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The Three Dimensions of Blogging: The Vital Combination Every Blog Must Have

Why do I answer every single comment made here? A couple of people have asked why I did my Reader Appreciation post. Some have even implied that I have a big enough audience to not need to do this. What is it about comments I am so obsessed about?

There are three critical aspects that make a blog great. Lose any one aspect and you have made it so much harder to be a success. The simple truth is without my reader community a massive part of my blog would be lost. Without comments blogs are sadly lacking. I need you! This post explains the three critical components of a successful blog – my “Three Dimensions” of blogging.

  1. The First Dimension: Content – A blog should be constantly updated. The first dimension is the stickiness of fresh news and articles. Any website can be routinely added to but this is more true of blogs. It is expected of a blog that it will be added to. Another aspect of this dimension is the archive. If people like what they see when they first visit they can drill back to your older stuff.
  2. The Second Dimension: Syndication – Traditional websites might have a newsletter attached to attract people back but subscriptions are part and parcel of blogs. Readers expect to be able to read the blog without actually visiting. Further to this, syndication is perhaps a way blogging will evolve in future with mashups, new tools and advancements in widgets. The main difference between a newsletter and syndication is emails are still on the creators timing rather than the readers. As with other media, people want their content on their own schedule. We don’t like having to march to the beat of anothers drum. We time-shift. Syndication allows us to time-shift blogs. It is not enough to just make syndication available, people have to use it and enjoy using it. Your feed is not an after-thought, it is the engine of your blog.
  3. The Third Dimension: Conversation – Without community your site is still a blog, but it is a blog without a soul. One of the huge benefits of blogs is you can converse with the content creator. In other media this opportunity is either absent or highly constrained (letter to the editor, phone-ins, nothing compares). This community adds to the original ideas of the blogger in so many ways it fuels the blog much more than the blogger alone can manage. It is not just your own community either, the conversation takes place across blogs and between blogs. Again, as with Syndication, the content and venue are not tied together. Even blogs without comments enabled still have to take part in the conversation.

This is not a 1+1+1=3 equation. The whole is way more than the sum of the parts. Each dimension doesn’t just add to the others; add a dimension that is missing and see the benefits multiply

So how do you benefit from these three dimensions of blogging?

The first step is obvious; add fresh content. We are blogging for a purpose, and that purpose requires great content. It might surprise you though that I disagree that “Content is King”. “King” implies that content is top of the pile, the be-all, the epitome.

My belief is that content is the foundation that all else is built on. If you repeatedly add compelling, valuable content you will get repeat visitors and only then will you have an opportunity to benefit from the other two dimensions.

Make sure your archives are easy to find and navigate, and especially your best stuff is visible. You want your readers to consume as much of what you have to offer as possible to be really sold on your blog. There is no better way to communicate a brand than through experience. If your reader enjoys what they find this builds trust. Without trust you will not get them to do anything other than perhaps leave.

Syndication extends your reach. It allows your reader to enjoy your content on their own terms. For a reader to subscribe they have to believe what you have to offer is beneficial and trustworthy. So they will have to have been impressed by your content, the first dimension. Adding a feed to a reader requires less permission than adding an email address to an email newsletter and therefore less trust. It is easy to add a feed and still ignore it and the author does not get any personal details. On the other hand there are less people out there using feed readers, it is still a technical hurdle for many people. For this reason you need to also allow subscription via email and to be persuasive about it. Inspire confidence, make it easy, sell the benefits. Use full feeds rather than snippets. Have faith in your content. With a healthy subscriber count you will get repeat visits, more traffic and most importantly have a platform to build your next dimension, community.

If you do not allow comments, or as bad do not reply to them, your blog is a lecture. This is not a bad thing but not what I would call a good blog and is not half as valuable to your reader.

With the best will in the world you will not get community right away but you will get the odd comment if you encourage them.

Community is more than just comments. Traffic and encouragement is what makes community possible. Comments are just the start of community. What community actually requires is repeat visitors and conversation. This will only take hold when the other dimensions are in place.

What is the difference between comments and conversation? Comments are like submissions to a guest book; fire and forget. A conversation is a to-and-fro, an exchange of ideas. People have to reply and then come back to see other replies. This is why you need to attract return commenters any way you can, using email notifications and encouragement.

Once you have a community you have built much more than a blog. Just like the best bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants are not just places where people eat and drink but like to hang out, this is the ultimate pinnacle of your blog. With this you will find exponentially more success than a mere website.

There are very few blogs, a handful maybe, that achieve the nirvana of community but we have to set our goals high and work towards them the best we can. If we don’t try to make our creations the best they can be what is the point? If you work all three dimensions your blog will become not just a valuable destination but the place people love to visit.

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Comments

  1. Smashing post, Chris!

    “Use full feeds rather than snippets. Have faith in your content. With a healthy subscriber count you will get repeat visits, more traffic and most importantly have a platform to build your next dimension, community.” – This is exactly what many bloggers are afraid of. They think the reader wont come back to the site thereby loosing traffic. Good content will make guests comment or atleast view what others are commenting and checking the conversation in general.

    By the way, I read this post in my RSS reader and came to comment here! The same applies for Lifehacker. I read the posts and if interested will goto the site to read the conversations and readers comment.

  2. Smashing post, Chris!

    “Use full feeds rather than snippets. Have faith in your content. With a healthy subscriber count you will get repeat visits, more traffic and most importantly have a platform to build your next dimension, community.” – This is exactly what many bloggers are afraid of. They think the reader wont come back to the site thereby loosing traffic. Good content will make guests comment or atleast view what others are commenting and checking the conversation in general.

    By the way, I read this post in my RSS reader and came to comment here! The same applies for Lifehacker. I read the posts and if interested will goto the site to read the conversations and readers comment.

  3. Exactly, we need to free ourselves from the page view addiction and consider what we really want which in my view is audience engagement πŸ™‚

  4. Exactly, we need to free ourselves from the page view addiction and consider what we really want which in my view is audience engagement πŸ™‚

  5. You work hard even when no one is watching. That is why I like this community you have created.

    New to blogging I never really realized the conversation aspect of it. When I comment I usually go back a few times that day to what ever blog it is to see if anyone referenced what was said.

    I guess when I comment I am usually commenting about the post and not the comments.

    And yes I agree with Ashwin it is a “smashing post!”

  6. You work hard even when no one is watching. That is why I like this community you have created.

    New to blogging I never really realized the conversation aspect of it. When I comment I usually go back a few times that day to what ever blog it is to see if anyone referenced what was said.

    I guess when I comment I am usually commenting about the post and not the comments.

    And yes I agree with Ashwin it is a “smashing post!”

  7. yeah Colbs I think 99% of comments are about posts but it is nice when people respond to each others comments πŸ™‚

  8. yeah Colbs I think 99% of comments are about posts but it is nice when people respond to each others comments πŸ™‚

  9. Chris, what I like about this post is how you put it together. Instead of just saying 1) create fresh content, 2) syndicate it through RSS and 3) answer your comments, and you’ll have a great blog, your analysis on the basis of “dimensions” adds a whole new level of penetration in getting the message across to the reader.

  10. Chris, what I like about this post is how you put it together. Instead of just saying 1) create fresh content, 2) syndicate it through RSS and 3) answer your comments, and you’ll have a great blog, your analysis on the basis of “dimensions” adds a whole new level of penetration in getting the message across to the reader.

  11. Thanks πŸ™‚

    People will think “oh that’s just common sense” but as I say a lot, common sense does not necessarily mean common practice. Tons of people do not work their feed, or ignore their comments, or create one killer article then phone it in for the rest of the month.

    It is more than just doing those things though, it’s important to understand how those pieces work together.

  12. Thanks πŸ™‚

    People will think “oh that’s just common sense” but as I say a lot, common sense does not necessarily mean common practice. Tons of people do not work their feed, or ignore their comments, or create one killer article then phone it in for the rest of the month.

    It is more than just doing those things though, it’s important to understand how those pieces work together.

  13. Nice post, Chris. I think you’ve hit the top three nails right on the head. If only comment trackers were better (I use and love coComment, but it’s far from perfect), we’d be able to more easily turn conversations sideways and communicate across blogs better. Commenting is still a hit-and-run affair for a lot of blog readers.

  14. Nice post, Chris. I think you’ve hit the top three nails right on the head. If only comment trackers were better (I use and love coComment, but it’s far from perfect), we’d be able to more easily turn conversations sideways and communicate across blogs better. Commenting is still a hit-and-run affair for a lot of blog readers.

  15. We really do appreciate your quick answer Chris. It certainly keeps me coming back. Thanks for the reminder to be more encouraging to my own commenters.

  16. We really do appreciate your quick answer Chris. It certainly keeps me coming back. Thanks for the reminder to be more encouraging to my own commenters.

  17. “This is not a 1+1+1=3 equation. The whole is way more than the sum of the parts. Each dimension doesn’t just add to the others; add a dimension that is missing and see the benefits multiply…”

    Wait doesn’t 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 ? πŸ™‚

    But seriously, great article!

  18. “This is not a 1+1+1=3 equation. The whole is way more than the sum of the parts. Each dimension doesn’t just add to the others; add a dimension that is missing and see the benefits multiply…”

    Wait doesn’t 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 ? πŸ™‚

    But seriously, great article!

  19. Hey Great post, I was going to Digg it, but you don’t have this article submitted to Digg yet.

    very good stuff chris.

  20. Hey Great post, I was going to Digg it, but you don’t have this article submitted to Digg yet.

    very good stuff chris.

  21. Great post Chris…couldn’t agree more. I’ve printed the eBook and am looking forward to reading it on my flight to SF (next week). Thanks!

  22. Great post Chris…couldn’t agree more. I’ve printed the eBook and am looking forward to reading it on my flight to SF (next week). Thanks!

  23. Hey chris, when’s your next ebook coming? don’t tell me you’re so busy blogging that you don’t have the time to write it πŸ™‚

  24. Hey chris, when’s your next ebook coming? don’t tell me you’re so busy blogging that you don’t have the time to write it πŸ™‚

  25. @Easton – it is strange so little has been done in the area of bringing commenters back but tools are being developed now so hope is this will improve

    @John – you are welcome πŸ™‚

    @Collis – math has never been my strong suit, I have computers to do my sums for me πŸ˜‰

    @Chad – feel free to submit any of my articles, I don’t submit my own πŸ™‚

    @Brendan – please do read it and tell me what you think?

    @Ahmed – You will get it soon, I am looking forward to some real honest feedback πŸ™‚

  26. @Easton – it is strange so little has been done in the area of bringing commenters back but tools are being developed now so hope is this will improve

    @John – you are welcome πŸ™‚

    @Collis – math has never been my strong suit, I have computers to do my sums for me πŸ˜‰

    @Chad – feel free to submit any of my articles, I don’t submit my own πŸ™‚

    @Brendan – please do read it and tell me what you think?

    @Ahmed – You will get it soon, I am looking forward to some real honest feedback πŸ™‚

  27. Terrific post, Chris!

    I now realize that #3 is why I’ve quickly become addicted to blogging. I can achieve #1 and #2 (up to a point) with my other websites. But only with my blog can I enjoy the conversational element and wonderful sense of community. You’re setting the example for all we should all “achieve the nirvana of community.”

    Thank you!

  28. Terrific post, Chris!

    I now realize that #3 is why I’ve quickly become addicted to blogging. I can achieve #1 and #2 (up to a point) with my other websites. But only with my blog can I enjoy the conversational element and wonderful sense of community. You’re setting the example for all we should all “achieve the nirvana of community.”

    Thank you!

  29. Thanks Bonnie, I think we are getting there πŸ™‚

  30. Thanks Bonnie, I think we are getting there πŸ™‚

  31. One thing I would like to add is ask readers what they want from time to time.You might not get a complete information but some people will respond for sure.I did that few back and came to know people like my securtiy articles.That also told me that my readers are getting to understand more.Take a feedback….thats the 4th dimension.But you need a lot of guts to ask your readers feel free even to give a negative feedback

  32. One thing I would like to add is ask readers what they want from time to time.You might not get a complete information but some people will respond for sure.I did that few back and came to know people like my securtiy articles.That also told me that my readers are getting to understand more.Take a feedback….thats the 4th dimension.But you need a lot of guts to ask your readers feel free even to give a negative feedback

  33. Another thought-provoking post, Chris. I agree with Philip that you just manage to give discussions like this a depth which isn’t necessarily found elsewhere.

    On the point about reaching community nirvana: Is the goal to have a blog where visitors end up talking to each other, while the blogger sits back and allows the conversation to take place? Does the blog owner, by the very nature of blogs, need to be involved? Personally, I feel slightly hard-done-by when I visit blogs with several comments, and no input from the blog owner. My feeling is that I have visited the blog because I appreciate the bloggers style and view, but without his own comments I feel sold short.

    You provide a compelling example of a hands-on blogger.

  34. Another thought-provoking post, Chris. I agree with Philip that you just manage to give discussions like this a depth which isn’t necessarily found elsewhere.

    On the point about reaching community nirvana: Is the goal to have a blog where visitors end up talking to each other, while the blogger sits back and allows the conversation to take place? Does the blog owner, by the very nature of blogs, need to be involved? Personally, I feel slightly hard-done-by when I visit blogs with several comments, and no input from the blog owner. My feeling is that I have visited the blog because I appreciate the bloggers style and view, but without his own comments I feel sold short.

    You provide a compelling example of a hands-on blogger.

  35. @Ashish – yes sometimes asking works very well

    @Rory – I would never suggest the blogger sits back, the goal in my mind that a conversation forms, between the readers yes, but including the blogger always.

  36. @Ashish – yes sometimes asking works very well

    @Rory – I would never suggest the blogger sits back, the goal in my mind that a conversation forms, between the readers yes, but including the blogger always.