Don’t Sacrifice What Can’t Be Measured

Six weeks ago, I published a post about measuring the success of my blog and email newsletter with growth metrics. Since then, I’m obsessed with numbers and dived deep into my stats.

I published several posts about the lessons I learned from my stats. Here are some highlights.

These and many others helped me reach a bigger audience, express myself better, and get more responses. That’s why I say “data is gold if you know how to use it.”

Pitfalls of Using Data

Data is extremely useful, but it can also be extremely distracting. If I’d dive into Google Analytics, I could spend months on it without adding any value to my blog. That’s an obvious pitfall of using data.

There’s a less obvious pitfall. That is focusing on the numbers at the expense of what can’t be measured. That’s a subtle pitfall.

Make no mistake. I don’t downplay the importance of numbers. At the end of the day, we all have bills to pay and bills are paid by numbers. But focusing solely on numbers can backfire in the long term.

Focusing solely on numbers can backfire in the long term.

How I’m Deceived by Numbers

In a previous post, I argued that my about page wasn’t that important. It only accounted for 2% of the page views of my blog.

When I was writing my post the next day, I changed my mind. The about page might be critical. Its 2% page views might come from the most enthusiastic readers. By not having an up-to-date about page, I might be missing an opportunity.

What Can’t Be Measured Is Equally Important

Numbers are important, but what can’t be measured is equally important. On the one hand, we have quantitative analysis, and on the other hand qualitative analysis.

How can we measure the honesty of a blog post? Yet, honesty is a critical factor in the long term success of a blogger.

Short Term vs. Long Term

I think this all comes down to short term vs. long term. Numbers are great at optimizing short term results.

Sometimes, optimizing short term results is also good for optimizing long term results, but not always.

If short term and long term goals contradict with each other, I prefer long term goals.

Most of the time, there’s greater value in the long term.

As I explained in my post, Quick Cash vs. Long Term Value, I made zero dollars from my blog so far. I experimented a few weeks with Steemit and already started to make money on that platform.

If I looked at the numbers, working on Steemit seemed to be better than working on my blog.

After a few weeks, I quit Steemit in order to focus on my blog. Steemit didn’t seem to be a sustainable business model. The lifetime potential of my blog seemed to be greater than the potential of Steemit.

If I needed some cash in the short term, I’d keep working on Steemit. I don’t. That’s why I skipped the quick cash.

Quick cash is more expensive in the long term.

The Right Tools for the Right Goals

It’s important to use the right tools for the right goals. Some tools are more suitable to optimize qualitative goals. Others are more suitable to optimize quantitative goals.

Two weeks ago, I published a post about commenting on Medium. In that post, I argue that commenting on Medium doesn’t boost one’s number of followers. I received a lot of responses to that post. My readers argued about the benefits of commenting.

I agree that commenting has a lot of benefits.

  • It builds relationships with other readers and writers.
  • You develop new ideas with others.
  • You receive answers to your questions.
  • You come up with new topics to write about.

All of those benefits are qualitative benefits. If you use commenting for its qualitative benefits, you’re going to act different than if you use it for its quantitative benefits.

Commenting for Qualitative Benefits

If you comment for its qualitative benefits, you’ll take your time to understand the post, and you’ll comment to add something to the discussion, including asking a question.

If you comment for its quantitative benefits, you’ll read a few paragraphs of a post, quickly jot down a few sentences, and repeat that for dozens of posts every day.

Guess which one would be more effective?

Quantitative Goals Might Not Match the Nature of Reality

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon

Another pitfall of using statistics is that we make linear plans. My weekly 10% growth goal is a typical example of this. Most of the time, life doesn’t work like that. Growth comes in spikes after long periods of plateaus (Fig.1).

Fig. 1. Linear Growth vs Quantum Leaps

As I have written in a previous post, it took me 55 blog posts to get published in the Startup Publication. 17 of those posts have 0 views to this date, 12 only 1, and 7 only 2.

Conclusion

You can measure some factors, but you can’t measure others.  If you can’t measure a factor, that doesn’t mean it’s an unimportant one.

Honesty, relationships, and karma can’t be measured. Yet, they play a critical role in success.

Karma is unmeasurable.

Take into account quantitative analysis to optimize your business, but not at the expense of qualitative analysis.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.

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