March 21, 2004

How To Get More Comments on Your Blog

Bil writes in a comment:

I really like getting comments on my site. For a while there I was getting a lot of good comments, but lately it’s been awful. Barely anything.

I like getting comments on my site, too. I think it is part of why many of us get into weblogging. My weblog was 1 1/2 years old before I got any regular comments. We all get a lot more hits than comments, and it’s something I’ve devoted some thought to.

I can’t say for sure, but I think people like to see their comment listed up on the main page. That’s why I added that little feature on the main index that lists the latest so-many comments. Your blog layout is a lot more streamlined at the top than mine is. It emphasizes your posted content, which is good, but maybe it doesn’t encourage community as much.

Encouraging “online community” is something I’ve considered for a number of years (ever since I taught an online course about internet communications and then later as I helped moderate some discussion groups and participated in Epinions.1 )

There are things that motivate people to move from being a reader to posting a comment. Nothing is guaranteed, but I have a few observations/suggestions.2

  1. When you comment, people comment. I read Bil’s comment on my weblog and it encouraged me to visit his site and it put me into a mood for discussion.
  2. When you ask questions, it encourages answers, especially when you ask questions that everyone has an opinion about. However, if they have something substantial to say, they may not want to bury it deep in someone else’s comment section. That leads to my next suggestion.
  3. Encourage trackbacks3. There are plug-ins for making trackbacks a little more prominent on your weblog. I haven’t used them, but encouraging trackback is one way to get some feedback. If a person is already invested in blogging, they probably have an interest in posting something interesting for their readers, and getting your readers to notice them. Trackback could be looked at as a way for someone to siphon off your readers, but I prefer to look at it as a way of making connections, when it is used heavily. Encourage trackbacks by making them both more prominent and more readable. It’s another opportunity for someone to see how they can make their mark on your website.
  4. As I mentioned above, your main index (your weblog’s main page) can encourage comments. A list of the most recent comments not only allows people to follow comments, but allows folks who comment to get their name (and their link) on your main page. For another blogger, this is an enticement. You might also use something like CommentLeader to put a list of the most prolific commenter on your main page.4 This is part of building community. People see that they’re part of the weblog’s readership.
  5. Say something really inflammatory, and use popular Google search terms. I include this because it’s true. No, I don’t think it’s the best thing to do to get attention. This is borrowing a page out of shock radio, or AM talk radio. AM talk radio doesn’t work unless people get riled up and call in. So the radio jock is increasingly encouraged to say outrageous things in order to piss people off. Alternately, he’s saying things that some of the callers wish they could say. The callers call in and agree, and this lets them blow off some steam. If you can do this without compromising your opinion, that’s great. Unfortunately, for it to really work, you have to do it often. But it may just be fun to let loose once in a while.
  6. Taunt and challenge people. “I dare you to comment! You’re afraid to comment!” OK, that’s a dud.
  7. Get yourself more links. Be a link whore. Do whatever it takes to raise your hit count. Make entries based on your guesses for good Google search terms. And ruin your weblog in the process. OK, another dud.
  8. Links off your site discourage comments. If you’re posting a link to somewhere else, your readers are more than likely going to go off to that other place and not come back and comment unless they have some really good reason to return. That’s just the way it is. Those people who do return are your regular readers who may already be in a rut of not commenting. The random readers are gone before they have a chance.
  9. Respond to comments, and let comments sometimes feed into new posts. I think people like to know you’re thinking about their comment, so I try to comment back. But they may not see my response if they are not explicitly waiting around checking that entry (another reason for the “recent comments” list). Sometimes you have a comment-response that is too long for the comments. Don’t bury it there. Quote the comment and make it its own entry on the main weblog. Again, it shows people that comments are part of the back-and-forth.
  10. Focus on smaller weblogs with your own reading and commenting. You’re more likely to gain a new reader/commenter if you’re commenting on weblogs that are your level or lower on the weblog ecosphere. Why? Because people really high up in the weblog food chain already get a ton of comments. They won’t notice you. See observation #1 for why this is significant.
  11. Write good, or at least goodish.
  12. Ask/beg for comments. It could work.

Those are a few of my suggestions. I don’t claim to be an expert on getting comments. Top Twelve Reasons was a fluke. I usually get very few comments, but I’m blessed with a high quality readership. Yes, Aces Full of Links is not about quantity of readers, we’re all about quality. And we like to reward our readers who comment by sucking up to them shamelessly.

Some A-list weblogs have tons of readers and don’t get all that many comments. So, don’t feel so bad if you get even fewer.

In any event, I’d be happy to hear anyone’s further suggestions for how to garner more comments.

1 One of these days I’ll have to post an essay about how weblogging is similar to Epinions. It’s been a while since I’ve written there. My last piece was a review of a book on weblogging.

2 Just so that it’s clear, even though I mention Bil and his excellent weblog A Cry For Help, these suggestions are general observations. This is not, in any way, a criticism of A Cry For Help.

3 Trackback is a way of leading people to a continuation of a discussion from one weblog to another. It was created by the folks at Movable Type, but it’s been adopted by some other blog software and is becoming a standard. It’s best used when you’re continuing a discussion, but because of Trackback Auto Detect, often a link is made even if someone is just saying “Look what he said.” That diminishes its usefulness, but I think it’s still worth having for the times when people really are continuing the discussion.

4 CommentLeader is a plug-in for the Movable Type blogging software. There may be other ways to do this in other blogging systems, but I’m not aware of them. My experience is only with MT and Blogger, and Blogger doesn’t support built-in comments at all. (YMMV—It didn’t when I was using it and probably still does not [update: now it does] )

Posted by James at March 21, 2004 1:43 AM
Create Social Bookmark Links
Comments

Linking to your blog in discussion fora might help. If you've been engaging in lively discussions with folks for a long time, linking them over to your blog would probably bring in people who would *want* to comment on your articles.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 21, 2004 2:11 AM

True. I put my weblog address in my sig at EpinionAddicts, but people rarely seem to wander here to comment. Perhaps they read but lurk.

I am very opinionated. Polite people may feel more comfortable challenging me on the discussion group rather than coming to my own website and posting something negative here.

I don't take it as an attack, so they needn't feel that way.

I know and respect people who disagree with me on a great many things.

Posted by: James (DrM) at March 21, 2004 2:34 AM

I will of course be responding to this, in a post of my own at A Cry for Help. Trackbacks forthwith hence and so forth.

Posted by: Bil at March 21, 2004 2:37 PM

Furthermore, I don't appreciate being quoted out of context. You make me sound like a whiner when in fact I was commenting in a free associative way apropos of the post with which the comment was associated. I demand an apology and clarification.

Just kidding.

Posted by: Bil at March 21, 2004 2:41 PM

Crap - you're right. It was out of context. The link to the comment was broken. Time to fix it.

Posted by: James (DrM) at March 21, 2004 3:02 PM
Furthermore, I don't appreciate being quoted out of context. You make me sound like a whiner when in fact I was commenting in a free associative way apropos of the post with which the comment was associated. I demand an apology and clarification.

NOW you sound like a whiner.

hee hee hee

;-)

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 21, 2004 3:28 PM

Here's a cheesey idea for getting comments:

Have A Contest

Post a riddle or a puzzle or some entertaining brainteaser and tell people to leave their answers/guesses in the comments. Then after a few days you announce the winner and post a new puzzle.

Ya okay, it's dumb. But I bet it would work!

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 21, 2004 3:53 PM

Contests are fun. Just a different kind of content. Hmmm... I've done what you describe on a number of occasions, Chuck. (though not just to get comments) You trying to tell me something? ;)

I guess it's dumb if it's a lame contest, or the only reason you're doing it is to get comments. Maybe pathetic, rather than dumb. But even lame stuff can be funny.

But I think it's a really good suggestion to increase the interactive nature of your website.

Interesting non-blog content is a legit way to have fun and increase readership. The bloggies even have a category for it.

Often, on EAForums we'll have social games/contests. People like them, and it brings people together.

Here's a dumb idea:
You could pay people to leave comments. Like a lot of the RNC's grassroots (astroturf) support. That's quite dumb. But it would work.


Posted by: James (DrM) at March 21, 2004 6:25 PM

Remember the "Whose Eyes Are They?" thread I put together over on MOTL? That got a lot of attention.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 21, 2004 7:18 PM

Ooo. Typekey looks cool. The people at SixApart (makers of MovableType) are creating TypeKey to add comment registration to the next version of MT.

What's great about htis is that one registration will be usable across all sites using the new version of MT.

Better still, the Typekey functionality can be built into other weblog applications, so non-MT users may be able to benefit from this central user registration.

Nifty!

Posted by: James (DrM) at March 21, 2004 9:28 PM

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