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Who Cares How Many Subscribers You’ve Got?

Image-Thumb13The following guest post on measuring a blog’s success has been submitted by Mark Seall.

A guide to systematically troubleshooting your blog’s performance by focusing on the measures that make a difference.

Apparently it’s really easy to get zillions of subscribers to your blog – Just follow a few simple steps, work hard and write good stuff. I know this, because I read it every week on various pro-blogging sites which are keen to dispense the wisdom of their own success whilst making you feel inferior for having less than 20,000 RSS subscribers.

Unfortunately for many of us, the promise of multiple thousands of subscribers is unrealistic no matter how hard we try – sometimes because we work in less popular niches, sometimes because we just don’t have the available time, and sometimes because we just don’t have that magic mix of talent and luck.

Ultimately this leads to frequent disappointment among bloggers. Many of the bloggers I speak with are at a loss as to how to increase traffic, enviously regarding the multi-thousand subscriber club. Blogging is not a hobby or a profession for those without perseverance.

The reason that we obsess over our statistics

The only reason so many of us obsess over our statistics is because page views and subscriber numbers are the most obvious ways to measure our success. But are they really?

A business that only measures itself by its profits is unlikely to be successful in the long term. Profits are obviously important, but profit is only one measurement of success, and crucially, it is an outcome not a determiner. Outcomes are the things that ultimately we are judged by, but they don’t tell you anything about the underlying factors which will make future success possible, and which are making current success difficult.

For example, a firm which is making roaring profits today is a poor investment if their products are so bad that few of their customers return tomorrow. A blog might have 10,000 hits today from social media, but that’s hardly a success if visitors don’t find any reason to return the next day.

So how can we measure ourselves

To truly understand and address what’s driving your success it is necessary to understand the web of relationships between the different determiners which lead to the outcomes that you are looking for. The diagram below shows the network of measurable items which make up these relationships, showing how each is interconnected.

Image-Thumb13-1

Some of these measures can be determined by statistics and some require a little more subjective judgement. What’s important to grasp initially are the actual outcomes in which you are interested. Measures marked in red represent these outcomes. If you blog for money, then obviously ad-revenue is the most important outcome for you. But if you blog only for pleasure then perhaps your level of reader engagement (which can be determined largely by comments) is more important to you? If your blog is part of a longer term plan, then perhaps generating kudos within the blogging community is your best measure of success?

Next, consider (or don’t consider) the things which you can’t influence directly – such as page views. There is nothing you can do to directly influence these, so to a large extent you shouldn’t waste time worrying about them. However, don’t ignore them completely. These determiners can provide you with useful information as to why your blog is not performing as expected. For example, if you have few new visitors each month (often the case after the first few months) then perhaps you are getting poor search engine placement, or you are lacking in inbound links? If a quick check on Google shows that you are lacking in links, then perhaps it is time to re-focus on community interaction again? It is important to troubleshoot poor results in a systematic way to avoid firing random shots in the dark.

Finally, put all of your energy into the green items – the things that you can influence. Time and energy are always at a premium among bloggers, and it is usually unrealistic to expect that anybody can focus on everything. However, properly understanding all of the current performance measurements of your blog, and how they interact, will allow you to choose where to focus for the best results. It’s worth noting that things which have multiple connections have a greater influence on downstream results – hence the constant emphasis on quality content.

Final thoughts

In reality, most bloggers (myself included) will continue to obsess over page views and find it difficult to walk past the computer without stopping to check on stats. However, putting a bit more focus on the wider measures of success can often delay the onset of the ‘blogging blues’ and give you the motivation to create that great content that we all love reading.

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.

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Comments

  1. sir jorge says:

    Great post, I’ve really been one of those people that are checking stats daily, and hoping for more, but am at a loss of how to get there.

    This article is very timely on many different levels.

  2. Ben says:

    I’ve asked that question a lot over the past year. Who cares about subscribers? Honestly, I don’t think the average internet user even knows or cares about RSS and feeds. So maybe it should be re-phrased to Tech-Literate instead of subscribers. To me that would make more sense.

  3. Mark, great article! I really appreciated the flow chart as well, since it brought the concepts home. I am a beginner blogger, and it can be overwhelming trying to do everything at once. The sort of focus you recommend sounds like it will be a great way for me to shed tasks that do not yield results and turn my precious time toward the tasks that DO.

    Thanks again!

  4. ourmonmouth says:

    Mark this was really a great post. I think the most important measure of success is are we happy with our own work. Are we personally satisfied that our content and effort is to our own standards. If the answer is yes, then one must believe perseverance will prevail and success will come (eventually).

    Thanks for the motivation!

  5. Diana says:

    THANK YOU! When I first started blogging I was so stressed with the numbers. I was doing it for fun…so why did it matter? I wanted to be successful at it and I will continue to check my numbers. Yet, you are right – sometimes your blog is in a niche and can’t be measured by numbers. I know several of my readers don’t know what RSS is, and don’t care to know. They just want to bookmark me, and come back at their leisure. Sounds great to me. Thanks again for re-focusing my attention.

  6. Vinh Le says:

    I think you can add marketing as one of the green bubbles. As for measuring success with subjective means, that would be real difficult, especially with blogger kudos. Some people would measure blog reactions for that I suppose. And I suppose comments would be a decent indicator of engaged readers though. The other problem with subjective measures is that it would take a month or so to get an idea as if your efforts are paying off and even then it might not be accurate.

    I think subscriber numbers are still a good overall indicator of how well your blog is doing. Just focus on increasing it and be realistic as to how much subscribers your niche could support.

  7. A very nice post! I am sure.. this will help a lot of amateur bloggers like me.. to focus on the right things to do..

  8. I think it’s possible to measure success in a much easier way. If you blog for money, are you making a profit? If you’re blogging as a hobby, are you having fun?

  9. Suzanna says:
  10. paul merrill says:

    Any possibility you can give an article with links to how to find out how many people are subscribing to my blog?

  11. Great article!

    Oh, some people check stats only daily? l thought you were supposed to check every half-hour! :)

    I’m on Google Analytics so much, my kindergartner likes to look at the world map, and my toddler looks at the pie chart and says “ball!”

  12. Ryne Nelson says:

    The diagram was excellent, but I wish the author would have elaborated some more about *how* bloggers can focus their attention on “the things that you can influence.”

    Yet, I’m sure a quick search on ProBlogger would do the trick…I’m about to search how to improve SEO!

  13. Kathy says:

    I used to obsess over my number of subscribers (still would love to crack 100 some day), until someone wrote me and said they’d kill to get my number of comments. I average 35 per post. That appears to be a benchmark for success for some people. I don’t overlook it, either. I’m grateful for the feedback and pleased that so many people feel engaged on my blog. It tells me I’m doing something right.

  14. abhilash says:

    Great post and graphics really help. It will probably help to keep this diagram in front everyday. I will probably add design/usability to the list also.

  15. Frank says:

    Good stuff and a great graphical depiction.
    Reminder to self – stop obsessing about numbers, stop obsessing about numbers…….

  16. Can’t walk past a computer without checking stats? That’s bad Darren. I only check 3-4 times a day. :)

  17. Lou says:

    A reasonable chart. I’ve just now been realizing that I enjoy Blogging more than I enjoy trying to make money.

    So I’ve concentrated on getting the content I want on the page instead of Monetizing and building traffic and socializing and guess what?

    Better, Fun and interesting content leads to all the others. You can’t really force it, can you?

  18. DJ Diva says:

    As a podcaster, I often use the amount of downloads as my true measurement of activity. I haven’t been able to find a widget to generate this so I update the top downloads daily. I will say that since I started doing this, not only have my downloads increased but my page views have gone through the roof. Comments have remained at the same amount.

  19. Suzie Cheel says:

    Thanks , now I feel better:) I love the graphic

  20. I suspect that obsessing about numbers is one of the main mistakes rookie bloggers make. The most successful bloggers seem to be the ones who write for themselves, first and foremost. If you like what you’re doing, you’ll almost attract other people. People like to be around other people who are having fun and are positive. Who wants to be around someone who is stressing out about numbers? Just the thoughts of a 3 day old rookie blogger :)

    - Dave

  21. I have to agree with you that focusing on the results we can’t directly influence is a way to quickly “bring you down.” So the graphical description noted here is an excellent reference/reminder. But when you print it out, be sure to print it in color :-)

  22. Great article.

    Some of the blue areas you can partly influence, i.e. inlinks, if you write good enough content you’ll find people linking to your posts.

    Ad revenue is what I am spending most time reading up on. Companies only seem to want to buy text links (which I don’t do now) and they don’t want to pay money for advertising.

    I’m looking at affiliate advertising because Adsense is so off-target with the ads it delivers. Plus the ads look pretty ugly.

  23. Hated the title,
    Liked the post,
    Loved the chart!

  24. Otto says:

    Great post. Focus on the things you can influence…

  25. David Godot says:

    The compulsion to check the feed stats is an absolute menace.

    The worst time for this is when I’m actively avoiding something else. Why, I can reload those feed-stats 20 times in an hour and still be anxious to see the results.

  26. Having only been ‘proper’ blogging for about 6 weeks (I just used myspace before) I’m finding the whole subscription thing a bit perplexing. Getting my first subscriber was thrilling, the following day it was up to two, but on day three there were none. One day it’ll be up to five subscribers, the next down to two, then up to four, then back to one. Do people subscribe one day and then within 24 hours decide that they’ve made a terrible mistake and unsubscribe?

  27. Sandy says:

    That is so right…ultimately fixing the root cause will fix anything that flow from it. Good and Engaging Content is the key.
    BTW Darren Thanks for your advice…Google Adsense reinstated me back.

  28. Jenny Lynn says:

    Awesome Blog! Short, Very Sweet and Visual. My Fav! My eyes are listening very carefully and my glass is flowing Over!… I just hope that my poor little blog is too someday. Please visit and give me suggestions! http://www.livingwellgrants.blogspot.com

  29. Wonderful post! This chart would come in handy when explaining this topic to my clients. I will definitely have to refer them to this article!

  30. Wow! This is a great posts! Somewhat I’ll getting on the right direction!!

    btw.. did you made you those diagrams? I like it!

  31. Vicki Arnold says:

    What a great article. I am still new to blogging in the grand scheme of things and this article really gave a clear picture of blogging success (no pun intended).

    Thank you!

  32. The way that I stay focused on my blog is by making sure that it’s used as much for personal development as to provide thoughtful content to others.

    Zach
    pennywise-poundfoolish.typepad.com

  33. Great stuff. I’ve been reminding myself to focus purely on the content. If write well, and publicize myself organically, the rest will come. So far, it’s worked. This is a great reminder to focus on the stuff we can control!

  34. I don’t really sweat the stats. My blog is just over one month old and I already have more subscribers then I thought I would.

    I do have to admit that I don’t get as many comments as I should. Still at a loss on how to turn that around.

    The Masked Millionaire

  35. Jamey Lucas says:

    I haven’t touched any of my stats trackers in weeks. I have just written content, and watched for comments.

  36. I don’t really sweat the numbers that much now. But it’s nice to get traffic and see that people wanna read what you have to write.

    Anyway, the work can boring so people don’t necessarily wanna hear stories about cubicle adventures.

  37. You hit the this topic right on the spot… great tips. I think the quality of your content have to be useful and relevant to make sure everything else follows…. even Google :)

    Yours truly,

    Luis Galarza,

  38. I just realized I check my stats more then I blog. lol

  39. I really like this – it follows the principle of life re: you can only control what’s truly in your control. Thanks for the reminder that we need to apply this to our blogging!

  40. kylie says:

    this part really caught my eye “making you feel inferior for having less than 20,000 RSS subscribers”.

    and here we were shooting for just 1000 RSS subscribers!

    great article, and loved the flow-chart.

  41. whoever says:

    Community interaction should also point to comments IMO.

  42. Leo says:

    It is very interesting points that you raise. I am currently moving my blog from Wcx social networking site to my own wp blog after a year and half of blogging. I think you it important to offer good technology services that integrate well into the larger network. The most important being the ability to register your site.

  43. I have issue with the community interaction, but for everything else I do the right!

    Nice post.

  44. Josh Anstey says:

    Darren,

    I have tagged you in the ’8 little known things about me’ meme.

    http://blog.joshanstey.com/index.php/2008/04/04/8-little-known-things-about-me/

    Check it out and keep it going.

    Have a great day.

  45. Kelly says:

    Mark,

    This post is very hot. Thanks for putting engagement front and center for bloggers. Like any other business, foot traffic is nothing without satisfaction, and satisfaction is entirely within a blog author’s reach.

    Darren,

    One of the best guest posts ever. Thanks for inviting Mark—I’m off to influence his stats right now!

    Regards,

    Kelly

  46. suresh says:

    Wonderful and you understood and clarified regarding some non serious issues which appears like very serious for them.

    For example with out using seo techniques there is no point in looking for better results from search engine.

    Very well pointed out that concentrate on things that can be done and leave the rest for time.

    Congrats.

  47. Don says:

    I have a small blog in extremely small niche and to be honest I wanted but didn’t expect to have more than maybe 100 readers a day…Not subscribers but visitors reading my blog. Now that I have it I’m encouraged to keep it at that level…at least.

    I like having subscribers but like the article states..i can’t control who subscribes.

    I like have traffic, and stats are important to me, I’m getting more and more each day…but I cannot control it but it does show me the trends.

    I haven’t monetized my blog yet so I can’t use that as a measurement either…

    It’s the feed back I get from my readers..in comments or directly from them that keep me going…

    That’s my measure of success..If I can move, inspire, aggravate, and educate people in some way shape or form I’ve done my job.

    That’s my measure of success

  48. Thank you for writing that post for Problogger Mark!

    I have actually met a couple of bloggers who brag about their subscriber count…but don’t make much from their blog.

    I love the flow chart too.

    Joseph Ratliff
    Author of The Profitable Business Edge 2

  49. Darren, thanks. You let off a heavy chip off my shoulders. I am just in it for two months and when I would communicate with other bloggers, they would tell me, “huh! you should look into it that your subscribers rate are high. That is your first priority” or “if you have no subscribers, you are doomed” or many comments like this. One thing I have understood that if one has good articles to produce, everything will fall in place automatically. Initially, I would worry but now my main concentration is on quality writing and community interaction. What say?

  50. Thanks for that! I had recently decided to only look at my stats week by week so that I wouldn’t get overly depressed or overly enthusiastic from an “off” day…As much fun as looking at the stats can be it seems like they can also really discourage you when you don’t need to be hung up on the details but look at the big picture as your blog grows…

    That was a very helpful chart thanks for putting that together