Getting your readers actively involved on your blog will have several positive effects. Active readers are much more likely to regularly read your posts rather than skipping over them in their RSS reader. Involved readers will also be more loyal and probably long-term subscribers. Additionally, they will make your posts more interesting to other readers by adding valuable insight and simply showing that you have an interested audience.
So how can you get your readers to be more involved and leaving their comments and feedback? We’ll take a quick look at 10 things you can start doing today to increase the level of participation.
1 – Ask Questions in Your Posts – This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to solicit reader feedback, directly ask for it. Asking for reader comments shows your readers that you value their opinions and questions. In fact, some readers may not even think about commenting unless you ask them to.
2 – Use Polls or Surveys – This can help you to learn more about your audience while getting them involved in a different way. Polls and surveys can be used for an endless number of reasons, but many blogs have successfully used them to poll readers on which topics they would like to be covered on the blog. Polls also help to encourage repeat traffic as the visitors will hopefully come back to see the end results. You can get a free poll at PollDaddy.com.
3 – Link to Your Readers – Nothing makes your readers feel more appreciated than when you link to their blogs. You can increase the level of loyalty and encourage them to keep coming back and keep commenting by linking to them. David Culpepper of PureBlogging does this very effectively. At the end of each week he links to the readers that have been the most active in the comments. As you can imagine, David’s posts have plenty of good interaction from readers.
4 – Get Involved on the Blogs of Your Readers – This is a great subtle way to encourage readers to leave more feedback at your blog. Every day I visit at least one or two blogs of readers who left comments on my blog, and I repay the favor. I know other bloggers do this too, because I’ve been on the other end.
5 – Respond to Comments and Answer Questions – If one of your readers asks you a question in the comments of your blog, do your best to answer it for them by responding with your own comments. Most readers like to see a blogger that interacts with readers throughout the comments. Don’t think that your work is done once the post is published. Readers are more likely to participate if they think you will respond.
6 – Email First-Time Commentators – If your blog doesn’t receive a lot of comments, make an effort to personally email each visitor the first time they leave a comment. Just let them know that you appreciate them taking the time to visit and comment. I’ve been amazed at the positive responses I have received from doing this.
If your blog gets too many comments to respond manually, try using a plugin. The Comment Relish plugin is a great option for WordPress users. It sends an automated email (that you can customize) to each visitor when they leave their first comment (and only on their first comment). Whether you do this manually or automatically, it gives you one more chance to get your name and your link in front of your visitors and it encourages repeat visits and even more comments.
7 – Show the Top Commentators – Many blogs list the names and links of the visitors who have left the most comments (usually for a month at a time). Readers may want to comment more to get their name and link on your blog for all of your readers to see. It’s a nice way to reward those who are active. WordPress users can accomplish this with the Show Top Commentators plugin.
8 – Remove No Follow Tags – One somewhat controversial method of increasing reader participation is to remove the no follow tags that are included by default on links left in the comments. By removing the no follow tags search engines will recognize and follow links to your readers’ blogs. Andy Beard has an extensive list of DoFollow and NoFollow plugins.
9 – Listen to Your Readers – When your readers make suggestions, listen to them and take their advice into consideration. They’ll be more likely to stay involved if they know you’re listening and valuing their opinions.
10 – Show the Number of Comments on a Post in Your Feed – FeedBurner users can set the FeedFlare to include a count of comments. If your RSS readers see that there are comments on your post they may click through to see what’s been said and leave comments of their own. To do this, log in to FeedBurner, click on the Optimize tab and select FeedFlare. From there you’ll see the option to add comment counts.