Why I Quit Google Analytics

QuitAnalytics

When I started a Blogger blog back in May of 2008 I never imagined where writing and creating online could take me. Before that online journaling had been limited to a “Dear Diary” style Livejournal that I sporadically kept through late high school and college. My content was limited to fretting over what hair style I should rock next, and only a handful of friends had access to my clearly relevant musings. So I was perfectly content finding my voice in my Blogspot every single day, sometimes twice a day, for a few years with only 32 “followers”.

And then I got my first comment from a stranger. I was completely flabbergasted and felt like I had arrived. In fact, the commenter was Jen from Rambling Renovators – she quickly went from stranger to blog buddy and now someone I consider a real-life friend. I soon thereafter realized there was an entire community of like-minded bloggers out there and I became more active in the blog world. Slowly my “followers” increased from the 30s to the 100s. My family was super impressed by my online fame as I continued to receive more comments from people who weren’t my immediate friends and family.

After my first time to attend the Alt Summit design blogger conference I became more aware of metrics and analytics. Analyzing traffic became “a thing” that was especially important for legit bloggers who wanted advertisers and sponsors. So I installed Google Analytics on my blog and quickly became numbers obsessed. Soon no number was never enough. I wanted more. The validation I received from blogging no longer came solely from my own creative expression but from the number of RSS subscribers I had in my Feedburner. Even as the numbers of my blog readers increased to the 1000s I would still find myself with hurt feelings if I woke up to 1,348 followers when the day before I had 1,349 people reading along. I became obsessed with tracking my traffic – the numbers turned into an addiction.

Enough was enough. When I switched from my Google Blogger to WordPress I quit reading my analytics.

 

Because meaningful connections and conversations are more important than metrics. 

Because I’m more interested in generating content I’m proud to hit “publish” on vs. hitting an arbitrary amount of monthly page views. 

Because I’m far more concerned with exploring, experimenting, and wholehearted searching with my soul than I am with my SEO. 

 

Regardless of whether I have 1, 100, 500, or 150,000 people reading my blog the purpose of capturing, shaping, and sharing not only who I am but who I aspire to be, in my little corner of the internet will remain the same. For me blogging is not a numbers game – rather it’s a valuable tool for creative expression, exploring new ideas, and creating community.

Analytics are really important for bloggers who are compensated for their content with sponsors and advertisers. But for me, it’s not the number of page views that pays my bills but individual readers who support the work I do by either hiring me for coaching or branding or buying the content I create here and here (which is why I will continue to promote it here in this space). But even when there is never an exchange of services or product, I’m more than compensated by conversations, connection, and creative articulation – and those things can’t be measured by metrics.

  1. Here here.

    Started my website a couple of months ago and after my first client (random person I didnt know) found me through my website – despite depressingly low Google Analytics “scores” – its value totally depreciated for me. I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.

  2. Jay

    YES, Kathleen.

    I love this! I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been gravitating towards blogs (and bloggers) who have taken this stance. When one lets go of the numbers, there is a true authenticity about their posts that I love and having spent awhile working so hard to ‘grow my blog’ I ended up stepping back and just letting it be. I write when I write and I share when I share and I feel so much better about it!

    • I totally agree that the authenticity shows through when one isn’t numbers obsessed. There was a time where I published giveaway after giveaway and obsessed over my new follower count, etc, but not only is that not genuine traffic, it isn’t genuine outreach!

      • I’m not sure if you found this to be true but the few giveaways I have done (for friends or brands I genuinely like and would support for free) lack traction. A lot of people may (or may not) enter but usually never stick around to become engaged readers.

    • It’s about redefining growth! For me growth is becoming more of who I am – and using this space to explore that authenticity.

  3. I love this post, Kathleen! It’s so easy to let the analytics obsession ruin the organic love for blogging and connecting with others. A really great reading community can also help you figure out what posts are most popular without having to look at analytics in that respect, too. I love the wide perspective approach and have found myself feeling that way more recently, too.

    • It’s funny that you mention a wide perspective because I feel like in a lot of ways I’m narrowing in. As I become more of who I am I realize that I’m also setting myself up to not be everything to everyone. Some people aren’t going to like me and if that means less readers (that are even more connected and engaged in the conversation) that’s okay too. Quality over quantity!

  4. Dani

    Thank you for this post, Kathleen! When I was first starting out, I became numbers obsessed & beat myself up when I was getting a lot of traffic. I have learned that making those small connections with people & creating for myself are what make me happy. This was a great reminder to keep that up!

    • It’s funny because not getting a lot of traffic can easily make you feel discouraged and bad about yourself. But lots of numbers can make you self-conscious and overwhelmed!

  5. Taking note of numbers, of any kind, is a slippery slope I think. Whether it’s analytics, weight, money, etc…Numbers can only tell so much of the story. But I think we gravitate, and become obsessed with, numbers because they represent (in our flawed minds) an absolute. It’s easier than focusing on, and sorting through, the feelings they may or may not represent.

    • YES. Exactly! I almost compared analytics to money and other things we measure with numbers. It makes sense to use those as markers for success but you’re so right about it not capturing the whole story.

  6. Emma

    I think when you’re “starting out”, you look at the numbers sort of as a validation of your writing or blogging skills (or crafting, renovating, ect), and once you do it for awhile and become confident in your own abilities, the numbers stop making a difference!

    • I think if I had looked to numbers for validation / motivation to keep writing when I was first starting out I would have been really discouraged. But I hear what you’re saying… for me how much I care about analytics probably looks more like a bell curve (I didn’t care because I didn’t know, then I cared a lot, then I stopped because I knew better).

  7. AMEN! The crazier part is that I don’t know how to analyze the analytics to see what people like, or what I “should” do better. So aside from sometimes worrying about numbers, I also worry about the fact that I don’t know how to capitalize on the information anyway. Dumb. I’m starting to plan content for this year and I had to ask myself the question, “What would I share if money was not a factor?” And now I need to figure out how to do it without spending a ton of money but staying true to what is in my head and heart. Thanks for this great reminder that it is more than numbers. Happy new year!

  8. Mo

    As someone just entering the blogosphere territory, this is incredibly refreshing to read. The reason I started blogging in the first place was to share stories and images that I love and that represent what I’m all about: what’s the point in compensating that for the sake of a larger readership?

    Thanks for keeping it in perspective: do what you do best, and the rest will follow.

  9. Carmel

    EXACTLY! Thank you for this important reminder. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game and lose sight of the reason we started blogging. I’ve noticed the blogs I loyally follow tend to do the same and I want to be that blogger and create real connections with our readers. Thanks, this is really wonderful content.

  10. Gosh Kathleen, I really needed this today.. I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. Instead of focusing on numbers, I want to focus on relationships and content that gets me excited!

  11. Well said!

    Obviously, metrics work for those who are making a living with their blogs. It’s how they market themselves. However, it can be stressful if you’re not making money off views and visitors alone (or at all).

    I’ve seen blogs grow, and notice pretty early on when they start obsessing about viewership numbers. Their content wanes a bit. I’ve also seen blogs grow and mature quite well under those circumstances. I guess it just depends on the person.

    Hope you’re having a great day, and staying warm too!

    • Heather – you are absolutely right. Analytics can be a valuable tool – along with reader surveys – especially for bloggers who are compensated in a more traditional model. And just like watching your income grow or achieving a desired number on the scale at the gym numbers can be a powerful motivator and measure of success.

      But I started to value those numbers in an unhealthy way that was stifling to my creativity rather than fueling it.

      I’m not saying analytics won’t ever play a part in my blog or my business. In fact, Tara and I meticulously track our measurable quarterly goals with a chalkboard system and it totally works for us. But for now, I’ve got to keep my focus on my purpose and looking at my metrics is distracting from that.

  12. Kathleen! You have me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside knowing that we are still friends, years after that first comment. Through home renovations, Alt, new businesses, book deals (or not), and babies, your honest and true perspective on life keeps me coming back. Numbers or not, “you” have always shone through.

    I’ve been struggling with the numbers game for a while now. On the one hand, I do have sponsors and advertisers that I need to keep happy so I can’t completely ignore them. And on the other, I felt constrained by that focus to blog only “popular” content. So I did what I needed to do and declared weekends on my blog “me” time, where I can do more real blogging and have relaxed conversations. I might lose readers, I might not, and for the first time in a long time, I don’t really care. Everyone has a reason WHY they blog, and I’m glad to see you’re honing in on yours.

    • That first comment meant so much to me! And it’s been so fun to support and watch each other grow.

      The last thing I will do is bash blogs who go the sponsor and advertiser route. I believe all bloggers should be compensated for the content they create – whatever that ends up looking like to the individual. I think your solution to take a day or two to unapologetically post what you want is a great compromise – and I bet it’s content that ends up attracts even MORE potential partners and readers!

  13. Oh, LiveJournal. Although it’s now considered a thing of the past, I’ve been journaling there since 2004 regularly, visible only to a small group of friends. It took me a while to join the public blogging world, I had to decide on a theme, which was first horses and now my new dog. I find the analytics interesting, just to know where people are coming from, and admit to getting excited when I have hits from places other than fake bot domains.

    • I still have some online friends from the old LJ days!

      I will say that my favorite part of Google Analytics was the map! I loved seeing a visual of people from all over the world reading my blog. It was a visual reminder me of how small the world is with the help of the internet. In fact, one day I’d love to do a world tour where I couch surf with blog friends – I think it would be so fun.

  14. Sandra

    How many “likes” is enough, eh? (that “eh” is for my fellow Canadian Jen ^^^^)

    I read for the content that is created by a “real” person that I get to know through their writing. Not the 10 of this or the top 20 ways of that.

    I want to know “you” and that person over there and the one sitting behind them – I want to know their creative journey, their successes, their struggles, their humour – that’s what attracts me.

  15. Rebecca George

    This is so great to read! Yes.

    What I loved about first finding your blog was that by being transparent about who you are, and who you are becoming, you inspire like-mind creatives the internet-over. Which is exactly why I went on to take all the Braid eCourses.

    Amassing readership from strangers is exciting, but as you say, only when it is connected to building an experience of community that extends beyond clicking into the void.

  16. Olivia

    “Quitting” meaning you removed Google Analytics tracking code and “quitting” meaning you aren’t going to login to GA every morning and cruise around aimlessly worrying or rejoicing over vanity metrics are two different things. :)

    My only “worry” in a post like this is that it glorifies closing our eyes to indicators and systems that can be amazing and creative in their own way, and saying “I’m going just by feeling! How liberating”! I too have a personal blog and a business site/blog. While I don’t really focus on “traffic” too much on my personal blog – the main purpose of it is to give me a creative outlet, my business site I do keep some KPIs, as you clearly do as well with Braid.

    There’s a time and place to be like “screw data!”, and do something just because – for fun, for joy, for silliness etc, but I think it’s more liberating to embrace data in a creative way. As you know, systems and creativity make an excellent partnership. left + right.

    I’ll get off my analytical soapbox now. :) But I’ve also really enjoyed the book Lean Analytics recently, if you haven’t checked it out, it’s a good read:

    “Analytics is both a process and a mindset. It’s a set of processes for collecting, analyzing, and using data to improve something, whether that’s validating a business idea, finding a market, acquiring customers, expanding channels, marketing, relating to investors and the public, or reporting the metrics that drive your business. But it’s also a mindset, because once you’re committed to using data in everything you do, you realize it’s a way of thinking, and not just about crunching numbers. Analytical thinking is about asking the right questions, and focusing on the one key metric that will produce the change you’re after.”

    Cheers!

    • Olivia – Good points! And I agree.

      I’m not trying to glorify closing our eyes to data because there can be some really great information and even story in the analytics (my husband is an engineer and loves him some spreadsheets). It’s just for me, this blog here, and my goals, having an unhealthy vanity-trip over my numbers was stifling to my creativity. I became self-conscious and scared to share in a place that once felt like a second home. In fact, it’s probably my lack of knowledge around the data and how to objectively leverage it that gave me anxiety about it!

      This post is simply me sharing my story on why I personally decided to quit looking at my analytics (honestly, I’m not even sure if the tracking code ever got installed when I made the switch to WordPress – which is why I didn’t clarify what I meant by “quitting” in the post). I hope I made it clear that measurable metrics are important and necessary for bloggers who rely on their stats for proper compensation – it’s just not how I’m personally compensated or creatively fueled. If someone can look at their numbers without going crazy, more power to them! I’m sure the bloggers I admire the most are able to interpret and use their data to fuel their passion and increase their bottom line – that just wasn’t the case for me so much.

      Finally, admittedly, in my life it’s easy for me to take a very right brained “screw analytics!” stance because I’ve got my left-brained counterparts keeping track of the data for me. I have my web developer, my accountant, and my sister + husband who are both much more process-oriented than I am keeping track of the numbers and using them to properly gauge where we’re at and where we’re going. I love the idea of formulas and methods as tools for more efficiently growing my business – but again, for the content I’m creating specifically on this blog here and for my own creative sanity I’ve got to put the metrics aside and follow my heart.

      I’m definitely going to check out that book – I think it could be very useful for the work I do at Braid! Thanks for the recommendation and for constructively weighing in on this conversation.

  17. Paige

    I was the same way. It’s like I lost site of why I started blogging in the first place. My issue was that I wanted to make MONEY because it seemed like all the other bloggers were making a small salary from their blogs so I wanted my numbers way up there. Then one day my husband said “Why do you care? You have a career. You’re a nurse. Blogging is not your career” and it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. Now I feel so much pressure that’s gone and like I can enjoy blogging again. I still love to see my numbers higher than normal, but I’d rather have more comments than page views because I’d love to build a community, rather than having everyone be a number and a way for me to increase my income.

    • I felt that way about wanting sponsors. I didn’t feel legit because I didn’t have The Honest Company and Madewell knocking at my door asking to partner with me. That’s when I decided to sponsor myself. I could still make money (which is not a bad goal!) by creating and selling my own stuff. I could be an advocate for my own brand – not someone else’s (unless I love their brand and would advocate it for free either way).

      I think it’s about recognizing your goals and doing what you need to do to achieve them. But if it’s not making you feel the way you want to feel then it might be time to re-evaluate.

  18. Cray-zee! I JUST shot a note to one of my clients about maybe stepping back from the G.A., for exactly the reasons you mentioned, but from a wee bit different angle. I wondered what value she was getting from the info, and was it more cuckoo-making than beneficial? Was it the best way to measure her reach, and if reach is even something you should “game”.

    What makes this all the more amazing, is that I have NEVER visited your site before. I found you via Choate House, as I was blowing-off some time between projects, online. You’re fab, but I had no idea of your presence. So glad that has been rectified.

    Cheers!

    • Wild, Jennifer! I’m so glad you stumbled this way! (Love my Choate friends). And I think you’re exactly right. G.A. can be valuable if you’re discerning of what information you’re trying to glean. For me it was turning into a popularity contest that I didn’t want to be a part of. Definitely started going cuckoo over it!

      Lots of my clients (other creative entrepreneurs) who are new to blogging often feel overwhelmed by the idea of it all. The biggest concern being “who’s going to read?” I always tell them that it’s not about gathering a following as much as it is about laying down proof of expertise and point-of-view for potential clients visiting your site. In fact, I did a post on it today over at braidcreative.com if you’re interested in checking it out!

  19. Fabulous post, as ever! It’s clear I’m not the only one this struck a chord with. After all, many things that can be measure aren’t important, and many important things can’t be measured.

  20. Heather

    Great post! I think meaningful relationships beat out numbers any day of the week! xo

  21. The comments in this post are gems. That’s the metric to count. The community. The dialogue. The thoughtfulness & love shared.

  22. Urban Wife

    And this is exactly why I keep reading your blog, year after year. (insert applause, thumbs up, and fist bump emoji here)

  23. Truly fantastic points, lady. I specially agree with the fact that numbers are important for bloggers who live off ads and such. For the rest of us, who blog to complement our business or to share true insights and pieces of life, numbers at not at all that important. :)

  24. Jen

    I applaud you for doing this! It is so easy to get caught up in numbers and the only thing it accomplishes is preoccupying one from the important things in business. I so appreciate you sharing these kind of posts with us business owners, it’s always good to reset for when I’m caught up in numbers vs. the important things for me in my business.

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  26. Sophie

    I get that you got hung up on “the numbers” and a lot of other people do, but it’s really important to remember.. that wasn’t a fault of Google Analytics, that was a fault with the way you thought about it and used it. Google Analytics is REALLY important especially for brands and businesses.

    Sure, blogging is all about engaging with your audience.. but Google Analytics tells you HOW and WHY and whether they even are (blog comments aren’t everything y’know), so ditching it is a REALLY bad idea.

    Personally I think you should have taught yourself to “stop being silly” by getting upset over how many “followers” you did or didn’t have and looked at more in-depth aspects of blogging.

    SEO isn’t everything like you say but Google Analytics isn’t just about SEO, it tells you all kinds of useful information that can help work out what you’re doing wrong, what you’re doing right, and how to help readers get more out of your blog based on what their behaviour shows via GA.

    • Hey Sophie!
      I’m not sure I ever necessarily faulted Google Analytics for my own neurosis around the numbers. I was pretty clear that it was my issue … and how I resolved it was my own personal solution. Check out my reply to Olivia and Heather above … they’re relevant responses to what you’re saying here too.

      I love how you say that I could use G.A. to help my readers get MORE out of my blog. I was definitely coming to this post from how I create for myself vs. how this blog could add value / inspiration / whatever to the reader. I read this amazing quote by Tara Gentile today: “You must have as much passion for the dissemination of your art as for the creation of it.” It rings true to what you’re saying here too.

  27. Andrea

    Thank you so much for this post!! I too had a Blogger blog for years, now I’m starting over on WordPress and I do get bogged down in the numbers occasionally. Here’s to a little less time pouring over analytics + a little more making real connections!

  28. Audrey

    Thank you! I had my first blog two years ago on blogger and I was alway’s checking up on my visitor numbers. Although I only had a small following, the obsession I had with wanting more eventually was too much and I felt overwhelmed and gave up blogging. I just started a new blog (only 4 post’s through!) on WordPress and now reading this I feel much more inspired to ensure that this time I don’t give up over numbers and just continue to write for me. So Thank You heaps!

    • Exactly! This post is much less a bash against Google Analytics and the numbers and much more of a reminder (to myself!) to continue to write from the heart as if nobody was reading – and hopefully those words will have more authenticity, reach, and impact than if I were to become consumed with a desire for popularity.

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  30. Aileen

    I’ve been blogging for 5+ years. I have just over 100 bloglovin’ subscribers and even less rss subscribers. My traffic is lower than a lot of bloggers I know who have been doing it for months. Honestly? I check my stats on occasion, but I truly believe that I do this for ME and that’s all that matters. I’ve met some great gals via blogging and that’s just a bonus.

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  33. Maddie

    Great, great post! Last year, I became numbers obsessed as well and eventually, it took a toll. Instead of focusing on the quality of content, I honed in on the amount of traffic I was receiving. Ironically, my number went down. I stopped checking my stats at the end of last year, and it was such a smart decision (I also turned off email notifications). Over the last two months, I’ve seen my work become better, back to where it used to be, and my readers engaging more (I have more commenters).

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  36. I am so happy somebody said it! At the start of the year I committeed to a New Years Resolution of being more engaging and engaged online. I thought it would be a good way to trust myself and my own voice but putting my thoughts and opinions out there to share with others. I’ve always been a little shy so telling people how I really feel isn’t always the easiest. At first it was a lot of fun but I think in the last month I’ve let the numbers become the focus. I’m so happy to have come across this posting. As I’m taking the DIY Creative Coaching Class it’s a great reminder.

    PS I am so happy I stumbled across you, your business, and blog. It’s only been a week since this discovery but I am feeling so happy to have found a place with postive and concious energy and output.

  37. thank you for this blog post. I started my blog in 2009 and I don’t post as frequently as I used to. my readership has declined but similar to you, I don’t put as much emphasis on the numbers. I started my blog as a means to share ideas and have an outlet to continue writing.

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