Sunday, January 15, 2006

How to evaluate your blog: 2

How to evaluate your blog: 2 will examine further considerations in determining the value of a blog.

True Blog Value vs. Blog Peripherals

We wish to judge the actual, intrinsic worth and benefit of a blog to its actual or intended audience.

A blog reader generally won't, or shouldn't, care about blog peripherals. Blog peripherals (items on the outside, external to the blog itself) are irrelevant factors in judging a blog's value.

In other words, we must start with the internal essence and outward presentation of a blog first. All other considerations and hopes must take a backseat to this primary valuation.

"First root, then fruit"

The marketing secret contained in the whisper-transmission is this: if you concentrate on continual improvement of the root, you won't have to worry about the fruit.

These blog peripherals *may be* worthy goals, realistic objectives, for a blog, but they are external to the blog proper. While you may want the blog to accomplish certain things for yourself, your organization, or your product, I suggest that you refrain from judging your blog from the viewpoint of secondary effects.

Blog peripherals are blog effects, ideals, goals, reactions, responses, external impact--they are not the blog proper, the blog as it exists in itself.

The main external impact a blog has is on the blogger, even more than the audience. The blog changes, hopefully improves and polishes, the blogger.

My point?

DO NOT abandon or delete a blog just because it fails to perform in these aspects that are supplementary, auxiliary, ancillary (from ancilla: "maid-servant"), subordinate, consequential, inferior to the core worth of the blog in itself, apart from its context and the overall strategy.

Now, here is an explanation of why each of the above blog peripherals is not a valid measurement of the value of a blog.

1. Increased traffic to a commercial site.

There may be many other factors contributing to the increase of site traffic.

A blog should be judged according to what it is meant to be within itself. How the blog impacts other aspects of an enterprise is a secondary, though possibly colossal, concern.

The blog may be successful in it's content, presentation, and community-building, but not drive traffic to the commercial site. Don't abandon the blog: keep it as a service to customers, a way to build an online community of shared interests, revolving around your brand or personality.

Now the Bad News: a blog with the primary aim of driving traffic to some other web site, is a blog that generally tends to be hype-filled, pushy, flashy, circus-like, annoying, and insincere.

The message of a Traffic Pusher Blog seems to be: "We're glad you're here, visiting this blog. Have we got a product for you! You'll love it as much as we do, I'm sure. Why not go over to our web site now? Read about our product and how great we and it are. Buy our product."

Users go to the trouble of visiting the blog, but swiftly get the strong impression that the blog is fake friendly, isn't offering much, and it just a tool, a toy, a tentacle of the corporate octopus. This, in the hyper-sensitive populace of the internet, is annoying and lowers your credibility.

Hype is Off Net.

Fascinating stories, free technology, clear immediate benefits, breathless jittery writing style, and quick how-to tips are On Net.

2. Increased sales at commercial site, attributable to the blog.

A blog makes a lousy vending machine. It's like setting up a lemonade stand in your livingroom. If there are any refreshments at all, livingroom visitors fully expect them to be free, if not abundant. Your blog is very similar to your livingroom.

In the case of a Product Blog, or a blog pitching a consultant's services, it's recommended that you avoid writing incessant self-promotional posts and sidebar badges. Be proud of your credentials and self-reflect, but be very shy about tooting your own horn. Anything smelling like hype will drive visitors away from you, in droves and stampedes.

blog = email to the world, not a sales catalog

Hype is totally alien to the ultra-friendly environment of the blog, even a business or scientific blog. Doc Searls is credited with the brilliant saying, "a blog is an email to the world". This terrific insight underscores the intimacy, hence honesty and transparency, of the [ideal] blog.

dual-utopian nature of blogs

Candid and mutually beneficial conversations occur in blogs because they traditionally have a dual-utopian nature: tech link logging and diarist exhibitionism.

Basically, every blog quivers and fluctuates back and forth between these two opposing poles.

This deep blogological observation ensures that all blogs can be seen as providing other web locations, by hypertext editorial links and sidebar link badges, and/or providing chatty, relaxed, authoritative, aggressive stance commentary on various issues or facts.

A link log, like Robot Wisdom has no or little commentary. It provides updated, hyperlinked lists of other web locations, blogs and websites. On the other end of the spectrum, a young person might use a blog for journaling purposes. Every blog typically isolates or combines these two primal blog functions, to varying degrees and in multitudinous manners.

A blog can be used to sell items, or direct users to the commercial web site, but their hearts will be more open to your sales message if you give them fantastic information or super-intelligent advice, tons of it, the more the better, first. And keep that blog text witty, chatty, loose, and casual, even if the blog is professional or scholarly.

3. Large number of comments on blog posts

Many new bloggers worry about months of blogging, with not a single comment.

I will not go into depth here about How To Increase the Reader Comments at Your Blog, but my topic here is: don't worry about comment quantity. Also: think--would you *really* want to have 635 comments on every post, like a Pete Townsend? Would you be able to read, AND RESPOND, to each of them.

Number of comments means almost nothing.

Quality of comments is everything.

Tons of comments, especially empty remarks of appreciation or praise, that contribute no new information, are just sludge that readers may tire of in a big hurry. But a few great comments, even just one amazing comment, can really enhance even the best post ever written.

"I got 559 comments on that post. That was a highly successful and popular post, " some blogger declares triumphantly. But if 554 of those comments are vacuous, trite, boring, stupid, butt-kissing, self-promotional, or off topic, what does this say about the post then? And the blogger? And the blog audience, as "big" as the blogger thinks it is?

Good comments, relevant remarks that add information or experiential anecdotes, or critical complaints that improve your ideas, these enrich a blog.

Be thrilled when someone posts a long, scholarly, passionate, wildly funny, astonishingly interesting comment on a post. The comment poster just acted as a contributing editor to your blog publication. The comment poster is to some slight degree a co-author of your blog, even when the comment is negative. Comments expand and multiply the conversation begun by your post.

4. Large number of search engine references to the blog

Search engine hits can be very misleading. They do not mean anything in terms of a blog's popularity or success. They would mean a great deal if the quality and accuracy of the hits were of high standard, but they are not. Many search engine references are to irrelevant citations, insertions of your blog URL in link farm blogoids, mis-spellings of phrases similar to your blog title, and many other contingencies.

Search engine hits for my name "Steven Edward Streight" include some "streight" citations which are simply mis-spellings of "straight", as in "I told him to come streight home after school".

5. Large number of links to the blog

Just because other bloggers are not blogrolling your blog in their sidebars, or not linking to your blog in their posts, this does not mean your blog is not good enough.

It can take a lot of time, and a lot of posting comments at other blogs, to attract other bloggers to visit your blog and be astonished at something in it, then write a post about it on their blog or add your blog to a blogroll, which is a privileged status.

Besides, when a blog has a lot of other blogs linking to it, blogrolls, though privileged, are also somewhat perfuctory, almost decoration. A blogroll can also function less as a linked list of recommended sites, than an attempt to appear to be in the "clique" of certain top, relevant bloggers.

6. Large number of textual citations of the blog

Again, just because right now your blog is not well known, this is no reason to feel like a "sub-blogger" or "Z-lister", a loser or underachiever.

Maybe nobody cites your blog, because it's too profound, too complete, too competitive with those blogs you wish would pay attention to you. The other bloggers in your field of expertise or entertainment may fear or envy you. Maybe your blog makes their blog look feeble in comparison. Who knows?

7. Large number of visitors to the blog

Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to visitors.

A blog that has 100 visitors a day is no less effective, interesting, or valuable than a blog that has 100, 000 visitors a day. Where did anyone ever get such an absurd idea? What kind of readership does a blog have? Are they young, old, educated, experienced, nice, smart, polite, funny? Will they convert from readers of your blog to buyers of your book or other products?

Or are they "just eyeballs", passive receptors of an addictive blog?

True Evaluation of Your Blog

Of course you hope your message, your humor, your advice, your revolt reaches ever increasing numbers of people.

It's only natural to like seeing lots of reactions, comments, or emails regarding something you wrote. Yet, your best posts may be so stunning and sublime, no comment could do it justice. You remember that are many reasons why you don't get as many comments as you might like.

Try asking for comments, in a non-beggarly manner. Watch me. I do it now and then. I'll say, "What is your opinion. Post a comment or email me."

We like seeing our blog cited in other blogs, and seeing it on blogrolls, and quoted in books.

But if you allow yourself to get obsessed with blog stats, blog reception, blog popularity, and all the other miscellaneous issues, you'll lose sight of the true value of a blog.

The true evaluation of a blog is only this: does you know pretty well what your readers tend to need? Do you then provide it in a manner you think fits with your personal style and with their expectations?

If your blog meets the needs of your audience, your blog is good, effective, worth continuing forever.

Even a conjectured, hypothetical audience.


A blog designed for a theoretical audience of readers is good when it contains what that imaginary audience needs.

Why do I talk say this?

Because that illusory audience probably DOES exist, somewhere in cyber-space. And some of it could easily end up at your blog.

Meet the needs of your blog readers. Consider that success enough. This can in turn lead to very great advantages to any individual, company, or organization.

[signed] Steven Edward Streight aka (also known as) Vaspers the Grate



Squire said...

Very good article..

Kami Huyse, APR said...

I like your take on the blog being something to refine the blogger. I am recommending my readers to take a look at your thoughts on this.

WebtrafficJunkie said...

This is an awesome article. I learned a lot of great tips and pointers. Thanks for the information!!