The ultimate guide to mastering commenting #2
Have you read Part 1 yet? It might be a good idea to do so, so that this post makes sense.
If you've arrived from Part 1 – welcome! Below is the rest of the post. Click on any of the links before to access the section that interests you, or just read on...
Table of contents part 2
If you use WordPress.com, you won’t need to worry about Akismet as it is integrated into your blog. However, if you have a self-hosted blog using WordPress.org, the Akismet plugin will be automatically installed, but not activated.
You will need an Akismet API key to activate it, and Akismet's website has clear instructions how to obtain this. You may also need a WordPress.com account, if you haven’t already got one, and you will be guided through that process too.
Akismet will want you to pay for this service. I suggest you select a personal blog and adjust the slider to whatever you want to pay. If you are short of cash or feeling mean, you could set the slider to $0 if you wanted to.
Akismet is a spam-blocker that deals with any unpleasant spam before it reaches your moderation queue. I am very grateful to Akismet on my blog, as you can see it has been very busy.
The previous chapter explains how Akismet works: any comment you mark as spam is picked up by Akismet, its details are placed in its database, and deleting the contents of your spam folder activates that database to prevent the same spammer from bothering other blogs.
However, anything you mark as trash will be placed in the bin folder. When this is deleted, Akismet will not be alerted. I use this to delete any comments I don’t want to be treated as spam, as otherwise their writers won’t be able to comment on other blogs.
If Akismet or the Moderation Settings are not activated, you will end up with a lot of unwanted spam. This is something I saw recently on a blog:
Since this was a relatively new blog, it was obvious that the 7,196 comments were spam. It was drastically slowing down this site and sending the wrong signals to the search engines, probably meaning it was given a penalty, preventing it from being indexed properly.
Other protection against spam
As your blog grows more popular, sometimes Akismet may not be enough. This means you must not deactivate Akismet, but add other spam-eaters to give it a helping hand.
One popular method is to add a Conditional CAPTCHA plugin. This gives the commenter a task to fulfil to prove they are human, and not a spamming ‘bot’:
Your blog’s dashboard will show you how much spam has been prevent by CAPTCHA:
There are other systems that ask you to log in via your social media platforms, such as Disqus:
Which requires you to remember a password – something else that hinders the process of commenting. Similar spam blocking systems/plugins I can suggest are Antispam Bee, Jetpack and Postmatic.
These are designed to prevent robotic spammers from commenting. But it won’t stop human commenters, and it may also put off your readers from leaving a comment.
A point worth noting: spammers tend to target older posts. So if you have a popular blog with an enthusiastic readership, adjust your discussion settings to allow new comments for only seven days. This will give your readers plenty of time to have their say, before closing to keep the spammers at bay.
How to cope with horrible comments
The whole point of blog comments is to allow your readers to express their point of view. You want them to feel comfortable in responding to your posts, and to let them know you are excited to receive them.
But as your blog becomes more popular, you are bound to receive more comments, some of which may not be as nice as you would like them to be. They may be negative and argumentative, disagreeing with you or trying to prove you are wrong.
This may be upsetting, but you could turn these negative comments to your advantage. Publishing negative comments shows you are able to accept alternative points of view. Whereas if you only published good comments, people might think you may have made them up, or you are over thorough with your moderation.
Also negative comments could also excite your readers into starting a discussion. Negativity stimulates arguments, either as back up, or put forward another point of view. If one reader sticks their neck out, others may follow to not be outdone. All this activity suggests popularity, which attracts attention of the search engines.
Remember to reply
It would be wise to reply to comments you think contain valuable substance. Thank them if they are correcting you, and put the matter right. If they have misunderstood the situation, carefully explain it better or in another way.
Whatever you do, respond calmly and politely. Avoid taking it personally and don’t rise to the occasion by answering in anger. If you are severely put out, write your answer elsewhere and sleep on it. Then go back to it in the cold light of day, and if it is relevant, carefully edit it to delete the anger before submitting your response.
It’s worth considering publishing negative comments (unless they are derogatory or inflammatory). The commenter may be expecting to see their response, and if they don’t they may comment again, this time louder, angrier and more frustrated.
Set some boundaries
Remember you also have the power to censor anything unsuitable within a comment before publishing it. Definitely remove comments that contain hateful or threatening language. You don’t want to advocate comments from trolls on your blog.
Try writing a commenting policy. State this is your personal site, and you have the right to moderate and edit comments, including the reasons why comments will be edited. Explain what you expect in a comment, such as good spelling and grammar, and a minimum of three sentences. And remember to enforce this in your own comments.
Even if you don’t get round to writing a commenting policy, think of the criteria you would expect when accepting and publishing comments. It’s a good idea to set some boundaries for yourself and your readers.
How to cope with trolls
Sometimes horrible comments go that bit further to being really nasty. The kind of person who writes this kind of comment is usually called a troll.
Trolls are out to insult you, incite hatred, even threaten you. They enjoy harming and intimidating others, spark heated debates, and are impulsive manipulators that make you doubt yourself. They do this by constantly questioning, undermining and finding fault with everything you write about.
These anonymous social misfits are usually intensely jealous of opinions and like to pick on particular subjects, female writers and bloggers of a different race or creed. They loathe emotion and sharing stories because they find it difficult to relate to people and how they feel, resulting in ridicule and general unpleasantness.
Avoid confusing a troll with a reader who hasn’t read the post properly.
Avoid confusing a troll with someone who has misunderstood the subject because they haven’t read the post properly. You can easily cope with those commenters. But when someone starts to constantly draw attention to themselves by delighting in disrupting the conversation, you know you have a problem.
Your moderation system will enable you to deal with such comments before they are published. Even though you might be the first read the horrible things from the troll, at least you can prevent anyone else from seeing them. Troll comments can put off and even drive other readers away from your blog.
How to respond
If you want to respond, focus on the good and positive, to counteract their bad and negative. Reply clearly, reasonably and tactfully. Stick to the real facts, highlighting what is true. Always keep to the point and maintain your cool in a calm and composed manner.
However, if a troll makes you angry or upset, do not respond at any cost. Vent your anger or express how upset you feel elsewhere, then when you’ve finished, walk away and forget about it. If you do return to read what you’re written, you should delete or throw it away.
By doing this you are denying the troll the result he craves by being so horrible to you. Once they finally realise they’re not going to succeed, eventually they will give up and go away. But they must never know how their comment affected you. That’s why silence is better than clever responses, which could fire them up even more.
Never take a troll’s comments personally or join in the argument. It’s not worth descending to their level by trying to win the debate, because you will inevitably lose. Instead continue to provide an open, respectful dialogue with the other commenters and encourage them to help you defend the blog and what it stands for.
How to adapt your content to encourage more comments
It can be quite desponding when you spend a lot of time and energy writing your best post ever, and nobody bothers to comment on it. Especially when you see other blogs with literally hundreds of comments.
So instead of blaming your readers, take a look at your own blog. What kind of content are you writing? Is your chosen subject something that will stimulate a response? Are you writing posts that are worth reading and commenting on?
Consider your content
Your blog posts always need to be suitably entertaining, informative or educational, but be careful of writing too much! Have you left any room for others to contribute? Have you covered absolutely everything about that subject? Are you overwhelming your readers so they feel uncomfortable about contributing?
Sometimes it’s not worth doing a lot of research to write an educative post. Consider omitting a point on purpose, deliberately not finishing your post or asking for someone to fill in the gaps. This encourages your readers to offer their version or provide what is needed.
Sometimes words are not enough. Capture the attention of a potential commenter through different media. Add an infographic to visually explain your post, a video to show what you mean or a podcast to explain something better.
Analyse your past content to see how you could improve your future posts to make them more likely to be commented on. Could you be friendlier by ‘speaking’ more to your readers, coming down to their level and using the same words they would use?
A chemical reaction
You could write a particular post with the aim to provoke a response. It could be sad, funny, angry, empathetic, jubilant, amazing, controversial, outrageous – whatever it is, it needs to twang your reader’s heartstrings or stimulate a particular brain wave to inspire them to want to write a comment.
Write something really personal. Especially if consists of a story your readers can relate to. People love stories, and will often want to contribute one of their own. If you’re clever enough to add in humour as well as humiliation, this will instantly make your posts more attractive towards receiving a comment.
Using emotion is a good tactic to encourage more comments. The more human you appear to your readers, the more comfortable they will feel with you and your blog. This will help increase your readership and develop a sense of community, who will be more likely to comment regularly whenever you post.
How easy is it to comment on your blog?
This may sound like a crazy question, but do you allow commenting on your blog?
Some bloggers have purposely turned off their comments. They diligently followed the actions of other bloggers without realising they are receiving comments again. Allow commenting again at the bottom of your posts, but not pages.
How prominent are your comment boxes? If your readers have to hunt for where they can comment, this may reduce their desire and put them off. Your comment box needs to be big and obvious, immediately accessible and not hiding behind a link saying ‘Leave a comment’.
Are there any barriers?
The best place to comment is underneath your post. Sometimes this is pushed to the bottom underneath other comments, bio boxes, related post suggestions, social sharing buttons and the like. The best themes include a linked prompt if the comment box gets buried underneath a copious amount of distractions.
How easy is it for your readers to comment? Do you have moderation plugins in place to foil ‘bot’ spammers that could be putting off real commenters? CAPTCHA devices and login systems like Disqus that require a password could become barriers to receiving spontaneous comments.
What device do your readers use to read your posts? People are much less likely to comment via their smart phones when they are out and about. And the time of year has an impact, as people comment more in the winter on their laptops when they are less distracted by their environment.
Make it easier
A simple call to action asking for comments at the bottom of your posts can achieve a better result. All you need to do is to ask; readers just need to be told what to do. Not all of them will automatically think “wouldn’t it be nice to leave a comment” unless they are prompted to do so.
Not every reader automatically thinks "wouldn't it be nice to leave a comment".
Give your readers a good reason or ask a pertinent question to increase your chances of a response. You could offer suggestions of which kind of comment they could leave. This may trigger feedback purely because you’ve made it easier for them.
Remind your readers that the comment box is a place where they can share their point of view, put the world to rights, correct an omission, ask a question, get something clarified or even express their disagreement to an opinion. Also their contribution doesn’t only have to refer to the post, but to other comments as well.
Are you sure you have enough time to read all of this?
How to set a good example through commenting
If you agree with the concept “do to others what you’d like done to you”, then start commenting on other blogs. You have to give before you can receive. It’s not worth moaning about your lack of comments, just get out and write some of your own.
Commenting is an excellent method of extending your expertise and publicising your knowledge. Always offer useful and constructive advice that could benefit others. Positive feedback draws the right kind of attention to you and your blog, and encourages other readers to visit and leave a reciprocal comment in return.
Read other blogs to fuel your own knowledge and curate information for your own posts. If you come across a useful piece of content, it’s only polite to let the author know you approve and have found it helpful. Leave a link back to the source to create a suitable ‘ping back’.
Show how it is done
Commenting allows you to show how a comment should be written. The art of proper comment writing is sorely neglected, and any author would be grateful to receive decent feedback. You could continue the conversation by replying to each other’s responses, which would attract both more readers and the search engine spiders.
Remember to answer all the comments you publish to show your appreciation the reader has made the effort. This could stimulate a lively discussion if you pitch your response right, and has the added benefit that replying instantly doubles the amount of comments!
Do some collaborative commenting with a friend. Get them to comment on your newly published post (to break the commenting duck). In return you write a comment on their next blog post. Their readers will see at least one comment and its answer, which gives a better impression the blog does have a regular readership.
Consistently reading and commenting on other blogs helps create blogging relationships, and attracts attention from influential bloggers who could offer you guest posts. Using similar keywords to the post in your comment could stimulate the search engines to index your reply as well as the host blog.
And since blog comments are not ethereal like social media comments, your contribution and its natural link to your blog will exist for the same duration as the post it’s attributed to. So your comment could continue to receive readers and traffic for a much longer time than a tweet or a Facebook update.
Start looking for like-minded blogs, or blogs your ideal readers regularly read, and start commenting on the posts. Make sure your contributions are of a very high standard to attract suitable interest to you and your blog.
Having the right mindset for commenting
It’s important to be in the right frame of mind when you comment. Also commenting should not be a rush job. You could do it when you have five minutes spare waiting in a bus queue, for example, but you won't be able to give it your full attention.
Commenting requires a positive attitude, especially when you are writing a response that disagrees with what you’ve just read. You may be opposed to what is contained in the post, but avoid coming across as derogatory or putting the author down.
Know your facts
When you put your point of view across, back it up with something worthwhile and helpful. Offer a good reason for your opposition, or solidify your knowledge with a recognised fact. Providing relevant fodder with your comment gives it more kudos and a higher standing.
Blog commenting requires more thought and substance than on social media. It is unlikely you will get an instant reply, so your contribution needs a proper structure to stand up on its own. Including an introduction and a conclusion will give it both the quality and quantity it deserves.
Schedule your commenting
To benefit properly from commenting on other blogs, it would be wise to set up a schedule. Make a list of suitable blogs, and comment on them regularly as soon as a new post is published. This schedule could be similar to updating your social media profiles and checking out other people’s updates.
Use commenting to coincide with your long-term marketing plan. Commenting on influential blogs draws attention to you before you ask for a guest post slot. This way the author appreciates your expertise, as well as experiencing your excellent writing.
Comment writing is a good exercise for learning précis writing.
Comment writing is a good exercise for learning précis writing. Learn how to express yourself succinctly within a small space to include everything that is necessary and relevant without missing anything out. It is also vital you get to know a blog’s writing style and the type of language used.
Remember to recognise and record any successes from your commenting. Repeat where it is acknowledged, assess why nothing is working elsewhere, and find new sources to further your commenting regime.
Spontaneity in commenting
Commenting benefits from spontaneity, especially in social media which is in real-time. Commenters expect immediate spontaneous replies, provided the author is online and active on the social platform.
Social media thrives on spontaneity. Discussions and conversations ping across at an alarming rate. Rarely do these comments contain any substance, and are more likely to be incomplete. There is no need, as clarification or affirmation can arrive within a second, and the developing thread will contain all the information needed.
When blogs were first developed, there was no need for moderation. Reasonably instantaneous responses were possible if both the commenter and author were simultaneously online. It was like texting without the announcing noise of a new contribution. The blog needed to be constantly refreshed, but this was half the fun.
Nowadays, the necessity of moderation, along with other spam blockers, causes any spontaneity to evaporate with any reactional desire from the readers. There are too many barriers in place to stimulate spontaneous commenting.
Cultivate a community
Start developing a blog community with your regular readers by understanding exactly what they want and giving it to them. Focus on making them feel comfortable before asking them to comment.
Popular blogs should limit their commenting availability to seven days. They know their enthusiastic readers will be straining at the leash to comment, and anything worth saying will have been submitted within a week. They also know spammers focus on older posts, so closing comments early prevents them.
Content that is silly, passionate, emotional, relatable, shareable, trending or a reaction to the latest news is much more likely to receive a spontaneous comment. This needs to be time-dependent, instantaneous and in real-time, like a news flash or a developing plot-line in a soap opera.
Read popular blogs to understand their techniques, set up various alerts to be the first to know what’s happening, and experiment to find out what works and what doesn’t. Going viral is a combination of good luck, chance, being in the right place at the right time, and knowing exactly what to say.
Longevity and staying power
A notable difference between blogs and social media is how long comments stick around. Social media comments last from a few seconds to maybe a couple of days, depending which platform is used. They are rapidly superseded by new comments or discussions, which are also pushed down into oblivion never to be seen again.
Whereas a blog comment stays with its host post for as long as the blog is active. Some commenters find this disconcerting, and are put off by the fact that whatever they say can be read years later. We have become so used to accepting the flighty nature of comments, some find it worrying to have them preserved in aspic on a blog.
Lack of popularity
Blog readers in the future will wonder at the lack of social connection and responses. They will get the impression that readers were few and far between, even if this was not the case. And this lack of feedback prevents the concept of popularity, which can attract more potential readers and commenters.
Another point to note is the quality of comments. The spontaneity and style of social media commenting means that some may not be worth saving. These are suitable for instant discussions within a relaxed environment, with easier access, a wider audience, fewer restrictions (no moderation), and a freer space in which others can also join in.
The style of social media comments means some may not be worth saving.
Move comments elsewhere
When Copyblogger closed its comments, Brian Clark’s team said it was to encourage more in-depth discussions on social media. They may well have succeeded, but they would have missed out on preserving any of these worthy conversations that might have been interesting for other blog readers to find under the original post.
One plus side is that some commenters may have been compelled to have their say via their own blog posts, with reference links back to the original source. However, this appreciation can only be noted if the resulting pingback and trackback notifications are published, which they aren’t always.
I feel short-changed if I read a brilliant post and find there are no commenting facilities. I have no desire to find the author on social media to express what I thought of the post, because the reason why I wanted to comment will quickly evaporate. And anyway, I don’t know them well enough to comment directly on their timeline.
Visibility differences between social media and blog commenting
The most obvious way to promote a blog post is to copy its URL into social media. This shows the headline of the post, accompanied by its link and possibly the featured image associated with it.
Readers scan through social media to find the headline and link, which may tempt them to click to read the post. This may get read immediately, bookmarked for later or even not read at all, merely acknowledged by ‘liking’ the post and leaving a curt comment to show appreciation.
So many posts on social media suffer this fate. How do you know whether the person who liked or retweeted your post on Twitter has actually read it? This acknowledgement shows they noticed your post, but is no guarantee they have bothered to absorb the information contained within it.
Read it first
Commenting is much more likely to happen after someone has read the post. This is because the comment box is located at the bottom, so readers will find it there. They may also use the social sharing buttons to distribute your post’s link further within their social profiles.
Commenting is sporadic on social media because it is such a fast moving information source. People invariably don't spend time reading content on social media; they tend to absorb it on the go, flicking through a time-line or browsing through a page. Introductions with the link will make them decide whether to read the post or not.
Location is important
Comment exactly where you saw good content is much easier, eg on social media, rather than clicking through to the blog to leave a comment there. This is fine if you use the same standards and techniques for blog commenting. A ‘nice post’ answer is not useful, nor explicit enough, to encourage others to join in too.
Benefitting from social media commenting requires encouraging interaction from other readers. Done correctly means you have the potential to develop into a discussion. This helps to increase your popularity as a blog commenting author.
Keep to the point
However, these comments fail to refer to the host post. Even interesting discussions can verge off at tangents, as they are seen in isolation without any connection to the blog. These conversations could be channelled better if they took place underneath the original source.
Blog comments are owned by the post's author, of course, but who actually owns social media comments? They exist at the whim of the social platform they are written on, and who views them is at the mercy of the algorithms, which determine where reader traffic is directed.
How blog commenting connects with social media
In 2014 Copyblogger closed the commenting facilities on the blog and moved their conversations to social media. The reason was because they said they would get more in-depth discussions there than on the blog.
If this was true then, it certainly is the case now. There is much more engagement and discussion on social media. One eminent blogger said to me that whenever he commented on a blog post, the author rarely replies, whereas if he commented on the author’s Facebook page, he invariably receives a response.
Are people more conversational on social media? It is easier to contribute without moderation against spam. Working in real-time means an instant response, and a higher visibility allows others to join in to enhance or continue the discussion.
Conversation started on blogs
Before social media, conversation and discussion happened on blogs. After all, this is where commenting was born. However, instant communication has now moved elsewhere, and with it the art of proper commenting.
You can’t write a blog post in a social media update. You are either limited to the number of characters, or you know a long update won’t get read. Social media may be not for writing posts, but it is somewhere a post can be promoted, through discussion. Engagement on social media is perfect for grooming new readers for your blog.
If you've successfully gained a lively community on social media, the next step would be to encourage them to move over to your blog. Include lots of engaging call to actions within your posts, and provide them with tips, suggestions or even tell them what to say. Eventually this will result in some comments.
Finding new readers for your blog
Social media is perfect for finding blog readers. It is a highly visible place where you can make friends and contacts. Here you can expose your blog posts to a much wider audience. But you will succeed better if the process is not automated. This means focusing on enticing introductions and always being available to quickly respond.
Social media engagement like the the warm up act before the real band comes on stage.
Social media engagement is like the warm up act before the real band comes on stage. Potential readers have to ‘want’ to click your post’s link to read it. They won’t bother if there's no incentive. However, once they have found out more about you through social media interaction, they will be more likely to read and comment on your blog.
Eventually your blog’s new tribe will start to relax and feel more comfortable with you and your blog. The easiness of social media needs to percolate over to your writing, and this includes regularly answering comments to maintain a community feel, which is so important for all blogs.
How to make your comments more interesting
If you want your comments to be always published, they need to be totally readable. This means making them as interesting as the post, or they may get ignored or overlooked. You will also need to get them read by the other readers and commenters, or your efforts will be a waste of time.
Draw attention to your comments for the right reasons. Only share relevant knowledge and use this expertise to help others to succeed. Show your appreciation by acknowledging the subject and adding more to stimulate a discussion. Express an opinion only if it helps to further the conversation.
Speak in your comments
Comment as if you are having a conversation with the author. This instantly creates a rapport with anyone who reads it, regardless to whom it is directed. It will also encourage other readers to join in with their own comments.
Conversational comments work best if you use the same vocabulary as the author and other commenters. Glean which words to use from the post, analyse the level of understanding from the other comments, and adapt your delivery so you talk to the author without alienating anybody else who might be reading it.
Remember to read all the other comments thoroughly as well as the post. This stops you from repeating anything unnecessarily. Try to understand the general mood before you offer an opinion, fill in a knowledge gap, or present an alternative side to the argument.
Encourage others to participate
Consider starting a discussion amongst the other commenters. Even though there is the inevitable delay caused by moderation, this may result in a more measured and considered argument, because each comment is forced to contain more information.
Any discussion is considerably enhanced if more than one reader becomes involved. Just like in social media, other commenters are free to join in, as long as they refer back to the original post. Include the reference as a quotation so everybody knows what you're talking about.
Remember to focus your comments solely on the subject. Any digression could result in your comment not getting published. Either the moderation system will mark it as spam, or the author will ignore it with a preference for more relevant contributions.
Replying to comments
It is important to reply to all your comments, thanking the reader for their time and trouble for making the effort. Once you decide to publish a comment on your blog, it is a good idea to reply at the same time. Likewise if anyone answers one of your comments you left somewhere else, it would be polite to respond to it.
Replying to comments is good because it shows your gratitude, it helps to further the conversation and it also has the added benefit of doubling the amount of comments you get on your blog.
It takes two to tango
Blogging is not a one-way conversation. Closing comments gives the impression the author is preaching to their readers. Without this facility blogs are no more than static websites, which is not what they're supposed to be. And without feedback the author can become lonely and despondent.
Comments are as if your readers are having a personal 1:1 with you. Think of a comment as a review of your post, which they are willing to share with the other readers. You are relying on their goodwill to be helpful and constructive, even when they disagree or want to offer an alternative opinion.
Show your appreciation
In your reply, let your readers know their comment has been read and understood, and that you appreciate their efforts. Make the commenter feel special and valued, to encourage them to comment again. Continue their comment with extra relevant knowledge that could help other readers, without undermining their contribution.
Make the commenter feel special and valued, to encourage them to comment again.
If the comment offers an alternative point of view, take time to consider it properly before replying. Put yourself into the commenter’s shoes to see it from their side, and find out why they wrote it. Sometimes there may be an underlying reason, which you could benefit from if you bothered to find it out.
Watch your reaction
Never reply back in anger. You must not alienate your commenters, or they and your readers may never return. Write your answer elsewhere and then sit on it for a while before returning to edit it. You will probably see things differently once you’ve calmed down.
Commenting allows you to show off your personality. This is your chance to relate yourself with your readers, to get them to know, like and trust you. Own up to your mistakes and reveal your vulnerabilities, so that your readers get to understand you are just like them too.
Remember only about 10% of readers have any inclination to leave some feedback, and then 1% will do so regularly. Therefore it is essential for you to maintain a healthy relationship with your regular commenters so they return and continue to contribute.
Finding quality blogs to comment on
Bloggers not only need to write, they need to read a lot too. It's all about gleaning information for research purposes, keeping abreast of latest developments, checking out what others are writing about, or understanding what your readers want to read.
Therefore it's important to collate a suitable library of blogs to visit on a regular basis. Start small, maybe five blogs at first, and add more to the list whenever you come across a valuable and relevant example.
Also decide why you want to comment. Is it to position you in front of prospective clients, to raise awareness of your expertise, or to make strategic connections with other authors. This will determine which blogs you should look for.
Where to look for blogs
Search for relevant blogs via directories like Alltop.com. Try visiting blogging platforms such as WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr. Join community or bookmarking sites like Digg, Reddit or Mix to see which blogs are popular in your chosen field.
Trawl through social networking sites to see which blogs people are talking about. Follow various hashtags or keywords to search out suitable blogs in your relevant subject, Google your chosen keyword to see which blogs appear in the top searches.
Regularly visit a news blog like News360.com to keep abreast of the latest updates from blogs that are recognised for their quality. Read curation blogs and follow the guest authors’ blogs if you feel a special connection with what they write about.
Use digital marketing tools such as Mention.com for understanding your readers or BuzzSumo.com for finding out which topics are being shared across the web. Klear.com finds influencers in your industry so you can comment on their blogs.
And once you've found them
Subscribe to these blogs by joining their RSS feeds or subscribing to a reader like Feedly.com. This will update you whenever a new post has been published. Also set up online alerts to bring in updates of the most popular posts that have been published.
Once you’ve accrued your list of suitable blogs, you need to read their content on a regular basis. However, if you’re short of time, you could save these interesting posts in an application like Pocket to read later. Pocket also has the added benefit of a recommendations page for you to find more blogs in your chosen subject.
And remember the importance of being the first to comment. Your reader feeds automatically notify you whenever new posts are published, so jump in to have your say and express your opinion before anyone else. This is a great way of getting noticed and setting the scene to your favour.
Commenting to form a community
To attract readers and ultimately commenters, your blog needs to be seen as the go-to venue for them. Somewhere where they feel safe and wanted. A place where they know they will find lots of relevant information they are interested in. And where they will find readers similar to them and how they think.
Your posts should not only provide what your readers are looking for, but deliver it in such a way they can instantly understand and act upon it. This information needs to be extremely accessible and easy to find, and the commenting facilities should offer a welcome environment without prejudice where they can express their opinions.
Stu McLaren said: “People come for content, they stay for a community.” If you want a continuous stream of readers and commenters, it’s important to make them feel special, as if you’re writing your blog only for them.
A safe haven
A successful community blog is like a central hub where like-minded readers gather to discuss the blog’s content and safely share what they think. They also know they can offer suggestions for future posts, which helps the blog provide content the readers want to read.
Giving your community something to do means it has more chance of thriving. Ask for feedback, answer your readers’ frequently asked questions, accept guest posts, and collect contributions for round-up posts. Your readers will love getting a mention, especially if you link to their blogs.
A community can also police unscrupulous commenters they see as disrupting their equilibrium. A troll will get short shrift and spam will be kindly pointed out so it can be deleted. A good community blog self-cleanses itself to make a better experience for others.
Avoid driving them away
Blogs who close their commenting facilities and force readers to comment on social media will destroy any community. Your readers will melt away as the boundaries are widened, diluted by other commenters who aren’t privileged to have to such a distinct knowledge base.
You may think having such a closed community isn't a good thing. However, if your readers are on the same wave length as you, they have the potential to be loyal and passionate advocates, tell others about your blog, and bring back a larger readership for you.
Think how you can adapt your blog to make it into a friendlier environment for your readers, to encourage them to comment. What special qualities do you have to share which could result in a regular readership ready to help you and your blog?
Commenting to make friends and connections
Starting a community is a great way of making blogging friends. Your blog could create a safe haven for like-minded readers who are willing to collaborate together to benefit your blog. Encourage them to comment on your posts and each other’s comments. Cultivate any discussions that arise to increase the popularity of your blog.
Encourage them to subscribe to your blog (so they are notified whenever you publish a post), and also to sign up to your newsletter. Offer your subscribers inside knowledge about your activities, first chance to participate in your projects, and a special discount for any products or services you have.
Use your readers to help you
Readers can help build your blog's popularity. Ask for their opinions to encourage more comments. Get them to suggest ideas for your next posts, so you write what they want to read. This will not only encourage them to return, but also to recommend your blog to other potential readers and ultimately commenters.
Search for your regular commenters and connect with them elsewhere. Engaging needn’t only be through comments on your blog. Find out more about them and what they do (and how you can help them) through conversation on social media.
If your readers have blogs, regularly comment on them. Remember to enhance their posts and help other readers as well. If you are successful, they will learn to look forward to your contributions, and be more likely to comment on your blog in return.
Guest blogging can bring traffic back to your blog. Engaging and leaving helpful comments on the potential host blog will draw the right kind of attention to you, and allows the author to recognise your expertise and writing skills.
Explore other communities outside your blog, such as social networking groups or social bookmarking sites. This is where you can place your blog in front of more potential readers. However, remember to engage with the group members first before submitting your post, and to be present to acknowledge any comments you receive.
Commenting also generates backlinks back to your blog. Part of search engine optimisation is to gather relevant external links, and obtaining these from social media interaction is another way of extending the popularity of your blog, something the search engines are also programmed to notice.
How blog design prevents readers from commenting
Imagine you’re a reader that is impressed with a post they have just read. They are bursting with their point of view on the subject and are ready to write a comment.
So they look down the post to see where they could leave a comment, only to be met with this:
This is a very poor example. It’s merely a link that’s almost hidden at the end of a post. It could easy be overlooked or disregarded, and you’d have to be very determined to bother to click it to find out it was somewhere to leave a comment.
They would be looking for a proper commenting box, and even this reduced version would be better than nothing:
What they need is a comment box that is obvious:
Make it obvious
Comment boxes should be clean, clear and easy to use. This includes a nice big space for the comment, with compact fields for the commenter to add in their details before they submit their contribution.
Ideally comment boxes shouldn’t be hiding below a lot of distractions such as social sharing buttons, the author’s bio, related posts suggestions, or a digital marketing pop-up to encourage a newsletter subscription.
And sometimes the comment box can be languishing at the bottom of the post underneath a sea of existing comments. If the blog is very popular, being confronted with 100 other comments can be off-putting for a nervous blog reader. No wonder so many readers are reticent about commenting.
Why readers are prevented from commenting
The odds are quite low if you consider that less than 10% of blog readers would think about leaving a comment. You would need to have a lot of visitors to your blog to guarantee a reasonable amount of feedback.
This means 90% are happy to just read and move on, preferring to remain anonymous. Some may be scared of leaving a comment, worried about how others perceive what they have written. Others may feel unqualified to contribute to the discussion. And many may be too nervous to ‘break the ice’ if nobody else has commented first.
A commenting incentive
Commenting does require a certain mindset. This is usually found amongst voracious readers who are blessed with lots of confidence. Commenting is mostly common sense; all you need to do is to show your appreciation, thank the author and add a little bit to continue the conversation.
Perhaps this desire to express yourself in response to something you’ve read is a more common trait found in America. This filters down to our young people who are well acquainted with blogs and social media, but older readers are more reticent and guarded about the paper trail they leave behind on the Internet.
No desire to comment
There isn't much you can do if your blog attracts readers who prefer to remain silent. However, it may be worth taking a good look at your blog’s content to see whether anything could be improved to stimulate more of a response.
Perhaps you’ve covered your post’s subject so completely, there’s nothing left for your readers to add? Or perhaps you’ve forgotten to include a call to action at the bottom of the post inviting your readers to comment? Or perhaps your content doesn’t resonate enough with your readers so they feel comfortable about commenting?
Some readers are afraid to comment on a blog as they see it as a more public place than social media. But Facebook and Twitter have much wider audiences, open to all readers with any kind of intention. However, they know these comments will soon disappear, whereas blog comments are visible for as long as the blog is live.
And perhaps some readers may also suffer from apathy, or do not have enough time to stop and comment, or find the process too difficult, especially if they are reading on a hand held mobile device. They will always have an excuse why they can’t leave a comment.
How technology stops readers from commenting
The rise of spam means the commenting area of a post is besieged with CAPTCHA and other mechanisms to keep spammers at bay. This can be very off-putting for real commenters who want to leave their feedback.
Some comment systems such as Disqus require logging into another system, to prove the commenter’s identity. Remembering your username and password is yet another barrier to overcome. This gets unnecessarily complicated and can cause some consternation with privacy.
How responsive are you?
Using a mobile device is not conducive to letting your readers leave a comment. People prefer to use them for surfing and reading blogs, rather than writing and commenting. The keyboards are also small and inaccessible, tend to be jumpy and are plagued with predictive texting.
The blog needs to have a theme or template that is ‘responsive’, eg suitable to be viewed via a small screen. Failure to do this not only aggravates the search engines, it makes it nigh on impossible to contribute a comment because everything is so small.
At the bottom of the first image below is a comment box on an unresponsive blog, compared to the second image showing a responsive mobile comment box:
An added aggravation is sometimes once you’ve gone through all the loops and hurdles to comment, by the time you’ve finished and you’re ready to publish, your device freezes and you’ve lost everything! Solution: remember to copy your comment to save it before publishing!