Perspective from the Head Stacy D.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Stat Counters

We have a confession to make.

We did not exactly understand the difference between a dumb page counter and smart analytics.  But we do now.

Since the launch of Catholic Sistas, we’ve been running an old fashioned page counter along with analytics and so we noticed last week that as we approached our One Year Anniversary we thought we were about to hit One Million Page Views on the counter. WOO HOO – time to celebrate – or so we thought.

One of our contributing sistas went and looked at one of our forms of analytics and the numbers there were “off” from the front page counter and so we had to figure out what the discrepancy was.  Unfortunately, this came after we had announced our exciting “news” on Facebook and our blog.  Oops, pride goes before the fall.  So that’s when we learned the differences between the dumb counter and smart analytics.

Simple stat counters can be confused by refreshing a page or double counting a hit, it has no good way of telling why it’s incrementing the page count.  Analytics, on the other hand, is able to tell the difference in how your site is viewed – page by page.  So here is what we learned: a simple stat counter (which was on our front page) can race on up to a million hits before you know it but what you really need to know is what analytics tells you.

Visitors are the total number of people that come to our site.  Unique visitors eliminate double counting when people come back to our site.  In other words, unique visitors are our readership.  Page views are the big number, they only tell us how many times a page or our site’s pages have been loaded.  What we are interested in, as  bloggers, is visitors and unique visitors because they tell us our readership and how often that readership reads our site.  Other nifty things we learned about this week are things like “time on page” and “time on site”, “bounce rate”, and “number of pages per visit”.   All of these statistics tell us a lot more about ourselves and our readers than a dumb stat counter.

This, in turn, made us think about the parallels with spiritual lives.  Many times we fall into a pattern of prayer or practice and might not think about whether that is the best way of doing things.  Are we understanding our Faith or our self better and making progress in our spiritual life?  Analytics is like spiritual direction, it helps us to know ourselves better and where to focus on how to improve.  So what we have learned about this is to not take numbers at face value but look inside the numbers to find information and guidance just like a good spiritual director can help us make sense of our real spiritual state and progress.  Thanks to one of our newest contributing sistas to understand our site and analytics.

So what about numbers?  One of our contributors summed it up best:

We’re all about quality over quantity; one soul is of immeasurable worth.

So we say one more time, thanks a MILLION for your unique visits and for sharing our blog with others, we are all mothers, sisters, wives doing this all for the Glory of God and to earn a couple of brownie points in Heaven.