What Passes For Good Information Might Not Be

By now those of you who are using WordPress as your blogging platform of choice know that there’s an update, 3.9. It’s definitely changed some things, including overriding some of my settings for how I have my admin area colorized, but I’m going to let that go… for now…


Instead, I want to key on something you might not have noticed yet. If you look at the comment section of your admin area, underneath the names of people who comment on your blog you’ll now see this number. It shows how many times someone has commented on your blog; cool eh?

I thought that this would be cool to use because maybe I’d want to write a post showing how many people have commented often and how often they’ve done so. Then I looked deeper at it.

As an example I’m showing a strip of my admin panel (so, my colors are funky lol) highlighting our friend Peter Pellicia when he was calling himself Sire. You’ll notice that had made 3 separate comments; you’ll also notice that the number of approved comments WordPress is showing aren’t the same. Heck, they’re all drastically different.

I looked at a bunch of comments from Pete just to see if I could find a pattern. Turns out that answer is no. It’s not based on link, topic, email address, name… You can look at it yourself; there’s nothing defining what it’s looking at.

Thus, I’m forced to conclude that, even though it initially seemed cool, it’s really worthless information. There’s nothing legitimate I can do with it, and if you look at your information, at some point you might realize the same thing.

Sometimes that’s just how it goes. Some of us hold onto certain numbers as if they’re the Holy Grail while others look at those numbers and scoff. Let’s see… Klout score, page rank, Alexa rank, Compete rank, number of followers on Twitter, number of friends on Facebook… over and over we see numbers that are supposed to mean something that probably mean less than what we think. Some are good as a visceral reference (for instance, I tend to use Alexa as a broad based number to determine how well a website’s traffic might be, realizing that a site in the 100,000’s is working better than a site in the 3 millions while recognizing that a site in the 3 millions might be making more money if it’s targeted to its audience properly), but not much else.

For that matter, even the number of blog comments might not tell you what’s going on with your blog. The difference between a blog post with 300 comments and a blog post with 2 might be the popularity of the writer and not the content. If Sergey Brin writes a blog post and takes comments, how many people do you think will comment hoping that either he’ll see it and want to hire them to work for Google (ain’t happening kids lol) as opposed to commenting on this blog hoping I can help make them famous (that’s not happening either… for now…)?

Even Google Analytics, for all the press and publicity we’ve all given it, can’t really help us out. Most of the data about keywords is hidden in a collective area, so we don’t even know why or how people are finding us via search engines. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what the data they’re giving us really means in the long run; that’s not helpful is it?

Bummer right? If there are so many reports and such that we can’t trust, what can we trust to help us figure things out?

First, you know what your engagement is like, so trust your instincts. I love using Adrienne Smith as an example of someone who truly gets the engagement piece. Her blog posts always get a lot of comments, and not nickel and dime stuff. She puts things on Facebook and Google Plus and you see a lot of people responding to it, even if it’s just questions like what color is your dog (I don’t think that’s specifically one she’s asked but… lol).

Me? Most of the things I put on Google Plus are ignored, and sometimes I wish more of the stuff I share on Facebook was. lol Still, I know where I stand and have an opportunity to figure out what I need to do to improve. I don’t need any of the rankings to tell me what’s going on; I can see which posts people are commenting on and I know which of my tweets get shared on Twitter.

If you didn’t sit back and look at the numbers, are you comfortable trusting your own instincts to know where you stand on social media? For that matter, do you trust your instincts to help you get through life? Let me know; I’m interested in this topic and hope you are also.

42 thoughts on “What Passes For Good Information Might Not Be”

  1. I have a friend with a Master in Information Technology. He is also a hacker and well known internationally. He tells me Alexa is THE standard when it comes to website traffic stats. My position is since Alexa is a paid site, how many people are truly on it? My friend also insists the US Government owns Alexa and therefore the US Government owns the Internet. So I am not sure how much stock I put in what he says.
    Another friend has 22K followers on Twitter while he only follows 273. One day he posted on Facebook “How do I get more followers? I am hemmoraging followers.” So I did a little snooping around his Twitter and found most of his followers were bought. You have all seen the ads – 1,000 Followers for $5 So what happens is most of these are fake accounts and are constantly being weeded out by Twitter. That is what was happening to him.
    So the point is – his 22,000 followers number is pointless. A joke. Information that means nothing at all.

    1. Hey Troy, I don’t have all that many Twitter Followers but at least I know they’re all mine. I would never pay for them, that would be so false.

      1. Right. Some people do for validation. “If all these people love me then you should too.” Also, there is a rule that is slightly guarded at Twitter regarding how many people you can follow vs how many people follow you. One number that is ‘public’ is 2,000. It seems you must have 2,000 followers before you can follow your 2,001st person. (That number is not entirely written in stone. There is a percentage rule Twitter is tight lipped about.)
        I have actually run into this with a Twitter account I run for a Las Vegas celebrity. Before I started doing his social media he had bought a bunch of followers. Most of them are obvious bots or fake accounts. The rest are Russian or Mexican. Pretty useless for our marketing purposes. He was at a point where he could not add any new users until he had more followers. Of course, like you said it is about quality not quantity, so I went in and deleted around 200 people from his account. That puts us at 2050 Following / 1890 Followers. I can follow only a couple new people at a time now due to that percentage. Once we hit 2,000 though…

    2. Actually, Alexa’s not quite a paid site. They’d like people to use their toolbar to help them track traffic better. I refuse, of course, which is why I take my numbers at face value, figuring that 10,000 is better than 111,000 and such. I think your friend was kind of pulling your leg, but your main point at the end is spot on. People pay for influence sometimes; that’s just not the real thing.

      1. Not QUITE free. You are correct. To get the analytics from Alexa the first month is free then $9.99 per month for basic. alexa dot com/plans.
        My friend, who may have been pulling my leg, but I dunno, he seems to believe WikiLeaks was invented by the US Gov so they could leak docs they wanted to leak anyway and Assange is an employee. I don’t buy that at all… Anyway, he also said Alexa gets their analytics from people who have the toolbar installed.
        Show of hands please for those who have it installed…
        No one here? Hmmm… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      2. Well, it seems a couple of folks here have it installed. lol And I’ve never bothered with all that extra stuff, just the big number, and only the way I mentioned it above.

    3. Troy, your friend would say that; no doubt, as a hacker and someone interested in IT, he’s got the Alexa toolbar installed. Those are the only visits that count with Alexa – visits from people who have their toolbar installed. The ratings for sites that deal with IT, blogging, making money online, will be higher than those for a popular blog on writing – unless the writers know the “secret” and deliberately pander to Alexa, now and then.

      Alexa is too easy to manipulate. It’s a fun little metric, because people seem to think it means something. It’s an Amazon company, so it must be meaningful, surely.

      And Mitch? Have you visited Alexa, lately? It is becoming more and more a paid site. It’s pretty close to useless, now, if you don’t pay for it. What we used to get for free is now $9.99/month. The advanced plan is $149/mo. And you have to have a paid plan to get your site metrics “certified.” Ooooooh. (It’s a little like a vanity press, now, isn’t it? Pay us, and we’ll make you feel special… Not sure how ACCURATE that is, but apparently it’s working for them. I’m not biting. But I do have their toolbar installed, Mitch, so my visits are giving you a little boost. And I’m right behind you on those rankings…)

      1. Oh. I wish I would have read Miss Holly’s post before I typed all the things I did for Mitch. No worries though. Thanks for the info and validating my point Miss Holly. ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. Holly, I actually hadn’t been to the site in a long while. I have a plugin that tells me the Alexa rank on sites I visit, including my own sites, so I hadn’t thought about it. I see they’re now owned by Amazon; is that when more of the paid model came into play?

  2. Thank you for introducing us to Adrienne Smith at adriennesmith dot net I went to her site and Wow! She has a lot of good stuff and interaction there. I added her to my Feedly right away!

    1. Ah, thanks Troy and I always welcome new bloggers to my site. Okay, new to me at least.

      Now Mitch writes about a heck of a lot of stuff but I try to stick as close to blogging as I can. If you want to know something you just drop me a line, I’ll help you if I can. Take that Mitch! LOL!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰


      1. Thank you. Yeah, Mitch has never written me a personal letter ๐Ÿ™ … but he has commented on one of my blogs with some very useful and interesting information so I got that going for me…which is nice. LOL!
        Adrienne, you have some awesome graphics on your blog and I look forward to reading the article from abut a month ago on how to create them.

      2. Very soon I will be getting CommentLuv Premium and sharpening my focus.
        “You can’t change the people around you but you can change the people around you.”

  3. Hey Mitch, man don’t I look suave in my bow tie and suit, especially with the pink background, yuck lol.

    I have noticed the numbers and have used them when deciding whether or not to delete spam comments. For instance, if someone has posted an obviously spam comment and it says they have another comment I search it out, thinking I let one slip through and usually spam that one as well.

    As to why the numbers differ, I would have thought it had something to do with either the email address or url, but you say it doesn’t. That is just weird.

    1. First, it’s not pink… it’s salmon (yeah, that’s what it is lol). And I tried looking at the numbers for a while, looking at other people, and yours lined up perfectly as an example of how useless it is… for now…

      1. Hey Mitch, Brian says its pink too so that’s two against one lol.

        You know I love playing with my theme but never the dashboard side of it. Maybe I’ll make mine pink as well, I just won’t advertise the fact ๐Ÿ˜‰

      2. Two wrongs don’t make y’all right. lol It’s salmon. And if I liked pink, it would be bright pink & I wouldn’t care who saw it. You know that about me after this many years. lol

  4. I didn’t notice the numbers Mitch, and you know why? Because I don’t have them. What the hay! I upgraded to WordPress 3.9 last week and I just went to take a look and I don’t have them. Just as well since they don’t work but I really don’t want you having them if I can’t. lol Well, at least my admin area isn’t pink, that’s something I guess.

    We’ve had this discussion before, and I always say numbers count because people let those numbers influence them. It’s true in almost every aspect of life if you think about it but the numbers rarely make sense. Take the NY Times best seller list, for example. You can find some pretty bad junk on the list.

    Another example is age. Let’s take your age, for example. You’re WAY older than me and many people would think that makes you wiser, but… LOL

    Seriously though, you’re right and numbers mean very little when it comes to quality. I just paid up the nose to increase my internet speed and I swear I can hardly get a page to load. Playing into the numbers game can be very distracting and cause us to lose sight of true connections, reputation and influence. Don’t follow me on Twitter because I have a million followers, follow my because I’m a blogging superhero and a great guy.

    1. It’s probably a combination of the email and IP address, or maybe just the IP address.

      And Mitch? I’m with Brian, here – I don’t have these numbers, either, and I’m on 3.9. You sure they’re not coming from a plug-in?

      I do know that minor variations in the name, the email address, or the IP address can make one person show up as two or three different people – that’s always been the case. Try using the “Contact Commenters” plug in and you’ll see what I mean.)

      1. Goodness, add another plugin? Nope, not right now! lol And I’m sure none of those numbers were there until I upgraded to 3.9, and as I said to Brian earlier, Pete is now seeing those same numbers. Weird stuff it is.

    2. Good stuff Brian… except it’s not pink, it’s salmon. lol Sometimes I think we just have to reinforce the numbers thing because there are lots of posts out there telling people how to increase the number of followers, the number of commenters, the number of readers… on and on. And now I’m wondering why I have numbers and no one else does… that’s really weird. Actually, Pete has them so I’m not going crazy.

  5. Yes, there are many numbers. The only number I’m really interested in is the one that tells me how much traffic I’m getting. And what I concentrate on is quality content.

    Numbers some times don’t corroborate each other. For instance, my Stat Counter plug-in tells me my bounce rate is 80%, while Alexa tells me it’s 58%. Go figure.

    1. Joe, Google used to tell me my bounce rate was in the 80’s and now it’s telling me my bounce rate is in he 20’s. I don’t believe either number and I don’t worry about it.

  6. Hey Mitch,

    I haven’t upgraded yet, I prefer waiting at least a week to make sure things go smoothly since there always seems to be something going wrong for people.

    Ah, the numbers game. It’s too easy to manipulate these days and I’ve been watching my Alexa ranking just these past few days and it continues to rise although my traffic continues to rise. What’s up with that! And Holly is right, they’re now a paid site. You don’t get crap with them anymore so I think that’s how they lure everyone in. To heck with that. Oh, and I do have the toolbar too.

    I don’t obsess over numbers, I never have because I know how easily they can all be faked. I think it’s about the relationships you make and if you’ve got a business it will tell with your income so that’s all I really need.

    Thanks for the mention and I love when you use me as an example. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Have a great week Mitch!


    1. Adrienne, I used to obsess over numbers because I’m a finance guy and numbers can become my life at times. However, I recognize when metrics are real and when they don’t mean a thing, or at least very little. I know you see the same thing I do with a lot of the articles that are written; I cringe every time I see the titles, lots of them on Twitter & G+. And you’re right about Alexa, I’m getting more traffic to this blog lately and definitely more comments and suddenly my number’s going up. But I’m not worried about it.

  7. Hey Mitch I’ve just checked some of my other blogs and I noticed one of them didn’t show the numbers in the dashboard. Weird…..

    1. You’re right; Out of the four I’ve updated, the numbers are on two of them. I haven’t updated the last one yet; going to have to think about doing it at some point I guess…

  8. Hi Mitch, I haven’t upgraded yet as I once almost lost my site with a WordPress upgrade that did not work with a plugin. I always wait now until the bugs are worked out and this one seems to have a few. Oh those #’s, what do they really mean? Anyone can interpret numbers to their benefit. Its about justifying themselves for social proof. I never paid for Twitter followers. They would only unfollow after a week anyways right? If they are not interested in your tweet why would they follow unless they have fake accounts. No glory in having fake followers, that’s for sure!
    We can become so fixated on the numbers that we can forget about the people Mitch and that’s what’s its all really about it, isn’t it? So relax with the numbers and engage with the people, the numbers will follow.

    1. I’m with you on this one Lisa, but it still has to be said because of all the posts we see on social media touting the numbers and how to get bigger numbers… without all the work. Not sure if you saw my post on how to get numbers up and such but there was a lot of work involved, work most people just aren’t going to do.

  9. I think I have to agree with your thoughts Mitch. Numbers are just numbers and sometimes they are worthless information.

    If you have a huge numbers of followers on your social media accounts, it isnโ€™t guaranteed that they are all yours and that they are an avid followers.

    Reading the comments I harmonized with Peterโ€™s statement:” I donโ€™t have all that many Twitter Followers but at least I know theyโ€™re all mine.”

    Enlightening post to wrap it up!

    1. Thanks Metz. I think it could take some people time to realize which numbers actually mean something and which don’t. Having 10,000 people connected to you might be a big rush, but if 100 people always bought whatever you put out and no one else did suddenly you’d be concentrating on the buyers almost exclusively. On Twitter, sometimes it seems like just mentioning a certain word in a throwaway question suddenly gets me tons of followers that will mean absolutely nothing for me. When we learn that we get better at communicating with those who communicate with us, or we feel freer doing our own thing and saying what we have to say “just because”. It can bring a lot of freedom to one’s writing.

    2. Totally agree with you Metz. Previously i was obsessed with social media number and was trying to get as many followers as i can, but after some time i realised that my efforts was all in vain as i was getting nothing out of those number. So i stopped there and changed my approach towards social media and now i am focusing on quality rather on quantity….

  10. Well of course “Adrienne” will be at top for getting responses for her shares at social media and I’ve been following her blog since a while and I’m really enjoying it.

    For me, Alexa is really cool platform for checking real stats for blogs/websites as I’ve tried it’s premium version for 2 months and after that I couldn’t pay monthly lol!

    Have a good day Mitch!

    1. Samir, if Adrienne weren’t good people I wouldn’t always be talking about her on this blog. lol Overall Alexa is what it is, a generalization tool and nothing else, even for those who are paying for it. Use it for your own needs but don’t ever get too caught up in the actual numbers.

  11. Absolutely! Having thousand of followers on twitter or having thousand of fans on Facebook is worthless if it doesn’t convert well. Social media numbers is just numbers and nothing else. When you look at the Google analytic stats you will observe that traffic from social media sites have the most bounce rate, increasing the overall bounce rate of your site. So even if you are getting some traffic from social media sites it is impacting your site in SERP, as higher bounce rate sends bad signal to Google.

    1. Well… I’m not totally sure about this Noel, but even if it’s affecting things I believe it would be minimal. After all, I’m thinking if that’s the case then one’s site is probably getting slammed all the time because if someone’s visiting your site after finding it on Google they’re going to leave as well. I think it has more to do with time than bounce rate; if people are coming to your site and always leaving within 10 seconds probably hurts way more.

  12. “The difference between a blog post with 300 comments and a blog post with 2 might be the popularity of the writer and not the content.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve ran many successful sites with the option to comment and nobody has, yet I notice tiny updates from popular writers and boom hundreds of comments.

    Don’t let the lack of discussion in your blog posts put you off continuing to write!

    1. Exactly Khalid, and I’m glad you agree. Keep writing, publicize your posts when and where you can, and you’ll get attention because you’ll have actually earned it.

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