March 08, 2009

Defining a Successful Blog: What is More Important- Traffic or Comments?

I have an ongoing discussion/debate with one of my clients about the most elements of a successful blog. It is a simple question or whether it is more important for a successful blog to have a very active comment section or a large number of readers.

I like this sort of question because it is the kind of thing in which the answer is tied into what sort of blogger you are and what sort of goals you have for your blog. Now that might sound to be synonymous with obvious but it really isn't.

Because the reality is that the goals of a personal blog are often quite different from the goals of a corporate blog. I know of a number of businesses that have blogs because they feel like they have to and not because they want to. They don't like comments because they see that as being a risk and a lot of extra work. In their eyes it is a liability that they would rather not deal with.

And then you have a ton of personal bloggers who are dying for hordes of commenters and readers. They would be thrilled to see millions of people come to their corners of cyberspace and camp out. They dream of posts that generate hundreds of comments.

The bottom line is that like far too many other things in life the answer to the question is highly subjective. But I don't get paid to shrug my shoulders and extend my palms towards the sky. So when you ask me for my opinion I am going to say that if I had to choose I'd take a blog that had exceptionally high traffic and relatively few comments.

It is always easier to build an active group of commenters from a larger population than from a smaller group.

But enough of my thoughts. What do you think defines a successful blog? If you had to choose between having a lot of readers and few commenters or the reverse what would you pick?

Let me know, I am curious to hear your thoughts.

22 comments:

YMedad said...

Telegraphically:

a) does a well-read blog bring comments?
b) do comments bring more readers?
c) do the above act independently or inter-relatedly?
d) how many people mean a successful blog? versus quality?
e) are you spending time responding to comments rather than thinking of your next brilliant blog post?
f) do you respond individually or collectively or rarely or just pick the most important comment to respond to guessing that others will get involved in that?

Enough comment for now.

Yehuda said...

Well, gee. What makes a better car? Higher mileage or leather interior?

It depends on what you want. It's comparing apples to oranges. They're both objectively good; it depends entirely on your blog's goals.

While you're pondering hits versus comments, why not also compare versus subscribers, versus inbound links (authority), and versus influence (citations and effect)? All of which are just as good a yardstick for the success of a blog.

Yehuda

Gila said...

Would love to have both. :)

If I must pick, it would be traffic--that people are actually reading my blog. The problem is that, without comments, I start to get all worried that no one is reading!

muse said...

I'd like it all, of course.
On my A7 blog, the commenters run active conversations. I rarely intrude. It's nice to know that I've stimulated discussion.

My other blogs sometimes show discussion.

I consider the comments a barometer of sorts. It's always nice to know that people visit the blog.

Of course, the greatest compliment is being linked by another blogger...

rutimizrachi said...

I think you are right. The decision is made by the goals one has set for his blog. As much as I like the feedback from comments -- they are often the fuel that keeps me writing -- the intent of my blog is to spread a particular message. In the case of Ki Yachol Nuchal!, the message is that what one sees in the MSM isn't the whole story, and that life in Israel can be as pleasant as one chooses to make it. So, the more Jews that read it, the more my goal is met.

Soccer Dad said...

I don't know if this is relevant...

Phyllis Sommer said...

i think the hardest thing is to figure out what your actual goals are. do comments indicate readership? i'm not always so sure. i think that i aim for susbcriber count, knowing that it has some impact on the readership. if people don't comment - maybe i didn't give them something to comment on? when i go to a post that has 45 comments on someone else's blog, i might not comment at all because i feel intimidated or overwhelmed. i definitely like comments, don't get me wrong! but i can't pander to the commenters or i think my blog would become boring....

Solomon said...

Oddly enough, blogging can be a lonely thing. You can have thousands of visitors and still feel you're alone. Comments can be nice because it shows you have people actually reading the stuff you put up, and people actually entertaining each other without you feeling like you're the one who needs to put on the show at each moment as it were. (I'm not talking about that flood of comments that can come after one of the big blogs links to you -- those people rarely come back)

Traffic alone doesn't mean much. There are a lot of people out there who are good at gaming the system, and after over 6 years of blogging, I get a ton of Google hits to my posts that drive up my visitor count, but don't really "count" for much in making me feel like I should keep posting every day.

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

I'd think a business would benefit from having comments, because they show an invested consumer base.

To translate this to political campaigns - you want to have a lot of grassroots activity. That generates more buzz, more interest, and more people who say, "Something good must be going on there." It's a Tipping Point kind of thing.

Just like in a shul - I'd rather see 100 people who come to minyan daily than 200 people who don't. Not just because the 100 are "doing the right thing," but because they can stimulate more growth and more activity. The 200 are headed downhill.

V-Grrrl said...

I like a sense of community among the commenters, like I'm running a coffee shop where a core group of regulars stop in and chat with me and sometimes with each other.

DovBear said...

The most important thing is writing a blog that makes you happy, that does the things you want it to do, that sounds the way you want it sound, and that is understood they way you wish for it to be understood.

Traffic and comments are equally nice, but secondary.

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

That's a very Reform view of a blog, DB.

WomanHonorThyself said...

good post!..that depends on your goal doesnt it..I want to influence people so readership is very important..comments are always so great , arent they?!..heres a comment!..Happy Purim!:)

Baconeater said...

I prefer comments to blog hits.

bernie said...

Used your article to start my own (Blogs - What is More Important- Traffic or Comments?) and in addition linked back to yours. You left off linkbacks, which are sort of like comments, but perhaps we'll discuss that topic another day.

Jack said...

YMedad,

Ah, now you have gone and thrown a bunch of the meat on the fire. Question is whether to respond to all or let some of it burn. ;)

A)Not always.
B)Sometimes.
C) I'd say that they are relatedly.
D) Subjective and dependent upon a variety of factors.
E)Sometimes yes. Depends on who you are and to some extent whether you use an editorial calendar.
F)Both.

Yehuda,

Excellent points. You are correct that the goals of a blog affect the determination of its success.

Gila,

That is not uncommon. I have read a lot of posts in which bloggers indicate that without comments they might stop posting.

Muse,

Being cited by other bloggers is a great feather in one's cap. It really is nice.

Ruti,

I agree about the value of blogs as supplement to the MSM. And certainly having readers is a key component of that.

SD,

It is worth reading and considering. They all have their elements.

Phyllis,

Ultimately the goals/objective of the blog are of supreme importance because without those there is no way to measure whether you are hitting the mark.

And I know what you mean about posts that have a million comments. It can be hard to just jump in.

Solomon,

I hear you. I get a ton of those Google hits myself but most of them don't yield comments. So at times it is very easy to feel like you are operating in Antartica.

TRH,

That is not so different from the empty restaurant theory. No one wants to eat in an empty one, so doing something that makes it look popular is very helpful in generating new and continued business.

V-Grrrl,

Community is a big part of why I blog. I suspect that some of my own readers have been generated from places where I was part of the community of commenters.

DB,

I would agree that much of the success of a blog is contingent upon your own happiness. Especially if you are doing it as a hobby and not because it is your job.

Angel,

Purim Sameach to you too. Without readers it is hard to extend that influence so I have to agree.

Bacon,

I can appreciate that. Sometimes it is hard to keep up the writing if only a few remark upon it.

Hi Bernie,

I'll swing by and take a look at what you wrote.

Schvach said...

How the hey should I know? Both are welcomed feedback mechanisms. Wait, I've just had a thought. In order to comment, one must first have traffic, ergo, since one can't have b without first having a, I vote for comments. No, wait a minute, considering the collection of honored bloggers who have left comments, maybe comments are more important, but that was my first point, I think. I get so few of either to my blogs...

Debbie said...

I saw Bernie's article and left him the following comment. It applies here:

Interesting topic. I think in my case the reason for blogging has changed over the years. I started reading blogs and the internet seriously after September 11, 2001.

I was invited to start posting for Chad at In The Bullpen, one of my favorite blogs because his writing was factual, intelligent, well researches, and done with some humor.

After a few months of posting at In The Bullpen (and learning HOW to blog), Chad gave me some tips and I ventured out on my own with Right Truth.

At first I wanted comments, because comments meant feedback.

Then bloggers got involved in Technorati, TTLB (The Truth Laid Bear, which best I can tell no longer functions). so hits and trackbacks were the thing to strive for. It was a rat race.

Then when TTLB no longer functioned, I didn't care about ranking, even though Right Truth generally stayed in the top 200 blogs. So then I started writing whatever I wanted, what interested me, and if I got hits, comments, trackbacks, so be it.

Now, I just went through the blogrolls and am amazed at how many blogs no longer exist, or have stopped writing good articles and just slap up a cartoon or copy/past something so their blog stays current.

Today I'm tired. Tired of blogging, tired of it taking me 30 minutes to an hour just to get through all the emails, before I can settle in to write something.

I have a battle with myself each day (stop blogging, no don't stop...)

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

Jack said...

Schvach,

;)

Now, I just went through the blogrolls and am amazed at how many blogs no longer exist, or have stopped writing good articles and just slap up a cartoon or copy/past something so their blog stays current.

Today I'm tired. Tired of blogging, tired of it taking me 30 minutes to an hour just to get through all the emails, before I can settle in to write something.


I can relate to that. After five years it has lost some of the shine, but I am still here. Who knows how much longer I'll last.

Rafi G. said...

I have not read all the comments above me, but I think that neither are that important. They are both great, and a blogger who is getting both is obviously doing a phenomenal job. A blogger who is even getting one of them - either high volume or lots of comments is doing great.

But in the scheme of things, most of us started blogging for personal reasons, and as long as blogging continues to satisfy the needs of the blogger, I would be happy and then consider the volume and comments to be the icing on the cake.

Shtetl Fabulous said...

For Gila, I highly recommend adding Google Analytics to your blog. You can track visitors across myriad dimensions and it's kind of fun to know that someone in France reads you and found you through Facebook.

Since my blog tends to include essay-like posts ranging from 400-600 words, I know it's not for everyone. People just aren't going to have as much of an opinion on my musings about used coffee grounds as they might about the recent war in Gaza.

Those incendiary blog posts certainly engender tons of comments, so you just have to decide what works for you. At the end of the day, whatever will motivate you to write more and write better is what you should pursue.

But does anyone else get annoyed by those blogs that receive 30 comments and the writer can't even spell!?

Jack said...

and as long as blogging continues to satisfy the needs of the blogger, I would be happy

Rafi,

That is the best reason to keep blogging, or should I say the easiest. It is very sensible.

But does anyone else get annoyed by those blogs that receive 30 comments and the writer can't even spell!?

I hate that. It irritates me to no end. I tend not to read blogs that are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors.