What’s The Measure of Your Blog’s Success?

Day 13 of the A-Z challenge.

M is for Measurement

What’s the best best piece of advice you’ve ever received in your career?

This is one of mine:

Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should.

This was a guiding principle used by a Vice President responsible for a huge and complex manufacturing operation spanning four continents. What he meant was that with if you measure too many things, you get so bogged down in detail that you overlook the most crucial information. In essence, you can no longer see the wood for the trees.

I’m reminded of that advice whenever I read articles about how to measure the effectiveness of a blog site or a website. One piece listed more than 20 different measures you could track. Everything from numbers of page views and comments to search engine ranking and incoming links.

Admittedly, many of these were aimed at bloggers and web site owners who use their platforms for business reasons. They are completely irrelevant to the thousands of bloggers like me (and many of you) who blog for fun.

Does that mean book bloggers should ignore all forms of measurement?

The simplest answer is no.

The more complex answer is: How much you measure –and what – depends on why you blog and upon your goals.

Why Measurement Matters

Peter Drucker is credited with one of the most important quotes in business management.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

When you think about it, that statement sounds obvious doesn’t it. Because if you don’t keep track of your golf handicap how will you know if all that practice is working? It’s like trying to learn a language but never getting a chance to put it to the test in a real conversation.

Having a measurement tells you where you are now and where you’ve come from. It can also give you pointers about things to improve.

If you operate entirely without measurement, you’ll be operating in the dark. Any measurement, no matter how basic, is better than none.

How Do You Measure A Blog’s Success?

If you use WordPress you already have some measures available. Look in the “stats” section of your dashboard and you’ll see daily, weekly, monthly and annually:

  • number of views
  • number of visitors
  • number of “likes’ and
  • number of comments.

Scroll down the page and you’ll get even more data: the exact number of people who viewed each post/page; the country from where they accessed your site; and whether they reached you from another location (from Google or Twitter for example.)

These measurements should be more than enough for most book bloggers.

Should you want to get even more insight on how your blog is working, you can use Google Analytics  (via a free account).

But I don’t think you need to go down that path. In fact I don’t think you even need to concern yourself with all the WordPress measurements I’ve listed above.

Not All Measurements Are Valuable

The number of likes is a meaningless measure. It doesn’t give you any insight beyond the fact that someone clicked on an icon. You can’t even be sure they read your content.

Data on the number of visitors and the number of views is nice to know– if only to reassure yourself that people are seeing your content. And if those numbers are going up, that can give you a confidence boost. It’s mildly interesting to see where in the world you readers are located.

For me, the most valuable measure in this whole list is the number of comments

Why?

Because the reason I blog is that I want to connect with other book lovers to talk about the thing we love most – reading. So an indicator of my success would be the level of interaction I get with people who follow me – one good way to measure that interaction is through the number of comments .

So while I do glance at the other measurements periodically, the only one that gets my attention now is the number of comments.

That might change in the future but for now this single focus works for me. What works for you could be different because it depends upon your own goals and why you blog.

Going Beyond The Data

There are some aspects of blogging that are difficult to measure in numbers.

You can’t put a figure on your passion and enthusiasm for blogging.

Yet it’s one of the most important elements of blogging. Because it you’re not enthused, then you won’t put the effort into writing new content or interacting with your followers.

Many of us blog purely for fun; not because we want to make money (very difficult) or become a “personality”. If you take away the fun element, what do you have left? Very little.

In a sense therefore, the only true measure of success is whether you are in fact having fun. Take the pleasure and the enjoyment out of blogging and every other measure becomes irrelevant.

Join The Discussion

Do you pay any attention to the data about your success? Are you someone who is regularly checking whether your stats have grown? Let me know what you think about the issue of measurement by leaving a comment below.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on April 15, 2020, in Blogging and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. Well written post!! Thanks a lot for sharing meaningful information.
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  2. Whenever I get a comment that says a follower likes the content on my site. That always touches my heart. Enough said.

  3. I wish I knew the reason why you have had problems commenting. I get that sometimes when I am using my iPad. I can be logged into WordPress yet after writing the comment, I get asked to log in and then it gets stuck ‘submitting’. I then go to a different blog, do exactly the same process and this time it works. Decidedly odd.

    Back to the topic….. that formula of improving “performance” + joy would give us a great indicator for success.

  4. I love writing about books and bookish things. I feel good if I manage one post a week on something that I care about, whether that’s a book review or library post. Quality before quantity is my preference. I get annoyed with bloggers who are going to post X times a week come hell or high water even if they have nothing to say. I also really like looking at stats and enjoy seeing growth or trends. As for comments…sigh…for years I hardly had any comments and I still don’t get very many. Perhaps because I’m not a very consistent blogger? It’s hard to build community when you’re not showing up!

    • Ack! Typos. My grade school teachers wouldn’t consider my spelling a success. 🙄

    • I’ve seen a direct correlation between the number of comments on my blog and the level of interaction on other people’s blogs. When I’ve been absent – like if I’ve been on holiday, the comments take a dive. It’s as if my comments on other blogs nudge them into remembering that I exist.
      Quality versus quantity is actually going to be one of my topics 🙂 I agree with you, posting for the sake of it is wasted effort. Also posting just meme after meme after meme is tiresome

  5. Like you I’m mostly interested in comments but I think that the number of commenters per post is more valuable than the number of comments.

    Of course, this stat is not available in WP so I keep track of it myself.

    • i’m interested to learn more about your thinking Emma – why do you say the number of commenters per post rather than number of comments per post? Often that will be the same figure won’t it? Unless you have people getting into a real discussion

      • That’s it. Sometimes you have a discussion in the comments and it increases the number of comments. I’m more interested in the number of conservations (commenters) than in the number of comments.
        I love long discussions or even better, when another commenter steps in or, best of all, two readers start conversing in the comments.
        I want my blog to be a salon. That’s the ideal.

        • Agree with you Emma, I do like it when I see bloggers connecting via the comments. I do that on some sites but am surprised it doesn’t happen more….

  6. Admittedly, looking at my stats is one of the things I find most fun about blogging. I’m a very analytical person (I’ve worked as an accountant and a business analyst) and I love crunching numbers. I know that most of the numbers I am crunching have little-to-nothing to do with the blog’s success but, as I say, it is enormous fun for me.

    There are a few ways, beyond my fun, that can justify this effort. Being in the southern hemisphere, if you want your new post to get the best chance of views and likes in its first 24 hours, the timing of your post may be important. I’ve been experimenting with timing a fair bit and so far it seems scheduling your post for the early morning or late afternoon, Australia time, gives it the most chance of being noticed by the northern hemisphere dominance of the English-speaking world.

    • I think early morning in Australia is evening in northern hemisphere (well UK and Europe) so makes perfect sense because people have finished dinner and are relaxing so maybe searching on line or dealing with email.

  7. I enjoyed your quotes about measurement Karen. Like most of us, my workalike was dogged by measurement, particularly when we got into the 1980s and 90s where measurement seemed to be everything. As a librarian I was always frustrated by the fact that measurement usually measures quantity not quality. A simple example is that you could catalogue, say, 100 books a day basically or 30 books a day to some depth. Basically, might mean author, title, publisher, date of publication whereas depth might involve subject categorisation, etc etc. You could answer 100 reference questions a day by pointing people to a shelf, or 30 a day by asking them in my depth about what they were looking for and pointing them to the specific book or journal or article. So, you need to think about exactly what you are counting.

    I am mostly interested in comment counts (but if hit counts go up comments can go up somewhat too), but comment counts still don’t give a sense of the quality of the commentary. Fifteen comments on one post may be far more satisfying than 30 on another, depending on what the commenters say or engage in.

    In the end, I’m with Carol. My competition is with myself. How is my blog going this month versus 1 year ago, etc etc. Is the average rate of comments per post higher? That’s really the main measure for me who is not in this for money or fame.

    • Not my “workalike” but my “working life”!

    • I hear you about the tendency to measure everything. There was a book of essays I read decades ago about the Soviet Union. It talked about how the 5 year plan drove the wrong behaviours. The example that stuck in my mind was about the railways. They were given a target based on the number of miles covered. To hit (and exceed the target) the rail bosses resorted to having trains drive empty late at night. So they were praised for beating their target but of course the real measure should have been whether they were carrying more passengers.

  8. I’d agree with you about comments and engagement. Stats are a fleeting pleasure when they’re high but only set the bar higher. It reminds me of cyclists and runners enslaved by their fitbits while ignoring the world around them.

    • What a good analogy. Those fitbit targets are completely meaningless. the 10,000 steps target was set by a marketing person based on zero knowledge of the topic.

  9. This is a knotty one for me. I blog for the love of it, at the end of the day, and I enjoy doing it. However, I love to exchange bookish thoughts with others so I love to have comments. The thing is, I tend to find I get more response when I post a book haul as opposed to what I would think of as a more substantial post. Whether these latter are offputting or take too long to read, I don’t know. But I do like to occasionally look at the numbers of visits, just to know people *are* having a look! 😀

    • No problem in “having a look” at those visit numbers at all – the only problem really arises when you keep checking them, every day or even multiple times a day.
      As to your question why you get more response for book hauls, I think its because they fall loosely into the category of a list post – they are much quicker to read so if people are pushed for time, they know they can easily scan those. Reviews or other substantial posts require more detailed reading….

  10. Like you, I value comments above other measurements because they demonstrate actual engagement, not just a click on an icon. It’s nice to see your number of followers increase but of course the likelihood is only a small proportion of those will be active followers who regularly view your blog posts. I find the number of views for a specific post only really increases if I’ve actively promoted it on social media.

    • Those follower numbers can definitely be misleading – as you say only a proportion of them will be regulars. I’ve also learned that I have some loyal followers who actually never make a comment but tell me they read all the posts…
      Your insight about views increasing when you promote on social media is a good reason to keep an eye on that stat.It gives you some direction about what you could do to improve views for all posts…

  11. I’m definitely keen to increase comments on my blog so that I can connect with other readers and start conversations about the books we’re all reading and enjoying. Really interesting and helpful blog post – thank you!

  12. Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    Oooh, I love that advice! I’m very sure there are a lot of “valuable” blogging stats that I can/should be tracking, but I don’t. I find that bloggers who obsessively track every blip and bop tend to end up tying their self-worth and value to those numbers alone. Of course, it’s handy to have an idea of how your blog is “performing”, but most of what makes blogs “successful” can’t be quantitatively measured.

    • Excellent point about the effect on our esteem. I think thats why there is a push to get companies like Facebook to remove the like option from their platforms. Too many young people suffering anxiety when they don’t get as many likes as their friends.
      And I love the distinction you make about the difference between performance and success!

  13. I think you’re right about comments… when I won a Best Blogger award some years ago, one of the criteria was apparently engagement, and the judge was impressed by yes, the content and the way I write, but also, to my surprise, by the level of commentary. I thought that was interesting because there’s no way anyone can tell how many comments you’re getting from ‘outside’ your blog, so she must have been viewing it and other nominees throughout the judging process.
    Of course this made me think that it was all the lovely people who took the time and trouble to comment on my blog that should have won the award!

    • That’s an interesting way to evaluate a site – one I’ve not seen anywhere else. Indeed that judge must have been monitoring your site for a while but I bet she wasn’t just looking at what people said, but how you responded so yes those people who commented did you a good service. But it was also your level of interaction back that was important. Hence why I keep banging on about not ignoring comments!

      • Yup. This week I’ve more-or-less stopped commenting on a blog I’ve followed for years. She never responds, and right now, when I’m doing my best to keep up with everyone’s posts and sometimes it is a bit of an effort… well, it just seems underappreciated when there’s no response.

        • I agree Lisa … when bloggers rarely respond you do feel like giving up. Those bloggers are the first to go when I’m particularly busy, and when I’m not particularly busy they are low priority. When you make the effort to comment you like to know that it’s been read – and, anyhow, I like the engagement and discussion that can ensue.

        • It’s often the case that the bigger the blog gets, the less interaction you find. I do understand – it’s quite tough to dedicate the time to respond. But then if I invested time to contact them it would be good to get an acknowledgement. Otherwise it feels like I’m saying hello across a road to a neighbour who knows me, and they just walk on without any response.

  14. P.S. you’re half way to Z! 🙌 Are you exhausted?!

    • Almost! There are only a few things keeping me going right now.
      1. I’m learning a lot not just by reading up on a subject but challenging myself whether I follow best practice or what I think of the advice
      2. The responses back from readers like you Carol. Thank you for keeping my spirits up. I do enjoy finding out what other bloggers think on a topic, we may agree to disagree but it’s good to get different perspectives.

  15. I agree with you, the real measure is are we still enjoying doing it (blogging). That said, my spirits go up or down with the number of comments. I feel very sorry for the post that gets none. On the other hand, I know that feel-good topics will get lots of comments but I would sometimes prefer to write about an obscure book that generates very few. The stats I watch are number of followers and number of readers per day, but that’s just because I am incorrigibly competitive.

    • You can manipulate some of the stats by doing posts which are “click bait” but that’s not in keeping with why YOU want to blog (nor me for that matter). List posts get a good number of visits but they fizzle out quickly. Book reviews however have a longer life span – especially if you have reviewed a book that is on a school syllabus 🙂

      • What can I add to this. It says it all, Karen.

        I know when I write my Monday Musings which ones are likely to get lots of hits and comments, and which ones not, but in the end I just write what I want to write and what I have time to write. Often the “click bait” ones are quicker to write but they are less satisfying.

  16. I think we all really appreciate a genuine comment that advances the discussion in the post (although “great post” comments are welcome as well). But in terms of fun metrics the one I like the most is the ‘where in the world viewers are’ one – nice to see the map slowly fill in!

  17. Oh my! Today for the first time I am able to click on the like icon and leave this comment via my WP login! The only thing I did differently for this post is I accessed it through the reader and not my email. Huuummmmm…. so odd!

    Back to the topic! My fav competition is with myself! As a teacher I always looked at the data to inform instruction and to measure my own effectiveness from year to year! So….I do look at and track my blog stats. I admit that I’m looking for steady growth and there’s an element of excitement in reaching a new milestone. But it’s also true that without the joy and pleasure that I experience in blogging that the stats don’t mean much. So I guess for me it’s the combination because I love to see increasing stats along side my generous serving of joy! Comments mean the world to me! I recently received the best comment from a lurker who had never commented before but shared that she always trusts my reviews because they match with her reading tastes. Our content IS being read and it impacts others in ways we may never know. That thought brings me great joy and provides endless motivation! In my real life I love to talk books, so the discussion on my blog is an extension of who I really am!

    Great topic and worthy of much reflection!

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