

    Definitely referrals. It tells the most about what makes people to come to your page, and allows you to compensate for any difference between this and your expectations.

  17. Andy, I use AwStats too, and there’s a manual “update” button at the top of the screen by the date covered. Click it for an instant update.

  18. Jon says:

    On a slightly related topic…has anyone else noticed that you can have 500 page views on your stats [I use statcounter] and then only 350 pages in Adsense. This drives me crazy. I have the stats code on the same pages as the Adsense and I’ve set up alt-ads in adsnese and I know I don’t get 150 Alt-Ads impressions. With a high CTR, this means that Adsense is missing a lot of potential income for me.
    Happens on all my sites, so I’m curious to see if anyone has any explainations.

  19. luuk says:

    The total time your visitors spent on your weblog, but I don’t think thats possible. (-;

  20. Aaron says:

    John (Syntagma)-

    Depends on the AWStats configuration. Many configurations have that turned off because it drives up CPU utilization whenever stats are calculated.

  21. Rachel says:

    Here’s some possibilities Jon:

    * Some of your pages don’t have adsense on them
    * Some of your visitors have an adblocker/javascript turned off in their browser
    * People are clicking onto another page before your ad code loads

  22. Thanks, Aaron. It’s only just appeared on mine, but the penalty doesn’t sound too serious.

  23. Aaron says:


    From the awstats.conf file:

    # Warning: Update process can be long so you might experience “time out”
    # browser errors if you don’t launch AWStats enough frequently.
    # When set to 0, update is only made when AWStats is ran from the command
    # line interface (or a task scheduler).
    # Possible values: 1 or 0
    # Default: 0

  24. Joe says:

    Hey Darren,

    Came From. (StatCounter). It shows Country/City, referral page (even from one to another on your site) return visits, time visited, and SE/keywords.

    I gives most of what I need on one page.


  25. A.H says:

    Unique Visitors at 23:59 PM.


  26. Ryan says:

    Unique visitors and how they got there. Oh wait that’s 2!

  27. Cassie says:

    This is a tough question, but ultimately I would have to pick viewing the amount of time visitors spend on each page. I can still see how many visitors I’ve had, but I can also tell if they are actually reading my posts. I am aiming for quality first, but if my readers are only staying for a few seconds, then obviously I need to do some work on my content and headlines.

  28. Michael Rew says:

    I don’t think just one stat could do. You’d have to pay attention to at least three: site hits, page views, and referrers. But you can ignore them in the reverse order, too. If you have a steady flow of hits, then you probably don’t need to know the page views or referrers. If your hits go way up, then you’d want to check the page views to see if these are one-page wonders (at least that’s how I do it on my poetry site, and I discovered, for example, that hits coming from blog comments were almost always one-page wonders). You’d also want to look at the referrers for a huge surge of hits to see if you could continue the trend or duplicate it with blog tweaks.

    Obviously, if your hits go way down, you want to check out past and present referrers to see what happened. Did a search engine reindex you in an unfavorable position? Are blogs not talking about your blog anymore?

  29. Andy Merrett says:

    Don’t tell me that, John! :)

  30. Shane says:

    I’d want to know revenue, since everything else is just a contributing factor. Without revenue, I’d have to close up shop.

  31. Ma2T says:

    I would check Adsense, because I could check the earnings….. and also page views that show for each chan :P, is that cheating? lol

  32. Darren Rowse says:

    My own pick would be referrals.

    I think checking income is tempting but really it looks after itself – and I’d be more interested in knowing how people were getting to me.

    On the other hand having some AdSense stats would be nice – not just to know the earnings, but to monitor how different channels are performing with CTR etc.

    It is a hard one – but I’d probably go with referrals as that’s a stat I look at quite a bit

  33. search engine traffic. those are the traffic that google adsense will pay more per click.

  34. I would say that depends on yourt site goals.

    If your goal is to provide content, I would ask you how many page views, how many new vs. returning visitors, your visitor loyalty, your stickiness and your bounce rate

    If you are primarily an email based site like Google / Yahoo groups or perhaps some forums that send out an email at the end of the day, I would ask you about how many people open your emails and how many people read your emails

    If your goal is to sell products using a shopping cart on your site, I would ask you how many people people put an item in their shopping cart, how many people people abandon the shopping cart process an how many people complete it resulting in a sale.

    Now each industry will emphsaize one metric more than the other. For example, if you are an article based site, then you visitors had better spend a lot of time on your posts. That may be more important the the raw number of people that are driven to your site.

    Bear in mind, you can get a lot of page views which will not translate into clicks or sales. As Darren says so often, in some industries like politics, gossip, etc, you may get a lot of page views, which quickly become useless because the traffic does not convert to AdSense Clicks or goals.

    If there is a formula, my guess would be,
    1.) Know your goals. Without goals you can’t measure anything

    2.) Know your industry. What metric is really important? Don’t compare yourself to others, because numbers are not all the same across industries.

    My 2 Cents

  35. Darren Rowse says:

    Nice comment Kingsley Tagbo!!!

  36. Dan Jensen says:

    I’m torn between referrals and page views. Everybody has made good arguments for both, and I check both more than anything else.

    Choosing one, I’d pick page views. It’d be great to know who’s linking to you, but if you have a decent site, links will take care of themselves.

    On the other hand, if you are getting lousy page view stats, that’s a better indicator that something is wrong than a lack of referrals. That’s one of the best ways of knowing how healthy your blog is. If people are sticking around, it’s a good sign that they will come back.

  37. Brian says:

    # of subscribers. The money’s in the list if you are selling something.

  38. Peter Cooper says:

    Unique visitors and pageviews are all I care about. Referrals don’t mean much to me since 99.9% of my referrals are from Google’s various sites. I guess that could make search terms important, but I don’t look at them much.

    Or I guess you could say “Income per month” is the most important statistic actually *g*

  39. Paul says:

    I make it a point to only check my stats once a day or i would be wasting to much blogging time

  40. Joshua K says:

    if I had to look at one, it would be total number of hits. It gives me an idea of performance. If I see total number of hits go down, I’m not getting the traffic I want, thus an indicator I need to do something different.

  41. Either UNIQUE visitors or referral sources.

  42. Ed Kohler says:

    I like the “Most Recent Visitors” stat provided by Hitslink. I can scan where the most recent 100 or 1000 visitors to the site came from on one page, and look for interesting opportunities to join conversations on other sites mentioning mine. Also, it’s a good way to identify blogs that have linked to my site, but haven’t pinged their blog (very common with sites). When I find sites like this, I ping their sites for them.

    So, one report with many different uses.

  43. Liam Daly says:

    It varies with each of my blogs. For some the first thing I check is referrers, for others, page views, and others again uniques.

    So much depends on what stage each blog is at. If they’re still in the early stages then you might want to nurture every grain of traffic and pay closer attention to referrers than actual traffic. Alternatively if it’s well established in its traffic patterns then AdSense CTRs or CPM might be more important as a first port of call.

    Every blog is different – or else there wouldn’t be point.

  44. John Hamman says:

    Here’s a question, Are there any good “Free” traffic software. I know that Measure Map will probably be decent, but they haven’t started that yet.
    Anything else?

  45. John:

    I use Google Analytics which is JavaScript based. AwStats and Analog use Web Server Log Files. All there programs are free and widely used.

  46. I agre with Liam Daly’s comment.

    In the early stage of your blog, referrals would be important. You need to analyze almost every link or page referring traffic to your site. Almost any blog saying a few nice things about you could be the difference between 4 hits or 0 hits. At this point, analyzing your AdSense earnings would be pointless.

    When you start receiving 1000 unique visitors a day, it becomes a different matter. You really have to ask serious questions if your topic is not generating reasonable AdSense income or other Advertising income.

  47. I would check for returning users. And if there was a ways to track each user’s return (i.e. tracking the return of each unique IP that visited my blog), I would do that.

    After all, I personally believe, a user will return if (and only if) I provide value through my blog. If I want traffic, I have to provide value.

    Translates to:
    If I want money/profit, I have to provide quality.

    Or I can also choose the easy way and flame someone so bad he rants back. Like they say, there is no bad publicity, only publicity. And I do agree to some extent.



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