Case Study: Value-Based Blogging

Today I want to open up the guts of this blog and show you with stats, number and benchmarks the return of a value-based approach to blogging. My hope is that my transparency and openness will inspire you to go away and stop competing for retweets in the volume-based game and grasp what rich relationship and real return awaits you if you can get away from vanity and into community.

The image below is a screen shot of the last 7 posts on this blog in PostRank’s Analytics platform. We’ll discuss this tool a bit more in a moment, but the main features are that it tracks the number of engagements per post – most pertinently, the number of Tweets, Google Buzzes, Delicious Bookmarks and other social networks, in addition to unique visitors, reading time, etc.

Look and see how many comments this post gets, compared to how many tweets:

wp-content-uploads-2010-07-scottgould-postrank.png

This isn’t just a trend over the last week. Almost every post I write has more comments than tweets. Also look at the reading times. I’ve highlighted the highest ones. This average time means people are reading the posts and reading the comments.

This means that my RSS subscribers are the real source of engagement for me. According to Feedburner, I have 148 people subscribed in Google Reader, and 48 who have subscribed to this blog in email.

So, time for some analysis:

Value Analysis 1: Keep Your Retweeets

A value based blog doesn’t need lots of retweets to get engagement. I want you and need you to understand right now that whilst more tweets about your posts will get it more coverage, lots of retweets are not necessary for and do not guarantee engagement.

If you were to ask me for my number one metric of success on my blog, I’d tell you instantly it’s comments. It’s the number of the them, and it’s the depth of them – because it means we actually have participation, not just blind retweeting.

Value Analysis 2: Backwards Engagement

According to PostRank, “80% of the conversations about your content happen off-site” (link.) Well, PostRank tels me that for my blog, 60% of the conversations about my content happen on-site. Value-based blogged is totally contradictory to standard volume-based blogging. The engagement is totally the other way around.

I don’t know of any top blog that gets more comments than retweets. In fact that only other blog that I can find that does is Robin Dickinson’s blog.

There are sometimes when admittedly, I wish I had more retweets. Sometimes it annoys me to see how many shallow blogs get so much coverage. But I will tell you this:  no blog post that has received lots of retweets on my blog has ever had lots of comments.

80% engagement off your site is … well … worthless in my opinion.

Value Analysis 3: It Works

It’s one thing talking about a value-based blog if in actual fact it didn’t work. But it does. On an average of 10 tweets per post and 15 comments per post, this blog:

  1. This is the 5th ranked blog on leadership on PostRank (last week I was #3)
  2. This is the 2nd ranked blog on social business on PostRank and 9th ranked for social media marketing.
  3. This is 185th ranked marketing blog on the AdAge Power150 (I would be higher if more people linked here. My InLink score is very low.)

For 10 tweets, this is very good. Most of the blogs on AdAge get a very high number of tweets per post. My AdAge rank is lower, as it takes PostRank (which focusses on engagement), and also considers other measurement platforms that track InLinks, volume of tweets, etc.

But more than these stats, the proof it works is that Like Minds works and engages hundreds of people because of the discussions we have here. It works because someone saw this blog and was so warmly invited when they commented that they saw a link to the Like Minds Club and bought membership right away. It’s also got me a lot of recognition and love.

It works because authors have found the ideas here (that we formed together through the comments), and put them in their books (they tell me so!) It works because the thing that we discuss have changed lives.

Your Leading Thoughts

I know I’ve kind of preached us full here – but there is room for a very important discussion here. Many of you guys are likely discouraged, distracted by wanting to get your content recognised with retweets and such. I’m keen to know

  1. If you’ve been blogging for 6 months and over, what are your statistics on engagement?
  2. Be honest – how much are tweets and ‘attention’ a motivator for you?
  3. Where on the web do you enjoy engaging in value-based blogs?

Archived Comments

  • http://postrank.com PostRank

    Hey Scott — This is awesome stuff. I love a good case study! (And you have way more cred than I do, since I work for PostRank and all…) :)

    While all kinds of engagement are certainly welcome by most bloggers, you illustrate precisely why we weight comments higher than tweets. It simply indicates higher engagement levels. (Not just higher than tweets, but any of the fast, “button-clicking” forms of online social activity.)

    If any of your readers would like to check out how Analytics can help them sort out what kinds of engagement they’re getting, and where the really valuable stuff is coming from, they can sign up for the free trial here: https://analytics.postrank.com/register/private (doesn’t require credit card info) and use the coupon code “scottgould” (without quotation marks) to get three free months instead of just one. I added a few free months to your account, too, as a small thank you for the post. People ALWAYS want to see more case studies. :)

    And, as always, if anyone has any questions or whatnot, they’re welcome to give me a holler: @postrank or melanie@postrank.com.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Melanie

    I do intend to write more about PostRank soon. It really has become my favourite measurement and monitoring tool.

    One of the best uses is using it to thank people who shared my stuff (seeing as there are so few!)

    Scott

  • http://twitter.com/98rosjon Jonny Rose

    Typical numbers for my two blogs:

    The Happy Church (articles published fortnightly)

    Date started: 1st Jan 2010
    Articles published: 31
    Average views per day: 40
    Av comment per article: 3

    Jonathan Rose Blog (articles published thrice weekly)
    Date started: May 2010
    Articles published: 22
    Average views per day: 41
    Av comments per article: 5

    As a blogger who is not (presently) seeking a massive online presence, I have found that nearly ALL conversations about my content is done off-line. This is fine for me as I am not trying to build a community around my blog*, it is merely a second-home from Facebook (where I do most of my online engagement) – a holiday home, if you will.

    Furthermore, having developed a solid platform of people on Facebook with which to publicize my content, I find most of my readers prefer to engage with me there rather than on the blog itself. Hence, whilst blog comments might be very low, fb comments are comparatively high (sorry no stats).

    Facebook is a great platform for me as I can seed and spread my content across several people’s pages. The benefit is that my posts will be

    a) Exposed to people outside of my immediate friends list
    b) Be visible much longer (rather than be pushed down by several tweets in an hour)
    c) Aggregration by Facebook livefeed under ‘Top News’ means if people comment on my material it stays up longer in my friends’ feeds for up to a week.
    d) No need for comment subscriptions. FB notifies me of comments made on my posted blogs. In turn, this alerts everyone else with the red marker – they immediately click on it, are taken back to my content and, ideally, engagement continues.

    For this reason, tweets and retweets are not a huge consideration for me although I am very thankful when someone deems my content worthy of being ‘shared’ 

    Suggestion: Your weekly Saturday *VIDEO* posts always seem to be weighty 40mins+ however I think making people watch anything over 10 mins seems impractical. Shorter Saturday vids = more comments/engagement over the weekend. You probably knew this already, but just thought I’d weigh in…

    *That said, I do get that rapid heartbeat of excitement when I see a little comment number in my WordPress dashboard!

  • / Scott Gould

    Jonny

    Good deconstruction of what you do and understanding why and where you do it.

    The problem with Facebook is, however, that you are tied into a closed platform where people cannot find your content through search or referral – meaning you are limiting it very, very tightly.

    Thanks for the suggestion on the videos – I *hadn’t* noticed that, for thanks for pointing it out.

    I’ve already planned a change!

    Scott

  • Anonymous

    Hi Scott

    Interesting post and points.

    I think to say off site discussion is worthless is not necessarily true as it really depends on how you measure this and what you are trying to achieve from your blog. If you take Ford as an extreme, the more discussions about the Fiesta in the US the better as the project had a significant ROI i.e. orders of the Fiesta in the US market. Or, from an employer brand point of view, more people that recognise a brand positively, regardless of where this happens, helps build brand awareness.

    As for retweets, I hear what you are saying but again if these spread a good message, which comes back to you in a good way e.g. an enquiry surely they have some value? Is it for the writer to determine how their readers “comment”? Isn’t a retweet a positive recognition of the post? Yes, comments may feel nice but are they not just one measure of engagement? Isn’t it the cumulative effect of time+comments+likes+retweets=engagement?

    If someone is walking down the street who knows you well but just says Hi and continues on their way, and you recognise they are in a hurry, does it mean that because they did not stop to talk their greeting is of less value? Are they any less a friend?

    I get up to 500 page views/day but find that probably 50% of people that connect with me do so via Linkedin but mention my blog as their source of “knowing” me. They rarely have commented on my blog but arguably made more effort to connect via a different method. Also, I don’t think of my readers as a community. I am part of a bigger community with maybe a louder voice than others but still only part of the bigger community; not my community though. I see the volume part of my stats as acceptance by the community rather than a measure of my own success so yes, they are important but not just to be the biggest or best.

    Anyway, they are my thoughts. Hope they are helpful.

    Peter

  • / Scott Gould

    Hi Peter

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience

    1. Sure, conversation off the site is important for brands – in fact, it’s what its’ all about. For a Value Based Blog, which is what I’m talking about, it’s far less important, because it is not as deep and less collaborative.

    2. Again, retweets are great for the volume play, but I’m showing that a value based blog strategy doesn’t need lots of retweets.

    Sure, all in the mix it helps. But what I’m labouring to show is that where as most people think it’s mostly about retweets and page views, I’m saying you can have a successful blog without them.

    And for me, it’s not about the number of comments, it’s about the quality of engagement, which I find is normally better through comments like yours, or skype calls.

    3. Your points of being in a community / network are interesting. I’m finding that this is a useful thing, because if I want to signpost someone to a better business development blog, then I have a network (albeit informal) that I sign post people to.

    What I want to do is have those links here so people know where to go for better that what I can give.

    Thanks for the build Peter – how would you respond to this?

    Best,
    Scott

  • Anonymous

    Hi Scott

    Yes, I agree that their is a big difference between a blog such as yours and how a brand may use a blog for greater, less personal reach. Let’s be honest, you don’t *really* have a relationship with a brand or product so it is quite different.

    I think the definition of success again varies on why the blog exists and agree that retweets don’t always mean success. Arguably it could be suggested that comments don’t either (think Seth Godin albiet an extreme example). I do think that comments may be the most engaging element and are important but I don’t tend to think of a blog having a community, more so a readership.

    I see you are trying to build a community around your blog which is cool but the whole term community is up for so much debate anyway one can determine their own definition and use whatever tools they see fit. I think flexibility is the key and giving people the choice as to how they contribute. Ultimately I feel face-to-face is still the strongest element of a community and the tools we use are primarily to connect, engage, build and develop the community.

    Peter

  • / Scott Gould

    Hi Peter

    For me I definitely separate readership and community. I have a readership, yes, but it is the community that I write for and that I engage with.

    You say “face to face is till strongest element of community” (with which I agree), and this is why I meet up with many of the people who are regulars here and at the least have regular skype calls with them because they are across the other side of the world.

    I’m totally committed to this community!

    Scott

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