Are You Measuring the Right Success Statistics?

vanity stats

Are you looking at the stats that really matter, or the vanity metrics that are in your face every day?

If you spend much time listening to other travel bloggers at conferences and in Facebook groups, you’ll find that at least two-thirds of the business chatter revolves around social media. For most bloggers, however, social media is not an element of their weekly workload that’s going to substantially raise their income. For a few exceptions who get paid to do influencer campaigns, yes. But for every one of them getting $500 to throw up a bunch of photos on Instagram, there are 500 other people getting jack squat for all that effort.

On the other hand, I find very few travel bloggers who actually have a handle on how much money they earn per hour of work, or what their profit margin is on every $1,000 of earnings. They don’t know what their average CPM (cost per thousand) is for ad spots on their site or how much they should be charging for a job that’s going to take up 10 hours of their time.

These are all fundamental business metrics that anyone working for themselves should have a handle on. Yet instead all the measuring is on vanity stats like Twitter followers or Facebook fans. How much time is wasting chasing numbers that don’t make a difference?

If you get caught up tracking things that don’t really matter you’ll look back after a few years and see how much energy you wasted maximizing stats that don’t matter.


Let’s take a look at specific goals you may have and what metrics probably matter for those.

“I want to get invited on more press trips.”

  1. The unique monthly visitors to your blog OR a strong following in your niche
  2. The number of followers on at least one social network
  3. The quality/reach of the outlets you freelance for
  4. How much and how well you delivered after being on past press trips

“My dream is to be known as a social media influencer and to get paid for that.”

  1. The number of followers on at least one social network
  2. The engagement you get on the platform(s)
  3. Monthly growth in followers and engagement
  4. Monthly earnings from paying organizations

“I want to increase my monthly earnings from my blog.”

  1. The unique monthly visitors to your blog OR a strong following in your niche
  2. Your relative position over time in search engines for multiple pages
  3. The value of advertising on your pages as determined by subject/click-through/traffic
  4. Engagement: time on site, purchases, comments, sharing of posts by real readers
  5. The size of your opt-in e-mail list and open rates for that list
  6. The success of affiliate programs run on your site
  7. The rate you are able to charge for sponsored posts or ambassador programs

“I want to earn more as a freelancer.”

  1. The number of queries you send out per week/month
  2. Your success rate in getting those queries accepted
  3. Your monthly earnings from freelance writing
  4. Your rate per hour worked
  5. Awards, recognition, and repeat business from editors
earnings metrics

A metric that matters

“I want to earn more than $100K per year as a travel writer.”

  1. The number and breadth of income streams you have generating a substantial amount
  2. The size and engagement of your total following across all platforms
  3. The size and quality of your e-mail lists
  4. The number of projects in different stages of revenue generation
  5. Your positioning in search engines for your sites
  6. The number of deals and gigs offered to you unsolicited
  7. The amount of sales from your last project
  8. The number and amount of deals closed per quarter/year

So looking back at those goals, social media matters a lot for the first two. One involves free travel and not income–though that can reduce what you’ll spend. (“I really want to go to the South Pacific but I don’t want to pay for a hotel in Bora Bora.)

The other involves the long odds of getting paid to put up photos or tweets, with your income tied to the finicky algorithms of Instagram or Snapchat. The second one is not really a “travel writing” goal either we must admit. At best it’s a “travel photography” goal. You’re not getting paid for what’s on your blog.

On the other goals, social media can have somewhat of a supporting role, but only as a means to an end. You can read reams of studies about how poor the click-through rate is for social media posts, what a small percentage of your followers sees any given post, and how many of those followers don’t ever read anything you ever write on your blog. You’ve probably ignored those studies because they’re downright depressing. They actually make you feel like…you should be concentrating on something else. In an age where you can buy 90,000 followers for $50, what’s it worth to have 10,000? (I’ll let you do the math.)

Are you spending as much time on Google Analytics as you are obsessing over your likes and retweets? When’s the last time you spent an hour on Google Search Console to gauge reports on crawl errors and search positioning? Social media can give you a boost when you’re starting a travel blog, but eventually it’s the fundamentals that will build a big audience: content that serves a purpose, SEO, serving a specified audience, getting noticed in the media.

Sure, go put up your hashtagged posts to make your press trip sponsor happy and do what you need to do for ad program obligations. Of course share your new posts on social media and keep active on the platforms you like for the sake of fun and networking. Just don’t look at “2,000 more followers on Twitter” as something worthy of a bottle of Dom Perignon for celebration. Save the cork-popping for an extra $2,000 in your bank account instead.

  1. Anon | Reply

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