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10 Practical Ways to Boost Blog Comments and Conversation

One of the reasons I was moved to WordPress was that it offers so many more practical ways to encourage blog comments, support lively conversations and build a community around your blog.

I’ve jotted down some of the things I’ve added to Confident Writing - partly to let you know what you’ll find when you pop over and comment but also in the interests of sharing and learning from what you do.

Some of the things on the list are approaches I’ve seen others using but haven’t adopted here yet - or haven’t worked out how to make work yet (without breaking something else!). Most of these approaches are based on ‘plugins’* which sound very mysterious (if you don’t use WordPress) but quickly become part and parcel of your blogging vocabulary and practice if you do.

1. Comment Luv: If you’re a comment writer (or reader) you’ve probably seen this one. It’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to reward commenters and encourage interaction between bloggers. The Comment Luv plugin adds a link to the end of your comment to your most recent post. If someone reading likes the sound of your comment - or the sound of your post, they can click over to read it.

This was one of the first things I added to the new site. It’s a must have! You can see how it looks from this screenshot of a comment box conversation below - the link to your last post is highlighted at the foot of the comment. This is also a good incentive to write catchy or compelling headlines!

By the way does anyone know why this only seems to work for about 75% of blogs? Is there anything I / readers need to do to make their last posts findable?

2. Pictures of commenters As you’ll see from the screenshot the comments come with a picture of your good self. I think this makes a big difference to the feeling of a ‘real’ conversation. If you’d like to have your picture showing up next to your comment just pop over to Gravatar and register a photo with the e-mail you use when you’re writing comments.

3. Subscribe to comments You can sign up to get the rest of a conversation on a post by e-mail. You’ll see the opt-in check box at the foot of the comment box. (This is the Subscribe to Comments plugin.) I need to sort out an RSS feed for all comments - I guess some of you might find that useful. I just haven’t worked out where to put the RSS comment icon yet!

4. Preview your comments Well I did have this in Typepad, but I’ve got a live preview built in again here with Live Comment Preview. If you remember to use it you can save yourself some gruesome typos and awkward moments…

5. Manage your comments I’ve just added in the Better Comments Manager plugin which doesn’t do anything at the reader end but does make it easier for you as blogger/editor to get an overview of your comments and to reply to them quickly. I think this might be the most effective way to ensure you don’t leave comments hanging (a point well made by Barbara Swafford and reminding me of many times I’ve left ‘late’ comments on other blogs and been ignored as the party’s moved on)

6. Highlight talking points Some of you might have noticed I’ve added a ‘talking points’ section to the sidebar. It pulls out the 5 comments that have the highest number of comments. (This is based on some code I found at the WordPress site as I, like the bloggers there, couldn’t get some other better known solutions for generating lists of popular posts to work.)

7. Highlight top commenters I haven’t implemented this one yet, and am still thinking about it. I know some people reported having problems with folk leaving comments just for the sake of getting the links back through the plugin. is this something you look for on a blog - or have experience of running on your own site?

8. E-mail first time commenters I have to confess to slipping on this one. I used to do this routinely but I’ve fallen a bit by the wayside now there are so many more commenters here (which is a nice problem to have). The comment relish plugin will automate an e-mail but I’m not sure that’s going to create the same effect, however carefully I word the text. Any views on this? Can you tell the difference between a personally sent welcome e-mail and an automated one? Does the automated version create the same (or any?) sense of connection?

9. Celebrate your comment count! Here’s a great new addition to the comment scene - a plugin (plus widget if you use them) that shows off the total number of comments on your blog. It’s called the Liz Comment Counter in honour of Liz Strauss at Successful Blog. (For more on how it works read this write up by Lorelle van Fossen.)

10. Highlight valuable comments I don’t think there’s any solution, widget or plugin that will do the hard - but valuable - work for you of highlighting valuable, interesting and thoughtful comments from your readers. This is one of the best and most effective ways I know to reward those who comment, to develop conversations, and to build a sense of community around your blog.

What would you add to this list? Do you have particular features that you look for as a blog reader and commenter? Do you have particular solutions that work for you as a blogsite owner and that have helped you to nurture comments, conversation and community?

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Comments

  1. Cath Lawson says:

    Hi Joanna - This is all good advice. I like the layout you have since you switched to WordPress.

    I recently started what you mentioned in the last point - highlighting valuable comments. And I’m planning to do more of it.

    I noticed that a lot of the really good info was happening in the discussion.

    So, I try bringing out one of those comments into a new post and discussing it further. It’s nice because it rewards commenters for their input too.

  2. Wendi Kelly- Life's Little Inspirations says:

    Hi Joanna!
    I tried to leave you a welcome back comment yesterday and my computer froze so welcome back and wow what a nice list!

    Somehow I lost my avatar when I made the move so I like your suggestion especially for that. I am going to go see if I can find it now. Thanks!

    Comment luv has been a very nice addition.One thatseems very popular. I also like the idea of highlighting comments. But auto-email…I would rather get a personalized one. Although I know it isn’t easy. I guess I am on the fence and would have to think about it.

    Wendi Kelly- Life’s Little Inspirationss last blog post..Wide-Eyed Walking

  3. Brad Shorr says:

    Joanna, The talking points plugin looks very interesting - I’ll definitely be checking that out. Like Cath, I’ve been trying to use comments as a jumping off point for new posts. Recently I did a rather lengthy post highlighting recent commenter ideas (I think the idea came from you!) and it was really interesting. BTW … who are those handsome looking gentlemen at the top of your post? :)

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Twittering Away My Time and Other Social Media Myths, by Karen Swim

  4. Scott McIntyre says:

    These comment boosting tips are great, Joanna.

    I see the ‘Comment Luv’ plug-in on most of the blogs I visit.

    Something I’ve noticed, however, is that some bloggers automatically keep this checked, while others require that you tick it manually.

    Can I ask you what you think of the plug-in which allows you to edit comments for a particular period after making it?

  5. Robert Hruzek says:

    I was going to say the same thing, Brad - there’s a fine couple of fellows up there, for sure! :-D

    I absolutely luv the Commentluv plugin, but don’t know why some don’t link. Might have something to do with their own feed setup.

    I like most of your choices, but the main reason I don’t put a “most popular posts” type thing is that the ones that get the most comments are strangely not the ones I want to highlight. (My post, “Feedburner 101″ is a good example.) However, I might put in a section of my “favs”.

    The “top commenters” plugin is one that was in favor for awhile, but you don’t see it too often anymore. I agree it tends to encourage spurious comments just for trackbacks. Not that anyone would do that to YOU!

    And I just added the LizLuv plugin to the Zone, too.

    Robert Hruzeks last blog post..Well-Lettered

  6. --Deb says:

    Isn’t WordPress wonderful? Even if it weren’t a darn nice environment, the widgets alone would make it sooo worth while!

  7. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Cath, I like it too - especially how it lays out the comments. You’re right about a lot of the meat to be found in the comments - especially at a site like your own where there’s a lot of high value conversation. It is time consuming to highlight the comments - but I think it is a good reward, and a sign that we’re listening

    Hi Wendi! Good to see you here and congratulations on your own new home. Hope your avatar shows up soon :-) I tend to agree on auto e-mail which is why I switched it off here. It doesn’t give me any kind of feeling of connection as sender so I doubt it does to the person on the receiving end either

    Brad, pulling out comments can work really well as a post (though it can be time consuming to construct). I got the idea from Rosa initially - she’s a dab hand at pulling out comments at JJL.

    Those two handsome chaps are some of my favourite commenters here in case you hadn’t realised :-)

    Joanna

  8. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Scott, I approve heartily of a plugin that allows you to edit your work. I think I found something buggy about it when I tried to use it though. Maybe I should try it again. This is the only downside of the plugin world - it’s very easy for one to get a little out of date, or to find there’s a clash between different plugins that you’re running, then you need to work out which one’s the culprit. Small price to pay really though for such great functionality.

    Robert, I know what you mean. I’m meaning to add a top articles feature that I’ll need to do manually. ‘Talking points’ throws up a different set of answers - often posts about blog comments in my case! I quite like the idea of showing what the readers/commenters’ choice is though.

    I too haven’t seen the top commenters plugin so much, I guess for those reasons.

    The LizLuv plug in is awesome - and I am most impressed with your numbers :-)

    Joanna

  9. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    -Deb, indeedy, though it’s very easy to get distracted by experimenting with a new one… and then another one… then the adjustments you need to make to something else you broke in the by-going!

    But yes, the ability to customise and individualise is one of the most compelling reasons to make the move - plus the chance to benefit from the collective wisdom of all you wonderful users :-)

    Joanna

  10. Robert Hruzek says:

    I tried the edit comment plugin too but it never worked right so I disabled it. Wish it worked, though - that’s something I wish was built into WP!

    Funny, until WP 2.5 I had no idea how many comments I had! But I love the plugin!

    Robert Hruzeks last blog post..Well-Lettered

  11. Barbara Swafford says:

    Hi Joanna,

    With comments being so important to a blog, we want to know we’re handling them correctly. The comprehensive list you’ve provided covers it very well. I especially like the CommentLuv plugin as it gives the comment author a chance to showcase their work.

    I haven’t seen the Better Comments Manager plugin yet, so will have to check that out.

    Thank you for the great list and the link to my article. I’ll see you again soon - I’m subscribing.

    Barbara Swaffords last blog post..Parties, Spam and Hanging Chads

  12. Janice Cartier says:

    Hi,
    Just stopped to say a cheerio. I will take your great list to the Pen Men. I Love Comment Luv. I have found some great reads because of it. It’s a wonderful way to get a quick glance too at what is on everyone’s minds that day when visiting a site.
    Cheers for now. Wish I had more time. Must go draw. :-)

    Janice Cartiers last blog post..Purest of Paper, The Color of Night

  13. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Robert - the comment counter is brilliant isn’t it? And hopefully it will tempt even more people into comment

    Barbara, hello and welcome, and thanks for prompting me to write this post! I’d been wanting to let people know about some of the new things I’d added in here then ran out of steam till I read your piece yesterday. And yes, Comment Luv is great especially with intriguing headlines like the one that follows your comment!

    Hi Jan! Cheerio means goodbye in Scotland, but I guess you’re meaning it as a hello! I’m sure the Pen Men have already got this stuff off to a fine art. I hope you get to your new site soon - I’ll be sure to visit when you do

    Joanna

  14. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim
    says:

    Hi Joanna, this is an excellent list. I too have wanted to use the email to first time commenters. I have received these and thought they were brilliant. I didn’t at all mind they were automated as the messages made me feel so welcomed. I do wonder as we reach out to non-blogger what tools will make them feel welcomed as commenters. Any suggestions?

  15. Karl Staib - Your Work Happiness Matters says:

    I never thought to celebrate my comment count. That’s a great idea.

    I think I might also celebrate them by creating a post from some of my best comments.

    Karl Staib - Your Work Happiness Matterss last blog post..Slowly Ease Back Into Your Work Before You Really Freak Out

  16. Plugins, Questions and Open Mic | Blogging Without A Blog says:

    [...] To read more on comments, check our Joanna Young’s post titled: 10 Practical Ways To Boost Blog Comments and Conversation [...]

  17. Lillie Ammann says:

    Joanna,
    Great suggestions—there are a couple here I haven’t tried and might look at it.

    One of my favorite comments plugins in Brian’s Threaded Comments, which lets commenters reply to specific comments. It makes it easy for me to respond to each commenter, and it also makes it easy for commenters to carry on and follow a specific thread of conversation, especially helpful when there are a lot of comments.

  18. Bo says:

    Joanna,
    Does the comment luv add-on only work with an upgraded wordpress blog? I can’t find where to activate such a thing, so I don’t know if I’m just missing it or it’s not available.
    I really do like that feature, and I also like that you can highlight your responses to comments. That is a great addition, too. This is getting to be a showplace! Are you doing guided tours? :-)

    Bos last blog post..“Biscuit” Amaranth

  19. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Karen, thanks for the perspective on the e-mail comments. I think that’s probably an option for welcoming in the non-bloggers. Maybe Scott will have some opinions on this if he’s still around - maybe he’s covered it in the series about blogs for the non-blog writer at Liz’s place?

    Joanna

  20. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hello and welcome Karl! Both of those are good suggestions. It’s also very enjoyable to look back through the comments on a blog - I’m often amazed at some of the wise, kind and funny things that people have written here

    Joanna

  21. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Bo, guided tours, that’s funny!

    Now I’m realising I should have made clearer the difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com The plugins including comment luv only work (I think) if you have the self-hosted version - that is you have your own domain on a server and download wordpress on to it. I think maybe you’re using the wordpress.com (free version) which sadly means the plugins won’t work.

    Sorry for not making that clearer in the post. That’s me showing my wordpress novice colours

    Joanna

  22. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Lillie, thanks for that suggestion, I’ll give it a try. I’ve seen various references to people highlighting the benefit of threaded conversations but haven’t looked into the plug in yet.

    Joanna

  23. Robyn says:

    Joanna, I hve wondered how to get a picture rather than a bunch of pencils and I signed in to Gravatar so maybe it will show now. :-)

    I value comments like you. When wisdom in comments is particularly good, I like to bring it forward in a post.

    Robyns last blog post..Blue Light Revvs Up Your Working Memory!

  24. Jeanne Dininni says:

    Joanna,

    This is an excellent post! Unfortunately, not having a WordPress blog, I’m unable to use any of these plugins at Writer’s Notes.

    Nevertheless, one great way for any blogger to boost blog comments and conversation, regardless of blogging platform — one that doesn’t even require a plugin — is to shower every commenter with goodwill.

    A positive, pleasant, upbeat response to every commenter’s input, along with a sincere expression of thanks, makes our commenters feel valued-and far more inclined to comment again and again.

    About Comment Luv: Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work with Orble blogs. (Must be because Orble uses its own proprietary blogging platform created by its owner.)

    Once, I visited the Comment Luv site and entered my blog’s URL to have it look for my last post. It did locate a post, but rather than my last one, it found one from quite a bit farther back. Yet, though it found a post while I was on the Comment Luv site, the plugin never finds any of my posts while I’m visiting Comment Luv-enabled blogs. Guess the Comment Luv software is incompatible with Orble’s. I suppose it’s just as well, though, since the post it would display wouldn’t be a recent one, anyway.

    Jeanne

  25. self defense Rob says:

    I like the top commenter plugin, I haven’t installed it yet, (I don’t have too many comments to highlight people yet) but I like blogs that do.

    self defense Robs last blog post..Keeping up with Kardashian Self Defense

  26. rjleaman says:

    Oh dear, how ironic! Joanna, I just tried to leave a comment here for you - a bit about my (largely positive) experience with the Top Commenters plugin and a bit about how I sometimes reward commenters by trawling among their blogs for post ideas and link opportunities… but I’m afraid that long-ish comment may be lost in the bowels of WordPress. I got a screen that said “Warning: Cannot use a scalar value as an array in /home/tellin5/public_html/confidentwriting.com/wp-content/plugins/akismet/akismet.php on line 188″ and a whole bunch of other lines too. :(

  27. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Thanks for the feedback Rob - I think I’ll give it a try and see how it pans out.

  28. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Robyn, I’m delighted that your picture has now appeared! That’s much better. I love the way you handle comments and pull them out and develop them into posts. You and I have had some very interesting exchanges through that route over the last year or so, and it’s often where the richest learning takes place.

  29. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Jeanne, that is so true, and I know showering commenters with goodwill is something you practice regularly and beautifully at Writer’s Notes - including a monthly thank you to commenters. It’s much appreciated :-) (I’m afraid I’ve stopped that practice)

    Thanks for the info on comment luv and orble - it’s a bit perplexing isn’t it? One of those many blogging mysteries we encounter…

  30. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Oh Rebecca I’m so sorry! I don’t know what that error message means and can’t see the comment in the stuff that Akismet has caught. That is ironic indeed.

    Thanks for the feedback about Top Commenters - as I said to Rob maybe I’ll give it a whirl here. Trawling your regular and top commenters for highlights and links is a great practice too. I try and read as many blogs as I can of my readers and regular commenters but every so often I have to cut it back down again to make the reading manageable. Maybe occasional trawls is a better solution.

    Joanna

  31. Shannon McDowell says:

    You give very sound advice, and I do appreciate it. But my readers seem to be the quiet type. Even with a hot topic like Sarah Palin’s VP status, I got a LOT of traffic but hardly any comments. I will just have to work on it, I suppose - These things must take time. Thanks again for your column! Shannon :)

    Shannon McDowells last blog post..Reunited Love

  32. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Shannon

    I’m glad you found it useful. It does take time and some investment of effort at the start (it looks like your blog is quite new). If comments are important to you it’s definitely worth taking the time to comment elsewhere (like you’re doing!) and to link out to other bloggers - many will pop over and comment if they see an incoming link.

    Meantime you might also like this article with some of the things I learned about comments in my first year of blogging.

    https://thewriterslife.net/2008/04/the-secret-20-w/

    Good luck

    Joanna

  33. rjleaman says:

    I had another thought about Top Commenters plugin, if you’re still toying with the idea of trying it. Well, two thoughts. I’d rename the header, so spammers who search for blogs that use it won’t find it by that method, and I’d just quietly put it in place without mentioning it: those who are regular visitors and paying attention will see and benefit, but again, spam searchers won’t be alerted to an opportunity.

  34. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Those are good thoughts and yes I am still thinking about it. Will give it a quiet go :-)

  35. Avani-Mehta says:

    Hello Joanna,

    Alister Cameron has this interesting post about tweaking comment relish plugin so that it sends a message to you rather than the new commenter. Then you can simply make some changes to the email to personalize it and send to the new commenter.

    http://www.alistercameron.com/2007/04/12/saying-thank-you-to-blog-commenters-just-got-a-lot-easier/

    Avani-Mehtas last blog post..How To Pick Your First Anger Management Area - Anger Management Series Part IV

  36. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    What a brilliant solution! Thanks so much for sharing that post - his thought process match mine entirely, and I can see that the solution will work too - so long as I can get the code bit right…

    Thanks so much for sharing this Avani

  37. Lucia says:

    Hi Joanna,

    Thank you for this nice list about plugins. I haven’t heard about the comment manager one and will look into it for sure.

    By the way, I like your new theme. I have been here before and think it was different then.

    Lucias last blog post..Dominican Republic A Top Nation for Business

  38. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Thanks Lucia, yes the theme has changed.

    I’m finding better comments manager a great plug in - particularly good in making sure you don’t miss comments on posts that were written a little while ago

  39. Bloggista says:

    Two other methods that can help to encourage comments are allowing DoFollow links (removing default nofollow attributes so that “link juice” is passed to the sites) and installing the KeywordLuv plugin, which significantly helps commenters with SEO because it allows them to choose the anchor text for links.

    Overall, it is a good thing to encourage comments because the extra content provided by other people adds more keywords to your posts, which in turn brings in more traffic from the search engines without costing you any more time than it takes to write the original post.

  40. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Bloggista, thanks for those suggestions. I’m not absolutely convinced of those suggestions because it means people seek out your site for reasons other than content, conversation and relationship building… which is probably m y main priority.

    Interesting point about the extra keywords in the content of the comment box - hadn’t thought of that one before.

    Cheers, Joanna

  41. melissa says:

    Hi. I read a few of your other posts and wanted to know if you would be interested in exchanging blogroll links?

  42. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Melissa, thanks but I’m afraid I don’t do link exchanges. Thanks for asking.