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Finding Readers Week: Corinne Talks Commenting, Engagement, and Are Forums Right For Your Blog?

Theme Week

Welcome to the first post in the Finding Readers series here on ProBlogger.net. Corinne runs the successful blog skinnedcartree.com, and consistently gets genuine engagement from her readers and community across the board. Corinne introduced forums at the beginning of the year and has seen that engagement increase sharply. We are very excited to have her here to share her secrets with you.

I only started blogging late December 2012. To be honest, I had no strategy or goals. I knew nothing about growing an audience or how to promote myself. The only two things I knew were:

  1. I wanted to write.
  2. I wanted people to read what I wrote.

I understand there’s more to successful blogging than simply getting comments, but I wanted engagement. So I did what made sense to me with the little knowledge I had, and it worked.

What I am about to share with you is simply how to build a network of regular commenters. It’s not a quick and easy tactic, and it’s not going to make your PageRank soar, enabling you to quit your day job – but is a key step towards doing so.

theme week social media

Call me an idiot, but during my first year of blogging I went against one of the most common blogging tips: I didn’t use Twitter to promote my blog. Since starting a Twitter account in January, I’ve been asked the same question multiple times - How do you get so many comments? 

Twitter is great for getting traffic to your blog, yet I find it’s not so fantastic at encouraging engagement. Those that engage with me on Twitter tend to only do so there rather than on my site. The same can be said about other forms of social media. It’s fabulous for page views, but does naff all for building a community within your blog – and as I can babble for England, a community is what I wanted.

How I created community and drove up engagement:

Twitterless and clueless, the only way I had of promoting my blog (or so I thought) was through commenting on other blogs. I had no idea how to find them, so I would comment on the few I knew. Then I would look at who else commented, visit their blog and find something to contribute.

The idea I had was that I was targeting:

  1. People within my niche who would probably like my blog.
  2. People who left quality comments on other blogs.

You can do this for hours -  and I did do it for hours – aiming for around 20-40 blogs a day at one point.

We all know starting a blog isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t quick. I don’t know about you but I’m sick of reading ‘write good content and they will come’ like it is the only thing you need to do to grow (I’ve never been a ‘sit and wait’ kinda gal). Good content is vital, but what’s the point if nobody knows you exist? The real trick is getting them to your blog and then getting them to return. As soon as they start engaging with you and contributing, they are more likely to return as they’ve invested precious time in you.

Remember: The quality of the comments you leave will reflect the quality of comments you receive. People are not stupid, it is obvious and frustrating when a comment is left purely to link drop. Nobody likes a spammer, yet people still use it as a tactic. We’re looking to build longstanding relationships here, not fickle ones.

theme week get your stuff shared

I find consistent posting makes a huge difference to the amount of readers I get. I’ve seen the daily number of readers that subscribe to my blog triple since I’ve started to update daily, as have my page views and the amount of traffic I am getting from search engines. I was updating every 2-3 days, but in the past few months I’ve posted daily and it’s the best thing I ever could have done for my blog. I have posts scheduled for the same time each day and link back to my previous two posts at the end to make it easier for readers that don’t visit daily to access them, which was one of my main concerns around daily blogging. The only downfall is finding the time to push out quality content, I plan my posts in advance using an editorial calendar and will sometimes write 4-5 posts in one day around my work schedule. Planning is key!

theme week whats next

Once I received comments, I replied to every one and returned the favour by leaving a comment on their next post. This encouraged them to return and even subscribe. I was using this tactic for around 10 months until I was unable to keep up with the amount of comments I was getting.

finding time
But guess what? I don’t need to keep up anymore and I no longer struggle with the ‘write vs. promote’ conflict like I used to. I find I need to spend less time commenting and am able to concentrate on creating daily quality content – I now have a mixture of long term readers I’ve made through commenting, and people who discover my blog through other blogs, social media, Google, etc.Leaving 20-40 quality comments on new blogs daily is a time consuming activity and is difficult while having a full time job. I aimed for 20 comments on work days and 40 for days off. I wasn’t blogging daily so had more time for getting my name out there and I commented a lot while watching TV on an evening or listening to music – I’ve always been a multi-tasker and struggle to sit and watch TV while not doing anything else. I often gave myself ‘goals’, such as leaving a certain amount of comments to a time scale. I found the more comments I was leaving, the easier it was to think of something engaging to say – it just became something I could naturally do.While I am still an active commenter, I comment on those blogs I love, rather than as a marketing tactic. If I have a spare hour or so, I may visit a few new blogs within my niche and leave a few comments, but it is not something that I do daily.You may have loyal readers that will lap up every word but don’t always comment, so I’ve targeted those blog readers that are active in commenting and brought them over to my blog.

Point of difference: Adding forums for your readers

I wanted to take my community to the next level by giving my readers a place they could all come together and share ideas. I find Twitter too fast paced and comments on blogs restrictive. As I’ve always been a lover of forums – joining my first in 2002 at 14, then being an administrator for another for over ten years – a forum was exactly what I was looking for. Finding none within my niche, I bought a new domain and set up my own.

I spent a couple weeks preparing the site and researching, then on 1st January 2014, I launched them, alongside a Twitter account. It’s early days yet – we are in the process of growing our member base with a view to branch outside of the current niche, adding specific forums as requested to welcome more bloggers to our community. We share our posts, ask questions, share tips and sometimes just have a general natter.

Top 3 benefits to creating the forums:

  1. Great for traffic – people will click my profile and then go to my blog as well as click links I leave on the forum.
  2. Great for post ideas – some of my most popular content has come from ideas from the forum. Members ask me questions all the time which has led me to write posts with useful information and blogging tips on my main site – these are easily my most shared and most engaging blog posts.
  3. Great for finding new blogs – I now read blogs from a variety of niches from our members.
theme week top takeaways

  1. Target bloggers in a similar niche to you.
  2. Leave comments that leaves them wanting to know more, or asks them a question.
  3. Remember, 20 readers that regularly come back and comment are more valuable than 2000 one-time readers.
Are you an active commenter?

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Comments

  1. Martin says:

    Great tips Corinne.

    I love that you didn’t rely on social media. There’s something quite pure and old school in your approach. Just goes to show that by adding value to the blogs you comment on you can reap real rewards. It’s also a testament to the value of establishing a simple but effective strategy and persisting with it.

    I’m interested that you’ve gone to daily posting. I’ve always thought that would be the best way to blog (consider Seth Godin, for example), but you read lots of experts saying that it’s not the way to go. I reckon the hard part must be sticking to that frequency. Good for you that you’re doing it.

    • Corinne says:

      RE daily posting, I find like most things in blogging – there are many people for and against it. It’s hard to write quality content daily so I really do take a planned approach to it. If I ever get to the point where I feel unable to write posts of a consistent quality, I’ll cut back a bit. But at the moment I’m finding it works for me. I understand it’s not possible to everyone, I do have to dedicate such a large amount of my space time to writing posts.

  2. Hi Martin.

    I’m just getting started so take my comment for what it’s worth. That being said I have done a lot of reading and research and have found that both frequency and consistency matter, but consistency trumps frequency. Even those who swear by a once or twice a week frequency also say that consistency is a must.

    On commenting – oline marketing isn’t really all that different from offline marketing in the sense that the more you connect and share with like-minded folks, the more you contribute, the people spread your message, and the more attention you get.

    Christian

  3. This is great advice, as I have been *really* struggling with finding people in the same niche as me (I blog on psych analysis of fictional characters..) . Unfortunately I find that the psychology community has no interest and there is sooo much out there in the entertainment industry that the blog comments hit the 1000′s minutes after posting, as a result my comments are drowned out for both other commenters and the blogger..any suggestions?

    • Try writing blogs. Writers would be fascinated by this stuff. Start at Write to Done and the Writers Village blog. You’ll find plenty starting with those two.

      • Thanks for that David, have been trying to target writers on Twitter, so I will look to further strengthen that link out in the blogosphere..cheers

    • Corinne says:

      There will be smaller blogs in the entertainment industry. I’ve just had a look at your site and see you have posted quite a bit about Game of Thrones – if you tried looking at bloggers that have posted about the TV show and tried to connect with them? Their whole blog might not be about the show, but it’s very popular and I’m sure a lot of bloggers are talking about it which will give you the chance to comment something of value. I don’t really know much about the psychology community, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t be interested in your content. Are you targeting blogs with similar stats to you? It’s much easier to connect with bloggers that have a low amount of comments.

      • Thanks for the reply Corinne.

        Psych community are a little too serious at times – this is seen as a novelty, but that is cool, writing the blog is my way of escaping that part of my work anyway :)

        Much like therapy though, your responses and those of others, have helped me to realise the things that I already knew, but am too involved in my own project to realise, thanks for the perspective!

  4. Thank you for sharing this. As someone who’s about to launch her blog tomorrow this is really helpful information. While this isn’t my first blog (i’ve had a few freebies before), it’s definitely one I want to put serious work into, especially since it’s connected to my first company. Even better, I enjoy reading and commenting on other blogs, particularly those in my niche, since it makes me feel not so alone on this new journey of mines. I also have a full-time day job, so discovering someone like you who has also held down a full-time job while becoming a successful blogger is very encouraging. Thanks again!

  5. Leslie Chua says:

    Hello there Corinne,

    That is a timely article as myself and a team are just about to launch a community website/blog at http://nomoresteroids.com and we are aiming for community engagement. The site is a community for eczema and topical steroid addiction sufferers.

    I think that engagement takes consistent and persistent effort and it will take some time to see the results of your work. Will be trying out some of your tips to reach out to a wider audience too!

    Thank you for your post.

    Rgds,
    Leslie

  6. Jenny Locke says:

    I think the editorial calendar is a good idea otherwise the time slips by. I notice you didn’t say how long your posts are and as you are writing daily I would be interested to find out. Thanks for great post

    • Corinne says:

      The editorial calendar is a must. Regarding my word count – this varies per post depending on what type of post it is. I’m not a fan of adding words just to up my word count and do like to keep things easy to read, I’d say most of my posts are between 250-500 words. I use a lot of photographs on my blog too.

  7. Great write up. What I liked is the clarity of your priorities really focused you in a direction where you got what you wanted. I’m won over! I’m totally gotta try our some focused commenting. Thanks!

  8. Nikki says:

    This is *exactly* what I needed to read. I’m just starting out and I was wondering what would be the best way to attract loyal readers, besides social media. Thank you! I’m excited to try this out.

  9. Hi Corinne,

    Imagine if you have started twitter the time you start on your blog. The fan base and the engagement you can get . I’m sure you’ll have grown your blog much more quicker.

    Which come to my second point. I’m amaze that you can update your blog everyday. Where is the energy to do all this? Even with passion, you still need time and ideas to make the content interesting and engaging. I think that’s the hard part.

    Great share and trying to work out a plan to jump start myself.

    • Corinne says:

      I do wonder this, but I sometimes think twitter can make me a little lazy, I don’t think I would have been as focused on commenting if I had used twitter earlier as I find it’s very easy to spend a lot of time on there without getting any attention or engagement back on your blog. There are people I regularly talk to on twitter that I’m pretty sure have never left me a comment. It might just be within my niche, but in general, the twitter community don’t seem to comment much at all.

      Posting daily is hard word. I plan my posts ahead of time and will write up what I can on my days off. I sometimes write posts the previous day but do try to avoid doing this. There are days where I can do a full day at work, then come home and spend 3 hours writing a blog post. I’m got tonnes of ideas at the moment and I’m very self motivated. I’ve only been posting daily for a few months and if I find it does get too much or I have to miss a day here and there, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I would also stop daily blogging if I felt the quality of my posts wasn’t up to the standards I set for myself. For now, it’s working.

  10. Amy Richards says:

    This is incredible counsel, as I have been really battling with discovering individuals in the same corner as me thanks for posting such information.

  11. Hi Corinne

    I am very eager to try this out for my website and blog, What I really like is:
    1. Get your Stuff Shared
    2. Adding forums for your readers.

  12. Shailesh says:

    Great Article. It’s look nice and i have got some good idea on how to attract loyal readers. It’s really amazing article on find audiences to your blog. I’d like to share it on my social networking sites too.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  13. Sean Hodge says:

    Hey Corinne, great tips.

    You’ve broken down both the strategy of commenting on a wide-variety of blogs, as well as how to be genuine about it. Yah, I see engaging on a forum and someones comments as quite similar activities. But, with comments it can be a bit more one-to-one with you and the blog author.

    I like your tips about doing this while watching TV. I’m going to give that a go. Commenting and engaging with new people and their sites is fun and a low energy task, so makes sense to do it on the couch in the evenings. I’m also needing to schedule these types of activities around a full-time gig.

    Thanks.

  14. Benaya Paul says:

    Nice article I have never done anything mentioned in this article, its really going to help us alot. Thanks for sharing…

  15. Wendy says:

    I am so happy to have found you post, especially as I am about to migrate my blog to wordpress. I have been thinking about building a more meaningful community. Its good to get these ideas on it and have it as a to do.

  16. irfan says:

    I congratulate you a really useful content ..

  17. Kevin Ocasio says:

    Great post Corinne!

    You’ve outlined a very actionable blog commenting strategy that any blogger can begin implementing NOW.

    A couple of things that I do to get comments on my blog posts (as well as more shares and retweets) is using the WordPress plugin CommentLuv and the site JustRetweet.

  18. Jayashree says:

    Nice Writeup Corinne. As you have said Commenting should be in our strategy to build relationship between fellow bloggers which not only helps to leave out footstamp in their blogs,it really helps to build a long term relationship if you really leave a valuable comment related to the thread. Thanks for posting this.

  19. Rakesh Desai says:

    That’s really is a very informative post. I will always try to keep this points in mind whenever i do any kind of blog commenting afterwards.

  20. Naomi says:

    I’m due to launch my author website soon so I will take a lot of this with me. They say content is King but I guess you’re right there is a lot more to building a community of readers.

  21. Pete Boyle says:

    Great post Corinne,

    I definitely agree that frequent posts of a high quality are necessary for an increase in traffic. However, I personally do not think i have enough ideas to come up with daily posts.
    How do you manage to come up with enough ideas for daily updates which have enough substance to merit a worthwhile post?

    I’d love to know if there’s a method you use for devising numerous worthwhile posts or whether it’s simply a result of you knowing your niche inside out.

    Thanks again!

    Pete

    • Corinne says:

      Hi Pete,

      I slowly moved my niche from a fashion/personal style blog over to lifestyle, which allowed me to be less restricted in the type of posts I publish. I do have a weekly post, which is a roundup of a twitter chat I host which gets one post sorted per week and then I aim to do two style posts, as that is what most of my audience subscribed to my blog for. I plan my posts ahead around products I have to review (I do work long term with some companies who send me things on a monthly basis). I’ll also plan products I buy that I could review and any posts I may wish to write due to a readers question – I get a lot of bloggers e-mailing me questions so I’ll often turn that into a post. I usually have posts for the next 4 weeks already planned out, with a few gap days for any product reviews I may need to do.

      To be honest, I’m not short of things to post at all, it’s time that is more an issue for me. I guess I am lucky in that my niche allows me to be versatile. I have looked at your blog and seems that it may be harder to come up with new ideas daily if you want to stay solely within that niche.

      Posting daily isn’t for everyone, you could always convert that time you would spend creating daily posting into promoting your posts. It’s all about finding what works for you and your blog and when you’ve found it – bloody run with it! I’ve experimented with many techniques and I know what works for me, not everyone agrees though!

      Hope this helps,
      Corinne.

      • Pete Boyle says:

        Thanks for the advice Corinne,

        Looks like i still have a little experimentation to do before i find what works. I’ll definitely run with it when it’s found.

        Pete

  22. Nicole Webb says:

    Hi Corrine,
    Thanks for those tips! Makes perfect sense now you say it. I’m like you were and have a great little tribe on Twitter and Facebook, but it doesn’t seem to translate onto my Blog and comments aren’t left nearly as often as I’d love. Think I’ll have to start targetting! Also, I hear you about daily blogging. I’ve gone from once a fortnight to once a week and already seen the increase. I know I need to get more frequent, it’s just finding the time. My posts tend to be quite long and often take a bit of research. (Expat and travel/culture blogger)…..
    Thanks again,
    Cheers,
    Nicole

    • Corinne says:

      Hi Nicole,

      Different things do work for different people and blogs, while I do well in comments, blog traffic and twitter interaction, I really struggle to get much engagement on Facebook – despite almost 3000 likes! It’s something I do want to work on though.

      If you’re unable to post daily, then I don’t recommend trying to at the detriment to the quality of your posts. Most of my blog posts take around 2 hours photograph and write. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

      I would recommend posting the same time/day if it needs to be weekly. You can use your analytics to see what day/time your readers seem to be online and publish a post then to prevent your post getting the most coverage!

      Corinne.

  23. Jon says:

    Having just started up a new blog and wanting to build readers this post outlines everything I need right now.
    Great post!

  24. Francesco says:

    Just do what you like to do today. If today you like to write a post do that. If today you like to leave a comment, do that. Setting hard goals can only backfire. Yo

  25. When I first started blogging, I didn’t often reply to comments. However, as a reader I discovered a few blogs whose authors took the time to reply to every one. It spoiled me. I’m less likely to return to a blog if I comment and get “crickets” in reply. Of course, I understand when a blog is very popular and regularly gets dozens of comments on a post, it’s a different story. I try to treat my readers they way I like to be treated as a reader, so I’ve started replying to comments, too. Honestly, sometimes it’s tough to think of something that sounds personal and not just “thanks for reading!”, but it’s worth the effort.

    • Corinne says:

      It is difficult, and very time consuming! I am a lot more likely to reply to the comments that give me a chunk of words to get my teeth into, or ask a question!

      When I first started blogging, I did reply to every single one, even if it was a ‘thanks’ but I came to think it made my comments look ugly, and I’d rather just reply to the comments that gave me a reason to expand upon my original post, or add something extra!

  26. Hi I am the same way you are I just stared my blog also with the same goals in mind I have been a lil down because I haven’t had anyone read or comment yet but I will keep working hard and never stop it has to pay off soon

  27. George says:

    Thank you for the Finding Readers series. I love to hear stories when people succeed without social media. There is nothing wrong with social media, but it is good to see that you can succeed without it.
    I also like the honesty about spending hours on building a network.
    The daily posting is interesting. I hear so many variations on that. It seems like there is no rule on it, but if you can provide value, there is no such thing as too many posts.
    To reply to every comment is interesting too. Engagement.

    • Corinne says:

      There are no rules really when it comes to anything with blogging! There’s advice I’ve taken from really successful bloggers that has gotten me nowhere.

      Engagement is really the only thing that my readers respond the best, or the way to get them to come back.

  28. very good post thanks a lot

  29. Great post Stacey.

    What kind of traffic or how many subscribers do I need before I consider a forum?