Years ago, I had the idea that I should put Google Analytics on my own web site. You know, why not track the readership, find out why people show up, track top refers, maybe even define a couple of conversion goals. At the time, maybe it made more sense than it does today. I had this open source book that I had made available, it got a lot of traffic, and I was thinking about trying to convert readers into newsletter signups. Whatever. My plans were nebulous, and, predictably, those plans were put aside for paying client work, a couple of kids, and life in general.
These days, the idea of tracking my organic vs. direct vs. refer traffic and locating the top metropolitan areas of my blog’s audience just seems silly so I got rid of it. I turned off analytics, and now I’m realizing that there is one less dial to check. One less meaningless number to pay attention to. One less game to play every day when I’m looking for ways to waste time. Here’s what freedom looks like.
After a week of this, I’m finding it easier to write. I’m not tempted to go and dive into these meaningless traffic patterns. Like some distracted data scientist, asking myself: “What is it about Parisians that attracts them to my complaints about Maven?” No, I’ll write what I write, and if that garners an audience, great. If it doesn’t, great. In some ways, who cares? This new idea is writing for writing’s sake – I’m not selling advertising, I’m not paying myself to write this blog – but, then it occurs to me…
…why not do the same for the businesses I help with blogging? Why not turn off analytics for a month (or maybe two)? Take a radical approach of just doing interesting things. Produce content and don’t focus on bounce rate or returning vs. new browsers, just do it. If someone asks about lead generation form conversions, laugh at them and say, “not my job.” Here’s the thing, I’ve worked for companies that have had amazing growth in traffic. (That Maven book had millions of unique viewers.) I’ve been responsible for that growth over 24-36 months, and it didn’t correlate to us doing interesting things or even generating revenue. You can make traffic go up and you can make people like you and get high off of your Analytics graphs, but it’s really so worthless. And, there’s so many graphs to look at you will always find one that is going up. I’m starting to wonder if analytics is just a silly distraction.
What I’m wondering after this personal experiment of turning off statistics is if: analytics, marketing automation, conversion tracking, ad words… all of this is just detracting from what should be the Prime Directive for a technology startup (or any startup). Connect with some customers, do what they want you to do efficiently, and iterate on what works. The only statistic that really matters is revenue, so what I’m contemplating is just turning off (or maybe more accurately not paying attention to) analytics not only for a personal blog but for a business blog as well.
At the end of that day, if you need some silly HTML counter to tell you if your ideas are working, you are not going to succeed. If you are deciding what to do based on a focus group or a poll, you should quit now.
(Some disclaimers. There’s still a bit of statistics gathering on WordPress. Wordpress tells me how many readers I get, but it isn’t something I give more than a cursory glance. (In fact, I wonder if there’s an option to turn it off. I’m tempted.))