Stats Wrangling I: Digging into Your Data
Chances are that if you’re running a public facing blog, you’re probably happiest when someone actually reads it. Preferably lots of someones. Your blog’s stats can give you some great ways to get to know a little bit more about your readers, and what it is about your work that most attracts them.
While the more liberal artsy types among us might shoo off the idea of obsessively stat trawling as something for the more scientifically inclined, there’s actually something for everyone lurking just beneath the surface, whether that’s inspiration or cold, hard logic. If you want people to read your blog, making use of your stats can give you an arsenal of information to help make that happen. In our Stats Wrangling series, we’ll be digging in to how to get to grips with your blog stats, one module at a time. But in today’s post, we’ll start with a whirlwind tour of the whole works.
The Fifty Mile View
The first thing you’ll want to do is to head to the Stats tab of WordPress.com, once you’ve logged in. That’s going to take you to the fifty mile view, the big picture, of what’s happening on your blog right now, in terms of the people visiting and reading it.
From up on high you can get a nice overview of what’s currently “trending”, or most of interest to the people visiting your blog. And that can give you some ideas in and of itself. But to get right down to business, you’ll want to dig into the different sections of your stats, and click through the “summary” sections, where a lot more information lurks.
Days, Weeks, & Months
Let’s start with Days, Weeks, & Months. By default, you’ll be able to see which days have been most popular in terms of visits to your blog. Clicking through to the “Weeks”, “Months”, or “Summaries” sections give you some different ways to see how things are going on a bigger scale. As you click through those, ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Are certain days of the week more popular than others? Could it be that publishing on Mondays, for instance, is a bad idea, when every time you publish on a Friday, your stats seem to soar much higher?
- Are there certain weeks of the year when traffic either nose dives or picks up considerably? Does that correspond to your summery fruit punch recipé, or your beautiful photos of an Icelandic Santa’s Grotto? How could you create more content to chime in with these seasonal spikes, or avoid seasonal fall off by focusing your attention elsewhere?
Top Posts & Pages
Digging into your Top Posts and Pages gives you a very clear idea of your most popular content. Which is a great way of getting ideas as to the type of content browsers and visitors are most interested in reading. Consider:
- Where are people consistently heading when they arrive at your blog?
- Whether you’re making the best of those posts and pages, or if they could use a spring clean?
Checking out your list of referrers will give you a better idea of how people found your blog in the first place. For a lot of people, that will have been through search engines, but you’re likely to see all sorts of referrers in the mix. Ask yourself:
- Where are people coming from to find you?
- Is there anything you can do to make it even easier for those people to find you in future?
Search Engine Terms
This one follows directly on from your top referrers. If people are finding your blog by searching for something, what is that they were looking for, and how does that chime in with the post they ended up finding on your blog? Ask yourself:
- What are people searching for when they stumble on your blog?
- Can you do a better job of helping them find what they’re looking for, by using clearer wording, or building on that most popular content with more posts, or even a page?
Tags & Categories
Tags, and to a degree, categories are really important, especially in the WordPress.com community, where folks might very well find and follow you in the Reader based solely on how you’ve tagged your posts. If you aren’t tagging your posts, it’s a bit like opening a restaurant at the end of a dusty dirt road and not putting up a sign to show people where it is. Looking at your Tags & Categories stats, consider:
- Are you tagging your posts consistently? And putting them into categories that make instant sense to someone browsing your site for the first time?
- Which tags and categories are consistently hot to trot? Can you write more in that category to keep people coming back for more?
How (and if) people are sharing your posts with their friends and online contacts can also be interesting in terms of seeing where you could possibly spend more of your attention. Consider:
- Where are people, if they are, sharing your work? Facebook? Twitter? Elsewhere?
- How could you make it easier for them to do that? Have you, for instance, linked your blog up to your Facebook or Twitter accounts?
If someone’s taken the time to comment on your blog, they’re well worth learning more about. Taking a look at this section of your stats, consider:
- Who comments most on your blog?
- Have you visited their blog or commented on their posts?
While we’ve been mostly interested in how people have arrived at your blog so far, it’s also worth considering how they’re leaving it. The Clicks section of your stats is useful for learning all about that. Taking a look through this section, ask yourself:
- Where are you sending people once they leave your blog?
- Do you see any relationship between your posts and the places they’re headed?
One way to create success for a post is to see what’s worked before (see: every film ever made in Hollywood). Clicking on the Best Ever link just under the main stats graph, ask yourself, as you browse the results:
- What was the best ever day for your blog?
- Looking at all of the stats we’ve discussed above, specifically for this day, what picture do you have about what made that day successful for your blog?
Over to You
I hope this quick overview of your stats gives you some ideas about how you can make better use of them to make your posts even better. Remember, it’s not about changing who you are, or what you write, to serve some magical formula, but just a way to get a better handle on what’s working, and what’s not working so well, on your blog. Having an idea about what makes your readers tick, can, if you’re interested in having more of them, be really useful when you’re next thinking up a blog post. Stats shouldn’t be restrictive or prescriptive, but rather another source of inspiration for where to take your blog next.
How have your stats made a difference to your blogging?
Other posts in this series:
- Stats Wrangling II: Days, Weeks, and Months
- Stats Wrangling III: Top Posts and Pages
- Stats Wrangling IV: Referrers and Clicks
- Stats Wrangling V: The Words that Bring You Traffic
I love to read my statistics! It makes me happy when I see that readers are obviously enjoying what I’ve written, just as disappointed I am when I’ve put lots of work into a blog post and the response is not what I had hoped for. I am still fairly new to all of this, but I am slowly getting there… 🙂 – Thanks for this article! 🙂
I JUST posted about stats analysis yesterday! http://ridingbitchblog.com/2013/06/17/meta-monday/
Great little analysis here of how to use the stats. I have definitely thought about the days and how Sunday consistently gets the least views of my blog. I’m wondering how I can know where viewers go after me? I will have to look at clicks more closely. Thank you!
I am delighted that my searches in one day can find both “tucking”, a technical issue of interest to trans women, and “Woman’s Mission”, a series of paintings by George Elgar Hicks. My best day occurred when someone facebook-shared one post, and it got 106 views from that. The post’s total views are 231 over not quite two years.
So, would I be better to split my blog into ones about art, trans and LGBT issues, spirituality, personal diary and the people I encounter, or do you think having one blog for all this and more gets more views?
Even though my blog is there for me, I definitely respond to the readers by analyzing which posts get attention and focusing on those topics.
Nice article (very helpful)!
WordPress stats are wonderful, but what i’m interested in is context.
How do i know if my blog is doing well? What is the average number of hits per day for blogs on WordPress?? What is the average number of hits per day for WP-blogs like mine??
For example, if the average hits per day is 100, and my bicycle blog get 120, then that sounds good; BUT if the average number of hits per day for bicycle blogs is 200, then i’m not doing so well.
Perhaps we could have a stat that tracks overall WP performance AND maybe we could be allowed to submit our blogs to predefined categories and then be provided with the stats (hits per day, hits per month, etc.) for that category.
Nevertheless, thanks for your great work!
My stats are still fairly low- I know I don’t have that many readers. My best days are the days when I have to time to go and read other people’s work, like, and comment. Or when I find something on a Freshly Pressed blog that gives me something to say. The stats also let me know that my little Pinterest and Twitter accounts are a steady stream of a handful of views a day, even though Pinterest mostly leads people to an older post about some restoration work we did. They sometimes look at other pages.
Thank you- this post has been very helpful. My blog is all over the place in terms of visitors and stats and having you explain ‘stats wrangling’ has helped me make sense of those numbers and how they can be useful.
Thanks so much for publishing this excellent Stats tutorial.
Thanks for all the explanations.
I’ll use this.
This is all good information but stats can sometimes be misleading: my best ever day of almost 5000 hits was caused by people searching for the Google Doodle Snowflake. Not one of those hits commented.
On the plus side, the numbers of search engine terms and top posts and pages did explain why nobody left a comment 🙂
Thank you for the tips.
Thanks for this post. I am going to search out my stats page and see if I can make as much sense out of it as you have explained.
You all have been doing a super job of helping us discover and, more importantly, understand the hidden gems in our sites. Much appreciated! The only thing missing is linking these “knowledge base” articles as “Related Posts” on the relevant Support docs. 🙂
These stats *are* restrictive – I spend ages every month typing them into an Excel file because I can’t just export them!
Nice post. Thanks.
How can we understand/think of the difference between tags and categories? If we are doing tags, do we really need to do categories, too?
The idea of digging into stats for us right brain types grabbed my interest. But you lost me after go to the stats page. This was not step by step enough for me.
I’ve always found the stats fascinating. The most popular post we ever published was when street artist Banksy sprayed “If graffiti changed anything…” on a wall in our neighbourhood http://news.fitzrovia.org.uk/2011/04/25/banksy-graffiti-fitzrovia/
We were the first to photograph it and publish it on a News site. To date it has had 54,450 hits — 10 times more hits than its nearest rival on our site. Find something newsworthy and unique, and people will flock to read it.
I don’t get too bogged down in blogging stats, but you gave me some food for thought with:
Top Posts & Pages
Consider . . . whether you’re making the best of those posts and pages, or if they could use a spring clean?
I know that a number of people use a certain post as the “front door” every day . . . maybe I need to spruce up the Welcome Mat for them. Thanks!
I would love it if stats would show more than just 5 people in the top commenters list I would like it if you would increase it.
I feel like stats are really iffy. At one point, I was getting closer to 100 views a day and now I’m back down to maybe 4 a day. I’m writing similar posts and I’ve tried to make my blog really simple and appealing for anyone who sees it. It’s like all my usual visitors suddenly up and left me. Any help? =\
Thanks for this information! I was confused with the numbers sometimes! Pictures of food is what most are looking for when they find my blog 🙂
I really enjoyed reading your post. I am obsessed with my stats. I get such a buzz when I see my views increasing quickly and love seeing which countries are reading my blog.
The stats can be a bit depressing, at times, when they tell one that the posts one enjoys doing most are those that attract least interest. At least one becomes aware of it, thereby, and can then try to do the appropriate balancing act.
What an interesting post. I’m fairly new to blogging and I don’t think I’ve looked at my stats more than a couple times and even that boggled my mind. This helped to put it into perspective. My blog is all over the place, but all about Hawaii. I’m not sure I even put tags on my first posts or categorized them so i will be going back and taking a more knowledgeable look now. Mahalo.
Thank you so much! Ready to learn more. Question: when i am editing my blog or website and preview live in another window and click around, do those count as a hits? Is my activity excluded from stats or included? In other words, am I creating all the hits and information on my stats?
I am very puzzled by one thing. The relative lack of discussion of the “views by country” feature on the stats page, both in this article and in the comments. On many days, more people read my blog from outside the US than from within. And certain articles seem to attract readers from the Russian Federation, and others from Islamic countries. There are all kinds of these kinds of intriguing mysteries wrapped up in the data from this feature. I wish there was a way to more accurately determine which nationalities are attracted to which part of my blog. I find this information fascinating and it makes my work with my blog a whole lot more fun; is it just me?
A useful summary, thank you so much. I do look at my stats, but do wish I could get a better idea of which posts people are looking at. I wonder if my theme is the problem. I use the Twenty Eleven theme, which fits my blog perfectly. Unfortunately most of the hits on my site show as “Home Page/Archive” so I have no idea which post they are looking at unless there is a comment or like. You can scroll down a long way on the home page and read a number of posts. Perhaps it is just the limitation of Twenty Eleven.
I appreciate how you try to make it as easy as possible for us to use WordPress.
Because you wanted some feedback in an earlier comment about what to post on a blog, I will say that I post about whatever I’m passionate about on a particular day versus having separate blogs for my interests. I’ve attracted a diverse, loyal base of readers with that technique.
I too am a fan of checking my blog stats (multiple times a day!) Check my top referrers to see if my social media efforts are being rewarded. I know I can use the info on this page better…. thanks for the run down. Have a few more ideas to focus my efforts.
I am still really new at this, so I don’t have many views as yet. But if I ever get a following, I will know how to check and keep up with my stats. Thanks wordpress.
Stats have always encouraged and inspired me. Thankfully my own visits are not counted (else the visitors counter would have multiplied hundred times).
Great tutorial. I hadn’t realised that “clicks” shows where readers went after leaving me. Very insightful. Thanks.
@ Cheri (in response to your reply to Clare)
It would be helpful if we could reply to comments/replies rather than have to post something separate. For example, unless Clare looks at this again and reads all the posts, she wouldn’t know if I was commenting about her query. I can get round that by visiting her blog which I do anyway, so that’s not an issue. However, it doesn’t help discussion on here.
This has been the best addition to the system — it helps us to see the day to day referrals.
I don’t care about my stats. They’re nice (and nicely done by WordPress, of course) but I don’t care. But I do get the best clicks for stories that I personally like writing. Thank you for the stats, WordPress, your effort is much appreciated.
I agree with Fitzrovia News — if you find something newsworthy, people will flock to the site. My post with the most hits has been on the opening of a grocery store in our area!!! Who knew??? Thanks for the info on stats — very helpful!
Well, I already knew some about stats, deceiving stats. Though this article states what I knew as a solid confirmed knowledge, that is fine.
Comments are wonderful, really. I agree with all, since everyone have a different point of view.
– Comments are more important than number. They give more interest to your blog.
– Where these bloody visitors came from, very important too. thanks to WordPress.com we are well known by google and so on. To know how people found you, then if they appreciated what they found, by seeing more than 1 page for example, is good. If they click IN your blog, is a great satisfaction, you have created relationships, you are valuable.
– Finally , I have learned today that if new visitors were good news, their absence combined to a great number of views could be a better one : the same came back.
Great summary and I love reading the comments to know that I’m not the only one who gets hyped when he has a good stats day. I get especially jazzed when I see someone in a tiny place like Guam read my blog.
Thanks for this post – it made sense of something that is a bit of a mystery.
Great post. I often find it difficult to replicate the success of a randomly popular article, even with similiar content. Makes me wonder if the images ranked well or it got unexpectedly shared many times but was not due to the success of the article itself.
Thanks for the tips – I’m going to be building some of these observations / actions that can come from WordPress data analysis by integrating my social business reporting platform with the WordPress API. I’d appreciate your thoughts (or your readers’): http://analytics.thesocialbusiness.com
Thanks for the summary. I find the stats page to be a bit overwhelming, so something like this is helpful to read. I’m used to my etsy shop stats – simple and to the point! I’ll have to check out the different views to perhaps find a day of the week to consistently post content… hm.. =)
Thanks for the tips. I’ve always been focused on the visitors as opposed to views – for me it’s about how many people I reach.
Very interesting article about stats. Although from my experience you have to be writing something people are interested in for them to visit your site. If people aren’t interested in the topics you are writing about in the first place they will be unlikely to visit. I guess the trick is finding those people out there who WILL be interested and then getting them hooked!