There’s nothing worse than writing something you think is important, posting it on your blog, and then waiting for comments … and waiting … and waiting. Conversely, there are few things more rewarding than having people comment on your post and engaging directly with your readers. More than any single factor, I think it is the one thing that has kept me blogging for all these years.
But how do you get more comments? How do you get your readers more engaged? I am definitely not an expert, but I get a fair amount of comments. Here are seven strategies that I have found helpful.
- End your posts with a question. The more open-ended you can make your posts the better. I have found it helpful to simply end my posts with a question. I try to do this on every single post. It’s like sending your readers an invitation to participate. This is a technique I learned from Pete Wilson, who uses it to great effect.
- Use a threaded comment system. This allows your readers to comment “in-line” and reply to other readers. A great blog is not a monologue (just you talking to your readers) nor a dialogue (allowing your readers to respond to you). Instead, it provides a mechanism for hosting a conversation, so that your readers can respond to one another. I currently use Disqus on my blog for this.
- Display your comment count prominently. I can’t explain this, but I can tell you that since I started displaying the comment count next to my post titles, the number of my comments has increased dramatically. If the number is low, people want to jump in and be among the first to comment. If the comment count is high, readers think the topic is hot and want to get in on the action. Either way, you win. (I did this on my WordPress blog by modifying some code originally posted by Mitch Canter.)
- Make it easy to comment. Yes, comment spam is a problem. But most modern blog systems catch this without making it difficult for your readers to comment. (If you are using WordPress, you can simply install the Askimet plugin.) If you are serious about this, don’t insist on approving comments before they are posted live on your blog. Don’t require registration and don’t use some annoying technology like CAPTCHA to prevent robot spam. It is no longer necessary. If you think it is, you are on the wrong blogging platform.
- Participate in the conversation. I talked about this in my post, “Do You Make These 10 Mistakes When You Blog?” If you start the conversation (your blog post), have the good manners to stick around and participate in the conversation. Your readers want to engage with you. They will engage with other readers, but they are more likely to comment if they know you are reading the comments and replying to them. Yes, this takes time, but it is the best investment you can make if you want to get more comments.
- Reward your best commenters. This is one of the reasons I do book give-aways. Admittedly, this is a little easier for me, since I am the CEO of a publishing company, but you can also reward commenters. You can list your top commenters in your sidebar. You can recognize them publicly. You can do other kinds of give-aways or hold contests (though you need to be careful that you don’t run afoul of the various lottery laws). Be creative. People love getting something for free—or even a discount.
- Don’t over-react to criticism. If people see you as sensitive, defensive, or rude, they will not feel free to participate in the conversation. This is true in real life; it is true on your blog. If you let people openly disagree with you, it adds to your credibility and encourages more engagement. The only time I delete comments—and it is very rare—is when they become snarky, offensive, or off-topic. I have an official comments policy, so that people know what is acceptable and what is not.
There are probably many other ways to encourage comments, but these are some that I have helped me. What about you?