A lively comments section offers social proof that your words affect your audience enough to interact with you and each other—which is great for ensuring repeat visits and interactions. In addition, a lively comments section is both an idea-spark for future posts and an antenna for what hits the mark and what doesn’t.
People deny it until Kingdom Come, but nothing influences people into action more fantastically than those people first seeing others take the same action. Since nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd, a full comment section is a magnet for more. But, how do you break the ice and start the comment snowball?
Comment on Other Blogs
This takes time and strategy, but it’s arguably the quickest way to attract high quality comments to your blog outside of paying for them. Commenting doesn’t guarantee good results, though, so pick your blogs wisely. My best results come when I comment on similarly niched, more popular blogs. These bloggers are busy establishing their comments sections, too, so they’re more likely to return the favor.
Leave high quality comments demonstrating you’ve read the post and put some thought into your response. Take note of which blogs send you the most traffic/comments from your own comments, and focus your time on those.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t comment on blogs when self expression is your only goal. But, when studying commenting as a strategy, put some thought into what you say rather than blindly commenting everywhere. I don’t know anyone who can afford wasting time choosing a blanket approach over precision targeting.
Enlist Your Friends
Be careful enlisting friends, because people can smell fake or planted comments a mile off. However, if you have friends interested and/or involved in your niche that can leave thoughtful comments sparking conversation, ask them for a favor. Of course, you don’t want to abuse their generosity. I save the requests for when I truly need them—such as re-establishing my comments section after a hiatus.
Don’t Ignore Comments
This is tricky because we hope for a level of success where we’re too busy and successful to possibly answer the hundreds of comments each post receives, and we surely don’t wish to set a precedent of people expecting replies to every comment. However, in the beginning, you must nurture your comments section, and part of that involves wading in and participating.
I immediately answer a few of the first comments that arrive, because the older a post gets without comments pouring in, the more likely they never will. Authors who answer questions and reply to good comments get the comment snowball rolling. After a few hours, you can relax, though you should eventually answer any direct questions, and thank everyone as a group for their comments.
Most people are hesitant to weigh in without a prompt. Asking your readers for their opinions, experiences, and assistance encourages them to speak up. Without the prompt, it might never occur to them you’d want to hear about their favorite iPhone App or the best way to peel a kumquat.
Some bloggers suggest you perposfully omit information from your post to encourage comments that supply the missing information. I have mixed feelings, however. You can’t possibly include every detail or angle in a single post, so chances are you’ll leave something out without any special effort. I’ve noticed list posts regularly get more comments. I believe people instinctively see the word list and imagine what might be missing.
Study Blogs in Your Niche With Active Comments Sections
Look for anything you can emulate. Don’t outright copy, but see what they do right and add your own unique spin. Don’t be intimidated by successful blogs. It’s all too easy looking at a blog, thinking, Oh, she started in 2002, or Oh, he had all sorts of connections when he started, and dissuading yourself from putting forth any effort.
If you don’t try for greatness, you’ll never achieve it.
That said, doing the opposite of your niche competition could grant you the greatest success. Being different motivates people, helps them identify with and rally around you, and prompts them to comment since they feel their voice matters on your blog.
You’ll get ideas and inspiration by looking at what others do, even if the inspiration prompts you to do a 180 from what works for them.
Write Outstanding Content
Using the tips I’ve mentioned will influence people to comment once or twice, but to keep them commenting, you must produce valuable content. If you’re not providing entertainment, inspiration, or information, they have no reason to comment.
Outstanding blog posts not only motivate people to comment, but also generate better quality comments. People don’t pour their hearts after reading the same bulleted list they read on Problogger a week prior. People don’t share their most useful tips on posts the author expended little effort creating. People don’t provide intelligent counterpoints and food for thought when they think them pearls before swine.
Think of the ideal commenters you desire, and write to their level. The gems you’ll find in your comments section will reward your effort many times over.
Don’t Stress About it Too Much
Although a bustling comments community provides benefits on some blogs, others learn they don’t need comments to meet their goals. Certain niches and styles of writing don’t attract as many comments. And that’s okay. Some blogs relying mainly on search traffic or ads find they reach all their goals without attracting dozens of comments per post.
If your blog meets all your goals but the comments section is empty, ask yourself why you should fix what isn’t broken. If you can’t think of a good reason, perhaps it’s wiser to focus your efforts on other aspects of blogging that will provide you with the results you seek.
How would you defeat an empty comments section? Defeat ours by leaving a comment below.