Blogging By The Numbers– It’s A Three Legged Stool

It’s a cliche, I know.   You remember the old joke:  “If you set a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters,  how long will it take them to produce the complete works of Shakespeare?”

It seems to me that while there are literally millions of blogs out there, and more of them come into being every single day,  the sad fact is that most of them are no better than the one I scraped this image from.   The writing is not bad, actually,  but the last post was published in 2009 and the post is just way too long.   Ok,  actually it’s a WordPress monthly archive  but still,  the individual posts were just too darned long.   It’s a common mistake that many bloggers,  even some very successful one’s make–  although if your posts gets thousands of views and dozens of comments I suppose you may not be doing anything wrong.    But I nonetheless strongly advise anyone seriously considering a regularly updated blog to limit their posts to a maximum of 600 words or so.      The sad fact is most readers do not want to read long posts.   And if you’re not writing for most readers, that is fine, too.   But please don’t ask me how to get more general traffic, comments and engagement  to specialized long posts in a particular narrow niche.       The social media rock star who can do that for you is more likely than not just selling junk traffic.

You have to remember that a successful blog according to the numbers is a three legged stool.   You need to have traffic,  which is to say page views of your site.   You want as much of that traffic as possible to be sticky for it to have a high average visit time  and for it to have a low bounce rate.    If someone visits your site,  then ten seconds later  clicks away to somewhere else  that gave you Traffic in the form of a page view but it very negatively impacted your average visit time and gave you a very bad bounce rate.    That’s why it’s really not a good idea to participate in traffic exchanges where you find no value in the content you are visiting nor do the induced visitors find any value in your content.   Without engagement,  just getting someone to click a link and record an official visit to your blog is utterly meaningless.   If you don’t get folks to actually read what you have put before them,  their visit really wasn’t of any value to you.  And even Google knows it.

Alan Jobe is the author of Walking Down The Avenue and consults with #indie writers and entrepreneurs about social networking and self-publishing.

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28 comments on “Blogging By The Numbers– It’s A Three Legged Stool

  1. Oh, and who’s metablogging geekery now? 🙂

    The problem is, if you want real readers to read and respond, you pretty much have to issue engraved invitations and serve booze. Tell them why you want THEM to show up – as opposed to the six gazillion other splogger–er, bloggers–out there, and make the action items clear.

    “Hi, remember me? I wrote a post you might be interested in. And even if you’re not, you could have the good grace to drop by and visit a friend now and then.” 🙂

    Did Karen and Hajra tell you Prunebutt’s working on t-shirts that say, “Prunebutt’s Always Right” and “Prunebutt for President in 2012”? I refuse to be his campaign manager, but he’s got groupies now.

    • I can’t afford to serve booze, Holly 🙂 Building an audience is definitely one of the mos challenging things I’ve ever done. Honestly? I’m a bit frightened that Prunebutt has attracted t-shirt making groupies…..that’s kinda scary, no?

  2. Excellent and I agree that length (brevity is preferred) plays an extremely important role the success of a blog.

    My Blogs tend to be lengthy and are for a specific audience but I feel nevertheless I should tighten them up much more.

    And… I agree with Holly engraved invitations and booze seems like good incentives but just like the Empire Avenue Eaves that are used for incentive, the booze would be taken and they would run laughing all the way ha ha ha so to speak 🙂

    I am starting to wonder why so many people seem to lack a conscience these days.

    • Katie, I don’t think it’s that most folks lack consciences these days near so much as that far too many of them don’t look upon their online lives as being “real”. Care for a cocktail?

      • Very Good Point and a very scary one at that. If people do not think of their online life as real then they are capable of anything.

        That is very outside of the box thinking for me because what you see is what you get. I need to reflect on that point you made and remember it as I continue working online. Thanks for the wisdom 🙂

  3. Good. However, after reading through, I still don’t know what’s the three legs for blogging. I got one or two, but not all three. That’s part of reason I don’t read every blog posts. I need something concise and clear, something like TLDR 🙂

  4. I write long posts all of the time to share information for my readers. I do love the irony of your post being long as well. There is no real hard and fast rule of how long a blog post should be to attract, retain, and return readers. Some blogs with short posts are not successful, while others with longer posts do very well. It’s a matter of providing for the requirements of sharing the information and helping the audience discover new ideas.

    • Wayne, you’re absolutely right of course that there is no one correct way that will work for everyone. As Liz pointed out in another comment, Mandy’s posts are consistently much longer than the guideline I gave, but they are always well-researched and compelling and do well for her. I certainly don’t mean to be like a fanatical editor trying to tell folks to cut their posts down to size. But I do believe for most bloggers who are still struggling to find ways that work best for them, trying to write shorter posts is a good place to start.

  5. I disagree. So far, my favorite posts on your blog have all been longer ones and I like thoughtful blog posts rather than soundbytes.

    I have a specific Empire Avenue player in mind who runs Missions for his blog and I go there, read ~200 words and then they abruptly stop right when they get to the interesting part. It’s like eating cotton candy when you are looking for a meal. It’s not that they don’t have much to say, on the contrary, they have a lot to say. But they only share it in 3 very short paragraphs, some of which are barely more than one sentence long. I feel like they are following some infuriating Blogger’s Rule Book that says that readers have short attention spans and that you shouldn’t give them anything that actually requires thought or consideration.

    On the other hand, I think of Amanda Fox, aka (e)MINDCANDY. Her blog posts are probably considered “long” but they are always engaging and interesting. I’d rather read 5 substantial blog posts each day than skim 20 soundbyte ones.

    • Liz, I think we both like thoughtful posts above sound bites. But honestly? I would much prefer 500 well chosen words concisely communicating a thought to 2,000 words that just ramble around to say the same thing. Also, as I tried to make clear in my reply to Wayne, I know there is no one right way, no one set of rules that will work well for everyone in every circumstance. Thanks so much for being a faithful commentator.

  6. I know we went over this once before, I try…I really try to keep mine under 700 and usually do, with the occasional 720 word post. It’s just that my “stories” about my family are soooo hard to do under 700 words.

    I’m gonna keep working on it though. Who knows…maybe I’ll even get more readers 🙂

    Sharon

  7. I agree with everything that Liz (Pullen) says, so that doesn’t leave me much to say. I try to keep my posts to about 700, but they usually go to 800 or even 850. Today it was over 1,000, but I had no choice as it involved quoting the job description for the Archbishop of Canterbury twice over – once as it stands now, and again after I had redrafted it by removing one third. I have had (relatively) a huge number of visitors to the blog, who are all joining in the re-drafting of the job description! I think the point is that if you engage the visitors sufficiently, they will read whatever you put up there, so long as it doesn’t rival War and Peace. But I am also careful to break it up into paragraphs, and there were also several quotes from other people.

    Luckily, I am allergic to lobster, so today I am not tempted to linger and eat your background. 🙂

    • Laura,

      Certainly you need to take any rules or maxims with a grain of salt and apply them appropriately to your particular circumstances. If you have gotten lots of traffic and comments, clearly you’re doing something right. So sorry to hear you can’t eat lobster. I will see about putting up some more sweets tomorrow.

  8. Thanks for the information, I’ll try to limit future blogposts to 500 words. I don’t know yet if that is always possible with the technical oriented topics.

    • Mark,

      If you find the technical topic you are covering really needs more than 5 or 6 hundred words, why not break it into two posts. You can link them together and get two visits from each of your regular readers for that topic.

  9. I do totally agree with you ” But I nonetheless strongly advise anyone seriously considering a regularly updated blog to limit their posts to a maximum of 600 words or so. The sad fact is most readers do not want to read long posts. And if you’re not writing for most readers, that is fine, too.” Moreover the subject is one of the most important things to read through the a blog.

  10. The problem with the thousand monkeys is that sooner or later they will crap all over ever thing leaving you to clean up their mess.
    I will only read a blog written be someone I can connect with on a human level. I would much rather read 600 words about your experience with a less than stellar server at Applebee’s than 100 words about the newest social media tool.

  11. I try to keep my posts as short as possible and to the point….I’m a person who likes to read short posts and if a post involves a lot scrolling I won’t read it (however, i do make an exception for EA folks).

  12. Complicated yet able to understand 🙂 No wonder writing, maintaining a blog is supremely difficult until you get the three legs right.

    Let me see – the concise writing (~600 words) – you’ve got this spot on in all your work, traffic – views and likes + comments ? and ? oops what’s the third ?

  13. Alan you are right on the money. Having said that I think 350 or less is the number to watch, seems people want something useful if they are going to read your blog. I’ve always thought if people are not reading a blog it’s because the blogger is writing it for themselves and not for the reader. Blogging is so much different then short stories or novels or even an article in a newspaper. The more words you use the further away from the writing being evocative and useful… But what do I know I just typed in 3 times too many words for a comment… lol

    • Craig, I always welcome comments and tbph, when it comes to comments longer is better in my book. And 350 words is right about the length I have been writing lately. So maybe I am doing a few things right with this blog 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and for commenting.

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