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Fresh Ways to Handle Blog Criticism

This guest post is by Harry French of BloggingTips.com.

Sometimes being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When a blogger writes a negative comment about you, or goes on an outright tirade, it can be hard to bite your tongue and move on.

Sometimes, however, that’s the best course of action. Sometimes, you need to put on your boxing gloves and get ready to duke it out.

Why readers post negative comments

Excitement? Jealousy? A clever ploy for attention? A Jedi craves not these things, but many bloggers do.

Criticisms and personal attacks don’t have to be legitimate or even coherent. In fact, many “rants” that visitors will leave in your comments section are just that: rants. They are often emotionally driven and they don’t make much sense when you stop to think about what’s really being said.

Sometimes, of course, criticism is warranted and the points being raised are legitimate. In that case, you can let the critic become your best friend.

But people can post negative comments for all sorts of reasons. It doesn’t even have to be about you or your article. It could be that they’re just having a bad day and decided to take it out on you.

Come to terms with this first, and it’ll be a lot easier to know when to respond and when to walk away.

When to respond, when to walk away

You should definitely respond to legitimate criticisms of something you’re written. With that said, it’s not necessary to repeat yourself like a broken record. If you’ve already answered an objection, you can usually just point any new objecters in the direction of your answer.

When it comes to derogatory, inappropriate, or nonsensical comments, you can ignore most of them.

Think about it: what’s the value of responding to these kinds of comments? Most of the time, it’s a waste of time to bother with them.

On occasion, however, you might be able to monetize someone else’s stupidity. That becomes an interesting decision to make. If you’re saying a lot of controversial things, and you get a decent amount of hate mail for it, you could use these hate comments to generate even more controversy. Take the most blatant offenders and show the world just how ridiculous they are, without coming right out and saying it directly.

Whenever you do need to respond to hate comments, you should do so with civility. Put yourself on moral high ground. This way, you could gain a lot of respect from your regular fans and demonstrate how you strive for rationality and objectivity, even when people say nasty things about you.

Showing your cool in the face of an attack also makes you look stronger (in fact, eventually, you’ll actually become stronger psychologically). It shows that while sticks and stones may break your bones, words really never do hurt you.

How to respond

When you’ve made the decision to respond to criticism, make sure you stay on point. Don’t veer off onto a tangent—that just makes you look a bit scatter-brained and can open you up to further criticism from the commenter.

Also, try to only address any essential aspects of any criticisms raised. For example, Matt Cutts came to Google’s defense by knocking down criticisms that Google’s search engine would favor TLD web addresses over “.com” equivalents.

Cutt’s didn’t respond directly on the website where the criticism was made. Instead, he posted his response to Google+.

Matt sticks to the essential points here, and doesn’t veer off onto tangents. He has a good track record of staying focused, even when criticisms of Google are irrational and emotionally driven.

Finally, don’t get sucked in to a long debate. “One-up-manship” is easy to get into and notoriously difficult to get out of. If you are sticking to facts and the essential points raised, you’ll never get into a back-and-forth argument that goes nowhere.

In fact, you could simply continue asking questions of your tormentor and hope he responds. He may draw out fans of yours who will gladly come to your defense. All the while, free content is being created for your blog.

The author of this blog post on rawfoodsos.com did not even need to get involved in the comments. A visitor dropped a hate comment:

A hate comment

Then, a fan responded for her:

The response

In this example, the blogger’s post generates a heated debate. That debate spontaneously generates massive amounts of free content that is keyword-rich and highly relevant to the blog itself. It may not have been the blogger’s intent, but it happened all the same.

How do you respond to criticisms of your blog? If you have any tips to share, we’d all love to hear them!

This guest post was contributed by Harry French, on behalf of BloggingTips.com.

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Comments

  1. ed cyzewski says:

    I never thought of the keyword value of comments, even the criticism. Good point! One of the most important points you’ve made, in my opinion, is to stick to the facts and to make even-handed responses without getting too sensational. Words like “every” and “never” rarely lead to a beneficial discussion.

    I also think it’s worth discussing comment moderation. I generally remove extremely abusive comments and reach out to the commenter with a brief personal e-mail, inviting him/her to interact more respectfully. Sometimes it works, other times it just makes folks even more angry. I’m curious how others deal with comment moderation.

    • Ivan says:

      To moderate or not to moderate – that’s my question, too ;)

      And yes, it’s important to not take the bait of an offensive comment and offend back.

    • Though i have never been criticized I will definitely use these tips. But I do remove self promoting and spamming guest from my blog.

  2. I have yet to encounter a situation like the kind you mentioned above. But, I can definitely see your point about a heated debate becoming great user-generated content.

  3. A very good post. I’m guilty of making negative comments in the previous couple of days because I am new to this form of communication and didn’t really understand how and why it works, not because I am jealous or crave a little written biffo.

    I wasn’t downright rude and didn’t use any profanity, but I was intolerant of people’s feelings. I’m a journalist with many years’ experience and I’m easily annoyed when I come across errors in spelling and syntax and untidily crafted copy. However, the mistake I made was treating fellow human beings like colleagues who are pretty much inured to criticism.

    After reading your post and reflecting on it, I think I will get back in touch with the bloggers I criticised and apologise for offending them or hurting their feelings.

    I need to chill out and accept this new media for what it is: basic human communication.

    Thanks

  4. Ben Troy says:

    Some comments are there to help one to further enhance blog. There might be a time when the commenter will be rude and would not sugar coat his comment. Nevertheless, appreciate their views. It’s hard to be too upset with someone who expresses their gratitude. If you reply positively and rationally, this will not only continue the conversation but will turn it around on a more positive note. Lastly, simply delete the blog comment .

  5. Graham Lutz says:

    I can see myself making some bad choices when someone comes and tries to blaze me in the comments section…haha

    • Ben Troy says:

      As a brand, I know what it’s like when customers or prospective customers post discussions that you’d rather have take place in private. Still, that doesn’t mean that you should be deleting those discussions.

      It’s one thing to delete downright rude language, and another to try and sweep the issue under the carpet. The latter is messy and doesn’t really resolve anything.

  6. Robert says:

    Keeping cool when hate comments strikes is just the best option for me. As a blogger we should accept the fact that we are open to derogatory, inappropriate, or nonsensical comments but we have full control or our blog.

    One of the most common comments we encounter did not came from more reliable blogs but came also from bloggers who were just starting to blog who oftentimes makes more mistake compared to us, but best thing to do is just ignore them.

    This kind of article answered the problems on hate comments and provided solutions on how to handle the situation.

  7. Kevin Riley says:

    I’m pretty new to blogging so I haven’t experienced being publicly flamed (yet), but I do have email lists that I send to and have received a few downright nasty responses and it was everything I had in me not to respond in kind. I know you can’t make everyone happy but sometime those one off nasty remarks can ruin your day. If you are to put yourself out there you will get haters, in fact, I have heard from other successful bloggers say that if you are not getting any negative feedback or comments, you aren’t doing it right. BTW, please don’t flame me, I’m very sensitive. ;-)

    Kevin

  8. Gjivan says:

    Criticisms are of two types, i believe one type helps to raise the motivation and keeps you stronger to move forward and another one will demotivate you for acting further with positive attitude. This applies to online business too. When a visitor posts a negative or controversial comment, that will have a huge impact on our development. Technically, when we talk about blogging, controversial comments are the one boosting a huge discussion which increases the keywords density, sharing of comments, and overall a good promotion of the post. So, as being an owner or author of that post, we must hold our breath and keep the environment clean and respect the critics who are helpful for taking our business to the next level.

  9. The point about keyword rich comments is a new one for me too and it’s really interesting. Mostly, I try to look for something coherent in the comment and respond to it; I could ask a question or just generally prompt the person to say more. It is often useful to get conversation going and then other people comment and so on. This is better than people commenting with ‘Great post’ and ‘Wonderful, thanks!’

  10. Lisa says:

    I have yet to experience too but thought I would ignore it until I read your tip. Great way to handle it indeed. This is a must save piece for bloggers.

  11. Hi Harry,

    Some criticize to help, others, to hurt. I gauge the intent of the person as quickly as possible.

    If the opinion is intelligible, I respond. If the opinion is too emotionally charged, I know that dealing with an irrational person is like trying to subdue a charging bull, so I ignore the individual.

    The fun part? Reading a true criticism that stings like hell and is delivered by a disturbed person. Sometimes, you need not respond but you better pay attention to the message, no matter how poorly the point is made by an unhappy person.

    Thanks Harry!

    Ryan

  12. Ariella says:

    From BBSs of the 1980s to newsgroups in the 90s and blogs/social media in the new millenium, the solution I’ve used is always really, REALLY simple:

    Address points, not people.
    Share your truth like you already hold it compassionately.
    Nobody can make you feel anything, so remain accountable.

    Done. This defuses 100% of confrontations and you never feel like anyone has the magical ability to reach through your monitor to “make you” feel something.

  13. david says:

    An excellent point about staying focused on the essential points and facts. Some people really are irrational and it is difficult to know why they are behaving that way.

    I have noticed that some marketers use negativity as marketing tool – to gain attention.

    Sometimes they will post a negative review of a book on Amazon – but it is clear that it is about getting attention and perhaps traffic to their own site. This is especially true when the criticism does not fit the facts.

    There will always be this type of person. I agree that you can get psychologically stronger over time. And that is a good thing.

  14. Mrs Woog says:

    Generally speaking, I ask them if I can make them a warm Milo then spoon them off to sleep. Surprisingly. I never hear back…. X

  15. Marc Ensign says:

    I think you should respond to all comments, even the bad ones. Not so much for the sake of the person that wrote it, but to show everyone else reading that you are open to what people have to say. That you are listening. Drop the thought of trying to talk someone out of how they feel about you and just respond. I wrote an article on something similar a few weeks ago: http://www.marcensign.com/you-and-your-blog-suck-7-steps-to-responding-to-negative-comments/

  16. This is a fantastic post!

    I believe everyone has a right to their point of view. If someone uses their moment to contribute to be abusive and/or offensive, they’re comment is deleted. I won’t give them space to promote hate on my site.

    In the midst of political correctness and social media; people have lost the art of debate. Many people aren’t capable of agreeing to disagree. Instead, if someone holds a different POV, then someone gets offended and feels that their own POV needs to be defended aggressively. What they’re missing out on is an opportunity to have a fantastic dialogue and learn something new.

    However, if someone is just strongly disagreeing with me, then I respond with respect and try and create a dialogue. The goal of my blog is to share tips to raise happy, healthy dogs. We have 3 happy, healthy dogs and I think we’re doing a fantastic job; but our way isn’t the only way. If someone disagrees with something I do in our home or has something to add – then I welcome their contribution! Any opportunity I have to do a better job as a dog parent is welcome.

    One thing that I think everyone should remember is that whenever we’re in a heated debate, the world is watching. Okay, maybe not the world, but our fans and potential clients. I’m building an online magazine and potential advertisers won’t touch me if I have a history of handing online conflict with mudslinging and name calling. So I show respect, I ask for clarification, and I offer clarification. Many times, I’ve turned a critic into a fan by hearing them out.

    Kimberly

  17. Saqib Khan says:

    Good stuff Harry. The more we put ourselves out there, the more likely it is that others will ‘hate’ because of what we are doing. However, when it comes to negative comments it is important to not go off on one because it will be YOUR brand and name at stake. I normally mark the comment as spam and delete it.

    Thanks for the content
    Saqib Khan

  18. Patrick Connolly says:

    Not trying to be ironic here: While your article is interesting, the example you chose is poor. As someone who is critical-minded (blame the BSc), your example picked on someone who I might side with, and held highly the person I would assume to be less informed — someone who appeared to simply choose to listen to the “experts” who were pandering to what she wanted to hear, with no critical mindset whatsoever.

    And the fact that you claim any noise is beneficial to a debate just because it generates keywords, seems to indicate that you’re only concerned with google ranking and not the quality of debate and discussion — ie. are uncritical and uninformed readers just blindly defending garbage content and silencing legitimate criticism. Treating any noise or disagreement as valuable debate is largely what’s wrong with our current media when discussing many important topics, and I hate to see the same broken thinking seep into the mindset of those curating blog content.