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How to Build a Stronger Blog Community Using Comments (Part One)

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stronger blog community

About a year and a half ago, I started an interesting experiment on one of my blogs. Previously, I had only replied to comments sparingly, when someone asked a direct question or challenged the opinion in the post. I would get one or two comments on each post, with the occasional post getting more comments and some posts getting no comments. This is about average in the specific niche in question, especially for the size of my blog at the time (15,000 to 20,000 pageviews per month).

I made a distinct decision to start replying to comments. With very few exceptions, I started replying to every single comment received on my posts, from thoughtful, long comments to comments that said little more than, “Great post!”

Here’s what happened:

  • My pageviews increased more rapidly than my unique views.
  • I got an increase in emails from readers.
  • I began to notice certain commenters popping up over and over.
  • My email list subscribers began to increase at a faster rate.
  • I started receiving sponsored post inquiries.

I want to go over each of these points one by one, because I think it’s important to analyze exactly what happened and why. Replying to comments isn’t some kind of magic technique that will suddenly make your blog super successful. But if my experiences are indicative of the norm, this is a practice your should consider.

stats Increase in PageViews

When I made the decision to start replying to comments, I also made other changes. This was part of an overall strategy to move the blog from being more personal in nature to having more strategy for increasing traffic and revenue. Making the decision to reply to comments was just one of the changes I made.

Some of the other changes I made at the same time included:

  • Putting more effort into search engine optimization (previously, I had not considered it at all)
  • Posting more frequently (3-4 times per week instead of 1-2 times per week)
  • Scheduling my posts (previously, I might post twice in one day, then not again for a week)
  • Using Tumblr to promote my blog (previously, I had not used this platform)
  • Having a weekly feature every Tuesday (the same type of post consistently)

I think all of these changes helped me gain more traffic. Plus, most bloggers find that their traffic will increase over time naturally, as long as you’re posting regularly.

What was interesting, however, is that I didn’t see the same rate of increase in unique views as I did in overall pageviews. My bounce rate went down slightly, but more importantly, the same readers were coming back again and again. SEO, increase in frequency, and new promotion methods all brought in new readers, while the scheduling, weekly feature, and replying to comments all contributed to having more returning readers.

email Increase in Emails from Readers

On this specific blog, I publish a lot of “advice” posts. Commenters will often ask for clarification or ask new questions. However, the niche is relationship-related, so not everyone is comfortable posting questions that are so personal.

When I started to reply to comments, I saw an increase in the number of emails from readers asking for advice.

Of course, some of this can be attributed to my increase in traffic. However, regularly, I will have readers mention the fact that they’re email me after reading one of my comments or that they’re asking for advice because they like the advice I give to other commenters. I believe that this is by far the biggest reason I get more readers’ emails.

As a side note, this is an awesome way to get content ideas. Often, several people will ask the same question, and I end up turning my answer into a post. I keep a spreadsheet if ideas for my blog, including questions I’m asked via email.

comments Return Commenters

Before I started replying to comments, I had some regular readers. However, when I started interacting more with commenters, I noticed that the same people started to comment more and more often.

Were these people regular readers before? In some cases, yes. In other cases, no. The fact that old and new readers alike began to comment regularly is an advantage, though. Their comments make my posts more valuable or start interesting conversations. Sometimes, comments can even lead to new post ideas.

In any case, regular interaction has helped these readers feel like they are a part of my blog. Someone who feels like an active member of my community, not just passive reader, is invested in my content and community, and they’re more likely to share posts with their friends and buy products.

When you see someone comment regularly, I actually suggest reaching out via email and letting them know you appreciate their support. This is only going to keep them coming back and commenting.

Also, if you see a regular commenter stop commenting, take a moment and email them or say hi via social media. That little efforts lets your biggest fans know you appreciate them.

email 2 More Email Subscribers

Because I made several changes on my blog, there’s no way to say what attributed to the increase I saw in email subscribers.

I did notice some of the same names popping up–readers who had emailed me and who had become regular commenters also subscribed. So, I have to infer that replying to comments did make a difference. I won’t dwell on this point, though, since I don’t believe it’s one of the main advances, just fringe benefit.

Want more tips for getting email subscribers? Check out these 30+ tips for building your list.

money3 Landing Sponsors

By far, the best part of this experiment, for me, has been the increase in revenue for the blog. I started offering sponsored posts about two years ago, but I didn’t really see any traction on this until I began interacting in the comments section of my blog. Prior to that, most of the money I made on this blog can from banner ads and affiliate sales. Now, I get 5-10 sponsored post requests per month, and I get to pick and choose who I want to work with and what I want to post. (For the record, I only post about 2 per month due to the nature of my blog, but having the option to post more is nice!)

I know for a fact that landing more sponsors for sponsored posts has happened because of the interaction in the comments section of my blog. Potential sponsors have flat-out told me that they’re impressed with the interesting conversation that happens on my posts and the fact that I’m so involved with the community.

Some Final Thoughts

So should you reply to all of your comments? This really depends on your blog style. Seth Godin has a very successful blog that doesn’t have comments at all. Jenny Lawson has a very successful blog despite rarely responding to comments. There’s not one right answer. For me, for this blog and this niche, it has had advantages.

Do you reply to all of the comments on your blog? Tell me about your experiences in the comments section of this post!

Stay tuned for part two in this series, where I talk about commenting on other blogs to build your own community.

21 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Commenting

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Brilliant Bloggers is a weekly series here at BlogWorld where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every week, we’ll feature three of the most brilliant bloggers out there, along with a huge link of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Commenting

Posts about commenting generally fall into two main categories: 1) how to effectively comment on others’ blogs to build your brand and boost your traffic and 2) how to police the comments on your own blog. Both are topics that you need to consider if you want to be a successful blogger. After all, audience participation through commenting is one of the biggest differences between a blog and a static website. Today’s Brilliant Bloggers discuss this topic from top to bottom, so you don’t want to miss a single post!

(This is serendipitously a really relevant topic for this week, since Facebook just unveiled their new comment box plugin.)

Advice from Brilliant Bloggers:

How to Use Blog Commenting as a Networking Superweapon by Arik Hanson

Dude, if you want a go-to guide for how to effectively comment and turn those comments into something more than just a few clicks worth of traffic, this is a post you need. It’s actually a guest post for Social Media Examiner, so it’s also a good example of how to do guest posting the right way! Arik does an awesome job of guiding you through the ins and outs of finding blogs and leaving comments…and then talks about how to leverage that initial interaction to do some awesome networking. After you read the post, you can find him on Twitter @arikhanson.

Is Commenting on Blogs a Smart Traffic Strategy? by Brian Clark

I love this post because it addresses something that grinds on my last nerve – people who leave senseless comments on popular blogs because they want to be first. In fact, on the biggest blogs out there, that’s what people say: “FIRST!” Ironically enough, often there are 10+ people who all leave “first” as a comment. In any case, rushing a comment to be first not only makes you look like a tool, but it also doesn’t really give you traffic benefits – at least, that’s what Brian argues in this post (and I agree). Check it out and follow him on Twitter @copyblogger.

Creating a Blog Comment Policy that Works by John Saddington

I recommend that everyone has a comment policy posted someone on their blog, especially if you post anything controversial. Debates can turn sour in a hurry, and comment policies can help your readers know where you’ll draw the line. John’s post will help you create a policy if you don’t have one already, and you can also check him out on Twitter @tentblogger. (Also, unrelated, but his blog has the best subscribe button ever.)

Even More Brilliant Advice:

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about comments? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link!

Next Week’s Topic: StumbleUpon

I’d love to include a link to your post next week – and if you head to the Brilliant Blogger Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

Top 10 Worst Comment Mistakes EVER

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As bloggers, we all have readers that make us want to groan. It’s just a fact of life – you aren’t going to like anyone. Today, I thought I’d have a little fun and talk about the worst comment mistakes I’ve ever seen. These are my biggest pet peeves. They make me want to pull out my hair.

10. Off-topic comments

Let’s be honest; we all ramble sometimes. There’s a difference between getting off-topic a little in a round-about way of making a point and being downright nuts. Once, I wrote a post about real estate on a finance-related blog and some commenter told me this entire story of losing their cat when they moved to a new house. Every so often I get comments that just make me say, “What in the world…”

9. WRITING IN ALL CAPS

C’mon kids, this is Internet 101. DO NOT WRITE IN ALL CAPS UNLESS YOU WANT TO SHOUT AT SOMEONE. See, this is so annoying that I had to write-shout that tip at you. On a more practical note, comments in all caps are hard to read, so if you tone things down a little, more people will listen to what you have to say. You’ll only see me using all caps when I really mean to “shout” something.

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