Friday, February 29, 2008

Blog Comments Are Give and Take, But They're All Valuable

One of the most powerful features of blogs over traditional websites is the commenting system. Comments posted on your blogs, as well as the comments you post on other blogs, are incredibly valuable.

I'm going to cover commenting on other blogs in a future post as a way to both generate the perception of expertise as well as traffic to your blog.

Today's discussion will focus around comments by others on your blog.

There are five basic types of blog comments, and some individuals will use more than one type in a single comment. They are:
  • Praise
  • Flames
  • Additional thoughts
  • Constructive criticism
  • Spam comments
Praise comments make you feel good. "Jason, you da-man!" I like to leave these on my blog because they make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, however, the truth of the matter is that they don't add much value to your blog. If this is the only comment you get, you're probably not doing a very good job. Part of your job is to stimulate people. Stimulated people will offer more than just praise.

Flames are the opposite of praise. Negative comments posted exclusively to degrade are called "flames". There is even something known as a "flame war" were multiple commenters focus exclusively on arguing with each other, and care little about the points they are arguing.

"Jason, you are an idiot!" (Usually written "Jason, ur a 1d10t!") Doesn't add any value to your blog. I may actually be an idiot, but I look for people to tell me WHY I'm an idiot. I usually delete flames, not because they make me feel bad, but because they don't offer any value at all. If all you get are the occasional flame, you may respond to a couple of them with "tell me why..." and try to get some discussion going. Even flames are better than no comments at all.

Additional Thoughts are blog comments that offer more information. Sometimes it's a tangent thought stimulated by your article, other times the comments fill gaps in the article. These are incredibly valuable. It demonstrates that people enjoy your blog and find it interesting enough to contribute. Highly successful blogs will have at least a few comments on almost every entry.

Constructive criticism is by far the most valuable type of comment. Having the ability to take these criticisms in stride, and creating a bit of controversy, is healthy for your blog. If you respond to these criticisms, in a professional manner, it strengthens your blog readership. Read a newspaper or watch a TV newscast and you'll find that controversial articles are almost always the lead story. US election coverage is the most prime example. There's far more coverage in the media about who's winning and losing then there is about the candidates individual stances on issues. For better or worse, this is why people keep coming back.

The last type is Spam commenting. Spam can take two forms. First, the computer-generated form where software searches out blogs and adds comments are completely irrelevant complete with a link to a website selling something. I hate this spam, and do what I can do to avoid it. If I can't avoid it, I simply delete it as quickly as possible.

The second form of Spam I take a bit more likely. It's when human bloggers and webmasters post these comments manually, complete with a link. I know that their main purpose is getting a link from my website to theirs. If their comment adds value, and also happens to direct my readers back to their own website, I'm okay with that. I'm more okay with it if their website is actually on the same subject as my own. This is actually a good strategy for generating links to your website, and I respect those bloggers. They're simply trying to contribute to the blogosphere. If their comment is not on target, their website is not on the same subject, or if they take advantage of my generosity by posting several comments daily, it will use my delete button.

I got my first comments on a post a few days to go. It was on a post called... Money Making Tips for Your Blog. It was a constructive criticism with a little flame flavor. Some of the comments were a little harsh, and a little discouraging. But I left them on, and I'm going to respond to them gradually. Well I think I would have enjoyed my first comments to be ones of praise, these are actually more valuable to my blog. Come back soon to read my responses.
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