The problem is we can get so caught up in chasing the numbers that we forget why we are writing in the first place.
Even if you've never heard of vanity metrics before, you know what they are. They're the thumbs up, hearts, and likes that you see across practically every social media and blogging site. They are the counters that keep going up as users land on your site. They're easy to get, and since they usually increase over time, we tend to think of them as a measure of success.
The problem is, we can get so engrossed in chasing numbers that we lose sight of why we are writing in the first place.
There has been a lot of scrutiny surrounding vanity metrics as these numbers don't generate any meaningful results. Most often, they leave us thinking, "Well, that's great, but so what?" At worst, they cause us to focus on writing for the numbers rather than the reader. These are some of the most common vanity metrics generated by analytics platforms:
- Users – the total number of unique visitors to your page
- Pageviews – the total number of times a page on your site has been viewed
- Open rates of an email newsletter - the total number of subscribers who opened an email campaign
Humans are hardwired to measure success by a number, the larger the better. We love to visit the busy restaurant, follow the popular social media accounts, and watch the numbers go up. It's not surprising that these metrics are used to evaluate success, but we should also be aware that they can be misleading.
The number of views is the most common metric used to measure the success of a blog or website. They're easy to misunderstand and easy to game.
A page view doesn't mean much without a sale on an e-commerce site. A blog post view doesn't mean much unless you use it to improve your content or achieve another goal.
You may be disappointed and disheartened if one post gets thousands of views and the next does not.
Someone who clicks on a link to your post may not read it, they may ‘bounce’ right off the page, or they may skim it and decide it isn't useful at all. This isn't a way to measure the success of your post.
A spike in page views isn't always good news and not all traffic is created equal. Spam accounts and bots can cause numbers to skew significantly.
Before you disregard these metrics altogether, we should consider how to use them in conjunction with other metrics and tools.
The best compliment you can receive as a content creator or blogger is having your post shared. Your page views may have increased due to this. If you know who is sharing your writing and where they are, you can have more meaningful conversations with them.
- Use a backlink checker like ahrefs to find out which newsletters, pages, and even GitHub repos your post has been shared on.
- Use Tweetdeck to keep an eye on who and when your post is being shared on Twitter.
- Find out more about the demographics of the people visiting your page using demographics reports.
When combined with other metrics on your analytics platform, page views can give you a better picture of your post's performance. If you do this, you can tweak your content and identify issues with your site.
- Use the bounce rate to find out if people are ‘bouncing’ off the page or staying to explore more.
- Use the new/returning visitors report to find out if people are coming back to your site.
- The site speed report can help find which pages are loading slowly and why.
In recent years we’ve seen both businesses and content creators lean into vanity metrics so much they start to focus on nothing else. Increasing our page views or following count is not why we write. Knowing that your message is getting out there can be a great feeling, but it shouldn't be the only focus.
Page views are not meant to make you feel badly about yourself. They're also not there so you can get obsessed with earning Internet points. Dev.to doesn't show follower counts on your profile for a reason. You should use them as guides for your content, not as a measure of your worth.
Vanity metrics often involve big numbers and out of context can imply success. As a standalone measure of success, these can be misleading and sometimes harmful. These metrics can confuse the purpose of blog posts and why we are writing in the first place.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on page views in the blogging world? Should we make these metrics more visible or do away with them altogether?