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J: Today we have Alice with us. Hello Alice!
A: Hello, how are you?
J: I'm excellent, thank you. Thanks for taking time to do this, I know life is busy.
A: Oh, well, it's OK. I'm always willing to help people out, especially people with podcasts.
J: Excellent. So let's dive straight in: tell us about your business and what you do, Alice.
A: I run a business called The Commenting Club, and it's all about trying to educate people into the benefits of commenting more online, especially in a social capacity, trying to encourage engagement with individuals and businesses, rather than the poor, lacklustre engagement and interaction we find mostly on the internet at the moment, especially on blogs.
J: Well I think that's so important in this day and age, I'm keen to ask you some questions around that. But before we do, I always love to hear your story, how you got to where you got to; are you happy to share some of your journey with us?
A: Well many moons ago I had a website and somebody told me the best way to promote it was via a blog. And then I found out the blogging concept, the idea of blogging, was far more interesting than the actual content of my website.
So then I decided to go ahead and try and explain blogging to people, and found that they couldn't understand it, because the majority of blogging at the time was extremely geeky, with loads of jargon and difficult words. So from that the Fairy Blog Mother was born, to explain blogging to ordinary people in everyday words.
But since then, because it was such a long time ago, things have moved on, WordPress has evolved, people understand blogging much more, and I'm not needed any more. So I branched out into the world of commenting, engagement and interaction.
I feel it's a branch from blogging that is poorly represented, and therefore if people learn to do blogging well, they should be able to engage well, and that's a way of promoting their posts. That's why it's a branch from blogging.
J: Right, excellent. And for somebody who is not sure what you mean by commenting onto blogs, what's your definition?
A: If somebody writes a blog, they should have at the bottom of it the commenting box made open for people to leave their reply, to have their say, to say what they think about the post. It's a form of feedback to the author which is extremely valuable to the person who wrote the post.
It also allows the author to then reply, and continue the conversation with that particular commenter. And that's what engagement is, it's a two way process, it's a dialogue between the author and the reader, which other people can read as well, and therefore enjoy the repartee and conversation which happens.
And makes obviously the blog post more interesting, and also the interaction more interesting, people love a conversation, they love reading what other people have to say.
J: Yes, and it can make a real difference to the engagement level, as you say.
A: It makes the blog seem more popular. And a more popular blog is not only interesting to passers-by who read the post, it is also interesting to the search engines or to the algorithms within the social media platforms, because they perceive this popularity as excellent content which is worth indexing or sharing to create a bigger reach.
J: Right, excellent.
A: So the more engagement you have, the more popular your blog becomes, and therefore the more people you will get coming to it.
J: Fabulous. So I know that some people who have started their websites, including myself in that, and would love to have that engagement with people commenting. So do you have any ideas about how we can get more engagement as authors ourselves?
A: Well the best thing to do is go out and start engaging on other people's blogs. Because if you give, then eventually people will give back to you.
Now that's more difficult, but if you can find various blogs within your niche, or have the kind of readers you want coming back to your blog, then start commenting on somebody else's blog, somebody else's posts, and saying things that are helpful and useful and valuable, and generally boost up the content of the post, and then people are going to notice your comments much more.
And if you provide such value that makes a difference to the author or the person reading it, they're going to be interested to find out what else you've said, and will go back to your blog and read your posts, and hopefully comment there.
So that's a great way of getting the right kind of person to come back to your blog, as opposed to just farming out your post through SEO and the search engines where anybody, Tom, Dick or Harry, can come past your blog but are not very interested at all and are less likely to engage.
J: So it sounds like there's a lot more involved than just saying "I enjoyed reading your post".
A: You really want to get people to say "I really enjoyed reading your post because XYZ really interested me and I'm going to go away and do ABC with this information to make my blog better, or to make my life better." And that's a proper engaged comment.
J: And that makes a big difference, because a lot of people get what is a more spammy kind of comments on their blogs, and would really treasure somebody having the time to write a much more detailed response.
A: It's more difficult nowadays with people to write a detailed response, because the commenting style on social media is very bitty, it's very limited, people don't expand their thoughts. And whereas if you write on a blog, you have to write a bit more than the usual "Hi, nice post" sort of thing.
I do have a free course for people to learn how to write a blog that's better, write a comment that's better, and you can get that from my website and I'll give you details at the end.
It's free at the moment, so take advantage, and once you've gone through this, you'll understand how to write the most fantastic comments which will definitely get the most engagement, and bring loads of people back to your blog as a result.
J: OK, so, sometimes you get some negative comments in the comments, as an author what would you do about those?
A: Well, the first thing to do is to accept the fact that anybody who's being negative is either – if they're a troll, then they're unfortunate and you can ignore them and not have anything to do with them.
Or if they are a real commenter, they may be negative because they want to help you, they want to correct something you've done, or they could disagree with what you've written.
Everybody's entitled to free speech, everybody's entitled to have their own opinion. It's the way that it's delivered that can make people upset, and I have been exploring the concept of how people perceive negative criticism and bad feedback.
In a sense you have to learn to stand away from it and see if from the other person's point of view, and try and read between the lines as to why this particular comment is negative. And if you can do that, in a sort of subjective manner, you can find it not so bad or so horrible than it first appeared to be.
And if you take time out before you write your response, you probably find that subconsciously you've worked out a really good answer, that would either satisfy the person or give them whatever they deserve from such a horrible comment. Don't get dragged in, don't get riled up or upset or angry about it.
J: That's good advice for any sort of negative feedback, whether it's in an email or comments.
J: Yes, so it's not just a case of if you get a negative comment, and you just deleting it or forgetting about it, actually if you have a thoughtful reply, it can actually increase engagement and a conversation.
A: Well certainly if you reply to it, after a period of time when you've calmed down and aren't feeling quite so aggravated by it, you will have a more considered and beneficial answer, which other people might see and might want to leave their own comments in return.
By leaving a considered response, it will certainly entice others to have their say. And the more you get on that particular thread, again it increases the popularity element and makes it far more interesting to other people who come by that particular first comment.
They could either agree with you, or agree with the person who write the first negative comment – whatever happens, the more you get coming into that thread, the more interesting it becomes, and the more you will attract new people back to your blog.
J: OK, excellent. So if you're using this as a strategy to bring people to your website, and do what you said, to go to other people's websites and put some thoughtful comments on those – in your experience, how often should you plan to do that and how many sites should you visit to get maximum return on your time?
A: Well, I should think how much you could feasibly do it on a regular basis. Do you think you could managed to visit, say, five posts a day, to go and read them, read the stuff that comes out, and write a thoughtful comment on it?
You can help yourself by joining people's feeds and going to websites like Feedly.com to see stuff that automatically pops into your inbox whenever a new post is posted. And then you can decide whether the latest post on such-and-such a blog is worth commenting on, and then write a considered reply.
It's almost like if you are willing to respond to somebody on social media – it may not be in the same vein as social media requires a different tactic – but if you can bother to reply to someone on social media, you can also bother to reply to someone's post.
And if you have these mechanisms in place to get the latest post fed into your facilities, you're aware of them, you can then read them and decide if they warrant a comment or not.
But if you think you can do five a day, do five a day, and if you think you could do two a day, do two a day. But don't do it so you suddenly do 30 in one day and leave it for the rest of the week, because that's not going to help anybody.
J: Ah, so the timing is important as well then, spreading it out over – doing a little bit each day other than doing a batch in one go.
A: Yes, that's much more important in every aspect in engaging and commenting, is to do it strategically, spread out whenever you have time, so you don't feel bamboozled or overloaded with this concept or this task. It should be something that you can do with ease and and that you're really interested and that you want to do it. That's what's important.
J: Yes, thanks, and I guess with everybody flooding over to social media, and overwhelmed with the amount of comments that's on there, this could be an actual advantage by going to visit individual blogs and building up relationships for or less on a one-t0-one basis.
A: Yes, it's important to spread your visibility around the web, all without social media, because commenting just doesn't happen on blogs, it happens in forums, in groups, in pages, all sorts of places online.
So it's all about not just going out commenting just to make a noise, because that doesn't help anybody – it doesn't help you, it doesn't help the person you write it on. It's all about thinking carefully about what you're going to say, and therefore how his comes across to the person who's reading it.
Can they use it, is it valuable to them, does it make an impression on them, does it enhance your reputation, does it allow them to take the information you've shared and go away and do something tangible with it, can it make a difference to their lives?
If the comment you've written has created a good enough impression and people can benefit from what you've written, they're more likely to remember who you are.
And if you constantly come up with something similar – I know this is a tall order because it's quite hard to do – but if you can come up with regularly, or semi-regularly, with information of the same ilk, the same standard, providing information for people who can go away and use what you've written, then your reputation will start to soar, people will see you as the as the go-to expert, and they will be more likely to go back to your latest post to comment on it as well.
So it's a way of being helpful and valuable and useful and beneficial to others by spreading your expertise through commenting boxes.
J: Sounds great. So what would be your top three tips for writing comments?
A: My first tip would be to read it properly without skim reading, because so many people just skim read blogs nowadays, they're always time poor and haven't got time, so definitely read it properly from beginning to end to get the full understanding.
And while you're reading it, think what is it that you are gaining from this post. If you haven't gained anything, don't bother commenting. It's not worth it obviously because of the poor quality of the post.
But if you have gained some knowledge or an ideal concept or had your question answered, then the second thing would be to go into the comment box and greet the author of the blog by their name, as that introduces you and gets their attention.
Then you say how much you enjoyed the post, and then what the post has meant to you, and how it has inspired you, and then say what you're going to do with the information you've got from that post.
And the third thing then is to thank them, and then to sign off using your own name. This is a very simple process of topping and tailing with some juicy stuff in the middle, which the majority of people don't actually do – they just zap off a single sentence which isn't useful to anybody, whether it's for themselves or for the author of the post.
J: Right, excellent, well thank you for that. I understand you have a book coming out soon?
A: I have been working on a book for ages and ages, but it's coming out soon, yes, so I must get myself into a situation when I can start promoting it properly.
It's going to be all about how to be kind and considerate on the web through commenting, and that's very applicable at the moment because you see so many negative and horrible and nasty and unhelpful comments around.
And if people knew how to comment properly, then they would be less likely to produce such negative and unhelpful comments, because the comments themselves would be fuller and more succinct and more applicable for the purpose they are there for.
So how to be kind, how to write excellent comments, and how to make the world a much more happy and generally satisfactory place through the power of commenting.
J: Ah, looking forward to it. So when they've listened to this and they would like to find out about your free course, and find out more about what you do and how commenting can become part of their marketing platform. So how do they contact you Alice?
A: You can go to my website, it's called www.thecommentingclub.co.uk, and on the first page is a big green box saying if you want to learn how to write the best comment in the world, then click here. And that takes you directly to my free course, which gives you everything you need to know about how to write the best comment in the world, or to become the best commenter in the world.
J: Ah, excellent, and we will put that detail on our website as that link.
A: Thank you.
J: So thank you so much for sharing your story and your insights into commenting, and I must admit it is an area I have probably neglected and will look back into now.
A: You can definitely start thinking how you can comment better to get more comments back on your site. You will be amazed at the difference it will make to you, it will increase your Domain Authority of your blog quite considerably, the more interest you get through people coming back to engage with you and engage with other people as well. It's a two-way process, it doesn't stop with one coming to you, you should go to others as well.
J: Excellent. So this has been a podcast for business owners by business owners. So until next time see you soon. See you Alice!
A: Thank you very much!