How to correctly show off your WP blog stats

When a WP blog shows off on its sidebar the following:

Blog Stats
• 3,000 visits

or worse,

Blog Stats
• 3,000 hits

without any additional information, I start asking: “What exactly does that mean?”

If a blog stats are presented in this fashion, the numbers look like a block of meaningless information.

Blog Stats widget dialog box

I know this may be hard to swallow, but that is the truth.

Let me just backtrack a little bit and elaborate before someone starts calling me names.

1. Currently, there is no method which can claim to produce web statistics with 100% accuracy. And the resulting numbers are dependent on what methodology is applied to generate those numbers. The fact that even Google has to explain the terms used in its analytics and how the Google numbers are calculated shows the difficulty in coming up with commonly accepted standards. You may wish to check out this page as an additional background.

2. Without being critical, WordPress.com in its Support page provided not enough information as to what the Blog Stats numbers are. Perhaps, to others the numbers need no explanation? Or perhaps there is another related Support page which I missed? I certainly don’t have the answer to that.

3. Again, without being critical, the same WordPress.com Support page says that we, the bloggers, can choose which word to use in describing the numbers. The two popular words, according to WP, are: “hits” (which is the default label in the Blog Stats widget dialog box), and “views”, the label “views” being more consistent with the label “Total Views”, used in the Blog Stats Dashboard | Summary Table.

4. The use of “hits” was okay, and even a buzzword, many many years ago. Is it still okay to use “hits” these days without defining what you mean by “hits”?

5. In technical terms, “hits” is not “visits” nor “views”. “Hits” are the number of files served when a web page (no distinction here between WP “post” and “page”) is requested from a server. A graphic, an icon, a banner and all sorts of files that make up a page are, technically, “hits”. For example, when you opened this page, the server’s log should have recorded at least 40 “hits” just on the bullets, icons and images alone displayed on this page.

Given this background, where does that leave us if we want to show off our WP blogs stats?

You may have other ideas, but right now I can think of only two things we can do to correctly show off our WP blog stats:

1. Stick to using “Views” to label those numbers. I will not use labels like “hits” or “visits” if I were you. In the absence of additional information from WP, these labels may be inaccurate information. You may be describing the numbers something that they are not. In the Blog Stats dashboard, the numbers are labeled “views”, remember?

2. Disclose the period covered by the stats. Again, the numbers are pretty much meaningless unless the period to which they relate is described. Here is an example to show how futile and frustrating it is to read blog stats crafted using the Blog Stats widget:

Blog Stats
• 3,000 views

If you are the owner of this blog and you know that your blog stats are for 12 months, no problem. You know what your stats stand for. But if you are a visitor of this blog and you don’t have that same information, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? What do these 3,000 views represent? Are these yesterday’s views? Or perhaps, last week’s? Or last month’s? Or, last 12 months’? And how do I compare the “popularity” of this blog with another blog with only 1,500 views but I know that this other blog has been online for only 2 months?

Any suggested wordings?

By the way, I am not fond of showing off my site’s stats whether here at WP or in my company’s websites. We also do not display in my company’s websites any stats counter or meter. But if I were to show off my blog stats on the sidebar, I would probably disclose the numbers this way:

Blog Stats
• xxxxx page views from (date blog or the Blog Stats started) to date

or something like:

How popular is my blog?
• xxxxx pages had been viewed by my friends from (date blog or the Blog Stats started) to date. Oh yes, they are very pleased too!

A little bit long, you think? But no one will argue the suggested wordings are not misleading. And they are easy to understand.

Again, in a worst-case scenario too, you can present a screenshot of your blog stats dashboard plus some other information about your blog to prove that the blog stats you are claiming are factual. That is, if someone starts questioning your numbers and you need to show proof. About your friends being very pleased? I am sure your friends would be happy to come to your rescue and say they are pleased with your blog!

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End Notes: The WP Blog Stats inside my blog’s dashboard is an excellent tracking and management tool. With the Blog Stats, I learn a lot about my blog. But when used as a widget and without additional information about the numbers displayed on the sidebar, the stats are meaningless. Did I step on sensitive toes with this post? I hope not. But if I did, that’s a risk I take.
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How to blog spam-free at WordPress.com

My last post about email spams was more for working than WordPress-ing. This time let me go back to the latter, albeit on the same subject, but focused on WordPress.com blogs.

You know of course I am referring to comment spams.

When you log in to your Dashboard, you are greeted with a note like:

Akismet has protected your site from xxx spam comments already, and there are xx comments in your spam queue right now.

In my calculation, more than 70 per-cent of comments posted to date on this blog are spams in the six weeks it has been online.

Big deal? No, not really. Akismet is a friend to WP bloggers. Well, at least to some.

So what is this Akismet?

It is a plugin or software that deletes or “kills spam” in comments and trackbacks. It is an “Automattic production” and native to WordPress.

As of this writing, 3:30pm AEST 27 Oct, Akismet reported that it had caught more than 13 billion spams since it started more than 3 years ago, and that 83 per-cent of all comments are spam, a fair estimate considering that for emails about 88 per-cent are spam according to reports.

Here’s a screenshot of an Akismet stats page (time-stamping is mine to jog my memory):

Akismet stats

In its early years, I gather that Akismet had received a lot of complaints from WP users. Quite understandable, I think. The plugin was new, and it is the type of plugin that can only be perfected through actual practice. Akismet has to update its database and lexicon of words and phrases of words used in spamming.

The plugin also needed to learn from patterns of comment spams and feedback from users.

After more than 3 years, we could only expect Akismet to be more effective and more learned than when it started.

That said, it does not mean that you should leave Akismet totally on its own.

From time to time, you need to check your blog’s spam queue. There may be comments from friends mistakenly considered as spams by Akismet.

For example, today when I checked my blog’s spam queue, I found one comment posted about a week ago by another WP blogger. I guess the reason why that comment was caught was that in the comment was URL of the page I was being invited to visit. I am not sure here, I am only guessing.

Anyway, the point I am driving home is that we should not leave everything to Akismet. We still have to do some work.

Two things we can do:

1. As mentioned above, check your blog’s spam queue. If there are any comments which should not be considered as spams, you simply approve the comments to remove them from the spam queue. Just like with emails, from time to time we need to check our Spam folders. Sometimes, spam filters get so over-zealous and over-protective that even legit messages are being erroneously classified as spams.

2. Check your blog’s settings. On a WP blog’s Settings | Discussion page, there are two options you could configure to “teach” how Akismet should behave. These are the “Comment Moderation” and “Comment Blacklist” options. Why not put them to good use and fine-tune Akismet?

Comment moderation and blacklist options


I hope this post helps. Here’s to a spam-free blogging.

How reliable is Alexa in measuring your site’s traffic rank?

Alexa Traffic RankingEven to someone like me who enjoys browsing over site statistics and testing the accuracy of the resulting metrics, understanding an Alexa traffic rank is not an easy task.

Except for the fact that the Alexa traffic ranking system is based on information generated from Alexa toolbar users and that “A site’s ranking is based on a combined measure of Reach and Page Views” plus some kind of “data normalization” which also are not explained, there is not much information about the Alexa ranking system.

In its FAQ, Alexa also stated: “Alexa’s traffic rankings are based on the past three months of global traffic according to our diverse data sources, and are updated weekly.”

Given this minimum traffic tracking period, I wonder how a blog like mine ~ although barely two weeks old ~ was able to attract a traffic ranking. Is it because my blog is hosted by WordPress.com, and Alexa is biased to WordPress.com-hosted sites? I don’t think so. I know of other sites hosted by WordPress.com which have been online for many months now, yet they are still showing an Alexa “No Data” status. I am certain that some people are visiting those sites. (Note: The small Alexa image on this page shows “No Data” for Alexa which we could only surmise that Alexa did not like to make its traffic ranking public.)

I think I will stick to metrics like unique visits, page views and the like in gauging site traffic performances. At least, these figures are easy to understand, and I can explain the figures to other people.

But I cannot say the same thing with Alexa’s traffic ranking. After all, according to Alexa, if a site traffic ranking is beyond 100,000, the figures are statistically meaningless. For a site traffic rank to be statistically meaningful and reliable, a site should be close to the top rank. Quite a tall order, isn’t it?

Alexa’s statements read as follows:

Sites with relatively low measured traffic will not be accurately ranked by Alexa. Our data comes from many various sources, including our Alexa users; however, we do not receive enough data from these sources to make rankings beyond 100,000 statistically meaningful. (However, on the flip side of that, the closer a site gets to #1, the more reliable its rank.)

With many websites that are not even close to the top 1,000 or even 50,000 (let alone #1), I wonder why advertising placement agencies even bother to look at a website’s Alexa traffic rank!