Its time for you to take an enormous leap forward, and conceive the idea that your comments section should not be that, but rather a section for discussion. The hallmark of every successful blog is thriving discussion, and you are damaging your blog by having a comments section full of frippery spot the dog.
The purpose of this article is not to lure you into mimicking successful blogs; your blog will certainly profit by this monumental change: your visitors will subscribe to interesting discussions and become returning visitors; the content will gift you with positive change in search engine positions; and your blog will earn a layer of credibility.
You may now think editing your theme to replace the word comment with discussion will do the trick. To an extent, youre right: larger blogs that are swarmed with millions of visitors each month may only have to make this minute adjustment. For smaller blogs, this minute adjustment will have a minute effect.
The way in which you manage your blog might have to be altered for your blogs parliament to hatch.
1. Publish controversial content
Discussion cannot be achieved on your blog if your content is unstimulating, unless youre working towards building a discussion of your blogs substandard quality. In trying to attain discussion, it vital to concoct and publish content that creates controversy.
An objective you should employ in your writing is to say things that are socially acceptable, but unique in way of thinking. If you give evidence for your ideas, your expertise wont be questioned; if you spot disagreement in your readerships discussion, youll note that it is predominantly opinion-based.
e.g. instead of Chef writing a post about how to create a classic ratatouille dish for his cooking blog, he should consider writing his own recipe that replaces main ingredients for a more flavorsome dish; so he doesnt come across as, simply, a peculiar fellow, he should provide reasoning.
By doing this, hell provoke responses from conservative and more experimental French cooks.
(By the way, I apologise to all of the cooks that read this blog.)
However, what if Chef was to see the discussion progress into a hostile debate?
He sholuld simply not accept any comments that cross the line and become insulting etc., which will wipe out the reasons for a conflict.
2. Abolish fluff comments
Furthermore, you must make an immediate and absolute effort to ban fluff comments. Fluff comments are short, generic comments of no value to you or your readership, and do not make any significant contributions to discussion. You could compare having fluff on your blog to having a tumbleweed roaming around your page.
A reason for many blogs having their comments section—your discussion section—stuffed with fluff comments is that a large amount of small bloggers are happy with whatever they get. Dont be happy with these comments, theyre only trying to gain backlinks and exposure from you. If they want either, theyll have to give you something in return.
What does cleaning this tumbleweed up from your blog do? Well, youll gain from this in three ways: your readership will feel that their opinion is more valued if it is not amongst heaps of spam and will be inclined to comment more; the discussions on your blog will be better if they consist of only concisely delivered points, which will attract more of your readership to discuss; in addition, in terms of your search engine position, you may be rewarded in that a lot of fluff comments are spammed across the web and the removal of this duplicate content will be reacted to positively by search engines.
3. Make it easy to subscribe
If its not evident and easy for your readership to subscribe to the comments, then theyll lose their part in the discussion. I have, and Im sure that you have, too often forgotten entirely about comments that Ive left on blogs.
If it was apparent that I was able to subscribe to the discussion with a click and the input of some text, I definitely would have done that. The case for many people that take part in discussion on blogs is that they want to hear what people think of their input.
Its relatively easy for you to make this possible; plugins such as Subscribe to Comments can be installed quickly and do not require you to edit your theme.
4. Reply to comments
Ive always encouraged my readership—you—to reply to comments on their blogs. Firstly, it shows that you respect your readership. It is vital to the success of your blog that you have a happy readership, because a readership that isnt happy is most probably not happy with you and that readership will soon abandon you. But more importantly, I think its disgraceful to disrespect the people that are, ultimately, going to make you money.
Replying to comments will make your readership feel that their opinion is more valued, and that theyll get something back from commenting, your expertise.
Its important that you dont write fluff responses, and yes were back to the dangers of fluff, as it doesnt show that you value their opinion. You need to make sure that you include three important elements in your response: you should thank them for commenting; answer all of the questions they have asked with dedication and honesty, and then ask them a question to create discussion.
You should be creative with replying to comments to create discussion, for example, you could ask someone what their take is on someones comment(s). Note that this isnt playing around with your readership, because if you filter comments correctly so that it is only valuable and informative comments that make it to the discussion, your readership will be gaining knowledge.
5. Use incentives
Using incentives can work brilliantly to get people to comment on your blog. There are a plethora of ways in which you could incentive your readership to post comments.
Its best that you offer something that is related to your blog, for instance, I could offer a free eBook with a few chapters on how to make money blogging. Doing this benefits your readership, as they will learn valuable information that they visit your blog for, and it also helps to prevent non-targeted visitors commenting on your blog.
Bare in mind that you should not give out incentives if the method is not sustainable, as when you are forced to give it up, youll see a drastic plummet in the amount of comments you receive. This means that if youre paying for the incentive, such as a $5 Groupon gift card, you must not make it too easy to attain; otherwise, when you cant reward your readership with the incentive, unless youre extremely convincing and lovable, they will lose trust in you.
Also, I strongly advise you to drop the incentive scheme entirely if you notice that a significant amount of your visitors solely visit for the incentive. Youll notice this by a rapid drop in the average time on your site, and an increase in the bounce rate.