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Starting a Conversation: The Art of Comment Fetching

Let\'s start a conversation on comments

Photo by Mia Mia

Everyone measures the success of their blog in different ways – but when it comes to measuring engagement, comments and trackbacks are what really count. Granted there are other ways of measuring engagement, such as Sphinns or Diggs – but let’s be narrow minded for a moment 😉

Seth Godin pointed out “Your readers care about someone’s opinion even more than yours… their own.” For those of you with a quiet blog – it sure doesn’t seem that way, does it?

However, it is very interesting to note that Seth has comments turned off for his blog. Yet as I write this, just one day after the aforementioned post was published, there are already 3 trackbacks. Is this a purposeful strategy to get more links, or just a way to save time on comment moderation?

Common Tactics for Comment Overload

I think Seth would get overrun with comments if he left the possibility open, because if you look at all the blogs with rampant comments, they have certain elements in common.

  • Each blog post is fairly short, between 200 and 500 words with just one major point or theme.
  • They leave room for comment by covering only one aspect or not sounding like a factual know-it-all with all the answers.
  • They ask questions or even ask for comments.
  • The blog has several hundred regular readers, at least.

That last point can be a bit deceiving upon first glance though. I’m not saying you must have several hundred readers in order to get comments – I’m saying your content has to be the kind that will get the attention of several hundred regular readers.

Not That Simple

I know I’m missing something though. Maki, Kathy Sierra, and Skellie consistently have massive amounts of comments – and yet they seem to break all the rules. All their posts are long, matter of fact, and don’t ask questions… but they do have a few thousand readers.

Their strategies are a little different. Maki is a “tell all” kind of guy – like ‘here is absolutely everything you ever needed to know about the topic.’ Kathy and Skellie use graphs and pithy pictures to say a thousand words – which might mean it’s a little more than OK to be long winded, so long as you make pretty pictures too.

Readership attention, according to Skellie

They are a very special exception though, because I’ve seen many similar blogs – very informative, long, thorough posts with a personalized feel, pretty pictures, and thousands of readers – but don’t get this kind of comment overload.

I won’t name names, but a site I am extremely familiar with gets massive amounts of traffic, but maybe only 3 to 5 comments on any given post. The format and style are almost exactly the same, but there is one important element missing.

The Welcome Mat

Maki, Kathy, and Skellie talk to you. Blogger X tells and sells you. Maki, Kathy, and Skellie make a concerted effort to solve your problem. Blogger X tries to solve a problem. Both are just as useful, but the former is decidedly more engaging.

It’s a very fine line between “talking to” and “telling” though, and I would imagine this fine line would be very easy to cross if you don’t start on the right foot. I think it all boils down to your mindset.

So how do you approach writing a blog to get comments? What is that one centric thought that keeps you focused on starting a conversation?


  1. Mark Dykeman

    Basically, I take a position on something and I ask if anyone else feels the same way. It seems to be working better over time.

    Mark Dykeman’s last blog post..Keeping old flames burning bright

  2. Patricia Mayo

    @Mark That is a very interesting point – almost like “if you keep the same style, eventually the people who like that style will find you and stick around.”

    You’ve given me something to ponder, for sure 🙂

    Patricia Mayo’s last blog post..Building a Successful Online Endeavor: MyChingo Ep1

  3. Seduction

    I always get better comments when I take a definite stance on something. Either good or bad. I get linkbacks and great comments on those.

    Seduction’s last blog post..New Review Posted

  4. Rudy

    Content and Design are the major reasons for getting people to comment, but I think Page Rank has a lot to do with it too. If a blog has a high PR, the content can be so crappy (ie. John Chow’s), people still comment in it.

    Rudy’s last blog post..Tesla Roadster – THE reason to take out a second mortgage

  5. morgan

    Truth to tell, I’ve never really concerned myself too much with getting comments…I figure they’ll happen when they happen rather than me trying to get any. Though, I usually try to posture my writing in a very conversational, fun, friendly way. I’ve always viewed how I’m writing on my blog rather like movies in the ’80s when the characters would talk to the audience. That level of inclusion is fun, not just for the people who are writing, but also for those who are reading it. When Ferris Bueller was talking to us on his day off, he was talking directly to us! All of a sudden we were more vested in the movie and more interested in what happens — that’s exactly what I aim for on my posts. That interaction happens because it’s ingrained, I don’t try to force it on people. 😉

  6. Patricia Mayo

    @Seduction – Now that’s somewhat contrary to what I’ve been trying… definitely given me something to think about! 😀

    @Rudy – OMG that is so true. People are far too easily blinded by popularity!

    @Morgan – And your point would be exactly what I was talking about. It’s all in the mindset! Right on 😀 (P.S. Now I have a craving to watch Wayne’s World for some strange reason…)

    Patricia Mayo’s last blog post..The Ghostwriter’s Betrayal: Lies of ?Make Money Online?

  7. Charles

    Nice. I’ve been looking at how to measure communication. I like your metrics. I notice the same thing as Seduction – when I take a stance, it’s either agreed with or disagreed with.

    Heh – Bueller, Bueller… you get the point. Yes I’ve felt like I was talking to the camera on more than one occasion!

    Charles’s last blog post..2008 Corporate Learning Factbook Values U.S. Training Market at $58.5B