What Numbers Mean–or Don’t Mean {Discussion}

Posted 14 June, 2013 by Amanda / 50 Comments


I want you to take a moment.

Take a moment and think of On a Book Bender–whatever it means to you.

It will mean different things to different people. You can think nice thoughts or you can think mean ones. You don’t have to share them with me, so you’re good either way.

Now I want you to put On a Book Bender into a blog category: small, medium, or big.

I’ll wait while you do this.


*surfs Ellora’s cave for Top Off Tuesday covers*


*sips wine*


(Just kidding. Not drinking any. Wish I was, though.)


Okay. Finished?


Now I want to talk numbers. We put so much stock into numbers–they’re easy to quantify and they’re what the publishers look at–but at the end of the day, what do they really tell us about our blog? And I want to tackle this issue of numbers by sharing MY numbers and pitting them against what YOU think On a Book Bender is. There’s no real accurate way to capture numbers, but I will list the various platforms I’m on and what those numbers are as of 6/11/2013.

Feedburner Email: 36 subscriptions (But really 35, because I’m one of the 36.)
Bloglovin’: 123 followers (122, because I’m one.)
Twitter: 1,367 followers
Facebook: 183 likes (I also liked my own page.)
Goodreads: 274 friends
Google+: 13 followers, 17 +1s
Weekly digest: 4 subscribers

Since being on a self-hosted WP site (Jan. 2012), JetPack says that I have received 58,637 views.

Since the beginning of 2013, Google Analytics tells me that On a Book Bender has received 20,560 pageviews, 11,373 visits, and 5,790 unique visitors.

Last month, I had 3,403 pageviews, 2,065 visits, and 1,303 unique visitors.

Last week, I had 437 pageviews, 288 visits, and 203 unique visitors.

I have 12,625 comments on 663 posts, or approximately 19 comments per post (keep in mind that half of those are mine).

How do those stats stack up against what YOU thought?

Here’s what I think:

  • Numbers are NOT readers or followers.
  • No one platform gives me an accurate count of my true reader base.
  • The success (or failure) of On a Book Bender cannot be measured in numbers.
  • Numbers cannot–and never will–measure influence.
  • Increasing your numbers for the sake of increasing your numbers only gets you numbers–not followers or readers or friends.

Our number obsession as bloggers is part of a larger fascination with categorizing ourselves and finding our place in the hierarchy because someone will always be on top.

Numbers are hard to escape. It may even be impossible. But do you know what’s even more important? Choosing which numbers matter to YOU. Here are the ones that matter to me:

  • The number of minutes/hours it takes me to respond to comments–the fewer, the better.
  • The number of people I tweet with on a daily basis–you’re all awesome.
  • The number of times people come BACK to my site after leaving a comment to continue the conversation.
  • The number of times people tell me how much they love my blog/me.
  • The number of emails I get from other bloggers who just want to chat: about books, life, or whatever.

Which numbers matter to you?

Filed under: Discussion,


50 Responses to “What Numbers Mean–or Don’t Mean {Discussion}”

  1. I must admit, before I go into the numbers, that I LOVE this topic. I was kind of in a hurry this morning and saw the post in my email and thought I might come back and read it, but then saw the title. I really, really liked the last discussion post, so, here I am! I had to read it and I’m glad that I did. Now to the numbers. I think your numbers are great and I have come to realize that you are doing it the right way. I firmly believe almost every subscriber, follower, etc. of yours is doing so because they are interested in your blog. That is the way to build your readership. I have seen (and participated in) many deals where people follow each other, etc. and that isn’t good for much if they don’t come back or aren’t really interested in what you have to say. So, I say, kudos to On A Book Bender. I, for one, love it and please keep up the good work.

    Paul R. Hewlett

    • Thanks, Paul. It makes me very happy to hear that.

      And I agree that follow back type relationships don’t build a readership. It seems more a way to increase numbers than increase readers, and numbers mean nothing when you don’t have engaged readers. I find that chasing numbers tends not to have an end. It’s never satisfying to reach one number, because there’s always another number to reach for. Engaged readers, on the other hand, are satisfying, because there’s real interaction.

      What I’ve learned with my newsletter (and my own RSS reader practices) is that subscribing or following isn’t an automatic sign of readership. And that getting someone to follow or subscribe is the beginning of your relationship with them, not the end goal.

      • “…getting someone to follow or subscribe is the beginning of your relationship with them…”

        Yes. My list of blogs I follow is constantly rotating. I see an interesting post, I click follow. If I realize a month has gone by and I haven’t connected with anything since then, I’ll probably unfollow. A follow is potential, that’s all.

        • Totally agree. I always feel bad about taking people out of my RSS reader, but if I’m not reading or connecting with them, what’s the point?

          If you approach a new follower or subscriber as the end game, you’re more likely (though not always) to get complacent. My goal? Never be complacent. Always strive to connect and reach people. Numbers have a funny way of growing on their own, anyway. Focus on the connecting and the relationships, and the rest will follow.

  2. Great discussions!

    I totally agree #s do not equal readership. Page hits don’t equal readers. Numbers do not equal the activity on your blog that is heartfelt and meaningful :)

    I love this topic and I think it is important to be discussed!

    • I wish I could like comments, Felicia, because I would like yours so hard.

      Numbers are empty–people are not. It’s pretty easy to get stuck on numbers because they’re easy to look at and quantify. And yeah, I still get stuck on numbers ALL THE TIME. I think it happens to everyone. And it’s OKAY. But I have to remind myself which numbers matter at the end of the day.

  3. Great discussion topic, Amanda. And I think I’m weirder than I usually do, now. lol

    I don’t know what my numbers are, really. I think since I’ve started blogging (last September), I’ve looked at them maybe 5 times. lol I’m not even sure how to find some of the ones you listed. HA! Really, I figure the more conversations I have, on my blogs or others, on twitter, and building those relationships, are all more important than my numbers – page views, subscribers, etc. However, your point about the numbers that matter to you – those are the more beneficial ones, the ones that tell you what you’re doing this for. The first ones are closer to meaningless (though not completely) as they don’t tell you your true readership nor do they reflect the relationships you’ve built from blogging.

  4. As everyone else said great topic. I obsess about the numbers, but I think much of my problem is my extreme case of CDO (OCD.) I tend to obsess about everything. I started obsessing when someone referred to my blog as a big blog. I do not see my blog as “big.” I see my daily page hits and that doesn’t equate big. It’s fairly simple to beef up the follower counts. I’ve done that. The difficult thing is to get people to actually look at your post. Sure the posts are going to many different inbox’s, but how many people just hit that delete button. So all of that makes me obsess about quality post material to drive people to the site to get those daily page hits up. See, it’s an obsession.

    • If it makes you feel better, I’m quite obsessive about my business numbers. But it’s how you handle the obsession that defines you, I think. Being driven to produce quality material is a good thing. But I don’t know if page hits mean readers or influence. How you use numbers matter too.

      On a Book Bender has been called a big blog as well, but I don’t think my numbers reflect big. HOWEVER, I think On a Book Bender as a brand/name is bigger than my numbers. People recognize the name even if they may not read my blog, and that’s something. (What, I don’t know.)

  5. Like you, I don’t care about my numbers at all, UNLESS an author or publisher wants to know them. Then I’m embarrassed. I know that the numbers don’t equal the number of people that genuinely like me or my blog, but it’s tough when other people base your success on them.

    • “…it’s tough when other people base your success on them”

      YES! Andrea, that’s exactly it. And that’s why I asked people to think of On a Book Bender in terms of small, medium, or big before revealing my numbers. It’s not really worth basing your success on numbers, and yet…people DO. And we’re embarrassed to talk about numbers. We shouldn’t let them have so much influence over us. (Which, I know, is easier said than done.)

  6. Numbers definitely make us feel pressure. As I’ve become more lax with blogging as of late, I don’t let the numbers bother me. My major supporters are still with me, and that’s all that matters.

  7. (Just kidding. Not drinking any. Wish I was, though.)
    I love your blog. It’ll always be big in my eyes. ALWAYS. (except when you get down on Minotaurs. Some things I’m not able to look past. So, you know, don’t do that.)
    You rock, Amanda. YOU ROCK.

  8. I’m with Smash — I’ve been a slacker when it comes to blogging lately so I’m trying not to focus on numbers. Also, I want/need to switch over to WordPress so my numbers will change drastically anyway. All those GFC followers…most of them probably don’t actually read the blog anyway (though it would be awesome if they did). I don’t know. For a while there, I was getting a ton of page hits but I have a sneaking suspicion that they were spammers… Oh well!!

    • I was all, “Yay weekly digest subscribers!” today only to realize that I was getting spammed. Boo. Spammers are evil, yo.

      Personally, I think GFC is one of the worst ways to track followers because you can follow without ever reading–which I actually did quite frequently when I was first starting out. (Because I read through Google reader, not my Blogger dashboard and could disconnect those two.)

  9. This is such an inspirational post! I’ve been on a little hiatus for the past few months because of grad school. June is the first month where I have actually had time to sit down and talk and chat and write posts. It’s wonderful. You wanna know what I did when I first logged into my blog? Checked my stats. They were up, but I hardly had any comments. Then I went back to updating plugins. It didn’t bother me in the least. I know who likes my site. I have my regulars. I like it that way.

    Now I am trying to figure out how to get connections back and keep content fresh. I’ve never had great numbers and it’s not something I am terribly worried about.

    • A lot of the blogosphere, I think, is get what you give. If you have to take a break–no matter the reason–you lose momentum. It’s just a matter of building it back up again. Talking with people. Reminding them that you’re back. :)

      I think focusing on your regulars and your content is the best way to get back into the swing of things. The rest will take care of itself.

  10. I’m not much of a number checker. I’ll check every once in a while (like when I need to update my profile on NetGalley and Edelweiss) but for the most part I’m kind of oblivious to how many followers/likes/subscribers I have.

    • I check my numbers, but I don’t necessarily put stock in them. I like tracking numbers in terms of what’s going on with my site and how people are using it. Buuuut, I could still probably check them less and be okay.

      In this case, I think oblivion can be a good thing.

  11. Great post! I did a similar one a few weeks ago, but mine mostly talked about why GFC, Networked Blogs, and Linky are useless and inaccurate for judging readership.

    The problem is that there’s no one good number to analyse your traffic. Page views are a pretty good indicator, but someone reading your posts in an email or RSS reader doesn’t give you a page view! And similarly, you might have 300 email subscribers, but maybe only 50 of those actually open up the emails. Sigh. It gets so complicated! Lol.

    • Same message, different approach. :)

      With numbers being so inaccurate, I find it better to focus on putting out quality content and establishing relationships with readers (and having share-friendly content). My numbers grow naturally that way. All that emphasis on getting to X number of followers doesn’t really help to establish a readership.

  12. I think you are right that as bloggers we tend to make it about numbers in order to have higher numbers in order to request certain books. I think it all gets out of hand and at the end of the day I just try my best to keep up with certain blogs and bloggers that I love talking to. Talking to people about books is why I started a blog in the first place.

    Great post!

  13. I couldn’t love this post any more if I tried Amanda! And I agree completely. In the beginning, I was obsessed with the numbers, I participated in every meme and every follower hop there was trying to drive traffic and get those numbers up. And it worked. I had pretty decent numbers for a new blog that first year, but that traffic was just single-day traffic, and when I stopped doing all the memes, my numbers went down. They visited because they were participating in the meme or hop as well, so they stopped by the blog on that one day and never again until the next week when the meme went up again. Don’t get me wrong, I did find some really great blogs to visit by participating, but for the post part it got me empty traffic and empty numbers.

    I wish publishers would sometimes ask for things like number of hours spent on the blog each day. That’s a number that means something to me. We bloggers put a ton of work into these blogs, and we’re, as a whole, fiercely dedicated, and that’s definitely something I’m proud of. Comments are another thing that make me absurdly happy, I don’t like to feel like I’m talking to myself, so seeing those little numbers at the bottom of the post are like a reward for all the hard work put in.

    • I think memes are a great way to find people, but you’re so right: it’s single day traffic. And single day traffic is hard to maintain over a long period of time. There’s a really strong parallel here between business and blogs–the business that focuses on the experience and building a loyal customer base is going to be more successful than the business that focuses on getting people in the door. The former will make the latter happen, of course, but a sole focus on the latter gets you nowhere. And it’s exhausting because you always have to get new people in.

      You know what would be the best number? The number of people who read/buy a book because of your review. That would be the ultimate measure of influence. Because you could have tons of people look and comment on a review, but if it doesn’t make them take an action, have you really influenced them?

  14. I LOVE this post! When I first started blogging I was OBSESSED with numbers. I loved checking my stats daily, seeing how many people visited my site, seeing the numbers of comments I got… but then when I didn’t have a good numbers day, I often felt blue and thought I wasn’t successful as a blogger. I don’t know what’s changed, but now I rarely look at my stats. Whenever I do, they’re pretty consistent, which is great. I think what makes me feel best about being a blogger is when an author tweets me or comments on my blog and says “thanks!” When a fellow blogger says “I read this per your recommendation!” When I chat with all the blog friends I’ve made about the things we love, whether it be books or whatever! To me, those are what marks us as successful. Yes, numbers help you get books to review, but if you’re not reaching others and interacting with them, those review books aren’t really serving their purpose!

    • It’s really easy to get caught up in numbers, isn’t it? It’s one of the most tangible things to track your success, especially when you first start out.

      I agree, though–being influential and having people read or buy books from your recommendations is more a measure of success than anything else. :)

  15. Whelp, it goes without saying (of course) that this post is brilliant. We get SO SO caught up with numbers as bloggers, but you know, one of the things you have me thinking about with this is INTERACTION. If you’d had TENS OF THOUSANDS more visits and views than that, but no reader interactions, is that still success? IT IS INTERESTING, AMANDA.

  16. I think this is something we all need to remember. We’re so focused on numbers, but when it comes down to it I would much rather have 10 meaningful comments on a post than 10,000 views and not one comment. I want to interact with my readers and know that they enjoy my content.

  17. Numbers are a hard thing, especially when they matter so much to publishers (and understandably so). I think one of my favorite “numbers” is “the number of people who have read a book based off of one of my reviews and LOVED the book.” That’s a number that matters a lot to me because that’s why I write reviews (and why I read reviews). I love connecting people with books they’ll enjoy.

  18. Can I just say thank you for this post? I’ve never even heard of your blog before, but somehow I found it, and this is exactly the kind of post I needed to read. I just recently stopped blogging for the foreseeable future because I lost my motivation largely because I was so fixated on numbers. It wore me out and sucked all enjoyment from doing what I love most–talking about books! You’ve given me a new perspective, and hearing your thoughts has made me seriously consider coming back. So thank you!

  19. An excellent topic. I’ve really wondered about my numbers but I think while they may not be huge they have improved a great deal and that in itself is huge for me. I also love that what has improved the most is my daily visitor count has increased. I also wonder if focusing on the numbers may be the problem I can’t help thinking about it sometimes though.

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