Putting Yourself Out There but No Comments? Here’s why.

The line used to be “everyone’s a critic.” Now it’s more like “everyone’s gotta blog.” In my opinion, whether you update frequently or not, it’s essential to having a blog or personal website for your own name. (Sidenote: you’d be surprised how many people who reached celebrity status, don’t.) Well, when you get a blog, you have to do the work to promote it by commenting on other people’s blogs, writing good content and keeping it updating. You might say blogging is “high-maintenance,” which is one of the reasons why they get abandoned. It’s not just a “post and readers will come” sort of a scenario: it’s a “post, promote and hope readers will come.”

As writers, we all know how important content is for a blog. If it isn’t written in a language readable to humans, it probably won’t attract us (or Google, for that matter). Besides being well written, good content also means having something that is sooooooooo cool, so fabulous that people will gape in awe.

Finding that amazing content is a lot harder than it looks — especially for a writing blog — because a lot of sites make their money by being cool, almost like the Ripley’s Believe it or Not phenomenon for the blogosphere. Boing Boing, TechCrunch and ThinkGeek immediately come to my mind, but there are others. That’s not to say that your blog can’t get attention by “repurposing” or “pointing out” cool content (Search Engine Optimization, anyone?).

Enter the comments. The writer side in us loves the appeal of having people comment on what we write, because it’s like a teeny tiny “thank you” for taking the time to write a post. Yeah, don’t hold your breath. Just because it’s published online–even on a place where people are reading your work–there is no guarantee you’re going to get people interacting and commenting.

Here’s my take on why:

Why Readers Don’t Comment on Blogs

    Your Comment System Needs Improvement: From complicated log-ins to “yet another password,” overly complicated means of commenting can be a turn-off. One of the ways I want to improve my comment system is to figure out the “direct reply” WordPress plug-in, so that I can directly reply better to people who comment. (Here’s the WordPress Thread Comment plug-in from WordPress.org.)

    Timing, Timing, Timing: In my experience, comments can depend on when you post a topic and how long that topic is visible on your front page. They can also depend upon whether or not your content is hitting the reader when they have time to comment. If they’re at work, for example, maybe they physically can’t comment.

    Doesn’t Grab the Reader: If the content isn’t spectacular, and doesn’t hit the reader in that sweet spot, then they’re not going to post a comment. Comments require an emotional commitment on the part of the reader — they have to have a legitimate reason to want to post.

    Your Readers are RSS Feeders: RSS feeds are such a time saver, but they are also a barrier to commenting. I view RSS readers to be a lot like window shoppers; they can read headlines and snippets of your content, but they don’t have to click through. That “click” is their commitment to your blog. Asking them to comment as well requires another step toward reader-writer commitment, so you had better be ready to offer them something good.

    The Tone of Your Content isn’t Genuine: Blogs have the trouble of sounding too authoritative, because everybody is an instant expert. Something I struggled with when I started my blog, I try to go the route of “this is my opinion and your experiences may differ,” and that’s what has worked for me. Readers aren’t stupid, so if your content sounds too much like a sales pitch or talking down to them, then chances are your blog might get ignored.

Web Analytics Can Help you Prove your Theories

Anyone can make inferences as to why people aren’t commenting on their blog, but to get into the specifics you’ll want to check your web analytics toolkit and figure out “why.” For example, a post I did about two free fiction submission sites you don’t want to miss received a lot of attention and more comments than I usually get. Why? Someone thought the post was worthwhile enough to use StumbleUpon, causing it to be my highest-trafficked post on my blog.

From abandonment to click-through rates for RSS feeds, you can find out a lot of information about your reader’s behavior to ensure that you’re writing great content that they’ll want to read (and you’ll want to write). The same can be said for commenting, in my opinion, because they are somewhat related. I like to think about it like a party. Before you can ask people to have a conversation, you have to invite them to your party. Before you can invite them to your party, you should probably get to know them and engage them, to find the right group of friends that will stick around.

Hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. Admittedly, I don’t always practice what I preach due to time constraints (and a touch of procrastination, too), but commenting is a good way to build community and to get other people familiar with your own work and personality. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have to find some blogs to go comment on today! Have a great one!

5 Responses to Putting Yourself Out There but No Comments? Here’s why.
  1. William Aicher

    Another good way to get people to comment is to engage them with a real reason to comment. This article, for example, begs to be commented on. One other way to do so though is to really leave the article open for a conversation to start – most easily done with a question. Of course, not every article lends itself to this, but in instances where it does it can work quite well. If writers keep in mind that not every article IS comment-worthy, or even should be comment-worthy, it can go a long way toward feeling confident that your blog or writing is still doing its job.

  2. LShep

    Why do you have to have comments? Is it really necessary? Personally I’s rather just speak my mind than have to listen to what other people think about it.

  3. Marie Ann Bailey

    Excellent post! Thank you for writing about why a blog might NOT get comments. I admit that I make many of the “mistakes” that you mention; at the least, I know many of my blog posts are not compelling enough to elicit comments. Blogs are high maintenance if you want to generate a lot of traffic. Sometimes I wonder why I even decided to write about writing since there are already so many writing blogs out there. But, then, every other blogger has a slightly different take on writing, which makes it fun and interesting to visit other writing blogs, such as yours 🙂
    @William Aicher: You provide good advice for encouraging comments. John Hewitt of http://www.poewar.com often ends with his posts with a question that frequently leads to an extended discussion among John and his readers. Comments can be as fun and informative as the posts that inspire them.
    @LShep: Not every blogger wants comments, and most (if not all) blog sites offer you a choice as to whether you will allow comments on your blog. It depends on the purpose of your blog. In my case, I like the exchange that comments provide: I’ve learned about other bloggers and writing-related websites that I might have never stumbled across if someone hadn’t left a comment. My world gets a little bit bigger with every comment that I receive. For me, it’s the best part of blogging.

  4. Becky

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been teetering on the fence about venturing into the world of blogging, but have always been scared of the sound of crickets that my lack of responses might get.

    I think it’s really the work to be in now, though, because if the trends I came across earlier today (http://www.odesk.com/trends/Tech%20Writer) are accurate, then freelance writing is on the rise. Pretty impressive given the state of the economy right now. I’m finding lots of jobs looking for bloggers too.

    Thanks again!

  5. Jamie Chambers

    I just abandoned my iWeb/dot-Mac web account for my own domain and WordPress-powered site for some of these issues. Almost no one could comment even when they wanted to, it was difficult to update and maintain because I had to use the Apple software, and there were other parts that were kind of a pain. I have a “plan” for what I’m going to do with my personal writing in 2009, and having the right website and place to share/promote online is the first step.

Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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