A Guest Post by Charlie Gilkey from Productive Flourishing.
No matter how big their blog is, every blogger loves and wants comments. When you’re just starting out, there are few bigger thrills than writing something and having people comment and give you feedback about what you’ve written. Veteran bloggers love comments and also know that the quantity and quality of the comments says a lot about the impact of the particular post in question.
But sometimes you write something that you think is awesome and the comment thread is like a ghost town. To say that this is discouraging is to put it too lightly. Not only does it suck, but it’s enough to make you start thinking that your writing sucks, and it makes it really hard to hit write and hit publish the next time, too.
Here’s the deal, though: just because you’re not getting a lot of comments doesn’t mean that your posts suck. Here are eight reasons why you might not be getting comments – and what you can do about it.
1. Your Posts Are Too Long
While it’s hard to say that long post always get fewer comments – there are a lot of different considerations at play – as a general rule, longer posts set a bigger barrier to commenting. I write a lot of long posts, and I’ve seen this bear out time and time again.
There are two things to keep in mind when you’re writing longer posts: 1) most blog posts are short(er) and 2) your readers are busy. If they’re used to reading 500 word posts on other blogs and then hit your 3,000 word post, they’re might be a bit overwhelmed. It’s not uncommon for them to bookmark your post for reading “when they have time” and move on to the next, shorter post, only to forget to come back and read yours. (For more considerations on blog length, check out Post Length ‚Äì How Long Should a Blog Post Be?)
Some bloggers manage to thrive in the long post format, but you’ve got to understand that you’ll be going against the current if you write in that style. That’s not a bad thing – just understand that you might not get as many comments as if you wrote shorter posts.
Once your post is published, it’s probably best to leave it, though. In the future, see if you can take a long draft of a post and split it into a series or discrete post. Also try varying the tempo of your blog by following a long post with a short post and vice versa.
2. You Haven’t Asked Them to Comment
Sometimes a post just ends and it’s not clear to your readers whether you actually want a response. Because they don’t know whether you want a response or not, they might not comment.
Furthermore, if you don’t answer comments at all or regularly enough, it sends the message that you don’t really value comments. Larger blogs get a pass on this one, since many people understand that bloggers with larger audiences can’t answer every response.
When you conclude a post, ask your readers what they think or end it with a question that makes it clear that you’d like a comment. If you haven’t been responding to comments on your blog, start doing so.
3. They Don’t Know What To Say
Have you ever read a post and were so inspired that you felt that anything you might say wouldn’t do the post service, but at the same time didn’t want to say “Great post!”? Or have you read a post that was so deep or complex that you honestly didn’t know how to respond?
I’m sure you have. Now, why don’t you think that can happen with your own posts?
Before you write off a lack of comments as a sign of your utter brilliance, though, check your post to see if you wrote clearly and simply. Ask if what you wrote was relevant, useful, or interesting to your readers>. And if it is a bit of inspirational awesomeness, consider editing it and including a question or statement that lets people know that you’d appreciate some feedback.
4. They’re Doing What You Told Them To Do
If you give your readers a great tip that requires them to do something to implement it, be prepared for the possibility that they might actually go implement it.
Similarly, if you’re doing a link roll-up and you tell people to go check out the links you’re talking about, there’s a good chance that they might go do that.
I know that this is obvious in hindsight, but it’s easy to forget that our words can influence people into action, and it’s possible to unintentionally steer people away from commenting.
5. They’re Chasing Links On Your Blog
Writing posts that include links to older posts or using plugins that show related posts do have an effect on the number of comments you’ll get. If they click a link that’s midway in your post, they’ll probably read the second post before they comment on the first, and if that second post is linked to others, they might just keep clicking.
It’s for this very reason that you don’t find many links on a sales or landing page, and if you do find them, they eventually lead back to the original page. Marketers know that people will click on the links, and if those links lead away from the original page, that’s probably a lost sale.
While it’s not exactly an exclusive either/or choice, think about the relationship between how long people stay on your blog (due to interlinking) and comments. If you write compelling headlines, there’s a good chance that those related post plugins have an effect on the number of comments you’re getting. Change your linking strategy or consider turning those plugins off a bit if you’d like to see if they’re making a difference.
6. They’re Following Your Social Media Trail
This is very similar to the last two points, but if you’ve given your readers a bunch of different ways to connect with you, then that’s another thing that might keep people from commenting.
Think about how many times you’ve clicked to follow someone on Facebook only to get lost in a chat on Facebook, or how many times you’ve followed someone on Twitter only to get engaged in conversations there. The same thing goes for badges and links that send people to blog networks.
If you’d prefer more comments than social media connections, consider placing your social media links further down the page or only keeping the ones where you’re active.
While you’re at it, it’s probably a good time to declutter your sidebar.
7. It’s Hard For Them To Comment
I ran into this one the other day. I wanted to reply to a friend’s blog that was hosted on Blogger and found myself frustrated that I couldn’t just leave a comment like I can on other websites. It gave me five or six different options – none of which I use – and, ten minutes later, I finally went with the “best fit” option just so that I could comment. If she weren’t my friend, I probably would’ve given up.
Some of the other comment implementations like Disqus can also set a barrier to comment. I’ve often bailed on those, too, because I didn’t remember my OpenID and didn’t feel like figuring it out. (Luckily, they’ve improved substantially over the last year.)
The harder your readers have to work to comment, the less likely that they’ll do it. Think long and hard about all the comment plugins you might want to implement – and remember that sometimes the best solution is the simplest one.
8. You’re Posting At The Wrong Time
If you post when all your readers are asleep, then the soonest they’ll comment is the next day, but then your post is in with a bunch of others in an RSS feed. Likewise, if you post after the time that your email subscribers get their daily email, the soonest many of them will read what post is the next day when they get that hit.
Figure out when your readers are active and try to publish when they’re reading posts. This takes a bit of homework and observation on your part, but it makes a huge difference in terms of the number of comments you’ll get on your post.
There’s More To Comments Than Content
What you may have noticed is that the first five of these points have to do with the content of your individual posts and the last three don’t have anything to do with your posts. It’s hard to say what would have the biggest effect since each of our blogs are different, so take a look at your post and blog from your reader’s point of view, pick one that you’d like to tweak, and see if it has any effect. (By far the easiest place to start is by changing your comment plugin/solution, though.)
As you can see, there are a lot of different reasons that people might not be leaving comments on your blog, and many of them have nothing to do with you or your posts being unworthy. Keep writing and testing what works – that’s the only way you can become a better writer and grow your blog.