Question: What are your opinions on the importance of blog stats?
The topic of blogger stats has been on my mind quite a bit lately, so when I mentioned it to Melissa at I Swim for Oceans and she suggested it be the topic for Let's Talk this week, I jumped readily on board. It seems as though, at least to me, there has been a sudden increase in requests for my blog statistics–various parties asking for my unique visitors, monthly page views, number of Twitter followers, number of Facebook followers, number of children I plan on spawning, my blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and my height and weight measurements. Well, maybe not all of those.
For reasons that aren't entirely rational, every time a request for those numbers comes through I feel as though I've been stripped naked and am being weighed, measured and found wanting by the requesting party. The logical side of me understands a publisher or PR company's reasons for asking for blogger statistics–they're in the business of promoting books, and with the sheer volume of book bloggers out there, they need to determine which blogs get the most traffic and will therefore offer the best opportunity for a particular title to get attention. This makes complete and utter sense. There's just one problem.
This blog isn't a business to me. It's personal.
I've grown this blog for the past two years, it's an extension of me and a way of creatively expressing my love for books and reading. There's not a day or week that goes by where I'm not working on it or thinking about it, so while a request for stats is in no way personal to whomever is making the request, I can't help but feel sensitive about those numbers. So sensitive in fact, that my logical side often slips away and an irrational bout of dramatics takes its place. My confidence plummets and my thoughts run wild. Maybe my blog isn't good enough. Maybe I have the lowest stats in the history of blogging and everyone who sees them is secretly laughing at me. Maybe I have absolutely no reach at all, and each day I'm just talking to myself, hallucinating readers and comments when in fact there aren't any.
I can't stop thoughts like this once they start, and they eventually begin to extend past a fixation on numbers and into things like my relationships with authors and publishers. When I don't hear back from a publisher about a request I've made or an author doesn't respond to an email, logic tries to fight its way in by telling me that such a thing is not a personal slight or a reflection of the quality of my blog, and there's a perfectly innocent reason for the lack of acknowledgement–like the strong possibility that their schedules are insane and they have mailboxes full of emails with various requests and they just don't have time to stroke my fragile blogger ego by responding–but logic is no match for the power of self-doubt. That empty email inbox is like a punch to the gut, the force of it releasing Doubt from the cage she was confined to the last time I beat her into submission, and she suctions herself to me like a thousand deranged and possibly rabid limpets (I'm not sure sea creatures can actually be rabid, but let's just let it slide), refusing to let go until she's infected every single cell in my body. Until I'm covered in limpet-sized doubt-filled boils.
Once Doubt is loose, she runs rampant and conversations like this one with my husband happen:
Me: Publisher XYZ didn't respond to my email today. *heaves giant sigh*
Me: What do you mean so? Clearly my stats aren't good enough and I'm not getting enough traffic and they are no longer interested in talking to me! And don't even try to tell me it's not true, nothing you say will convince me otherwise.
Me: That's it? That's all you're going to say?
Kevin: You just told me nothing I said would convince you otherwise.
Me: So you're not even going to try? You're supposed to comfort me in my times of need! This is a time of need! Clearly all publishers hate me and I've been blacklisted and I'm an absolute FAILURE AS A BLOGGER.
Kevin: That's one possibility. Or, they could just be busy and didn't have time to respond today.
Me: Don't use your logic on me! It's decidedly unhelpful! You just don't understand. I'm addicted to validation. I need it. I need them to like me and their silence very clearly indicates they don't! NO ONE IS GOING TO READ THE BLOG ANYMORE AND I'M GOING TO BE FORCED OUT, DISHONORABLY DISCHARGED FROM THE BLOGGING WORLD!!! DO YOU WANT TO BE MARRIED TO A FAILURE KEVIN? DO YOU?!
Kevin: I'm not really sure what's happening to this conversation right now. It's gone downhill rather quickly.
Me: I know. Maybe we should go back to the beginning and find out where we went wrong.
Kevin: *leaves room*
At this point, after Kevin has run from the room for the purposes of self-preservation, I usually text Melissa something along the lines of "I fail at blogging". To which she replies immediately with "me too" and we then work ourselves back up into a failure frenzy stronger than the one I was just in with Kevin given there are now two of us feeding the self-pity cycle of shame. The self-pity cycle of shame is often characterized by two overactive imaginations–Melissa and I picturing a myriad of publicists seeing our emails and cackling in maniacal glee as they tell themselves aloud that we suck at life and don't have the right numbers to be worthy of their attention, finishing their villainous rant by smiling hugely and hitting "delete", thus washing their hands of us. Overly dramatic, party of two. *points to me and Melissa*
So, ridiculous as it is, the issue of blogger stats is clearly a touchy one for me. Even though I'm comfortable with the blog as it stands and have some amazing blogger and author friends who remind me each day of why I love doing it so much, Doubt is a persistent bitch, and when I'm expected to cough up those numbers to determine whether or not I'm worthwhile or I get rejected yet again from NetGalley (or even more recently, BEA) she balls up her fist and punches rationality in the face. Hard. Does having zero likes on Facebook (I don't have an account), or only having 1,000 Twitter followers, or not having 30,000 page views a month make me less of a blogger? Maybe from a business and promotional standpoint it does. But I'm not a business, I'm a person, and I like to think the quality of my blog is determined by factors other than just a series of numbers.
What do you guys think of blogger statistics? Are they an accurate measurement of blog quality? Do you stress over them? If you have thoughts on this topic and want to do your own post, be sure to link up HERE on Melissa's blog.
UPDATE: It bears mentioning the majority of the publishers/publicists I have the pleasure of working with are awesome and extremely generous with both their time and their books. Over the past several weeks there have just been a couple small instances culminating in yesterday's BEA rejection that inspired this post, something that is meant to be a humorous acknowledgement of a personal flaw–the tendency to blow things way out of proportion–and not a series of complaints (and absolutely not a slam on publishers). I have yet to develop a thick skin, and am therefore highly susceptible to blogger insecurities :-) My reasons for blogging are the same now as they were 2 years ago--I love books and I love talking to people who love books. This post was just a way for me to poke fun at myself for overreacting to things :-)