When you’re getting started with something, having a metric to measure your progress is important. At the lowest possible level, just your time devoted to the activity can work, but it’s better if you can manage a more sophisticated measurement than that.
I’ve been trying to write commercially, and the ultimate measurement for that is dollars sold. Since publishing “Merchant Magician” on February 14th, I’ve earned $16.03 in royalties from e-book and print sales, and 634 KENP reads, which should be worth around $2.67. Given that the cover design cost me $43.75 and the largest number of sales for a book is typically in the first month of publication, this isn’t a great result.
Since it’s arguably my first book published, I’m not disappointed with this. No one knows about me, so expecting people to randomly buy a new book they don’t know anything about isn’t reasonable. Advertising doesn’t make much sense right now either, since it usually costs at least $4 in advertising to get a reader to buy a $2.99 e-book. The trick to advertising is that you need to have multiple books available, and even if you lose money getting someone to read one of your books, if they then read others you can re-coup the advertising spend.
I started this website as a venue to try to get attention that might lead to people buying my books. To this end, evaluating the success of the website comes down to visitors. Raw numbers of visitors is a simple measurement, which the length of time visitors spend on your site or how many pages they load can give you a measurement that includes “engagement”.
Google Analytics is the classic way to measure all of this. Page Rank used to be provided by Google to provide a measurement of how important a site is. It has been discontinued and Google will no longer allow users to look up the Page Rank of a particular site. Alexa (the website ranking site, not the home spying device) used to be well regarded as a replacement to Page Rank, but it isn’t commonly used anymore. The biggest difficulty with Google Analytics is just that it provide quite a bit of data through a poor user interface that can make it frustrating to try to get what you’re looking for. It also doesn’t like my VPN for some reason and doesn’t provide information about referrers that it used to. Years ago it used to report what search terms had led visitors to your site, but sadly they’ve discontinued this feature for some reason.
I was excited to find the plugin WP Statistics, which measures visitors to a WordPress site directly, instead of through Google Analytics. Initially I was amazed at the amount of traffic I was getting and couldn’t figure out how people were learning about the site, let alone being drawn to it. Eventually I figured out that the vast majority of visitors were bots that were trying to leave spam comments, rather than human visitors.
After I installed the Jetpack plugin, it provides a visitor count directly and does a much better job filtering out the non-human visitors than WP Statistics does. This is what I’ve been using mostly to get a feel for how many people are coming to my site.
I recently setup the ability for users to sign up to be emailed when I post to the blog, which also gives me a rough idea of the number of people following my blog, independently of the website as a whole. There’s currently one person subscribed, other than myself.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about job advertisements. This was relevant to LinkedIn, so I posted it to my account there and got a number of people to come to the site and read it. By measuring the visitors, I’m able to evaluate how effective this is, or other approaches are, for getting page views.
Ultimately, by measuring visitors, I’m able to decide whether or not blogging is worthwhile as an activity to get attention for my published works. It isn’t something that gives you an immediate impact, but as long as it’s growing over time, it can be a low cost way to tell people about publications or something else you want to tell people about.