Not too long ago, Squarespace finally released an iPad-compatible version of their website-building app. Needless to say, I was excited. I try do as much as I can on my iPad, and not being able to do all of my web work on my favorite device irritated me to no end.
When I opened the app for the first time, I felt like a kid unwrapping a present. I beamed as I navigated through different sections of the app, browsing editable versions of my webpages, adjusting settings, and previewing the site on different screen sizes. It was thrilling! The thing I had been requesting for so long was finally here, and it was everything I wanted it to be.
Actually, it was a little more than I wanted it to be. In addition to Squarespace’s editing tools, the app also includes a brief overview of the website’s analytics data. One of the first things you see when you open the app is a trio of charts that show how your site has been performing lately. This feature of the app was unexpected, and to be honest, it threw me off a bit.
I’ve always maintained a healthy distance from analytics of any sort when it comes to my creative projects, especially this website. This is my place of expression, a way for me to share my life with others. And it’s always been my fear that if I started down the analytics rabbit hole, I wouldn’t ever reemerge. Instead of focusing on creating the best content possible, I’d become distracted by getting the most page views possible. I don’t ever want to sully this space with that sort of pressure.
So when I saw the charts, my initial response was to look away. But it was too late; I had already seen too much. My curiosity was piqued, so I went back to the analytics page and dug in a little bit. And what I found intrigued me.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the numbers seemed pretty good to me. It’s an honor that anyone would take the time to read what I have to say, much less several people every week. I would much rather gauge this blog’s success on the value it adds to lives of those of you reading, but if sheer numbers are any indication, things look to be going well. Thank you so much for being part of that.
The interesting part, though, was the section that highlighted my most popular content. The home page had the most views, as expected, with the blog and about pages coming in right after it. But the most visited blog post by far was this one from 2017 entitled Questions We Ask After a Tragedy. Not only is it my most popular article of all time; it’s the most popular one on my site month after month, performing better even than new pieces that I post each week.
Finding this out was baffling to me. I had no idea that people were still reading an article I wrote nearly two years ago and shared a couple of times on social media. To be honest, I’ve always been extremely proud of that piece and the entire series that it’s a part of. I consider it some of the best—and most difficult—stuff I’ve ever written. But I never imagined that it would still be having an impact today.
Why would people still be reading that particular piece now? Did it just happen to get caught up in some search engine somewhere? Maybe. Did a bot latch onto it for reasons unknown to any of us? It’s definitely possible. But I like to think that the article is somehow being found by people seeking comfort in the midst of tragedy, and I hope they’re finding it there. If it’s still accomplishing that even for a few, then I consider it one of my greatest successes.
Looking at the analytics, I briefly had the thought, “This article seems to be working! I should write more like it.” But such ideas are futile. Articles like that one can only be written organically and under the right conditions. It has to come from the heart. If I tried to force out a deep theological musing on the state of the world every week, it would come across as insincere, and I’d probably end up repeating myself. That’s not what this is about.
I’m here to share my life, experiences, and thoughts with you in the hopes that you might find value in them. If a particular article strikes a chord with people, that means I’m doing a good job. If some of them don’t, that’s OK, too. Maybe the less popular articles are just for me. Self-expression can be a reward in and of itself.
I always feared that checking the numbers would change my approach to writing, but it actually did just the opposite: It reinforced my commitment to doing this the right way. I love making this site, and I’m so thankful for each and everyone one of you reading it.
Analytics can be helpful, but only up to a point. I might check them from time to time just to make sure I’m not screaming into the void or completely missing out on what’s important to those around me, but I won’t let the numbers rule my process. As long as someone out there is reading these articles and getting something out of them, I’m happy. Thank you for taking a chance on being that someone this week. I hope it was worth it.