Statistics and Lies

As a blogger and one-time student of statistics, I’m drawn to the wonderful information provided by WordPress.com.  Just what do these statistics tell us?  Are they as reliable as we’d like?  I’m going to start by looking at the colourful map showing where visitors come from.

WP 25-03-2013 map This map shows all visitors recorded here since the blog started.  Impressive, isn’t it?  A global audience is something I had never imagined attracting.  If you’re wondering, it’s what’s called a “heat map”, the colour rising in intensity according to the number of visitors.  There are figures to go with it, indicating the actual numbers for each country.  But how meaningful is it?  What I don’t know is whether these figures include visits by Spammers.  I hate to say this, but several of the countries are known to be linked to nefarious activities on the internet.  So I have to think that there is definitely some room for caution in accepting what’s being said.

Now, having said all that, the other statistics start to carry a distinct uncertainty.  In the “TAGS & CATEGORIES” pane, WordPress advises: “If you tag your posts effectively, this panel will show you which topics get the most traffic. Snapshot generated from your top posts over the past week.”  Sounds great, but if the figures do include visits by Spammers, then it becomes difficult to assess the report.  There’s no guarantee that you’ll have a clear view of what tags and categories are genuinely drawing visitors to your blog.

There are statistics included which are more reliable.  The number of followers, for example. But even these have to be treated with caution!  They are not guarantees that such folk are active readers.   Even if they do read your posts, it doesn’t mean that they read them all.  Of all those numbers, the most reliable are those from Akismet, reporting how any potential Spam messages were blocked.

The statistics reported by WordPress may not actually be lies, but they can’t be relied upon as being the truth.  In reality, they are, at best, a rough guide to how a blog is doing.

~ Steve