Get More Comments with a Better Discussion Experience

One of the usual questions new bloggers ask me is, “How do I get more people to comment on my blog?” It’s especially disheartening for new bloggers that put hard work into making regular posts but see no return.

Building Better Discussions

In this post, I’d like to go through some tested and proven ways of improving user experience and promoting discussion.

I can’t stress enough that the most important part of drawing in quality comments is writing quality content. Complimented with insightful content, these tips create an environment for powerful conversation.

Ask For Less

One of the biggest turn offs for discussion, and any other kind of call-to-action, is Data Entry. If leaving a comment becomes a task that viewers have to work at, they’ll be much less inclined to even try.

If you must use a Captcha of some kind, use something simple or something widespread like ReCaptcha.If you must use a Captcha of some kind, use something simple or something widespread like ReCaptcha.

Asking viewers to register before they can leave a comment is one way to significantly decrease discussion. Captchas and too many required fields (or the appearance of too many fields) will also stop some visitors from commenting.

What About Spam?

If you’re using Captchas, or registration as a means for preventing spam, there are alternative methods that work incredibly well without asking for more information. The most common way to stop spam for many blogs is Akismet, a plugin that comes bundled with the default WordPress Install and works on many different platforms.

Sometimes, you’ll require registration for other reasons of course. Required user registration may even improve the quality of the discussion because it does require more effort, but it will definitely limit the number of people who choose to comment. There are still many other ways to promote healthy discussion.

Use the Standard Comment Layout

Only ask for the 3-4 standard pieces of information when developing your comment form. Also, be sure to ask in the correct order, which is:

The standard comment form consists of 3 or 4 inputs.The standard comment form consists of 3 or 4 inputs.
  • Name
  • Email
  • URL, Website, Homepage (Optional to include, and optional to fill out)
  • Message, Comment

Asking for this information in this order is pretty much an accepted standard in blogging. Visitors expect this format when they try to leave a comment, and already know how to use it.

It’s important that you label these fields correctly as well. Don’t get too creative with your words, and don’t be too lengthy with their explanations. For example: a simple “Name (*Required)” will be much more informative and direct than “Please type your name here:“. Chances are your viewers know how to fill out an input field, so written instructions for how to use it will only slow them down when looking for a quick label.

Use the Post to Invite Visitors Into Discussion

A quick question worth asking yourself before you hit the publish button is, “How am I instructing visitors to respond to this post?” If you can’t answer that question, chances are your viewers won’t be able to either.

Use part of your post to explain how you want your viewers to reply to your article. Ask for their opinion, ideas, and feedback, and put some effort into making them feel heard. One of the basic ideas of discussion is to feel valued and to have an individual voice. If a viewer feels like they’re talking into a vacuum, they’ll be less inclined to jump into the discussion.

Some of the ways I like to invite people into discussions is by simply asking the question, “What are you doing to …”. For example, at the end of this post, I might ask what our viewers are doing to promote commenting on their own blogs. This angle allows a community to add value to the post through discussion, and invites viewers to share their own personal success with others.

Some Sites with Threaded Comments and Replies

Add Reply Buttons

Like I mentioned earlier, a big part of a lively discussion is feeling like you’re actually talking to other people instead of shouting at a wall. Instead of opting for a bland linear comment experience, add an easy way for people to reply to one another in the comments.

If you’re a WordPress user, there are several plugins that can be quickly installed to add a reply feature (We actually use a plugin called @ Reply here at the UX Booth).

In WordPress versions 2.7 and up, threaded comments are available for even deeper more complex discussions. This allows viewers to not only reply, but also leave responses directly under individual comments allowing viewers to explore specific ideas within a conversation in depth.

Some Blogs with Replies and Threaded Comments

Engadget
Engadget

Engadget uses two level threaded comments for quick responses to the articles, and then follow up replies to specific responses. In addition, they use a Karma system to rate individual comments. Reward systems like these work well in large communities.

UX Booth
UX Booth

UX Booth uses a simple one level comment structure with the ability to reply to a specific comment. When a reply is left, a link is used to reference the comment being replied to. These replies are shown in whatever order they are made, and not shown directly under the comment being replied to.

Tutorial9
Tutorial9

Tutorial9 is a WordPress blog that uses Threaded comments included in WordPress 2.7. Replies can be made directly underneath a specific comment, and are styled to appear as a part of that comment container as a visual cue that they are related.

What are Your Tried and True Ways?

What are you doing to enhance the comment experience on your own blog? Are you doing anything special to spur discussion?

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Comments

  1. Nice article.
    I have experienced that frustration of putting some sweat into and article, only to have a couple of comments, and what feel like a minimal response.

    For me i have tried to live by the motto “Content is King”. Instead of just putting out post after post to hopefully bring traffic to my site, I have slowed the process down, and focused on writing articles that have relevant content, that will engage users leading them to be a part of the discussion. Other than that a minor call to action to healthy discussion has helped some.

    Great tips

    thanks again,

    ~ Aaron I

  2. Valueable post. One critical note though: uxbooth can improve its number of commenters by putting more visual emphasis on the actual respond form. The 2 *huge* boxes (related posts and share this post) force the visitor to scroll down to see the comment form. Seeing this immediately (instead of forcing people to scroll and look for this form) gives a strong incentive to respond.

    Furthermore, the ‘subscribe to comments’ plugin for WordPress is a critical method to keep people who have responded connected to the thread, and thus increase both width and depth of the discussion.

  3. Stirring up some “controversy” is also a good method. Of course you have to be careful what you say, but getting just enough emotion out of the reader to get them to want to express their opinions is key. I guess this would fall under “quality content”

  4. @Inge Janse: Good points Inge. Appreciate those :)

    In regards to the Subscribe to Comments plugin, I think it’s a great tool but have never seen it heavily used. I remember running it on a few blogs of mine and seeing maybe 10 people subscribing to different posts over a few months. It’s probably just the type of content that makes that a necessity.

  5. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on live comment previews? I just added them to Theme Playground, mostly because it was a neat implementation of jQuery and I’ve always had fun seeing an instant preview. Was hoping to see it in your list, but it might be more of a “hey, cool” factor than anything else.

  6. Also make sure hitting tab brings you to the next field and not to the bottom of the page or some other weird place. It is annoying when you can’t just tab to the next field.

  7. @Ryan Imel: I’m pretty much of the opinion that anything added to the standard comment format is a part of that “hey, cool” factor you mentioned.

    Sometimes, those additional features connect well with the audience. I’m not sure a live preview would encourage more people to reply or not, but it could enhance there overall experience.

    There’s another similar plugin that lets you edit comments after they’ve been submitted (for a few minutes as determined by the administrator). In my opinion, it’s a nice tool to offer, but probably doesn’t cause more or less people to comment.

    Offering these things is a good idea in my opinion, so long as it’s not subtracting from the user experience in any other way (Load Time, Noise, etc).

  8. One thing that I believe is very important if you want to get a lot of comments on your blog is to actually reply to as many people as possible. Address people directly and actually respond to what they said.

    This sends a clear message to your readers that if they do spend their time writing a comment, it will be read. If the author doesn’t respond then it may sometimes feel like you’re just sending a one-way piece of communication that nobody will care about. It will feel like a waste of time and people won’t bother. If on the other hand they know the author is likely to read and respond then their effort will pay off.

    UX Booth team do a great job at this :)

  9. I’m new here but found this is a lovely blog with lovely Posts… Great articles here, very usefull !

    Thankyou uxbooth.

  10. I also wanted to ask, how you highlight author Post from others ? I’d like an article..

  11. @Matthew Kammerer: I think he means he’s looking for an article that explains how to do it.

    @Enk.: It’s an if statement in the Comment Loop for WordPress that identifies if the comment user is an administrator or not. There are some guides out there already that explain different ways of implementing it. Here’s one that works pretty well for most bloggers:

    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/highlight-author-comments-wordpress/

  12. Thanks for the article, it is very helpful and informative. I was wondering what you thought about using your OpenID (optionaly) as a way of more easily “signing” your comments. Do you think it’s more of a deterrent at this point–due to lack of awarness–or a way of allowing for quicker commenting?

  13. “Better Discussion Experience” is possible with simple approach. Previously I used to use captcha for spam protection, but alas. I don’t use any cpatch for comment form and enabled comment moderation, that I think a way for Better Discussion Experience.

  14. @Larry Roth: I hate OpenID personally. Maybe it’s just me, maybe others share the feeling of annoyance. If anything, it should be optional.

  15. Great article – your suggestion to craft the post such that it invites visitors into the discussion is spot on. I will be using this on my redesigned blog.

  16. @David Leggett: I agree it should be optional, and I can’t say I love it, but I think it is a step in the right direction. I do concede that currently the process/implementation is very confusing.

  17. i aggree with the point “dont get too creative with the words”

    something like :
    Hey, you probably want to leave a comment. Owh! I appreciate it!

    how annoying that may sound to you as readers?

  18. i use intensedebate for commenting :D

  19. Nice article, I’ve been toying around with sprucing up my comments on my blog, but have yet to find something that “has it all”. I toyed around with IntenseDebate and this looked like it was going to be PERFECT.. But alas the one critical flaw was forcing a sign in to post.

    Is the @reply you use on this site necessary if I’m using WP 2.7 with threaded comments enabled?

  20. Очень понравился ваш блог! Подписался на rss. Буду регулярно читать.

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  22. im using Intense Debate as a discussion platform its gr8 , including twitter and facebook sharing tools , plus threaded comments and facebook connect .. i realy luved this platform its makes issoo easy to manage comments…

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  24. I’m using standard layout and the reply button too. But, how can you make the admin comment look different with the logo and colour?

  25. Nice post, kind of drawn out though. Really good subject matter though.

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