Data With a Grain of Salt

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – Albert Einstein

Talking with some blogging friends the other day, the topic of blog views came up. We were discussing all the different reasons that view numbers could be less this year than last year: people’s attention spans getting shorter, maybe viewers read more when the pandemic shut down other activities and now they are reading less, etc..

I’m too new to blogging to have enough historical data of significance, but I’ve studied similar data in my professional life to know that numbers aren’t as concrete as we think. So I did some digging and thought I’d share the results of my research specific to WordPress.

First of all – what is a view?

According to the WordPress stats and insights page it is:

“The two main units of traffic measurement are views and visitors:

  • view is counted when a visitor loads or reloads a page.
  • visitor is counted when we see a user or browser for the first time in a selected time frame.

visitor is an individual looking at your site. A visitor can view many different pages of your site or view the same page multiple times. Therefore, the views number is typically higher than the visitors number.”

With those definitions in mind. Here are some things that impact the numbers.

  • If a viewer reads your content in the body of email notification and never clicks on any links within the email, it doesn’t count as a view.
  • If a viewer reads and/or likes your content in the WordPress viewer but does not click through to the full post, it does not count as a view.

One of the blogs that I write for has changed in the last few months so that when posts are emailed out, they no longer have a “like” link at the bottom, just the “comment” link. However posts that come from my blog still have both “like” and “comment” links at the bottom. Some posts are emailed out with just the summary and then something like “click here to read the full post.” For people who are reading blog posts in email like I do, those three differences are going to impact the number of views.

There are some things that WordPress makes a point not to count as a view – search engines and views from anyone that has logged in and who has authoring permissions. Generally speaking, there are trying to report how many views of the content by readers as accurately as they can.

The technology is constantly changing so things like a change in the format of the notifications by email or even how well the WP Reader performs on a mobile device can impact things like view numbers. Numbers as reported within a week are probably pretty accurate in relation to each other because the functionality is consistent. There are likely seasonal differences with dips in summer and holidays. Year over year numbers, comparing the same month this year to the same month last year, is very interesting data but needs to taken with a grain of salt.

If a blog has a drop in views, it’s possible that it’s because the author(s) has alienated the viewers or our collective attention span has gone to seed. But since the trend over time for active bloggers is towards more followers and views, it also might be worth considering these technical factors as well.

For those of you who are interested in more information on the many way people read blog posts from two incredibly talented writers and experienced bloggers, both Ashley and Claudette have covered the topics in depth and by survey here:

Ashley Peterson’s post on How Do You Read Blog Posts? on her Mental Health @ Home blog.

Claudette Labriola’s survey results of How Do You Read Blogs on her Writer of Words, Etc blog

(featured photo from Pexels)

What’s Next

The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” Robert Byrne

Several months back when I wrote a post about performing for likes, Ab of the My Lovable Pest blog, made a comment that he had turned off notifications for when people like a post. I thought it was a pretty good suggestion so I modified the notifications on my own blog so that I don’t receive notifications when people click “like.”

It had a funny effect. At first, I really missed getting the emails that “[alias] liked your post and went on to say “They thought [post name] was pretty awesome.” Actually, they didn’t necessarily think it was awesome – they “liked” it. But more to the point, I had to go through the withdrawal of not getting those dopamine hits in my inbox.

Eventually I got used to it and it led me to focus more on the comments I was getting which was a far more meaningful experience of interaction around any particular topic whether it was something I wrote or I was commenting on something someone else wrote.

But then I started writing for the Pointless Overthinking blog. On Wednesdays, I publish a post on that blog with 27,404 followers. And the settings for that blog are tuned differently so that I do get the “likes” for that post, usually about 100/week.

That felt pretty great for the first few posts but then it morphed into a feeling of “what’s next?” A feeling that Harvard professor and social scientist Arthur Brooks describes as success addiction. We get to a new level and it feels pretty great – and then we adjust to that level and look to the next thing.

His cure for success addiction is to know our “why.” By being deeply rooted in our why, we can hope to get off the treadmill of looking for the next thing because we are grounded in our mission.

The why of my blogging has evolved over time. I’d say that I blog because it helps me process the depth and delight of my experience in life. I find something that I learn or see or feel in a day and by writing about it, I burn it in a little deeper. And when I talk about it with people through comments, I get the gift of seeing it through others’ eyes.

Puzzling through this helps me move through that “what’s next” blah because I remember that what’s next is another conversation with my delightful blogging friends.

(featured photo from Pexels)