Blogging: The Numbers Game
“I would love to know how everyone keeps track of their stats. Like if they use Google analytics? And how to use those things? Is this necessary? I feel like publishers, at least from what I can tell on NetGalley, ask all these things.” - Sarabara081 @ Forever Lost in Books
How to keep track of your stats.
I didn't start keeping track of my blog statistics until I was well into blogging. I thought the little ticker on my page that displayed total views was enough. Unfortunately, numbers are important if you want to work with publishers. The best way to keep track of your stats is to use an outside stat tracker. I use the site www.statcouner.com which helps track unique visitors, pageloads, first time visitors, and returning visitors. The most important of these is unique visitors. In order to use statcounter.com all you have to do is sign up for an account and link in your website, then post an html code to your blogger blog. Mine is at the very bottom of my blog. After that, StatCounter will show you all your different statistics every time you log in. It's that easy. You can even check out averages by month, week, day, year, etc. And seriously, if someone as illiterate at html can make it work, anyone can make it work :)
Is it necessary to keep track of my stats?
To a point, yes. If you want to work with publishers (either directly or through NetGalley) then you'll need to know your numbers. The numbers are what most publishers judge you by. Will the cost it takes to send you an ARC be rewarded? Will you be able to drum up enough publicity for that book? How many of your followers will actually view that review? So, yes. The numbers matter if you want to work with publishers.
For my NetGalley profile I display my average unique visitors per month, my average page loads per month, my follower count, my Twitter follower count, the length of time I've been blogging, my Facebook page “likes”, how often I post, and what I usually post about. When sending a review request I include unique visitors, followers, email subscribers, and Twitter followers.
Why the stats shouldn't matter.
It seems to me, that lately we've become overly concerned with the “numbers” of blogging. When did the numbers become so important? When did so many of us shift our focus from the passion we have for books to the need to have the most unique visitors. I remember when I started blogging, and it wasn't because I saw people getting free books, or working with publishers, or anything like that. I started blogging because I realized there was a community of people out there who shared my interest in the written word. I started blogging because I'm passionate about great literature and I discovered a large group of people who are equally as passionate as I am.
Obviously I started a blog because I wanted to share my opinions with the world, rather than keep them locked up in a journal. I wanted a place that I could call my own, separate from Goodreads. I wanted a place that would scream “Anna,” that everyone would know where they'd ended up. I started off reviewing the books I owned as well as books I'd borrowed from the library. I never realized that people would give me books to review. Once I started getting review books blogging became a serious thing for me. It wasn't just a hobby anymore. It was somewhere I could honestly share my opinions about books and attempt to help out the authors I'd grown to love. Yes, I wanted to help authors and booksellers sell books. I didn't want, expect, or need credit for writing a 5 star review and selling a book. That's never been my job. My job is and always has been to spread awareness and share my passion for reading.
I think a lot of us have gotten caught up in the numbers game, myself included. I just began noticing my personal concerns with my own blog's numbers. I seemed to have lost track of why I started blogging in the first place. We blog simply based on the fact that we love books. However, I think the allure of free books, publicity contacts, and popularity even has gotten to some of us. For some, it's become a competition to have more followers than Blogger A, get more unique visitors than Blogger B, and have a better giveaway than Blogger C. Almost like we're secretly competing with each other. Which we shouldn't be doing at all. We're all working towards a common goal here: share our love of books. While the numbers are always going to be important, it's necessary not to lose track of why we started doing this.
Because of my blog, I've been blessed with the privilege of receiving early copies of books. Since I started working at Barnes and Noble, blogging has actually helped me at my job. I've been able to provide a lot of recommendations to customers looking for a good YA title that's new and original. I'm able to put books in customer's hands the day they hit shelves. And I love that I can do that. I love that I can put a book in a customer's hand that I've genuinely enjoyed. I love that I can physically spread the word about books I love to real people, in a real life setting. And you know what? I get paid to do that. I know plenty of bloggers who don't get paid to pluck their favorites off a shelf and sell them. Bloggers do it for free, because we love it. For those of us who don't work in a bookstore, they're the people who spend hours in a bookstore and recommend titles to random people simply because they want someone to buy, read, and love that book as much as they did.
I think it's important to step back for a minute and remember why we started blogging. We need to remember that blogging shouldn't be about the numbers. Our focus should be on the books, and the authors, and the community. While working with publishers is always a great way to help spread the word, and numbers will always matter, developing a blog purely based on our love of books is the most important part. I've had to stop focusing on the numbers so much. Do I still check my StatCounter? Yes, but instead of daily it's monthly. Do I get excited about new followers? All the time. Even when that number goes up by one it means I've captured someone's interest. The numbers matter, but they shouldn't matter so much. They shouldn't be our sole focus.