The internet is flooded with articles discussing the key principles for getting people to leave comments on blogs. There are plugin recommendations, debates over whether comment links should be dofollow and design principles for making the commenting process as simple as possible. Some recommend third party commenting platforms like Disqus, Intense Debate, or LiveFyre.

All of this because bloggers want comments. In fact, many bloggers measure the success of their blogs on the number of comments that they receive. That number is so incredibly important to most people…too important if you ask me.

Success, in my humble opinion, isn’t measured by the number of comments on the post but rather by the level of conversation within the comments section. I’d rather have 5 comments that are engaging and conversational than 500 comments that say nothing more than “Great post.” I don’t need my comment count to stack up to feel validated. I want legitimate, engaging conversations with real people.

Since I’ve begun blogging, I’ve learned several specific practices that have helped me transform the conversation that takes place at this blog.

  1. Respond Conversationally: Across the internet, everyone seems to agree that you should respond to the comments on your blog but very few people really concern themselves with the quality of those responses. As a result, we find blogs all across the internet plagued with dozens of comments that say nothing more than “Thanks for the comment!”
  2. Simulate Face-to-Face Conversations: Here’s a better way to thank them…be conversational. If you and I were talking face-to-face and you repeatedly kept saying, “Thanks for saying that…thanks for saying that…thanks for saying that!” I would get bored quickly and go talk to somebody else.
  3. Respond to Other People’s Comments: If you’re at someone else’s blog…like let’s pretend that you’re reading an article at Site Sketch 101… don’t just leave a comment and talk to the author because when you do, you’re ignoring the rest of the people in the room. Instead, use the comments section as a means to be a part of a larger conversation where you can respond to the author and any other readers who have joined the conversation.

Are you ready to step up and put this concept into practice? Let’s talk about it below.

Nicholas Cardot

About Nicholas Cardot

It's my personal quest to enable every person that I can to unlock that dormant potential concerning their online influence. Also, I'm a geek.

43 Comments

  • Great tips as usual Nic. Having a great blog always comes down to effort, effort, effort and here’s another area where it’s really about putting your best out there every time. Thanks.

    • That’s right. It’s not always easy or natural to pick up and start enjoying a good conversation with someone, especially a stranger, but as you develop that skill, it will ultimately take you very far in life. Developing that skill of impromptu communication is incredibly helpful for connecting with people.

  • Mandeep says:

    Interesting Post Nicholas. I try to start a conversation with my bloggers as much as I can. But, at the same time, I always tell them “thanks for the comment” because, in reality they really didn’t have to give any feedback on my post. They took the time to say something about my post, that least I can do is thank them. However, if anyone is doing this just to get a greater comment count then, it is un-justifiable.

    • Mandeep, I understand that but do you thank people for talking to you every time in real life? If your brother comes over and you watch a football game together and you laugh and hollar and cheer for your teams, do you thank him after each thing that he says? I guarantee he would be creeped out by it. This is literally only something that people do online because they’ve been told it’s the polite thing to do.

      Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t thank people, but I’m saying that their are better ways to thank people and that is to create a real conversation with them. That will excite them far more than a simple thank you.

      If you read the top blogs across the blogosphere when the authors choose to respond, although it may include a thanks, it’s usually much more than just a thank you.

      • Mandeep says:

        Very valid point, Nicholas. I would have to agree with what you have said, and you are definitely a more credibile source than me for such information. However, communication in person and on a blog do have their differences. For example, when you are about tell someone about a topic in person, you don’t exxagerate it when you introduce it. However, when you write a blog title you do exxagerate a little bit. Showing the reader how it will benefit them and all the other nifty bits to get the readers attention. So with the differences in mind, is it necessarily wrong (for the lack of a better word) to say “thanks for the comment”, in an online blog?

        • No, it’s not a question of right or wrong at all. It’s simply a question of trying to figure out what will really allow you to connect with the greatest number of people at any given time. And to be honest, I don’t feel that you need to exaggerate the introduction of an article to make it readable. In fact, most of the time I see that it’s amateurs trying to pitch something at people. Often it comes off sounding spammy. I really enjoy reading material from Chris Brogan and Seth Godin because as they write, they make their material sound very conversation. It becomes very easy to read as a result.

          • Mandeep says:

            I don’t think it’s necessarily amateurs who make headlines that are somewhat “exxagerated” (for the lack of a better term). It is actually a technique that is taught by some of the top bloggers. What I stated above is actually taught in a post on CopyBlogger. However, back to the discussion on comments. I think its just a matter of what you want to do. If your main focus is to always start a conversation, then only respond to comments where it is possible to do that. On the other hand, If don’t reply to some comments, I feel like those comments have been ignored so, I try to reply to all the comments that are relevant to my post. Btw, Great discussion here Nicholas, thanks for all the insight. πŸ™‚

  • samuel says:

    Always we must try to recognize the effort of the blogger. He tries to give something, open his ideas.
    We can agree or gently disagree, but we must add value to the conversation.

    • That’s exactly right. And although I understand that readers come from all levels of experience, it’s important that we continue to teach people how to really connect with people.

      I often hear people say things like, “We should just be thankful for their comments even if they don’t really add anything to the conversation.” And although I am thankful for those comments, they do much less for a persons online reputation than comments that actually connect with people with life-like conversation. That adds value to the conversation.

  • It’s amazing that a blogger will write good content on their blog… only to leave a comment on another blog that is borderline spam!

    Rarely do I thank readers for a comment without also leaving them a quality response. If not, I say nothing.

    I agree that comments, although valuable to your blog’s interaction, is not the deciding factor for success.

    I will say, in closing, that when you set a tone on your blog where the comments are just as impassioned as the article, it discourages the “thanks for the info,” “nice job on that” people away.

    Jeffrey Baril – Source Blogger

    • Jez says:

      I think your comments on “setting the tone” are the krux of it. The kind of people that go round dropping useless one liners often follow each other around, or re-visit the same site many times.

      Once you accept a couple of useless “wow thanks” type comments the rot starts to set in.

      Furthermore a lot of those one liners are actually automated spam bots. In fact, ANY generic comments that appear are most likely to be spam bots. A spam bot cannot fake relevance to your original post, so, unless the comment is pertinant to your post then delete it.

      I use ComLuv on my blog, but I also use re-captcha to keep the bots out and delete any useless stuff, so far ComLuv is working well for me.

      The original point made in this blog post about rather having quality than quantity is right on the money… if comments are engaging subsequent visitors are more likely to reply to them… as I have replied to Jeffrey, rather than to the original post….

      • Jez, I’m so incredibly tired of spam which is why I also delete comments where people don’t use a real name either. If someone posts as “The Top Online Grocery Store” I have to assume that they aren’t interested in carrying on a real conversation. It’s very clear that their only motivation is building a backlink to their online grocery store.

        Like you, I also use the Comment Luv plugin, but I don’t advertise it and the reason for that is that I only want people to leave comments on the site who feel compelled to be a part of a lively conversation rather than those who solely want to promote their latest blog post. That’s why mine only shows up AFTER the comment has been submitted.

        You mentioned, “Once you accept a couple of useless β€œwow thanks” type comments the rot starts to set in.” You’re right about that. It really is up to the site author to create the tone that will be held throughout the site.

        • Jez says:

          Hi Nicholas,

          Did you modify the plugin yourself to do that or do you mean you just “show nothing” in the ComLuv options?

          I have not played around with the options much, I just used the defaults.

          As mentioned I also installed a re-captcha plugin to keep the riff raff out, I think that is probably another signal to would be “one line droppers” that you are not going to accept rubbish.

          I think the worst plugins for getting the wrong kind of comments are the “top commentors” plugins that give a site wide link to whoever can drop the most comments. Those things encourage lots of short comments rather than one concise comment. I tried one of those in the past and had to remove it in the end.

          • I modified my theme’s CSS file to make the CommentLuv form to be invisible but automatically selected so that everyone automatically gets it but that they won’t know about it until after it’s published. It’s kind of a bonus.

            I dislike capchas because I believe that every obstacle or complication that you add to a comment form will reduce the number of people who will want to comment. People just want to type their comment and move on. I agree that those plugins that promote the top commentors does exactly that, it encourages comments for the sake of getting linked rather than comments for the sake of joining a real conversation.

    • I’ve thought that exact same thing. They’re working so hard to build a good site and then their out and about promoting themselves with comments that are nothing more than spam.

      Your closing statement is really the key to the whole situation. When you learn to express that same passion and excitement for the conversation as you do in the article itself then you are definitely setting yourself and your community up for success.

  • Harriet says:

    I agree with you when you say that you’d rather have 5 thoughtful comments than 500 useless ones, it must be so frustrating for you to get a load of spam comments. I hope this response wasn’t too spammy for you πŸ˜‰

    • I’m grateful for plugins like Akismet that filter those other comments out for me. I like it because it allows me to focus on diving into the conversation and not having to worry nearly as much about moderation.

      Also, I don’t post articles like this just to let people know what type of content bothers me, but to point out that spam-like comments will hurt you anywhere you go and not just here. I’m trying to educate people so that they can really make an impact in the online world.

  • Great thoughts about relationship building through comments Nicholas. Some bloggers also do send private emails to those who are new to their blogs for them to engage more with the owner’s blog. I think I’ve read this tip from one of your guest bloggers here πŸ™‚ but it did mark on my mind, since I’m also planning to do that as well, to improve personal relationships with those who follow my personal blog.

    • But just think how much more effective that email will be if they see how personal and engaging you are in your comment section before you ever email them. I send out emails also to those who leave a comment for the first time, but this conversational tone that we can use to attempt to simulate a face-to-face conversation is worth so much more than most people can really understand.

  • Dan Fonseca says:

    I have always found that to be the case. Simple responses like “hey, thanks!” really dont do much for me, my blog, or the conversation. It is every engaging interaction that helps move forward information. Its how the great teachers do it too!

    http://www.danfonseca.wordpress.com

    • I agree. If you hang out at the website of someone developing software or accomplishing something great, you won’t hear them saying “great stuff” and signing away. Those folks who are really making things happen are the ones who carry on some powerful conversations. It’s like reading through a forum or something when you browse their comments sections. That is exactly how the great teachers do it.

  • Really great tips Nick,

    You’re absolutely right, I really don’t care about the number of comments but the level of engagement.

    You really gave a great point concerning simulating a face-to-face conversation because it looks dumb telling everybody “Thanks for commenting” for all their comments (it makes you look like you’re automating your replies).

    But rather focus on building true relationships with your commenters, as that is what brings in more comments and lets your commenters know you really care for them.

    • That really is the biggest problem Onigalusi. When you do that it makes you look like a spammer on your own blog as if they really are automated.

      It also takes away from the meaning of thank you. Instead of someone thinking, “Oh. They’re thankful for my comment.” They think, “Oh. They automate that to everyone. That’s not even a real thank you.”

  • Nicholas,

    Thanks for the tip on using Akismet to block spam comments. I’ve recently set up a new blog and am being flooded with (spam) comments that have absolutely NO relation to the content of my post. I’m getting tired of having to moderate so much rubbish each day.

    I must confess to also deleting comments that simply say “Great post.” Like you, I look at who they are from and delete based upon the email address etc.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Like ’em! :))

    • I remember one day that I received over 150 spam comments over the course of about 2 hours. They were all incredibly similar so it was pretty obvious that they were all being sent by the same bot. However, Akismet was catching every single one of them and not a single one got published.

      And thank you for sharing your thoughts too!

  • While it is far too important for those that accept any comment they can get, it is a very UNDER-utilized metric for those getting the useful comments (see your 1-3 above).

    Example, advertising: If I’m looking for a blog to place my banner or text link, I couldn’t care less about your 1000 page-views per second, if the conversation is nil. πŸ˜‰

    • Actually Dennis, I would disagree with that. I get nearly as many comments on some of my articles as sites like psd.tutsplus.com and yet they are able to charge over $1,000 for some of their advertisements because of the massive amount of traffic that they get.

      • Hey Nic,

        You chose a very interesting example. For a tutorial site, they happen to have an impressive comment count, per post.

        I say this because, on such a site, I don’t expect much more then the off hand, “huh?” or “thanks!” type comment.

        I’d imagine more are so informational, readers just read, note, and go back to implement.

        On the other side, it does not surprise me a bit that they get so much for advertising…

        Any tutorial sites, assuming the tuts are correct, can become HUGE in no time flat.

        I only WISH I was that knowledgeable in just one techie type area.

  • Derek Jensen says:

    An interesting point to bring up is that the whole numbers game/mindset would most likely change over a blogger’s time and experience.

    In relation to Problogger or other many experienced bloggers the comments aren’t a big deal to them any more, but I’m sure they were looking at the number of engagements rather than the quality of the comment just to get attention.

    Then, once you have attention you look for quality comments/conversations.

  • Eric says:

    Hey Nicholas, I see your point here in the fact that I do say thank you to every comment I get. It’s not a bad thing but I understand where you’re coming from with the idea that we don’t do that in real life and a real conversation on a blog is much more valuable than just a bunch of comments that say great post or something of that nature.

    I did learn when I first started blogging about saying thanks for your comment to be polite, but it may not be the best thing since you’re just focusing on that one comment at hand and not looking at it like a real conversation is taking place.

    This really struck and I’m glad you wrote this. Honestly never even occurred to me.

    • I just realized that I really enjoy spending time with people that I can carry on a real conversation with. Otherwise it’s like when you’re talking to a girl and it’s really obvious that you’re just trying to say the right thing instead of being that guy who can just relax and talk to people about interesting stuff.

      • Eric says:

        That’s a great way to put it. Natural is always best and the more you practice being comfortable just being yourself and talking to others naturally the easier it gets.

  • Frank says:

    I average about 3 comments a post currently, but they contain quality conversations with real people. I agree with you, Nicholas…receiving a comment that says, “Nice post” isn’t what bloggers should be after. I’d rather someone say something that argues against what I say or shares their own thoughts to the article.

  • Lisa says:

    Which is why the idea of having a discussion thread and a comments thread simultaneously has whirled my brain since the beginning. If you just want to stop by and put in your two cents ~ add a comment. But if you’d really like to contribute … and get more into the actual topic of the post ~ join in the discussion.

    Nothing against kudos but the decline of quality may also be fed by the fact that the majority of articles on blogs aren’t about informing, engaging and connecting but about SEO. And for those who are not primarily about that, time is definitely something one needs to consider … more like ROI.

  • A.Tatum says:

    Great points. I always try and leave comments, but I only see the top bloggers responding. I like Man Deep and Nicholas comments also.

  • Whiztechy says:

    I agree with you Nic, it is very important to involve in conversation with your readers. Your post should be more like a forum where readers can interact with eachother.
    But many times even readers just comment “nice post” or “nice read”,it becomes bit touch to reply to such comments for me.Then I feel that they just commented for building links not for giving feedback.

  • Great post! Chasing conversations is a great way to get links and build reputation,at the same time!

  • In a week I get about 1000 comments. All spam. Do they add anything to the community of my site? No. Do they respond and discuss things with me? Again, no. So therefore I don’t base the success of my site on comments. Instead, I pride myself on the improving quality of my posts and whether or not my readers appreciate that level of writing and acknowledge that too.

  • Amy says:

    I think a short reply is much like a short post. I see no value in either. When I arrive at a new blog and see several posts only a paragraph long each, I immediately dismiss the site. I want thought provoking conversation and I want to know the author has put some effort into the articles.. Those are the authors that always make my RSS Reader.

    As you’ve stated well here, this conversation should continue throughout the comment section. Don’t let a great post not serve its purpose because the final step of engaging your visitors didn’t get addressed.

    Great post!

  • Gennaro says:

    The toughest part is turning a short comment where someone only wants to let the blogger know they liked the post or a particular photo into a conversation. In that case, a simply thank you is often enough.

  • Kyle says:

    Great way to get comments! Write about comments. (: When you receive conversational comments, ask the commenter an engaging question related to the topic. I’ve found it’s a great way to really spark conversation. Questions = answers.

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