If you’re a blogger who doesn’t receive many comments on your blog posts, you might be feeling inadequate.
Your favorite big blogs have heaps of comments, so you should too, right?
Not exactly. In this post, I’m going to tell you why it’s crazy for some kinds of blogs to care much about the number of comments they receive.
And if you run one of these kind of blogs that naturally doesn’t receive many comments, I’ll show you what else you should be doing instead of worrying about comment numbers.
First, The Problem With Vanity Metrics
Let’s talk about vanity metrics first.
What are vanity metrics?
Vanity metrics are the things you measure that don’t really matter to your business. Vanity metrics might make you feel good, but they’re easily manipulated and can cause you to waste time trying to inflate them.
Vanity metrics are things like number of Twitter followers, retweets of blog posts, number of comments on blog posts, number of RSS subscribers, etc.
These things are substitutes for the measurable metrics that really matter (like revenue or email subscribers). They’re fun to track because A) they’re often achievable long before you have revenue and B) they’re easier to measure than important intangibles (like the impact you’re having on your customers, or the influence you’re creating in your industry).
But here’s the dangerous part: vanity metrics can make you feel OK about your business or blog when it’s really a sinking ship.
So your blog has 10,000 RSS subscribers. So what? How much revenue did you earn last month? How much of a difference did you make for your readers?
You could pay a virtual assistant or use some shady software to inflate your Twitter follower numbers, but you could also just burn a $100 bill in your backyard. Both will be about as ineffective in making your business profitable or respected.
The Intangibles that Matter
They say “what gets measured gets done.”
What if the thing you want to accomplish can’t be measured?
What if your goal is to build influence, change lives and make a difference? What should you measure then?
How do you measure “making a difference” exactly?
I don’t know the answer, but I do know that checking your RSS subscriber number every day isn’t it.
Likewise, it’s safe to say the number of people following you on Twitter doesn’t give you a clue whether you’re really changing lives.
If you have a good way of measuring these important intangibles, let me know in the comments. I bring this up only to point out that metrics can be useful, but they’re not perfect.
Sometimes what you want to achieve can’t be expressed as a simple number.
Which brings us back to how many comments you got on your last blog post.
Are Number of Comments a Vanity Metric?
In some ways yes, the number of comments on your blog posts could easily be a vanity metric.
For example, you might get more comments by writing about Kim Kardashian than you do writing about your core topic.
Does that mean you should write about celebrities more? Probably not.
If you use number of comments as one of your most important metrics, it could easily lead you to write about things that don’t accomplish your main goals.
Those posts might attract more conversation on your blog, but will they make your visitors more likely to trust you or buy from you?
Why do you want conversation to happen on your blog?
Hopefully it’s not just so you can boast about how many comments your blog receives.
The real value in blog comments is to further the discussion. To connect with your audience. To let your readers share their thoughts and give you feedback.
Not all conversations are created equally. If every comment just says “nice post dude,” what’s the value in that?
Sometimes the definition of vanity metric depends on how you measure. If quantity of comments is all you care about, it’s likely a useless or even detrimental thing to measure.
If you want to measure comments, you have to look for quality, engagement and value being added to the conversation.
What About Social Proof?
There is one reason why the number of comments on your blog might matter: when readers stop by your site, they’re using little clues to determine if your blog is worth their time.
This is called social proof.
Social proof is the reason restaurants with a line become even busier, and empty restaurants stay empty. We look to the behavior of others to tell us what to do. People do things they see other people doing.
If your blog has a lot of comments (AND the number of comments on each post is highly visible), visitors might be more likely to stick around and leave more comments.
Does this mean you’re screwed if your blog doesn’t get many comments?
Not at all, but it might mean you should think about redesigning things to make sure this particular social proof doesn’t work against you.
Social proof works both ways. If some of your numbers aren’t attractive you can hide them or make them less prominent and put the focus on other numbers that will work in your favor.
This is your blog. No one said you have to proudly display “0 Comments” on every post if you don’t want to.
Should Your Blog be Getting More Comments?
As bloggers, most of us would love to have more comments.
Comment are validation. Each (positive) comment you get feels like a pat on the head. Getting hundreds of comments can make you feel great.
BUT, there are just certain blog topics that are just not conducive to attracting lots of comments.
I’m going to use a fellow blogger as an example here. Gregory Ciotti runs two popular blogs (one of those blogs is currently atop our blog challenge leaderboard). One of his blogs regularly attracts 30 or more comments per post. His other blog often doesn’t have a single comment on posts.
The interesting thing about Gregory’s example is that both of the blogs are similarly popular (over 30k monthly visits each), and they’re both written by the same blogger.
Why does one of these blogs get so few comments?
A big reason is simply the topic choice. Another reason is the posting style.
Sophistefunk is about electronic music. Gregory posts often there (one or more times per day), and the posts are more Tumblr-style than the in-depth style of his other blog (which is about marketing).
Electronic music may simply be a topic that doesn’t drive a lot of conversation, and the content/posting style may not be content friendly either. Neither of these facts have stopped Gregory from building a popular blog.
Take a look at your favorite blogs. Do all of them attract comments? How much does the number of comments matter in those cases?
Now look at the Technorati list of Top 100 blogs in the world. Many blogs on that list receive very few comments per post, while some of them receive hundreds of posts.
Having lots of comments is obviously not a requirement for building a massive or meaningful blog.
Why do you think some popular blogs attract lots of comments while others don’t? I’d love to hear your theories in the comments below.
What does this mean for your blog?
I’d like you to take action on three things today.
Take a step back from this discussion about blog comments and think about what matters to you and your blog overall.
What are you trying to accomplish?
How can you measure what you’re trying to accomplish?
Which vanity metrics have you gotten sucked into measuring? What really matters and what should you really be measuring?
Think about whether comments are important to your blog, and whether your blog’s topic and style could attract a lot of comments.
Remember that the right answer depends on your particular situation.
Now decide whether you want to focus on comments on your blog or not.
Make changes based on your decision about comments.
If your blog topic/style isn’t naturally a comment magnet, you could alter your design to make comments less of a focus. You could even turn comments off entirely (like Pitchfork or Brain Pickings has done, for example).
For more, check out the debate we ran between two popular bloggers on whether you should disable comments on your blog entirely.
If you decide you want more quality comments on your blog, it’s time to start earning them. Attracting lots of quality comments takes some effort.
A great place to start is with these 12 tips on how to get more comments from the folks at WordPress. They’ve studied why some blogs get more comments than others and have some interesting conclusions.
With practice and a little strategy you can increase the number of comments on your blog, if that’s what you really want and need.
Now, over to you. I’d love to hear your thoughts:
How much do comments matter as a blogger?
What kind of blogs are more likely to attract lots of comments? What kinds of blogs shouldn’t worry so much about comments?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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