The Danger of Stats-Watching

I don’t think statistics relating to the number of visitors to a website or blog are the be all and end all, but they’re important for at least three reasons.

It's all in the numbersFirstly, they’re a measure, to an extent, of how well you’re meeting the needs of your audience. I say “to an extent” because other statistics are arguably even more important, such as the length of time a person stays on your site, how many pages or articles they visit, and whether or not they ever come back again.

Also, if you have a niche website or blog, either in terms of subject matter or, if you’re in the commercial sector, income bracket, the number of visitors is largely irrelevant. (I recall reading an article by Bob Bly in which he said that he wasn’t interested in getting thousands of visitors to his website: he was only interested in attracting blue chip clients who could afford his fees.)

Secondly, if you take advertising on your site, you need to be able to tell the advertisers how many people saw their ad.

And thirdly, it’s always nice to know that you’ve got some people reading it!

It’s in the context of this third reason that I had a bit of a shock a couple of days ago. I noticed that hardly anyone visited that day, and that there were no visitors at all for several hours. Similar story yesterday. What, I asked myself, have I done to alienate so many people?

Fortunately, some enquiries to Squarespace, where this blog is located, revealed that they’d had something called an “outage” and that as a result the statistics were not being registered continuously. What a relief!

That knowledge also reinforced my conviction that going over to Squarespace for the revamped website rather than a more usual do-it-yourself solution was the correct decision. It might have taken me hours to try and work out what was going wrong. I’d probably have tried various web stats packages before coming to the conclusion that the problem was out of my control, or having to upgrade the existing ones to overcome a newly-discovered glitch or security problem. I can do those things, but prefer not to. My time is best spent doing what I’m best at doing. I’ll refer to this theme in the near future, when I write a review of an Open Source conference I attended.

In the meantime, thank you for not, as my visitor stats suggested you may have done, abandoning me!