Vital statistics: why so shy?

2499573972_5278eba439_m One of my day jobs is working with PR agencies, training PRs  in how to pitch their clients to the media. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of work with agencies on how to identify, evaluate and work with bloggers across various sectors.

A constant challenge for PR execs is how do they know which blogs have the biggest (and the ‘right’ profile) readership? With magazines and newspapers, it’s easy – circulation is audited. With blogs, stats are private. So what's a PR to do?

In my training workshops, we look at all the sneaky ways you can evaluate a blog without those pesky traffic stats, but I did start to wonder – why are we all so secretive? 

Do we worry that if we share our 50 daily readers or our 500 readers we’ll be seen as less worthy of reading, less influential somehow? Do we imagine that other bloggers in our circle are gaining thousands of readers a day? Do we worry that PRs won’t want to talk to us unless we embellish the figures?

I told some PRs last week that I didn't have an issue sharing my own blog stats. Even so, I was a bit nervous. I prefaced the big reveal (of course) with some mumbling about how my blogs are both very new and have only been going for a few months, we’re heading in the right direction, etc. Well, a girl doesn’t like to set expectations too high.

“Oh, no, that’s a lot,” said the PRs.

Turns out the PR execs considered anything with 500 daily visitors to be “a lot” of traffic. Another agency I worked with the week previously said they’d consider 300 daily visitors to be pretty high.

Who's the Mummy gets around 300 visitors per day and 600 page impressions, although it's more like 800+ daily visitors the week the blog index is published and daily page impressions that week can easily top 6,000 as people scroll through the tables. My journalism blog, Getting Ink, gets more like 100 daily visitors, but I post quite infrequently on there.  Interestingly, Getting Ink has far more RSS subscribers than Who's the Mummy (450 compared to around 150) suggesting it has a more loyal, if smaller, readership.

The Great Toy Guide is very new but got around 200 visits a day in September when it launched as the team worked hard to promote the blog. This rose to a daily average of around 450 in October, and this month the figure is closer to 1,000 – but it is Christmas, so the January stats will probably take a tumble.

I personally think it’s good to be transparent about this – it’s easy for me to say, I know, given that my blogs count as having “high” traffic. But at the moment I think lots of bloggers imagine their audience is smaller (relatively speaking) than it really is. While new bloggers have no idea how to track their progress or what is a realistic size of audience to aim for.

Of course, traffic isn't the measure of a blog's worth, and not why many bloggers write. But if that's really the case, why so secretive? I'd really love to hear what do you think on this issue – why are we so shy, and would it help is there was more transparency?

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

46 Comments

  1. 24th November 2009 / 11:33 pm

    Very interesting post.
    I get about fifty readers a day, and I do worry that is quite low, if you compare it to the size of the internet. 🙂
    I do like my readers, though – I think I know who a lot of them are, because I get about one comment for every three or four visitors. That’s a nice feeling.
    I’ll be coming back to check for more replies. I hope some more people come out of the closet on this one.

  2. 24th November 2009 / 11:39 pm

    I think that page view stats mean little in the days of Google reader. Unless you truncate you feed and force people to come onto your site to “read more” (which half of them won’t bother to do – myself usually included, so all you are doing is casing a lot of people not to bother reading your post).
    I personally have very low page views, which is one of the reasons I think that my position at number 4 on your list wildly exaggerates my influence (and am convinced I’m due for a very steep fall in the near future)
    What I do have however is a very strong community around me of long term friends I’ve made in four years of blogging. And I also am involved with various projects that happen to garner me a fair few links back to my site.
    As for exposing my numbers, I’d rather not at this time due to being involved in various negotiations regarding getting sponsorship for my charity walk (hadrianswalk.org). But once that’s over and done with I’ll happily expose all.

  3. Sally
    Author
    24th November 2009 / 11:46 pm

    Dan – thanks for commenting.
    I’m not sure what you mean about Google Reader? If I read one of my own blog posts through RSS it registers as a ‘hit’ on the site – certainly Feedburner registers it, as does Sitemeter, although it shows as a visit with a 0 second duration. Not sure if it gets picked up by Typepad but the visitor numbers I cite here include RSS hits (I think)
    I agree though that truncated feeds are rubbish, and I don’t like split posts, either. I’m a grumpy git, basically, I don’t want to work for anything.
    Of course, traffic stats aren’t the measure of a blog’s value. I just think the secrecy is a bit odd and unhelpful.

  4. Liz (LivingwithKids)
    24th November 2009 / 11:50 pm

    Very interesting. What’s crucial though I would imagine from the PRs point of view is who is actually viewing your site. If it’s your Aunty Beryl and your Cousin Maud and they’re not in the target demographic then the fact they’ve viewed the site scarcely matters. While in newspapers and magazines high circulation publications have been able to attract ads and PR interest for years regardless of demographic (I’m sure we can all of think of some examples of this), which has always struck me as beyond daft (for example, if you review an extremely luxurious holiday for a downmarket publication bookings are likely to be minimal), there are certain smaller circulation magazines (particularly the parenting ones and the high end glossies) which will of course attract PRs and advertising because the demographic of their readership is such a good fit with the brand that’s being promoted. Sorry that’s a very long sentence. Late!

  5. Sally
    Author
    24th November 2009 / 11:58 pm

    Liz
    Thanks for commenting.
    Blogs are by definition more focused that other media in their audience, surely?
    I don’t think many people who aren’t parents would read a parenting blog; and surely gardening blogs are mostly read by people with an interest in gardening, guitar blogs read mostly by people who buy and play guitars, food blogs by people who cook food and eat out..
    This is what the PRs argue about the magic 500 figure – 500 readers of a blog are likely to be way, way more targeted than 5,000 readers of a higher circulation general website or publication. Of course you don’t have socio-economic data, but you do know that someone who reads a blog is almost certainly interested in X, and not just skipping over that page in the paper.
    (Also, I tell a story in my workshops that more millionaires read The Sun than the FT. More Labour voters read The Sun than the Guardian. If the circulation is high enough, you’ll hit enough relevant people even if they’re a minority of the audience. It’s just not very cost-efficient!)

  6. 25th November 2009 / 12:00 am

    Sally – I use statcounter.com and I don’t think it records google reader views. I could be wrong though 9in which case i get far far fewer people reading my posts than I assumed I did. Maybe I’ll try using one of the services you mentioned and see if there is a difference.
    I do have a lot fewer rss subscribers than other people too though:) 69 at last look (way-hey!!)

  7. Sally
    Author
    25th November 2009 / 12:04 am

    @Dan – I just assumed. Hmm. Scientific testing clearly needed. I’m off to go and click on a random post in my RSS feed….
    We could have a competitive loser post if you like. I’ve only got 41 Google subscribers. So shedloads of people visit, none of them are persuaded to subscribe ;-D

  8. 25th November 2009 / 12:07 am

    I subscribe:)
    Checked on the statcounter forum and is says they aren’t counted. Only if you click through.
    According to a moderator:
    “The tracker works on html pages.
    RSS feeds are xml. They won’t contain the Statcounter tracking code, and also cannot contain Statcounter code if you you specifically wanted to add it to the rss feed, as there’s no xml compatible code in any case. ”

  9. Sally
    Author
    25th November 2009 / 12:15 am

    Ooh, that’s interesting.
    Do you use Feedburner? That does give you stats for your feed including clicks and so on. I know, I’m such a stats bore, it’s not true. But Feedburner’s a great tool for managing your feeds and subscribers.
    Isn’t it now 13 minutes past your bedtime, young man?

  10. 25th November 2009 / 12:28 am

    I do use feedburner, but rarely look at it. I try to avoid thinking about stats (and lists 🙂 ) because it tends to make me either big headed or depressed.
    I have 223 subscribers according to feedburner, but I think a lot of those will just be bots.
    and yes. I’m going to bed now damnit.

  11. Natalie
    25th November 2009 / 12:33 am

    I believe that when you look at the host stats (if self hosted) then you can see RSS readers. Or at least I can. Shall have to comment properly in morning as baby attacking iPhone whilst one finger typing but yes don’t get secrecy although most bloggers are on the down low.

  12. 25th November 2009 / 1:10 am

    very interesting especially for someone who had NO idea what her stats are!

  13. 25th November 2009 / 6:57 am

    I find the whole thing fascinating. A friend of mine who hosts his own blog gets about 5,000 hits a day (www.harryneary.com), half of which are bots or crawlers but even so 2,500 actual hits is fairly impressive (can’t remember what his visitors are though).
    He updates infrequently and gets about one comment per 10,000 hits. He knows his way round the net, having worked online for the best part of a decade.
    I personally use google analytics because its free and fairly detailed and I think the major challenge comes in how you interpret data. Are random google search lead visits valid? People have come to my blog via such search terms as Berine Nolan and having a wee. Counters like sitemeter don’t weed these out very effectively.
    I only get around 20-30 hits a day but I think thats reflected in my blogroll, I work full time and only have a chance to spend a while tinkering on the net in the evenings so don’t read a comment on a lot of blogs, or link to many other peoples. With mummy blogging, there is definitely a reciprocity with readership- “you read my blog I’ll read yours”, even if it is unspoken. I guess it reflects well on the community nature of it all.

  14. 25th November 2009 / 8:36 am

    Ooh, yes, a masterclass! I have no idea how to check the RSS thing either.

  15. 25th November 2009 / 8:42 am

    That’s really interesting – a lot lower than I expected to be honest.
    I tend to measure the ‘success’ of a post by the number of comments rather than the stats for the day – I always feel a little disappointed if I see lots of people have visited but no one has stopped to chat! That feels far worse than a day with fewer visitors and lots of comments. Surely that’s what PR companies should be looking for? ENGAGEMENT? Surely the number of people commenting and interacting says more about your influence?
    As for me, I seem to be doing ok. Sitemeter tells me I get, on average, around 150 separate visitors a day with page views higher at around 250 on average. My RSS readership is growing more slowly (so like you, people seem happy to stop by but not to subscribe *sob sob*!)
    And no, I’m not shy at sharing this – why should I be? I don’t consider myself one of the ‘big guns’ and haven’t been blogging that long so don’t expect to have numbers in that range – to be honest I’m still getting over the fact that anyone wants to read my blog at all!!

  16. Liz (LivingwithKids)
    25th November 2009 / 9:08 am

    Sally – I meant yes blogs are more focused (like parenting mags and glossies) and that’s why they should of course appeal to PRs/advertisers… but inevitably the demographic of some parenting blogs is, I’m sure, C1C2D rather than ABC1 and that’s what the PRs won’t know (and maybe not even the bloggers themselves). And having worked on several mass circulation magazines and a small glossies I know that the readers of the former are far less likely to purchase luxury holidays, cosmetics and clothes than the readers of the latter. The readers of the former will aspire, but they just won’t have the cash/credit to make their dreams a reality. Of course, maybe that doesn’t matter as far as the PRs are concerned? And certainly it won’t matter to the bloggers unless they are hoping to secure PR interest.
    (PS I doubt many of the Sun’s readers will be Labour voters for much longer!)

  17. Sally
    Author
    25th November 2009 / 9:16 am

    @Liz – sorry I misunderstood. Yes, I do agree with you on socio-economic profile, although of course that’s impossible to know for certain. But my impression would be in line with yours for many, many parenting blogs, although I feel weirdly guilty for saying it.
    @Mwa and Brit – I’m actually working on a “masterclass” type post to go along with the next index, so show exactly how I track (and therefore you can track) these metrics. So yes, it’s coming!

  18. Sally
    Author
    25th November 2009 / 9:29 am

    @Josie – yes, you are right that PR agencies aren’t *just* interested in traffic stats. And the index doesn’t just look at traffic – it’s about engagement, comments, sharing of content, linking to content – a whole host of things apart from raw traffic data.
    And also, we shouldn’t turn this into a debate about PR. I think there’s a valid argument that it’s helpful to other bloggers to know about traffic, leaving PR agencies aside.

  19. Claire Thompson (claireatwaves)
    25th November 2009 / 9:33 am

    From an effectiveness perspective, a blogs focus is a better guide than just numbers. You can get stats from Alexa/Google analytics etc and also from feed numbers if you can get them.
    If someone’s content on a blog is perfect for a service/product, then the blogger and their readers will be glad to hear from you.
    Other, and perhaps more indicative, measures of whether time is well spent include where the blog is being distributed – so yes, feeds and subscribers etc, but also keeping an eye on what’s being reposted in other places.
    I’ve not yet found a perfect measure, but a combination can prove good indicators – but always start with the content.
    There are always ways of helping drive people to that blog/blog post for which the blogger will be as grateful as your client.

  20. 25th November 2009 / 9:45 am

    It’s a bit like sharing your bra size, isn’t it?! A bit awkward and embarassing. Increasing your readership is not just about writing good posts (though you have to have that), there’s a lot of hard work and long hours promoting them. My stats have increased steadily in the past year. I wish I could say the same about my bra size!

  21. Sally
    Author
    25th November 2009 / 9:47 am

    Claire
    Thanks for commenting – did you used to be Zed PR?
    Anyway, yes, you’re right from a PR perspective knowing a blog’s traffic has dubious value, particularly when compared to stats around engagement, content sharing and so on. I agree 100%.
    Plenty of PRs tell me that (as ever) it’s the clients who ask for the traffic stats, to justify the blogger outreach. What I tend to do in my workshops is look at all the other ways there are of evaluating blogs, which one might argue are even better than traffic in assessing the blog’s value from a PR perspective.
    But as I said to Josie, I’m not just making this a PR debate – should we tell PRs our blog stats so we get nice free things? For starters, Who’s the Mummy doesn’t carry product reviews.
    I think it’s more that bloggers are operating in hte dark where nobody has any idea what traffic anyone else is getting and (of course) therefore assumes their 100 visitors a day is total crap because everyone else is OBVIOUSLY getting 10,000 readers a day. Pah.
    The truth is more prosaic: most blogs that do well are probably scoring around 100 readers a day and even so-called “top” blogs are probably only generating 500-1,000.

  22. 25th November 2009 / 9:58 am

    Thanks for writing about this Sally. As I type, I have one of my freelancers looking at mummy blogs to determine their size and therefore potential influence for my client’s. And as a blogger I’m glad to see that the numbers of visitors are generally low – makes me feel a bit better about my own paltry stats!

  23. Sally
    Author
    25th November 2009 / 10:09 am

    Thanks Melissa. You could have just asked for the Tots100 spreadsheet 😉
    I think it IS reassuring that the numbers are generally low. And that’s no bad thing – if you say there are 100 top blogs with a combined daily readership of say 20,000 people, that’s still pretty impressive stuff.
    While I’d guess Alpha Mummy gets thousands of readers a day, I suspect the vast majority of Mummy blogs are hovering around 100+
    I should also point out I did short-change myself a bit by not including RSS stats – turns out Who’s the Mummy is actually getting 500 readers a day not 300. Whoo, right?

  24. 25th November 2009 / 11:28 am

    I’ve been blogging for almost 3 months now and am quite impressed that I get anywhere from 20-70 views a day. I got 86 one day last week – my highest ever! I don’t really understand feedburner so don’t check that & I have no idea how to find out how many people subscribe. Liz @ Violet Posy has just helped me put the subscribe button on my blog so one step at a time!
    I can’t say I’m gutted that there’s only a few people who read it, of course more would be nice but following what Josie & Mwa have said, I think it’s far more exciting when someone comments. I just love it when someone takes the time to not only read a post but to write something too.
    I don’t mind admitting that my blog is small, I expect it to be. I’m not a great writer, not do I profess to be. I don’t comment on other people’s posts so they come and read mine, that’s an added bonus. I enjoy what I’m doing and that’s what its ultimately for.

  25. Liz@VioletPosy
    25th November 2009 / 11:28 am

    I always find it interesting that my Google Analytics and my WordPress Stats are so different. So for example for the period 25th Oct- 24th Nov on WordPress stats I’ve had 8,600 page views and on Google Analytics I’ve had 8,338. I have no idea why the difference, it bugs the hell out of me! Maybe I should put on sitemeter and see if that throws up another set of numbers?
    I don’t know what my RSS numbers are like though as I’m terrified of Feedburner screwing up my RSS feeds so I’ve left it alone. But I could get hubby to parse our server to get the numbers. One day I’ll get round to it 😉

  26. 25th November 2009 / 11:35 am

    No, I get what you mean – I didn’t really answer the question did I…
    I think that bloggers don’t brag about their stats for two reasons. I think the ones at the top don’t want to run the risk of making those below them in ranking feel inferior, and I think those at the bottom don’t advertise their stats out of fear for how far behind everybody else they are.
    I guess the point is that there’s not a lot of difference between any of us! A few hundred at most? Maybe being secretive about it just adds a unnecessary layer of potential resentment – if we’re all more open about it perhaps people worrying about their stats can stop forever wondering how the Jones’ are doing and get back to what’s important.

  27. MummyTips
    25th November 2009 / 11:36 am

    This is a great post Sally. I personally go through periods when I become completely stat obsessed. I use statcounter and google analytics and the results are pretty much the same from both. I get 150 to 200 readers a day but a recent popular post that created a huge interest generated just over 6000 readers in three days! I also have nearly 100 subscribed followers and made it into the Top 100 index for the first time last month. I would love to know how to find out how many RSS readers I have though!

  28. 25th November 2009 / 11:43 am

    Really thought provoking post and comments. Since my inclusion to Tots100 I’ve started getting approached by PR companies and it’s both flattered and bewildered me. I get about 200 readers a day but in essence I’m more of a craft blogger than a ‘typical’ mummy blogger and my readership probably reflects that.

  29. rachel pattisson
    25th November 2009 / 11:54 am

    Very interesting post and discussion. I feel pleased if I get 100 hits in a day! That would be quite high for me. My blog traffic is growing slowly: the more I post, comment on other blogs and tweet, the more readers I get. It comes down to how much time I spend on blog-related pursuits.

  30. Sally
    Author
    25th November 2009 / 11:56 am

    Well, I certainly hope that this discussion reassures some of the newer bloggers that they’re not SO far away from the “blog stars” in terms of traffic – as Josie says, it’s a few hundred readers not many thousands.
    Thanks to everyone who has commented and made me feel like less of a loser!
    I know of one blog that was recently named as a Top 10 parenting blog in an index I’m not involved with, which has 18 (count ’em) subscribers to its Google feed.
    Oh, and @AModernMother – I’m so never, ever telling anyone my bra size!! Blimey.

  31. 25th November 2009 / 12:01 pm

    Its interesting – you start out and are astounded that anyone reads, let alone comments or comes back, and then suddenly you have followers and then you’re getting page hits
    I use statcounter but would be very interested to see if there are better ways to track these things (and ways to make it easier for people to read)

  32. 25th November 2009 / 1:20 pm

    I’ve been blogging since Feb this year and now get around 60ish views a day, plus only few RSS readers, maybe 20. My highest day ever was 145. My blog is a mummy/travel hybrid. I know some of the US parenting travel blogs get really huge numbers of visitors, but they do giveaways, which I’m not sure really count, as people tend to search net for givaways then never revisit site. I love it when I see people have visited and commented, but I’m not trying to sell advertising or anything, so it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme or things.

  33. 25th November 2009 / 1:22 pm

    I get about 20 people on a good day I think according to sitemeter but not all comment. Problem is I have no idea how to get linked etc I love reading other blogs and of course I do like it when people comment esp if I have amused them. I suppose it depends what you want your blog for. I want to improve my writing. Eventually I will pluck up enough courage to do more than just business to business features for teh trade press and blogging helps clarify my voice and writing style.

  34. 25th November 2009 / 2:18 pm

    I am a bit puzzled as to how to get a sense of whether my blog is doing ok. I get about 60 visits a day according to google analytics but each post probably gets about 30 comments (I post about once a week). Does this mean my audience is small but engaged? Can’t think of any other explanation. Like Tattie I am blogging because I enjoy the writing but you do get very hooked on the feedback!

  35. Liz@VioletPosy
    25th November 2009 / 2:26 pm

    it turns out Google Webmaster Tools tells you how many Subscribers you have via Google Reader but no other agregators. So I have 101 on Google Reader – yay!!
    I’m still too scared to activate my Feedburner, I just don’t want to commit RSS suicide and lose a ton of readers. I guess it doesn’t matter that much and it can remain a mystery for now.

  36. 25th November 2009 / 2:36 pm

    Sally if you’re able to send me the Tots100 spreadsheet, I’d love you forever. Not that I don’t anyway 😉

  37. 25th November 2009 / 2:37 pm

    I am a complete numpty a nd have no idea of where and how to find these statistics, Can someone please do a feed stats for idiots guilde please!!!!! I am on blogger BTW

  38. Sally
    Author
    25th November 2009 / 2:55 pm

    @Liz – Feedburner hasn’t ever messed with my stats. It’s just handy because it gives you true RSS stats which are usually 2X Google, if not more. Not that it matters, but it’s handy for content analysis.
    @Melissa – done, although for any other PRs reading the price of the spreadsheet is 500 quid unless you’ve done proper sailing adventures like Melissa. 😉
    @TheMadHouse – I’m going to do a proper stats workshop next week.

  39. geriatric mummy
    25th November 2009 / 3:01 pm

    I’m not suggesting for a moment that I’m typical but I blog purely as an outlet for my thoughts/wishes/dreams/worries as I think they’re ‘better out than in’. I would love to have lots of readers and lots of comments as a kind of barometer for what I’ve got to say but it’s not the main purpose for me. I’ve only recently started and find it really difficult to get the time to post as frequently as I would like but I enjoy it and it serves it’s purpose.
    Just one final thought. Is everyone actually secretive or are there people like me that simply have no idea how to get those stats ? No, ok it’s just me that’s a dullard 😉

  40. 25th November 2009 / 3:03 pm

    Ooo-er!
    Reading through these comments (especially the conversation between yourself and Dan – sorry, almost seemed like an intrusion!) I suddenly realised I have NO REAL IDEA about this subject whatever.
    I have a stat-counter thingy, which has been on my blog since I set up a year and a half ago, and which I’d looked at so infrequently until recently that I forgot the password! (I’ve remembered now – turns out I had 217 page views yesterday, 36 today and just over 2000 last month. Is that good? Bad? Average? Poor?)
    Clearly compared to AlphaMummy we’re ALL going to be in second-place or worse, and that’s the only gripe I’ve got with your Top 100 index. It’s like comparing the performance of Manchester United and the local boys under 11’s. They’re part of the Murdoch Media Empire, for goodness sake! Should they be on a list with the rest of us at all?
    Anyway, what I wanted to say was this – I second what Brit in Bosnia said: can we have a masterclass?

  41. Liz (LivingwithKids)
    25th November 2009 / 3:35 pm

    Yes I too would love a masterclass.
    Tim – controversial!

  42. Laura McIntyre
    25th November 2009 / 4:08 pm

    You know it is interesting , i try not to think about stats anymore. I have blogging for 3 years now and my stats are terrible. According to google analytics’s on somedays only get about 5 visits a day. I guess my writing just sucks…
    It is hard and i have given up trying to comment and such as it never helped, guess people just don’t find me intersting.
    So there is my pitty party, i have just had to accept i blog for ME and it does not matter what others think.

  43. 25th November 2009 / 10:36 pm

    I never understand a word of my stats, I was shocked when I found a page the other day that said my RSS was read by what seemed a very large number, but I think I was reading it wrong…
    I let everyone else do the clever stuff (ie you) and I just do the fun stuff (writing and reading and commenting!), although when you get the masterclass up I might take another look at this.
    I guess that we British Mummys are stuck in the wages mindset and keep what should be open information for everyone to benefit from as a close guarded secret!

  44. 26th November 2009 / 4:17 pm

    I’m a 42 double D.

  45. Sally
    Author
    27th November 2009 / 11:31 am

    Thanks so much to everyone who has commented. Especially Linda for sharing her bra size.
    I think it goes to show that while the larger blogs might be scoring 500-1000 visits a day, only getting 50 or 20 doesn’t make you unsuccessful. That’s very typical, in fact. And if you’re getting 100+ visits a day, you’re actually doing pretty well.
    And yes – the masterclass is now up! Your wish is my command, etc.

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