Jennine asked the question “if no one comments on your blog, is it really a blog?” earlier this week, and my simple answer to that question is “no.” Leaving aside blogs that don't allow comments (which I used to somewhat understand, but now I don't), if you write and write for years and still aren't getting any comments, you might be doing it wrong. It's not only about quality content either, you may have great pictures and compelling posts, but don't have the tools in place to encourage discussion and engagement on your blog. Just thinking about your community and making it easier for readers to comment can make all the difference.
Up until the the last couple of years, my blog posts never got a lot of comments consistently. A few posts here and there got some, but mostly, I was discouraged with how few comments I would get; I knew my readers were relatively engaged with my site in other ways, but I really wanted to see more discussion on my site. So I started doing a few simple things to try and increase comments and since then I rarely have a post that doesn't get a few.
Here's what has worked for me:*
Ask for Comments!
I don't mean exactly in that way, but at the end of every post I make an effort to ask a question that can encourage discussion. My posts are always very personal anyway, so it's not hard to ask my readers to share their stories, favorite finds, or what they're looking for, but I'm surprised at how such a simple thing has made a difference in numbers of comments. Even if you think your question is silly, ask it anyway – make your readers feel like they are important to the discussion and have something to add. Blogging is about sharing your passion with others; make sure they can share theirs with you too. And don't forget to respond!!
Make it easy
Make it as easy as possible for your readers to leave a comment: automatically approve their comments after so many approved comments, use Akismet for spam if you're on WordPress, use Comment Luv so bloggers will get a link back to their own blog…these are all tools that will significantly increase engagement if you use them. Disqus is also a good tool for comments. It's important to think about your comments section, not just ignore it and leave it at the default, or whatever “came with” your blog. The easier it is for your readers to leave comments, the more they will want to engage with you and other readers.
Have a strict comment policy in place
I have a very strict comment policy on my blogs: all comments are moderated and I always approve comments that disagree with me, but any comment that contains a link back to a commenters blog is automatically marked as spam. Okay, so I'm not always that harsh, if the comment is actually relevant, and adds to the discussion, then I edit out the link and approve the comment (I use the Comment Luv plugin, so it automatically links back to the commenters blog if they have one), but as a rule, I mark those comments as spam. I also don't approve simple comments like “love your outfit” or obvious “follow-my-blog” fishing comments unless they're from regular commenters. Those comments do nothing to nurture community or increase engagement on your blog, all they do is serve to keep comment counts up artificially for stats purposes. Too many “fishing” comments has the opposite affect on engagement – they in fact discourage real discussion because who wants their thoughtful comment to get lost in a sea of “nice outfit, follow my blog XOXO” comments?
Encourage other ways to Communicate
Make it really easy for readers to contact you via other means, like email, twitter or Facebook in case they don't want to leave a comment – this may sound strange, but I get a lot of emails from readers who prefer to interact that way in the beginning, then after some time, they start leaving comments on blog posts. Making them feel like they are a part of your community however they feel comfortable is an important first step.
Comment on other blogs
I don't do this nearly enough, but I know that when I do comment on other blogs, engagement on my own blog usually increases. If you think about how much comments mean to you, it's easy to see why commenting on other blogs is so important; it's such a meaningful step towards building trust and community among all bloggers, and in turn, on your own blog.
*just to be clear, I'm not talking about aiming for 100+ comments per post, I'm talking about a reasonable number of high-quality, relevant comments from readers who are truly engaged with your site. The numbers here don't matter – at least they shouldn't matter – the quality of the comments does. One thoughtful comment is worth 1,000 “luv your outfit, pls. follow my blog” comments in my opinion; aim for quality and quality will follow.
Have you increased comments on your blog? How have you done it?