If you use WordPress for blogging you almost certainly want more reader comments. Posts that get a lot of comments feel successful, while those that fail to generate a conversation sometimes feel like wasted effort.
Comments are a form of validation. They let you know that your readers are engaging with your content and that your writing is worth responding to.
Comments can also have real tangible value in two distinct senses: they identify your best customers and build valuable relationships.
Note: Feel free to comment at the bottom of this post! 🙂
I didn’t make that up. Comments can help you identify your most valuable customers and build valuable relationships. Here’s how those scenarios have played out for two popular bloggers.
Comments can show you who your most important customers are.
Bryan Harris of Video Fruit ran the numbers and concluded that commenters at Video Fruit are five times more likely to make a purchase than non-commenters. In other words, pay attention to the folks commenting on your blog. They’re probably your best customers.
Comments can build relationships that have real financial value.
This anecdotal tidbit comes from Neil Patel. In a post at Quick Sprout, Neil explains how commenting on blog posts led to real conversations and relationships, which turned into leads, and ultimately led to a consulting contract worth $25,000.
Comments are emotionally validating, positively associated with customer conversion, and have the potential to build financially rewarding relationships. All of this begs the question: how can you get your readers to comment on your posts more frequently?
There are lots of strategies for getting readers to comment on your blog post. Search Google for “how to get readers to comment on a blog” and you’ll be inundated under a mountain of listicles full of tips.
On second thought, don’t Google that. I’ve saved you the trouble of reading through that mountain by reading through it for you – well, maybe not all of it, but at least a big chunk of it. In that process, I identified six strategies that come up over and over again, are easy to implement, and can help you increase the number of comments you get on your blog.
People comment when they care about what they read. Write content that makes people feel something.
We use this tactic on the WPMU DEV blog all the time.
Readers comment when they have an emotional response to a post. When you’re writing, don’t be afraid to say things that will get a rise.
Isn’t saying controversial things taking a risk? Sure it is. We’ve lost readers over controversial posts, and if you post controversial content, you will too. However, it’s a calculated risk. You don’t read our blog because you want to be bored to death. We want to keep you engaged, entertained, and informed — not just informed, that would be boring and you wouldn’t stick around for it.
So go ahead. Say that thing you want to say but are a little afraid of saying.
Chat to like-minded folks who are building websites and businesses just like you. With your WPMU DEV membership comes access to our members-only forums where you can discuss everything from code and customizations to SEO and online strategy.
Another tactic that encourages reader participation is to leave room for reader comments. Over at HubSpot, Diana Urban suggests asking readers to add to your numbered list.
Write up a post titled 9 Ways To Be Awesome in 2016? Ask your readers to contribute their own suggestions for number 10.
Author Jeff Goins recommends a similar tactic: publish unfinished material and ask your readers to help you complete it.
One of your problems may be that you’re not leaving any room for discussion. Try publishing more open-ended posts. Share an idea, but don’t think through the whole concept. Don’t finish your thought. Just throw it out there. – Jeff Goins
In the WordPress community, this might look like creating a proof-of-concept plugin, writing about it, and encouraging your readers to run with the idea if they like it.
Whatever your niche, don’t be afraid to publish content before the idea is fully formed. Write it up as best you can, acknowledge the shortcomings, and ask your readers to help you round out the idea.
If you’ve been blogging for a while you should have some existing results to look at. Pull up those results, turn them into numbers if possible and play with the data. You may be surprised by what you learn.
Looking back at past posts can help you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Are there specific topics readers respond to more frequently? Have you used different article formats and seen different results? Identify the trends that lead to comments and then apply what you’ve learned to future posts.
It seems like such a simple idea, and it is. There’s no reason why you can’t implement this strategy on your very next post.
This is a strategy we employ on this blog. When you reach the bottom of this post keep an eye out for my comment prompt. It will look like the picture above and include a short question or two designed to make it easy for you to jump right into the comments.
If you do use this strategy make sure you comment prompt is thoughtful and customized for the specific post at hand. Don’t use boilerplate comment prompts that make it clear that you didn’t care enough to craft a question specifically for that blog post.
If you don’t care, why should your reader?
Punish your commenters for commenting and they won’t keep doing it. So reward your commenters by responding to them promptly and as helpfully as possible.
Also, you absolutely must moderate your comments section. If your comment section is filled with spam, real commenters will avoid it. Ruthlessly eliminate all spam as well as self-promoting comments that have nothing to do with the content of the post.
Use a filtering plugin such as Akismet if you’re using the WordPress commenting system. If using a third-party commenting system such as Disqus or Facebook comments, just make sure that spam comments aren’t getting through, and delete them when they do.
While moderating comments, it’s important not to silence dissenting voices. If you come across comments that are exceptionally abrasive, threatening, or filled with profanity and personal attacks, get rid of those immediately and ban the commenter if the behavior repeats itself. However, measured, thoughtful, even angry comments that aren’t threatening, personally vilifying, or profane should be allowed to stay. Commenters have a right to disagree and moderation does not need to equal censorship.
Readers won’t comment if you make it hard. While some sort of user authentication may be needed to avoid loads of spam comments, make the commenting process as simple as possible.
It’s a good idea to go through the commenting process yourself to get a handle on how easy or complex it is. Open an incognito browser window, register as a user, and post a comment or two. If things are even the least bit complicated for you when you know how the system should work, then the system is definitely too complex for readers who don’t know how it should work.
At the end of the day, the thing you have to ask yourself is this: why do you comment on some posts and not on others? What would make you want to comment – or not comment – on your own posts? Write with those questions in mind, implement some of the techniques covered in this article, and before long you’ll be asking us to write about time management and moderation strategies to deal with a comments section that has caught fire.