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?)