25 October, 2007

How to Get More Comments on Your Blog

This entry was originally posted on the omnistaretools.com blog. It is reposted here for reference only.

One thing all bloggers love is comments. Increasing comments on your blog is essential to creating that sense of community that all blogs need to survive. Plus it just feels good when something you compose is publicly commented upon.

There are more than a few good ways of getting more people to comment on your blog entries. The different methods usually fall into three separate categories:
Ease of Use
Before you do anything else, the first thing you need to do is make it easy for readers to leave comments.
Use hidden fields instead of a captcha
If you need to prevent bots from leaving spam, use the hidden field method rather than a captcha. To do this, create a hidden field that bots will fill but users will not, and deny access to requests with that field filled.
Don’t use popup windows for comments
Popups are almost universally despised by websurfers. Do yourself a favor and limit whatever popups you employ to advertising schemes; putting them up for people who are trying to comment may make them decide not to say anything at all. Especially since most popup-blocking software will not be able to tell that it is a legitimate popup, and it may also be blocked.
Don’t force readers to log in
Logins are great; but always make them optional. If you force users to log in, you are creating a barrier to getting more comments.
Write open-ended posts
Don’t say everything there is to say about whatever topic you’re discussing. By thinking of yourself as directing a conversation on the subject rather than covering every aspect of the issue, you are leaving material open for others to comment upon.
Use threaded comments
Allow readers to comment not just on your blog, but on what others have commented about. For WordPress users, you might try Brian’s Threaded Comments. For most other blogging platforms, threaded comments are set as default.
Allow comment subscription
Let readers subscribe to the comments that follow the one they just made. This makes it easy for them to come back again to participate in the dscussion. Subscribe to Comments is the best WordPress plugin for this.
Requests for Comment
Ask questions!
It’s hard to imagine that such an obvious technique will actually produce results, but it’s true. Ask questions in your post, preferably right at the end, and many readers may respond.
Be controversial
Controversial posts are a great way to build up comments. Being controversial in what you have to say is like begging people to give their input if they disagree with you.
Take notes
Look back over your past posts. Which blog entries have the most comments? Whatever those entries are about, revisit them. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you already know what works.
Don’t moderate comments
Commenters like seeing their comments go up on your blog. If there is a delay between their comment submission and when the comment goes live, then they may not have the drive to comment again. The more your blog seems like an open forum, the better people will feel about adding to the discussion.
Reply to commenters
Nothing is more gut-wrenching than when I see a blog with good comments, yet the blog author never bothered to reply. Well, I guess a few things are more gut-wrenching than that, but it’s still pretty bad. If you do get comments, reply to them! Believe me, your readers will feel like you appreciate them if you do.
Visit commentators’ blogs
If someone writes a particularly good comment, visit their blog and comment back. It’ll make them more likely to make additional good comments on future entries.
E-mail first time commenters
This is a great way to get random commenters who may otherwise have never visited your blog again to come back. Comment Relish is a good WordPress plugin for this to be done automatically.
Turn off nofollow
The nofollow attribute causes spiders to not count any links in your comments. This is done to discourage spammers. But although it is good for the blog community as a whole to enforce this provision, as it does discourage a number of spammers from even bothering to comment, if your individual blog turns off nofollow and advertises this fact, then you will be giving a large incentive to others to comment on your blog. By restricting the nofollow removal to only hit those who comment regularly on your blog, you get the best of both worlds. Link Love is the perfect WordPress plugin for this; and most other blogging platforms have a simple method to change this attribute. In blogger, simply go to the raw html, search for ‘nofollow’, and remove that attribute from the meta spider list.
Show top commentators
Display the names of your top commenters, as well as links to their sites. Show Top Commentators is the best WordPress plugin for this. Unfortunately, most other blogging platforms do not have adequate tools for this function, and you may just have to post the names and links manually in your sidebar.
Exchange comments with other bloggers
If you don’t have any comments on some of your entries, then you may want to find a way to get that first couple of comments to break the ice. A good way to do this is to find another blogger in a similar position, and offer to comment on their empty entries if they will comment on yours. There’s nothing wrong with a little quid pro quo every once in a while.
As a last resort, use micropayments
If you don’t have the time or the energy to exchange comments with another blogger, you might try using micropayments to incentivize people to read and comment on your blog entries. I realize it may seem sleazy, but getting that first comment on a post can sometimes be very difficult, and often breaking the ice early on will mean you’ll get many quite legitimate comments immediately after.Mechanical Turk is a good micropayment site you may consider using.
Each of these methods can do its part to help increase the number of comments you get on your blog. Unfortunately, I think I may have violated one of my own tenets by covering everything I could think of about this issue. But maybe not. Does anyone know if I missed anything?
Posted by Eric Herboso.
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