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A Surefire Way to Suffocate Your Blog (And Your Passion)

This guest post is by David Masters of Social Caffeine.

I’m a stats addict.

Whether it’s my Twitter feed, an email newsletter, my latest blog post, or my overall blog subscriber numbers, I’m constantly checking the stats. I’m obsessed. Comments, retweets, Likes, clickthroughs, I check them all.

Of course it’s important to check your stats. Without them, you wouldn’t know if your readers like what you’re doing. But, in a painful lesson, I’ve found out that obsessing over them is dangerous.

The dangers of obsession

I first discovered the joys of blogging in 2007 and I launched my first blog in 2008.

I did everything right. I chose a clear niche, which I had a deep passion for. I set up a self-hosted WordPress acccount and bought my own domain name. I devoted myself to following the advice of the best in the business, including ProBlogger, Entrepreneur’s Journey, and Skelliewag.

I launched my first posts, commented on other blogs, and promoted my content on social media. Within a week, I had my first comment.

I set myself a schedule to post twice a week, and my blog continued its upwards trajectory. After three months, I had over 100 subscribers, and most posts got ten or more comments.

Yet all around me I could see blogs with thousands or tens of thousands of subscribers. I compared myself to them and I felt small and stupid. What right do I have to blog, I thought, with all these amazing bloggers around me? How will I ever be as good as them? I also wanted my blog to make money, and I couldn’t see how it ever would.

That’s when my stats obsession began.

Diagnosing the problem

I started spending more time checking feedburner than writing blog posts. I’d gaze at the subscriber growth chart with a potent mix of hope and hatred, like a jilted lover.

My passion for my blog fizzled out, and I started posting twice a month instead of twice a week. My subscriber count plummeted, and I got even more disheartened. My posts dropped to one a month, then even less often.

Eventually I gave up, let the domain name expire, and archived my blog at wordpress.com.

I loved that blog dearly, and I look back in regret at the way I let it languish and die because of my obsession.

I’m now learning to manage my stats addiction. At Social Caffeine, my new blogging home, we check the blog stats once every two weeks. That’s healthy. It’s enough to check out what’s working (and what’s not) without wasting time every day mulling over numbers.

As a recovering stats addict, I now know that obsessing over stats is a surefire way to suffocate your blog and your passion.

You can, however, use stats healthily to find out what your readers want and to help you grow your blog.

Stats—the healthy way

  • Set aside a time each week (or each month) to check your stats. Check your stats too often, and you’ll find it more difficult to notice overall trends.
  • Look for trends. What topics are the most popular? Which received the most comments? Page views? Tweets? These are the topics your readers want to know more about.
  • Use Google Analytics, and ignore the built in stats counter on WordPress and Blogger. You’ll get a more in-depth (and useful) stats report.
  • Don’t change the core of your passion because of your stats. Your most dedicated readers come because they like to read what you care about. Make your mission chasing readers, and your blog will lose its soul.

Are you a stats addict, or have you got the addiction under control? How do you use your blog’s stats in a healthy and productive way?

David Masters is a writer, blogger and social media consultant. He writes about how to buzz up your social media soul at Social Caffeine.

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Comments

  1. Brad Harmon says:

    This is such an easy trap to fall into, isn’t it, David? I know that I’ve been guilty of this type of tunel vision multiple times over the years. I’m currently in the process of resuming my three blogs after a hiatus of over a year due to medical issues with my wrists and hands. The temptation to obsess on stats is going to be strong, so your post is a very timely reminder to me to keep the focus on what’s important. Thanks for the great post.

  2. Thanks for sharing the journey of your stats addiction — I totally get this! : )

    I know just how it feels to check stats and feel defeated and discouraged. And you’re right — it can lead to doing even less of the work you should be doing to grow your reader and subscriber base.

    What I’ve done in the last few months is decide to check my stats once per month, tops, unless I have a very good reason to check them more often, for example, after a guest post goes live or similar. And even then I sometimes still wait til the end of the month to review stats. This works really well for me, because it means I’m focused on creating killer content and building relationships, not numbers, etc. Numbers/statistics are important, but I think we all have times where we tend to focus on them too much, to the detriment of other higher leverage things we could be working on.

    The other thing I do when I check my stats is try to find what’s trending and focus on that — so that even if overall I might wish for better numbers across the board, if I notice that my traffic from Twitter is consistently higher than from every other referral source, for example, that means I’m doing *something* right, and I should do more of that. Numbers are just data points after all, and give us the roadmap for what to do less of and what to do more of.

    Thanks for your post, it’s good to know others deal with this stats addiction problem too. ; )

    • Thanks Kimberly, these are great tips. As you say, the trick is to check your stats regularly (but not too frequently), use them to see what works, and do more of it.

  3. Maria says:

    You must be really disciplined if you only check your stats once every two weeks. Pretty much as soon as I send out a campaign, I start looking at the Mailchimp/Google Analytics reports to see who’s doing what. It’s addicting and a complete waste of time. But it’s so hard to say no!

    • I know exactly what you mean, Maria. It’s always an amazing feeling to see “wow, people are actually reading and clicking what I wrote. It’s working!”

      If you’d like to check your stats less often, try this: Next time you send out a campaign, try holding yourself back from the stats for 24 hours. The next time increase it to 48 hours.

  4. My Era says:

    Thank you for this post.
    I have recently noted my obsession with checking stats that has only been getting worse with each passing day.
    I couldn’t agree more on how my blog is suffering cause of this.
    I need to set up a time frame before which I won’t worry about the stats.

    • Era, setting a time frame is a great plan. It’s especially easy to obsess over stats when your blog is growing, when actually the best thing to do is to leave it to grow.

  5. Hi David,

    Thank goodness I never developed that wicked attachment…although I did have a small addiction for a bit. Super advice here.

    Check stats infrequently. Trends take time to develop…like…longer than 20 minutes, or 3 hours.

    Days, weeks, and even into months. These time frames are suitable for seeing mid to long term trends in your metrics.

    The problem with incessant stat checking: you move your attention to GETTING instead of GIVING.

    Of course, unless you give freely it’s tough to receive traffic, leads or money. The stat check problem drains your energy and saps your enthusiasm, because you begin obsessing over yourself, and your stats…and forget about others, and solving their problems, and creating content.

    I check my stats frequently. My motto is: meet new people. More appropriately, make an impact on each new person I meet each day.

    As your connections grow the stats take care of themselves.

    Promoting others helps you to serve others. Leaving comments like these adds value to posts.

    Again, the intent and focus is on helping others so I focus less and less on me, and my stats, or any other attachments which sway me from my intent.

    Thanks!

    RB

    • Ryan, I LOVE this way of looking at it. Blogging is about giving freely, and obsessing over stats is letting yourself get in the way of giving. It’s being greedy. Thanks!

  6. GjiVan says:

    Very informative post. I am also feeling like heading towards stats more often then creating contents for my blog. I am feeling like you just awaken me. Thank you once more!!!

  7. Tommy says:

    Always great information, Pro Blogger is my number one resource. This one was very timely as i was guilty of doing a lot of what is discussed in this article. Great job.

  8. Your journey over the Blogging sounds interesting. I have a question for you Sir. David Masters Do you think that chat commenting and have maintaining relations with your top blogger circle will help in enhance your image. Coming out of the crowd ? If yes, Please share your experience

    • I’ve not been given a knighthood yet, Eric :)

      In my experience, top bloggers love to hear from you if you’ve got something to give them (e.g. an A-List quality guest post). Networking is not a silver bullet, it’s time consuming. But if you’ve got time to do it, then it’s definitely worth it.

  9. Jeff says:

    I think there are probably a lot of people in the same boat. End results are what we are after anyway right? But I agree it can be overdone a lot like people who work out to much when they are starting and they burn themselves out….We all need to learn to pace ourselves and let the time work its magic

    • Exactly Jeff, if you’re doing things right, then time will work all the magic you need. The act of checking your stats does not make your blog grow. Interpreting your stats does, but you only need to do this once or twice a month.

  10. Short and powerful. Where did you get such idea that enabled you to craft this awesome piece? See, Awhile ago, I was obsessing over email subscriptions. This almost got me depressed when I saw just 54 subscribers after 5 months. I was on the verge of giving up, but something kept me going.

    You see, you’ve raised an important blog post. Although, checking stats is good and could help grow a better blog, but don’t get obsessed over it. Thank you, Thank you and thank you for this.

    • To quote a famous article, the idea for this blog post came from no place “more reliable than my own meandering experience.” Your own life is always a powerful source of blog posts.

  11. John says:

    Yeah the less traffic you have the more you check your stats
    the more traffic you are the less you check your stats
    checking statistics too often is not a good sign, i agree…

  12. Greg Blencoe says:

    David,

    I really needed to read this post, so thanks for writing it. It really is amazing how obsessively focusing on stats is such an incredible waste of time. It’s a very bad habit.

    I’ve noticed that checking my stats too much doesn’t make me feel good at all. It just reminds me that I’m not where I want to be yet. It would be much better for me to instead invest my time in things that will get me to where I want to be.

    I really like your approach of checking stats every two weeks. My intention is to start checking my stats between once per week and once per month as you suggest.

    • Great! Producing fantastic content is always more important than your stats. Create the content, and the stats will come.

  13. I really appreciate this post because I believe it’s relevant to the life of most bloggers at some point. We may start a blog because of love, but at some point as we get more involved, we begin to focus more on stats than on the love. In an ideal world, those two things go perfectly together like sleep and a rainy afternoon. But sometimes they don’t. Something goes out of whack, most likely the attention to stats turns to obsession, as you wrote about here. Putting yourself on a schedule as you’ve done is a good way to manage the obsession over stats.

    Another way to help manage that obsession is to try to get into your own head. Remind yourself that those other bloggers’ success is about their journey, not yours. It’s easy to covet others’ success when we don’t know the work, sacrifice, or drama that went behind getting it.

    I’ve been there, and this is something that has helped me. My journey is my own, and I must define what success means to me, based on where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am going. What someone else is doing is their thing, not mine. So comparing myself to someone else only serves to put me in a funky mood, make me miss my own blessings, and take my focus off the great things I am doing.

    Loved your post!

  14. Liz says:

    Do you think you could start and lead a support group for stat addicts?

    Hi I’m Liz and I’m a stataholic.

    I really don’t use my stats for anything useful. I think that when you’re small, stats that mean something don’t really exist. Not when you can have a 999% growth from one day to the next.

    It’s just that watching the stats are so fun. Look! There is someone from Nevada who performed 12 actions and stayed on my site for 28 minutes exiting by an affiliate link! Let’s go check affiliate stats now!

    What do you suggest for bogs who have 50 or less subscribers? Are stats useful at the stage where you’re only getting 60 visitors a day?

  15. Liz says:

    Do you think you could start and lead a support group for stat addicts?

    Hi I’m Liz and I’m a stataholic.

    I really don’t use my stats for anything useful. I think that when you’re small, stats that mean something don’t really exist. Not when you can have a 999% growth from one day to the next.

    It’s just that watching the stats are so fun. Look! There is someone from Nevada who performed 12 actions and stayed on my site for 28 minutes exiting by an affiliate link! Let’s go check affiliate stats now!

    What do you suggest for bogs who have 50 or less subscribers? Are stats useful at the stage where you’re only getting 60 visitors a day?

    • Hey Liz, I’m in the same exact boat as you are right now. :-( I personally think that stats are only useful to see trends – not numbers. With 60 visitors a day you should be able to see some trends and figure out what type of articles your subscribers liked and which ones not so much.

    • A statoholic support group is a great idea!

      On the visitors per day, what Patrick said. Stats are always useful – but it’s the trends that are important, not the daily visitors. For example, check how much traffic a guest post brings, and if it brings a good spike in traffic, pitch to guest on that blog again. Stats show you what works, and what doesn’t.

  16. Thank you so much for the post. I understand that I’m a stat addict, too. And even a hard-core one. I will definitely apply your suggests. Thank you again!

  17. umar satti says:

    I am having some similar position but the post is worth reading really good piece of writing, Thank You for such good thing ,saving me from such situation

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the writing, umar. I’m actually part of a writing project called the Digital Writer. You can check out our books on Amazon by searching for “The Digital Writer”.

  18. Brian Schnabel says:

    I agree big time with the statement that one can very easily spend too much time reviewing stats and worrying about numbers. Worrying about how one measures up to anything/anyone is enough to make anyone want to give up on a lot of things. I’ve learned that the only person I need to measure myself against is me. If I’m happy with where I am at it’s the only thing that counts. If I like how my site currently stands on it’s own, it’s all good! Great Post! Keep Rocken!

  19. Judy Gambee says:

    Thanks so much for this post. Just started my blog less than two months ago, and was just telling a friend that I was obsessed with Google Analytics, and then I wake up to this helpful and encouraging post! Thanks for reminding me to stay focused on my passion and the reason I started the blog – to share with others our amazing travel adventures and help inspire others to do the same!

  20. John-Pierre says:

    Stats obsession gets even worse when you start wondering why you’re not growing, why your pageviews dropped a certain month, etc. You kinda just have to stop yourself and force yourself to not think about it and focus on the important things.

  21. Shelby Roth says:

    This is really a surefire way to check my stats and thanks a lot for the share. It’s actually positive to stay focused towards your passion in order to be understand what success means to you. Loved your post, very inspiring and educative; keep up the smarter job indeed!

  22. Daniel Hill says:

    Thanks David Masters this is a great help, actually the readers want something just like we are, the updated ones.

  23. This is an interesting post, thanks for sharing it!

    I’ve come to find myself checking my stats almost everyday sadly. I guess you’re correct when you say checking them at less regular intervals will allow you to see trends.

    I’m eager to see things going well but I guess time will tell!

    Thanks for sharing this info!

    • You can see trends when you check everyday. It’s just that they’ll be less obvious. And the time you spend checking (or admiring, or bemoaning) your stats, you could be doing other things.

  24. Kimberly says:

    Oh no! I’m a stats addict and I didn’t even know it!! I just started blogging a month ago and check my stats obsessively… Hmm, I’ll have to try this once a week thing and focus on trends instead of numbers. Great post!

    • Yes – or as you’re a new blog, give yourself a 3 month break before you start looking at your stats. Give yourself time to build up some momentum.

  25. James B says:

    Having read your post, I now realise why my past experiences have probably failed. I was more obsessed with stats and so when I didn’t see lots of growth, I became discouraged & eventually packed my blog up. I’m planning to try again & will hopefully control my stats addiction.

  26. infoinbulk says:

    focusing on your blog should be our motto..and not the stats..one day blog go viral…cheers to bloggers

  27. Glynis Jolly says:

    Until very recently, I was using 2 plugins for stats. I finally realized that I didn’t need them. I still have the one that is part of Jetpack just because it’s standard with this plug-in. I now use Google Analytics exclusively and, of course, I have the plug-in for it so that it can analyze my blog. Right now, I look at it about once per week and concentrate more on writing my posts. It’s more sensible this way.

  28. Santosh says:

    Thank David Masters for Important and helpful post. you are write very important headline about Blog. I’m follow it.