Do you want more engagement OR more traffic to your blog?

by Mack Collier

I’ve been going over the responses to the #Blogchat survey that y’all are helping me with (If you haven’t taken the survey yet PLEASE do, it really takes less than 60 seconds, click here to take it), and paying attention to the answers to the last question.  That’s where I asked what topics you’d like to see covered in #blogchat.

The two most popular answers are how to build engagement on your blogs, and how to grow traffic to your blog.

Probably the most important point to realize is that you can do one or the other, but probably not both.  What I mean is that many bloggers want more engagement AND more traffic.  But in general it takes a different approach to grow traffic than it does to grow engagement.

For example, let’s look at Mashable.  A hugely popular blog/website that was originally focused on social media, but now they’ve branched out to cover tech, entertainment and other popular topics as well.  As of this writing, the last 10 posts they’ve published in the social media category have a total of 95 comments, or 10 comments per post.

The last 10 posts I’ve written here have a total of 87 comments, or 9 comments per post.

So that means that this blog has almost as much engagement (if we go by strictly number of comments) as the most popular ‘social media’ blog on the planet.

But there’s an important caveat to these numbers:  I am blogging more for engagement, and Mashable is blogging more for traffic.  A big clue here is the fact that Mashable’s last 10 posts all come within the last 24 hours, while my last 10 posts all come within the last month.  If Mashable was more concerned with building engagement, then their writers would probably publish fewer posts, because they would be spending more time responding to comments from readers and interacting with them.  So comments per post might double or triple, but Mashable’s overall traffic would probably go down, because their writers would write fewer posts.

Likewise, if I started writing two posts a day, my traffic here would go through the roof.  But overall engagement would fall off a cliff, I would probably go from 9 comments a post, to 2 or 3.

So before you say that you want more engagement and/or traffic, you need to think about WHY you want either.  Ah yes, it always goes back to planning, doesn’t it? 😉  And it also doesn’t hurt to TEST each approach.  For example, if you think you want more traffic, then for the next two weeks, commit to doubling your post output.  If you normally write 1 post a week, write two.  If you normally write two posts a week, write four.  Then pay attention to WHICH NEEDLES MOVE.  Traffic will likely go up, but what else happens?  Do email subscribers increase?  Does search traffic?  Comments?  Emails?

Then test the approach of trying to build engagement.  Write as many posts for the next two weeks as you normally do, but go out of your way to get as much engagement as possible.  Encourage readers to comment, to interact with you.  Do this for every post for 2 weeks, then see what your results are.  Again, WHICH NEEDLES MOVED?  Did time spent on the blog increase?  Did pageviews?  Did comments?

Then after you’ve tried both approaches, look and see which needles moved that tie into YOUR GOALS FOR YOUR BLOG.

But at the end of the day, you need to realize that there’s usually a tradeoff involved in trying to build traffic, versus trying to build engagement.  It’s not impossible to do both at the same time, but it’s difficult.  You need to think about which or either is more important in helping you reach your blogging goals.

And speaking of goals, one of mine is to hit 500 responses for my #blogchat survey.  Can you help me get there? 😉


Peter February 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Strong observations, wonder know what you think to work for returning visitors. I think this is higher level


Yvette Pistorio February 7, 2012 at 9:38 am

Can’t we just have it all?! Love your ideas about testing to get both more traffic and engagement. And I completely agree, it all comes back to planning! Thanks for this post Mack :) Oh and took your survey too!!

Mack Collier February 7, 2012 at 9:51 am

Thank ya darlin’, I appreciate that!

Marie Bock February 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I had not even thought of looking at it that way. My blog is only three months old so I’m going to keep this in mind as I chug along. By the way, I filled out the survey :)

Mack Collier February 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Thank you Marie! There can be SO much wasted motion with social media (or really anything in life!) if we don’t have proper planning and know why we are doing what we are doing.

Christina Pappas February 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I really truly value engagement but my goal right now is traffic because I am hoping for more visibility of myself and my opinions in this industry. Going to be a tough task to double up the posts which means going from 2 to 4 for me but I am going to give it a try. Will let you know how it goes..

Mack Collier February 7, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Christina I doubled my posting output around this time last year and noticed a surge in traffic. I also found that it actually became EASIER for me to write posts. My problem is always finding ideas for posts, but I found that when I was writing every day, the ideas came easier for me. I hope it works the same way for you 😉

Anne Reuss February 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Mack, I was just about to DM you back but I was looking through your blog for a bit first.. and my heart leaped with joy when I read how the more you make yourself write the easier ideas eventually started coming to you because that’s what I need! :) Just one more adventure!

Mack Collier February 7, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Anne around this time last year I committed to writing 5 posts a week for 2 weeks. I wanted to see what impact it would have on my search traffic, primarily. But I was really worried about finding enough ‘good’ post ideas to write that many posts in 2 weeks.

What I found after the 1st week was that the ideas for posts came very easily in the 2nd week! It was like my mind was ‘looking’ for post ideas everywhere. For example, every day on Twitter I would come up with a couple of post ideas just from conversations I was participating in and watching there!

I think you’ll find the same thing for your vlog. You just need to keep doing it, darlin’ 😉

Gabriele Maidecchi February 8, 2012 at 5:09 am

I don’t think you could express it in a better way, actually I overheard some similar discussion this morning about Facebook fans/likes – how much pure numbers are meaningless without a proper plan for them – so yeah, it indeed always comes down to planning :p

Eric Brown February 8, 2012 at 8:16 am

Hey Mack,
Unless you are refering to a hobbiest blogger, Why wouldn’t the business blogger focus on Selling More Stuff? Not sure why more marketers don’t set the non sense a side and stop confusing the client. Get to the point of why we are digital marketing in the first place, to sell more stuff.

Isn’t that really what this should be about?

Mack Collier February 8, 2012 at 9:36 am

Eric I’d argue that you should be trying to create more value for the customer, which will INDIRECTLY lead to selling more stuff.

IMO it’s far too easy (and sometimes even lazy) to say ‘well it’s all about selling more stuff!’ What about actually creating something of value for our customers? What about actually solving a problem for our customers?

For example, what about a company that starts blogging because they want to use the blog as a way to provide better customer support for the people that buy their products? In this case, they would be concerned with building engagement. And if they do their job correctly, customer satisfaction would go up, and calls to the customer support line would go down. Which saves the company money.

I totally get your point that companies need to either ultimately generate revenue or cut costs as a result of their social media efforts. But that’s true for ALL marketing. I think a more effective way of doing that is to stop only thinking about how this will ‘sell more stuff’ and also start thinking about how the customer will benefit.

IMO what’s best for the customer deserves as much if not MORE consideration than how the company can sell more stuff. And the best part is, the companies that focus on creating value for the customer first, seem to sell more stuff as a result 😉

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