What Is Your Blog’s Participation Rate?

If you’re a blogger, would you kindly run some numbers for me? It will only take a minute, and you might learn something interesting about your site as a result.

First, take the total number of comments made on your blog and divide it by the total number of posts. This will give you the average number of comments per post. Now divide that figure by the number of your feed subscribers. That’s your blog’s participation rate – a rough measure of how engaging your content is to your readers.

Why Does It Matter?

Now, you might wonder why should you care about this “participation rate” thing. After all, we already have a whole bunch of perfectly good blog metrics – traffic stats, the number of subscriber, the number of comments, advertising income (if you use advertising on your blog), and so on. Why another one? (If you already know the answer and just want to increase the participation rate, feel free to skip to the “How To” section below.)

Let me begin from afar.

You want your subscribers to be active and comment on your posts. This is especially true if you’re just starting out and your blog isn’t well-established yet. Comments are valuable because they constitute an information-rich form of feedback, and you absolutely need feedback to improve your blogging skills. There are many sources of feedback, but most of them – like tracking how your number of visitors or subscribers varies in response to your choice of post topics – are indirect and often hard to interpret. Comparatively, comments are right in your face (in a good way).

There is also another, more mercantile, benefit to converting passive readers into active participants. A reader who has already actively involved with your site in one way – like posting comments – is also more likely to become active in other ways. Like, say, clicking your affiliate links, signing up for your consultation services, or what have you. Even if your blog has goals more noble than making a profit, having active users is still an obvious advantage – for example, they’re more likely to “spread the word” and gain you new readers. Also, comments function as social proof – they show new visitors that your blog is worth reading.

So the participation rate is one of the blogging equivalents of conversion rate. It tells you – approximately – how good you are at converting readers into commenters. You can use it to track how your skills improve over time, and to compare the average “interestingness” of two blogs that each have a wildly different number of subscribers/visitors in an unbiased manner.

How to Attract More Comments and Increase the Participation Rate

Now that I’ve explained why having a high participation rate is desirable, you’ll probably be looking for some tips & tricks to raise it and get more comments on your blog. Well, according to my calculations, I’m probably not the most qualified person to provide advice on this topic – this blog has a participation rate of only 6% (it’s really inflated by plugin-related posts getting a disproportionately huge number of comments). So instead of trying to pull a bunch of plausible-sounding tips out of thin air, I present you with a selection of relevant links :

(My, bloggers we do love formulaic headlines.)

I predict there will be less than 5 comments on this post.

Related posts :

5 Responses to “What Is Your Blog’s Participation Rate?”

  1. Ozh says:

    On my personal blog: 8267 comments / 765 posts = 10.8 / 1203 feed readers = 0,009

    On my gamers blog: 160585 / 7715 = 20.8 / 40 = 0.52 (yeah, no feed promotion there but an active community nonetheless)

  2. White Shadow says:

    Wow, 0.52 is quite something.

    I didn’t spell out how I got my own 6% number in the post, so here it is :
    (5653 comments / 272 posts) / 345 readers = 0.06 (=6%)

  3. Oscar says:

    Interesting perspective. I’ll keep mine to myself until they are less embarrassing. And onto reading some of the other posts about this, maybe I’ll learn something there.

  4. I use the BackType Conect plugin on my blogs so it’ll artificially inflate the participation rate significantly – for example check out http://atmac.org/accessibility-and-the-ipad-first-impressions/ which currently has 9 actual comments, 4 trackbacks, and 32 tweets about it which have been imported via BackType connect.

    Nevertheless, the math would be:
    1297 comments / 361 posts / 1235 subscribers = 0.0029

    So about 3%. Except, less if you count the above factors :/

    Also, the vast majority of my readers (over 85%) wander in via Google and are first-time readers who don’t stick. That’s not something that this takes into account.

    It’s an interesting metric and says stuff that I hadn’t thought of before. Thank you.

  5. (also, now you know how far behind I am on feed reading :))

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