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Get More Comments: Write Unfinished Blog Posts

This is a guest post by Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer.

Most bloggers want to know their words are leaving an impact. They want to know people are listening.

One of the best ways to measure this is to see who’s commenting.

Not all blogs have a comments section, but many do. Comments provide an opportunity for the reader to participate in the content, to give feedback and share his or her own ideas.

Comments are a blogger’s best friend.

But the biggest struggle, especially for bloggers just starting out, is getting the first few comments. It feels like a grueling task, akin to pulling teeth.

“How do you get so many comments?” people have asked me. It didn’t always used to be like this, I tell them.

So what changed?

I started employing one simple, but overlooked tactic. You can do the same, if you want to see more comments. Here it is:

Stop finishing your blog posts

That’s right. The best way to get readers to comment on your post is to write a half-finished article.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. Here are three reasons why.

1. It makes readers feel important

Whenever I write a completely formed thought and share it on my blog, it rarely gets as much traction and feedback as an off-the-cuff rant.

Why is this? It’s not because readers don’t appreciate quality. They do.

It’s because they want to be part of the process.

That’s the magic of social media: we aren’t just consumers of content, anymore. We’re co-creators.

When you don’t finish a post and ask readers to help you complete it, you’re giving them a sense of purpose. They now have a significant role to play. And most take that role very seriously.

2. It builds community

There’s a reason why news sites that offer comments don’t get as much response as a lot of blogs do:

People want more than information. They want interaction.

One of the best ways to encourage community on a blog is to be imperfect, to show your scars and share your flaws. To have an honest conversation.

Be conversational. I try to write in a pretty informal tone to invite readers to engage with the content. My blog posts don’t have to be perfect. Usually, it helps if they’re not.

This is a challenge for me, though, because I’m such a perfectionist. But a blog is not about perfection. It’s about community.

I don’t want to deliver a monologue. I want to engage in a conversation. Turns out, that’s what other people are looking for, too. If you aspire to build a tribe, to say something people want to hear, this is a non-negotiable: it has to be a two-way street.

3. It will get people to talk about you

Good ideas spread. Big parties usually get bigger. In everything, there is a tipping point.

The same is true for blogging.

Once you start getting ten comments on your blog, it’s pretty easy to get 20, then 30—even 50 or 100. Of course, those first few comments are the hardest. But once you build momentum, it gets easier and easier to continue.

Community begets community

The cool part about having an active community of commenters is that conversations can quickly go viral. A question you asked or challenge you posed can turn into a whole new source of content in the comments.

Usually, when I write a post that gets a lot of comments, it also gets a lot of tweets and shares on Facebook. If you are generous with your platform, your readers will reciprocate.

There is an important concept at work here: the more social your blog is, the more your content will spread.

If you create opportunities for conversation on your blog, you’ll see the fruit. But you have to leave room in your articles for dialogue.

If you do this, you’ll be surprised by how much people will brag on you. They’ll tell their friends, who will, in turn, join the conversation.

This is the secret to most successful blogging communities: it begins with one, but is finished by many.

Start building your community today by publishing half-finished work. It’s so crazy, it just might work. Try it out and see what happens.

What do you think? Is there anything I missed? Share your own tricks and secret weapons in the comments.

Jeff Goins is a writer, speaker, and blogger. You can get his widely shared eBook, The Writer’s Manifesto, for free when you sign up for his newsletter. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter (@jeffgoins) and Facebook.

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Comments

  1. Rob says:

    Such a simple concept yet we forget the nature of a blog – a conversation. I agree 100% that bloggers and commenters are co-creators. How many times have you got a lot more back from a post by reading useful comments. It just takes a few good ones to get the ball rolling. Thanks nice reminder of the fundamentals of blogging.

    • Jeff Goins says:

      You’re welcome, Rob. Thanks for the comment. Keep up the great work.

    • I agree with Rob too. It’s certainly an about-face from the current wisdom that suggests you right nothing but stellar work of epic proportions on a daily basis. What you’re really suggesting is to work at getting the conversation going. Makes sense because if you say everything there is to say, what’s there left to comment about?

  2. Laura Upcott says:

    I’m definely going to give this idea a try. But it won’t be easy! Most people who posts blogs really like to be helpful. It will be hard to know where to stop without being too abrupt.

  3. Ben Holt says:

    [Jeff, I'm a fan. Everyone else, go check out his site. He's kind of a big deal. http://goinswriter.com/

    Very true, Jeff. I think of films or books that ask questions, rather than leave you with a solid feeling of being resolved. They’re likely to get talked about for more than just flashy special effects or good marketing. Humans are curious; we like something that intrigues. We like to mull over problems and questions and then express an opinion.

    Plus, sometimes you, as a blogger or writer, might only *have* a half-formed idea. That’s no reason to keep it from the sunlight. Plant it and see how it grows, no?

  4. But you finished this blog post, and I am even commenting on it!

  5. Fiona Bell says:

    Jeff, do you have an example of a (published) unfinished post you could share? I am intrigued. Thank you!

    • Jeff Goins says:

      I do this with nearly everything I write. It’s not obviously a half-written post, but I could have written a lot more. At some point, I stop myself and share, trusting the community will fill in the gaps. This post itself is an example of this. Surely, there are more than three benefits to what I’m talking about here.

      • Wade says:

        You have written a very informative post. I like to come here and get tips on blogging. I have a blogger site as well and are looking for guest posters if interested. However I’m not as established as Darren, but I do like showing people the best ways to make money blogging!

    • Dave Tong says:

      Ditto, I’d love to see an unfinished blog post example, also would there be any type of blog post that best fits this style/tactic?

      Thanks! :D
      Dave

    • I agree, I’d like to see this concept in action.

  6. Samantha says:

    LOL @ Gerry’s comment. I can see your point in leaving something unfinished in the post but I’m not quite sure how to apply it.

    • Jeff Goins says:

      Here’s how you apply it: Write a post. Then go back and cut out every unnecessary word or phrase. When you explicitly say something, instead try applying it.

      What’s ironic is that this is a perfect example of an unfinished post — I didn’t fully explain how to do it in the post, so now we’re conversing about it in the comments. :)

  7. Dorci says:

    Great ideas, Jeff. Thanks!

  8. Marti says:

    Excellent point! I just recently discovered Jeff’s blog and have enjoyed it a lot. I write humor essays, but I do go back sometimes and edit out an “obvious” joke so that my readers can make it in the comments. Very good way to get people to interact!

  9. Funny you should publish this post today. Earlier today, I published such a post, and it sparked some interesting and lengthy comments. I think it’s partly because I made some bold claims, and at the same time let a few things stay out there:
    http://www.joomlablogger.net/blog/personal-views/why-joomla-version-badges-should-be-removed/
    Very interesting to see the reactions :)

  10. Janmejaya says:

    oh thanks for ice post.
    Now i understand why many sites are not writing full posts.

  11. Janmejaya says:

    oh thanks for nice post.
    Now i understand why many sites are not writing full posts.

  12. Joan says:

    Thanks for letting us know of your trick. I am going to try this. Good post!

  13. open heart says:

    That’s a great tool and gadget to share all the articles directly but what about a open sliding social bookmarking tool must check this out.

  14. Qarau says:

    “That’s the magic of social media: we aren’t just consumers of content, anymore. We’re co-creators.

    ” Thanks for this great tip Jeff. Just Awesome!

  15. Huh. I am often at a loss at how to finish a blog post and usually end up blabbering something stupid and pointless to avoid to much of a “Wait, what?” kind of stop. Might have to re-think my strategy now.

  16. I think to be part of the community is the key. To get interaction with the readers, first they need to feel like they are part of the community. Then they will start to participate. Asking the right questions are important for the readers to chip in their 2 cents so that they know the information they should contribute.

    Cheers,
    Ming

  17. George says:

    This is a pretty interesting way of getting comments on blogs. Hope that it would be helpful for all the aspiring bloggers around..

  18. Venkat says:

    Great ideas Jeff. Thanks for this.

  19. Hi Jeff,

    This idea puts the ball in your reader’s court, automatically. In a direct way. Best way to get more comments.

    I end posts with a question when I want comments. Or I neglect writing a conclusion, or summary. Take a step back. Put your ego aside. Let your readers handle the close. Or, let them handle the discussion. Forget about trying to do it all on your own. Your readers can carry a blog post quite nicely, if you give them the chance to do so.

    Multiple questions words well too. Ask a ? in the first section of the post, middle section, and in the closing line. Neat way to give your readers multiple options. 1 question will not resonate with some of your audience, but a different question might reach that demographic. Keep asking, and leave posts open-ended.

    Toss convention out of the door once in a while. A lot, to grow an engaging blog. Unfinished business can be the best business you ever generated, if you want to grow a community. Trust your audience. Hand over the keys to your blog, at least once in a while. They appreciate you for it, and become pretty loyal fans because of this kind and trusting gesture.

    I’ve seen that commenting momentum generate from a strong buzz. Easy to generate a ton of comments when people talk about you, and your chatty blog. Adrienne Smith is a perfect example of this. Her comments are legendary, and she opens up her posts frequently, and she generates 100 plus on many posts.

    Thanks for sharing Jeff!

    Ryan

    Open up and release.

    • Jeff Goins says:

      Love those tips. Asking certainly helps.

    • Excellent comment on the topic, Ryan. It is all about creating that desire to enter the conversation; it might be with questions or it might be by hitting a nerve in people that makes them want to respond in support or in disagreement to your post. Whatever the method, it needs to stir the reader up enough for them to take the time to type out a comment (just like this post did).

  20. It’s me again Jeff, the funny one!

    Could you do us a favour and show us a link to one of your truncated posts to demonstrate your theory?

  21. I’ve never put any thought into these tips but on reflection I’ve seen it work. I just never thought leaving strong points out was particularly a good thing. I agree this is good advice for people who are just starting out and looking for comments, as for myself I always try to improve as a writer and try to hit on all corners doing my best not to leave anything out as I like for my readers to see things from my point of view even if they don’t agree with it. I’m also a perfectionist and when comments pop up pointing to things I may have missed and should have touched on I sometimes feel I failed in getting my full point across, or at least supporting it. But then again I tend to have a lot of comments on my posts so maybe my view is bias?

    Great article.

    • Jeff Goins says:

      Actually, it’s not the strong parts you leave out; it’s the weak ones. Cut all the fluff, all the unnecessary explaining and stick to the meat of your piece. Then when people read, they will have questions about specific examples (as people had with this post). And you can then clarify in the comments. Good luck!

  22. Ryan Sprout says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I got the same feeling starting out with building comments. It’s slow again and I hope the comment section only builds up again. I feel that providing excellent content usually draws in the crowd and commenting on other bloggers’ blogs.

  23. Daniel says:

    I have seen the “Leave the post unfinished ” method used on some sites. If memory serves correct, it did get a conversation rolling. I think it was a case of where the post cut off(at what point) that made for a desire from visitors to help sew up the loose ends.

  24. Rachel Terry says:

    Great thoughts! Do you think it’s best to end an unfinished blog post by posing a question? That’s the way spoken conversations work, but is it also true for blog writing?

  25. Berita Unik says:

    nice idea Jeff, so we could be honest to our readers when we really have no idea to complete our new post.
    Thanks Jeff for your brilliant blog breaktrough.

  26. Anne Wayman says:

    lol – I just posted what I called 5 of my favorite tips and several people commented that I’d actually written six – it was inadvertent, but it worked.

    Great ideas actually.

  27. Delwar says:

    Interesting, I never thought this thing in this way. I can finish a post or let the readers finish it in the comment section. So, the engagement will prove that they are loving this idea. Well, no problem to give it a try.

    And yes- I would love to see an example also. Because on a second thought it came to me- sometime users can get annoyed about unfinished posts.

  28. I find that the more I respond to comments on my blog, the more I receive. I think readers like knowing you’re reading their comments. In any case, thanks for the unique “Unfinished Blog Posts” idea.

  29. Ken says:

    Great information Jeff!

    I will implement your concepts in my next posts to see the reaction and results.

    Thanks again.

    Ken

  30. My first thought after reading this was, “What about the call to action? What about the take-away?

    I’m guessing “share your insights” *is* the call to action and each reader’s comment *is* his/her take-away.

  31. Paula says:

    Jeff, I’m fascinated by this point of view. I’ve read many of your posts as well as problogger and it seems like you’ve completed thoughts. Leaving it incomplete must be a subtle thing. How do you make it look complete without being complete?

  32. To be honest I never ever thought about this, it’s a fantastic idea that I will start implementing right now to my blog.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

  33. I write incomplete blog posts sometimes (having learnt from you) but I keep falling off!

    I like completing my thoughts, tying up things neatly, making good sense. Happens when your intention is to help people.

    But co-creating is powerful. People do not necessarily want to be spoon-fed all the time ( if at all).

    Plus you must leave room for them to come back! (If you give them everything, there’s no reason to come back for more).

  34. Chris says:

    Not sure that I exactly followed the suggestion of not finishing a post, but I just put up a quick post that has been all over the sports media today about Tebow being traded. Not sure a lot of folks will find my post with all the other media outlets covering the story, but will see if I get some discussion going.

  35. saad naeem says:

    i think leaving unfinished blog post can increase you subscribers and possibly make users to remember your brand name or website.

  36. Carlos Ramos says:

    Wow, just wow. Not sure if I have another impression about this after reading the post and the comments xD. Thanks for the post, Jeff.

  37. Long says:

    Makes sense. An unfinished post will compel readers to fill in the blanks. I’ve seen this technique done before with great results. Another technique I’ve seen is for the blogger to take a controversial position in order to get commenters in action. Even though the blogger really does agree with the readers, they took a stance on the other side of the table in order to provoke conversation.

  38. Just my luck to find your post today! I’m in high gear multi-task mode (don’t tell my readers because I advise against multi-tasking!) trying to finish a new book and writing my next post. I was thinking about using an excerpt from the book and leaving it unfinished as a way to encourageconversation and promo the launch. Nice to know I’m on track … back to work!

  39. Nice post and I am very happy that I decided to read it (and learned something very useful by reading it). I would like to say one thing though, when I read the heading in my feed reader I was about to skip it. However, since it was from problogger, I decided to start reading it anyway. And, now you have me posting a comment ;)

    The heading “Get More Comments: Write Unfinished Blog Posts” made me think it would be about taking out time to finish those unfinished posts that have been lying there for a while. It turned out to be about writing unfinished posts instead. ( I guess a heading like “Get More Comments: Stop Finishing Blog Posts” would have been more apt, but that’s just my opinion. )

  40. Kim says:

    I’ve thought about asking questions in my blog posts, but I’m afraid NO ONE WILL ANSWER. Eeek.

  41. Going to have to change how I write my blog because of this post!

  42. Simon says:

    “And most take that role very seriously.”<—-so cute. About the involvement thing, a thing – I came up with yesterday, when reading about some blogger's 31 day challenges – is, ask if anyone wants to do it with you. Like… if you have a challenge to lose 5 pounds in a month, you ask "anyone else want to go CRUSH IT?". think it could be awesome.

  43. Justin says:

    This is an interesting article. I can see why not finishing your post give readers the feel that they are the “co-creators” of the blog. But what I do is…

  44. Zack says:

    Hey Jeff,

    All I can say is BRILLIANT! I have always thought that I should make my posts 120% complete and cover everything so my visitors wouldn’t complain! but your method makes more sense! it is like the reverse physiology. When my visitors add more to the article that makes them more attached to my site since they become contributors and more important!

    I wish I thought about this before! that would have created so much quality + helpful content!

    Thanks

  45. Dan Baker says:

    I dig it! I always appreciate Jeff’s perspective and ability to take some of the mystery out of blogging and community building. We’re starting to experiment with open forum and opinion style posts on our site, as our strictly informational posts aren’t meeting our goals.

  46. Jonathan says:

    Shoot, I love the feeling of wrapping up my thoughts at the end of a post and then looking back at a perfectly completed statement. What you are saying makes a lot of sense to allow others room to think and to contribute thoughts.

    I think though, that it takes more than an open ended blog, it takes that first comment. Sometimes I find I am more interested in the conversation at the end of the blog than the post itself. Someone will say something either really interesting or really outlandish and it’s an invitation to engage.