The question was asked during Sunday night’s Blogchat: Does anyone think that comments are a good measure of a blog’s success? But it’s not the kind of question that has a simple answer.
Successful blogs usually get a lot of comments. But that’s usually because something has happened to make the blog successful long before the number of comments rose to a number other bloggers might envy.
Bloggers these days have plenty of metrics they can track on their blogs. They can watch visits, unique visitors, page views, keyword searches, time on site, and the number of pages viewed per visit. Those are just a few of them. Each, in its own way, can be a useful measurement of seeing how well your blog is being received. But any one of them in particular can lead a blogger astray.
If, for instance, I chose to focus on keyword search terms as a metric for blogging success, I might be led to write more blog posts about keywords that bring the most number of random visitors to my site. In my case, a recent look at keyword search terms reveals the following are among the top in the past month:
- Addressee Unknown – I’ve already written about this one once before based specifically on this keyword doing well. But I don’t write about mis-delivered mail because I don’t have anything new to say about that I haven’t already said.
- Apple Haters – This post garnered about 41 comments, a success in terms of this blog. I wrote it right around the time the iPhone 5 was released, so Apple was naturally getting a lot of searches; Apple Haters, apparently, got a fair amount of searches as well.
- Critical vs. Serious Condition – We hear these terms all the time, but most people don’t know what they truly mean. I wrote a post about the difference between the two following the shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
- Shlameel Shlamazel Meaning – It’s amazing what gets people to your site. This post was written as part of a series about 5 things I’ve learned after working in TV for 20 years. Who’d have thought a mention of those two Yiddish words would generate visitors?
This one stat, the keywords that bring visitors to my blog most often over a certain period of time, would result in disaster if I wrote solely about those topics. How many posts can I write about Apple Haters, hospital terms or Yiddish words without boring people who don’t come here for any of those topics?
Probably not many.
Focusing only on comments as a measure of blogging success likewise has its own drawbacks.
Statistics show us that only about 10% of readers typically leave a comment. That means that if 80 people read a post in a single day, I’ll be lucky to get eight comments out of it. And if I’m on a slow day, eight comments might be too much to expect. There are plenty of posts that go by without receiving any comments. That’s to be expected, I suppose, because I likely post more often than most bloggers do: I try to post something new every day, which is a challenge in itself.
With that small a comment frequency, I can’t really expect to gauge real success by the number of comments.
Where comments can become valuable as a measure of success is the kind of comments you receive. I’ve tried to focus more on providing content that’s entertaining, but also on building community. I’m trying to find the best comment system to do that, and in doing so, I’ve created better opportunities for real-time conversations on the blog. Over the past year or so, I’ve seen more and more exchanges — almost all of them pleasant, I might add — between readers, not just between them and me. And when you have readers engaging me and each other on the blog, that’s a clear sign that community is happening.
That, to me, is more important than a visitor count.