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Using Comments on your Blog

Human beings are relational. We like to be acknowledged. We like too participate and contribute. We like to feel that what we have to say is valuable.

Most of your blog’s readers are human beings (well most of mine are). So acknowledge and interact with them.

The most common way for interaction on blogs is through comments. An an old study I once read found that 43% of blogs use comments – I suspect the figure would be much higher today with most blogging platforms now integrating them (remember the days when you had to use a third party comments system!?).

Not everyone likes comments. Some bigger bloggers don’t use them because they get overwhelmed by too much interaction and some smaller blogs don’t use them because they don’t get any comments at all and are embarrassed with the ‘comments (0)’ at the end of each post. Still others gave up on comments because of comment spam.

The Upside to Comments

I personally think commenting is the best part of my blogging – especially here at ProBlogger. You see I’m not that profound or wise, but many of my readers are. Comments add value to my blog. They take my posts to the next level and often take my ideas in rewarding new directions. I have learnt a lot from comments left in this blog and have even met some new friends through them.

Comments have the ability to help create a ‘virtual community’ at your blog. It sounds strange but I’ve seen a number of blogs where the commenters seem to know each other really well and where I suspect people keep coming back to purely to interact with each other. I’ve noticed this starting to happen here at ProBlogger as I constantly get emails from readers who tell me about the relationships they’ve started with other readers that they meet here.

Comments bring accountability to bloggers. If you post something that is inaccurate, controversial or not thought through, expect to be told about it in comments. Whilst this doesn’t always feel the best at the time – it does make you a better blogger in the long run.

Comments add to the content on your blog – One of the things I’ve noticed over the years as I watch my blog referral statistics (which show how people end up on my blog) is that quite a few of them actually end up here having search for a word/s that someone wrote in my comments section. The more comments you get the more content you end up with.

The Downside Comments

With all good things there is a negative flip side. Comment spam has become an increasing problem for many bloggers in the past year. The key to comment spam is to read every comment as it comes in. (Mine get sent to an email address to help with this) and to delete spam as it arrives. Many blogging tools now also have built in means to stop or limit comment spam – learn to use them – don’t let it overwhelm you. Whilst it might take time to monitor your comments it is worth it in the end as a blog infected by hundreds of spam comments decreases the value of your blog not only to readers but in the Search Engines.

You’ll also receive a lot of comments from people trolling for hits at their own blogs. I personally don’t mind these too much, unless they are serial trollers. Flaming in comments can be an issue also. I’ve had a fair share of comment interactions from people that have gotten too personal. You might want to develop some sort of comments policy to help with this.

How to Get Comments on your Blog

- Ask questions. I will often end a post with a question or invitation to comment.
- Interact with comments left. I read every comment left on my blog. I try to either reply to it via comments or email (this gets hard when you start to get a lot!). In my opinion a key to whether you will get comments will be your willingness to use them yourself. Don’t expect your readers to go to the effort of commenting if you ignore them.
- Be humble. People will not comment if you write in a way that presumes to know all the answers. Acknowledge that you’re on a journey, post honestly about your own failings or gaps in knowledge and show people that you believe in them. If you do this, more often than not people will feel comfortable having their say.
- Be gracious. You will get angry, nasty and rude comments. Attempt not to take them personally. Don’t reply to comments in the heat of the moment when angry. Delete comments when they step over your boundaries and attempt to respond to such comments with grace. You may even find that when someone is trying to push your buttons with their comments that the best way to defuse them is to ignore them or simply reply politely with a quick ‘thanks for your comment’. I know it is hard but you will win the respect of your readers if you do.
- Be controversial? – This is a strategy that I see a lot of bloggers using to get readers and stimulated comments. I’m not convinced that it is a good one. It is easy to stir people up and get a lot of comments by saying something controversial just for the sake of it – but I wonder if you do more harm than good this way. Do it too much and you’ll disillusion your readers. I’m happy to put the cat amongst the pigeons occassionally, but don’t do it purely for comments or hits – do it because you believe what you’re saying.

Do I need to even invite you to comment on this post? What’s your experience with comments on a blog?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. tdfb says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your summary Darren. My blog has only existed for a little over a week, but I’ve received a few comments and have responded to each one (same goes for emails). I have also developed a few email friendships via comments in other blogs. It’s a great way to develop a network of friends and colleagues.

    I don’t subscribe to the idea of using comments to troll for hits. If I don’t have something to say about the subject (question or observation) then I don’t leave a comment…simple as that. On the flip side, valid comments are a great way to drive some traffic to your/my sites, especially if you’re willing to interact with people once they get there. Commenting is definitely a two way street.

  2. I see that many of the most popular blogs do not allow comments, and among those that do, there are complaints about the headaches of doing so (i.e. Scoble).

    My blog currently averages about 12 comments per post, with some posts receiving 50+ comments. I’d say I have a love-hate relationship with comments. Community building is often touted as something positive to do with a popular web site (often by those who don’t have one yet), but having done that with a forum and now with a blog, I wonder if focusing on community building is more trouble than it’s worth for bloggers. It takes extra effort to build and maintain a community, and the actual benefits of doing so are somewhat dubious compared to other ways you might invest your time.

  3. Yzabel says:

    I always turn comments on on all my blogs; to me, comments are part of chat makes the “charm” of blogs, and it’d be too bad for me not to use them. I like when people react to my posts, if their comments can allow me to think of another aspect of a problem I hadn’t envisioned, or to learn something new, it’s all the better. Of course, I’m not one of the known bloggers, and I haven’t had to deal with trolls/flame comments on my own blogs yet (spam comments have been kept to a low level; the WordPress anti-spam system has worked well for me so far). Maybe I’ll revise my point of view later on, but right now, to me, the strong points of comments definitely overshadow theirs flaws.

  4. While I don’t have many visitors commenting on my site, I do keep it up anyway. I see it as a way to keep me honest and make sure what I write is accurate and well-reasoned. I wrote this about my site:

    It seems that there are many blogging blusterers today loving themselves and their words more than they love accuracy and content. They see themselves as all knowing.

    It will be a constant effort to never make that mistake here.

    We are all human and none more so than I. With that knowledge securely before me, as I write I understand that my view is not the end all and be all.

    That’s where you, the reader, come in.

    It’s your job to correct the record, to add to the discussion, to confirm or disavow what is written. You are needed to create a better, holistic picture of the subject.

  5. Brian Turner says:

    People such as Aaron Wall make a point of relating to the internet as a community of social networks, and websites and interactive methods such as posts and comments are great ways to join in the conversations of social networks.

    I think it’s worth highlighting not simply the responsibilities involved in allowing third-party conversations, but also the potentially irresponsible methods used in them.

    You mentioned comment spam, but I personally find the “nofollow” tag that some bloggers use to be either entirely misguided in thinking it can replace responsible moderation – or else even plain self-indulgent in the case of webmasters who think that using nofollow means they can get to “horde PageRank” and therefore rank their pages higher in search engines – all the while completely overlooking the fact that nofollow’ing one another attempts to hide the very connections between blogs that elevated their importance to search engines in the first place.

    2c.

  6. Someone who does an excellent job of generating comments is Ann Althouse (http://althouse.blogspot.com). She has a talent to reach out to her readers and invite them to comment and she also participates in the activity. Althouse also attracts a regular group of commenters and I think they do have some feeling of community.

    My own blog has not quite caught on with commenters yet, although I have two loyal readers that regularly do so and I participate with them. I welcome more and, still being somewhat new to blogging, suspect it’s often something that needs to build.

    My one issue with commenting is the need to require a reader account login. When I left anonymous comments on, spammers attacked my site. It’s too bad because I think having the anonymous entry helps.

  7. IO ERROR says:

    And now I’m going to troll for hits.

    On comment spam: I’ve been working on this for quite a while, and I’m preparing a new release of Bad Behavior for WordPress which testers have reported has just about completely eliminated comment spam – and those spam digest emails.

    @Brian Turner: I wrote an article on nofollow and what it really does to the web a couple of months ago, and it received some of the highest numbers of comments and trackbacks I’ve seen on my site. The abstract: Nofollow is useless at stopping comment spam; it’s however very useful at solving some unrelated problems that Google has been having for quite a while. It’s too bad that ProBlogger uses nofollow. Oh well.

  8. Just wondering myself about the virtues of collaboration through comments. I will be putting forward a proposal to use Blogs as a content management system within our company.
    One of my arguements is that allowing comments on internal company blogs will foster discussion and collaboration. I know it seems to work well on this blog, but the audience here is probably more receptive to this type of collaboration then your average joe soap who works in a company. I don’t know if anybody has any thoughts on this?

  9. markus says:

    @IO ERROR: Great work. I don’t get any spam comment. (I just receive a few at all..)

    @Darren: Thank’s! You started answering my question :)

  10. duncan says:

    Advice to new bloggers: if you don’t offer comments chances are you’re not going to make it. Sure, some of the bigger sites dont but they’ve got the traffic to do so, and I don’t think it really helps them much at all by not having comments. Remember that the biggest site of all does (slashdot)

  11. Lei says:

    I love to receive and give comments. I answer every single one of my comments with some type of meaningful acknowledgement besides a simple emoticon, but I have heard a couple people complain that they don’t like to get a response?! That makes no sense to me because I usually don’t visit a blog again if I don’t get some response from someone to my comment because I feel excluded and ignored.

  12. Another tconsideration is to decide if you will allow anonymous comments.

    I find I can get more comments if I allow anonymous comments. I personally don’t want to sign up for a bunch of different blogging services so that I can post. I’m sure that others feel the same way.

    I take a risk with anonymous comments, but I can delete anything that isn’t in the spirit of blogging, i.e. spam or obscenity. I haven’t had any problems with anonymous comments so far, but I assume that one of these days I’ll have to delete a comment or two.

    I also have comments sent to my email address — it helps make it easy to send an email to an author of a comment, if needed.

    The best way to build a community is to find a couple of blogs that interest you and post often on them. It’s easy to just surf using blogexplosion or blogadvance, but it’s important to take a minute or two to contribute.

  13. Darren Rowse says:

    Wow – lots of comments on this one – surprise surprise.

    I probably should have written something in this post about the cost involved in having comments from a time perspective.

    To be honest – whilst I love the comments sections of my blogs – they do significantly increase the amount of time and energy I have to put into my blogging. Not only from a spam point of view (despite spam filters I find there are a few that always get through) but also from a perspective of interacting with people – responding to questions – building relationships – mediating fights between commenters.

    I wouldn’t give them up on a blog like ProBlogger for anything in the world – however I’ll admit to being tempted to turning comments off on a few of my other blogs where they are a less integral part of the blog.

  14. IO ERROR says:

    @markus: You’re quite welcome. My ultimate goal is a complete elimination of comment spam, while keeping the comments, and not unduly bothering the blog author.

    @duncan: Yes, /. has comments, but they also have an elaborate comment moderation system which is mainly reader-driven. You don’t frequently see CowboyNeal and CmdrTaco responding in comments, for instance.

  15. HART says:

    I use WordPress and added a plug-in called Spam Killer. I not really sure if it has worked, or never needed to work. I think the biggest problem in comment spam is the blogger.com help files and BizStone (of Xanga)’s article http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=1060&query=promote&topic=0&type=f that encourages people to post random comments – to promote their blogs.

    I personally don’t care and welcome anonymous comments. I would rather find something offensive and delete it, than have someone trying to post a legitimate comment and get frustrated and never come back because he/she has to register.

    Occassionally, I get a chuckle from surfing seeing comments like “GO” http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=11746750&postID=112335830226103907 (in response to receiving a generic comment by this person) … although I laugh even more when you see comments by people like “ERIC” .. with his http://playstation3eric.blogspot.com blog … I just had to bookmark that. Can you say …. ‘overboard’ ?

  16. Damien says:

    Comments are an integral part of my blog. I try to answer the questions posed as accurately as possible, but have been known to mess it up completely once or twice (not too often I’m glad to say) and you are right when you say that if something is inaccurate, a reader is guaranteed to set you right! I do try to respond to the comments if I can and if it is relevant. Sometimes I will just visit their own blog and reciprocate. How valuable are comments to me? 161 in the 42 day life of the blog says it all!

    P.S. I’m enjoying the 31 days series, learning quite a bit.

  17. Patrick says:

    I like comments. But, if it gets to a point where managing comments is extremely unwieldly, I won’t hesitate to consider disabling them. That said, I don’t see myself getting to that point for a real long time…

  18. A recent study showed that people who were new to blogs didn’t really understand what commenting was for or how it was supposed to work. They didn’t know if comments were to appear right away, be moderated, or what the purpose of them even was.

    Default blog system templates and themes don’t do a good job of helping newbies. You need to put in your comment policy, explain what happens when the submit button is clicked, and actively encourage people to comment.

  19. un papier says:

    Commenting should be enabled for all blogs. However I see that some of the people who have made it like CEOs and COOs (e.g., Jonathan Schwartz of sun) do not let us participate in the discussion. It then becomes just a marketing newsletter. Talking of Jonathan, I suspect if he even reviews his own piece.

  20. dsw says:

    I also have recently removed nofollow tag from my blog to reward my members with backlinks. They actually particapte to increase content my site. If you have comment moderation on your website, then there is no need for nofollow.

  21. John Dilbeck says:

    In my opinion, such as it is, I think a blog without comments isn’t really a blog.

    I enjoy comments on what I write; otherwise it feels like standing on a mountain shouting into the wind.

    Even so, I rarely get comments on what I write.

    Sometimes I want to comment on a post I read on a blog, but can’t come up with anything meaningful to say that will add value to the post. Since I don’t want to say something like “that’s right” or “way to go,” I just don’t leave a comment.

    The comments here at ProBlogger add value to what Darren writes and I find many of them to be worthwhile.

  22. Do you think you could outsource comment moderation? Is it too fine a line to have someone else moderate comments?

  23. Hello,

    Good post. I used a moderated method, but sometimes question
    whether this is helpful or not…

  24. David Williams says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your summary Darren. My blog has only existed for a little over a week, but I’ve received a few comments and have responded to each one (same goes for emails). I have also developed a few email friendships via comments in other blogs. It’s a great way to develop a network of friends and colleagues.

    Anchor Link :- http://www.iwaayconsultant.com

    David Williams

  25. cellphone says:

    I can be happy here after reading the comments on any posts add insight and knowledge.
    for that in search of information about the drop in cellphone yah

  26. Listorbit says:

    I think all the big comments are here in your blog.