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:
- To participate in a discussion. They have something to say based on what you wrote, and they want to share it.
- To promote themselves. They’ve heard that commenting on other blogs is a good way to get attention to their own blog.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Thank them for reading and commenting.
- Refer to a specific part of their comment that you appreciate. Relate to them if you can.
- 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:
- Write something that is thought-provoking or helpful. People comment when they like what they have read.
- 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.
- 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.