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


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.

5 Ways to Know if Your Content Is Resonating with Your Audience


Every few months or so, I like to take a step back and analyze the content on my blog. I want to make sure I’m providing tips, news, entertainment and information that resonates well with my audience. There are both technical and non-technical ways to measure this. Some may seem obvious to you, but you haven’t taken the time to put the tip into practice, and some of these ways might be brand new to you.

Here are five ways to know if your content is resonating well with your audience.

Conduct a Poll

I really enjoy conducting polls both on my blog and on Facebook using their polls feature. I’ve found out some interesting things about what my readers are looking for that I may not be providing for them, things that they absolutely love, or even about content they don’t really care for.

Polls are super easy and quick to put together. I suggest offering no more than five answers to your question. For example, ask the simple question “Why do you enjoy visiting…?” and put the title of your blog there. I’ve done this before and provided answers such as reviews, giveaways, personal videos or deals. Not only do I ask them to participate in the poll, but I also ask if they would leave a comment explaining why they chose the answer they did. I have had great results this way and it has helped me narrow down my content.

For WordPress, I like using the WP-Polls plug-in. On Facebook, simply click on “Ask a Question” for your personal page or “Question” for your business page.

Email Your List of Subscribers

You do have subscribers right? If you answered no to that question because you haven’t added that feature to your blog, stop what you’re doing right now and visit my post “Six Things You Can Focus On Today to Increase Your Blogging Results”. I preach creating a list…yesterday.

This is also something I have personally done. Simply ask your subscribers what they like about your blog content and what they would like to see more of. Offering up a little incentive such as a free download of one of your eBooks or an Amazon gift card usually increases the number of people that will answer. Hey, we all like free stuff, right?

Check Your Social Networks

This might be a no-brainer, but if something you wrote really spoke to your audience and they absolutely loved it, don’t you think they’ll not only share it but say something about it? Don’t just check the number of Tweets and Likes you are receiving, check to see what they’re saying about your content. I would trade five tweets where no one said a thing about my article, for one where someone tweeted it but also said, “This is a must read” or “This is exactly the answer I was looking for.” This speaks loudly to your readers and potential readers.

Use the Power of Facebook Insights

This goes hand in hand with my previous tip, but it digs a little deeper. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of Facebook Insights, because we would be here all day long. You can read the Facebook Insights Guide which they call a “Product Guide for Facebook Page Owners” and get some in-depth information.

If you’re familiar with the new Facebook Insights roll-out, then you know on the left hand sidebar under “Likes” it says “People Talking About This”. This number is a great way to measure if your content is resonating with your audience because it speaks to engagement. This lets you know in a one week period how many people liked your page, posted to your page and mentioned, liked, shared or commented on a post of yours.

Just because a page has thousands of Likes, does not mean there is a good dose of interactions with the readers (engagement).

Facebook Insights is not only a great tool to measure the health of your Facebook page, but your blog content as well.

A Healthy Dose of Comments

It makes me sad when I visit a blog where they have the comments closed. (Does that make it a real blog then? Wait, that’s another discussion.) But when I visit a blog where there is a nice conversation flowing in the comments section, it makes me want to join in.

This tip may seem obvious to most of you, but I think all of us – whether we are brand new to this crazy world of blogging or if we’ve been doing it for ten years – need to take a step back and analyze the interaction. Are we interacting with our readers? Are they finding our content valuable enough to take a few minutes to leave a comment?

You can also get fantastic post ideas from comments your readers have left. Look for questions they asked or statements saying they wish you would write more of a certain type of article. If they are practically begging for more, then by all means, give them more!

How can you tell if your content is resonating well with your audience? Share some of your tips in the comment section below. Also feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you would like to see more of here on the BlogWorld blog. Are we resonating with you?

The 12 New Media Days of Christmas 2011: 7 Community Managers a-Managing


During the 12 New Media Days of Christmas, we’re counting down the days until Santa comes by featuring some of the best blog posts of 2011 from awesome writers within the BlogWorld community! Skip to the end to read more posts in this holiday series and don’t forget to leave a comment if you’ve written a post about today’s topic!

Okay, so today’s title doesn’t necessarily roll of the tongue…but I think we need to give it up for the topic: Community Management. Community managers have one of the most difficult jobs in the new media world, in my opinion, and they often go unrecognized for the long hours they put in. If your blog or business is a one-man (or woman) show, you’ll need to wear the community management hat from time to time, and trust me; it isn’t an easy job to do. So today, I’ve collected some posts some helpful posts to get you started.

Oh, and by the way – she’s super modest about it, but our own Deb Ng recently published Online Community Management for Dummies, which you should totally check out!

Post too long? Head to the Quick Links section for just a list of the links included in this post without all the analysis and quotes!

1. What’s a Community Worth? by Ilana Rabinowitz at Social Media Explorer

Before we even start talking about community management, we have to first understand community. Ilana’s post is a great place to start, because she writes about why community is a vital part of your success online. Think your blog/business will be fine without a community? Think again – the community is the powerful, strong backbone of your brand, and when you need them, they’ll be there for you – if you’ve build something worthy of their support. Writes Ilana,

As business people, we tend to think about our connections as an audience, but if we want to be social, that won’t be enough. We need to build a community to assure the long-term health of our business. Businesses, like people, need to nurture relationships in the context of a community. It can make the difference between success and failure when you need it most.

You can find Ilana on Twitter @ilana221. She also blogs about social media at Marketing Without A Net and is the vice president of marketing for Lion Brand Yarn.


2. The Anatomy of a Community Manager by Adi Gaskell at AdiGaskell.com

This post goes over all of the important qualities you need to successfully manage a community. Some are common sense (for example, you have to be a good listener, of course), but others might surprise you. Are you able to focus on output over input? Do you have “political” influence? Do you challenge the status quo? These, and other skills Adi lists, are all important to be a successful community manager, whether you’re managing the community of your blog or the community of a multi-million dollar international business. From the post:

Community managers often have to be all things to all people.  They’re required to have good technical skills, strong emotional capabilities with an encyclopedic knowledge of their subject area.

After reading the rest of Adi’s post, you can find him on Twitter @adigaskell. He writes for a number of other social media related blogs, including Social Media Today, Technorati, and Social Business News.


3. Engaged Community is a Healthy Community – Best Practices in Internal Social Networking by Maria Ogneva at Social Media Today

Maria is the head of community at Yammer, and her experience in this area shows in this post! If you’re considering building a community from the ground up, this is a great resource of tips to help you get started. I especially love Maria’s WIIFM tip. People always want to know, “What’s In It For Me?” and if you want them to continue being a member of your community, you have to make that question easy to answer. Otherwise, your community runs the risk of simply dying before it even begins. In this post, Maria writes,

“How do I ensure continued engagement in this network? How do I get people to come back and participate?” I think this is a key question to ask yourself, and if you can formulate a plan of action prior to rolling out the community, you will certainly be setting yourself up for success.

In addition to working with Yammer, Maria also runs her own blog at Social Silk. You can find her on Twitter @themaria.


4. The Discomfort of Becoming a “Public Person” by Emilie Wapnick at Puttylike

Before we go a step farther talking about community, I think this is an important post to review. Although it’s not about a traditional community management topic, it is a topic that community managers need to consider. When you take on this role, you become a very public online personality, and that’s not something easy to handle, even if you’re an outgoing person. Community managers need to always do what is best for their communities, even if that means being a bit uncomfortable at times. Writes Emilie,

When you’re faced with a choice between preserving your ego and doing what’s best for your cause, choose the latter. Don’t let fear be the thing that decides your actions. Put yourself out there, allow yourself to be momentarily embarrassed, and then move on.

You can find Emilie on Twitter @emiliewapnick and like her blog on Facebook to stay connected. She recently launched Renaissance Business, a book about combining your interests to create a viable business, rather than choosing just one niche.


5. Are You Really Talking To Your Prospect? by Francisco Rosales at Social Mouths

Do you know the members of your community? I don’t necessarily mean individually, but do you know the average type of person who is a member of your community? Or, more importantly, do you know the type of person you want to be a member of your community? Until you define your community, it’s hard to connect with them through blog posts, social media, or any other means of communication. In this post, Fransisco talks about how to focus on reaching your community members, why you should ignore some people, and more. He writes,

Put all your knowledge, talent and experience together and deliver it to the people that needs it. If somebody says “I already knew that” then that person is not your target.

Producing content for the wrong audience is very time consuming and leads you to no sales.

You can find Francisco on Twitter @socialmouths and add him to your Google+ circles to read more from him.


6. 5 New Year’s Resolutions for the Community Manager by Dave Cayem at Cayem.com

Reading this clever year-end post is a great way to ensure that you start 2012 off on the right foot as a community manager. I especially like Dave’s tip about measurement. Yes, your community efforts can be measured. A lot of community managers avoid measurement tools like the plague, but I think those who do strive to keep track of community data are the best in the business. Dave also gives some other great tips on community management as well. He writes,

2012 is nearly here, and lots of people are thinking about New Year’s resolutions. It’s also a great time for community managers to think about what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve.

You can find Dave on Twitter @DaveCayem, as well as connect with him on Facebook and Google+.


7. How to Select Moderators and Staff Members on an Established Online Community by Patrick O’Keefe from Managing Communities

You’ll be hard pressed to find a post on Managing Communities that isn’t worth reading if you’re interested in learning more about online community management. I’m picking this post to highlight because it covers an important topic that isn’t touched on by the other community posts on this list – you’re likely going to need help. As your community grows, it is important to hire the right people to help you manage it, and often these people come from the community itself. This post gives you the step-by-step process to ensure that the people you choose to help you are going to keep the happy community ball rolling. Writes Patrick,

Your staff can be a vital part of your community, can help you to cover more and do a better job of maintaining the standards that you set for your community. The members of your staff will change, just like your friends in high school, your coworkers at an office or the neighbors on your block. From time to time, you will look to bring new members on board.

After checking out Patrick’s tips, you can follow him on Twitter @ifroggy or follow the blog’s Twitter stream @managecommunity. Patrick is the founder of the iFroggy Network and co-hosts the SitePoint Podcast.

BONUS: Free Online Community Management Resources On The Web by Richard Millington at FeverBee

Holy. Cannoli. If you’re looking for online community management advice, this is a one-stop shop. Not only does Richard run a great community management blog with tons of advice to check out, but this post links to dozens of great resources for community managers, including other community management blogs, published papers about community, and ebooks/reports about community management. Oh yeah, and it’s all free. Seriously, check out this blog post now.

(Richard is the founder of The Pillar Summit, an exclusive course in Professional Community Management and the the author of the Online Community Manifesto. You can find him on Twitter @richmillington.)

Quick Links

For those of you short on time, here’s a list of the links covered in this post:

  1. What’s a Community Worth? by Ilana Rabinowitz (@ilana221)
  2. The Anatomy of a Community Manager by Adi Gaskell (@adigaskell)
  3. Engaged Community is a Healthy Community – Best Practices in Internal Social Networking by Maria Ogneva (@themaria)
  4. The Discomfort of Becoming a “Public Person” by Emilie Wapnick (@emiliewapnick)
  5. Are You Really Talking To Your Prospect? by Francisco Rosales (@socialmouths)
  6. 5 New Year’s Resolutions for the Community Manager by Dave Cayem (@DaveCayem)
  7. How to Select Moderators and Staff Members on an Established Online Community by Patrick O’Keefe (@ifroggy)

BONUS: Free Online Community Management Resources On The Web by Richard Millington (@richmillington)

Other posts in the 12 New Media Days of Christmas series will be linked here as they go live:

12 Bloggers Monetizing
11 Emailers List Building
10 Google+ Users a-Sharing
9 Vloggers Recording
8 Links a-Baiting
7 Community Managers a-Managing (this post)
6 Publishers a-Publishing
5 Traffic Tips
4 New Media Case Studies
3 Must-Read New Media Interviews
2 Top New Media News Stories of 2011
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

You can also check out the all the posts from 2010 and 2011 here , and don’t forget: If you wrote a post in 2011 about today’s topic (community management), PLEASE leave the link in a comment below to share with the community!

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