The complete guide to handling comments on your blog

blog comments

Like most bloggers in the universe, most of my posts don’t get many real comments. The average post seems to get one or two comments from humans (along with hundreds of spam comments). Maybe one in a dozen posts receives a handful of thoughtful responses. On a rare occasion, I’ll write something that resonates enough with enough people to generate legitimate discussion.

A recent post of mine was featured on WordPress Discover, which meant lots of traffic. Along with this increase in traffic came lots of comments. I was expecting this, and it both thrilled and exhausted me. For three straight days, it felt like I had a new blog comment to moderate every five minutes. And I’m not talking about comments about “cheap NFL jerseys” or “visit new website links of doing butt stuff.” I’m talking about actual feedback and thoughts from actual humans who wanted to share their feelings and participate.

By the end of that third day, I was so worn out from reading and responding to comments that I debated whether I wanted to write another post or just go into hiding for a few years. Naturally, I settled on writing a blog post about blog comments. It seemed like the most logical thing, right?

So let’s talk about what to do with all those blog comments. But before we do that, let’s take a step back and consider whether or not we even want to allow comments on our blogs.

Should you allow comments on your blog?

It depends who you are and what your goals are. If you are a blogger looking for traffic and engagement, then yes. Comments promote community and can turn one-time visitors into lifelong readers. When you allow comments, people feel valued and heard. Comments can also bring more people to your site. They want to be part of the discussion. Comments can also be a source for additional ideas. Commenters might ask questions or suggest future topics. For bloggers, comments are a great tool.

If you are a business with a blog on your website, then I would lean toward NOT allowing comments on your blog. I used to be on the other side, but most of the comments on business blogs tend to be spammy attempts to direct your potential customers away from your site and to their own instead. The better way to encourage discussion is by asking your blog readers to contact you. After all, you want to sell them something, and you aren’t going to sell anything in the comments. Website traffic and blog comments mean little to your business. You want customers.

Of course, this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. You can allow comments on some posts but not on others. And you can always close comments when things get out of hand or become out of date. In general though, bloggers should allow comments on most posts and businesses should not allow them on most posts.

So now that we’ve established whether or not you should allow comments, let’s talk a little about why people even leave comments.

Why do people post comments in the first place?

There are a lot of reasons why people post comments on blogs. Here are the most common ones:

  1. To participate in a discussion. They have something to say based on what you wrote, and they want to share it.

  2. To promote themselves. They’ve heard that commenting on other blogs is a good way to get attention to their own blog.

  3. For SEO value. Of course, the vast majority of people doing this are really bad at SEO and don’t understand that blog comments don’t have any SEO value anymore, especially on a platform like WordPress where all links in comments are automatically nofollowed, and thus have no value in the eyes of Google or other search engines.

  4. If you’re really good, you can do all of the above without anyone noticing you’re even doing #2 or #3. If you want to use comments as a way to get people to follow your blog, then write comments that are thoughtful and promote discussion. Then readers (as well as the blog’s author) will click on your blog and check out what you’ve written. Then they might follow you, share your posts on social media, or even link to your stuff (BOOM! There’s the SEO value in blog commenting.)

There are other reasons why people might comment, but these are the big ones. Given all the above, you can see why it might be scary to allow blog comments at all. People can literally say anything they want. You need to make sure you have the power.

Always moderate first

This is your website. Don’t give people free rein to do whatever they want. You don’t want anything said on your website unless you approve it first. Proper moderation includes two components: a spam filter and manual review. Spam filters like Akismet (which is automatically included on WordPress.com blogs) do an excellent job at identifying the vast majority of spam. This prevents you from having to sift through the comments about watches and NFL jerseys and butt stuff. You’ll still have to moderate some spam yourself, but most of it will at least be written by a real human (things like “This post is good stuff. You changed my life. Visit my blog.”).

Manual moderation gives you full control over your blog. It prevents people from saying hateful or disparaging things. It prevents people from derailing conversations or directing people away from your website and over to their own. It could be used to prevent people from saying anything you don’t agree with. But you shouldn’t be a tyrant when you moderate. Here’s my comment moderation philosophy: if it’s a reasonable attempt to post a real thought about my blog post, then I’ll allow it. That includes comments that express a differing or critical opinion. However, I won’t allow anything that’s blatantly hateful.

With moderation, you can also set specific rules for which comments need to be moderated first. For example, you could allow anyone with an approved comment to post again without that moderation barrier. Sure, there’s a chance they’ll say something you don’t want, but you can always go back and delete their comment later. You can also set profanity filters that will automatically block comments that include certain words (you get to choose the words).

No matter how you choose to moderate, make sure you have some type of system in place to prevent people from taking over your blog.

Should you respond to blog comments?

For the most part, yes. Here’s why:

  • It shows your readers that you value their opinions
  • It encourages future discussion
  • It makes readers more likely to come back to your blog
  • It creates community

Responding to blog comments can get tough, especially if you have a post that gets a lot of comments. Eventually, you’ll feel like you’re running out of things to say. It seems insincere after a while if you just say “Thanks for reading and commenting. I value your opinion.” about every comment. But you don’t have to respond to every blog comment. Here are some tips that might help:

  1. Respond to comments that took effort. If someone spent time sharing an experience or typed a whole paragraph of thoughts, then give them some acknowledgment that you read their words and appreciate them.
  2. Respond to comments that can further the discussion. If someone asks a question or produces a thoughtful point or counterpoint, give them a response. Answer their question, validate their point, or tell them you can see their side.

  3. Don’t respond to comments that don’t offer any value. Remember, some people are commenting just because they want you to follow their blog or visit their website. They say things like “Great post. Now come read my blog.” and “This is really good. It helped me a lot. You are a good writer.” Maybe they’re being sincere, but they aren’t adding to the conversation. There’s nothing you really have to say to them.

Here’s a more general rule: respond if you feel like you have something to tell them. It’s okay to respond to some and not others. Very few people are going to get upset if you don’t respond to their comment. And just because you don’t respond doesn’t mean their comment wasn’t worthwhile. Some comments don’t need a response. When all else fails, use your best judgment and respond accordingly. 

How to respond to blog comments

This can also get a bit tricky. As mentioned above, when you respond to a lot of comments, you start to feel like you’re saying the same thing over and over. Here’s a quick approach you can use to respond to most comments:

  1. Thank them for reading and commenting.
  2. Refer to a specific part of their comment that you appreciate. Relate to them if you can.
  3. Send them some positive thoughts or encouragement.

For example, say something like this:

“Thanks for sharing your experience. I felt the same way as a new dad trying to write. Enjoy those precious moments with your daughter and write when you can. And send me a link when your novel gets published!”

That’s the type of comment that will bring a reader back to your blog. But don’t respond for the sake of getting them back to your blog. Respond because you want to participate in a discussion with them.

You should also make an effort to read their blogs and follow them if you find something you like there. You may not be able to read every commenter’s blog, but you can at least visit some of them.

Never respond to a blog comment like this

Although most comments on your blog will be positive in nature, you might occasionally get a comment from a disgruntled blogger. If they seem like they are trying to pick a fight, stay away. Never fight back in your comments. Only respond with positives. If they disagree with you, you can say something like, “I appreciate your perspective. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.” Leave it at that. Don’t get into arguments. Remember the #1 rule of internet arguments: no one has ever won! No one has ever successfully changed someone’s mind because of an internet argument. NEVER!  

So how do you get comments on your blog posts?

Remember way back at the top of this when we said that most blog posts only get a couple comments. Well, if you want more, there are three things you have to do:

  1. Write something that is thought-provoking or helpful. People comment when they like what they have read.

  2. Encourage people to leave comments. End your post with some type of call to action, such as “How do you handle comments on your blog? Share your tips in the comments.” Be specific about what you want them to do. It will inspire them to say something. If you just say, “Tell me what you think of this post,” they probably won’t say anything. Encourage real discussion.

  3. Get traffic to your site. You won’t get comments if people aren’t reading your blog. You have to promote your work and create shareable content that people want to read.

Blog comments can have a lot of value, both for you and the commenter. Make the most out of this opportunity by treating each comment as a valuable part of the discussion.

Leaving your own comments on other blogs

If you’re hoping to get people to participate on your blog, it’s probably a good idea to participate in the discussion elsewhere. Don’t be one of those writers who just writes and never reads anyone else’s work. Here are some tips for commenting on other blogs:

  • Don’t comment in order to promote your own work. Never post links to your stuff. This is someone else’s content, not yours. If your goal is to steal their visitors, find another way.
  • Don’t be rude or disrespectful to either the blogger or other commenters. Go with the old “if you don’t have anything nice to say” rule. That doesn’t mean you can’t disagree or have a debate. But do it in a civil manner.
  • Don’t be the grammar police. No one appointed you to this role. This is not a positive contribution. However, if you notice a typo or error in the blog post, you could politely point it out to the author in the comments. This might help the author improve their own post, and it might make them respect you more.

Basically, treat comments on other blogs the way you would want people to comment on your blog. If you don’t want someone to post it on your blog, don’t post it on theirs.

That should be just about everything you need to know to handle comments on your blog. That being said, it’s call to action time…

How do you handle blog comments? Do you have any crazy stories about comments left on your blog? Share your tips and experiences in the comments.

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27 thoughts on “The complete guide to handling comments on your blog

    1. This is a well written post. Definitely the engagement part is crucial to me; I often wonder why some people brag about their 1700 followers or whatever. How can you possibly engage in a meaningful way with that many hits to your site? (I realize a lot of it is spam).

      Once I applied for some blog incentive somewhere. At the time I had another blog and maybe 25 followers or so. They turned me down in favour for someone who had more ‘reach’ (to promote their stuff, naturally). Here’s my question: if you have thousands of followers your reach is too far fetched, no? Like in twitter, too….your little tweet complaining about something is hardly going to get read by the 21k followers you have.

      Maybe I’m missing something. But I agree with your recount of how to handle comments on the blog. Nicely said.

      1. Claudette, thank you for reading and commenting. I understand what you are saying about not being able to engage with thousands of followers. You’re absolutely right. No one has time to do that.

        However, the more followers you have, the more people you are going to reach. If 1700 people follow my blog, then 1700 people are going to get some type of notification when I publish a new post. Sure, a lot of them won’t read it, but a lot more will read it than if I only have 25 followers. Same with Twitter. If I have 21K followers, then my Tweet will, in theory, appear in 21K feeds. While most of those followers won’t see it, a lot more will see it than if I had 200 followers. They aren’t concerned with percentage of reach (which is likely to be the same whether you have 200 or 21K followers) or meaningful interaction with the followers. They are concerned solely with numbers. More eyes equals more opportunities for people to click on ads or make purchases through affiliate links. The more followers you have, the more likely it is that something will get shared, Re-tweeted, liked, read, etc.

  1. My commenters on one blog come in very few varieties. People who think I’m a Satanist, a friend or two, and three other bloggers. I play with the first the same way a dolphin plays with its food, I play with the second the same way a ferret plays with another ferret, and I recently found out that two of the bloggers are about fourteen years old so I can’t play with them the way I do the adults. Especially since they’re too young to comprehend some of the jokes.

    My other blog deals with disseminating information about a Ponzi sheme, so most of the commenters there are victims or are friend with or relatives of victims. When the clawbacks are complete, I’ll need to keep the site online for posterity and likely lock down the comments site-wide shortly thereafter since there won’t be any value for anyone in comments years after.

    I have had some *interesting* comments that I hold in moderation on the Ponzi blog. Victims posting their names and addresses (which makes them vulnerable to re-boot scammers), lawyers soliciting for class-action cases or trying to promise alternate avenues of recovery to the victims, one guy who wanted to buy the ATM business in question and someone who illiterately ranted about the federal reserve.

    I’m kind of lucky in that I’m pretty invisible right now and likely will remain in the future, so I don’t expect much trouble with comments.

    Fantastic article though.

  2. Wow, sounds like you have some very interesting experiences with blog commenters. I might create an alias and start accusing you of being a Satanist! Or maybe I’ll come up with something more devious…

  3. I pretty much agree with everything you said here – and getting comments is difficult! I was a blogger back in the day when comments flowed like wine, hah! Now with all those fancy smart phones people just do likes-and-runs 😛 *puts dentures back in*

    In all seriousness, though, my goal in commenting is mostly #1 – I like to interact with others who employ the written word – and some of #2 but well-written comments are the best advertising. I love blogs and always have.

    However, on my blog I try to respond to every comment with some thoughts. I’m like that etsy salesperson where every response is hand-crafted just for the commenter. I commented on a blog recently where I said something thoughtful (and I was super excited about the article because it was relevent to my life) and I got back just “thanks for reading!,” when the author responded in detail to shorter and less relevent comments. I would rather get no response than get a robotic response, frankly. >_>

    And why does akismet insist on moderating every pingback I generate within my own blog?? I am clearly the author and it’s annoying!

    1. I feel your pain on moderating pingbacks! It should be able to distinguish an internal link between an actual pingback. I’m obviously not going to approve pingbacks from my own blog to appear in the comments. That would look ridiculous.

      I love your approach to responding to blog comments, although it’s pretty hard to handcraft a unique response for every commenter when so many comments end up being quite similar. I agree. No response is better than “Thanks for reading!” Put some effort into it!

      Well, thanks for reading ;)!

  4. I admit I sometimes don’t know how to respond to comments on my blog. However I do read other blogs and take out the time to comment especially if I think the topic is interesting. I like to engage in discussions and the advice you’ve given is very useful. I will try to implement it more often, so thank you, very useful.

    1. Figuring out what to say in response can definitely be tough. Another piece of advice I didn’t include in the blog post: don’t spend a lot of time on it. If something comes to mind, then say it. If nothing comes to mind, stay quiet. You can always respond later if you think of something you want to say in response.

  5. I just got a blog about a year ago. So, I don’t really get to many comments. But I do like leaving comments on others peoples blogs and interacting with others. It makes it more real.

  6. I’m pretty sure I discovered you shortly after I discovered Reader and you popped up. I like that you write about writing, so then I figured what “follow” is for. I was super
    Excited when I had my first
    Comment and always reply to
    Comments….but then again, I have a grand total of like 3 comments. I have no idea what SEO means. About to google that

    1. You have to start somewhere, right? Keep producing great content and you’ll eventually get a lot of comments. Just make sure you add those calls to action to encourage them. And be careful with the SEO rabbit hole. You can get lost for weeks in there! There’s a lot of bad advice out there. I’d recommend you start with Moz’s SEO guide for beginners. That’s a HUGE help.

  7. This was fantastic, Nathaniel! I’ve learnt from it and I’m going to share it on my LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. I look forward to more of your work!

    Right now I RARELY get a comment, so much of this doesn’t apply yet, but I’m going to switch to moderated comments. One never knows what my husband will randomly comment. 😉

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