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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?)

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    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. : )

      Like

      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!

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  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!

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    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. ;)

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      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! :)

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  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……

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  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.

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    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!

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      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!!!

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      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.

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    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.

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      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?

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      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.

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      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.

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  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!

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      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!

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    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!

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  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.

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  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! :-)

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    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… :)

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  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.

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  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!

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    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. :)

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  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!

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    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.”

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    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.

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  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?

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  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.

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  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.

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  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

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  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.

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  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. ;)

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  16. 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.

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    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. :)

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

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  17. 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!

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