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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.

Gawker has a Content Problem, Not a Comment Problem


Over the past month, the Gawker family of sites has introduced a brand new way to comment. Called Kinja (previously called Powwow and not to be confused with their 2004 commenting system also called Kinja), this commenting system highlights the comments where conversation is happening, rather than the most recent comments.

It’s an interesting concept. With this system, commenters are encouraged to join existing conversations where people are already talking about the topic, rather than starting new threads. It’s like taking comment nesting to a new level. Kinja is more like a forum under each blog post than a commenting system. In fact, internally, they’ve banished the word comment, imposing a $5 fine whenever someone uses it.

A comment revolution is perhaps exactly what the world of blogging needs. But is Gawker the one to lead it?

Why Gawker’s Comment System is Different

Gawker isn’t the only company playing with the concept of a new commenting system for blogs. Comments have been evolving for several years. When I started blogging in 2006, most blogs didn’t even have nested comments, which is a pretty standard feature these days. Now, there are several commenting plugins you can install, including Disqus and LiveFyre.

What Gawker is doing is different. Why? Because it has to be.

Gawker’s new commenting system gives the house keys to the readers, so to speak, as Kat Stoeffel notes in the post linked above. They’re invited to create the content, not just respond to it, and staff writers hoping to keep their jobs have to take part in these conversations. Comments are arranged using a “secret algorithm,” which I’m guessing is easy for the Gawker staff to manipulate, and conversations can be controlled by those who start them – you now have the power to “dismiss” any reply you don’t like.

Gawker’s commenting system has to be different, has to be formatted in a way that gives both users and staff members more control, due to the choices they make with their content.

I’m a big believer that you get what you give. Trolls can – and do – attack online no matter how thoughtful your content might be, but if we stop demanding more of ourselves and instead cater to trolls, the problem is going to be rampant, as it is on Gawker’s family of sites. When you’re little more than an online tabloid and gossip mill, you can’t be surprised when you need a more closely controlled commenting system.

What is “Good” Content?

I don’t think all Gawker writers are bad, nor do I think that everything they post is without merit. But let’s take a look at what’s on these sites right now. The very first thing that comes up for me? Scorned Wife of Director That Kristen Stewart Humped Takes Sadness to Social Media Outlets

Seriously? “Director that Kristen Stewart Humped”? There wasn’t a better way to say that, especially in conjunction with a story about his wife, who had no part in the indiscretion and is likely going through one of the worst events in her life right now?

It’s not just the headline though. The entire article is full of conjecture rather than fact. Worse, it is full of misleading statements. For example, the post ends with:

Ross’ latest dig at The Huntsman starlett? An instagram photo of a less-than-pristine looking Snow White with the caption: “Not so pretty or so pure afterall …..” Burn.”

If you actually click on the link to read the story, however, you learn that this was “an Instagram photo from the user “libertyross” (which may or may not actually be Ross, who is the director’s wife).”

As a long time gamer and previous writer in the video game industry, I’ve seen similar problems with Kotaku, another site in the Gawker family. Headlines are often misleading and rumors are presented as fact. Furthormore, writers on all of Gawker’s sites seem trained in the art of getting a rise out of people. I believe the term spin doctors might apply here; perhaps they aspire to careers in politics. At the very least, Gawker’s writers seem to understand the rhetoric required in blog posts to elicit emotion.

This in and of itself is not a bad thing, but rhetorical power in the wrong hands leads to…well…posts about the wife of a man Kristen Stewart is “humping.” It’s almost like readers are being trained to be trolls.

Good content is not only that which seeks a neutral stance. Controversy, when done correctly, can be extremely effective. But quality has to come before the spin. Reporting is still important, and fewer and fewer bloggers are retaining this skill. When a large “media” company like Gawker doesn’t value quality, it hurts the entire industry because they’re sending the message, “This is okay. This is what blogging is about.”

It’s Time for Better Commenting

It is, in fact, time for the blogging industry to embrace new ways of thinking about comments. Kinja might be the start of that, but there are still some problems. Peter Stern of the Columbia Journalism Review writes,

“The goal is to erase the traditional distinctions between writers, editors, readers, subject, and sources,” Denton told CJR in a Gchat. At the same time, he insisted, “our goal is to help our writers each achieve greater influence and reach with the same amount of work.” So which is it—does Denton want to empower writers or replace them?

But the future of commenting is here, and we can’t just ignore it completely. We don’t have to embrace it, but as bloggers, we can work to understand it and improve it. Says community management and social media strategist Natalie Rodic Marsan from Broken Open Media,

This is the natural progression of comments, and in fact, I’m thrilled to see that the thinking around blog comments is catching up to the AI-driven, algorithmic social web as we know it. I’d say this is the first step in what will be an even more customized approach to how each viewer can interact with a post and ensuing comments. While sites like Mashable, HuffPo, and now even LinkedIn are encouraging us to customize the news and updates we receive, as well as the other readers/members we want to follow, the natural progression is for these choices we make to also affect the comments we see on any given post (especially posts with upwards of hundreds of comments).

As Gawker continues to tweak Kinja in the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see how readers react. Gawker’s content issues pose a huge problem to us, though – can we really understand the value (or lack of value) with a system like Kinja when readers are trained to be trolls?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this with a comment below. And yes, we still call them comments here on the NMX/BlogWorld blog!


How Do You Respond to Trolls who Blog?


When you hear the term “troll” online, it is usually in reference to a commenter or forum poster who is hijacking the conversation with hateful and idiot comments to elicit a response from people. I think we can all agree that trolls stink, and the best course of action is typically to avoid feeding them and instead steer the conversation back to the original topic or even moderate heavily to control the mood of the conversation. But how do you respond when that troll is a blogger too?

Today, I read a post that was written purely to get a reaction from people. It was hateful and made claims that were unfounded, and the author freely admitted in the comments that he was hoping his post would get people talking. I’m refusing to link to it here because I don’t want to give that guy any more traffic, nor do I want to draw anyone involved with that debate to this blog. Trust me; the post was horrible, negative bile and you don’t need to waste your time reading it.

I come across posts like that way too often. I’m not talking about posts that are controversial – I love that kind of thing, even when I disagree with the author. I’m talking about really negative posts that are meant to anger people into commenting and sharing. Often, the author doesn’t even believe what he or she is writing. The goal is as much traffic as possible, leading to a bunch of comments that are really mean-spirited, while the author stands by smugly and occasionally prattles on about his/her “right to free speech.”

When I read posts like that, it makes me upset. I get emotional pretty easily, and it’s always hard for me to resist jumping into the comments to call the author and idiot and sharing the post so my friends can  do the same.

Except that exactly what the author wants.

Just like a commenting or forum troll wants to tick you off enough to make you respond, a blogging troll wants you to share the link and jump in with a comment, essentially turning you into a troll yourself. The author knows that nobody is going to defend their post. They might play all “woe is me” victim when people start attacking or they might even feign surprise that people are upset. But rest assured, they are sitting behind their computer screen giggling as their traffic explodes and giddy with excitement over every new comment. This is how a troll feels important.

The reason why this is such a good set-up for the troll is because it is a lose-lose situation for the reader. If you read the post and don’t respond, you haven’t added yourself to the side of good. You haven’t raised a voice against evil in the world. You’ve remained silent instead of standing up for what is right, and that doesn’t sit well with me or with most people. If you read the post and do respond, the troll is getting what he/she wants. You’ve been baited into replying, and even if you disagree in a respectful way, you’re lumped in with all the people who can’t control their emotions and leave hateful comments disagreeing with the author.

I sometimes think the best response is to blog about it, taking the conversation off the negative site and onto your own site, but even that isn’t the perfect solution, since you’re still giving that blogger traffic. Even if you don’t provide a link, curious readers will google it to understand what you’re talking about.

I’m not sure that there’s a right or wrong answer to how you should respond to trolls who blog. What do you think? Do you ignore the post? Leave a respectfully disagreeing comment? Leave a passionate, angry comment? Blog about it? Something else?

Overheard on #Blogchat: CommentLuv (@womanonajourney)


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!

On open mic nights on #blogchat, there are always tons of topics covered. Here’s one of the tweets that I found interesting from the dozens of different conversations that happened over the course of the hour:

@womanonajourney: One way to encourage traffic, find blogs that use CommentLuv, it encourages visits to commentors.

When I first started blogging, one piece of advice that I got over and over and over again was that I needed to comment on other blogs. So I did, and ever though I felt that I was leaving valuable, interesting comments, I didn’t see much traffic from that work. About a year into blogging, after still continuously hearing about the importance of commenting on other blogs, I did a little experiment. Over the course of a month, I made it my goal to leave 25 comments per week, across random blogs – and I tracked my change in traffic.

After over 100 comments, my suspicions were confirmed. I got little traffic from my comments, even when left on blogs that got tons of traffic. I noticed in my own behavior too – even when I enjoyed someone’s comment, I would rarely click through to read the person’s blog.

CommentLuv has changed that. When I’m perusing comments on a post I like and the blogger has CommentLuv installed, headlines often catch my eye and convince me to click through. I’ve also noticed that when I comment on a blog that has CommentLuv installed, I do see a little traffic from that comment.

Honestly? Comments are never going to be a huge source of traffic. They might build your brand and help you form relationships with other bloggers, but if you want biggest traffic numbers, SEO, aggregation, guest posts, and other techniques are much more time effective than comments. Still, if you are looking for traffic from your comments, looking for CommentLuv is your best bet.

Have you noticed traffic from CommentLuv? Do you leave comments as a traffic-driving technique? Do you use CommentLuv on your own blog?

Thanks to @womanonajourney for a great conversation point on #blogchat!

30 Days to a Better Blog: Connect With Other Bloggers


30 Days to a Better Blog: Connect With Other Bloggers

Blog You’re whipping your blog into shape, and now it’s time to connect with other bloggers! The blogiverse is an amazing place of camaraderie and friendship.

Most niches and industries are very open to working with their fellow bloggers to network, share links, and even guest post. The more bloggers you work with and help, the more you’ll find they are willing to reciprocate.

Remember that competitive analysis you did? Those blogs are the a great place to start, but also consider researching other intermediate and smaller blogs. They may have more time to respond to your comments and work with you further.

Once you have a list of at least 10 blogs, here’s the best way to connect with those bloggers:

  • Research the blogger. Take a look at their blog. Read their About page. Look at how they respond to comments. Once you’ve done all this, you’ll have something worthwhile to contribute.li>Research the blog’s followers. How do they interact with each other? Is there a lot of humor involved or do they keep it professional? You want to draw attention to yourself, but not in a bad way!
  • Leave a worthwhile comment. Respond to a specific post or discussion. Leave your blog link as part of your name, but don’t link back to your own blog just yet. Once you’ve gotten into a dialogue, you can suggest reading further on your blog, but not in the initial contact.
  • Follow up on your comment. Come back to the blog or subscribe to the comments so that you can continue a dialogue. Don’t ask a question and then not respond or thank the blogger for answering.
  • Email the blogger. After you’ve had a few discussions with the blogger, you can choose to contact them off their blog with any further items … do they want to join your blogroll? do they want to participate in a blogfest? the opportunities are endless.

Now make this a part of your routine. I have a list of blogs in my RSS feed that I try to browse and comment on – at least on a weekly basis. How do you connect with other bloggers?

Controlling the Chatter: Why Moderation is Okay with Me


If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times: “You can’t please everyone.” Most blog have a wide range of readers, and that advice becomes especially pertinent when handing out some kind of blogging award, writing an emotionally-charged post, or responding to a comment or blog post with an opposite opinion. Soon, the community starts to do what I call “chattering.” Some people bicker, most people are respectful, and a lot of great discussion happens.

Chatter is awesome. It’s more than just comments. It’s conversation. When your readers start responding to one another, sharing ideas, and checking back to reply to new comments, that’s chatter. You’ve engaged your audience to the point where they’ve not only felt the need to leave a comment, but they want to have a discussion about it. When this happens, people start to take more possession in the post and tend to tweet it or spread it through other means. Like I said, chatter is awesome.

But that chatter needs to be controlled.

I know that some bloggers take the approach that any comment, as long as it isn’t spam, will get published on their site. I respect that approach to blogging, but it’s one that I don’t always use on my own blog. I definitely depends on your niche and on your readers, but no matter what, I think that this approach on a blog can get out of hand in a hurry.

I’ve seen it happen before. One time, I read a post that was highlighting a major problem in the writing industry. The author called out a particular company that hires a lot of freelancers, and of course workers who were fans of that company flocked to the blog post to defend it. On the other side of things, people who felt they had been wronged in some way by this company, as the author had, were leaving comments that were just as emotional. The chatter slowly took a turn for the worst, and what was productive conversation devolved into name-calling and snark.

Even before that point, though, I believe that the conversation needed some control.

See, the people weren’t really saying anything new anymore. It was just this exchange of “yah huh!” and “nuh uh!” back and forth, which led to the more belligerent comments. By the time I read the post for the first time, there were over 50 comments, and while the first several made good points, I had to force myself to keep reading after a point. As a reader, it got boring to me.

And that’s lesson number one. You can’t control what people say, but you can stop the conversation from getting boring. When people start to say the same things over and over again, jump in there! Ask questions via replies, encouraging the comments to take a new spin and evolve, rather than plateauing. I think Jade Craven is doing a fabulous job at this on her 40 Bloggers to Watch in 2011 post – she’s jumping into the comments and responding to people to encourage the conversation to evolve beyond “your post is awesome” or “your post is crap.”

In the particular comments section that I mentioned, the comments got mean. At that point, the blogger chose to close the comments, which I’m not sure was the right decision. People still wanted to discuss. There were just a few bad apples who forgot how to act like like adults. Before she closed the comments, I did have something to say, but I was too intimidated because I saw others being attacked, and the blogger just let it happen.

That’s lesson number two. Don’t let members of your community get attacked! I don’t just mean people who comment often or follow you on Twitter or something. Every reader, even the lurker, is a member of your community, and when they leave a comment, even one that disagrees with you, they deserve respect. And that’s your job – to ensure that they get it.

Something that we forget: Freedom of speech does not mean that you have to allow anyone to leave a comment on your site. I actual advocate having a comment policy and then editing any comment that does not adhere to your policy. For example, you could say in your policy, “Disagreeing is encouraged, but name-calling is not.” Then, simply edit the bad comment to have “This comment was removed due to its language. Check out our comment policy and feel free to leave a second comment that adheres to these community rules! -Editor”

A message like that tells me that the blogger cares about me and wants everyone to feel comfortable leaving a comment on the post.

Lastly, keep in mind that you can reach out to commenters via email. I do this when one of the long-term members of my community leaves a comment that is emotionally charged or gets attacked by other commenters. I don’t want one post where we disagree or another commenter to mean that the person stops coming to my blog. Reaching out shows that person that you’ve noticed them and that you care about their opinion. Individual attention is awesome!

30 Days to a Better Blog: Keep Up With Your Comments


30 Days to a Better Blog: Keep Up With Your Comments

Conversations are a HUGE and integral part of blogging. And the first place a discussion usually takes place is in your comments section. Keeping on top of your comments should be just as important as writing your next post, and there are several steps involved:

  • Field Spam. Everyone hates spam. Bloggers hate weeding through it, but honestly … readers hate seeing it too. It is the first way to signify to a reader that you don’t really care about your blog. The first step is to activate Akismet (or another anti-spam plugin) but many comments and trackbacks will slip through the crack. Flag them as spam and keep them off your blog.
  • Approve Comments. If you have your blog set up so that you must manually approve comments, you must keep on top of them and commit to approving them immediately. If a reader took the time to offer feedback or continue a discussion, they’re not going to come back a day later to see if their comment made it through.
  • Reply to Comments. If someone responds to a post (even to say “great idea”), take the time to respond back. They took time out of their day to read your blog and give you feedback. They are opening the door to becoming a repeat visitor and starting a dialogue with you. Respect your readers, talk to them, and they’re bound to recommend you to others.
  • Start a Debate. Face reality. Not everybody is going to love you or your ideas. But controversy and debate can fuel very interesting conversations and bring in pageviews. If someone disagrees with you, don’t ignore their comment – start a debate. Acknowledge their viewpoint and counter it. Be respectful, but this is your opportunity to show that you care about your topic and are knowledgeable enough to debate it.
  • Bring Comments Into Your Posts. Browse your comments for ideas for future posts, or pull together several into a follow-up article. Your readers will love seeing themselves brought into your content and will continue to comment on the blog. You may even ask a commenter to contribute with a guest post of his/her own.

Are there other ways you keep up with your comments? Share them in OUR comment section below.

Are Spammy Comments Inevitable?


Hang on, I’m not going to talk about the spam and junk comments we get on our blogs because that’s long since been discussed to death and while it’s managed by Akismet and such, it’s just a fact of life. Even with those tools, I still get 5-10 clearly spam comments on AskDaveTaylor every night (usually between 1-5am, when I imagine that it’s mid-day in India or China?), all easily deleted.

Instead, I’m going to ask whether these sort of comments are just part of being online and a natural outgrowth of any commercial or economic system where there are bottom-feeders trying to exploit and trick both the system and its users for a fast buck?

What made me wonder this, btw, is when I was looking at the app reviews on iTunes for a game and noticed that they’re starting to be overrun by spammers. Yup, those little two-sentence reviews are a brave new outpost for this sort of thing, as shown here:

In case it’s not obvious, I’m not encouraging you to check out either of the apps (or Web sites) mentioned. Like email spam, like blog comment spam, encouraging these guys is like feeding cockroaches in a tenement, a really bad idea.

What really strikes me about this after being in the blogging world for eight years and being online for a lot longer than that is that there’s a sort of inevitability to this sort of thing, a sense that everyone who designs any sort of user feedback or user generated content system, any Web-based app or even standalone app that lets people share their own opinions must take this junk into account and design the system to limit — or, better, prevent — these sort of abuses.

On the blogging front, it amazes me that I see similar sort of daft spam comments on all of my blog articles, from film reviews on my film blog to parenting discussions on my parenting blog. I know, much of it’s automated, but it’s not, really, because the automated stuff is what Akismet is so darn good at catching. This is actually a human being spending the time and effort to attempt to leave a comment that starts out more or less related to the topic (“good review, I love Jolie!”) followed by those pesky links to their scams, hustles and rip-offs.

Is this just the way of things?  Should we all finally buckle down and just assume spam is going to spread and ooze into every corner of our online lives?  What do you think?

Overheard on #Blogchat: Comments and Niche (@idiot_girl)


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: Blog Comments

A few months ago, I spoke with someone who was extremely discouraged about the number of comments left on his blog. For every post he wrote, he would get thousands of unique views, but only one or two comments. I asked him what he blogged about. His answer? Weekly round-ups of real estate news.

Well, there is your answer. No one was coming to his blog for the conversation. They were simply coming to read news they may have missed.

During #blogchat, one tweeter expressed this concept well:

idiot_girl: I think some bloggers should also realize that not all blog types invite comments.

Take a look at your niche. Are they a vocal group, inherently? Does your niche lend well to discussion? Are your readers comfortable with leaving comments on blogs? The answer isn’t always yes.

And that’s ok.

Most groups of people are vocal somewhere. It’s just a matter of finding them. That can be online or offline. For example, my friend with the real estate blog may not be starting conversations on his blog, but his target market is made of people who go to tons of conventions, expos, and other types of events every year. Another example – I know someone whose target market is made up of tweens and teens. They aren’t super comfortable with blog comments, but they definitely are vocal on Facebook. If you want the feedback, find where your community hangs out…and bring your blog to them.

But at the same time, you don’t need comments to be successful. I know someone who makes five figures every month from a shopping-based blog network where he’s lucky to get 5 comments per post. He has a different focus from a blogger who is talking about parenting, though. It’s all about understanding your niche. Sometimes, the lack of comments is no reason to worry!

Thanks to idiot_girl for a tweet during #blogchat that was definitely not idiotic!

Overheard on #Blogchat: Spamming Yourself (@OneGiantStep)


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: Blog Comments

There’s one issue relating to blog comments that I debate with people more than others – whether or not to answer comments on your own blog. A number of people brought up this topic during #blogchat this week, and this one sums up how I feel about the topic:

OneGiantStep: I worry that if I respond to EVERY comment that I’m just spamming myself

I’m firmly on the side of “not every blog comment needs a response.” Some bloggers disagree with me. A number of the comments that I highly respect respond to every comment and encourage new bloggers to do the same. I don’t, because I think it can get out of hand. Like OneGiantStep noted, it starts to look like spam on your own site.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t reply to any comment. I know bloggers who do that as well. Some are just lazy. Others are misguided (in my opinion) and believe that its best to remain silent while they let their community engage with one another. I personally believe that you need to be somewhere in the middle. As a professional blogger, it’s part of your job to respond to your community.

Here’s when I don’t respond to a comment, though:

When I Don’t have Anything to Say

What, you were expecting a long list? :-p

Sometimes, comments fall through the cracks. There are only so many hours in a day, and occasionally I miss comments that require a response. I think we all do. No one is perfect. Even if you have a VA, you’re going to miss some comments.

But just because I haven’t answered a comment doesn’t mean that i missed it. Sometimes, I just have no further comment.

Now, it’s important to not leave questions unanswered. That’s a given. Even if you don’t know the answer, acknowledge the question and try to help the reader. Leaving the question unanswered just looks like you don’t care about your readers. Email the answer? Still, leave a comment. Other commenters don’t know that you emailed the person who asked the question, so to them, it just looks like you snubbed the reader.

But what about other comments? Should you respond? It’s a judgement call. Here’s the rule of thumb I use: If someone adds something to the conversation, I should try to respond with my thoughts. If they don’t really add much, but are instead thanking you or saying what others have said, I don’t always reply. Don’t get me wrong – those comments are important to me too! I just don’t want to respond to “great article” with “thanks.” That means there are two comments now that don’t add anything for future readers.

Here’s an example of my thought process. Let’s say I write a post about my favorite kind of cake. Because I like cake. Reader #1 leaves a comment asking if anyone knows where they can find a gluten-free recipe for that kind of cake. Reader #2 leaves a comment saying that they once ate a version of that cake while on vacation that used chocolate frosting instead of peanut butter frosting and it was also really good. Reader #3 leaves a comment that thanks me for the article because they had been looking for a good cake recipe.

I would 100% reply to Reader #1 with links to some gluten-free resources. I would also reply to Reader #2, thanking them for the suggestion and noting that not only would chocolate frosting be good, but readers should try mixing and matching other recipes as well to find new flavors. I would probably not respond to Reader #3. What do I have to say? Nothing.

Of course, there are a lot of other issues to consider here as well. How do you comment in a way that doesn’t dominate the conversation? Should you respond to troll comments? What about comments left on older posts – should you answer them too or spend your time focused on comments on new posts? Is it ethical to hire someone to answer comments for you, under your name?

But for now, I hope that I’ve simply given you some food for thought about the general concept of replying to every comment. Thanks OneGiantStep and everyone at #blogchat this week for inspiring this conversation!

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