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Blogosphere Trends + Encouraging Comments

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

You may have heard the stat that for every 100 people who read your post, only one, on average, will leave a comment. The fact is, most of us are lurkers by nature. I know I am; I read dozens of blogs every day but very rarely comment. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the content, just that I didn’t feel the need—or have the time—to join the conversation. So the next time you’re looking at the vast sea of white pixels below your latest post, don’t beat yourself up over it. Having eyes on your post and having comments aren’t necessarily the same thing, but the silence can be frustrating. After all, interacting with readers and creating a conversation are the aspects of blogging that many people enjoy most. That’s why, as we look at this week’s ten most-blogged-about stories (trends provided, as always, by Regator), we’ll also pick up some tips on how to encourage readers to interact with content:

1.  Google Instant
Example:
Business Insider’s “Microsoft Bing Exec Pees On “Google Instant,” Says Bing Results Still Way Better
Lesson:
As Darren pointed out in his excellent 2006 post on comments, one way to encourage comments is to write open-ended posts that leave room for readers to provide extra information and expertise. This example provides one side of the story, allowing readers to add detail or jump in with opinions and facts that support the other side of the argument. Being thorough but not too thorough tempts readers to fill in the gaps.

2.  Labor Day
Example:
ComicMix’s “Labor Day and the Cost Of Doing Business in Comics
Lesson:
Ask for comments. It sounds elementary but is probably the single best way to get more interaction. The question that ends this example post, “So how would you do it?” manages to create an in-depth discussion that is longer and more detailed than the original post.

3.  Terry Jones
Example:
Mediaite’s “How To Marginalize A Media Whore: Morning Joe Refuses To Interview Pastor
Lesson:
Be controversial. Taking a stance on a hot-button issue such as this one is almost certain to create discussion and debate. This example got 113 passionate comments in just eleven hours.

4.  US Open
Example:
Bleacher Report’s “2010 US Open: Can Robin Soderling Break The Cycle?
Lesson:
Cultivate a relationship with your readers. Author Rob York takes an active role in the conversation in the comments of this example, and it’s clear he has developed relationships with some of his regulars. Your blog almost certainly has commenters who are more active than others. Getting to know them keeps them coming back and their contributions may, in turn, create discussions that prompt others to join in.

5.  Tony Blair
Example:
Spectator’s “Why Tony Blair remains a class act
Lesson:
Be opinionated. This is a great example of a blogger spurring conversation and debate by sharing a strong opinion. Those who disagree will feel the need to explain why you’re wrong. Those who agree will jump in to support your arguments.

6.  Ground Zero
Example:
Gothamist’s “Donald Trump Offers To Buy “Ground Zero” Mosque Site
Lesson:
Have an official policy on comments. Some of the comments on this example are harsh, but Gothamist has laid out some very clear rules regarding comments, namely that “…once you post a comment on one of our sites, it becomes part of the public conversation. Our policy is that we will not remove a user’s comments unless they are in violation of our Terms of Service…We cannot simply remove your comments because you have a change of heart about making them.” You may want a more gentile atmosphere and can alter your policy accordingly, but it can only help to have some sort of policy in place.

7.  Mark Hurd
Example:
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog’s “Can H-P Win Its Suit Against Hurd?
Lesson:
Make it easy to comment. There are far too many log-ins and passwords in our lives, and nothing will reduce the number of comments you receive more than a complicated system that requires users to create yet another account in order to join the discussion. This WSJ blog is a great example of a system that is fast and easy to use.

8.  Fashion’s Night Out
Example:
Jezebel’s “Fashion’s Night Out Sparks Global Fashion Orgasm
Lesson:
Reduce spam. No one wants to wade through dozens of “look at my blog!” and “buy my product!” comments to be part of a discussion. Jezebel’s unusual commenting rules actually contradict the advice I just gave about making comments easy. In their case, commenters must “audition” by showing that they’re capable of enhancing the conversation “because our editors want to spend more time providing new content and less time moderating comment threads.” It’s a bold move, but one that seems to have worked for a blog that, at one point, had a fairly significant spam issue. Deal with spam however you see fit, but do deal with it.

9.  San Bruno
Example:
Karoli’s Blog’s “Infrastructure, you say? Ask the city of San Bruno why we need it
Lesson:
Interact in the comments. This gets harder as your blog becomes more popular, but it’s worth some effort because the more you take part in the conversation, the more likely your readers are to feel a connection to your blog, visit regularly, and help spread the word about your brand.

10. Pakistan
Example:
John Quiggin’s “A slow motion disaster (update)
Lesson:
Tell readers what to do. If you want readers to take an action, give clear instructions, as John Quiggin did here. This post ends with “Please give to your favorite charity and record it in the comments box,” and readers did just that.

If none of these tips work, this bunny has a foolproof tactic.

What do you do to increase interaction on your blog? Please share your experiences in the comments.

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

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Comments

  1. “What do you do to increase interaction on your blog?”

    We respond actively to comments. No questions go unanswered – often with multiple members of the team chiming in.

    I always randomly send gift certificates for my store to people who add value with their comments. There’s not official program – I just send them on a whim.

    Interesting that 9/11 didn’t make the list – although a couple of the topics are on the periphery of it. One on my writers worked in lower Manhattan are wrote an article (with photos) sharing his thoughts from that day.

    http://www.thesoapboxers.com/personal-memories-of-9-11/

  2. Milehimama says:

    I have to agree about controversy- I wrote a tongue in cheek post about breaking up with Walmart, which I crossposted on my local newspaper’s site.
    http://www.milehimama.com/2010/09/09/breaking-up-is-hard-to-do/

    Over 200 comments later (between both sites), it’s still divisive (and a fascinating microcosm of society. I’ve been called lazy and ignorant for NOT shopping at Walmart, LOL!)

    But many comments can be a two edged sword – if you encourage comments and open dialogue, you must be prepared for personal attacks and downright mean people.

  3. I’m just impressed that we’re somehow posting in the future.

    “Written on September 12th, 2010 at 12:09 am by Kimberly Turner”

    Or maybe I’m just suffering from some form of anterograde amnesia?

  4. @Kosmo That gift certificate idea is really generous. Cool idea if you can do it. Oh, and I fully expect 9/11 to be on next week’s list. These trends are for the week ending 9/10.

    @Congrats on the successful post. How dare you not shop at Walmart!? ;)

    @Desktop Analyst ProBlogger is based in Australia, thus the time difference. It is the future in Australia. I don’t have a time machine. You help make the bunny’s point though.

  5. Simon says:

    I always leave comments where possible – as long as I add value to the post then it’s worth commenting.

    I would like to get more people comment on my blogs – I always ask directly.

    The benefit I see to commenting is that it helps the blogosphere to keep on ticking (“wow, someone commented on my post, I’ll write another!”).

    In addition, it usually leaves a link back to my own blog which might bring some interesting traffic as well as strike up a relationship with the other blogger.

  6. @Kimberly, “It is the future in Australia.” You should pitch that to Australia’s tourism board.

  7. I will ask a question at the end of each of my article to increase the interaction in my blog. Since it is very new, I don’t get much people to discuss my topics in my blog, but still I am very satisfied with this strategy.

  8. mike says:

    Most people don’t comment, but I am happy if people read my blogs and get useful information out of them.

  9. miss scarlet says:

    I have been a lurker for so many years…only now (that i became a blogger myself)i realize how much a comment can be appreciated by the post’s writer. I cherish every comment i receive and i wish people were more vocal…

    anyway good post, thanks!

  10. Eddie Gear says:

    Good Insights Kimberly. I like the way you have put this post together.

  11. Teddy says:

    There is one thing about comments, when you throw them all over the place(commenting on other blogs), you definitely water down your authority. I believe in modesty at such times so that when you make comments that are authoritative, even the blog’s owner will notice and appreciate.

    As for comments on your own blog, interacting with the readers is a good idea but don’t overdo it because some people just post comments to be noticed after which they put up a back-link to their latest article.

    At times you can just watch the conversation grow as a blog owner and comment when it is absolutely necessary. Some bloggers feel demoralized when comments aren’t flowing on their blog. Actually they should just check their stats and have consolation in the fact that guys visit and appreciate your content but maybe the content doesn’t warrant a comment.

    I’d rather not comment than post a ” nice post” comment.

  12. karen says:

    I normally don’t comment but since you ASKED…..in BOLD…

    “What do you do to increase interaction on your blog? Please share your experiences in the comments.”

    This is another one of those “stupid no-brainer” things I forget to do sometimes.

    I will definitely ASK to comment next time. Once again, great point.

  13. Shari Weiss says:

    I now have 198 comments on the first post of my new blog DRIVING MISS SHARI. Please help be get over 200, and I’ll share the “secret.”
    “-)
    http://sharisax.com/DrivingMissShari/2010/08/how-to-become-rich-famous-on-the-web/

  14. Thank you, Kimberly. This is the 2nd week I’ve read your column, and I’m really glad I did. As a new blogger who has great content to share, but little techy or marketing skill (i.e. so far I’ve attracted only two comments to my blog and have no idea whether 100 or 1000 people have even touched down one of my posts (or listened to one of my Podclasses — I’ve posted over 100 so far) I really “get” that studying your articles is a great learning opportunity for me.

    Love your clear analysis. How can I follow you, or is your column a regular on Problogger?

    Thanks,
    Tom

  15. drbj says:

    I wrote a hub page (article) on Comments and Traffic postulating that comments attract traffic and the most effective way to make comments, and received 100 comments within one month. My most recent article on Fokk University (tongue-in-cheek) attracted 50 comments in one week.
    So I know firsthand the benefit of comments and how to attract them.

  16. Any thoughts on Video Blogging? (Besides asking for responses…..)

    Nice concise points, looking forward to more from you

  17. Jimmy says:

    I love reading blogs but i don’t comment much, not because I don’t want to, but because it either slips my mind or the site I’m visiting wants me to register, like Huffington Post. I already have many accounts online and I’m not trying to add to the list just to comment.

  18. J.R. Quarles says:

    I’m learning soo much from this blog! Continue the great work

  19. I’ve always thought that using competitions to encourage comments is a great idea. For example, “The person who posts our favourite comment this month will get one month’s free membership to X!”

    It obviously doesn’t work as a strategy in itself – it’s hard to get worthwhile comments if there’s nothing worthwhile to comment on. But I do find that it’s a good way to get new people commenting on a blog.

  20. Shari Weiss says:

    @drbi, what’s the URL for your hub article on comments?

  21. Kimberly says:

    @Desktop Analyst It is a good slogan. I’ll cut you in if they buy it off of me.

    @miss scarlet I think people who have blogged are probably more likely in general to leave comments since they know how much they’re appreciated.

    @Teddy On the Regator blog, I delete comments that are clearly just there to provide a link to someone’s blog or site.

    @Tom Huntington Thanks for coming back for more! My column is posted here on ProBlogger once a week, usually on Saturdays.

    @OMA Thanks. I did a ProBlogger post on using video. You can find it here: http://bit.ly/videoposts

  22. Exploring the net today browsing for some information and discovered this particular blog. Extremely satisfied, loads of useful information. You folks genuinely understand your stuff.

  23. I’m just impressed that we’re somehow posting in the future.

    “Written on September 12th, 2010 at 12:09 am by Kimberly Turner”

    Or maybe I’m just suffering from some form of anterograde amnesia?

  24. Sally says:

    I found this post while looking for research on how often people comment on a blog post vs. just reading. I’ve heard something similar to your statement that only 1 in 100 readers will take the time to comment. Is this based on personal experience? Or do you have any research you’d be willing to share?

    Thanks so much!