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The Importance of Comments in Blogs

Comments are an important part of a blog. When a blogger opts, through choice or necessity, to turn off commenting, the blogger loses some of what makes blogging such a dynamic, exciting medium: the interaction between blogger and readers.

But it's not only the blogger who loses out when he or she removes comments: Most blog readers enjoy the comments left by others and often form a strong community feeling for fellow visitors, even interacting with each other within the comments.

How to get involved with blog comments

If you want to have a dialogue with your readers, you need to allow comments on your blog, whether you're reaching out to your parents or to your customers.

If the comment areas of your blog look a little bare, ask some friends to help by reading and commenting for a few weeks. Comments tend to generate more comments, if you can get the ball rolling.

Of course, the problem might lie with your content or approach, so don't be afraid to experiment with your topic or style to try to get better results from your comment forms.

Clearly building a community of readers on your blog is important to you if you plan to include a comment function on your posts. Here's a quick checklist of tips for cultivating comments on your blog:

  • Make it easy for your readers to comment. Sometimes readers find locating the comments area of a blog difficult. Make sure that your blog design not only provides a highly visible area for existing comments but also clearly leads readers to the area to submit new comments. Consider choosing a format that asks for new comments at the top of the Comments section.

  • Ask questions of your readers. Get your readers to start participating by requesting advice, seeking information, asking them to suggest a related item (such as a recipe), or responding to a question you pose at the end of a post. The simple act of asking can do wonders for comments. Ask your visitors to tell you stories, answer inquiries, or give advice.

    Specific, rather than general, questions work best to start a conversation.

  • Request topics or ideas. Requesting ideas about your blog topics can generate an amazing response. You may also invite readers to send in blog posts they write that could benefit the community of your site. (If you make this invitation, make sure that you're clear about who owns the copyright! As the publisher of the content, you probably want to have the guest bloggers assign copyright to you.)

    A word of caution about allowing guest posts: Post a clear guest post policy on your site, and be prepared for advertisers to try to take advantage of your generosity by asking you to post their promotional content for free. Allowing guest posts can create a slippery blogging slope.

  • Communicate with your readers. Make sure you're actively talking to your readers by responding to the comments that they leave on your blog. If you use comment moderation features, try not to leave comments pending for too many days.

  • Blog about timely or controversial topics. Readers tend to have opinions about current events or polarizing topics. Blogging about these themes cashes in on the likelihood that your readers will have something to say.

Also, get involved with your blogging community. Visit other blogs and use their comment systems to get involved with their readers. In return, if you're active enough with your comments, those readers visit you, as well.

Be sure to always comment sincerely when visiting other blogs with the hopes of building readership. Hopping from blog to blog leaving comments with links back to your site is considered spamming and may get your comments tossed in the trash!

How to enable blog comments

Most modern blog software, regardless of whether it's hosted or installed on your own web, has tools that allow your visitors to comment and tools that allow you to handle the comments you receive.

Check your documentation to figure out what functionality the software you're using offers — and don't forget that you may be able to customize the way in which your comment tools are configured to better suit your preferences and audience.

If you use blog software that doesn't allow comments and you don't want to change software, third-party comment solutions may be available. In fact, many bloggers who use top-of-the-line blog software opt to use another tool for comments because they want specific functionality or design.

One such tool is DISQUS, which offers a truly impressive range of functionality options — plus, it's free! You can use it to

  • Allow visitors to track comments via e-mail or RSS.

  • Allow visitors to rank comments on the site or reply to a comment directly.

  • Allow visitors to flag comments as inappropriate or spam.

  • Sort how the comments appear, either by date or popularity.

  • Moderate comments to remove, edit, and screen out unwanted content.

Another popular and free comment plug-in is Livefyre (www.livefyre.com). Livefyre includes a variety of unique and helpful functions, including

  • Automatically import comments about your post left on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Allow readers to add photos and videos to their comments.

  • Allow readers to like comments left by other readers.

  • Allow users to flag questionable comments.

Two other popular comment plug-ins are Commentluv and Facebook Comments. Both plugins are available in a free version. Commentluv is popular with readers because it allows them to link to their most recent blog post, encouraging them to leave a comment in order to build traffic to their own blogs.

Facebook Comments requires readers to connect with their Facebook accounts in order to leave a comment, and each comment will appear not only on your blog but also on the commenter's Facebook Timeline.

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