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The Perfect Host: Comment Moderation

Ah, the elusive comment. All bloggers know the joy of the comment notification, the disappointment of those posts where the…

Ah, the elusive comment. All bloggers know the joy of the comment notification, the disappointment of those posts where the “Leave a Comment” prompt never changes to a number. A good comment thread can elevate a lackluster post, and a bad one – one that’s full of in-fighting or self-promotion – can turn off new readers. I read some blogs for the comments alone. Certain bloggers have built communities of loyal commenters whose insightful and entertaining conversations are almost more fun than the posts themselves.

So how do you encourage good commenting on your site, and discourage bad behavior (or silence)? Here are some ideas:

  • End with a prompt. At the end of each post, encourage comments by asking a question or requesting feedback. This lets your readers know that your blog isn’t just a monologue – you value their opinions and want to hear from them.
  • Reply to comments. Your job doesn’t end when you hit publish. When readers leave comments, keep the conversation going with a thoughtful reply. You can even reply directly from the notification email, before it has time to slip your mind.
  • But don’t reply to every comment. If you have quite a lot of comments and you reply to each with a simple ‘thanks,’ your comment thread isn’t going to be as interesting to readers. Think of your replies as a way to add something substantial that will build on the discussion.
  • Police (politely). Ok, I’ll admit that an occasional train wreck in the comment section can be luridly entertaining, but for the most part, it’s best not to encourage or allow nasty and abusive comments. They intimidate new readers, derail conversations, and distract you from good blogging. Give them a polite warning, and if they don’t shape up, give them the boot.
  • Post commenting guidelines. If you find yourself doing a lot of policing, an excellent way to be transparent about the type of comments you will and will not permit is to post some simple guidelines. This can help you attract the kind of commenters you want, and deter unwanted behavior. (For an example, check out the Daily Post’s!)
  • Don’t approve spam. Sounds like a no-brainer, but spam can be tough to recognize. While approving spam might up your comment count, it will discourage real readers from participating, and it will attract more spammers to your site.
  • Return the visit. Developing friendships with your readers is one of the best parts of blogging. If you have loyal commenters, make sure you visit and comment on their blogs, as well. If they like what you write, chances are you’ll be into their stuff, too.

Remember, you’re in complete control of who comments about what on your blog. Ultimately, the comments that appear on your blog become a part of the content you’re presenting to the world, so don’t forget to give your comment section the attention it deserves.

Does your blog have a pretty lively comment section, or do you wish there was more activity? Have you discovered any effective ways to improve the comments you receive? (See what I did there?)

218 Comments

      1. Oh man. My mom is the last person I’d ever want to go visiting my blog.

        ‘Cuz then she’d find out I never grew out of Transformers.

    1. Creeped
      Couldn’t find my way via gravatar to your webcite. It’s not connected.
      Interesting name. Wanted to check you out.
      When you link up so I can find you, message me, please. : )

      1. No, no. It seems after all this time, I had never properly set up my gravatar. Yikes. Maybe THAT’S why I don’t have many visitors.

        Yes, that’s why. It’s got to be! Doesn’t it…

        Anyway, all fixed!

  1. I adore the people who comment on my blog. It always is sort of a mirror for me about how my post was perceived, received, and utilized. The super loyal ones warm my heart; it was definitely an emotionally-rewarding benefit of blogging that I didn’t expect when I started!

    1. So true! I’m often surprised by how readers respond to my posts, too – sometimes a post I thought was meh turns out to be a hit. And well, sometimes the opposite, too. ;)

      1. Haha I have definitely experienced the opposite as well. I think that is what made me realize how much meaning those little comments do have! :)

  2. It’s always good to receive a comment. I try to respond, sometimes it’s just difficult to find the time and then the moment is gone. I’m always striving to do better……

  3. I totally agree with everything you’ve suggested and try to do all of these things. I’m finding that some of my subscribers are shy about signing in to comment. They quite frequently send me emails with comments instead. I’m trying to encorage them to punch the submit comment button but it’s not easy. However, I’ve had some great discussions and discovered some pretty cool blogs. I’m not giving up on them. I want to make it work. My subscriptions and views are augmenting regularly and that’s great. I’ll just have to keep up the good work. Thanks for the very useful post.

    1. How interesting! I’ve noticed this sometimes, too, not sure what would help. Have you had much success with encouraging them to comment publicly?

      Of course, if you’re reaching readers, that’s fantastic, whether they’re commenting or not!

      1. Some of my friends are extremely shy and others feign not knowing how to comment. Really? That makes me laugh. I keep trying to push them by telling them that it makes an interesting conversation. I’m not giving up on them. some of my friends won’t subscribe but I’m sure they read my posts. It’s all good!!!

      2. When someone sends me an interesting response by e-mail, I write and ask if I can post it for them in the comments section. That helps to break the ice for reluctant commenters.

        I get great comments. Not many, but those I get are insightful, thoughtful and sometimes funny or rueful. And I’ve come to “know” people who comment, and made new connections.

    2. I find this to be the case as well. They write insightful paragraphs on email with their response, or the same is true on Facebook where they respond on my page but not in the comments for the post. Either way, I’m glad to hear from them.

      1. I haven’t yet made a Facebook page for my blog. Do you find that it’s helped you pick up subscribers and views?

      2. I haven’t established a Facebook page for my blog and am holding off on doing so for now. I do post a link of each new post to my personal Facebook page, usually with an introductory sentence to the link. That way, my friends on Facebook who are not following my blog (most of them) are alerted that I have a new post.

      3. Yeah I’m not really keen on the idea of having a FB page but I do the same as you. FB gets on my nerves these days. Although eventually I may have to do that.

  4. Ending with a prompt can be a great way to encourage engagement, or alternatively just result in a super awkward silence, like a bad joke at a fun party. I think I’d rather encourage comments through responding and visiting rather than openly requesting them and feeling denied!

      1. Yeah, actually, Debbie, I may just have, now that you mention it.
        Just didn’t want to be out there, you know, all awkward and all that. Yet, there it is!
        We are awesomeness!

    1. Ah yes the awkward silence. I think every time I’ve tried to prompt replies I’ve scared my commenters away! Maybe I don’t know how to do it but I’m going your route of responding and visiting as well!

  5. I have never had much difficulty in receiving comments, but I started posting a new question every Friday (I call it Friday Question Fun) where the sole purpose is to ask a simple question about movies that gets people thinking and gets them talking – and – commenting. It’s been great so far, I’ve gotten new readers out of it too.

  6. I have a group of blogging pals, and a couple real world pals who comment regularly, and I always enjoy what they have to say. I have found a lot of new friends this way. My readers for the most part have a sense of humor, and appreciate my warped view of the world, so the comments themselves usually spark fun conversation. I don’t approve spam, but I do save the best ones and put them on my spam page. Some of them are absolutely hilarious. I try to comment on other blogs as much as I can, if I feel like I have something to contribute that hasn’t already been said, and I do try to keep it in the direction that the post was already going. I’ve had very good luck with comments so far. I haven’t had any negative comments so far. I guess the people who read me and don’t like what they read are in the “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin at all” camp. Thanks for the thought provoking post! :-)

    1. I try to comment on other blogs as much as I can, if I feel like I have something to contribute that hasn’t already been said, and I do try to keep it in the direction that the post was already going.

      Yes! Leaving good comments yourself is the other side of the coin. Hmmm, possibly the subject for another post… :)

  7. Wonderful post! We have great and lively debates and discussions on SLTW . . . but, on occasion, I do have to remind visitors about The Rules of the House:

    http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/rules-of-the-house/

    http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/the-queen-of-hearts/

    As the sole judge and arbiter of the comments on SLTW, it’s my role to make sure that posted comments add to the discussion at hand without causing unnecessary friction between proponents of opposing viewpoints.

    Divergent viewpoints are wonderful ~ name calling and mud-slinging are NOT.

  8. Excellent post! I know there are many bloggers who never reply when I leave a comment. That definitely discourages comments from me! I lose total interest in commenting or even reading their blog. I welcome a friendship, a two-way conversation. And I agree that you should look at someone else’s blog when they comment. Why not encourage each other? It’s not all about YOU!

    1. Totally, blogging is a conversation. It took me awhile to learn this. And as didibooksenglish mentions above, it takes courage sometimes to post a comment! So it’s good to be encouraging when someone does. :)

  9. I seem to have a regular core group who almost always comment, and I love that. And they don’t just seem to be commenting for the sake of it. They always add something funny or interesing, or encouraging!

    I agree with most of what you say, but I disagree with not replying to every comment – unless there is such a large amount of comments that it is unmanageable, then I think efforts should be made to reply to all of them. If I comment on a blog once or twice and get no reply, I probably won’t comment again. Even a ‘Thanks’ or a smiley face, at least acknowledges the commenter. Alternatively, if replying to every comment isn’t going to be possible, then the blogger could write something at the bottom of their post like “Sorry I don’t have time to reply to every comment, but I want you to know that I read them all, and really appreciate your contribution”, or something!

    1. I agree with you, Vanessa. I try to respond to every comment so the visitor knows that their remark did not fall on “deaf ears.”

      Of course, it’s easier when the comment is funny or interesting, rather than just a “LOL” or a “Good post.”

      1. Yes, it can be annoying if you feel that the person is only commenting because they want you to go and look at their blog, but I give them the benefit of the doubt and reply anyway!

    2. Vanessa, Couldn’t agree more except I think a global comment in the comment section saying: “thanks for the feedback. I loved reading all of your comments” (or some such) is better than on the blog post. Just a personal style thing probably.

  10. I have a very active comment page titled: Who ARE you new friend? http://retirenicaragua.wordpress.com/who-are-you-and-why-are-you-here/
    But, here’s my problem: I always receive tons of spam to delete on this page because I have so many comments. I am wondering how people find out about this page to try to link their ads to my blog page? Is this called link baiting? How do they find this page and how do they know that it has over 200 comments? Also, I would like to create a forum for the many questions asked about retiring in Nicaragua. Is there a way to do that?

  11. Reblogged this on elspethc and commented:
    The pleasure of receiving comments and feeling connected with others of similar views, then moving on, and finding differences, so there is more thought… who knows where it will end? Wherever, lets keep it going with good spirit.

  12. I wrote a post about picking up dog crap and I got wonderful comments! Like, interesting and amusing comments.

    A couple of simple steps to get more comments:

    1: Find a blog with a lot of comments.

    2: Figure out who comments there frequently.

    3: Comment on those blogs.

    Basically, you’re finding chatty people, and chatting them up. Needless to say, make sure they’re blogs you like and will be interested in following. As a noob author, I tend to follow around other noob authors.

  13. I’m a relatively new blogger (2 weeks now I think) so it’s been great to start getting a few comments recently :) Hopefully more to come as I keep posting

  14. End a blogpost with a question is in my experience really working. Some time ago someone told me about that blogging technic and my experience is so that there are rather comments on my blogposts which had a question but less likely on blogposts where I did not integrate a question.

  15. I don’t seem to be able to get past the wordpress reply police? I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I have a blog on wordpress and use it often, but whenever I try to comment on another blogger, I end up going in circles, no one else seems to complaining, and I want to try my comment here, and see if this one is set up the same? I used to get a few comments on my blogs (years ago) now I don’t ever get any, and I think that is ok too. ;)

  16. If I read a post, I comment. If anything, my response tells the writer, I care, and your voice means something. Thanks for posting about comment etiquette. :-)

  17. I loathe those artificial questions at the end. I go out of my way NOT to answer them. If a blog is good enough it should provoke a comment without having to ask a brain-dead question as a last resort. It is so contrived.

    I try and reply to every comment, and every subsequent one (some of the discussions can be quite long). If people take the time to write something thoughtful on my blog they deserve a) an equally thoughtful reply and b) a return visit.

    Akismet is excellent at preventing spam and I delete all spam, I do however check the basket, as occasionally I have to rescue a genuine blogger from there. I have a first-comment-needs-moderation rule. It is tedious commenting on blogs that insist on moderating every single comment – you can’t tell what has been written before you. I read preceding comments before I write something on other blogs.

    I value my extremely varied and international readership. I have met some great bloggers via WordPress. There is a fairly laid-back (and jokey) atmosphere on my blogs, although sometimes it is serious. People are welcome to disagree – and do – with my opinions. I value comments far more than ‘hits’. It shows someone has read what I have written and thought it worth spending some of their time to write something back. In a time-poor world, that means a lot.

    And if I don’t feel up to writing blog posts, I try and keep up to my favourite bloggers by commenting on their posts. Over summer, I added a status post to say I would be blogging less often so that people knew not to expect as many posts from me. As far as I know, that may have been a relief for them, although I did receive some extremely sweet ‘welcome back’ comments on a recent post.

    There is no magic recipe to comments. It involves hard work, time, and respect. ‘Likes’ won’t get you anywhere. I have turned mine off, although people still ‘like’ my posts :D. Read someone’s comment, think about what they have said and reply thoughtfully. Similarly when you visit someone else’s blog, do the same thing. It’s easy to spot ‘comment trolls’.

    With luck, you will suddenly find you have a great bunch of readers – and a great bunch of blogs to visit.

    1. Read someone’s comment, think about what they have said and reply thoughtfully. Similarly when you visit someone else’s blog, do the same thing.

      This perfectly sums up good commenting. And good conversing. :)

    2. RSITM.. great comment.. nothing more I can add and also glad you & I are long standing Blogger pals :-)

  18. Good comments can really make my day. I love the interaction with readers and conversations that start from posts and comments. Of course, I always wish I had more comments and make it a point to comment on other blogs. I think that as a blogging community, we have so much to share with each other. The more active we are, the richer the experience!

  19. This is a timely post Elizabeth (namesake) and all your tips are valid. However, from time to time, I find myself on the commenting roller-coaster where some do/don’t respond. When things get hectic in my offline world, I comment back less but do follow up to catch up (an unending feat). I must say that commenting back on others blogs and replying to comments is definitely important and helpful but doesn’t guarantee reciprocity. Some folk choose to move on or not respond and that is life. To new bloggers and all of us, I’d say do it anyway, don’t despair and reach out as much as you can. Reciprocate and keep on blogging. :-)
    PS. I add to each post: Please bear with me as I catch up on your blogs and commenting… etc
    Now I must go as I need to continue catching up my blog buddies posts… Ta love! :-)
    Eliz

    1. I’m with you. There are times when I just can’t get back to everyone. I try to go through my followers list once a month and be sure to comment on their blogs. But some folks post so often, I’m unable to get to each post. I assume when a blogger doesn’t reply to my comment, then they’re busy. I find if I keep visiting them, then life eventually eases up and the replies flow.

      1. Yes, I agree with you on the time and effort issue. We do the best we can. The post is a great reminder for us to reciprocate by visiting the bloggers who comment on our posts; an important reminder – it’s not enough to answer a comment on our blog, we need to visit and give some blog love back. :-)

  20. Hi Elizabeth,

    Another tip is to welcome new people who have left a comment for the first time.

    I sually acknowledge with a “hi xxx and welcome :)”

    I love it when people leave thoughtful comments on my blog or even disagree with what I’ve written, or each other! After all, there are as many opinions as there are people :).

    1. Exactly PiP! Hope to see you visit soon. ;-) And tweeting a post, liking it on Facebook and re-blogging are all great tools too! Okay so now I will tweet this post and add it to my facebook page! Ciao :-)

      1. I use it for all my posts and recently noticed that they’ve started sending comments to my gmail account… a new feature. It helps with traffic too. :-) Yeah, it’s all good!

  21. Polite is nice and likes are good, but we need more criticism. The blogosphere is an unrestrained place where people can post whatever they want. That being said, commentary, constructive feedback and criticism can serve as reminders to writers that if you put it out there for the world to read, the world is going to let you know what it thinks about your words and ideas.

  22. I really find Daily Post interesting and often helpful in relating to my progress as a first time blogger. It pleased me to know that I’ve already tried each of your suggestions, and you helped me see that indeed, the blogger really has control over his blog. The number of views and comments don’t tell the whole story, however. There are other factors for sure, but that would make another topic to save for some other day. Thanks!

  23. I love the blogging community I now think of as friends. I can honestly say that if I don’t hear from someone within a period of time I grow concerned. Not because I care about the stat, but because they haven previously enriched my experience. It is now quite funny that my husband, mother and some non-blogging friends have noted some of the comments that are made on my posts, want to talk about those comments and ask me about the blogger. It is like introducing friends. I enjoy learning from others, and the comment section can indeed extend the conversation to include valuable missing pieces of a story. Debra

  24. This is an interesting topic. One I ponder regularly.

    The only rule on comments seems to be that there aren’t any rules. I’ve read that a prompt or question at the end of a post can help increase or guide the direction of the comments. But one reader above says that she hates the “artificial questions at the end” and goes out of her way not to answer them. I’m sure she isn’t alone.

    I’ve also been told that it is important to respond to every single comment on a post, which I’ve started trying to do. But I’ve found that if I try to keep the conversation going by posing another question to a commenter, they often don’t check back to even know that I’ve continued the dialogue. Also, I find it very hard to come a with a response to “LOL!” I mean, what do you say back to that? Thanks?

    I don’t know. I’m still learning, I guess

    1. That would be me. LOL ;) As for the questions at the end, I suppose the truth is, I ignore them. If the comment I actually post is relevant to the question, then it is because I am answering the text in the post (if that makes any sense).

      I don’t try and keep a conversation going. I just write what I think in response, it may or may not involve another question. Mostly, I have to say, people usually answer if I ask a question.

      Maybe the people who read my blogs just have a lot to say :D There is a way to write back to a LOL. or a smiley, but you need to know something about the other blogger. Or sometimes it doesn’t need a response, so that ends that discussion. It’s really about a feel for a discussion, but most importantly, for reading and spending time on the blogs of the people who comment on yours.

    2. I couldn’t resist… Love your question. When I get a LOL, I :lol: back. Honestly, for me, life is too short to quibble over the quality of a comment. Be rest assured your comment will be appreciated on my blog; a comment, a smile, a word, a like… Only objection is spam and unrelated self-promoting links… but Akismet is doing a fine job for me on that one. Blessings all! :-)

  25. I think one of the best posts wordpress made was the one on blogging buddies as part of the postaday/week 2011 challenge. I made so many great buddies who encouraged and supported me, and then I went forth and did the same. I’m still in touch with many of my original buddies now – perhaps WP shouldt make another simialr post, becuase there are so many new blogs now.

      1. Oh, Ditto Alison!
        I appreciate you. I was beginning to wonder about myself. I guess I get out of hand emotional.
        Thanks for your kind reassurance. Yeah, I need it sometimes.
        : /

  26. I have always tried to respond to every single comment on my posts. I never comment on someone else’s post unless I can contribute in a meaningful way, but it never occurred to me to do the same on my OWN blog. Thanks for that tidbit and for permission!

  27. Interesting! I’m always thrilled when I come across long comment threads. I have comments ocassionally and I really get engaged in full conversation ocassionally, but I think it grows as the community grows.
    The comment thread gets more engaging as site visitors increase and that’s the true secret to blogging and comments. Good comments attract visitors and good responses bring them back again. That’s my exact experience and I hope it grows as I try to give it more time.
    Lovely tips, Elizabeth. I sincerely appreciate! :)

  28. I love my followers that leave comments, and I have become loyal to those who reply to my comments on their blogs. When you take time to leave a comment and that blogger never answers, it is easy to leave and forget about them. To me, comments are like fishing lures. When we use commenting wisely, we will reel in fish to our blogs, as well as find enticing worms we want to bite on from other blogs.

  29. Getting comments and then reciprocating on others’ entries constitute the community that makes blogging so validating for me.

    However, it’s a downer when you realize that some “likes” and “followers” are in it to promote their own sites and blogs.

  30. Thanks! I am relatively new to blogging, and publishing on the web in general. There are a lot of unspoken dos and don’ts. I’m trying to learn as I go. This was helpful.

  31. Deleting negative comment sis a slippery slope. I would never read a blog if I knew the commentary was being censored and I cannot see anyone precious or arrogant enough to consider doing such a thing having the self control to not keep raising the bar and delete for more and more specious reasons,

  32. I posted this the day after a scorching diatribe that spilled on over to other social media, too. I wonder if I went far enough in deleting only the comments that attacked other commenters or that contained inflamatory language. Really, I left only the tip of the iceberg, there, and also the day before. Someone tell me what you think–I’m sorta clueless, here. Thanks.

    http://katharinetrauger.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/all-parents-home-school-4/

    1. I’m surprised the topic of home-schooling is so emotive – but – I’m not a parent. To me it has its pros and cons, just like state schooling. I do admire parents who do it, but I guess you need to be financially sound, which I think some of your commenters felt was an issue. But that’s about specifics. It’s hard to say about the discussion, when you have deleted the comments you felt were insulting. I don’t see anything remaining that I would feel necessary to delete. If we post about controversial topics then we can expect controversial answers. Up to each of us to decide how to deal with that. There is no simple rule – we all choose our own rules on our own blogs.

      Doubt that is helpful though :D

      1. Actually, I appreciate this input. I’ve had some concern that I left too much negative in place. Really, the parts I deleted were totally trashy, so we all were just disgusted. Two days of it! :-|
        And yes, homeschooling is emotive. We get arrested all the time. Glad that’s not legal in the US, anymore, at least for awhile.
        Thanks for takinga peek. :)

    2. Hi Katherine,
      Fancy finding you here!
      I just found this post and got into the thread. I never saw those negative comments. Just want you to rest assured that your choice of blog subject is an your personal choice and expression of freedom of speech. But you know that! You most certainly must always have full control of accepting or rejecting any comments that are negative and unacceptable in YOUR OPINION, on YOUR BLOG, especially if there are philosophical conflicts. I love your dedication and calling to homeschooling. Your friend in Hawaii.

      1. Hi!!
        As Kate said, “your blog; your rules”. However, if I have a G-rated site, I sure can’t allow the stuff I deleted!!! Amazing. My main beef, though, was with the ugly stuff aimed at anyone who had anything nice to say about the post. The poor thing just blew a fuse. I feel kinda sorry for her, now that I’ve got the wedding behind me. It WAS untimely. ;-)
        Thanks for the encouragement!

  33. As I’ve only been blogging since April, I totally enjoy reading all these comments and learning from everybody else. And it’s OK with me if people are just commenting to lure me to their sites. I usually go there anyway and check them out – but not lately, as it seems everything came due at once and I just haven’t set aside time for that. I’m gradually catching up though. I’ve found that ‘likes’ are fun, but comments get the endorphins stirred to fever pitch. So for me, when I’m feeling down, I need my vitamin c(omment).

  34. I don’t like to leave negative responses. I think many people use the annomity to say things they wouldn’t normally say to someone. I would rather say something positive to uplift what they were posting about.
    I am still finding my way on my blog as far as my direction. I have separated my art and photography blogs onto another blog to make it easier for followers to view what they enjoy. My other blog is for my writing. I’m not sure if it was a good idea, yet. I do many of the things in your list except the question at the end. I usually don’t like to have to answer a question when I have so many bloggers I want to visit. I guess you can say I am a toddler still wobbling on my feet. Great hints – though – for anyone who may not have thought of them.
    Oh – I did leave my new blog post on some comments and, then, rethought that as not being appropriate. Of course, I couldn’t take them back.
    I do find that there are some blogs that have long convo’s that start to talk about personal stuff that no one else knows about. Nothing mature, just stuff that can make you feel like you are eavesdropping. For sure, there can b e clicks on blog.
    Anyway, I suppose the main thing to do is to enjoy your blog and the people who visit.

  35. I always end with a prompt so readers understand that I’m encouraging conversation about what I’m writing about. I think it makes them feel more connected to what I write about and I love the comments I receive! I’ve been lucky enough to gain some loyal followers who always offer up their opinions and share similar experiences with me. I always make an effort to comment back to everyone, and I appreciate them taking the time to not only read my content, but also take the extra time to write a response to it. The blogging community is so fanstastic! These are all really great guidelines for commenting.

    Stephanie

  36. I am visually stimulated and try to leave positive comments if the photo moves me. So many clever writers here as well. I wish I had time to write the story surrounding each of my photographs…there always a short story, but so little time! It is gratifying to know that another human out there took the time to “like” my little world. ☯

      1. Me too! Confrontation is the premise of my page haha! Actually, I haven’t gotten too many bar-fight-billies yet– shucks…

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