I started thinking last night: "How do I define a successful blog post?"
Blogging is meant to be a social medium, so one way to define success would certainly be the extent to which people engage in online conversation about a particular post. By that measure, the posts that generate a lot of comments (like the one I did the other day on face-to-face vs. online meetings) would be "successful." Posts that people blog about on their own blogs would also fall into that category.
Another way to measure success would be to look at traffic to particular posts, especially over the long term, although that way of looking at things is less satisfying to me because just looking at a post doesn't meant that the person got anything out of it. What I like about conversation through comments or blogging about a post is that it helps me understand what was and wasn't useful about a post. It can also help me learn more about the topic I was exploring.
Lately I've been interested in the number of times a post has been saved to de.licio.us. This says to me that someone found the post useful and wants to be able to return to it later. That's one of the criteria I've used to identify my "Best of Bamboo" links in the sidebar.
Part of the reason I'm asking the question is because I wonder what makes certain posts "take off." Unless you keep a blog for strictly personal reasons, any blogger worth his/her salt cares about writing posts that are "popular." Not Digg popular, necessarily, but certainly engaging and useful to readers.
I've tried to find the formula for this, but frankly I'm often baffled. I do know that detailed "How To" posts seem to attract readers, but beyond that, who knows? Posts that I thought would generate something went absolutely nowhere. On other occasions I've written what, to me, felt like posts that strayed into naval-gazing territory, and they generated a big response. I really can't figure it out. And I've given up trying.
Back to my original question, though.
I suppose that there are three kinds of posts that I consider "successful"--or at least they give me satisfaction. The first two I've already mentioned--the posts that generate discussion and the posts that people save.
The ones that cause conversation to take off mean that I've said something that "speaks" to other people so they respond, either in comments or on their own blogs. Since blogging is supposed to be a two-way medium that fosters discussion and thought, clearly posts that generate a response, good or bad, are successful.
The posts that people save I consider to be successful too. These mean that I've given someone something useful for the future or, at least, food for thought. This is one of the main reasons I began blogging in the first place, so that's good.
Now the third kind of "successful" post for me is the one that nails something important to my learning. If I'm able to use a post to pull together various strands of thought in a way that helps me gain new knowledge or understanding, that's a great post for me. It doesn't matter whether or not other people notice. It's been successful in terms of my own learning. If people comment or save, that's just a bonus.
So those are three ways I'd define successful posts. How do you define success?