One of the first '"blogging truths" most of us hear when we start blogging, is that you can measure the health of your blog by looking at its traffic. This idea has caused me some confusion for months, as I've watched my blog appear to be growing steadily, yet the traffic doesn't reflect that....
For example, my blog, The Viral Garden, had its best month ever for traffic in January. But the number of visitors to The Viral Garden was barely above the amount for my second-best month, which was last July. Since then, traffic has been up about 10%. To me, that's pretty modest growth.
And it didn't make sense. I've seen my number of links shoot up, and it seemed like most posts on the Garden were getting more comments. Everything pointed to a healthy blog, except for the traffic reports.
So I decided to take a much closer look at my blog's stats. I started with links. Since last July, The Viral Garden's number of links has gone from around 100, to just over 400 now. So we'll say links are up 300%.
Then I checked the number of comments per post. In July, each post left on The Viral Garden averaged around 4.5 comments per post. For January, that number had increased to just over 7 comments per post. So comments per post is up about 60%.
The final stat I wanted to look at was my feed readers. This is an area that I had never really tracked over time. I had an idea of how many people were subscribed to my feeds at any time, but I wasn't aware of how that number was trending. Again using the July starting point, I discovered that while my blog's traffic was only up about 10% in the last 7 months, feed readers were up around 360%. There is the growth I was expecting to see from traffic.
But as I thought about it, it would make more sense for feed readers to be up sharply, given the growth I am also seeing in links and comments. Feed readers are readers that regularly read your blog, so logic dictates they would also be the readers that are more likely to link to, and comment on your blog. My guess is that as traffic is slowly increasing, new visitors are switching over and becoming subscribers, and aren't counting in the visitor stats from that point on.
I guess it comes down to how you want to judge the health of your blog. Increased traffic is great for some, but I would rather see those visitors become regular readers, and start to contribute to my blog via comments and emails, so I can learn from, and get to know them. The sense of interaction and community is much more important to me than being able to say that a few thousand anonymous IP addresses came and left my blog today.
So if your blog traffic isn't where you think it should be, check your number of feed readers and comments per post. You may find that your blog is not only doing just fine, but that you've spent the entire time looking at the wrong stat to judge your blog's health.
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