Webmentions, A Healthier Analytics

Marc on 2021-07-11

Analytics on personal blogs is a controversial issue. Some readers feel the site owner shouldn't be spying on what posts they read while the owners feel analytics offer valuable insight in to what articles perform well.

Having easy access to data on which posts resonated and which didn't can be useful for determining what areas to explore or revisit again for future posts. Just as easily however analytics can be of a detriment, by tracking how many people read an article it becomes far too easy to see every successive post as needing to do better than the last. The next post needs to be more engaging, get shared further, all in order to ensure the visitor count is higher than before. While this does help offer some incentive to continue posting content it certainly isn't the most sustainable approach.

A post could be read by 1 less person than the previous and it would suddenly flare up as a cause for concern. What was wrong with the article? Did I misspeak? Perhaps I didn't SEO the post enough. It's not a healthy way to blog. The purpose of this site is to shine a light on topics that interest and inspire me, that was literally the quote on my about page for some time. It was never to attract visitors in their thousands.

Having spent the past few months reassessing the role of the internet in my life I've arrived at a decision.

I'm removing all analytics from the site going forward. I don't like being tracked online and so I'm extending that same courtesy to you, the reader.

Although I feel this is the right decision, it didn't come easy. A key reason why many insist on keeping analytics on their sites is that they worry they won't be able to see how well their posts perform. What if someone discusses my post elsewhere and I don't have the data to be aware of that?

The truth of the matter is that you don't need analytics to see where your post is being discussed, you just need Webmentions. This easy to implement technology automatically alerts you when your site is mentioned elsewhere online. Regardless of platform. If someone links to your site or gives feedback elsewhere, you'll get an alert. Webmentions is among my favourite web technologies as it offers a far more motivating way of seeing how your site is doing. Seeing people actually feel compelled to write anything at all about a post I've published is a far greater motivating factor than seeing a visitor counter tick up.

If this is the first time you've heard of webmentions and are concerned that only a few sites support it, you'll be surprised how many blogs have either implemented it manually or the generator they use adds it automatically.

You can actually set up Webmentions for your site in under 5 minutes here and test to check you've got everything working here.

Analytics have their place online but it is far too easy to begin seeing them as a goal rather than a tool. Do you use analytics on your site? Do you regret removing them or has it helped clarify your goals? Let me know by leaving a comment.