Last week I attended the Hello Culture conference in Birmingham. The conference is dedicated to cultural and arts organisations, each year having a different focus. This year the theme was Data.
Like many bloggers, I’m sure, I definitely consider myself more of a creative person than a numbers person, and so went into the conference with some trepidation, wondering how much of it would actually be relevant. I needn’t have feared – it was an incredibly inspiring day, and I came out of with my brain absolutely buzzing with links between data and blogging.
The key message from the day that keeps coming back to me is “data is only as good as the conversation it starts”. This really made me think about blogging analytics. We can all get a little obsessed with our numbers. After all, they are our sign of success, right? The bigger those page view / visitor numbers get, the better our blog?
I once attended a workshop run by uber blogger Kat from RocknRoll Bride and vividly remember her warning about blog stats – “checking your analytics too often is like weighing yourself too often” – you start to obsess over the numbers, and although any little success should be celebrated, it’s all too easy for any little fall to feel fairly devastating, when in fact the numbers can be fairly meaningless on their own. (Another point made at Hello Culture is that nearly everyone has smaller numbers than they’d like!). Stats, (like weight!) fluctuate, and it’s patterns over time that can matter more – for example in my first year of blogging ‘properly’ I was horrified by my August stats and wondered what on earth I was doing wrong. Now after a few years of repeating patterns, I know that Summer is a quieter time on the blog, but things pick right back up again in September.
Furthermore, it is important not to just take the numbers at face value, but instead start asking the right questions about them. More and more bloggers and brands are valuing engagement – i.e. quality over quantity. So, perhaps instead of asking ‘how many’ when looking at our stats, we should be asking ‘who’, and ‘are they repeat readers?’; ‘Do they care about what I write?’, ‘Do they comment, am I starting a conversation?’ (and again don’t get hung up on numbers of blog comments, Facebook and Twitter have had a massive effect. Some of the most successful bloggers hardly get any comments at all, and I know of at least one who has decided to get rid of the option entirely, preferring to engage with her readers through social media). Your basic analytics dashboard may not give you all of the information these questions raise, and so you can begin to develop more efficient ways of collecting the data you actually need.