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Get More Comments: How Honesty Compels Readers to Comment

There’s one technique for soliciting comments that hasn’t been covered explicitly this week, although we’ve shown it through each of the posts we’ve published in this series.

What is that technique? Being honest.

When we approached the bloggers who wrote posts for the series, we told them we really wanted to hear their favorite technique or secret tip. We didn’t want to hear the standard advice: we wanted their unique insights, gained from their own personal experience.

We wanted their unbridled honesty.

Looking through the these posts, and the comments they received, you’ll probably agree that deep honesty goes a long way to encourage discussion.

  • Honesty in the things you say gives readers ultimate value. No matter what you’re talking about, your perspective and experience are unique, so complete honesty is a guaranteed way to present something brand-new to your readers.
  • Honest in the way you present ideas backs up their uniqueness, and can help you to keep readers interested all the way to the end of the post. That gives us the opportunity to get our message across clearly and completely, which provides readers with more food for thought than if they simply skinned the post. In my experience, the more we can make readers think, the more likely they are to comment.
  • Honesty in the depth of information you give truly inspires readers to comment. Don’t hold back when you’re creating the post. Give readers all the information they need not just to implement your advice, but to understand why they should, and know how to use or improve the outcomes of that work, too. This creates value, and readers know it. Value never fails to move readers to comment.
  • Honesty in the way you relate to readers helps create relationships and a sense of personal rapport that encourages users to reach out to you. If we’re intimidated by a blog post, we probably won’t leave a comment on it. If we don’t think it’s pitched at our level, we’ll avoid commenting, too. So if, as bloggers, we pitch our post to the right readers, we have our best chance of encouraging them to talk back.

Honesty builds credibility, and the more credible you are as a blogger, the more worthwhile it’ll seem to readers to comment on your blog. For that reason, you might also use honesty to help drive the moderation of comments on your blog. For example, you might delete comments that are nothing more than thinly-veiled attempts to gain exposure or undermine others, rather than to add real value to the discussion.

My most-commented posts

As examples, take a look at these, some of the most-commented posts from the ProBlogger archives. In each case I’ve mentioned a little about the techniques the post uses to communicate its honesty:

Have you ever had an experience where a brutally honest blog post solicited an unprecedented number or quality of comments? Tell us about it (and don’t forget to include a link to the post if it’s still online!) in the comments.

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. Tony Fuentes says:

    Agreed. Honesty is always the best option.

    I recently wrote a post describing my struggles with finding a clear direction for by blog.

    The response was amazing.

    I received several comments, which is a big deal for a newbie blogger like me, but what’s even better is I received several emails from my readers as well. They shared their feedback and stories with me. This allowed me to really get in their heads and learn more about what matters most to them.

    As a result, my upcoming blog post was inspired by the comments and emails I received – all because I decided to be honest.

    Love it.

    • wade says:

      Me too. I used to be worried about giving a negative opinion on someone else’s blog. I was always afraid to be honest with the person if I didn’t agree with them. But I found out that most bloggers like it. This blog site is about the only place where I have never given a negative opinion! lol! I love ProBlogger!

      • Tony Fuentes says:

        Totally. Some good debate is always a plus. It means people are engaged. As long as you disagree in a civilized manner, there should never be a problem. Sometimes those contradicting opinions inspire other blog posts, a blog series and sometimes even a product! :)

  2. Janmejaya says:

    Awesome post.
    Thanks Darren Rowse for sharing the nice post with us.

  3. Rob says:

    It has been a fun week I really enjoyed the blog comment series this week. Once anyone foster a great community, comments become part of the daily interaction. Sometimes I learn a lot from my readers. great minds think alike

  4. Other tactics may gain you readers initially, but honesty is definitely the winning route for longterm readers. Without credibility you really just have a fluff blog – impressive on the surface but no substance – and who wants to become engaged with a blog like that? Great points made Darren!

  5. Hi Darren,

    Honesty is the only policy, if you plan to really prosper. Be honest. This builds trust. More trust = more readers = more comments, too. Readers comment if they feel compelled to comment, if they feel it’s worth their time. Being honest and truthful in your blogging activities causes folks to believe that yep, your blog is worth the time.

    Keen note too: all your top commenting posts include numbers, save one. Stating honest claims resonates strongly with readers. Numbers pull us in and an honest breakdown of how you achieved these goals and how it can help us makes readers want to chime in.

    As for Jon’s post, brutal honesty does quite well too. One thing to tell the truth, another thing to lay it all out there, and the dude does it each time he writes. Really well. The vibe resonates with most folks, especially straight shooters, and on a deeper level just about all are straight shooters.

    Pitching to your reader’s level is the only way to pitch. Otherwise, they ignore the post all together, or they never comment on it. I keep things uber simple to relate to all who might be reading. We forget at times that people of all experience levels are reading our blogs, even if we target a certain audience. Different folks show up, and to connect with these individuals and encourage commenting, keep it level, and simple. Readers appreciate this and will be happy to share their insight in the comments section.

    Add value, become valuable. The pros harp on it for good reason: it rarely goes unappreciated. We seek value, know-how, insight. If a blogger never holds back in the value-adding departing their site holds a special place in our hearts.

    Thanks for sharing Darren!

    Ryan

  6. Kate says:

    It’s nice to read this as it confirms some things I was thinking about blogging. I’m just starting out, but it was obvious to me, the one post where I told an honest story was the one people interacted the most with.

    Honestly ;) it’s a really cool goal to aim for, thanks for the post!

  7. Jonathan says:

    I never thought about pitching at the proper level as a tool to get more comments. Ill be sure to have that in mind!

  8. ahmadyani says:

    Of the comments our readers may be able to write the next article. Often the reader will give a comment on an article related to them.

    • Kalen Smith says:

      ahmadyani, I have actually written articles from comments on other articles. I agree they are very valuable and it is awesome to get more of them like that.

  9. Company says:

    Great article Darren. But don’t forget to extend that honesty to the way you moderate comments, too. I always like to answer each and every comment I receive, especially those ones that are negative. Often, it’s the way in which we respond to negative comments that encourages further discussion and activity from readers

  10. corinne says:

    Your comment series has been very helpful. Thanks for the great advice

  11. Long says:

    Thanks for the advice. I’m focusing on relating to the reader as well. I feel that I have an important message to spread, but I’m having a tough time getting people to make it part of their lives and be more proactive with their personal finances.

    The coaching your site gives me is an incredible resource. I try to implement the tips where I can. Thanks again.

  12. Kari Scare says:

    Two of my main goals when writing every blog post is to be honest with myself and others and to be transparent. But, I do not have a huge following yet, so I cannot yet speak on the effectiveness of this approach. To be honest, though, I could not write any other way. One comment I get often after I teach a class or give a presentation is in appreciate for my transparency and honesty. One friend even said to me, “I can be nothing by honest around you.” Not sure exactly what she meant by that, but I think it spoke to who I am. Anyway, I do believe in this approach and am waiting for increased readers to confirm this.

  13. Nikoya says:

    It’s always interesting to Explore what makes people comment and engage in your work and what doesn’t.

    Having been in the blogging game for a good bit of time, as both reader and writer, I see mixed dynamics on what works when it comes to the comment section. Some of the most successful bloggers don’t have a comment section at all- which leaves me wondering how they engage with readers and grow in traffic.

    The points you mention here make sense. But as the community of blogging evolves, I see the importance of a jumping comment section diminishing.

  14. With my blog called “The Twilight Bark” (Based of Walt Disney’s 101 Dalmatians) I have tried writing about my pet sitting experiences, pet facts, pet funnies & pet issues. I LOVE to write! I try to find topics that pet owners would be interested in & that will help further educate the pet owners & lovers out there. I’ve tried several different formats for my blog to entice people. I had it attached to my website http://www.shannonspetsitting.net/ when I first launched it abut 4 years ago & was hosting through Lycos/Tripod. NADDA! Didn’t get anything. So I switched it over my website over to blogger. it got a better result & got more followers. So I was happier. But then I was informed it wasn’t really doing my website any good if it wasn’t attached to it. So when I redid my website in wordpress the blog was automatically attached to it which was nice. http://www.shannonspetsitting.net/the-twilight-bark/ Now “The Twilight Bark Blog” is helping me educate the pet public and helping increase my web presence as well! But I’m still having a issue with getting subscribers I think? If they are subscribing to me I don’t know how to see the # of subscribers I have. I was getting a lot of spam comments at first. But I put up a spam blocker & that’s helps quite a bit. I don’t know if there is really a magical equation or formula for getting followers?? I’ve just about tried everything I can think of & that has been suggested to me.

  15. Honestly, that has been really helpful.

  16. Arnold Hailassie says:

    I love it, right on point. Arnold Hailassie

  17. Last month I wrote a brutally-honest piece titled “Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Piss Off A Wounded Warrior’s Wife” (link here: http://torreyshannon.com/2012/02/top-5-reasons-why-you-should-never-piss-off-a-wounded-warriors-wife/ )

    I spoke truthfully of the sacrifices we’ve made as fulltime caregivers to severely injured servicemembers. I also spoke of the empowerment factor that is involved in our daily lives. It was written in hyperbole, but it clearly struck a chord with my readers. It went viral and my blog traffic increased by 3000%.

    It also had the most comments of any piece written via my blog. I think the fact that I encouraged wives like me to share (aka RANT) about the stressors in their life was the key. They felt empowered, like they weren’t alone, and likely wanted to share their story and never had a chance to feel comfortable doing it.

    It was also the one article that created the most controversy, but that just comes with the territory!

    If you come visit my blog, I’d love to hear from you. Good, bad, and everything in between. :) http://www.torreyshannon.com

    Blessings,
    Torrey

  18. Jason Bennet says:

    Hi Darren,

    I agree with you totally that honesty is the best policy when it comes to operating the business. I think that being honest and giving good values to customers is the key to long term business profits. Consumers are getting smarter and they will be able to find the real merchant whom they can trust.

    Thanks for sharing this blog post

  19. It is really helpful for post a new comment. Thanks a lot.

  20. Ferb says:

    Thanks for great tips, posts like earning money from blog; driving traffic.. are really the key to success.

    Honesty is important. I’m using” Text ads” in my blog. Last time, I was accidentally click on the ads. So I concerned about my account, but I contacted them immediately and they were thanks for my honesty and accepted the problems. So I know that HONEST is so so important.

  21. Mike says:

    Spot on – in my own experience, it has been those times that I have dropped the veil completely and written from a full frontal position that I got the most feedback. Even if my position was counter to the people that read my blog.

    I enjoy posts like this as they cement the need to keep true to yourself.

  22. This blog is the perfect example that honesty does really work. I totally agree that one must pass all of his knowledge, and never hold back. I guess that’s why Problogger was, and will always be step ahead the others.
    Great post Darren, and thanks for those links.

  23. Sonia says:

    People get to see the real you when you’re just up front. Not being honest, leaves you looking mistrusted and people end up running from you. Who wants that? When you are open about mistakes or things you don’t know, people can relate because they too have experienced the same thing.

  24. Machfudz says:

    Hiks..
    My site still have no comments…
    XD

  25. If you want to build up a loyal following of blog readers, you need to be viewed as a trusted source. This begins with honesty. People want to read posts written by other people, and if they can relate to you that’s even better.

  26. So True, Honesty is the best way to communicate your like or dislike for a post or blog, but when isn’t honesty a good idea? I manage several blogs, and I find most of the comments are “I agree with you” or “Great Post!” which honestly, don’t help me the writer to really better understand the social impact of what I’ve written. But if someone was to write “This Sucks!”, I don’t know how I would take the response, even if it happens to be true. Honesty is a great way to communicate, but maybe the absence of communication is actually communicating more…. OK, this comment sucks!

  27. Kovie says:

    I loved reading this. As someone who has been blogging and reading blogs consistently for about seven months now, it is clear to me that many people miss the mark by not being honest enough. I relate blogging to real life conversations and interactions. People do not really identify with perfection, honesty in our viewpoints and perspectives reveals our imperfections. People certainly identify with imperfections, Just like everything else – honesty is the best policy!

  28. Peter Lawlor says:

    I like this tip a lot. I added commenting to my blog last week. I held out with commenting for a long time because I thought it would be too time-consuming. However, I’m finding that it’s quite a bit of fun. Spam is minimal. Readers have real questions and excellent comments. It’s a great way for me to exponentially improve the content of my blog.

    Let’s face it, us bloggers don’t think of all the questions to address in a post. Wish I had added commenting earlier, but better later than never.

  29. Simon says:

    “Give readers all the information they need not just to implement your advice”<—-yeah, when you ARE being honest – in your writing, or in your anything – you're naturally going to WANt to share; because that's what you, deep down, want.

    "I think that being honest and giving good values to customers is the key to long term business profits"<—-yeah, or – even if you did make money long-term, without honesty, would it even be worth it..? "Consumers are getting smarter and they will be able to find the real merchant whom they can trust."<—True. Just being your real, honest, self cannot fail.

  30. That is correct to a great extent. Honesty is important to maintain good relations and communication with your readers and visitors. Honest information tends to help the readers more than the one which is biased and is based on self-interests.

  31. Glynis says:

    I have one question for you –
    How many people are out here that are not being honest?

    I know I sound naive but don’t people know that the truth about them is going to be found out. I would think it would be common sense to be honest.

  32. Thank you for the post. Contains very valuable piece of advice about being honest and writing from the heart. Will definitely follow and implement the same.

    Abhinav

  33. Thank you for the post. Contains very valuable piece of advice about being honest and writing from the heart. Will definitely follow and implement the same.

    Abhinav