How I Went From 4 Comments to Almost 4,000 In 2 Years

iStock_000003645243XSmallChris Brogan’s recent post No Comment, acknowledged the very real discouragement you can feel when you’re blogging away with seemingly nothing (meaning comments) to show for it. If you haven’t already read the post, go and check it out. The comments in particular are revealing. They show just how deeply disappointing it can be not getting comments. It can hurt. So what can you do about it?

We may have many different reasons for starting to blog. As I said in my own comment on Chris’s post, my own experience in going from zero comments on my other blog to nearly 4,000 comments in about two years, showed me you have to be passionate and persistent about blogging and have a goal… so  you can keep going in the face of “no comments.”

Struggling to gain an audience and increase your comment count?

I thought I’d share what has worked for me over the past couple years on my first blog and how I’m using that experience on my latest blog – the one you’re reading now.

I recall looking at my once dismal comment count one day and visualizing thousands of visits a day to my blog. I affirmed it out loud. I had no idea how I’d do it. I knew I had to do something differently. I just didn’t know what. (Note, I said visits, rather than comments?)

Fast forward to 2008

dashboard LII

This is my dashboard for blog 1 with about 3,931 comments. I also have nearly 400 posts. I never forget the early days and it comes in useful now I have a new blog. This didn’t happen overnight for me.  In the big scheme of things some bloggers have more, some less… what’s important is that people enjoy reading what I write and find it useful enough to return.

Here’s what worked for me. If you’re not already, start doing these and see what happens.

1. Be clear about why you’re blogging

Is it:

  • For your personal pleasure,
  • To get something off your chest?
  • To  learn something new?
  • To teach?
  • A personal diary?
  • Because someone said you need a blog?
  • To showcase your expertise?

If you don’t know, neither will your readers.

When I started blogging I did it on a whim. I said I’d never blog “because everyone had a blog” millions of them, and I wasn’t about to add to the clutter. But I changed my mind. And I decided I’d blog to share my opinion – a different opinion. I liked to write. And I had an opinion. Hello World!

I wasn’t sure who would be interested, but I decided to have a go anyway. Nothing ventured nothing gained.   But there was a difference, I put a satirical spin on the topics I wrote about, which ranged from movies, books, political, news, current events, people who’d decided not to have kids (like me)… and even the World Cup 2006 (which I blogged from beginning to end). Basically I blogged my thoughts on anything that caught my fancy. I did start getting comments.

Figure out why you are blogging. Clarify your aim.  It may take time to so so, but it will help streamline your efforts.

2. Narrow it down

Pick a niche and stick to it. In many ways, to blog effectively you must decide on a niche and seek to dominate it. Sound familiar? It’s a marketing fundamental. While you may have lots of subjects that you’re interested in, you must decide on one or two you want to blog about. Otherwise your readers will be confused and not know what to expect. You cannot serve everyone, you must decide on who you want your audience to be.

After several months of blogging with few comments I began to notice a trend. I have always been a stats junkie. I am fascinated with what my stats tell me. I use 3-4 stats packages both free and paid on both my blogs, including Google Analytics. They show me different aspects of my blog when it comes to content and traffic.

I always looked at what content was being read and where people spent the most time. A pattern emerged. People seemed interested in one particular theme of post. Sure, my movie quizzes and funnies were also getting hits and a few comments, but not in the same way. What to do?  I decided to drop all the other topics and just focus on one topic. I announced it and said that although I loved writing about these four/five/six other topics I was changing my focus to blog on just one. I lost some readers, but I gained a good many more.

What happened was liberating. I had new focus, my blogging “voice” strengthened and my blogging tempo soared…as did the visitors and comments, even when I reduced my blogging from 3 times a week to twice a week. I zeroed in.

3. Write quality compelling content

There is no short cut to this. And it takes both work and lots of time. The best of both worlds is to write content you enjoy writing and that resonates with, and is useful to, your audience. That encourages comments, but still doesn’t guarantee them. I used to check my stats to get ideas on what search terms people were searching on to find me and then use that intelligence to do new blog posts.

It brought more readers and more comments.

4. Write regularly

I started with blogging three sometimes four times a week and later reduced it to once or twice a week.  The reason you must be consistent is partly for your reader expectations, but also so that Google will crawl your site frequently. Google loves fresh content. I also became obsessed with increasing my site visits from Google, which in mid 2006 were less than 10%. I knew the key to getting more comments was getting found and known about. It was a turning point for me. See graphic below.

5. Tagged! You’re It!

I think the one turning point for me was getting my blog designer to make some upgrades to my blog. IGoogle Analytics Traffic Sources LII 1 month asked him how he thought I could get more visits. He said I wasn’t tagging effectively and suggested I install the Ultimate Tag Warrior. I think that one bit of advice did wonders. My page ranking shot up for my search term in Google, and more people started finding my blog – through Google. They started commenting –  Hurrah! And my referrer traffic looked very different.

This snapshot is simply to show the importance of getting Google juice” for your blog. To get found you need Google.

6. Get quality backlinks

This really should be near the top. I didn’t realise how important it was until much later. Backlinks are incoming links to your blog/site. They are important for getting good page ranking from Google. They are also important for getting organic traffic, which helped me in getting organic traffic. There is an excellent article on building backlinks and why they are important here on  One Cool Site.

7. Comment on other blogs

This is one of the top ways of having people learn about you, check out your blog and perhaps comment.  I found that after I commented on other blogs, people often came over to mine, and, better still returned and became regular readers. When you comment on another blog, add something to the conversation – a point of view, some feedback on the post, even an alternative viewpoint. Also, try to initiate conversation not just with the writer of the article, but with others on the comment thread. Share something.  It helps with the acknowledgement – everyone wants acknowledgement. As much as you can visit other blogs and leave a meaningful calling card. Bloggers do love comments!

Note: don’t just comment on big name blogs. Look for people who aren’t as well known. You will stand out more.

8. Acknowledge comments on your blog

At first I used to do one reply for each comment, but didn’t like the way it inflated my comment count. So I responded to most in one long comment with @name. Responding to comments is time consuming – it can take longer than writing a post so don’t underestimate it. However my thinking is that if someone has taken the time to respond to a post then they deserve some recognition of that, even a tiny one.

The more comments you get the harder it is to respond to individual comments all the time. It can become a balance between putting the posts out there, commenting and visiting other blogs. Something had to give with my limited time resources. In my case I reduced my posting schedule, assured readers I would respond when I can, and that I read all comments. What happens now is that they can generally carry on the conversation without me – and I still respond when I can.

9. Blog other blogs

Perhaps this is more linked to content, however another thing I did was to look for articles on blogs that were not getting a lot of comments and do a post with a twist, link to their blog and invite my readers to go on over and visit that blog and leave a comment or two. You can now do similar in Twitter – except that the tweet isn’t as lasting as a blog post. Whatever it is you want, you must give it away first.

10. Make it simple for people to leave comments.

It’s amazing how many blogs make it so hard to leave a comment. I am not kidding! Google/Blogger is the worst culprit, followed by Typepad with all the security functions on. I hate spam, but get a decent Spam nuker like Akismet or Spam Karma 2 rather than make people jump through hoops to leave a comment. They won’t bother. In most cases I won’t bother either.

11. Be persistent – don’t give up!

Ultimately receiving comments on your blog is the result of several often little things done over and over again rather than one big thing.  There is no magic bullet. Be realistic and above all be patient and don’t take a lack of comments personally. You have a platform for your voice…and what you say matters.  There’s now more information than ever (and more tools available) on how to promote your blog, so take action – go out and give attention and it will come back to you.

12 – Don’t be discouraged

You don’t have the luxury. Start doing something different.

If your blog is under a year old and you’re not getting comments, or only one or two comments it’s  normal. In my case it took about 18 months give or take on my first blog. I didn’t do a lot to promote it, I just put my heart into it and blogged what I had to say. I truly enjoyed it. People connected. found it helped them and now they love my blog.  It remains “my take on things” however it’s been informed and energised by the experiences of others. I am continually humbled by the time and energy readers spend commenting, reading and sharing.

Here we go again with blog #2

My new blog has a different focus, however I am applying many of the same foundational principles and  doing more to promote While it is a little daunting starting off with no/few comments I don’t sweat it. My main limitation is time since I work full time. There is much to learn and some great people to learn from. People have to know you exist before they can read your great content.

Your actions – should you choose to accept them

  1. Pick 2-3 things from the list above to do on your blog. Do them
  2. Go out and find 3 blogs to comment on. Then find 3 more.
  3. Focus on getting yourself found/known
  4. Keep blogging.
  5. Be patient

In part 2:
RSS-ing, Stumbling, Social Networks, Pimping your blog and why people don’t comment.

How do you encourage commenting on your blog? Does receiving few or no comments worry you?What’s your view?  Share your feedback by leaving a comment.

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  1. Nicky says

    Thank you BraddahGreg for commenting… take your time, experiment and do it for the love of blogging… and don’t forget to share, learn and comment on other blogs. Best wishes for your blogging career!

  2. says

    You know what, the first thing I saw when I click on your site is your template. Looks neat. :) Sorry, but as a designer, I appreciate such beauty. And you have a nice post as well. Thanks for sharing.

  3. says

    Thank you, that is very informative. So I am right to say that social networking is more of gathering a group of individuals with the same interests to form a community.

  4. Nicky says

    @All – Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!
    @Faryl – You’re right. Being heard, being acknowledged and having validation are absolutely the reason comments are so important. It’s actually very courageous to start a conversation and hope someone joins in and continues it with you… or with others. That’s partly why I learned to pay attention to my stats… I could tell that even if people weren’t yet commenting at least they were reading and maybe they’d comment the next time 😉 With time and persistence you can build your readership – and comments. I will check out your post… thanks again.

    @Laila – Thanks! Glad you found it helpful. Look out for my next post.
    @Mark – Totally…quality content rules! Everything else exists to support the content – at least that’s what I believe 😉

    @Kingsley – There could be all sorts of reasons…I’ll see if I get any possible clues when I visit your blog. (You could ask them though) Maybe they don’t think it matters either way. My next post will touch on reasons why people don’t leave comments. Let’s see where that leads.

    @all – I am so pleased I installed Comment Luv. Now I can get to read all your posts. Thanks for reminding me TT.

  5. says

    Hi,Nicky..Just great!Awesome and WOW!I desperately needed this as I’m new to blogging!I think I should first change my layout!:)I’ve bookmarked your blog and I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading your other posts as well! I have so much to learn!

    Laila’s last blog post..Create An iMix in iTunes

  6. says

    Hi Nicky! Saw your response to my comment on Chris Brogan’s blog post “Cultivating a Writing Habit” so made my way over here to say hi. Glad I did! I’ll definitely be coming back for more!

    Commenting is a funny thing about blogs. It’s not a strict numbers thing that drives it, it’s the desire for conversation and the additional validation that your voice was not only heard, but that someone listened. (I actually blogged about it at the post I’ve linked to under my website).

    Encouraging post – thanks for sharing!

    Faryl’s last blog post..Macworld 2009: Fearless Blogger Style

  7. Nicky says

    @Greg – Thanks! Oddly enough I never used trackbacks as effectively as I could have done on my first blog, mainly because I didn’t understand them.

    A trackback tells the blog owner that some has linked to and written about your post. To me, they are like a referral. I’m unsure how effective they are at directing people to your blog compared to commenting (perhaps someone who knows can answer that better than I) however I tend to follow trackbacks from this blog and I have discovered blogs that way – and commented on them. When reading a blog with many trackbacks though, I tend to skip them and read all the comments first. I know people do follow trackbacks… but so do spammers which is why some people decide to leave them off.

    @Timethief – thanks for this very helpful advice. I already changed my RSS from full to summary and will work hard on excerpts. Come to think of it I know on my first blog I always had it on summary rather than full because of content theft and scraping. I changed my policy on this one, but always had in my mind the potential impact on comments.

    Points #4 and #5 are excellent reminders – goes to making your blog welcoming and inclusive. I believe I have my links set to “do follow”. Can’t say I understand why anyone would have them on “nofollow” to be honest Oh, I’ve now installed Comment Luv 😉 What a great way to reward commentators! Thanks for the nudge.

    @Pink Heels – TT has mentioned something I was going to in my next post…and now don’t really need to. See my comment above on how I used RSS. I know it does lower the potential for comments, why visit a blog if you can read it in a reader? But if you don’t visit, you can’t comment.
    @Sara – You’re welcome. Glad you found it helpful.

  8. says

    I had never considered the impact of the RSS feed impacting the volume of comments. Although I haven’t seen a decrease since offering this option, it is definitely something to consider.

  9. says

    I think your advice is good advice. Most of it boils down to being focused in your writing; building a reader friendly blog that’s easy to leave comments on; and encouraging comments.

    Here are some things that I keep in mind:
    (1) Only 1 out of every 100 – 150 readers will leave a comment and this is important to know so you keep from beating yourself up for not getting as many comments as you would like to get.

    (2) Consider that offering full posts by RSS feed removes the incentive to click into the blog, read the full post and comment. When I reduced my RSS feed to summaries to deter blog content thieves I received more comments. I also put myself under great pressure to insure there was a hook in the excerpt.

    (3) Ask an open ended question at the end of your posts and humbly and graciously request feedback. If you sound over confident people are less likely to want to comment.

    (5) Post on controversial topics in a balanced manner presenting both or all sides of an issue and don’t take a stand, instead ask what your reader’s think about this perplexing issue.

    (4) Although we all want to create a blog centered community of faithful readers, treating those who comment frequently specially can make a newcomer choose not to comment. I have dropped some blogs simply because I didn’t like the “old boys and old girls” clubs feeling I had about the way the blogger responded to frequent commenters.

    (5) Be a fashion follower and not a trend setter. These days the trend is to have widgets in sidebars featuring the names of frequent commenters, and to reward reader who comments by changing your “no-follow” links to “do-follow” links. rewards and bribes to get people to comment are IMO projections of desperation. I simply use the commentluv plugin and it supplies the linked blog title of the most recent article on the commenter’s post.

    Thanks for inviting us to comment on your thoughtful and well written post. I’m an introverted person who prefers not to comment but this time I just couldn’t resist. :-)

  10. says

    Nice post, Nicky. Your point about giving comments to get comments reminds me of advice sales people give each other for generating referrals. Do trackbacks work as an effective way to get people steered over to another person’s blog? I’d like to know more about their effectiveness and whether they’re worth using.