The Measure of the Blog’s Success

When I began writing here everyday again back on January 1, 2021, the blog was at a low point. Readership had dwindled down from highs of more than 120,000 views per month to a small fraction of that. Posts dwindled as well. Last year saw about 51 posts. By comparison, the first eight months of this year have seen 283 posts, including this one. Stats have started to come back up, slowly.

I have a confession: I’ve become obsessed with the stats here, as I once was in the heyday a few years back. I hate that I’ve been obsessed with them. I suppose part of me believes those stats are a measure of the blog’s success. Another part of me believes that maybe success can’t really be quantified. Still, in any endeavor we look for ways to measure our success. So How should I do it here?

Stats: page views, visitors, etc. are valuable when they can be tied to other measures. If I ran ads for instance, these stats would be tied to revenue from the ads. But I don’t have ads. I don’t have sponsors. I don’t have other revenue streams that the blog supports. Heck, I don’t even have Amazon affiliate links. So what is the point of being obsessed with stats like page views and visitors? It’s a bit of an endorphin hit on days the numbers are up, but disappointing on days when they are down. Then, too, stats never give you the full picture. There are the stats that WordPress provides, the stats showing visitors that come directly to the blog. But that doesn’t tell me how many subscribers read the blog through email, or RSS feeds. If the number isn’t all that accurate, what’s the point? Are there other measures of success?

Blog stats for the last 10 years
WordPress (JetPack) blog stats over the last 10 years. Note in 2014, I disconnected from JetPack so some stats weren’t recorded there. (I was using Google Analytics instead that year.)

One possibility is the number of followers and subscribers to the blog. These are people who have read something they’ve enjoyed enough to want to read more. When I find a blog I like, I subscribe to it so that I don’t miss anything. The number of subscribers here has slowly been creeping up so maybe that is a measure of success.

Another possibility is the number of “likes” and comments I get. I tend to prefer those over the stats because they show real engagement. Someone took the time to like a post or leave a comment. A page view is just that: an instance of a post loading in a browser. It does not mean someone read what I wrote. Likes and comments are tangible feedback from readers. These have been up significantly over previous years so perhaps they represent some measure of success. A subset of my audience is reading what I write and actively engaging with me. I like that.

Maybe the difficulty in measuring success is one of definition: what does success mean? When I started writing here again regularly in January I had one goal: to write everyday. Part of the reason was to get past the five years of writer’s block I’d experienced for my fiction writing. Part of the reason was to write because I enjoy writing. Part of the reason was to create a blog that I would want to read. None of these reasons were about making money. That is not something I wanted this blog to be about. Blog stats: views, clicks, interactions, bounce rates–they all seem to be geared toward generating revenue and that is something that is something I’ve never really intended for my blog.

Perhaps for a blog like this one, the traditional measures of success just don’t fit. I set out to write every day, and I’ve managed to do that so far. I write about whatever is on my mind and I have fun doing that. I’ve seen more direct engagement than in previous years and I take that as a positive sign. Will I stop obsessing over the traditional stats? Probably not. Instead, I’ll just keep reminding myself that they are not why I do this. I do it because it is fun for me, no matter how many people read what I write.

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  1. I ended up shutting my stats off a few years back because I spent so much time looking at them and seeking validation from them that it was unhealthy. I never did anything to change what I wrote based on stats either. No stats for my site has been great.

    I do still spend more time than I should looking at YouTube stats though.

    1. Curtis, I’m not sure I’d have the guts to just turn off my stats. I probably should, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Over the years, they tell a story. I just need to be better at not chasing them today. I don’t have much control over them so why worry about them, right? Every once in a while, though, there is a day that the stats give me a kind of endorphin hit. Today, for instance, is one of those days.

  2. I totally get what you’re saying. And I fully agree with the value of stats and actual engagement of likes and comments. It is I think somehow the flaw of the internet as being something that for me mostly means to consume rather than to engage. And your blog is one of the very few I like to leave a comment and to engage. And despite any value comments might bring, mine probably rarely do, I like to leave them also as an act of encouragement.

    But since you mentioned that you made it a goal to post daily for a reason: “[…] I had one goal: to write everyday. Part of the reason was to get past the five years of writer’s block I’d experienced for my fiction writing.”
    How is that working out for you? Did you experience anything changing on that part? Asking for a friend, of course. 🙂
    Actually do toying around with that idea to get over my similar issue with writing.

    1. Sebastian, ultimately, what I decided was that I would write for the blog instead of writing fiction. In that sense, things are going well. I really enjoy writing here. As far as fiction goes, I’m taking it day by day. At some point, an idea will catch fire with me and I’ll give it a try again. But for now, I’m happy writing here. On the fiction side, part of the issue was that most of what I originally sold was what I read growing up: science fiction. But I sort of grew out of it. I could write those stories, but they are no longer the type of stories I want to write. The struggle for me is figuring out what I want to write. I don’t really know at this point. I’ve toyed with posting some fiction I’ve written here. For now, I’m happy with what I am doing, but it would be nice to get back to fiction someday.

  3. Hi Jamie,

    Just a note to let you know how much I enjoy your posts. I’m one of your invisible readers — I subscribe via RSS — but have read just about everything you’ve written since I found your blog earlier this year. I’m a big reader and have kept a journal since I’ve been a teenager, so your thoughts around books, journals, and related learning systems are always insightful. I can’t imagine how much effort it must take to write as much, as often and as well as you do. Truly impressive. So, thank you.

    Cheers from the Pacific Northwest!



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