When I began this blog nearly ten years ago, my stats were not worth looking at except from an aesthetic point of view. They do a nice job with the little illustrations which vary every day and often make it look as though you’ve had a surge of interest when you haven’t; but for a long time my blog stats were as flat as a corpse’s blood pressure. Still, I kept posting and before long I had some actual readers. This triggered a ritual daily scrutiny of my stats which was first a habit (tea, email, Facebook, stats) then a compulsion and finally an obsession. If the column dipped I wondered what I’d done to deserve it: likewise if it rose I wondered what had grabbed my readers’ attention. My life was dominated by these stylish bar-charts and the maps and diagrams that accompany them: and when, on occasion, the bar surged like Nigel Farage’s blood-pressure on Question Time, it felt like Christmas.
But there was no fathoming it. Why did people cotton on to some things and not others? Sometimes the comments would give me a clue, but more often than not I was in the dark.
I had told myself at the beginning that I would blog every day. In those bleak early months when I had published nothing, just to write a few hundred words and hit ‘publish’, propelling those words out there for everyone to read, was a huge deal. So for the first few years I was highly disciplined – until one summer I’d had enough. I decided to take a six-week break. And guess what? The stats went down almost to zero – and though they rallied a little, they stayed low for almost a year. So in the end I stopped looking at them. I stopped obsessing about what people liked and what they didn’t like, and I wrote what I wanted to write.
Then about six months ago a weird thing happened. I got a little spiky thing in the corner of my window which indicates a sharp upturn in views. Yeah, right, I thought, expecting a flood of spam comments. No such thing. Whatever the reason (and I still don’t know) my views had gone dramatically up, and dramatically up they stayed. So I’m back on the daily checking again…