With apologies to my readers who don’t blog and are wondering what they ever did to deserve this, I’m getting naked today.
The robe comes off to let me reveal what nearly all pet bloggers hide.
So with no more delay, off go the clothes and I show you my… stats.
[But first a quick apology to my non-blogging readers for once again writing a post they won’t find very interesting. Please come back tomorrow to see Honey showing off some lovely frozen waterfalls.]
Pet Blogger Anxiety
As a five-timer in the annual Pet Blogger Challenge, I’ve seen a lot of community feeling, love of animals, and anxiety. Yep, anxiety.
Everyone wonders how they can get more traffic. What they can do better with social media. And why they don’t have the results of other bloggers.
And it’s the last one that bugs me. Because I’ve done it too.
Haven’t you looked at a random stat in someone’s sidebar and wondered how they got so many subscribers? Or been shocked by the number of Facebook followers by someone who has been blogging a shorter time than you have? Or been amazed by someone’s millions of “hits” when you’re still trying to crack the low hundred thousands although you’ve blogged for the same number of years?
C’mon, admit it. We’ve all had those thoughts. And they make us feel awful.
I feel even worse because I should be happy for the success of bloggers I love who are doing great work instead of worrying about myself.
But I have a suggestion that might help us all. And it might surprise you.
Pet Bloggers, Share Your Stats
As bloggers, writers, web content creators, whatever you want to call us, we have highs and lows. We’re good at some things and less good at others.
Thank goodness. Wouldn’t it be a dull world if everyone did the same thing and got the same results?
But it’s hard to have that perspective because most people share few or none of their stats. So we see one number that’s better than ours and let it make us feel bad instead of seeing the whole picture of success and failure that’s part of any creative activity.
It’s time for pet bloggers to share our stats. Here’s why:
Lots of people in the Pet Blogger Challenge talked about the supportive community of pet bloggers.
They’re right. We share ideas, sympathy, and the occasional tech solution.
But we don’t share stats.
Do you know what community does share stats? Financial bloggers.
Financial bloggers are united in wanting to make money from their websites. That’s not the case for pet bloggers.
But pet bloggers also need traffic to stay motivated, share important causes, and yes, sometimes even to make money.
One financial blogger set up The Yakezie Network so bloggers could support each other in reaching their personal goals. One way they do this is by supporting each other in meeting targets they set for their stats.
Just imagine how helpful pet bloggers could be to each other doing the same thing. But we rarely share our stats.
When we only see glimpses of each other’s stats, we focus on the parts that make us feel bad about ourselves. And we don’t get enough information to think about what works and doesn’t work when we pursue our own goals.
I have a small audience of really thoughtful people. According to Alexa, S’Waggers are far more likely to have graduate degrees than the average internet user.
That makes sense. When readers come here, I make them work.
I use words like omphaloskepsis. I write long posts. And I take horrible pictures that barely make up for the effort of reading my meanderings.
I have a small audience. But what’s there is cherce. (Oh, and did I mention the weird and obscure film references?)
So if you want to attract a broad, general audience that will share your posts on helping animals or want to sell thousands of copies of your witty and light-hearted story, do the opposite of what I do.
But you might not know that if you didn’t see my stats (which I will show you; but I’m going to make you work for it first).
We don’t mind admitting that spam bots are making us crazy and asking for the best plugin to defeat them. But when was the last time you heard someone ask, “I haven’t gotten a new Facebook like in two months. Can you tell me how you got your follower numbers so high?”
I think pet bloggers are happy to support each other in reaching our goals. But it’s easier to be helpful (and to ask for help) when we’re specific.
I’m sorry I can’t remember who on the challenge talked about how important it is not to compare the beginning to the middle, but they’re right.
If you’ve been blogging for six months, you’re lucky to be getting comments at all. You’re a mere pup. So don’t compare yourself to a seven-year old blog and wonder why you aren’t getting the attention they are.
I’ve even read comments from people who referred to me as one of the big bloggers. Unless she was referring to my weight, she was way off.
But wouldn’t it be nice if we had enough information that we could find reasonable benchmarks when we’re trying to grow our blogs?
Secrets create a stranglehold on us. Worry about keeping them hidden gets in our way.
But when we stand up and say, “I have a tiny handful of subscribers and people unsubscribe all the time” (true for me), we take the power away from things that we allow to make us feel bad. And we can figure out if we want to do something about it. Or if we just don’t care.
Maybe the reason we feel anxiety about stats is because we keep them hidden. Perhaps standing up and saying, “I only have 13 followers on Feedly and I don’t give a damn” is just what we need. And maybe it would even cause someone else to stand up and say, “Yeah, most of my readers don’t use Feedly. But I’ve a had lot of luck with Bloglovin.”
I’ve made worrying about my stats too powerful a secret.
What Do Stats Mean?
Stats mean different things to different people.
If you’re writing paid posts for companies, you need to justify your fees. People who are writing about important causes want to be sure their messages gets out. And some of us just need a little encouragement that the hours we spend each week writing and taking pictures have value for someone and don’t end up lost on the wind.
But stats can also tell us something about who we are and who we want to be.
If a hugely popular dog blog is Lady Gaga, then my blog is Dar Williams. (Look her up. She’s great but she doesn’t fill arenas.) So for me, stats are a way of letting me know if I’m staying true to my voice. Or helping me compare my efforts over time.
In the end, stats are mostly about how well you’re reaching the audience that exists for your work. And the audience for Something Wagging This Way Comes is small. And quirky.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Take It Off; Take It All Off
Okay, you’ve been patient through a thousand words.
I track a few stats in a spreadsheet each month so I can see my progress (or regress) over time. Plus I pay attention to the WordPress stats package. I avoid Google Analytics for the most part. It’s too complicated for me to bother with.
Here are my latest numbers from my spreadsheet along with some notes:
Facebook followers: 1,343 (I enjoy Facebook but I’m not very good at using it. Can’t force myself to spend the time posting that it requires. And I’m way too serious for the crowd that gathers there.)
Twitter followers: 3,035 (It probably won’t surprise you that Twitter isn’t my thing. Can you imagine me loving something that limits me to 140 characters per post?)
Alexa ranking (U.S.): 272,248 (This ranking shows how many other websites are more popular than mine. Low is good. Obviously I’m doing something wrong here since my ranking has been as low as 75,458 in the past.)
Technorati pets: (I’ve stopped tracking this since Technorati changed their system. I never understood it anyway. I have been the #1 pet blog just to sink to 182th place the next month. Bizarre.)
Email subscribers: 268 (I don’t promote subscriptions much besides having a sign up in the sidebar but I must admit it always makes me feel bad when someone unsubscribes. Not that I blame them since I hate email too and my posts really are a lot to read every day.)
WordPress subscribers: 45 (Rock steady for years but it definitely doesn’t grow.)
WordPress average monthly views for 2014: 14,008 (Thanks to a popular post on getting rid of dog poop and other old content my views are rising slowly.)
WordPress total views for all time: 379,386 (WordPress doesn’t count my own visits to Something Wagging or they’d be much higher by now.)
WordPress total comments: 12,951 (I definitely have fewer comments than many blogs the same age. But I’m very pleased at how thoughtful and interesting my comments are. I wouldn’t trade a single one for all the “nice post” comments in the world.)
WordPress average daily view: 448 (Now if I just posted every day, I could really get my stats up.)
WordPress best ever views in one day: 1569 (Many years ago one of my silly and not terribly good posts was “Stumbled.” I’m more likely to see views over a long time than to get a big hit in one day.)
I started Something Wagging This Way Comes on March 26, 2010 as a WordPress hosted site. I moved to self hosting in the fall of 2010.
Okay, I’m naked and I’m dancing around in blogville. I have nothing else to show.
Learning From Stats
Some of you are looking at my stats and saying, “Gee, I would have thought they’d be better than that after all these years.”
I hope no one is seeing anything that makes them feel bad. That’s not my purpose.
When I look at my stats I see growth over time as I’ve learned more. I see that I have written useful posts that people come back to year after year because of a search.
And I see a body of work that, while I’m very proud of it, is not going to attract thousands of followers.
A common piece of advice in last week’s Pet Blogger Challenge was to stay true to your voice. And looking at stats I see that staying true to my voice will appeal to a limited audience.
And I can’t say I mind that one little bit.
Your Turn: If you’re a blogger, do you pay attention to stats? Why or why not? And are you willing to get naked with me in the comments?