They say that "knowledge is power". (I have realized just this very moment that the few people I have met that use this phrase on a REGULAR basis are (coincidentally?) people that I instinctively distrusted from the moment I met them, while those around me thought these people were fine. Time has always proven me right, at least in this area of my life.)
Every morning, I get up around 7:30. I go to the gym 2-3x a week; if not gym, straight upstairs to the studio with a cup of coffee. Check email, the news headlines, a few artnews blogs and my daily guilty pleasure, www.dressaday.com. Sometimes I check out the Sartorialist, and then, my daily web hits counter. Of course, it is my obsessive nature that drives me to check my web hits (almost) every day, but it is the KNOWLEDGE of my obsessive nature that limits me to no more than 5 minutes of sifting through the information.
Through my trusty counter, I know what links people clicked on to get to the site and how many pages these people looked at on average, if there is a growing interest in hair embroidery, what pages are viewed most, what words people googled to tumble into the site (it SO rewarding to know, for example, that at least 3x in any given week, some guy image-googles "open vagina" and ends up on this page... better than a cold shower). I know that people teaching painting classes at various universities have sent students links to my process page to teach them about how to glaze a painting (I am available for talks or demonstrations!) I have a painting entitled "How to Tell if He is Lying To You"... that combination of words is googled so often that it is the standard by which I measure my own personal art stock: if more people googled "Kate Kretz" than the aforementioned phrase, I am in a good place... if not, pedal faster.....
Some days it seems like a very unhealthy popularity contest, measuring yourself against your previous self. When a show comes down, it sort of exaggerates the post-exhibition depression, because the hits always go down. Ironically, when things are going REALLY well, one never has time to check one's hits. And, let's face it, most of those people who look through 50 or 60 pages of your site are semi-comatose insomniacs like myself, mindlessly clicking until the moment that they look up and realize that it is 4.am, not museum curators who are so fascinated that they must see every thing that you have ever made. But when you accept the cyclical nature of things, and focus on going in and getting practical information, this knowledge is power. I can divine if an article has come out that I need to add to my resume, if someone is using an image from my site somewhere for good or evil, what link exchanges are bringing people in, what artist roster websites are worth your time or money to maintain, and, if you send out postcards, how many people will it bring to the site? I know, for example, that writing this blog is worth the time, not only because it keeps me from delivering Art World monologues to my dog (who is only slightly less likely than my readers to respond : ) ), but it gets people looking at my site.
What it does NOT do... Let's say, for example, that I send a packet to XXX Museum. A few days later, I might notice that SOMEONE from that organization, either the curator I addressed the packet to, or the guy who cleans out her garbage cans, looked at 30 pages on the site. That knowledge doesn't make the phone ring, only makes it more likely that I might answer it if it does.