I took a stand during my Fitbloggin’ presentation a few weeks ago and I’ll be doing the same at both IDEA World BlogFest this weekend and Blog Brulee in September.
NOT ALL METRICS MATTER.
And certainly, the metrics that matter to me may not matter to you, and vice versa.
Let’s start with a pep talk. Well, part pep talk, part reality check. So many bloggers — those who are just getting started and those who are facing a plateau in terms of growth — get frustrated because of a series of numbers.
Page views. Unique visitors. Facebook fans. Twitter followers. Instagram followers. Pinterest followers. Email subscribers. Bounce rates.
The list goes on and on and on and I can tell you that every single person I’ve worked with through MakeMEdiaOver shares the concern that he or she doesn’t have enough of one or more of those metrics. And to each of those people, I ask the same question:
“Why does it matter?”
It’s not a rhetorical question. I really want to know why a blogger thinks that particular set of analytics is so crucial to measuring success. Rarely, he or she has a good answer and then together, we put together an action plan to work toward growing that particular number. That’s always exciting.
But most of the time — I’d venture to say 90% of the time — the person either can’t give me a clear answer or just sits there with a figurative lightbulb over the head. And together, we decide to ignore those numbers completely, or to at least put them aside in favor of other, more important metrics.
I think we have all been so conditioned to believe, either by “get readers quick” programs and e-books or by the collective feeling in the blogosphere, that page views=success. Certainly they can indicate that a particular blog has more readers, and certainly, that can mean that that particular blog is more successful, monetarily or otherwise.
But page views are relative. As are the other metrics. They don’t exist in a vacuum and are only helpful or meaningful if they lead to something else.
So, let’s break it down and get real.
This is the number that gives me the most heartburn when working with bloggers and I think may be the most abused and often over-rated number.
SHOULD THEY MATTER TO YOU: Yes, perhaps. If you’re making money based on the number of times someone loads your page — perhaps through banner ads or impressions to an individual post, the more views, the more cash you get. If you’re making promises to a brand about your expected impressions on a sponsored post or review, your overall page views may not matter but the number of views to that individual post certainly will. And if you’re being considered for work by a brand who is only using the overall page views to select the “biggest” bloggers, sure, you may win or lose the gig based on this number.
More and more, I find that this number needs context to really matter. For example…I have a series of posts that do very well on my site, even without my help. They’re optimized for SEO, they have been picked up and linked to by some other influential bloggers and the content is evergreen enough that even though many of the posts were written years ago, they continue to be some of my top-performing content:
- All of my Stitch Fix reviews
- Best Blogger Media Kits
- My experience with caffeine withdrawal
- A free 10K training playlist
Because they’re constantly driving views to my site, they help my daily, weekly, monthly and annual page views stay fairly high.
But not one of them is indicative of the average number of page views a post might get. So to use that number when projecting the performance of a new post or campaign is really not a great idea (yet, almost all brands do it).
BOTTOM LINE: for better or worse, it is the number one metric that brands will ask you to share. Because of that, it’s definitely a number to keep an eye on and try to increase, if you are monetizing your site. If you’re not…who cares? I’d be much more interested in engagement (how many people are sharing? commenting? emailing you?) than some random number of people who may have read your posts but didn’t feel compelled to do anything else.
This is a measurement of the individual (hello, unique) people who come to your site and read your content. If I come to your site and read three posts, you receive one unique visitor and three page views. If I come back before my session expires (assuming you’re using Google Analytics) and read two more posts, you will get two more page views, but I’ll be considered a returning visitor, not a unique. Make sense?
SHOULD THEY MATTER TO YOU: Again, see page views. Are you making money based on the number of individual people who load a post on your site? Brands often care about this number even more than page views because they are trying to capture as many new customers and leads as possible. In the example I gave above, I wouldn’t be all that exciting to your brand, because I likely would have seen the sponsored post or ad the first time I came to the site, and the following four times would have been lost on me. The brand would prefer that you have three unique visitors, even if each of them only read one post and left, because that would be three exposures to the brand.
The thing about uniques is that, candidly — most bloggers are not measuring them correctly, since Google Analytics recently changed the language and flow to find that metric. So even though, yes, this metric actually may have some important bearing in specific cases, I worry that the over-reporting of uniques is probably skewing it for all of us anyway.
(Here’s how to correctly find your unique visitors in Google Analytics: Behavior —> New vs. Returning.)
BOTTOM LINE: for better or worse, it is likely the number two metric that brands will ask you to share. Know how to measure it and be prepared to report it if you are monetizing your site this way. If not, let it go.
Social media followers.
If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase:
“I hate running a [Facebook] page but I know I have to…”
I would be a very rich lady. [Insert Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, SnapChat, etc. here because at some point, each complaint has the same foundation.]
Why do you HAVE to? Because some social media guru said Facebook fans are the only way to drive traffic to your site? Because another successful blogger has 50K followers on one of those platforms and appears to be raking it in? Come on, guys. There are two reasons that you HAVE to be on those sites and they are:
- you really love it and you can’t imagine not being on it, regardless of its performance
- you don’t really love it but it drives the majority of your traffic/sales/etc.
That’s it. If neither of those is true and you’re finding it to be an annoying time suck, WALK AWAY. If you’re too scared to leave the platform forever, why not take a week off? Then 30 days? Then six months? You can always come back. Social media audiences are pretty forgiving.
I love Instagram. I get so excited when I share photos and get likes and comments, I feel like I get to know my “friends” in a new and intimate way, it’s fun and easy to use and I will be on that platform until it’s seriously uncool. Does it drive any traffic to my site? Not much! And I don’t care.
I hate SnapChat. I want to understand it, especially when I see so many other bloggers raving about it. But I don’t understand how to use it. I feel busy enough with other platforms. And I have a hard time determining what it will bring me that Instagram doesn’t.
I love/hate Facebook pages. For Growing Bolder, I help run an amazing page that has 400K+ fans and growing by the minute. We have an extremely high engagement score, it drives a ton of traffic to our website, helps us make sales, is a crucial metric in our integration and marketing campaigns and is an absolute blast to contribute to. I get up super excited every day to post content on that page.
But for my blog? It makes no sense. Growing Bolder’s success stems from the fact that we post to it dozens of times a day, with a mix of inspirational graphics, thought-provoking posts from other writers and influencers in our industry, sales and discounts to our store, announcements about our TV show, etc. We almost never repeat, word-for-word, content that you’ll find on our site and we treat that platform as its very own marketing opportunity.
Most bloggers don’t have the time or inclination to make the same commitment to their pages, so they end up posting the link to the latest post and not much else. Readers already have a million ways to get your content if they want it — Facebook (or Twitter or Instagram or enter your platform here) can’t just be a dumping ground.
SHOULD THEY MATTER TO YOU: Maybe. But probably not, if you’re just using them to compare yourself to others and make yourself feel less than. 10K followers on Instagram does not mean someone is more popular, nicer, smarter or even more successful than you.
Obviously, I could go on and on but I hope I’ve gotten you to think about what really matters. For some of you, no number can or should actually count toward how you measure your success. If you have 100 readers and 90 percent of them take action because of you — they start a new health and fitness program, read a new book, have the courage to start a new job — you may well be more successful than the blogger with 100,000 readers, 90 percent of whom read listlessly and never feel inspired to take a next step.
Stop stressing about the numbers. If they matter, work to change them. If they don’t, let them go. And don’t for a MOMENT think that any measurement of page views, visitors and social followers says something about the measure of you as a person.