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Get More Comments: Focus on the First Comment

This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

Remember the first time you realized that you’ve actually got traffic?

Suddenly, you aren’t blogging to an empty void—real people are consuming and engaging with your content!

Or are they? That’s when you begin to wonder … why isn’t anybody leaving a comment?

This can be a frustrating challenge for bloggers, and some blogs never get past it. There are blogs with readerships in the hundreds of thousands with barely a handful of comments per post.

Odds are you don’t want that to be you. You want people to read and interact!

Why don’t people comment?

This may come as a bit of a shock if you’ve been navigating the blogosphere for any length of time, but commenting on a blog is not a natural or intuitive behavior.

Blogs are new, publishing is old.

Outside of an extremely small circle of blogosphere denizens, most people are new to blogs, and accustomed to traditional media; television, newspapers, magazines, and books. These are all uni-directional media; the publisher publishes, and the audience has the choice of consuming the content (watching or reading), or not.

Just a few years back, those were the only two options. Engaging in dialogue was difficult (writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper), or impossible. When most people visit a blog, their perceived options are to read, and if they love it, to bookmark or subscribe. They might even share.

But for commenting to happen, they must understand it as an option.

The easiest way for readers to know they can comment is to see the comments of other readers. Except for two things:

  1. If your blog is new, there aren’t any other readers.
  2. Even if there are, many readers will see blog commenting as one of those things “other people” do.

The solution is a change in focus: it’s not about getting people to comment on an ongoing basis.

Instead, focus on getting people to leave their first comment on your blog. Just one—because after leaving one comment, it’s far more likely they’ll leave more.

That first comment is the tipping point.

So … how do you get it?

How to get that first comment

Here are some ways you can people to make that very first comment:

  1. Be interesting. This should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: if your content isn’t interesting, and people don’t make it to the bottom of your posts, they will never leave a comment.
  2. Tell people why they should. Make it clear why people should leave comments. Some blogs offer “do-follow” links (meaning the links going back to their blogs keep the “Google juice”), some use plug-ins like CommentLuv and KeywordLuv. On the bottom of my blog’s sidebar (around the bottom of posts), it clearly states why you should leave a comment:
    1. “We read all of our comments.”
    2. “We reply, and answer every question.”
    3. “We often click through to see commenter’s sites.”
    4. “We might invite you to guest post!”
  3. Tell your reader to comment. That’s right—the oldest rule of copywriting is to ask for the action you want. So be explicit, and ask!
  4. Ask a question. Sometimes your readers will want to join the conversation, but won’t know what to say. Help them out by asking a specific question at the end of your post, one they can answer; “How does this apply to you? When have you seen examples of this in your own life? Do you agree or disagree, and why? What advice would you give to someone with this problem?”
  5. Make it easy. My most commented-on post is the first guest post he wrote for Copyblogger, about 38 Critical Books Every Blogger Needs to Read. At the end of the post, I asked people to list any books they love, and would add to the list. This worked so well because everybody has a favorite book, and writing it down takes zero effort (as opposed to answering a question that takes more time and thought). In other words, I made it easy.
  6. Be awesome. My most popular post on Firepole Marketing received over 200 comments, and Firepole Marketing isn’t anywhere near the size of Copyblogger. But that post was awesome (and in fact, that post became the framework for a book that I’m co-authoring with Sean Platt!). It was continually linked to, new people kept reading it, and people felt the need to mention how helpful the post was to them.
  7. Be controversial. My second-most popular post on Firepole Marketing was a controversial take on the topic of social transactions, called Is the Bank of Social Capital… Broken? It was a post that demanded people to take a stand and have an opinion.

The first comment is the key

The key to making it all work is that very first comment.

Once people comment for the very first time, they realize that “this is something I can do”—and the next time is that much easier.

Create another opportunity, another reason, another excuse—and suddenly they’re up to two, three, four, or even more comments.

Before you know it, a habit is formed. And with it, an engaged, dynamic, actively commenting community.

Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a. the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works at Firepole Marketing. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on building engaged audiences from scratch (available on Amazon, or as a free download).

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Comments

  1. Marissa says:

    I just recently started getting traffic on my blog. People tweeted back that they loved the content but didn’t leave comments on the page. I am going to apply your advise to my future posts and see where it takes me. Thx for the insite.

  2. We are having the exact problem on our blog as well. But we are in fact doing many of the things you listed above. And still the same. But I guess that if the content is helping the reader, or making a contribution in the way it challenges people to ask themselves some questions, then it is very likely that they will give some of their thoughts.
    One thing I realized now is that this should even be done at the very beginning of the post. That way I guess the reader will be drown to interaction one step at a time.

    • @ Slavko

      Even if they like your post than getting comments from them is hard nut to crack. Yes they will share your post on twitter or facebook but commenting is something they need to invest more time.

      Yes agree with you … we should use some words at the beginning of post, just like Danny mentioned in point no 3

      @ Danny

      I like point no 3, 4 and 5

  3. Aaron says:

    Great post Danny! After reading this, how could I not leave a comment? :-)

  4. Justin Mazza says:

    Hi Danny,
    I remember when my blog was a couple months old and I didn’t have any comments. It took me about three months to start getting steady comments and now I am no longer concerned with getting comments because I know the formula for getting people to comment on my blog.

    It was 2 fold for me. One was to add comment luv and 2 was to comment on other comment luv enabled blogs. Since the blogosphere is based on reciprocity as I commented on the same blogs again and again they began to come to my blog to leave a comment.

    I don’t comment half as much as I did a year ago though.

    • Dan Ang says:

      Hi Justin, I just added comment luv to my website. Hope to see the same result as what you are getting. Thanks for the tip! :)

    • Hey Justin, yeah, I’ve heard that you can get a lot of traction by plugging into the CommentLuv community. If that’s your target market, then go for it. :)

  5. Thank you for those ideas Danny. I’ve mostly been getting rubbishy spam comments on my blogs and today watched a video that was advising you to get comments on your blogs and saying that it was easy but without saying how. I have tried asking readers what they think without much success. I also use comment luv but it only attracts spam. I’ll try to improve my content ..or be more controvertial see if that helps.

  6. Élan says:

    Thanks for this post! It is really difficult to see so many pageviews but so few comments. I always wondered, “What am I doing wrong?” I’ve recently tried to change my strategy on my older blog. I installed the comment redirect plugin to thank new commenters and let them know that I always respond and I’ve even taken to writing some longer emails as replies to many of my commenters. Right now, more of my readers email me directly than leave a comment because the topic is personal (helping a foreign spouse immigrate to the US). I try not to worry too much as long as I keep getting emails, but it’s still hard to see “Leave a Comment” on most posts. I’ll try using your suggestions!

  7. I really like the “tell people why they should” – I’m going to add that list to my blogs too. I want to add it to the bottom of each post, I just need to figure out how.

    Thanks for the great ideas!

    Kimberly

  8. Carolyn says:

    I realized that I got far more comments on my site’s Facebook page than on the posts . . . so I use a plugin that imports the FB comments to the associated post, and that in turn gets more comments directly onto the post. Increased my comments from an average of less than one per post to over three per post.

  9. Guy Hogan says:

    It seems that I need to focus more on getting my community to comment. Well, you have given me several ideas on how to do it.

  10. Jonathan says:

    I just started a website some months ago. Visits are going well, but comments are not flowing. I wonder if you have some experience with platforms such as Disqus, does they improve the comments rate? I wonder that because you have to do some sort of registration with such platforms to comment. I´ll be applying some of your comments and be happy to come back some time ahead from now to tell my results. Thanks!

    • I do not think that adding any barrier in front of commentator will be a nice idea. This will discourage them to add comments.

      I prefer to use point no 3, 4 and 5 by Danny in this post.

  11. Having just started a new blog I’ve been working on how I’ll engage readers from the start. I was aiming more at asking a question but you’ve outlined some other good points that I’ll try. I think too many people often worry about comments later on once the blog is more established rather then making them a focus from the start.

  12. Daniel says:

    Blog commenting both on your own site and commenting on other sites, has it’s pro’s and con’s.

    One thing I noticed as far as my own sites, I can get a flurry of comments then a lull.

    Occasionally this is related to a post getting a bit of air(better ranking or the post being linked(spotted) from other blog visitors–etc)

  13. Janmejaya says:

    This topic is give me idea that how to get much more comment for a topic.
    Thanks author.

  14. I do many of those things on a regular basis, but still know there are many lurkers. One day, to get some of them to come out of hiding, I put up a “delurk” post encouraging them to leave a comment and say hello. I even threatened not to write anything more until a certain number of them had “shown themselves”. It worked…many people commented and a lot of them have continued to comment since then.

    • This kind of style work only if you established yourself or you have good numbers of followers.

      For a new blogger this won’t work. Because no one will care if you write or do not write :)

  15. Taline says:

    Great advice! I find that if you ask them questions, to those that are new to blogs, they realize they can leave comments. It opens up the dialogue and makes for interesting conversation! :)

  16. Hi Danny,

    3 and 4 vibe with me.

    Tell people to comment, they comment. I end each post with a question. People like answering. Be engaging. Respond to comments. Visits the blogs of commenters to build relationships, for return commenters.

    Write helpful, usable content which makes people want to comment, to add their take. Set up an engaging blog. Reduce the calls to action. Keep it clear and simple. 1 call for your list, or product, and 1 call to comment. Too many calls confuses your audience, nobody takes a call.

    Ending posts with questions opens the door for answers. Do this for each post. Persist. In time commenters show up. Do not abandon the strategy after a few days or even weeks of no comments. It works, and quite well, if you are willing to stick to the strategy.

    Study comment pros. Address readers by first name, with an intro. Write a body. Then a conclusion. Want comments? Leave good comments. People click your link, stop by your blog and return the kind, helpful add.

    We add immense value with comments. Serious value. So easy to generate a load of traffic and a ton of comments with 5 minutes of mindfulness. Too many mess up. Rushing ahead to the next backlink, totally mindless while commenting, and leave a Drive By, a 2 line deal which doesn’t make an impact.

    You get what you first give. Leave helpful comments and you can’t help but receive comments. This has been my experience, from penning lengthy, helpful comments on sites like problogger. Give, get.

    Write a mini guest post, people take notice. Scroll through the comments. See somebody who writes a really helpful, value-packed comment? You want to learn more. You click. Visit. Read their post. Leave a comment. Seems to be the way it works.

    Thanks for sharing Danny!

    Ryan

    • Yup, case in point! ;-) Thanks for contributing to the conversation, Ryan – everybody, make sure to click through Ryan’s link, because he’s got a lot of value to offer! :)

  17. This was a great guide Danny, I’m going to put a “reasons” to comment in the footer of my website. Since I added a comments policy (aka, rules!) I’ve seen a lot more people comment, maybe because they know what they can and can’t do.
    It was actually seeing your post on Copyblogger about the 38 books a while ago that caused me to change my strategy a little. Instead of asking people to leave comments I tell them what I want to know. So I ask them to, for example, share a specific plugin they use, or their workflow, etc. I’m going to have to try and find a way to say that more general commentsare still welcome though!

    • I’m glad to hear that the post was helpful, Rosemary. I really like your point about adding rules – once people know what’s expected, they’re so much more likely to do it! :)

  18. This has been a very helpful blog post. It has really shown me how important comments are to a good blog. Your blog is really pointless if you don’t know who you are writing it to and what they think about it.

    Number 5, “Make it Easy” is great! I look forward to trying out this method.

  19. onbusiness says:

    i agree , comment make me can interesting with my audience

  20. Rosha says:

    I just started a website some months ago. Visits are going well, but comments are not flowing.But now i follow your idea,Thanks for the great ideas!

  21. As a new blogger I appreciate your insight. Great info!

  22. Yes, Danny Iny is right. The first comment is really important, on my blog when i got the first comment written by one of my readers i felt very happy. He was appreciating my work and as comments are really really important to a website or blog owner because if we are doing any job we want some one to appreciate our work as we put lot of time and hard work in it.

    More on not only first comment is important, the comments to other or latest post are also important.

  23. Dan Ang says:

    Hi Danny,

    Thanks for the wonderful information. This comes at a great time as I’m still starting out in my online journey.

    Dan

  24. Great point … often it’s also a matter of getting that first comment on an individual blog post. Seeing that someone else has commented makes readers more likely to comment as well.

  25. Rick says:

    I just started using the ‘What would Seth Godin Do’ Plugin to add a message asking to leave a comment at the end of the post. It also changes the message based on the number of visits; i.e., those who have visited 5 times or more get a ‘Welcome Back’ type message.

    One thing I noticed when I had it add the message at the top of the post, was that Google would use this welcome message as the text in a Google search results. Moving it to the end of the post fixed this.

  26. I have tried asking questions but got zero response. This time I will ask EASY questions. Thanks for the tip.

  27. My site is CommentLuv enabled and DoFollow (with a decent PageRank), so I like to make my site a place where dialogue is rewarded.

    You are right though. With the advent of social media like Twitter, sharing is the new commenting.

  28. Great post! It’s tough to get people to comment on our stuff and that’s hard. Especially when you take time to develop your material.

  29. Nick says:

    What a novel idea…ask for people to comment. Honestly didn’t even think of that, but it’s obvious now that you point it out…

  30. Annie Andre says:

    Danny,
    You are so right that most people don’t even know to leave comments.Some people don’t want to comment. Most of my “non blogger friends” Will not leave a comment. Many people who don’t have blogs don’t leave comments. They didn’t even know they could. Instead they email me personally or contact me through facebook which to me is just as good as a comment because i feel like i’m providing some good content that in the least makes someone reach out and further the conversation..

    ps
    Congratulations on your new course. Looks Fantastic….

  31. Danny — Thanks for the great advice, as usual. So, of course I immediately added a widget to my sidebar with your suggested copy! I also have a link right under the headline of my posts that says “leave a comment.” If the reader clicks on the link s/he is taken directly to the comment box. No doubt, I get the most comments on my most useful and compelling content. No substitute for that.

    • Haha, I’m glad the post was helpful, Jeannette! And of course, you’re right – there’s no substitute for great content. Without the content, the rest doesn’t matter a bit. :)

  32. Lindsay Ford says:

    Danny,

    I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before. It seems like a pretty simple idea now that I’ve had it explained to me. Thanks for the advice. I really enjoy your blog!

  33. Pete Stean says:

    Danny, I don’t want to burst your bubble, but 95%+ of people online don’t contribute. True, you should do what you can to encourage those who might comment to do so, but we have to accept that most people just won’t – they just consume content. That has been true since the early days of the internet and it will continue to be true…

    • There’s no bubble to burst, Pete. If 95% of the people online don’t contribute, that means you should get one comment for every 20 visitors. In practice, it’s a lot less, and that’s fine, but you still want people to engage, and comments are a good indication of that (one of them, at least).

  34. jeff says:

    If I may add, it is also good to start commenting on other blogs. Sharp, short, humurous and intelligent commenting can get the attention of the blog owner.

    Look for new blogs without comments.

    The owner would be very grateful to you. And will go arms and legs to return the favor.
    Try commenting on my blog and see. :)

  35. Kim says:

    With the help of your book I started my website in February. I started receiving comments immediately, I was so surprised. As of last week I have started receiving so many that I couldn’t keep up. I have people pleading to me to post more and I’m going as fast as my little fingers will go. I am looking for guest posters but being so new to the market I dont know where to turn. Im sure I will figure it out. I am just in awe of how I put your book to use and how quickly everything started to work out. Thank you so much for everything you do! I am a huge fan!

  36. Jean says:

    Great article. Some of the examples are quite simple (tell your readers to comment) but it’s given me the energy to try and try again. My blog is relatively knew but I am starting to receive growth in traffic with very few comments.

    It’s easy to the forget that commenting should really be about the reader contributing, not just making a reference to the content. Still, so many people are true voyeurs, it may just be the way things are. I am going to take your examples and see what happens–if anything, I’ll be happy with more repeat traffic. Thanks.

  37. I used to get a lot of “comments”… Until I started getting very strict on the spam! Now I’m still trying to figure out the best way to get “real” comments! Thank you Danny, your article will surely help!

  38. Thank you for this post. I have struggled to get people to post and have really only used the “ask a question” tip. I am definitely going to try the “make it easy” tip you mentioned above. Thanks again.

  39. Glynis says:

    I don’t get a lot of commenters yet but I usually have 2 or 3 per post. What I have been doing is asking for the reader’s opinion, examples of similar, or just asking with a ‘please’. People like being asked so that’s what I do.

  40. Dan, I use to get tons of comments from my website. But after using the disqus comment system, i started getting little to no comment. You think comment system such as disqus and livefyre isn’t such a good idea for new bloggers?

    • It depends, Yuri. It’s normal for comments to drop a little bit with Disqus and Livefyre, at least initially, because there’s a little more friction. If there’s MUCH less, though, then I’d worry about the old comments being spam…

  41. Qarau says:

    Thank you for these great tips Danny. I’ve been comparing my visitor stats to comments recently and was trying to figure out the problem. Ready to put this into action and see if I can start building my own commenting community.

  42. Venkat says:

    Thanks for this post.. your article will surely help.

  43. Simon says:

    Cool stuff :).Infinitely helpful; even though I, gladly, found that I’m already doing almost all of them.

  44. Ozio Media says:

    Success in blogging revolves around building relationships. A good way to start is to make comments on other people’s blogs that link back to your own. Having a call to action is important and encouraging people to leave an opinion is vital to building a following. However, at the same time, it is just as important to become part of a network of bloggers by actively participating in the blogosphere.

  45. This article was helpful. Remembering to asked a question and asking them to comment is helpful. Some people need a starting point and you don’t get if you don’t asked. Thanks for the advice!

    Question: I am new to the blogging universe and noticed some really nice comments and I was very encouraged as a “newbie” on the block. But then they seemed too general and even overly “stroking”. Nothing showed up in my “spam” box.

    Then I noticed many were coming in the middle of the night. Could be another time zone. Whatever the reason, I was wondering if people can program their sites to leave random “nice or stoking” comments all over sites without reading or caring about the material so they can promote their site?

    Either I am getting some really great comments which would be motivating or something else is going on that seems “fishy” to me. I would appreciate your input? DisasterMOM.

  46. I just recently started getting traffic on my blog. People tweeted back that they loved the content but didn’t leave comments on the page. I am going to apply your advise to my future posts and see where it takes me. Thx for the insite.

  47. hi thanks for sharing this information. this article was helpful .this article will help surely.

  48. hi,, thanks for sharing this information ,, it is really useful for seo beginners ,, i would like to share it among my friends.