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!