Why Care About More Comments? Drive Outcomes, Not KPIs

Daniel Hindin over at blog Spin Sucks recently answered a reader question from Kara Vanskike.  The question was as follows:

Our blog has been up and running for about a year and a half.  We know it’s being read through analytics and in person comments, but we really struggle to get people to comment on the posts.”

Daniel went on to provide a response in the form of tips.  Unfortunately in the post (and even in the comments) no one bothers to address the fact this is the wrong question to ask in the first place.  The tips presented are fine but the wrong consulting for Kara even if she did ask the question.

Let’s give Kara an honest response that might hurt a bit, but will help her blogging efforts long term.  Also Kara is not the only one of you to ask the “how do I get more blog comments” question, so this is for many of you.

Blog comments are a KPI, or key performance indicator of a blog.  Most businesses don’t keep a blog with the objective to generate more comments on the blog.  Comments are great and generate warm fuzzies, but looking to drive them is not the right approach.  They aren’t an outcome metric of a blog (although they may influence your outcomes).

What is an outcome metric of blogging?  A real world objective that is your desired return from blogging. It could be more organic inquiries, speaking opportunities, advertising revenue, pull PR, but it is a tangible outcome you want your efforts to result in.  It’s something that should be understood by your CEO in addition to your marketing team.  There shouldn’t have to be any education to explain why this is good.

Comments could be an outcome for certain types of businesses.  Maybe you’re Floor 64, and your product is an insight community where you actually derive revenue from discussion.  They’re really unique though.  That’s not the case here.

What is the blog in question?  It’s for Taylor Studios, an interpretive planning, exhibit design, and fabrication firm.  Their client list includes an array of venues including museums, nature centers, visitor centers, zoos, universities, and corporate lobbies.

My 5 second analysis is blog comments aren’t likely to do much for their business.  The real reason they are blogging (speculating here) is to build awareness for their firm and to gain additional inquiries (and ultimately clients) from blogging.  All on board?  Great.

So they are asking about why they don’t have more comments?  This part is going to hurt just a little bit.  They have posts like this:

Gives a new meaning to what Seth Godin lovingly refers to as Cat Blogs, right?  They have ongoing posts asking readers to name their cats.  Maybe there is a tie in to their business, or somehow this supports their content strategy (perhaps the cats are rescued from an animal shelter and that’s one of the organization’s causes – if so, great, but where is the context?).  I’m not against having fun with blogging but I think posts like this have to logically support your ongoing thesis and make sense within the context of the rest of your content.  You need to think like a strategist and gain the executive perspective on your content.

Not to be totally negative, Taylor also has great content on their blog too.  Betty Brennan, President shares some interesting thoughts on why she fears incentives – something I found compelling as I’m also a fan of Dan Pink and agree with purpose and passion ahead of profits.

After a quick skim through a few back pages of content, they have a mix of design, inspirational and “about us” content.  It actually tells the story of an interesting and creative company.  Their content overall is very readable and, bonus, they are consistent.  But one and a half years of blogging and only 1-2K people per month?  Yikes – their niche is much larger than that!

If I were in charge of their blog marketing, I wouldn’t worry about comments.  Those will come.  The real focus should be the opportunity staring them in the face.  They have a backlog of content already — they should put it to work for them.

I’d start by:

  • Social media audit of the blog (no subscribe CTAs for RSS/email?)
  • Search engine optimization audit of the blog (posts need better title tags, URL structure should be keyword driven, etc.)
  • Developing a promotional plan for content (and build connections with the rest of the niche so their content actually spreads)
  • Really thinking through a sharp editorial calendar — their niche and company are so interesting, they should be able to attract far more attention than they do
  • Define objectives and KPIs for blogging (and create explicit and implied calls to action for the objective in a way that doesn’t disrupt the content)

If done properly, that would  help their blog take off, achieve comments and ultimately help accomplish a true business objective from blogging.

Not to downplay comments, they certainly act as a signal of social proof and can be a factor in making your blog successful.  But they are an organic byproduct of doing everything else right.