Do NOT Rely On Your Site Meter.

Today’s Tuesday Think Tank is all about Site Meters. I’m talking about how unreliable they are, how readers of your blog can stop them from working, how you measure your worth as a blogger, and possible ways you could increase your traffic and make sure readers stick around once they get to your blog.

Sephy has written a companion piece to this post – Track Your Visitors with Google Analytics which you should check out. :)

Site Meters Are A Free Service –

It’s rare on the internet to find something that is actually free. Blogger is one thing that is free, and it provides you with a lot of options and things you can do at no cost whatsoever. But if you stop and consider for a moment how much it costs to provide this service to any man – and his dog or cat! – who want to blog.. it costs bandwidth, it takes up CPU time (computer processing unit, your computer has one but so do all the computers at the other end when you look at something on the internet).

Most people who run a website have to pay to run it. They have to pay for server space. That could be as little as $7 a year but the more people who visit your site, the higher that cost can increase.

Consider The Source –

Free can sometimes mean you get what you pay for – i.e. nothing. If you consider these services which are used by so many bloggers but also websites across the www, it takes an enormous amount of “internet juice” (bandwidth, CPU, etc) to run these things. So these people are supposed to provide you with a great service which *costs* them money to provide it and is always reliable and always works, for free? Err, are we asking a bit too much here?

Things Happen –

Servers go down regularly, as any good internet host will tell you. You cannot expect that the information given to you by a free site tracking service is going to be 100% accurate. Unless you want to sit there and check it is working 24/7, which would be a great waste of your time. ;)

These sites also have customers who are paying for the service and if anything goes wrong the first people who they will look after is their paying customers. It makes sense from a business point of view. We cannot expect this free service to be accurate. You can use it as a guide, but that is where it should end.

There May Be Delays –

The information available to you may not be live information. There can be delays – sometimes up to 24 hours or more – with information being tracked and translated. If you post something and then check your counter and think “Nobody’s reading my post!” you may have incorrect information. There could be 50 people reading your post. You might see that days later in your tracker – or maybe not at all, if there was an outage.

It Matters Where You Put It –

If you put the code for your tracker at the very top of your sidebar, you will get different results to putting it lower down on your sidebar. If the code is right at the bottom of the page and it is not Javascript, everything on the page has to load before a “visit” gets counted.

I’ve been trying to find out for certain whether Javascript loads all the scripts on a page at the same time, or one by one in order and not having any luck, so if you know about that can you leave a comment?

People Can Hit Stop –

If your page load takes too long, most browsers have the “Stop Loading This Page” option. You would be surprised how many people use it and how quickly they use it, too. If they stop the page loading before your counter script runs? No data will be sent re their visit.

It Matters What Kind Of Code –

Some trackers are Javascript. Some internet users (myself included) use a Firefox extension called “No Script”. This actually stops any Javascript from loading in a page unless I (the user) personally authorise it. This means if I visit your blog for the first time, and you have a bunch of Javascripts running, they won’t load.

Take for example Statcounter. I have approved statcounter Javascript for any site I visit. That means if I visit a site the Statcounter will load, but none of the other Javascripts will. As an internet user this gives me a LOT more control over how I am viewing the web, but it can also mean my visits to your site won’t be tracked at all.

Why No Script?

I use it because there have been security problems with javascript from time to time, and I sometimes visit websites created by internet scammers. It is a quick and easy way I can tell what is running on a page without checking the source code, and anything I have not previously approved will be unable to run until I do approve it. Here’s what a page looks like when I view it with No Script –

noscript

Click for a bigger view. You can see that a little yellow bar runs across the bottom of the page, telling me which scripts I have previously approved are running. It also tells me how many scripts in total are running on the page and when I click on options (the screenshot shows me clicking on options) it gives me more information. I can choose to forbid any of those approved javascripts at any time.

Results Can Vary Widely –

I run two site meters on the site currently – Google Analytics and Statcounter. Feedburner also has a counter built in. Last Wednesday September the 5th –

Statcounter shows – visits 419, page views 861

Google Analytics shows – visits 349, page views 802

Feedburner shows – visits 323, page views 810

Do you see now how these are a bit unreliable? That is a huge difference, especially given two of the scripts (Statcounter and Google Analytics) are right next to each other in the sidebar. Which one of the above should I believe? How can I know how many people actually visited my page?

Don’t Invest Yourself –

If you define your worth as a blogger in how many people visit your site and you are relying on these free tracking tools, you are setting yourself up for heart break. For no good reason. Site Meters should only be used as a guide to the general traffic on your blog, and not as the bible of internet usage or any kind of measure of how many people are reading you.

How Do You Measure?

How can anyone possibly measure their worth as a blogger? At the end of the day, it could boil down some or all of the following –

If you are happy with what you are writing
(if not, work harder on the writing)

If you are happy with your blog template
(if not, test out a new one and consider changing it)

If you are happy with the look of your blog
(if not, take a good look at it, remove anything you don’t like)

If you are happy with your header graphic
(if not, create a new one. If you don’t have the tools, ask for help from other bloggers, run a competition on your blog to have your readers create a new one for you)

If you are happy with the amount of comments you receive
(if not, network. Get out there and meet new people, comment on their blogs, they will comment back)

If you are happy with the quality of your content
(if not, learn more about writing, edit, improve, read this- 10 Easy Ways To Improve Your Blog Writing. )

If you are happy with the relationships you have built with other bloggers
(if not, work on building relationships with other bloggers)

If you are happy with the amount of links back to you from other bloggers
(if not, link to them more and you will find they link back to you, a weekly wrap up is one good way to achieve this)

If you are not happy with any of the above, these are all things you can work on and improve.

You’re in charge –

You can create positive change in any area of your blogging. If I can do it, you can do it. Anyone can do it. Daisy The Curly Cat is doing it, even though it must be hard to type with kitty paws. ;) Love your work, Daisy. :)

Bloggers, don’t make excuses for your inaction. If you don’t have the time and energy to put into your blog, that is one thing. People have real lives. We all have to do the chores, etc. Some of us have jobs to go to. Some of us have kids and family. There is only a certain amount of time and energy we can each devote to blogging. We have to accept that, and be ok with it.

But..

If you DO have the time and energy and you waste it by constantly checking your blog stats instead of networking and building relationships with other bloggers and the zillion things you can do to improve your blog- that IS something you can change.

Consider taking some time to learn to manage time better. To begin with, you could try setting yourself a target – for example, comment on 5 new blogs a day – and then set out to hit that target each and every day. Be pro-active and you will see results :) Be inactive and you’ll get exactly what you put in – nothing. :(

There Are Ways –

To improve the traffic to your blog. See the article – 75 Ways to Increase Your Site’s Traffic – by Tay from Super Blogging for some great ideas. Try some of them out. If they don’t work, try something different.

They Say –If you build it, they will come. I have found this to be partially true. They won’t come unless you tell them where it is first. It is like throwing a party and not inviting anyone, yet expecting people to somehow know you’re having a party and find it anyway, and when nobody shows up you fret and get depressed about it. What did you expect? That people are psychic? ;) That they are somehow able to read your thoughts? That people would magically find your blog out of the literally millions of blogs out there on the net?

Stay Positive –

If you look at your stats and find it makes you negative, unhappy, or inspires you to write posts lamenting the lack of readers and traffic, stop right there.

It is one thing to say to your readers – how can I improve this blog – and actually listen to them when they tell you, and make the changes they suggest. That’s fine, and something we should all do as bloggers from time to time.

It is another thing to throw a full blown tantrum which makes the people who do read and are loyal to you feel like they aren’t worth anything to you as readers. Vent elsewhere. Never do it publicly on your blog.

Don’t Be Negative –

You may remember me writing – 14 Reasons Readers Unsubscribe From Your Blog. As a blogger, it is also not good to –

– engage in bitch brawls with other bloggers (not only will the blogger feel attacked but their readers will too, it’s one way to make many enemies at once!) or spend time attacking other bloggers in a negative manner
– post whiny, whinging posts regularly (more often than positive content)
– post things which made your readers feel physically ill (keep your poop and vomit stories away from me!)

Some Things Should Never Be Blogged About.

You know how we all have topics we simply refuse to write about? For some of us it’s sex, religion, drugs, rock and roll, bowel movements, whatever. I suggest it is in a bloggers best interest to add “lack of blog traffic” to the list of topics they will never ever blog about. But feel free to blog up a storm when traffic is good or exceeds your expectations.

I Know This Is True –

Once they arrive, if you do not build it, refine it, work on it, tweak it, make it better, make it load fast, make it pleasing to their eye, and create good content, they won’t stick around long. It’s no easy task and it requires you to be the master of many different subjects – or at least to know a little bit about them.

Blogger can let you down-

Sometimes my page load is slow because of Blogger – again we’re back to what you get for free. Sometime in the next few months this blog will be moving to WordPress, and I will have a lot more control over things like that. It will cost me money but I’m worth it – and so are my readers. :)

Further Reading –

I want to draw your attention to the section – Bloggers Are Helpful – in my sidebar for your further reading today. There’s a lot of great posts in there from bloggers that can help you to improve your blogging.

Over To You – What are your thoughts on blog traffic and site meters? Have you ever run any kinds of tests to investigate how accurate they are? How many times a day do you check your stats?

If you liked this post, give it a Stumble. :)

Similar Posts:

blog housekeeping, blogging tips, commenting on blogs, tuesday think tank

24 thoughts on “Do NOT Rely On Your Site Meter.

  1. I too have been thinking of moving my blog to WordPress, but the thought of all that work and getting everything working makes me feel a bit sick.

    I am quite guilty of checking my stats too often. Although I’ve made a conscious choice this year to network more and that is paying off slowly but surely in subscribers, readers and having found other blogs and bloggers I like.

  2. What an inspiring post!

    I check my stats all too often. Sometimes I use it as an excuse to pretend i’m working on my blog.

    Like everyone I want to make money on my blog eventually but your post highlighted a lot of things I need to consider before I truly will believe that my blog is worth reading and coming back too.

    First step is new template :) I remember talking to you about your 3 column template so I must find that link again and get it into effect this week.

    Thanks again for the kick up the…… (Better not swear, I guess that’s an blog taboo!)

  3. I used to check my web stats far too often (in awstats) but these days I don’t for the simple reason that

    1. on my friend’s server where I host for free, he’s not installed awstats or any stats package.

    2. checking stats constantly seemed pointless at some stage. What’s the use of numbers? I’m not getting any money for my hobby nor do I want to make money.

  4. I always learn something from your page; your comments about Site Meters were really interesting. I was blogging for several months before I even knew there was such a thing as a statistics tracker! Looking back, it was kind of fun to be unaware of all the statistics: once you get hooked into that, it’s hard to ignore.

  5. Wow, this was an amazing article. You’ve taught me a whole lot that I didn’t know before.

    For my blog to track stats and such, I use Statcounter, Google Analytics, CrazyEgg, and Feedburner.

    Thank you for the mention and for linking to me, as well! Your post will definitely be included in my next round-up. :)

    Tay

  6. So if you upgrade to any of the charge for use version of those stat counters, are they any better?

    I wonder what technology the ads use to track traffic for payment. I’ve just assumed it was accurate, what they use and thus pay.

    Interesting post.

    Julie
    Using My Words

  7. good info here. i have sitemeter, but don’t really rely on it more than a curiosity–it is kind of fun to see where in the world some readers are from or how they got to my place.

    and i have just changed the look on blog a little. i am thinking of changing my header, too!

  8. Excellent post as usual, gave me quite a bit to consider. I find it especially interesting that a stat counter can get a different number as a result of where in your site it is located. I have never heard that before but after reading your explanation it certainly makes sense.
    I have recently redone my site, please feel free to stop by for a visit and let me know what you think. Thanks! :-D

  9. I have a stat counter, and that map thingy, and the “last 10 visitors come from” thingy, and I have google analytics installed on my page. I check the Google stats about 1-2x per week, and the others I just look at when I look at my own blog. I just like to see that they’re moving, and I was very disappointed when my map thingy reset itself. I wanted it to eventually become one big red blob. Oh well, something to aspire to this year.

  10. I used to check my stats a few times per week. I mainly did that since I was monetizing my blog with adsense to be honest I don’t do it anymore. I also got rid of Analytics it was slowing my website down.
    I’m actually making more now with my adsense as than when I was checking my stats more often. I’m receiving a pay check from Google sometime this month and I should be receiving one next month.

  11. Thanks for all the great suggestions and links to more great ideas. I feel like I’m still such a newbie when it comes to all this blogging stuff. I thought I was doing well being able to figure out how to even start a blog. LOL.

    Thank you so much for mentioning my blog on your site. One of these days I’m hoping to work out how to put a list of blogs on my own blog. It’s just 1 thing at a time right now. :-)

    You have a great blog – thanks so much.

  12. Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments. ;)

    Jaycee – it isn’t as much work as you think. Especially if you’re on Blogger. I might have Sephy post about that soon.

    I now stop myself when I see my mouse heading to click on the statcounter icon in my browser and think – what could I do to make better use of that time?

    I limit myself to checking once a day. :)

    Meg – That is an excellent article, thanks for posting it. In case anyone could not read it, click here – Google Loves Transparent Links & Hit Counter Spam – I’ll put it in the weekly wrap up as well.

    Cugat – I understand completely. ;) We all have our addictions. ;)

    Forest – I posted a few articles about templates since then too – check the snoskred articles in the sidebar, and the past tuesday think tanks.

    Hari – Hit counters are not just about numbers. It can be really useful for any blogger to see what search terms are being used, what screen resolution people use, what browser they use (and then making sure their site looks ok in that browser) etc. I’d ask your friend to install aw stats or at least use google analytics to grab that info for yourself. ;)

    Daisy – Yes, it is hard to ignore once you know it’s there. I tend to fixate on the search terms too much. I’ve now taken to copying and pasting them into a text file when I check the counter just to have a record and so I can use the text file when it is time for the weekly wrap up. ;)

    Tay – I’ve just had to turn my crazy egg off, it was causing some issues for visitors. :( I loved that thing! It might be a clash with their browser, perhaps. If only everyone used the most recent version of firefox! ;)

    Magpie – cheers!

    Julie – I haven’t tried any of the paid versions and I probably wouldn’t do that. It’s enough just to have that rough guide, at least for me it is. Once I move to WordPress I can install my own tracker onto the server which is a LOT more efficient. It tracks things when they are asked for by the reader, not by having code in the page. Ive used stats like that before and they are purely brilliant and a lot more accurate.

    I’d say that is what the advertisers are using, they can see when the link is asked for on their end and usually they have a referrer code which enables them to tell who is referring that person to them.

    Christine – I spotted that when I dropped by – it looks great! ;)

    Lynne – WOW. WOW. Seriously WOW! That is stunning. I love it. One thing I would say – the text in the central block, the main text, I would make that black instead of gray, just to make it pop out a bit more. There’s probably a couple of other nitpicky personal choice things, like I’m not a fan of overly busy backgrounds which draw the eye away from the content – I would make that all one color – and no big subscribe button to be seen – but otherwise it is one of the best templates I have seen in ages.

    Did you make the sidebars different colors, or was that a part of the package? I love that idea. :)

    I’ll make sure to drop this comment on your blog too, in case you didn’t see it here.

    Kirsten – I love the last 10 visitors have come from thingy, how does that work?

    Opal – Google Analytics is really useful as it’s one of the only packages which doesn’t limit the information to a number of visits. It’s surprisingly quick for me most of the time, feedburner seems to hold things up here more often.

    Lightening – That one is easy.. it is just basic html. Shall I put together a post on html? ;)

    Again thanks for the comments all.. :)

    Snoskred
    http://www.snoskred.org

  13. Catherine – It is an addiction, but there are better addictions out there. And we should always look to improve our addictions! ;) hehe

  14. I am pretty sure Javascripts run when the browser gets to rendering the part of the page they are on. You can defer Javascripts to execute later, but, as far as I know, you cannot do the opposite.

    I like AWStats for accurate reporting, but external counters are convenient, some are real time, and, for anything commercial, third party stats might be useful.

  15. Sitemeter, Google and Statcounter might have different time settings hence their reading for a given day are different…

    I use both Google Analytics and sitemeter. Sitemeter helps me take a quick look regarding recent visits while Analytics gives more reliable and detailed reports, but it takes more time-I need to login etc…

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