How to Write (Much Better) Blog Comments

Seems simple enough, right? Then how come so many people are terrible at it?

In principle, leaving a comment on someone’s blog, podcast, or social media account doesn’t seem too tricky. Enter your name and other info, write down your thought, and click Post Comment.

In practice, too many folks leave comments that are weak, boring, annoying … or just plain spammy. That wastes your time and the site publisher’s time. Here’s how to up your game.

Sonia’s 5 Tips for Good Blog Comments

  1. Make a good, relatable first impression
  2. Understand the site you’re posting to
  3. Stop leaving vague “great post” comments
  4. Understand that commenting on sites is a long game
  5. Bonus: If you disagree, do it intelligently

In this 20-minute episode, I talk about:

  • The benefits of leaving comments on blogs, podcasts, or other content venues
  • A peek behind the “comment spam” curtain at Copyblogger (warning: it’s not pretty)
  • The kinds of comments we love
  • How to make sure your comments are relevant
  • How not to be “that guy”
  • What no one (except me) will tell you about playing the Devil’s Advocate
  • The art of constructive disagreement

The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 194,000 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — just go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress
  • Hey, you should leave a comment on our content challenge! 🙂 2017 Content Excellence Challenge. (We really do love to hear from you.)
  • If you don’t have a Gravatar (globally recognized avatar) yet, snag one here: It’s easy and free.
  • Some more thoughts on content promotion strategies (with a link to a free book I wrote for you about that)
  • I’m always happy to see your questions or thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — or right here in (yes) the comments

How to Write (Much Better) Blog Comments

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Copyblogger FM is brought to you by StudioPress, the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins. Built on the Genesis Framework, StudioPress delivers state of the art SEO tools, beautiful and fully responsive design, airtight security, instant updates, and much more. If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why more than 190,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress. That’s RainMaker.FM/StudioPress.

Well hey there, good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant. My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital and I like to hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always find more links, extra resources at the show notes for this podcast. You can find them at Copyblogger.FM, and that’s also where you can get a complete archive for the show.

The Benefits of Leaving Comments on Blogs, Podcasts, or Other Content Venues

Today, I want to talk about a subject that might seem obvious, or it might seem simple, and every single day I am reminded that many people aren’t very good at it. That is leaving a good blog comment. You probably know if you followed us at all for any length of time, Copyblogger turned off comments for quite a while, I think it was over a year. The main reason we did was we just were not seeing super high comment quality. Now, some people were leaving wonderful comments, and then a lot of people were leaving the other kind. Spam comments are one thing and they’re taken care of tolerably well by spam filters.

That wasn’t really the problem. The kind of spam that gets caught in spam filters was not really an issue. The issue was the volume of comments that were really intended for a different purpose other than connecting with the community. Some people on the Copyblogger team hate comments, not all of those people are named Brian Clark, and some people on our team love comments, and not all of those people are me.

The Kinds of Comments We Love

Every one of us loves the real community building kind of comments. It’s always great for all of us to hear from the people who really, truly make up the audience. Folks who are working on their content, interested in content quality, trying to make something happen, and maybe they have a question, or something catches their eye. Those are just awesome and we still love those.

Now, it’s probably worth talking about why leave a comment on a blog at all, other than just you’ve got nothing else to do for the next two minutes. The biggest reason is that commenting on blogs still works. When I say works, what I mean is that one of the biggest questions people have is, “How to expand their audience, especially when your site is new and young? How can you expand your audience, how can you promote your content, how can you get other people to find out who you are and what you’re doing?”

One of the most important ways to do that is to create some conversations and relationships with other content publishers, with other people who have YouTube content, or blog content, podcast content, what have you. The web is a social place and the whole commenting system is a way that we can foster our community, and make connections with each other, and make new connections with people we haven’t met yet. That doesn’t work when people leave comments that feel dodgy or feel spammy.

I wanted to just give some suggestions for folks out there to leave the kinds of contents that are going to open up relationships with the people that … Whose work you respect. Of course, it’s a not very thinly disguised encouragement to come on over to the Copyblogger blog, or this podcast, or both, and leave comments so I can get to know more about who you are and what interests you.

I’m going to give you five things to keep in mind when you’re leaving a comment on someone else’s content. Again, really any kind of content. This also counts on social platforms. The first one is you want to put your best foot forward. Things like, make sure you’ve spelled things properly, make sure that your remarks are reasonably grammatical. Nobody needs to be perfect and things don’t have to be … You’re not submitting a paper to your eighth grade English teacher, but fluency counts and presenting yourself well counts. In my opinion, you must have a Gravatar. You get a Gravatar by going to the Gravatar website, it’s easy to Google, I will give you a link, and just give them the email address that you use when you post comments and put a picture of yourself up there. Your Gravatar needs to be your face.

A Peek Behind the “Comment Spam” Curtain at Copyblogger (Warning: It’s Not Pretty)

Now, once in awhile you can get away with something kind of silly like, a cartoon face. In fact, on one of the email addresses I use sometimes, if I have trouble commenting with my regular one, it has a cartoon face, and that’s sort of okay. What does not work is to have your logo, or to have something else where you’re hiding behind some kind of organizational identity. Because organizational identities cannot get into relationships, and the only reason to comment anywhere is to have good conversations and create relationships. There are now a few sites that will simply throw into the trash any comment that does not have a Gravatar or that has a Gravatar that is a logo. Similarly, we will trash any comment where you use your keywords as your name, or usually, if you use your company name as your name, we will just throw it away.

Part of putting your best foot forward and part of making a good first impression is that, let us know that you’re a person and not, literally a bot, or perhaps some very poorly paid freelancer who’s just going around the web leaving comments, because people believe it has some kind of SEO value. I have no interest in starting a conversation with, “Best SEO agency Atlanta,” and I’m just choosing Atlanta at random.

Now I will definitely talk to you if you work in SEO. I like a lot of people who work in SEO and any glance at my Twitter stream will show you that. What I don’t want to have a conversation with is a collection of keywords. It just makes you look like a spammy jerkface. Okay, so that’s putting your best foot forward, making a good first impression.

How to Make Sure Your Comments are Relevant

The second best practice is please know the site that you’re commenting on. Please actually take some time to familiarize yourself with what’s going on there. You want to comment on sites that you actually know something about. You want to be able to make comments that are relevant. You cannot create the relationships that we’re talking about creating with content publishers with this kind of shotgun approach. I see it all the time. It’s often outsourced, and it’s clear that somebody’s got their little spreadsheet and they’re going down to 30 or 40 blogs a day and leaving a comment. It doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work. You want to find a select group of sites that have content that you really resonate with. It really works for you, you’re really getting it, it’s meaningful to you. Then participate in an ongoing conversation there.

Because I’ll tell you a secret, the first time you comment, nobody is going to notice you, really. You’re just not going to stand out. Although, it does help to have your face in that Gravatar icon, because that starts to give the publisher something to hang onto. “Oh, that Susanna person seemed nice.” Now, when that Susanna person shows up consistently, not every day, not like being the first commenter … That it just becomes so obvious when it’s completely done as a tactic. I just see Susanna fairly regularly and I start to recognize her avatar and she’s participating in an ongoing conversation. Then I start to say, “Oh, Susanna’s cool, I like her. It makes me happy to see her on the site.” For example, and yes, this is absolutely a hint, you could participate in our content challenges at Copyblogger.

We just kicked off the January prompts last week. If you want to do that, let us know in the comments, you know, “How’s it working for you?” Let us know, “I tried this and then that happened,” or let us know that, “I tried the thing you recommended, but I ran into a snag,” or let us know, “I don’t know what it is about me, but I just can’t deal with the Pomodoro method, it gives me hives.” Just have a conversation that’s relevant to what we’ve been talking about.

Another nice way to do this is to ask a relevant question. Something specific like, “Should I try this technique that you’re recommending in this piece of content given the set of circumstances?” Now, you probably don’t want to have five or six pages of explanation, but enough details that we’re talking about a real world scenario, and not just the vague show.

It shows that you’re actually connected to the topic and you’re kind of working with the material and making it your own. That’s really what virtually every content creator wants to see happen. We want to see people who are taking the material and actually doing something with it. That’s a huge win for almost any content creator. We love to hear about what you’re doing.

Make Sure You Have Something to Say

That kind of leads to my number three point, which is, let’s please stop with the vague comments, the content-free comments. “This certainly seems like a high quality site, your advice with this is very good. I will try it.” That just goes right in the trash. It doesn’t say anything. It’s completely meaningless. I mean, it’s an attempt to be pleasant and I like that, rewards for being polite, but it doesn’t contribute anything to the conversation. You can’t create a relationship with a publisher and a relationship with a community, and don’t overlook that element of it, until you actually start sharing something specific about what’s going on with you.

You should realize, if you’re going to use blog comments to widen your network and get to know more people who publish content so you can just organically grow your audience, you should know that as a content publisher, the reason that I have comments on my site is I want to know more about who’s reading, and who’s listening to the podcasts, and what kind of things bug you, and what kind of things work for you, where are you coming from.

The content-free comments, those vague comments, they’re sort of vaguely pleasantly complementary without ever getting specific, they seem like they’re no big deal, they don’t seem like they’re hurting anything, but they create all of this clutter. I gotta tell you, after awhile, they get incredibly irritating. So please just don’t. If you don’t have something to actually say, think about having something to say and post comments on the sites where you actually feel moved to add something to the conversation.

How Not to Be “That Guy”

The fourth kind of best practice or recommendation is really, you have to realize that this is a long game. Commenting on a blog or commenting on a podcast is not going to get you a flood of traffic, it’s not going to help you make your numbers this month, it’s not going to help propel your book to Amazon number one. If you’re using it as that kind of short term tactic, it just shows, it’s so apparent, and it feels creepy. Even if you follow the rules kind of to the letter, the spirit is off and it feels off and your comment’s going to get trashed.

I’ll tell you what that reminds me of. If you’ve ever been to a networking breakfast, like a live thing, and you know that there’s always those couple of people, often guys, but definitely not always guys, who relentlessly hit everybody up with their thing. It’s usually a multi level marketing thing and everybody in the room groans when that guy walks in, because he never asks a question, he never has any curiosity about what anybody else is doing. He’s for sure not there to buy, he’s only there to sell his crummy thing that you could get anywhere.

Nobody likes that guy, do not be that guy. Don’t comment on blogs where you think somehow you’re going to sell something, whatever that means to you. Comment on sites where you’d just really like to make a connection and you’d like to get to know people better, and possibly do some work together at some point down the line. It just needs to really be about making a connection first.

Now, major bonus points if you’re in a situation where you can swing it. If you know the site, or you know that writer from some kind of a connection face to face, so at a conference, a live event of some kind, definitely do say hi. It is so nice to see somebody in the comments, or on Twitter, or a lot of places, if I’ve had a nice conversation with them at a live event somewhere. This applies just as much to conversations on social media, as it does to content comments. It’s really delightful when you can make that connection, it just makes such a difference when I have a real person to connect the Gravatar and the name to. If that’s something that you can do, it really, really is a wonderful way to make a lot better relationships, and make good connections. And then you can maintain those connections with things like comments.

What No One (Except Me) Will Tell You About Playing the Devil’s Advocate

The last piece of advice, a lot of people will not tell you this, but I am going to tell you this, because a lot of people are not telling you the truth. Everybody actually hates the devil’s advocate. There’s always that one person who thinks it’s a good way to get attention to be super contrary and constantly say, “You guys are wrong, this is dumb, lol,” usually ‘lol’ goes in there somewhere.

If you want to be contrarian about somebody’s ideas, whether that person has a big site, small site, I don’t care, do it on your platform. Your platform is a great place to say, “I know everybody thinks those Copyblogger people are smart, but I think they’re totally wrong about this and here’s why.” Then present a cogent, intelligent argument. Smart, well thought out disagreement will do a lot of good on your site. When you come take it to the comments on my site, it’s just kind of annoying.

Now, that in no way means that you’re not allowed to disagree, because that’s just silly and I’m not saying that at all. But, you need to think about how reactive, in fact, how inflamed the social web is, especially right now. If you make a habit of bringing attention to yourself by being contrarian, a) I think it’s a little bit lazy. I’d rather see you actually come up with some ideas. I’d like to see you come up with some recommendations, some … “I think everybody ought to do this, I think this is the way to go and here’s why and here’s my evidence.” A little bit of, “Being a contrarian makes a good seasoning,” but again, do it on your site. It’s just going to get you a lot more benefit and everybody hates that guy.

No one will tell you that, because we all want to think, “Oh, I’m all for constructive criticism,” and everybody’s for constructive criticism in theory. Nobody really likes it. So, if what you’re doing is commenting to create relationships, a real small amount of that goes a long way. Occasional disagreement is fine. Keep it respectful.

The Art of Constructive Disagreement

My dad, who is the world’s biggest crank, really just on the planet, will go on a major tear and then he catches his breath and says, “Well, that’s how I see it. You might see it differently.” I think this is such a good … That’s such a good way to look at things. Yes, it’s okay to disagree, you don’t have to agree with everything we say on Copyblogger, but if you make a point of showing up and telling us how wrong we are, you’re just being irritating. In most subjects there are multiple good approaches, and so a good content publisher is going to kind of choose one path, and they’re going to publish content about the path that they can speak to intelligently and authoritatively.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any other paths, or no other paths exist, or every other path should die in a fire. But, if you have a real different way to do things, be respectful, learn what you can, engage in the conversation, make friends, and then present your way that you think is the right way on your site and pull your own tribe together. There’s no reason we have to fight, or squabble, or any of this silly nonsense. We can all hang out, and be cool, and each have our own point of view about things.

That’s it, five ideas for leaving better comments on blogs, on video, on podcasts, on any piece of content. They also work when you’re leaving a note or a comment on somebody’s social media platform. This is, as you can tell, a hardly disguised at all little bit of motivation. We love to see your comments on Copyblogger. I particularly love to see your comments on Copyblogger.

If you’re going to be joining us for any one of the content challenges, or all of the content challenges, or if you just see something that you find useful, or you’re not sure about, maybe something feels a little bit unclear, I love it when you leave us a comment. Let us know what’s working. Do let us know if something’s not clear or it’s confusing to you and you need something spelled out a little more, because that really helps us create content that works for you, and that’s what we want to do.

Thank you so much. I sincerely hope to see you in the comments. This is Sonia Simone with Copyblogger FM, take care.