We’ve talked about the issues of blog comments before on Problogger.net, but never from a point of view of profit-making.But as I was looking at the stats on dPS last week, I found that this short, helpful opinion post from 2010 was still attracting a steady stream of readers—and comments. I explained on Google+ why I think that post’s still so popular, but today I wanted to look a bit more closely at how comments can help a profit-making blogger.
So let’s step through some of the ways blog comments can—directly and indirectly—add to your bottom line.
Increased ad revenue
Posts that engage readers are more likely to be shared, which draws more traffic back to those posts. Commenting is a very strong kind of engagement. That lenses post really does stimulate discussion, and at the same time it’s very helpful to those trying to work out which lenses to buy.
So if someone comments on that post, they may also be more likely to share it, which would boost traffic and ad impressions. And if your blog has a “most commented” or “most popular” list in the sidebar, an ongoing comment stream could push the post into that as well, drawing more attention to it from users on other pages of your blog.
Ongoing affiliate revenue
Imagine if this post had included affiliate links to actual products. So long as I’d kept the links up to date, I could still be making affiliate revenue from a post we’d published nearly three years ago. Not bad!
This post obviously draws strong attention from my readers. It’s been shared on Facebook nearly 1,000 times, and pinned to Pinterest more than 17,000 times.
This could give me good reason to approach brands that make the types of lenses covered in that post, or mentioned by users in the comments themselves. I could contact them to see if they’re interested in buying paid sponsorship either for that post, or an updated version of it.
Audience research for new products
The comments on the post are really insightful. Have a read and you’ll get a feel for the experience levels of the users, what brands they prefer, what they’re shooting, how they use their equipment, and so on. They’re also tagged by date, so they provide some insight into the way my audience has evolved over time.
By spending a little time going through these comments, I might easily come up with a couple of ideas for new products to try with my readers.
Encourage first-timers to engage
There’s nothing worse than clicking through from a search result to find the article you’ve chosen is old and outdated.
Comments really do keep your evergreen content fresh and alive. This is a short post, but the scroll bar indicates there’s a lot more on the page. Any new visitor who scrolled down would likely be surprised by the number of comments, and the fact that the discussion is ongoing.
They might be encouraged to comment themselves, or at least to look around the site a bit more. Best-case scenario? They subscribe to the RSS feed or mailing list, prompted by the strong evidence of a passionate readership, as indicated by these comments!
In short, comments:
- attract attention
- keep the discussion growing
- are helpful to other users
- can solicit on-site engagement in a range of ways
- can excite users to share, driving more traffic to the post.
But there’s a catch: not all comments are good comments—especially for those with a profit focus. So let’s look at the characteristics of comments that will help you achieve the goals we’ve just talked about.
Good comment, bad comment
The kinds of comments I want to keep on my posts are those that:
- add to the discussion, rather than just repeating the article’s main points
- contribute insight or personal experience
- are clearly written
- have a username, email address, website or avatar attached.
These are the kinds of comments that potential post-sponsors will want to see, as will any advertisers or others who are considering investing marketing budget into your blog.
The kinds of comments I try to catch before they’re published are those which:
- criticize without contribution: I love respectful disagreements in comments, because often they’re a great way to learn. But criticism that doesn’t add value is usually pretty unhelpful.
- aren’t clear, or don’t take the post or author seriously: Again, this doesn’t really add value to the discussion. it certainly won’t inspire potential ad-space buyers about your readership.
- simply promote their own products: Sometimes, this can be a fine line, but if a commenter simply suggests readers look at his or her own site, and doesn’t add to the discussion in any other way, I tend to send their post to the trash.
On that basis, I don’t necessarily delete comments that:
- include offsite links
- talk about other (or the commenter’s own) products
- criticize or disagree with the author
- are short or informal.
If I did that, the comments could end up feeling fairly stilted and contrived—and that’s not going to encourage further comments over time. But also, the presence of any of those things doesn’t mean the comment’s no good. Each comment really does need to be judged on its own merits, and in the context of the post and other comments that haven been made.
Taken with the post itself, the comments should ideally provide real value that encourages sharing, bookmarking, repeat visits, and more commenting—that’s where the greatest profit potential for comments lies.
Do you treat comments as adding to the overall monetization potential of your blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.