The Importance of Reviews {Amanda’s Discussion}

Posted 23 August, 2013 by Amanda / 32 Comments

discussion

This is NOT a discussion about who reviews are for.

No, this post is a discussion about who uses the reviews we write.

And yes, there’s a distinction. Because who we write our reviews for and who actually uses them may not be the same.

Regular followers and Bloggiesta participants are probably aware of the Bloggiesta challenge I hosted about easy SEO tweaks. My SEO research really started because it’s important for my business (and some of the work I do related to my business), but it’s been easy to apply the same principles to On a Book Bender.

And because the bread and butter of book blogs is usually reviews, I’ve been musing on the importance of reviews.

Who’s reading our reviews?

I know many book bloggers DON’T read reviews of others for various reasons:

  • They’re afraid of spoilers
  • They have a policy of not reading any reviews before they’ve read the book
  • They don’t read reviews of books that aren’t within their normal genres
  • They don’t want other people’s opinions to influence theirs.
  • They don’t read reviews of series books where the review is further into the series than they’ve read

All of these reasons are perfectly valid.

But we WANT our reviews to get more views. We bemoan the fact that our memes or features get more love and attention than our reviews.

Because really, reviews take time. Reviews take effort. They’re a labor of love of books and wanting to share our love for books (even when the book we’re sharing isn’t so great).

There’s nothing wrong with wanting our reviews to receive more attention.

So what am I circling around, you’re asking?

The importance of our reviews may not reside in writing them for our regular readers, but in providing our reviews for people searching for more information about the book.

My discussion posts might get a lot of views within the same week I post them, but reviews are the one type of post that continue to bring in views.

My reviews are the main reason searchers land on my blog.

That means over time, my reviews actually have higher views than my discussion posts, even when my reviews receive fewer views initially and fewer comments.

In fact, my highest viewed review has four comments–two of them mine.

So what is the importance of reviews? I can’t say, exactly. But I do think it’s worth reconsidering the idea that comments = people appreciative of our reviews.

And that a review that doesn’t receive a lot of views within the first few days or weeks may end up being one of our highest viewed reviews later on.

Who do you think is reading YOUR reviews?

Filed under: Discussion,

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32 Responses to “The Importance of Reviews {Amanda’s Discussion}”

  1. I think the people who are reading my reviews are in general the readers with similar taste in reading. We might connect with and follow all kinds of different bloggers, but when we make that click to actually read the review…it takes more time. I think it’s more reserved for those that we know have similar tastes as us and we trust for recommendations on something new.

  2. Yep, reviews are like the workhorse of the book blogging world. They keep plugging away for you after the flash and fire have died down.

    I have a thought that I’m trying to articulate about how my book blog is awesome and I love having my reviews in the same place but I think the reviews themselves do more good out in the wild (at Amazon and Goodreads and other book-centric sites) because PEOPLE SEE THEM THERE. If people like my reviewing style and want more of my wit and charm, they can pop over to my blog and get OODLES of reviews to roll in.

    I kinda lost my train of thought (which makes sense since I was having trouble articulating it in the first place), but I agree with you. *thumbs up*

    • You definitely have a point. Where do people go for book reviews? Or rather: when you go to purchase something non-book related, where do you look for information? If I want to buy technology, I look at Amazon reviews or search out Cnet and see what they said. I don’t necessarily search out technology bloggers.

  3. Totally Agree!

    Reviews don’t expire. People come back to them when they are looking for info on the book. That might be when it releases—it might be 2 years after it releases. I get more views on reviews over the course of time then I do on memes or features (except those technically skewed). I get immediate hits on meme and features (and more comments) but the reviews are where my hits are! I love when people hit an old review! Plus general readers don’t leave comments. They aren’t there to interact, they are there to read the review and find whatever they are looking for. Conferences actually made me realize that we all have far more readers than we think, they just don’t interact much on the webs.

    • Yes! I think we limit ourselves terribly if we assume that we only have bloggers reading our reviews. I’ve had the occasional random comment on an old review, but for the most part, those people aren’t going to comment. They come, they get what they need, and they leave. Nothing wrong with that.

  4. Such a good question Amanda! I guess I never really gave too much thought to who’s reading them aside from the people who leave comments – I know they’ve read the review (or skimmed it), and most, if not all, of those people are fellow bloggers, but the number of page views is much higher than the number of comments so obviously other people are reading the reviews as well, which is always exciting for me.

    Reviews are of course why I started the blog, so they’ll always be my main focus, and I just keep hoping they’re helpful to someone who’s trying to find something new to read. I know I buy tons of books off blogger recs even when I don’t actively comment on a particular post:)

    • I didn’t give it much thought either until I started researching SEO–and started paying attention to my search terms and where they led people. Turns out I get plenty of hits (some books/reviews get at least one hit every week) from older reviews, which says something. I find it interesting to ponder. *ponders ponders ponders*

  5. I actually got very disappointed at first when I realized that my reviews weren’t getting as much attention as the discussion posts and memes, although when I evaluated myself, I realized that I tend to mark reviews as ‘read’ even before I’ve read them, just because I haven’t read the book yet or am not interested. I do tend to click on discussion posts and memes more, because they’re more spoiler free and relatable :D I do think that my reasoning is valid, so if other bloggers don’t read my reviews as much, I’m quite alright with that :) But yeah, I think I’ve noticed that a lot of viewers have been visiting my archives and looking through older reviews, which is definitely a good thing. As long as my reviews help other people, then I’m fine with that whether or not I actually get to discuss it :)

    • I think you nailed it, Jasmine. Sometimes we have to look at our own habits when thinking about how people use our reviews.

      And also: participating in social media (especially Twitter) allows you to have conversations with other book lovers about those books. So while your reviews themselves may not get comments, that doesn’t mean you can’t discuss them elsewhere. :)

  6. Great post! I feel tempted to drift into the non-review category every now and then, but then I couldn’t properly call myself a book blog, right? I have to at least be talking about books. I think discarding reviews is like oh that one metaphor about babies and bathwaters (it always seemed a bit confusing). What I mean is, if your reviews are doing badly, think of ways to jazz them up. What can YOU offer past the standard synopsis and paragraph impression?

    • Yup. I think one of the best questions you can ask yourself is “What do I look for in a review?” and then write the kind of review you’d want to read. I look for people’s impressions and what they liked/didn’t like, so when I write my own reviews, I rarely spend time recapping the plot. (That’s what the synopsis is for, yo.)

  7. I started posting reviews first and foremost for myself. And I think I still do that, to an extent. I’ve noticed that, over time, my reviews do get a lot of page views, but usually after people have read the book and are looking to discuss it. I wouldn’t say that it bothers me when I don’t get a lot of comments on a review. You’re right that they do take a lot of time — it can be hit or miss on who comments, depending on the book, genre, author, etc. Or, like I said, maybe people are just waiting to read the book first.

    Good discussion!

  8. Because I genre-hop, there are a weird variety of high-hit reviews. And I definitely agree about the reviews versus discussion posts. Discussions might net higher comments but reviews have long-standing value (well, the discussions do, too, but they don’t get many views later on).

    • Yes! I think looking at reviews as having long-standing value is very important. Because they do. Especially if you’re reading in a series and looking for information about previous books. Last year Karin Slaughter put out a new book in July and my search terms for her and her books went up quite a bit.

  9. I’ve been thinking about this A LOT lately. I feel really crummy when reviews I’ve worked really hard on get no comments – I think I feel like they’re not being read. But yet my silly memes or random posts get lots of comments/views. It’s discouraging! But then I think about how many reviews I actually read. Not a ton, mostly for the reasons you listed in your post. So, I’ve resolved to read more reviews, whether it’s a book I haven’t read or a book I want to read, and just hope karma comes back to me. But you’re absolutely right: we don’t just write reviews for other book bloggers. We write them for reluctant readers, parents looking for books for their kids, kids looking for books for themselves (or their parents), librarians and teacher who may need a book for a student. While I want bloggers to read and discuss books with me, I also want to reach others and absolutely love when I do!

  10. I think the comment question is a great one. I think that there are many folks that stop in on a blog and read a review, but don’t want to take the time (for whatever reason) to leave a comment. We wish they all would, but I agree with the idea of building something of value and they will come!

    Paul R. Hewlett

    • I know that I have tendency to open a bunch of posts at once and then my commenting will fades with each one I read. And focusing on building value is just sound blogging advice, I think, no matter what you’re blogging about!

  11. That’s a good point, and even more reason I should be paying more attention to SEO, at least on my review posts if nothing else. Because, yes, it seems like most of my search terms are people looking for info on a specific book… and SO often they’re looking for spoilers! About a third of the search terms bringing people to my blog are for spoilers. Which I found so weird, but again if you think about the fact that those people aren’t bloggers, maybe aren’t even huge readers, but are just curious about a specific book for whatever reason… maybe so they can pretend to their friends that they’ve read it? Who knows?

  12. That’s interesting. I was reading another discussion post somewhere earlier this week to talk about page views and how reviews are not really what attracts the highest views. A lot of bloggers/followers don’t bother to read reviews, especially for books that are popular and are reviewed on a lot of blogs. Instead, discussion posts/unique features are what attracts the most comments/views.

    I didn’t think about the reviews for other audiences. You’re right, as a blogger, I barely read any reviews. Most reviews I read are books I’ve already read. The reviews do attract a lot of “outsiders” who aren’t involved in the book blogging community. Thanks for the post!!

  13. This is a very interesting post. I think as we watch other blogs grow larger and larger due to giveaways, memes, blog tours, and the like, we can think reviews are passé, but you are exactly right. Reviews are how most of us started our blogs and remain our bread and butter. It’s actually gratifying when someone seeks out my opinion on a book. I love when readers of my blog read and love something I recommended. I love having conversations about my favorite and least favorite books. And my review posts help facilitate these interactions. I love discussing tropes and other bookish habits or pet peeves as well, but reviews have the potential to reach a different sect of the population. Most of my discussion posts are aimed towards other bloggers. In fact, I’ve noticed in my daily interactions with the other readers in my life that the blogger lexicon has crept into my vocabulary. I’ll talk about my TBR or DNFing a book, and they look at me slightly askance because they are readers not bloggers. Sometimes the two are conflated.

    • Most of the people who comment on my blog are other bloggers, so I think it’s easy to forget that I have other non-bloggers reading my blog, too. Which is why I like having stats and knowing my search terms–I know how other people are using my site.

  14. I can actually see exactly where you are coming from. I’ve seen it in action on my blog as well. In fact one of the search terms that I see on an almost daily basis is for a review of The Twits by Roald Dahl. It has 0 comments and wasn’t even a full fledged review. It’s only 60ish pages.

    Reviews are kind of a long term investment. As time goes on, they’ll draw more and more people to your blog. :)

  15. This is a great post Amanda! I’ve been starting to think the same myself. They don’t get many comments, initially views are minimal. But one of my most popular posts is a review I posted 3 months ago for a book published over 12 months ago…it has no comments and there were no views in the first couple of days!
    I’m definitely going to look up your SEO post I’d love to get more into that.
    I think the people that are coming from search engines are those looking for similar books of certain authors example…”which book is similar too xxxxx” or looking for the answer to a question stemming from the book “what happened after xxxxx”. Either way the reviews are out there and people are reading them even if its not the fellow book bloggers/reviewers that our other posts attract.

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