Friday, February 06, 2009

Can you Judge a Blog by its Comments?

Yes and no.

Yes: If a blog consistently shows a high number of comments, you can make a pretty good guess that the site has a lot of readers. Every statistic I've seen supports the fact that only a small percentage of readers comment.

No: The number of commenters for a particular post depends much more on the type of post than its number of readers.

No: Overall, the number of commenters on a blog depends on the personality of that blog and its target audience.

Typically, posts that garner the most comments are the ones that lend themselves to interaction. The subject is controversial, or funny, or poignant--anything that makes a person want to put in his two cents. Or perhaps by commenting a person enters her name "in the hat" for a possible prize.

Here are Forensics and Faith posts in the past few months that garnered the most comments:

Novel Openings (writing craft post--effective ways to structure the first scene): 22

Weird Photo Friday (supply the best caption to photo and win a free book): 38

Hope Over Fear (my thoughts on Obama's inaguration): 17

Happy 92nd Birthday, Mama Ruth! (my mom's birthday): 29

How NOT to Compete in the Marketplace (Shell gasoline's odd pricing): 17

Unpretty: the Truth of Evil (about the novel Unpretty): 18

Egad, A Pecking Tom at My Window! (wild turkeys on my Idaho home lawn): 12

On January 20, I posted about the current bestseller lists. Comments: 1. What's to comment on? Yet readership for that day was only 3% less than readership for Weird Photo Friday. Novel Openings Part II on a Monday had over 40% higher readership than Part I on the previous Friday, yet received only about a third of the comments. (This one, I think, is due to the Friday Phenomenon. Since I don't post on the weekend, my readership is always down on Friday. The remaining readers stop by on the weekend to catch up.)

On December 31, when the first ABC news show about Liz and Katy hit the air, readership of my blog skyrocketed over 600%. (And this was night time on New Years Eve.) Little wonder--the blog was shown on the news show, and is linked to in Katy's blog (which got an amazing 25,000 hits almost overnight). Yet comments on each of my two Dec. 31 posts about Liz and Katy were only at 12 each.

Also to consider: sometimes it's not higher hits that leads to more comments. It's higher number of comments that leads to more hits. People may tend to return to a post to see what others have commented after them. (Higher hits therefore don't always equal higher readership.)

Since the ratio of comments to readers is unreliable, here's another question: Should you care about the number of comments on your blog? Yes and no. Depends upon your blogging goals. Overall, I agree with Chris Brogan--it's good to have an active community in which your blog readers participate with comments. (By the way, his post about blogging to be interactive received 59 comments, quite a bit more than some of his surrounding posts.) On the other hand, if you have a solid blogging history, and your posts vary wildly in number of comments, but your readership does not--so what?

It's not always easy to predict what posts will garner comments. Yesterday's post here on the economy has so far received only five responses, yet I know everyone has opinions on the matter. Is it simply because readers don't expect to talk of such issues here? Perhaps. Yet the third most commented post on Forensics and Faith in November '08 was on nothing more than the wild turkeys in my yard. People loved the pictures of those crazy birds. Who'd have guessed?

So is high interactivity the ultimate goal in blogging? I say not always. Sometimes the most informative posts are just that--informative. While the blog readers are happy to gain the information, they won't necessarily have anything to add through a comment.

(While we're on the subject, if you'd like to comment about what kinds of posts you like best here, and what you like least--have at it. And the posts you like best--do you comment on them?)


SolShine7 said...

It's fun reading the comments on blogs that have interesting and/or controversial topics. When someone pretty much expresses my sentiments on the issue I'm less likely to comment because they said it all. I wish you could give certain comments a thumbs up or +1 like how they do on YouTube.

Cara Putman said...

I often wrestle with the whole comment thing too. It does seem hit or miss. If I'm giving away a book, I'll usually get comments. But then the random this is where I am kind of post gets comments. Or those that ask for feedback may get comments. It's a fun gamble.

Nicole said...

I love comments because I love interaction with readers. I get few comments overall. The posts I least expect to garner them do. Go figure.
I'd like more comments on the book reviews (on my blog), but rarely does anyone respond to them.
Here: I just like to see what's on your mind any given day, BC.
I'm a commenter if I want to give my 2 cents worth, am angry along with the blogger, or hope I can encourage.

Karen Witemeyer said...

OK. You've lured me out of lurkdom. I am one who rarely if ever comments on blogs, yet I enjoy reading the entries. For me to comment, something really has to strike a cord with me or a question needs to be posed that I feel I have an answer for.

And since you asked a question (smile) I'll give you my $.02. My favorite posts are those related to the craft of writing. The first time I visited your blog was when someone posted a link to your posts on Character Empathy. I enjoy the random stuff, too, but I keep coming back because I respect your writing skill and hope to stumble upon another jewel on craft that will help me develop my own skill.

Thanks for asking!

Jason said...

Lately I usually read your blog at about 5:24 am while getting my shoes on to catch my bus to work. Doesn't leave a lot of time for comments.

I also read enough blogs that I have to really be motivated by a post to comment. And as mentioned, it doesn't necessarily have to be a stellar post, but something that catches my attention when I have time to post. (such!)

Blinky St. James said...

This was an interesting post...I always wonder about comments too. :P Now that I have a web presence (I guess?) I try to comment on other people's blogs, because I like getting comments on my own blogs and I think if I want something like that, I should give it as well (haha...does that make sense?). Plus, when something is interesting I like thanking the blogger for sharing. :D On your blog I'm not sure if I have a favorite kind of post...I like them all. :)

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Popular posts are unpredictable. The article on my blog that gets the most hits is one I wrote as a sort of "throw away" because I couldn't think of anything else that day. I did a simple definition of myths, legends and fables and postulated which recent stories fit into which category. I think some university students taking a course on myth must have found it. I wonder how many papers have quoted lines from someone thinking off the top of her head! LOL The thing is, while that post is by far the one most often visited on my site, it received only six comments.

As to the posts I like the most here at Forensics?

1) Your personal stories (the Never-ending writing saga was the best, but your snowmobile accident was riveting, your MH experience in a wheelchair, memorable).
2) Your tips, helps, and discussions about the craft of writing writing.


Pam Halter said...

I like the variety you have here, Brandilyn. I wouldn't change anything.

Laina said...

I have signed up to get an email from your blog, but I'm not getting an email in my box everyday. I'm suppose to, correct?

I've just begun writing. I'm taking a writing course. I think you are just about the best Christian writer I've read. I simply can't put your books down. I loan your books to a friend and she agrees with me. :-)

On my blog, I have only posted prompts I've written as I learn to write. I've posted some of my poems too. I don't get very many comments at all. But I'm in the learning process. :-)

Personally, I love the posts on the craft of writing. I want to learn all I can!

Thanks Brandilyn,


~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Laina, thank you for your kind words. I'm so glad to hear you're enjoying my books. And I hope you find this blog helpful in your own writing.

I post Monday through Friday, so you should receive emails for those days. (Occasionally I miss one of those week days.)


~ Brandilyn

The Cult Next Door said...

Since your topic is "Comments", I wanted to slide one in right here- though it doesn't quite follow the thought flow.
Have you ever considered the subject of spiritual abuse for a storyline?
As your books meld so well the parallel experiences of physical danger and mental terror, I feel you would do amazingly in broaching this subject.
To my knowledge, there is one Christian fiction book on the subject, "A Pocketful of Pearls".
Yet, so many have suffered the mental and unfortunately, physical terror of someone who destroys a mericful view of God to gain control of minds by a terrifying God.
Maybe you could address the monster through fiction?