Comments are a really important part of any blog. They give you important feedback about your work, and give you invaluable information about what people are looking for. I’ve gotten ideas from some of my most popular blog articles from the comments. So, it’s important to encourage comments on your blog whenever possible!
Here are some tricks that I’ve come up with over the years to encourage commenting on my sites.
1. Ask a question
At the end of your article, ask a provocative question to give people something to comment on.
2. Lower the barriers
Make commenting as easy as possible for your readers by eliminating commenting barriers and roadblocks:
- Allow anonymous comments with just name and email address. Do not require login.
- Don’t use CAPTCHAs – they are a pain for your users.
- Have the comment form at the top of the comments, not the bottom.
- Don’t hide the comments with a button (something I’m seeing on bigger sites). Display them by default.
- Don’t require comments to be manually approved before they appear.
Of course, disabling some of these anti-spam features can increase the amount of spam comments that you get. Personally, I have not had a big problem with spam on my blogs. For my WordPress blogs, Akismet has done a good job of filtering out spam. On my other blogs, I use Disqus, which also works well to eliminate spam.
3. Reduce Clutter
Often there is lots of clutter at the end of an article before your comments such as ads, social sharing buttons, related articles, third-party articles. Some of these might be important, but all make the comments section harder to find.
On one of my sites, I had an email signup form before the comments. It wasn’t very effective and when I removed it, my commenting increased. Same deal with “related articles” right after the post.. I cute them down from three rows to one on most of my blogs and commenting increased.
4. Seed the comments
No one wants to be the first one to comment, so “seed” your comments with an initial comment of your own. You can write almost anything; it doesn’t matter. Questions work well. I recently had a blog that had no comments for a few days. After I seeded all of the pages, one of them had a comment within an hour!
5. Answer every comment with a helpful response
Show that you read and respond to every comment. Answer all questions. If people see that you’re actively responding, they’ll be more likely to take the time to write. The quicker you respond, the better.
By the way, make sure your site’s email is working so that you are informed whenever someone leaves a comment.
6. Respond quickly
You need to act while the iron is hot. Wait too long and the commenter might no longer be interested in the answer. Act quickly to stimulate dialogue and repeated comments.
7. Ask for follow up
After you answer a question, ask the commenter to tell you if your advice worked or not. They won’t always do it, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. This feedback can be really interesting for other readers to see.
8. Be personal, grateful, humble
Address each person by name and thank them for commenting. Be humble an gracious rather than confrontational. If you don’t have privacy issues, use a photo of yourself rather than an avatar, so people get the feeling they’re talking to a real human being. Do not pretend you are a large corporation. Act like you’re talking to a friend.
9. Have a spam filter
Having tons of comment spam makes your blog look neglected. On WordPress sites, use Akismet or other spam filter to eliminate spam.
10. Be bold or controversial
One sure-fire way to generate comments is to be bold and controversial in your article and comments. Now, there is a downside to this, as you can generate flame wars and negative comments, so be careful. But, rattling people’s cages is a sure-fire way to get comments going.
11. Don’t delete disagreeable comments
I’ve noticed that when someone posts something disagreeable to a lot of people, the commenting community will jump all over that person for me! Obviously, there is a line to be drawn here. If someone is outright mean, racist, sexist, etc., I will immediately delete their comments. But, having a lively discussion means tolerating and even welcoming people who disagree with you.
That’s all I’ve got! What techniques have worked for you to encourage commenting on your blog? – Brian