The Usefulness of Website Analytics for Personal Websites
2 minute reading time
Should personal websites contain analytics? One argument is that analytics create a perverse incentive for the author. Let’s say that someone spent a lot of time uploading their favorite recipes which have gone mostly unnoticed. Meanwhile, their post on wildcard domains in PiHole has thousands of visits regularly. Upon seeing their analytics, they decide to abandon uploading recipes and instead only write about Raspberry Pis.
While this would likely get you more views, the idea is that the personal website then loses some personal touch. Some argue that personal websites should not be driven by any agenda other than yourself. No data, no click-bait titles, etc.
Of course this goes into why you created your website to begin with? For myself, this website’s primary purpose is for me. I often forget how to perform many tasks and use this website as a reference guide.
Though one of my core principles is in sharing knowledge. An important secondary goal of mine is that others find my website useful in some way. The best way to achieve this is to carefully craft each and every one of my blog posts.
Personally, I find this difficult. Striving for perfection in a post often leads to its incompletion. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to sit on a topic for multiple months (sorry OpenStreetMap) only to then force myself to write something on the topic to remove it from my backlog.
Now I could revisit older posts and spruce them up, but over the years I’ve written more than 300 blog posts covering a variety of technical content. It would be a slog to comb over each individual one.
This is where analytics come into play for me. This allows me to identify popular blog posts and spruce up those instead. It does mean that unpopular blog posts are unlikely to get corrected1. However since time is limited, it’s nice to know that I’m improving a post that many look at and potentially rely on.
Also throughout the years, I’ve edited the engine that creates these posts. This means that there are some broken links in the Internet that gets surfaced every now and again in my error logs :)
I understand that to some looking at an analytics dashboard can cause fixation. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should dismiss analytics entirely. It’s a tool, and if there’s some benefit and it’s right for you, then we should make use of it.
I also improve posts as I reference them personally. Some people email me with questions and provide suggestions which eventually make their way to the blog posts as well. ↩︎