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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 “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. 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

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    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 😀 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.

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    2. I couldn’t resist… Love your question. When I get a LOL, I 😆 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! 🙂

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  2. 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.

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      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.
        : /

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  3. 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!

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  4. 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! 🙂

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  5. 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.

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  6. 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.

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  7. 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,

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  8. 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/

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    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 😀

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      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. 🙂

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    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.

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      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!

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  9. 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).

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  10. 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.

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  11. 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

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  12. 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. ☯

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      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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  13. My mother has commented on one post only. I sent her the link to a post where I referred to a much-loved family friend. I must confess, it was a new experience to encounter her in cyberspace, and my reply was one of the most carefully worded I have ever made! 🙂 I rather fear that she has forgotten her WordPress password, because not a peep out of her since, despite enthusiastic encouragement from me in e-mail correspondence.

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  14. My mom passed away how sad. My friends, family, and kids don’t comment and not sure if they read it. I suppose that is a writer’s issue. I’m a unknown but I have 4,000 hits on my from at least 9 major countries. How many comments have I receive? 4,,,, Woe is me I guess but at least they are reading my work. I don’t know how it happened but my blog received 1,300 hits last month. It has a life of its own. But sure wish I would here from somebody. I will try these tips. Thank you.

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    1. Some people will just read your blogs and leave without even saying anything, that’s for sure.
      But at least you’ve reached out and have probably touched at least one in a thousand lives. And that’s a great achievement. 🙂

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  15. Interesting blog on blogging. Lots to read and think about. Visiting the blogs of all the people who click like is beginning to generate return visits for me. When people comment they usually offer a new perspective on what I’m talking about which is interesting.

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  16. Such a helpful blog post! I DO get bummed with the comment flag never changes color. I thought that the nature of my blog (theatrical directors) would encourage a lot of conversation, but I’ve been very wrong. I don’t get many comments, and when I do, its often just a general comment to let me know someone has been there. And while I like those, I’d love to hear a few opinions, too. One actor told me that he reads regularly but that he was loathe to comment on people that might hire him! So, I guess that’s one rationale. But I think your idea of have a question at the end (or maybe “apple-seeded” throughout the post!) would encourage some conversation. Thanks for the idea!

    Peace
    Cat

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  17. Commenters also give me great ideas about what to write about next. I started off with a discussion about the new Google Penguin and how it affects sites about webcomics. I listed the top search items.

    That led to a discussion about TopWebcomics.com, and whether or not that was a good site or not. I did a poll a week later (“Do you use Topwebcomics.com?”), and that generated some discussion about what great websites there are to discover new webcomics.

    Which led me to an interview I did with Henry Kuo, the guy behind the site Just The First Frame, which was mentioned by some commentators to be one of the better managed webcomic sites around. The interview got me a bit of notice from other comics blogs.

    Thank you, commentators on the Webcomic Overlook, for the suggestions!

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  18. Great post!

    It’s weird, because the spam comments are always so nice and polite telling me I have the best blog in the world. It feels a shame to waste and delete them 😉

    I always reply to everyone who comments, it’s frustrating to visit someone else’s site and comment a few times, only for them never to reply. So eventually I stop visiting, only takes a few seconds to say a simple ‘thanks’ sometimes.

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  19. These are great tips! I’m grateful to Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way for reblogging this. 🙂
    I love getting comments (of course)…and love replying with thoughtful responses…and visiting the blogs of people who ‘like’ or comment on my posts. Only problem is, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do that AND continue to write picture books (my passion) AND work AND keep house AND sleep at least 6 hours a night. What I need to know is…how are other people doing this? 🙂

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  20. Comments = conversation. I try to respond to every comment whenever possible. (When someone takes the time to share their thoughts, it’s the least I can do to respond to them.) If the day comes when that becomes unmanageable, I think it’s polite to insert a response every so often so folks know they’re being heard. As far as the “posed” question goes… I’ve tried it, but it felt too solicitous. I prefer spontaneous inspiration. By the way, WordPress does a stellar job with notifications, Spam filtering, etc. — thanks!

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  21. Finally have figured out the finesse of having wonderful discussions on my site. It took months for me to figure out the blogosphere and how commenting really is, and there are several unwritten rules about commenting.
    Example: Always read the entire post prior to commenting
    Rule: I never respond to a comment on my site, unless I have read the comment thoroughly, and always respond thoughtfully.
    Rule:
    Responding quickly is not always the best option to comments on your blog…Readers would rather have a thoughtful comment that a “fast” comment.

    In other words, bloggers do not expect for you to answer comments in 5 seconds, but they DO EXPECT a thoughtful response…

    Actually read your commenter’s thoughts in the comment.

    Be careful of tone in your responses too, this can be important.

    Responding to comments in a mono-toned fashion that is boring, will limit commenters and they will not return.

    Adding personality to your comment responses and makes for a lively discussion.

    You are the moderator and sort of the host…so being mono-toned and boring will not drive a discussion.

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