What Makes a Blog Successful?

SEX SELLS (Girls just wanna have fun)

What Makes a Blog Successful?

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.

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  1. TheJackB June 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    @joshiav That is a very reasonable assessment. I certainly appreciate the feedback and on some posts I feel that it is an absolute must. But the truth for me is that I am compelled to write. Writing is a huge part of me and I cannot imagine a life where I didn’t do it.

  2. joshiav June 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Its an interesting question. I’ve started blogging all too recently, and while my initial motivation was simply to ‘reach out’ to readers, without worrying about comments, the situation changed quickly after actually posting. Now I’m sooo curious to know what readers felt, where my blog lies in the awesomme-to-sucks spectrum. So yes, more readers is still satisfying, but comments certainly add to the success of the blog via the rich dialogue they generate.

  3. TheJackB June 23, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    @JudyDunn Hi Judy. I agree with you regarding the blog’s mission. It does make it much easier to try and gauge success against that.

    I would add that the community has a big influence as well. Sometimes their input/feedback helps to define and outline what you want to do. It is funny that you refer to your “blog as lab” theory because I often talk abou this being my cybersandbox.

    My long time readers know that I like to experiment and test out different tools and ways of doing things. Lastly, you touched upon the lurkers and I think that it is always important to remember them. I find it fascinating to think about how many people but never comment.

  4. JudyDunn June 23, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Hey, Jack. Great question. I think it totally depends on what your blog’s goal/mission is. Even for business bloggers, that can be different. My blog is integral to my business. Some of my readers become blog coaching clients and/or refer others to me. The blogging builds credibility and trust.

    So, comments and a sense of community are important to me. I also adhere to the “blog as lab” theory and it’s a good place to test new ideas and get feedback on the issues/needs of my readers—both for future blog posts and services.

    That said, knowing the 90-9-1 rule (90 percent of visitors read, never leaving a comment; 9 percent comment every now and then; and just 1 percent regularly leave a comment) I understand that I’m reaching way more.

    I do learn so much from my readers in the comments section, though. : )

  5. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    @MoeDaniels I think that your distinction between the personal and business is important. When your clients/boss have a certain expectation you want to do the best that you can to exceed/meet it.

  6. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    @hangingwithdad In an either/or situation I pick high traffic, but if I can have both why not. Always have to try to find a way to engage with the readers.

  7. MoeDaniels June 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    For my professoinal blog, it’s all about the SEO and showing I know what I’m talking about. For my personal one, it’s letting friends know what I’m up to, chronicling my kids’ childhoods, and giving me something to laugh at when I re-read it.

  8. michaelwsuddard June 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    @jennalanger @TheJackB

    Further:I’m using Internet Explorer 9, Windows Vista.

    Hope this helps.

    Sorry for the earlier spelling errors, it is hard to correct them when you can’t see what you are typing.

  9. michaelwsuddard June 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    @jennalanger @TheJackB @michaelwsuddard

    Jenna there are two issues.

    1. The delay in in seeing the text appear. (sometimes it is longer than 5-10 seconds). This did not occur on the previous commenting system so I don’t think it is the blog layout on that.

    2. The format issue (which I agree is a blog layout i that has stumped quite a few people here).

  10. hangingwithdad June 22, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Is it considered ironic that in a post about how you’d prefer a blog “that had exceptionally high traffic and relatively few comments” and yet, at the end, you ask for comments? Just a thought.

    In my opinion, I’d rather have the readers, because if nobody is reading then you can’t even hope for comments. Once you have the readers it’s up to you to create content good enough for them to comment. So I guess I’d like to have a blog that had a lot of readers and lots of comments, because I don’t fear comments.

  11. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    @marianne.worley I am always interested in trying to find a way to speed pageloads. When I think about how fast 56k used to feel it is funny to me to think how frustrating it can be to wait a minute for the page to load, but it is true.

    If WordPress had a native commenting system that did more I wouldn’t have gone elsewhere. I suppose that installing LiveFyre proves that I am trying to find a way to increase engagement with the readers.

    But I am big on community. I really think that a good blog community does quite a bit to help the blog become something special.

  12. jennalanger June 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    @TheJackB @michaelwsuddard Ah, of course I read that first and jumped right to the next part. We’ll look into that and see if we can recreate and fix it. Thanks for the heads up!

  13. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    @marianne.worley @bdorman264 I could swear that one of the systems had or used to have something like a bad button.

  14. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    @jennalanger Hi Jenna. The layout isn’t related to your system. What I was curious about was the delay that Michael said he saw when typing. I noticed it once, but then it went away.@michaelwsuddard

  15. jennalanger June 22, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    @TheJackB @michaelwsuddard Hi Michael, Jenna from Livefyre here. Are you saying that you saw this problem with the old comment system too? I believe it is an IE issue related to the blog, not the comment system as you have stated. If it just started happening when Livefyre was installed, feel free to email us at support at livefyre dot com and we can look into it further. Thanks!

  16. marianne.worley June 22, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Overall, I would prefer a lot of readers and fewer comments. That said, I also agree with Davina that certain posts will naturally be crying out for comments, while others will not. It would be nice if WordPress added its own Like button so readers could leave feedback without having to be on facebook or register for the various commenting systems.

  17. marianne.worley June 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    @bdorman264 Are you working with the commenting system companies to get that “Bad” button added? I know I could sure use it! 😉

  18. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    @michaelwsuddard I just sent out a request for some help regarding your Livefyre question. Let’s see if we can figure out if there is an easy fix or if Bill Gates doesn’t like me. 😉

  19. caseyfreeland June 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    @TheJackB Thanks very much. I will do my best.

  20. michaelwsuddard June 22, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Hi Jack,

    About the commenting system….

    I liked the previous verion: )

    This one doesn’t work to well forme. I can type, and see the cursor but the writing (words) seems to take 5 seconds or more after I typed the words to appear.

    Also, I have upgraded to Internet Explorer 9 and the whole issue with the comments being way down the screen hasn’t been fixed either. I think the issue may be in the template with your blog. and only affects Internet Explorer.

    how do I know this? Let’s break it down step by step.

    1. It only occurs in Internet Explorer

    2. The commentingh system has been changed to another proramand the same issues occurrs (i.e. the comments are way….way…way…down the screen).

    Oh, finally, I love the comment “like: button too. 🙂

  21. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 9:39 am

    @bdorman264 Bill, it is always good to see you here. I think that a lot of people are simply ‘shy’ and unlikely to comment unless they find it very compelling. I don’t think that it always has to do with the ‘quality’ of the post either.

    I get emails from people who say that they read but rarely comment and no matter how I try to encourage them they simply don’t comment.

    I am sort of curious to see what happens now that I have installed Livefyre. High traffic is a good goal and it looks like you are on your way.

  22. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 9:28 am

    @Billy_Delaney Hi Billy. I like this “My blog is my voice online” because it is easy to relate to. it makes a lot of sense.

    I like what you have to say on your blog and the name is great. Now if only I could dance. 😉

  23. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 9:25 am

    @3HatsComm Davina, I appreciate your comments because they are often peppered with a lot more fodder than they might appear to be. You are thinking and that is cool.

    Readers are what make the blog something more than a journal under a bed.Your last two lines are spot on.

  24. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 9:23 am

    @Lori Hi Lori. Thanks. I spent a lot of years in sales and had a very basic philosophy about what constituted a good deal. My definition was and still is “Whatever makes you feel good. If it makes you happy than it is a good deal.”

    We can debate whether that always translates but….

  25. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 9:22 am

    @caseyfreeland Well I hope that they come for you. Sustain the effort and keep fighting.

  26. Lori June 22, 2011 at 9:21 am

    @TheJackB I LOVE the iceberg analogy! Thanks for your definition of success too Jack! Funny, Bernardo blogged about that today – about defining what success means to you. Happiness is as good a definition as any!

    I guess you never really do know who’s reading. I remember in my early days before I had many people commenting that I just kept giving it my all an the chance that SOMEONE was reading and eventually the blog started to grow.

    I like coming over here because I appreciate how you’re sharing your thoughts and your life. It’s like listening in on your thoughts. Cool!

    Keep it up!

  27. caseyfreeland June 22, 2011 at 9:20 am

    I’ll take either, thank you very much.

  28. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 9:04 am

    @Stigmum Hi Stigmum. Welcome to the blog. I am a huge fan of blogging and what it can do for people. My happiness comes from the writing and the people- not the material things. I think that blogging is great for venting about life and for clarifying thoughts and ideas about what is going on in our worlds.

    It takes time to find our voice and we often evolve over that time. Who knows, maybe that book deal comes.

  29. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 8:53 am

    @Lori Lori, I think that you are correct that it really depends on your goals and objectives. In an earlier post I referred to blog visitors as resembling an iceberg. The reason being is that three quarters of an iceberg is underwater and unseen. Yet it is still a big part of it.

    The lurkers are always here, but we don’t necessarily know that. So as a writer I never feel like I am writing solely to myself.

    As for you, well if you are happy that is the most important thing. I sound like a broken record, but the only way we last at this game is if we enjoy it and if you are happy than it sounds like you are successful.

  30. TheJackB June 22, 2011 at 8:49 am

    @michaelwsuddard Hi Michael. As you can see I switched to a new commenting system which I hope stimulates the conversation here.

    I really appreciate your consistency in visiting and coming by. You are indeed one of the old timers. I also think that you make a great point about the ‘like’ buttons. That button removes the ‘issue’ of saying ‘good post,’ which incidentally I usually don’t mind.

    I like to try and encourage people to say something as opposed to nothing, but maybe the like button will work just as well.

  31. michaelwsuddard June 22, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Hi Jack,

    I personally prefer lots of pageviews with some comments. A little mixture of both

    Comments can be both inspiring and useless. I enjoy comments from readers that are thoughtful and engaged. Others don’t apper to be of any use except to say I enjoyed your blog but here is a lik to my blog. Ie. they are more marketing than anything else.

    Your blog seems to have a lot of the more “engaged” readership. Of the comments below, all commentes seem to be debating the the issue at hand (i.e. comments vs readership) which is great and not shamelessly plugging their own blog.

    However, consitant page views are excellent as well. It shows that readers are visiting your blog consistantly. They may not have anything to say at the time but they are enjoying your wiriting. I also enjoy seeing “Like” Buttoss being used. It shows that readers are agreeing with your writing but not necessarily have anything comments to provide.

    So to sum up, I enjnoy booth comments and pageviews.

  32. michaelwsuddard June 22, 2011 at 8:33 am

    HI Jack

  33. Lori June 22, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Hi Jack,

    Good question. I think the answer to what makes a good blog is different depending on your goals. From the perspective of a blog reader I’d say a good blog is one that makes me think “Good!” when I see a new post published in my Reader.

    From the perspective of a blogger, I’m not sure. I want to write something that will inspire and engage people [to talk about life] because that’s how community-building happens. Do I value comments over traffic? I’d have to say yes. It’s kind of like asking if I’d like to have a LOT of people at my party, or if I’d be happy with a smaller party where people seemed to be having a good time. Without comments, you really don’t know if people are having a good time, so I realize that argument doesn’t really apply. I know of people who religiously read my blog but never comment. I value that as much as a comment. We’re not all likely to be on the dance floor, and even if we are, we sit some dances out.

    So if I have to go one way or the other, I’ll choose to be happy with what I’ve got (at least it makes me happy!) I love each and every person who gets into the conversation at my place AND I hope my blog will be of value to more people over time.

    Does that answer your question? LOL


  34. Stigmum June 22, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Good question. I was afraid of both at the beginning of mine and even now, a new follower will discombobulate me but they’ve helped me accept myself and take risks with what I say because they rarely comment. This also allows me to write what I want, not what I think other people want which can also get very confusing! I’ve been at it too long now and am very happy with what I’ve got!
    In another world, oh exceptionally high traffic please and a million pound book deal. Thankyou!

  35. 3HatsComm June 22, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Success, it will vary. Per blog and per post; a hot button topic in which you kick of a powerful discussion, sure it’s designed to have a lot of comments. A ‘thought leadership’ post or a ‘how to fold the fitted sheet in 3 steps” — that one gets me as I flatten, ball, roll and call it done — or a keyword heavy post designed for SEO, those aren’t about comments. What’s the blog designed to do will determine its success; corporate blog just to have vs. individual blog designed to promote a person, looking for new career opportunities; mileage will vary.

    To answer your question, readers. People will comment and from what I understand, lurkers are often in the majority.. so a larger audience will have its share of commenters anyway. What I really want is a strategic audience growth and to do that, I’ve got to put on my SEO-friendly, inbound marketing hat and write for what an SMB is searching for in terms of PR and SM; more writing not only for the audience I have, but the one I want too. FWIW.

  36. Billy_Delaney June 22, 2011 at 6:00 am

    I would like the large amount of followers first, for from that I could engage those who showed the most interest. My blog is my voice online and I would like an interested group to learn from via their engagement. Billy

  37. bdorman264 June 22, 2011 at 4:13 am

    It depends on your goals and what ‘you’ consider success. Being social, it thrills me to see the traffic but in reality if I’m serious about this I would rather know I had a lot more readers than commenters.

    I see the stats and know it’s anywhere from 5:1 to 10:1 viewers vs commenters on my site. I’m not sure if it means the article wasn’t compelling enough to comment or maybe they just didn’t feel like commenting. I have had people tell me they read my blog and I had no idea they even knew I was out there.

    My vote is for exceptionally high traffic and maybe have check boxes for good, ok, & bad…………..:).

    Good to see you today Mr JackB.

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