18 November 2015

What Makes A Blog Or Facebook Post Popular?

I'm fascinated by people. They're very strange creatures.

What makes them tick, what makes them laugh, what makes them cry, what they value and what they could care less about. Maybe it's my anthropology background. I have to say, anthropology is a pretty cool major. Of course, not so much if you're looking for steady employment with a decent salary - after all, I ended up going into HR. (Yes, I was one of those people that everyone hated at work, right after the folks in IT.) But, if you want to spend four years going to classes which are all about understanding the diversity of people and their cultures, then anthropology is your answer.

Maybe that's why I'm fascinated by what makes people sit up and take notice of something in their Facebook feed or what blog posts they click on and read all the way to the end. I don't know about you, but I scroll quickly past some posts in Facebook, while others make me stop in my tracks. Same thing with blog posts - there's some I click on, but never make it to the end because they don't engage me. I bet you do the same thing too.

What is it? What draws people in? What makes them linger on Facebook?

Scott and I are always fascinated by what Facebook posts get the most likes and comments. When it comes to our Facebook page, turns out, people are interested in two things - romance and creepy bugs.

I posted this picture of the Eiffel Tower last week for #TravelTuesday on Facebook and talked about how Scott and I honeymooned there after getting married in Copenhagen. It was a popular one - lots of likes and comments. Awww...everyone is a romantic deep down. Of course, now it's a sad reminder of what happened in Paris. #JeSuisParis

Another recent popular post on our Facebook page was when I started whining about having wee beasties on our boat. Romance and cockroaches - that's what people want to hear about.
So, now I've had a cockroach crawl out of the drain in the kitchen (galley) sink and a bunch of tiny spiders crawl out of the bathroom (head) sink. What's next - a baby alligator coming up through the toilet?
#florida #wildlife #weebeasties #boatliving

There's obviously more at play on Facebook which determines what will be popular. Things like when you post (what day and time), whether it's a picture or link, what hashtags you use etc. But, I still find it interesting to see what topics are popular on our Facebook page. Maybe you'll be seeing more about the love life of creepy bugs going forward. That seems to be what the people want.

By the way, the current score is Ellen - 3, Cockroaches - Nil. I take pride in the fact that I'm faster than a cockroach. I haven't seen any in a while, so fingers crossed they've found someplace new to live.

I'm not sure how to define popularity when it comes to the blog.

There's two ways to slice and dice this that I can tell - how many views you get of a blog post and how many comments you get.

If you look on the right hand side of our site, you'll see the top ten most popular posts based on the number of views as counted by Blogger stats. (Blogger is the blogging platform that we use. WordPress is the other popular one that you'll see people blogging on. You can read more about the differences here.)

Our top five posts, based on how many views they got, according to Blogger, are:
1 - 10 Steps to Becoming a Full-Time Cruiser - 13,726 views (6 comments)
2 - Meet Scamper | Our 13' Scamp Travel Trailer Home - 8,824 views (20 comments)
3 - Boat Review | Catalina 36 - 9,232 views (14 comments)
4 - The Big Experiment | Buying Our First Boat - 6,398 views (3 comments)
5 - Sail Repair | The Theory - 3,861 views (3 comments)

{Note: These are the number of views when somebody or something clicked on a particular post, either through a Google search, a link on our blog, an RSS feed etc. It doesn't count the number of people who read the post on our home page.}
But, our top five posts based on how many comments they got are:
1 - 6 Mistakes I Made Starting a Sailing Blog - 40 comments (538 views)
2 - 4 Ways Writing a Novel is Like Being a Sailor - 40 comments (114 views)
3 - 5 Things that Surprise Me about (Re)Living in the States - 30 comments (219 views)
4 - Accidental Discoveries | Robinson Preserve - 26 comments (312 views)
5 - D is for Doing Nothing - 26 comments (181 views)
{Note: When you see the number of comments one of our posts got, divide that number by two. I generally respond to every comment, so if we get 20 comments from blog readers, you'll usually see 20 additional comments from me.}

Quite different results. The blog posts with the most comments really don't have that many views in the scheme of things. 

What's better - comments or views?

My gut reaction is that comments are better. That's simply because it's a lot more fun when people are engaging with you and what you write. You know that they've actually read all the way to the end and they enjoyed it enough to have a conversation with you about it. Sometimes, they hate what you say and they want to tell you exactly what's wrong with what you wrote. Fortunately, that doesn't happen all that often.

But, having said that, views aren't a bad thing either. Some posts may not be the type that draw people into a conversation, but people are still reading them. I have to confess, it's nice to know that people read what I write. It's a form of flattery - I'll take it.

Some posts are always going to get more views than others because they're on a popular subject or rank high in Google searches. The post about our Scamp travel trailer is a good example of this. Folks who are thinking of buying a Scamp do a little Google search and often get pointed our way. 

So, why do people leave comments?

Usually, I get the most comments when I've shared a post in a blog hop. Blog hops are fun. They're like little internet parties for like-minded people, but you don't need to worry about a hostess gift or what you're going to wear.

The Insecure Writers Support Group is a good example of this. Every month, they host a blog hop where writers can share posts they've written about their own insecurities with the writing process or share tips and tricks to inspire fellow writers. I shared my post on 4 Ways Writing a Novel is Like Being a Sailor on their blog hop this month and I got tons of supportive comments from members of the group. The purpose of the group is to support each other and they do by commenting on each others' blogs. It was absolutely lovely.

I also got lots of comments from folks who regularly haunt our blog and whose blogs I regularly check out. Those are some of the best kinds of comments - from folks you've built up an online relationship over the months, even years.

Some people say that if you ask a question at the end of your blog post, it will encourage people to comment. To be honest, I'm not sure about that. I've talked to other bloggers who've tried it (and I often do it too), but it doesn't always seem to correlate with getting comments. Maybe I'm just asking the wrong questions.

On a semi-related note, robots are some of our biggest fans.

Blogger stats have some serious issues. I'd be a bit delusional if I thought 13,726 flesh and blood humans read our post on 10 Steps to Becoming a Full-Time Cruiser. Unfortunately, robots make up a good chunk of those views. These aren't the kind of robots that Isaac Asimov wrote about, but the automated spam robots that they seem to breed in places like Russia, the Ukraine and India. These robots keep automatically hitting your blog. Many of them are trying leave spam comments with links to things completely unrelated to what you're blogging about - like Rolex watches or Nike shoes. Some of them are trying to hack into your blog to do evil things to it. Either way, these are bad robots. Bad, bad robots.

It makes sense that Google and Facebook are the the biggest referring URLs to our blog over the past month. But, this "play.google.com/strore/apps..." thing - I'm guessing it's the latest robot on the scene. It always seems to be linked to Russia. My advice, don't click on it. 

Blogger doesn't seem to be able to differentiate between humans and robots, so it counts every single view, no matter who or what is doing the viewing. Over the past month, does it really seem realistic to have gotten 2,312 views from Russia, considering the fact that I write in English and don't blog about anything to do with Russia? Yeah, I don't think so.

If you're on Blogger, there are other stat counters you can use like Google Analytics and Flag Counter. Google Analytics does a better job of discounting robots and spammers, but I think it probably also discounts some real humans too. If you compare your Blogger and Google Analytics stats, you'll find you get much smaller numbers on the latter.

Well, that was boring. There's a reason I hated taking stats in college. 

Let's get back to business. What do you think? What do you think makes a Facebook or blog post popular? What makes you want to comment? What makes you want to click on something and read all the way to the end?

If you leave a comment and you have a blog, please leave a link. I'd like to pop by for a visit and leave you a comment. 

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi! 


  1. I'm one of your consistent, but silent readers. Since this post was chiefly concerned with commenters, I thought it was time to be identified. I first found you by referral from Cream Puff, but have enjoyed your adventures enough to keep you on my list of the blogs I regularly read. Keep writing, keep sailing, you're keeping this armchair sailor engaged.

    1. Hi Nikki! I'm so glad you said hello!! Do you have plans to set sail one of these days?

  2. I look at my stats from time to time, but I don't dwell on them. I blog for fun. I don't want it to be work. So, I'm good with what I do, which is very little.

    I like it that you return visits and comment. We are both boaters, but I don't spend a lot of time writing about boating. I do goofy stuff.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    1. I've noticed that you get lots of comments on your blog. I think in part that may be due to the fact that you always respond to comments and then pop by and visit folks who have visited your blog.

  3. One (of the many) things I enjoy about your blog is that you write in an engaging, conversational way (which leads to comments, I think). But forget the stats, what I REALLY want to see are your keyword searches! Lol. I'm sure you've had some real doozies along the way. :)

    1. I had someone come to the Totem blog today through the search "sex findingbliss" - huh?! Overwhelmingly though, it's simple combinations of our boat name, sailing, etc. ...but finding the doozies is always kind of fun/funny. :-)

    2. Brillant! Ours are really boring. Maybe I need to spice things up a bit in the labels!

    3. Behan - I think you might be the winner on "interesting" search queries! We sometimes get people who find us when they search for "naked sailing" and end up pointed to a post I did which I entitled, "Sailing Naked." It was about the fact that Scott sails barefoot. I don't know why it seemed like a clever and cute idea to call it that at the time.

      Most of our highest ranking searches are usually related to Catalina 36s because of the boat review I wrote about them. It must have the right number of "magical" search terms in it, because it comes up regularly in Google. Things related to Scamp travel trailers are also a big one for us.

      Some of the other ones that we regularly get are the Noises islands in New Zealand, Hauraki Gulf in NZ, Zodiac Zoom dinghy problems (the oar locks on it are awful), NZ Category 1 offshore requirements and Raven 26s (our first boat).

      I just saw one come through for "beat with a shovel the weak" - slightly disturbing. Another disturbing one that shows up from time to time is "lady pee." Of course, I only have myself to blame for that one when I entitled something, "The French Lady Takes a Pee." And she did, right off the stern of their boat when we were all stuck in an anchorage at Great Barrier Island due to high winds. Guess their holding take was full. An intriguing, but less disturbing one, is "ghost spam is free from the politics, we dancing like a paralytics."

  4. This is really interesting Ellen - I have to admit I wonder too, what's making people tick? (in plainer english, why the h@## do they read my blog?). I geek out a little more on the stats when I have the combination of bandwidth and time. Right, not often. But you might find it more interesting, or useful, to use Google Analytics- there's a lot more info than what the default blogger stats pages give you. Like, pages that are sending you traffic beyond the obvious ones that take up the top-10 list on Blogger (I like to thank someone of they've linked to me and that may be the only way I find out!). In truth, although set up for GA, 99% of the time I just use my default Wordpress stats page now (it's a big improvement on Blogger). For giggles I just looked at my most-commented posts to see if I could find a theme. I really thought it would be posts with some kind of drama, but that's only 2 of the top, say 15 or so. Actually, it seems that mostly the "popular" posts are just helpful everyday stuff- like my husband's post about the best downwind sails for cruisers, one about boatschooling, another about what makes a good cruising boat!

    1. I don't know how I got on this little tangent of mine the other day, but it was fascinating to dig in and see what it popular and what isn't.

      We do have Google Analytics, but I have to confess, I find it a pain to use and don't check it very regularly. Although, I just had a look at it to see what our popular search terms are.

      I can see why how to or helpful posts are popular on your blog. I think people would definitely turn to your blog for you and Jamie's expertise. It's a go to site for many people who want to see what it is actually like for people with kids actually out there and doing it.

      Although, I have to say my favorite posts of yours lately are all of your animals ones from South Africa. I went on a safari a gazillion years ago in Kenya and I still vividly remember how amazing it was to be literally right next to these amazing animals. I feel like I'm reliving it a bit through all of your pictures.

  5. Hey Viki here, long time Cynical Sailor & Salty Sidekick follower, and recidivist comment-or on your blog.
    I see no rhyme or reason on my blog either. Some people seem to search for really random stuff that brings them to the page.

    For me, I always read your posts, because I like your writing style and sense of humour. Some other blog posts don't engage me within the first paragraph and then unless there are some lovely photos -
    then I'm gone again!

    Before I started blogging I had absolutely no idea that I would end up making so many online friends (many of whom I have yet to meet!) except for one couple who I knew were traveling around NZ. I gave them some tips on what to visit when they came to Christchurch. I was driving down the road and saw them walking along the street towards the cardboard cathedral - so I screeched on the brakes and jumped out and said hello! They were a bit surprised! But it was really cool to make a personal connection.
    I hope we get to meet too one day - raft up our boats for some wine and chocolate!

    1. It's such a shame we didn't meet online until after we had left NZ. But, I'm pretty sure we'll meet up one of these days - either when we come back to NZ or maybe in some other part of the world once you guys head off cruising.

      I think that is such a neat story about meeting those folks in Christchurch! I love how you slammed on the brakes and popped out to say hi :-)

      One of the things that keeps me coming back to your blog is the mix of posts on sailing and land explorations in NZ (like the Tongariro Crossing). I bet that's what draws other people in too.

  6. We ourselves have always wondered what makes people like a post on facebook or leave a comment on our blog but I don't think we will ever figure it out. We can put up a fantastic picture of something and we'll maybe gets some likes an possibly a comment or two but as soon as you put up a picture of a cute kid (or grandkid in our case :-)) or an animal, then we can get a ton likes and comments. Same with the blog especially if we happen to mention one of us is sick or something bad happened to us. Seems like they are all waiting for our heads to get cut off or something! :-)

    As for having more views or more comments on the blog, we sort of like having more comments just like you, it makes it feel more personal and that people really do care.


    1. Kids and animals are always popular! But, I also find your posts about your daily life fascinating. I can't put my finger on why, but even when you're just describing what you had for lunch, it's really interesting. I've read some daily diary types of blogs and they're quite dull, but yours isn't. Maybe it's because you feel like were just chatting over coffee as you're telling me how your day went. I'm also amazed that you blog every single day. Seriously impressive.

    2. Too funny! Kevin's sister can't for the life of her understand why other people would be interested in what we do! :-) Maybe part of it is because we always seem to be doing something. We also try to put in as much revelent information as possible along with costs so that it is helpful to others if they happen upon our blog through a google search. Kevin has just gotten into a routine with the blog and it also acts as a diary for us. Mind you if we haven't done anything like in the summer when we are working it gets tough and that is when we are likely to take a day or two off, we don't want to bore people just for the sake of putting up a post.

  7. i'm here almost every day. enjoy your blog. thanks. WW

  8. I keep coming back (and "engaging" sometimes) because you're a good writer and always make me laugh ! Our most popular posts are the nuts-n-bolts ones about depth transducers and winch maintenance. I suppose it's nice to feel like you provide some helpful information, but my main goal for blogging is to keep family and friends (mostly non-sailors) up-to-date on our lives and to keep a journal for ourselves. When I keep that in mind, I stop chasing the statistics. I could write more techy posts, but that doesn't amuse me half as much as kvetching about the weather or break-downs !

    1. I think you have a great mix of techy posts and here's what went wrong today posts. The latter are some of my favorites because they're about the reality of sailing - stuff breaks and things go wrong. I also enjoy reading a blog from a non-American perspective. I know you're American, but I like hearing about sailing in Europe etc.

  9. I had to deal with bots just last night. I agree that analytics can prove daunting to use, but I still use it for drilling down and identifying traffic sources. I found a guy who does GREAT step by step tutorials on getting spam out of your counts on analytics. Really easy to follow, and free! We were getting a few page views per day and I wanted to nip it in the bud before it screwed up my data. The two main referrers were (in our case) alibestsale and copyrightclaims. All the referral spam is now gone from our analytics data thanks to this guy: http://www.ohow.co/what-is-referrer-spam-how-stop-it-guide/

    1. I think if we were monetizing our blog or had a big following, then I would use Google Analytics more. But, I should probably come to grips with how it works a bit better so I really appreciate the link especially as it it's free and easy to follow. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Hey! Great topic and well-written, as usual. We write our blog mostly to remind ourselves where we did what, but of course it's more fun to know that other people are reading it, too. I think the fact that we motor, rather than sail, drastically limits our appeal to sailors. I know pictures are important for entertaining readers. Our humor is so dry it's sometimes hard to notice, but that's our style, and it pleases us. But I digress....we'll continue to try to make our blog as appealing as we can, and one of the tools we use is reading other blogs to see what they do that appeals to us. --Linda at www.escapefromrealityblog.wordpress.com

    1. That's a shame that you find folks who have sailboats are less interested because you have a motorboat. At the end of the day, we're all boaties.

      Personally, I love a dry sense of humor so I think that's a great style to have for your blog - keep it up :-)

    2. BTW - I tried to leave a comment on your blog, but I don't know if it went through. In any event, it was just to say sorry about the engine issues and that I hope the installation goes quickly and smoothly.

  11. no blog and only one finger typing, so i don't say much. WW

    1. Completely understand. I appreciate you leaving a comments considering it's one finger typing :-)

  12. The blog posts for me that get the most traffic ... are the ones I shamelessly self-promote, linking them to conversations on other sailing sites or forums or Facebook groups as well as in blog hops. Second, sailing is a very small audience; my more popular posts are about topics of general interest, such as downsizing or doing the minimal clothing challenge aboard.

    1. That's interesting that you have more of a non-sailing following. Your posts on the Galleon also probably appeal to a larger audience as well.

  13. This is a great topic. I just started blogging to share things I've learned aboard sailboats. Really enjoy finding just the right words but have no idea if my words are of interest to anyone but me. Oh well, let the typing begin.


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