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Why Your Comments Aren’t Driving Traffic

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Back when I first started blogging, I remember that people were comment-crazy. I got my start writing for someone else’s blog network, and one of the things they drilled into our heads in the writers’ forum, employee training, etc. was that if you want to grow your blog readership, you need to leave comments on other blogs in your niche.

Not exactly the traffic you were expecting?

Comments are awesome. I love getting comments. When I feel passionate about a topic, I love leaving comments. But the truth? Comments don’t drive traffic.

Several years ago, I started my first blog, called the Millionaire Blogger, where I tracked my efforts to make a million dollars as a blogger (total, not per month or anything). One of the most popular posts I did there was a case study I did. For one week, I went out and commented everywhere. My goal was to leave 100 high-quality, helpful comments on blogs in my niche, and by the end of the week, I had exceeded that number. I tracked my stats very carefully. The results? I saw a very, very, very minor bump in traffic. The traffic wasn’t sticky at all. I didn’t receive more comments on my own posts than usual.

So why aren’t your comments driving traffic? It likely has very little to do with what you’re actually saying. Someone who leaves crap comments that are filled with backlinks will likely piss off the blogger and the community where you’re leaving those comments, but someone who leaves a helpful comment isn’t going to see much better results in terms of traffic back to their own website. It’s not about your content.

It’s about community.

If you wander around your niche and leave comments randomly, people may read your comment and enjoy it, even respond, but they don’t know you. They’re on that blog because they’re part of that blog’s community. They are looking for a new community. They care about your in the context of that blog’s community, but they have no push to get to know what you’re doing outside of that community.

The only way to change that, to make them care about who you are outside of that community is if you become part of it. If you’re there every day giving awesome tips and adding to the conversation, if you’re part of the forum, if you’re active on Twitter within the community, if you start showing up on the blogs of other commenters…then, people will start taking notice. Naturally, they’ll become curious about you and check out your site, and maybe even become part of your community.

In my opinion, though, commenting is not a good traffic-driving strategy. Don’t comment on others’ blogs because you’re hoping to see traffic back to your site. It’s a highly inefficient use of your time. Comment on others’ blogs because you actually have something to say and want to be a part of their community.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Haters (@EGlue)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open mic night!

As many of you may already know, in addition to working here at the BlogWorld blog and running my freelance writing blog, I also serve as site manager for Binge Gamer, a video game blog I founded with my best friend a few years ago. The video game community is not…nice. And that’s an understatement. Even if you write a post that is straight news, containing no opinion at all, you’ll likely get called an idiot by someone in the comments, or two+ of the commenters will start attacking one another. That’s just the nature of this niche.

But that’s not every niche. In fact, that’s not most niches. Most communities are inherently positive, so it can feel jarring when you get a negative comment on  your site. I actually feel kind of lucky that one of my first major blog projects taught me to have a thick skin.

One of the participants at this week’s #blogchat spoke a bit about this topic:

@EGlue: Whatever you do, you can’t make everyone happy. If you got a hater or two, you’re probably doing something right.

Easy enough to say, but I also definitely understand why some people get upset when a hater starts leaving comments. We put a lot of work into our blogs, to the point where they feel like our children. If someone doesn’t like our child, that’s anger-inducing…but when someone makes fun of our child? Well, I don’t know about you, but it makes me want to lash out right back.

It pays to remember what @EGlue mentioned – if someone is hating on you for some reason, it’s probably an indication that you’re doing a good job with your blog in general. People may not like a certain post you write or a certain decision you make for your blog, but they feel connected enough that they have to leave a comment. You want your community to feel so invested in your blog that they leave emotional comments when they don’t like someone. If you’re community’s reaction is, “Meh,” that’s probably an indication that you’re not doing a very good job connecting with them.

And remember too, there’s a difference between a hater and a troll. A hater might hate you, but they make valid points or actually have something to say, even though it might come out in a not-so-nice way. A troll, on the other hand, is just trying to piss you off (or piss off another commenter). They don’t actually care about your blog, your community, or even, in many cases, the topic. Haters warrant a response, though do so tactfully. Trolls rarely warrant a response and sometimes even warrant being deleted, depending on their comments and your blog’s policies.

The bottom line? Although negativity often hurts, try to find the constructive criticism in it and remember that just because someone has a different opinion doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong as a blogger. Work on building up that thick skin and keep moving forward.

When Bloggers Turn Nasty: The Dark Side of Internet

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Perhaps calling nasty bloggers “the dark side of the Internet” is a little melodramatic. I’m a melodramatic type of gal, I suppose. Recently, I’ve seen communities being torn apart over issues where they just simply don’t agree, and I have to wonder – is it worth it? Is getting our opinion out there worth losing friends or losing the respect of readers?

The answer to that question certainly isn’t easy.

This is my angry face. Internet comments, roar!

On one hand, I do fully believe that it is important to stand up for what you think is right. Right now, the whole WordPress versus Thesis debate is raging in this community, and a lot of bloggers are coming out of the woodwork to weigh in on the topic, myself included.

Unfortunately, it’s getting nasty. Strike that…it is nasty. We’re lucky enough here at the BlogWorld Expo blog to have awesome readers who know how to disagree respectfully (and even productively, since I’ve been getting ideas about possible solutions to the WP/Thesis problem). Not every blog has that kind of upstanding reader. Certainly, on Twitter, we’ve seen the lowest common denominator of the Internet flinging mud on both sides. And really, “mud” is a polite term for some of the tweets I’ve seen.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the anonymous nature of the Internet does not make it OK for you to be a jerk. Disagreeing respectfully is a must. We’re all adults here, after all. And, as writers, most of us can agree that freedom of speech is a good thing, even though it means extending that freedom to people who have differing opinions. It’s important to remember that this freedom comes with a responsibility to act like a mature adult, not a high school drama queen or, worse, screaming five-year-old.

The WP/Thesis debate is not the only one I’ve seen get ugly recently. I also just saw bloggers get totally out of hand in a relationship-based blogging community where people were debating about consent, dressing in a sexy manner, accountability when drinking, leading men on, etc. It turned into a giant mess, and there seemed to be no voice of reason standing out saying, “Wait a minute. We’re all adults. Let’s stop calling anyone with a dissenting opinion stupid.”

These are just two examples of the types of nasty blogging I see every single day. Even people that I respect get carried away sometimes, taking rude comments about disliking someone/something/some idea a step too far. It’s a fine line between voicing a dislike and bashing someone in an immature way.

As bloggers, I personally believe that we have a responsibility to behave with a little more class than we sometimes do. I’m guilty of this just like the rest of you. We get riled up about something that makes us passionate, and we explode, either by writing a strongly-worded blog post that goes too far or name-calling in a disrespectful comment on someone else’s website.

The real problem here lies with bloggers who forget to come back from that angry, nasty place, bloggers who perpetuate the negativity, and bloggers who don’t even have logical arguments anymore, just hating to hate.

I’m not suggesting that we sit around a campfire singing Kumbaya or have regular group hugs or something. Part of what makes a blogger a good blogger is his or her ability to voice an opinion. I am saying that it sometimes pays to take a step back from an angry, hurtful situation. I like to use the three-hour rule: when something makes me really upset, I wait three hours before writing a blog post about it or commenting on someone else’s blog post. Often, I’ve found that I’m not nearly as passionately mad about something three hours later; it was just an initial gut reaction. After some time to cool off, I can write a rational response.

In closing, here are my pleas to you, dear bloggers:

  • Try to see the other person’s point of view.
  • Attack an idea or opinion, not the whole person.
  • Read blog posts carefully and completely before commenting.
  • Avoid name-calling.
  • Be productive, offering solutions instead of just complaining.
  • Speak in a direct manner, not passive aggressively.
  • Be considerate of others’ feelings.

In short…be a grown up. Don’t be afraid to apologize if you’ve let something get out of hand, and above all, learn to let things go. Yes, even when you feel passionate about a topic. Letting something go doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter, nor does it mean that you’re conceding to the other side. It just means that you’ve exhausted the debate. You can talk in circles forever, getting continually nastier, or you can move on to other topics.

The WP/Thesis debate isn’t going anywhere – and that’s ok. The same is true of other debates that are being hashed out between bloggers or readers. Just know when to hang your hat…or more accurately, when to hang your hate. As bloggers, we can make the Internet a more hostile place, or we can make it a more valuable, productive place. The choice is yours.

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She’s beginning to think that regular group hugs wouldn’t be a bad thing…and a blogger camping trip? Now that just sounds like fun.

Image (c) Allison Boyer.

Reacting to Your Comment Community

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As soon as you get your first comment, you have a comment community on your blog. That’s one of the main differences between websites and blogs – your readers become a part of your content by interacting through comments. I know that I’ve often sent a link to someone and noted, “The comments are the best part!”

Some bloggers respond to every single comment. Other bloggers respond selectively. In my opinion, your responsiveness isn’t as important as how you respond. The way you react to your comment community could make or break your blog. There’s a reason why some people get 1000 comments on every blog post, while others hear the virtual crickets when it comes to their comments section.

Now, if you’re a new blog, it takes time to build up a comment community. It depends on  your niche – some blog topics simply lend themselves to more controversial topics than others, and controversy always leads to more comments. But no matter what your niche, you can build a decent comment community within a year. It’s all about reacting in the right ways.

Is anybody listening?

Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on?

Sometimes, people don’t leave comments because they have something super insightful to say. Some members of your blog’s comment community simply want to be acknowledged. They look up to you or like you, as much as a reader can grow to like a blogger that he/she doesn’t personally know. They want you to like them too.

I’ve certainly felt this way about bloggers. I want to make friends, and one of the best ways I feel like I can show my support is to leave a comment.

If you’re what I like to call a selective reactor (i.e., you don’t reply to every single comment), take notice to which readers are making an extra effort to respond to your posts regularly. Acknowledge these readers, if not by reacting to their comments, but following them on Twitter or sending them an email. A few days ago, I left a comment on one of the blogs I read regularly, and the author just sent me a brief DM thanking me for the comment. My opinion of that blogger jumped a good 1000 levels.

It only takes a few seconds of your time. If you have a huge blog community, take ten minutes a day and engage 5-10 of the people who’ve left comments on your blog. No one’s expecting miracles – just do your best to connect with your readers.

Who are you?

I’ve talked about building your blogger brand in the past, and it makes sense to keep this advice in mind when replying to comments. If your blog posts are edgy, be that same edgy personality in your comments section. If you’re blog posts are sweet, don’t suddenly become a no-nonsense witch in your comments. This is an opportunity to shine through, giving readers an addition look into who you are.

This is especially important when responding to negative comments. Some people are jerks just to be jerks. They’ll never visit your blog again, and sometimes haven’t even read the post initially. They’re just trolls – commenters who take pleasure leaving useless, rude comments to get under your skin.

Some negative comments, though, have merit. The person doesn’t agree with you, and whether or not they actually have a point, it can be difficult to not get defensive. Now, I know a few bloggers with personal brands where it makes sense to call out the other person or even get angry, but for most bloggers, snarky replies just don’t fit your overall personal brand. Give yourself some time to cool off after you read a negative comment, so that you can come up with a classy reply that fits your style.

Where’s the conversation?

When reacting to your comment community, do your best to create a conversation. I find that the best comment sections are one where people are not only replying to you, but to other commenters as well. Ask questions. Point others to read a specific comment. Just like you should formulate blog posts to entice readers to comment, you should  also formulate your comment replies to encourage others to react.

Remember, a conversation isn’t about repeating what you’ve already said in the blog post. One of the most basic tips for leaving comments on someone’s blog is to say something original and add to the conversation. You should keep this in mind when you comment on your on blog as a reply to your readers.

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She likes making new bloggy friends, so leave a comment (or follow her @allison_boyer).

Image credit: sxc.hu

Listening vs. Waiting to Speak: Engaging Readers

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In the evolution of blogging, one of the major steps was allowing readers to take part in the conversation on your website. Prior to the existence of comments sections, we could read what someone had to say and even email them about it if they provided an address, but it was just one-on-one interaction, not part of the site. Today, comments sections drastically increase the value of any blog, so engaging readers through comments is important.

Excessive Talking

I was once taught a very valuable lesson. Several years ago, I was going through a rough patch in my life on many fronts, and I really leaned on a friend of mine for support. He was great, and very patiently listened to my problems, offering advice and hugs when needed. I was pretty tunnel-visioned by everything going on in my life, and was too self-centered to realize that he was dealing with some problems himself.

One evening, he got fed up with me, and pointed out that I wasn’t actually listening to him. I was just waiting to speak. And he was right. It was a really humbling moment of my life, to realize that every time he was speaking, I was just planning in my mind the point I wanted to make about my own problems. I wasn’t offering support as much as changing the subject to reflect what I wanted to discuss. Excessive talking isn’t just about being the person who speaks the most.

Listening to Your Comments

Since then, I think I’ve gotten a lot better at listening instead of waiting to speak. It’s something I actively think about whenever I’m in a conversation with someone, especially about a serious topic, and it’s something that bloggers need to actively think about as well. Your comments section isn’t as valuable to your site if you’re just waiting to speak.

This goes further than just making sure you reply to comments. I do think it’s great when bloggers reply to comments, but I’m also of the opinion that not every comment needs a reply (some bloggers disagree, and that’s fine). To me, it depends on the situation. In any case, engaging your readers through listening is all about hearing what they have to say and replying to their comment thoughtfully, not just using what they say as a jumping off spot for your own argument again.

Listening Tips for Bloggers

So how can you ensure that you’re listening and not just waiting to speak? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay conversational. You’ve made your point in your blog post, so there’s no need to constantly restate it, even if your readers are leaving negative comments. Remember, your replies should add value to the website, so grow and expand your thoughts on the subject as your readers leave comments.
  • Consider using a comment as inspiration for a new post. You can even contact the reader who left the comment to co-author a post, do a guest post, or be interviewed. Keep the conversation going.
  • Understand what your readers are saying. When you post an opinion, there will always be people who disagree, but negative comments can have value, too. If your readers are constantly confused to turned off by your posts, they won’t come back, which defeats the purpose of blogging professionally. By listening to reader comments and changing slightly to accommodate, you can drive more traffic and please a larger number of people.
  • Stay civil. In many niches, readers can be biting and rude. If a comment makes you upset, turn away from the computer for an hour or two to calm down a bit before you reply. Try to see the person’s underlying point, even if they say things in a mean way. Remember, conversation.
  • Be an authority on your subject, but also approach readers on the same level. Just because you know more about a specific subject doesn’t mean that your readers have nothing to teach you. No one likes when someone speaks down to them, so consider all of your readers on your level, not “below you” in some way.

Learning to listen is a skill that you’ll improve with practice. We might be born with the ability to hear, but it takes decades to perfect being a good listener, especially when it comes to a written medium, like a blog comments section. It’s something I’m still learning, too. What tips do you have for making sure you’re a good listener, rather than just waiting to talk?

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She still talks waaaaay too much and often too quickly, but hopes you’ll find this quality more endearing than annoying.

Image Credit: sxc.hu

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