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?)