|English: comments (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Try to take a look at your blog as if you are a first-time visitor. Is it readily apparent within 2-3 seconds what your blog is about? Is your blog layout conducive to commenting? Will it be clear to a first-time visitor that you want comments and how to leave one? Is it clear which social media services you use and how to follow your blog? Are your recent posts (or popular posts if you prefer to feature those) positioned well on your sidebar?
The most important preliminary consideration of all involves the amount of traffic your blog is currently bringing in. Why? Only a small fraction of your visitors will ever be regular commenters. In fact, I'd estimate no more than 2% of your visitors will be what you might call regular commenters. That means you are probably better off focusing on increasing your traffic than worrying about the number of comments you are receiving. I would go so far as to recommend that if you are averaging fewer than 500 pageviews/day, you are probably better off focusing on increasing your traffic and readership rather than worrying about the number of comments you receive.
Assuming you do have the sort of traffic from which you can reasonably build a base of commenters, we can talk about some post-writing strategies. Are you writing posts on which readers will want to comment? Here are some tips:
- Use descriptive post titles. A reader should never have to click on your post title to find out what the post is about. Most people are going to decide whether to read it based on the title, so be descriptive. This is probably the single most important recommendation I can offer for both increasing traffic and attracting comments. It is also one of the most common errors I see.
- Posting something that elicits a "Well, duh!" reaction or a "Yeah, so?" response from your readers is unlikely to generate much comment activity. I find that I generally receive more comments on thought-provoking posts because I have given the readers something with which to engage.
- Are there specific things you want your readers to comment on or address in their comments? If so, try asking them. I would not overuse this method (e.g., ending every post with, "Your thoughts?" drives me crazy), but asking questions can be effective when used sparingly.
- How often are you posting? Even if your daily traffic is fairly high, you may find that many posts require some time for reader engagement. Many readers will not be able to visit your blog every day, and the most recent post is often the one that receives the most attention.
I'll conclude by addressing one of the most common recommendations I see other bloggers giving those who want to increase their comment activity: controversy. My experience has been that a controversial post often does lead to more comments. This may happen because the controversial subject matter attracts more visitors. It may also happen because readers find such content more thought-provoking. And of course, it may also happen because such a post upsets some people. Personally, I think my best posts are those that challenge readers a bit, pushing them to step outside their comfort zone and consider alternative viewpoints. At the same time, I think it is possible to do this without being overly controversial.
Is there a danger in doing controversy for the sake of controversy? Absolutely. However, I think it is helpful to remember that a post can be controversial because it deals with a subject on which opinions will likely be divided, and this is not the same thing as writing a post attacking someone. As you are well aware, there are rage bloggers who have made names for themselves largely by attacking others. I'm not going to recommend that particular approach, but I do have to acknowledge that it has been quite effective for some.