How do you measure success?

I feel strongly that this blog has been more successful than I could have hoped for at this point in the process.  Each day I receive new hits from a wide variety of very random places.  I don’t have to do nearly as much “work” as I once did to get the word out about what I have posted.  As long as I update regularly now the site sort of manages itself.

However, this has led me to wonder what counts as a successful public forum?  Is it one in which many people visit and hopefully take away the exact nugget of information that they were looking for.  This is what I assume is happening here as I think that is where I am getting my additional traffic.  One person does a search, finds my site and brings the link back with them to a chat group or homepage which I then get additional traffic from…however most of those sites are password protected or closed groups.  The name of the group usually tells me everything I could want to know about the group.  Knitters for Charity, Crafty Women, Recipe a Day…stuff like that, it’s not rocket science to figure out what they were interested in even if I can’t see their site.

Or is success measured in communication and interaction?  In that respect I am very clearly lacking something.  Many of my favorite sites have a huge amount of reader response.  I have almost none. (Statistically less than 1% of my readership leaves a comment. Not whining here, just trying to think out loud.)  There are a few steady readers who talk to me often, and I almost feel like I have gotten to know them a little.  But what of the other 13,000 people who have stopped by?  What is it about my posts that does not encourage feedback?  I can’t tell if other sites have such high comment rates because they actually know their commenter’s or their pages are filled with people who are trying to be seen and redirect traffic to their own sites…or do their posts actually warrant such response.  (In my opinion, I have seen many amazing posts which really should receive a reply, but there are frankly some that aren’t worth a comment and they are still flooded with feedback.)  This goes for large established blogs and several start-up sites as well.  This makes me wonder, are my posts not worth commenting on in general, do people not think my site will generate any traffic for them or is the comment section on my page simply too difficult to find?

I ran an experiment for two weeks a few weeks ago to see what would happen short-term and long-term.  I spent more than an hour every day doing nothing but reading posts and linking through the comments to get to new sites and leaving comments there too.  My thought was, maybe I am just not active enough in speaking to other people.  It had some effect, a few people responded in kind (thanks to all of you that did…and by the way I found some really cool sites doing this), but all in all it still didn’t change the general trend of the feedback on my page.   As soon as I slowed down my pace, everything returned to normal.  So I am still left to wonder –

What is it about my writing style that encourages a decent readership (for a start-up) and a high sharing rate for my posts but does not encourage people to respond directly?    I’ll have to think more about this.

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