After a week anxiously refreshing the New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN, I’m reminded of how important it is to avoid getting lost in the numbers whether it's election results or web analytics.

Tracking your web traffic is incredibly important. It can inform your decisions and provide insights into what’s resonating with your audience and what isn’t. But after more than a decade of blogging, I also know how easy it is to get distracted chasing page views, visitors, subscribers and the like.

The truth is, obsessing over your web traffic is a complete and utter waste of time that could be spent making content people want to read.

Of course, I write this after falling prey to this trap once again.

Rather than writing blog posts, I’ve spent far too many nights and weekends writing HTML and CSS, making flashy calls to action, all in the hopes of convincing more of my readers to subscribe.

On that subject, if you're reading this and you haven't subscribed, there's a form at the bottom of the page. I'm just saying.

Just write

Thankfully, the antidote is pretty simple: start writing. Write about anything and everything that comes to mind. What’s important is getting away from the distractions and focusing on why you started blogging in the first place.

If you think about it, creating content is far more sustainable than any social media campaign. Sure it might drive clicks, but what good are clicks if there’s nothing fresh to read once they get there.

Regular posts give readers a reason to come back, and it’s a far better use of time than obsessing over your web traffic... or an election map.

My advice is to carve out some time every day just to write. You don’t have to write a whole blog post. I can tell you right now, as someone who writes for a living, I don’t have the bandwidth to punch out a post every day. Instead, use this time — even if it’s just 15 minutes — to get your thoughts down on paper.

When an idea for a blog post pops into my head, I write it down. There have been far too many times a spark of inspiration has been doused because I didn’t.

While a lot of these ideas never amount to anything, others have turned into 2,000-3,000 word stories.

Numbers are unreliable, but check them anyway

Something to keep in mind is that analytics are becoming increasingly unreliable, especially as web browsers become increasingly privacy friendly.

Unless you're using a custom analytics platform, you're probably using Google Analytics. While a great way to track visitors, it can be easily blocked.

With that said, you should still keep an eye on your site metrics. Just don't go overboard. I recommend at no more than once a day and no less than once a week. Proper analysis of your web traffic can help you make decisions about where you invest your time and energy.

So what are the metrics to watch?

While page views and visits might seem like obvious metrics to watch, they are only valuable in context. They can’t tell whether or not vistors are actually reading your post.

For example, if someone finds your blog post on Google, clicks the link and leaves immediately because it wasn’t what they were looking for, you’ll still register a page view and visit, but they were never engaged.

Instead, I find time on page and return visitors are far more valuable metrics, as they provide better insights into how often visitors are coming back and, more importantly, what posts are they actually reading.

Share your thoughts in the comments below:

  • Have you ever gotten caught up in the numbers?
  • How do you get back on track?
  • What metrics do you look at and how often do you check in on them?