One of the best things about blogging is the comments readers leave. Far more than other publishing mediums, blogs allow the writers to get closer to having a dialogue with their readers.
On a number of occasions I’ve talked to people about comments, why readers comment and how to get them to do so more. I’m unwilling to follow a number of the approaches myself, but here they are for other bloggers to consider.
Get More Readers
There’s a certain proportion of readers who will comment on blog posts (I’ve heard the estimate of 1% from multiple sources), so the easiest way to get more comments is to get more readers. I’ve written before on some general ideas about this, but most bloggers are probably already doing everything they can to get as many readers as possible.
Write “Accessible” Posts
A friend’s father was talking about how the hardest decisions for an organization are often made the quickest. If a board of directors is considering building a new power plant, there’s probably one person who really understands what this entails and they’ll do what she thinks is best. If they’re deciding whether or not to buy new mops for the custodial staff, everyone has an opinion and the discussion may take a long time.
Similarly, complex posts will get fewer comments. I think Thicken My Wallet writes some of the most detailed and insightful posts in the personal finance blogosphere (I think 98% of his stuff is gold). A ton of his posts get 1 or 2 comments, and some don’t get any.
If a blogger writes nothing but rehashes on the themes of “avoid debt”, “investment X is AMAZING!”, “investment Y SUCKS!”, “latte factors”, or “spend less than you earn”, it will often be a blog that will get tons of commenters (as everyone can put together a comment on many of these topics).
I think Garth Turner at greaterfool.ca is pretty funny, but basically every one of his posts boils down to “real estate is over priced and the market is going to crash”. Each of his posts gets hundreds of comments.
This is something that I think has limited the comments I get, but I’m just not willing to write posts that keep going over the same territory repeatedly (it seems boring to me).
Write Inflammatory Posts
Casey Serin is the master of this, but bloggers learn when a post hits certain buttons among their readership. Writing a post on the subject is a good way to get passionate members of both sides posting comments. Our posts on real estate agents do this, although Mike and I have only written these posts when we have something to say, not to get people fired up.
A high traffic blog could easily be created around the idea of a daily post criticizing real estate agents. You’d get the agent rebuttals, people agreeing, people leaving anecdotes of bad experiences, and so forth. Each day, just write 400 words and get everyone going again. Other ideas would be daily posts on: why the government needs to give poor people money, why poor people are the cause of all of society’s ills, how you just need to *believe* in success to achieve it, how taxation is evil, how real estate is the easy path to riches, how Forex trading is the easy path to riches, how gold is the easy path to riches, or how some particular stock trading systems is the easy path to riches. Don’t do anything substantive on any of these topics, just keep saying the same vacuous things in different ways each day.
Respond to Comments
When I first dabbled with blogging I thought that it might make sense to not respond to comments at all. My thinking way that I have my say in the posts, so perhaps I should let readers talk it out between themselves in the comments. If your goal is to get more comments, DEFINITELY respond to as many comments as you can. People will be far more likely to leave comments in the future if they get a response. It also leads into discussions in the comments section, which will tend to draw more people in and get more commenting happening.
I think we’ve had some AMAZING people commenting on this blog over the years, but there have been a couple of crazies that stuck around for quite a while. They’re often good at writing inflammatory comments and getting people going, and they leave LOTS of comments, so encouraging them may be a good idea if lots of comments is your goal. I always wanted to maintain a high value of commenting as well as raw number, so I’d ignore them and eventually the nuts would move on (probably related to my last point: if you ignore the good commenters they’ll move on too).
Mention Comments / Commenters in Posts
On occasion I’ve based a post around a good comment or highlight a commenter in a post. This is like the last two ideas on steroids (and is worth doing).
Link to, and Comment on, Other Blogs
It may only lead to a single comment, but most readers have probably seen the comments bloggers leave one another thanking them for links. Linking to other blogs and other blogs’ posts is worthwhile. When I get a good comment from a blogger I haven’t seen before, I’m VERY likely to go and check out their blog (and usually leave at least a couple of comments on interesting posts). Theoretically, bloggers should leave good comments since they got enough interesting ideas to write posts on their own blogs (and can toss a couple interesting ideas into the comment section of other blogs).
Keep Posts Short
My posts are too long, I realize many people just won’t get all the way through a 1,000 word post. Some commenters will leave comments without reading the entire post, but they’re jackasses for the most part. Keeping posts short and digestible will increase the number of people who finish reading it, and therefore may consider leaving a comment.
Ask Your Readers Questions
I suspect some people are willing to comment but just can’t think of anything to write. One technique is to try to encourage discussion with a few questions at the end of a post that you hope people will comment on.
What have you found to be the posts most likely to get you to leave a comment? For bloggers out there, what have you found to be the best ways to get readers to comment?