At some point in everyone’s blogging career, it happens. They realize that no matter how hard they try, they just can’t seem to generate comments on their blog. They’ve heard that comments are an important element of a successful blog and when the comments fail to come, panic starts to set in.
Whenever I hear this concern, I always ask, “Why do you want to get comments?”
It’s not that I don’t believe an active community can play a huge role in your content marketing efforts. It’s that I want to hear their response. This often leads to a bit of confusion as they struggle with what seems to be a dumb question. I usually follow with, “Why are you blogging?” If the purpose of the blog is to bring in clients and convert leads, are blog comments and the number of social shares really a measurement of these goals?
A recent article by Marcus “The Sales Lion” Sheridan addressed this very point stating the blog comments and social shares are “incredibly overrated.” In the article Sheridan uses the example of a pool company and the success of an article titled “How Much Does a Pool Cost?” The article is an actual page on the company’s website so it has never received a comment or social share. Yet even without these two metrics, Sheriden states that the article has generated $1.7 million in sales.
How does he determine the ROI of this one article? Because he is using advanced analytics that go beyond the number of comments and social shares. (If you want to learn more about measuring ROI and advanced analytics, download my free ebook, or contact me for a demonstration).
So why does it work without comments or sharing?
The fiberglass pool article works because it directly answers a specific question asked by the target audience, people considering purchasing a fiberglass pool. I’m sure that it also hits on a high volume key phrase which probably wasn’t too competitive (note: key word research!).
The person wondering how much it would cost to install a pool is looking for an answer to their question which is provided by the article. There is no motivation to discuss the details of the pricing or to share their findings on Facebook. They are considering buying a pool for themselves, not their online community.
It is also a piece of knowledge with a sort cycle of need, not an ongoing learning process. The potential buyer learns how much a pool will cost and makes a decision to either continue in the buying process or not. The key for the pool company is to capture them and move them through the sales funnel from that point. Not to gather comments and social sharing about the cost of a pool.
It all depends on Objectives
For the blogger who is blogging out of a passion for a hobby or is selling ads based on impressions, comments and an active community are much more important. Their business model depends on bringing visitors to their site, keeping them there and driving page views in order to increase advertising revenue. Content marketing is about providing content the user needs, using that content to bring the target audience to your website and guiding potential clients through the sales funnel. The goal isn’t to spend time discussing the price of a pool. The goal is to convert them into pool customers.
The Google Paradox
From everything we can ascertain about the Google algorithms, social recognition (social sharing, blog comments) is becoming a bigger and bigger factor in the search engine returns. (Google’s Matt Cutt’s even told us it is). Social recognition becomes an even bigger issue as Facebook moves into search. Their newly introduced Facebook graph search results are based entirely on the social recognition of others within the users social circles.
The problem becomes, if social recognition is so important in the search engine rankings, how can a web page move to the top of the rankings without it? In order to understand the answer, you must think like Google.
The goal of the Google search engine is to provide the best possible answer to the users question. In the case of a person asking about the price of a fiberglass pool, Google succeeds if they provide an answer to that question. If they don’t, Google has failed and the users will go elsewhere to find their answer.
However, there are other elements to the search algorythms than social recognition (time on page, bounce rate, incoming links), that help Google determine the best search for their results for their users. Even the context in which the text on the page is used plays a factor in the search engine returns.
So Should We Care About Social Recognition?
The short answer, yes. But social recognition is only one part of the formula. If it can be determined through your analytics that obtaining comments on a blog post helps you meet your main objective (ie., closing sales), then yes. We should care about social recognition. However, I would suggest that social media networks such as Facebook or Google+ might be a better platform for conversation which in turn drives your target audience to your blog post or web site.
Social sharing is also important but a blog post that doesn’t receive Facebook likes or Twitter links can still be successful. Face it, some things just aren’t going to be shared. If I find an article that helps me determine if I can afford that new swimming pool, chances are I’m not going to jump on Facebook to tell my friends about it. It’s highly unlikely that any of my Facebook friends are also trying to determine the price of a swimming pool.
Granted, I may ask my friends if they know how much a swimming pool might cost. This is where Facebook’s new graph search will come in as Facebook combs it’s data to find personal connections that have indicated in some way (ie. a Facebook update, a click through to a swimming pool maintenance website) that they own a swimming pool. But this opens another can of worms altogether doesn’t it?
The Irony of it All
Naturally, I discovered Sheridan’s post through a discussion on Google+ where I joined the discussion with a few comments of my own. This article started out as a comment on Sheriden’s original post but as it got longer and longer, I abandoned the comment and turned it into this blog post. At the time of this writing, Sheridan’s post discussing how comments and social sharing is overrated has received 23 comments, 50 Tweets, 51 Google+ and 17 Facebook “likes.” Not bad and for all we know, the post may be receiving massive amounts of traffic.
However, do those comments lead to Sheriden’s ultimate objective? Although I’m sure they do on many levels, if we simplify the objective to just bringing in new clients, they may not. Sheriden’s comment platform uses a plugin that shows the commentors last blog post on their own website. A quick scan of the post titles shows us that the comments are almost all from fellow content marketing types. Probably not the businesses that would be buying his services (although it appears he does do a good business as an expert speaker discussing issues of this sort).
You can see my point though. Certain audiences and types of content are more prone to commenting and social sharing than others. Just be sure your analytics provide a true measurement of your ultimate objectives.