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7 Fail-Safe Ways to Get More Comments on Your Blog

starry-night-chat-bubblesWhen it comes to social proof and trust signals, one of the most effective ways to make your site appear more credible is to showcase a vibrant community. There are several ways to do this but the most effective way is through comments. A blog with a lot of comments is a blog with an active and engaged community.

You could make the case that this is superficial. There are plenty of great blogs that don’t get a ton of comments. There are plenty of terrible blogs that have a torrent of comments. You would be right on both counts and I’m not arguing that a lot of comments means that you have a great blog but that’s what people believe and it becomes a part of their instant assessment of your site. More comments means more readers which means you’re more popular. And popular is always good.

So, how do you get more comments?

Write Controversial Posts

If you want readers to comment, give them a reason to comment!

Write about a controversial subject that people are passionate about. Controversy simply means disagreement, just pick subjects that have disagreement and whose sides have passionate bases. In personal finance, you could get a good discussion anytime you talked politics or taxes. Here is a list of the most commented (non-giveaway) Your Take posts on Bargaineering:

  1. Should Unemployment Benefits Be Extended Again? – 300 comments
  2. Does Unemployment Insurance Reward Laziness? – 190 comments
  3. Health Care Reform Bill – 187 comments
  4. Is Five Days of Mail Delivery OK? – 172 comments
  5. Bush Era Income Tax Cuts – 159 comments

See a pattern? :)

In your niche, there are always a few subject areas that get people fired up – tap of those every so often to get your blog energized with comments.

Ask for Comments

Always end your posts in a way that elicits comments. Engage the audience and ask them a question. At the end of this post, I’ll ask you if you have any of your own favorite tips for getting readers to leave a comment. When you ask the reader a question they are naturally inclined to answer.

They also have a starting point when thinking of something poignant to write. When you don’t ask, they have to make the leap themselves. They have to have a think of a comment so compelling that they initiate the comment. When a question is tee’d up for them, there’s far less inertia to overcome.

Every Friday, Microblogger has a Your Take post that is specifically there to start a discussion. I started it on Bargaineering and loved it, so I brought it here. The Your Take post is often something that’s debated and readers know that the value in the post is in the discussion – I just create a jumping off point.

Make It Simple to Comment

Do enough conversion testing and you’ll learn that any hurdle, no matter how inconsequential, will reduce your conversion rates. We removed Disqus because it was a tiny hurdle, but one that people complained about and comments have been flowing. I loved it because it stopped spam and it was beautiful. It also stopped a few commenters, so we removed it and made it easier to leave comments.

Comment Elsewhere

I read a lot of blogs and I’m always looking for ways to leave an insightful comment that entices those visitors to come check out my blog. My comment there is like a teaser for the awesomeness they’ll find on Microblogger. It’s never a “great post” type of garbage comment that is guaranteed to piss off the blogger and annoy anyone who reads it. The goal isn’t for that almost-useless-nofollow-link, the goal is to leave a great comment that forces a reader to click it because they want to find more awesomeness.

So how do you follow a lot of blogs and reminders to comment? I subscribe to their email lists. Almost everyone has an email list these days and it’s a nice reminder to visit and comment whenever a new post is published. You can sign up to ours in the sidebar and I’ll email you once a week about the week’s posts. I use it as an inbox reminder to comment and then delete the email once I’m done.

Ok, so this might get you a trickle of traffic, how does this increase comments on your blog? It’s step one and step two is to…

Make Commenting Agreements

I scratch your back, you scratch mine. Simple enough of a concept right? Make an agreement with your blogging friends to comment on each other’s blog posts. Subscribe to the RSS feed and when you see a new post, pop on over and leave a comment. This will give you a nice solid base of comments and, as long as your partners agree to the same standard of high quality comments. If you commented there already and can show that you’re engaged and capable of making smart comments, an agreement is almost automatic.

This also creates the possibility of de facto agreements. If you comment elsewhere, chances are they’ll comment on your site too. In fact, most of the time you don’t even need to come up with an agreement at all. It just happens (which is preferable).

Reward Commenters

A few years ago, I met Andy Liu of BuddyTV at Elite Retreat and he suggested that I think about creating a rewards system. BuddyTV was having success with their Buddy Tokens and he thought it might be something I could use on Bargaineering. A few weeks later, I instituted Bargaineering Bucks – our points system for Bargaineering and rewarded actions like leaving a comment.

As you can imagine, it worked. Total comments increased by 40-50% (we normalized it against non-search traffic) and replies increased by some unbelievable percentage, because we had very few replies before. Those figures stayed at that higher level until the rewards part of the equation was terminated.

Always Reply

Want a quick way to double the number of comments on your blog? Reply to everything (surprise tip huh?). It’s a good practice to be engaged with your readers but you also increase the comment count, which can entice others to weigh in. Replying also increases the probability that the conversation continues, especially if you use comment subscription plugins, and a good vibrant debate can really rack up the comments (and add value to your post).

If you search the web for “how to get more comment” types of post, you’ll eventually stumble on the monster posts that offer up suggestions that probably test your limits in terms of legitimacy. We’re talking things like “insult someone” or “write fake comments” or even “buy comments.” In the end, faking comments won’t ever hurt you (plenty of people do it) but… why? The goal is to build a valuable resource and support a strong community, why would you want to cheat yourself or your readers? And why would you insult someone just for comments? Just seems dumb and short-sighted.

As an aside, I feel that being critical of someone or something, like a business, is perfectly fine. It’s when you insult someone for the sole purpose of getting comments – that’s pretty weak. One of the most commented posts on Bargaineering was a rant about how I hated U-Haul after an especially horrid experience… it’s at 794 comments and counting.

So, we’ve now reached the end of the post and as I promised, here’s the question – what’s your favorite way to elicit comments?

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Jim

In 2005, I founded a personal finance blog (Bargaineering.com) that became successful enough that I quit my career as a software developer in the defense industry. It is my goal to share everything I learned so that you can do the same - build an online business that let's you pursue your passion.

31 Responses to “7 Fail-Safe Ways to Get More Comments on Your Blog”

  1. Michelle says:

    Great tips! Making it easy to leave a comment is very important. If I have to log in to three different forms and then enter two different CAPTCHAs then I will run away screaming!

    • Jim says:

      I’m doing a test now with some other sites about the best combination of anti-spam plugins to use that don’t require a captcha (or any active engagement from the commenter). Hopefully that’ll be done in a few weeks and I can talk about some bullet-proof methods.

      • Liz and Ryan says:

        Excited to read that post Jim! We use Akismet. It does a pretty good job but we still approve all comments just in case spam gets through.

        • Jim says:

          Akismet does a great job at stopping virtually everything, I’m testing a bunch of plugins on a site of mine that gets a lot of spam. Hopefully I can find a few plugins that, in totality, can stop spam from even appearing. Moderating gets to be tough and sometimes you want conversations to flow and that’s tough if you have to click approve on everything.

  2. Meg Sylvia says:

    Great article, Jim. I think I’ve got to work on the controversy idea- will require some extra-thoughtful crafting but it’s clear that it works! I’ve never thought about rewarding commentors either. Very interesting concept to think about for the future.

    • Jim says:

      I was fortunate in that with personal finance, I could give away books and ING referrals (both of which were mostly free, I had to ship the books). It’s tougher if you actually have to pay out of pocket for rewards, but it worked really well to increase engagement.

  3. Great tips Jim! Like Michelle, I am no fan of Captchas – especially those that require a Ph.D. in something to figure it out. That said, I think all of these are important, but I’ve found that those that respond regularly get more comments…generally speaking. That’s the approach I like to take as I find it as an important tool to help build a community. I also think it’s interesting at times when I write something I think will get all sorts of comments and gets little love, but something else I wrote that I didn’t care for gets all sorts of comments.

    • Jim says:

      Ha, I totally get that last sentiment. I used to think that spending a ton of time on something would result in a lot of engagement… but it’s not true. The time you spend writing something has little to do with how people receive it (duh!) but as a blogger, you can only control so many things and output is one of them.

      So one thing I learned from Bargaineering is that when you write a very well-researched personal finance post, it doesn’t get many comments.

      Why doesn’t it get comments?

      Multiple reasons… (this will probably become a post later actually) but maybe they’re not interested? If it’s long, they don’t feel like reading it. If they are interested and you did a great job researching it, they have nothing else to add and no one (real) likes to leave a “Great post!” comment but sometimes that’s all that they can add. Lastly, they’re hesitant to point out anything wrong or bring up a debate if you did a ton of research and also because it’s your blog.

      So actually, long posts might even hinder comments. (this is not scientifically tested)

  4. Great article. Making it easy to comment on your blog is the best advice. If it’s hard to comment on your post, then it doesn’t matter if the content is fascinating or not. I think that having to register initially and then log in every time will put people off as it’s time consuming and can be a hassle for some people. The second most important piece of advice would be to create copy that really interests your readers, tell them something they don’t know, or share the latest research, your advice on writing about something controversial is spot on. You also need to market your blog, as if nobody knows about it then people won’t come to your blog, hence you will not get any comments.

    • Jim says:

      When I took off Disqus, comments started pouring in because now people didn’t have to register/login to yet another account just to leave a comment. Disqus was pretty but it was getting in the way of a good discussion.

  5. Controversy is always good for attracting comments, not just because people like to comment on a controversial post, but also because they like to comment on each others’ comments. Plus, they like spilling blood on the floor.

  6. I hate systems like Disqus that make you log in. It just adds another step to make my day more difficult so I stick with the base wordpress comments. I don’t require a captcha, just a quick checkbox check and then if they appear to be a spambot (I don’t know how it determines this) then it might ask you to put a captcha in. Very rare though.

    • Jim says:

      More and more people are telling me they hate Disqus and that they’re happy I took it off, which is partly a surprise because only one person told me they hated it when I had it on!

  7. Glen says:

    It’s amazing how just asking for comments or leaving a question for discussion at the end of an article can help to get comments. Asking gives a reader just a little nudge that says their opinion is OK and wanted.

    I’ve also found that articles that tell a personal story tend to get more comments too.

  8. I’ve posted several comments on some financial blogs that add thoughtful insights consistent with the blog topics. Then, if I add a natural link that fits into the subject of one comment, they consider that spam. They are apparently not aware that unnatural links accomplish nothing, so no sensible person even tries them. My comments that are posted on other blogs don’t persuade them of my goal of creating engaging content. How do you suggest attaining de facto commenting agreements with such bloggers?

    • Jim says:

      Look at it from the perspective of the blog owner, someone shows up, leaves a comment, but links back to their own site. They’re basically putting a sign in the ground that says – “Hey, come look at this next.” The sign might be pretty, but it’s still telling the visitor that they should be going somewhere else. It’s a little off putting. It’s bad blog manners. To you, it’s relevant. “Hey, I just wrote about this too– check out my take!” looks just an innocuous message to the reader that they can look at your site if they’re interested in more. To the blogger, you’re in it for yourself and trying to get a few more visitors.

      Personally, I feel like when you’re commenting you should just leave an insightful comment without linking back to your own stuff outside of your name. There’s no reason to make your comment look like an advertisement with a bunch of links (and if you leave too many, spam plugins will recognize you as a spammer and then you’ll really be screwed).

      As for de facto commenting agreements, just comment on their sites and eventually they’ll reciprocate. If they don’t, and you feel like you need that to continue commenting, stop. These things just happen naturally, hence “de facto.”

  9. I have always felt that leaving good comments on other blogs is the best tool to get more comments. It is also the most time consuming which is why so many people fail to do it on a consistent basis. Me included from time to time!

  10. Adrienne says:

    Hey Jim,

    Ah, my favorite subject. I love this topic because so many people just really don’t get it.

    Now, I’ve never really written anything controversial but I’ve had my rants. Those weren’t really the ones that got the most comments though but I really wrote them to get something off my chest and to warn my readers.

    My most popular post so far has 497 comments but it’s over two years old now and still going strong. I respond to every single comment so half of those are mine. My second most popular post again is a couple years old and it’s got 262 comments so I’m nowhere near what your other blog has done but I have a very active and loyal community and it’s been that way for about two years now.

    I honestly believe that you have to make it easy for people to comment so installing any type of commenting system that warrants someone having to sign up or activate an app is a huge turn off. I know it helps cut down on spam but there are other ways to fight that.

    Always ask for comments and always post questions in your post. When responding to comment, ask more questions if possible and make sure you have something set up so that the comment and your response will be emailed to your reader. They love knowing you responded and the majority will come back and answer yet another question.

    I don’t have any type of reward system but I let everyone know that if you comment on my blog post, I’ll visit yours. If it’s a topic I can contribute to I’ll comment. If it’s not please forgive me but I promise to stop by. After you comment always share it at least on Twitter if not on other social sites.

    That’s what I do and there is only one post I write each month that gets less then 100 comments and that’s because I’m sharing other posts for my readers to go and read so I don’t expect a lot of comments on that particular one. But, I’m rewarding my readers by sharing their posts. Trust me, that is something they love.

    Great post and thanks for sharing this topic. I hope everyone will take your advice now.

    ~Adrienne

    • Jim says:

      Hi Adrienne – I discovered you blog yesterday and I’m a fan, love it and what you’re doing there. Thank you for sharing your tips, I can’t believe I didn’t add the bit about comment notification (especially since I have one installed!).

      I did not know you let everyone know you’d visit ever commenter (that’s a good idea, putting that one away in my head…) but you’re doing it. I commented on Adriennesmith.net and here you are. :)

  11. Mel says:

    I haven’t totally figured this out yet. I try to ask questions but that doesn’t always work. I have avoided controversy because I don’t like it… I don’t want to see people going after each other. I’ll have to think on that one. I HATE captchas but I hate any comment form where I have to register! I approve comments on my site because I deal with some sensitive subjects and I had some sick individuals writing awful things to women who had been sexually abused and had commented on my book and posts so I went back to approving comments because my site needs to be a safe place for those who were abused to leave a comment. If moderation keeps folks from commenting, I will live with it.

    • Jim says:

      I don’t think controversy has to always result in people going after each other, it just needs to be something where there can be more than on opinion. That said, every subject area is different and so controversial in your area seems to be far more sensitive than personal finance or even entrepreneurship.

      I don’t think moderation keeps people from commenting, comments are moderated here and it hasn’t been a problem.

  12. Annie Logue says:

    I’m struggling with this now and have no great ideas beyond what you’ve listed. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, though – it helps!

  13. Neal says:

    This is very helpful Jim. No fluff. Just useful executable stuff. I try to write each post with the concept that the reader can take something, use it and improve their financial life. At least that is my intent.

    So I haven’t written many controversial posts. Maybe I need to get off my arse and make some waves. Thanks for planting the seed.

  14. Mike Kawula says:

    Awesome ideas Jim.

    Any thoughts on Triberr?

    Hope you had an Awesome weekend! Mike

  15. Mark Ross says:

    I think the best ways to get a comment from your readers are to leave a question at the end of each post, just like you did there, and make it easy for them to comment without them needing to sign up or do anything that would open a new link.

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