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James Perrin

The Importance Of Comments And How To Get More Of Them

10th Dec 2013 Content Marketing 7 minutes to read

09-12-2013 17-09-01How do you measure the success of your content marketing or blog? Page views, rankings, earned links, conversions, sales or other? Whatever metric you decide to use, it needs to be related to the overall goal of the piece.

With that in mind, have you ever considered comments as a way of measuring the success of your content?

If not, you should. Here’s why.

Do You Need Comments?

Whilst it may sound like a no-brainer to most digital marketers, there is some debate as to whether comments are an indication of popularity or user engagement. For some digital marketers, metrics like rankings and page views hold more weight; and whilst that isn’t strictly untrue, to rule out comments as a valuable metric is slightly foolish.

Sure, there will be blog posts and pieces of content that get far more page views than comments; and as long as the goal or objective of the piece is to encourage traffic rather than engagement, then there’s no doubt that in this instance comments fall by the wayside. However, as any digital marketer will tell you, never put all of your eggs in one basket.

Solely concentrating on one metric is short sighted. The digital landscape is more involved with social media than ever before, and building a community around your brand is just as important as appearing higher up the search rankings [See: Is Community Building More Important Than SEO?]. The truth is, outstanding digital marketing draws on a number of facets; social, content, search, paid media – it’s all just as important as one another. It’s called (buzzword warning) ‘being holistic’.

Therefore, make sure it is a goal and objective of your content marketing to encourage user engagement. It’s worth noting that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to comments; after all, no one likes spam. The real judgement comes down to what is being said and shared; what additional value do they add to the piece? In some instances, they can take on a life of their own and arguably be more interesting and entertaining than the piece itself.

So don’t accept comments for the sake of it. Encouraging quality is beneficial for a number of reasons.

Why Are Comments Important?

09-12-2013 17-17-25

Build relationships

Whether it’s for business or pleasure, having people engaging with you on a piece of content is an excellent way to start and build a relationship. This is why quality is so important. From a business perspective, people do business with people; so whether it’s for marketing or sales, comments are a brilliant way of expanding your network and building those all-important relationships.

Gain readers

Anyone that takes the time to read your content and comment is likely to have a lasting impression left in their mind of your content, blog and site. It is therefore likely that they will return or set up a blog feed to read future posts, especially if you take the time to respond to them and build that all important relationship.

Create an online community

One that’s been touched on already, it’s incredibly important to build a community of followers around your brand. This builds on the previous two points and the effect of gaining readers and building those relationships creates brand advocates and brand angels; those that will help promote your content and brand on your behalf.

Build authority

Not to sound too hypocritical as I did say that quality is more important than quantity, but when you see a piece of content with a good number of social shares, as well as comments, it can indicate a certain authority. Now, I have to stress that it won’t make a bit of difference if they are just spam as once people dig into the comments this can give them a negative view of your brand.

Exposure to new markets and niches

By leaving comments yourself you’ll be getting your name and brand out on other areas of the Internet amongst different sectors, industries, groups and so on. This is a great way to gain additional exposure amongst untouched or niche areas. Be sure to leave your name, website and email address (if asked) so people can get in touch with you or see where you’re from.

SEO Benefits

Using comments as an SEO tactic isn’t anything new. Whilst it’s not black hat per se, it’s like anything else, if you’re supplying quality (and adding value to the post) then it’s fine. If, however, your intentions are to purely build links through placing spammy quotes all over the web, then it’ll come back to bite you.

Quality link building is certainly one benefit, but by allowing comments on your own site you’ll also benefit from having fresh updates (an important signal to search engines that your site is being kept up-to-date and active). Adding them also allows your content to rank for other keywords that you may not necessarily be ranking for in the main body copy.

Have I missed a benefit? Or do you have something you’d like to share on any of the points above? Let me know your thoughts.

How To Encourage More Comments?

Ask questions

Wherever you can, ask actual questions, rather than rhetorical ones. If you give people a reason to share their thoughts, then they’re more likely to do so; especially if you’re looking for quality comments. One tactic is to place questions at the end of the piece, and to keep them fairly broad. This will allow users to respond with a variety of answers, rather than being constrained to a certain response.

Start a debate

Look to create content that divides opinion. You can either take a stance on the topic, or act as a moderator of opinions. Either way, by presenting a number of views (however polarised) it’s likely that you’ll ignite or trigger a response from your users. It’s worth mentioning that you shouldn’t do this for every post, but rather use this tactic sporadically.

Have conviction in the points you’re making

This doesn’t necessarily mean to say you should take a stance and aggressively argue your case. But instead of presenting two sides of an argument, why not take one side and argue your case with more conviction? You don’t necessarily even need to present a debate, but simply make your points with persuasion. This will help to stir the pot and get people talking.

Be inspiring

Offer something that people have never seen before. This comes back to quality over quantity, and so if your content is completely unique or offers pearls of wisdom which add true value to a topic, niche, industry or sector, it’s likely that users will comment, either to contribute or praise your efforts.

Be topical

If you strike when the iron’s hot, not only will you drive more traffic to your content, but the messages will come flooding in as well. Whether it’s the latest industry news, an event, or your take on something popular that has happened, if you create content when there is a demand for it, and it resonates with your audience, then it’s more likely people will comment on it.

Be active

Blogging and commenting isn’t a one way street. If you’re waiting to receive lots of chat on your blog without getting out there and doing your bit on other blogs, then you’ll be waiting for a long time. Contribute something worthwhile and something insightful. Leave tips, ask questions and keep going back. This is a good way of building up relationships and encouraging others to contribute to your content.

Make sure you reply

At the very least you should thank the user for sharing their thoughts, and touch on what they have contributed. This lets them know you’ve taken the time to read what they’ve said and acknowledged their contribution. To take this further you could ask a question back and keep the conversation/debate going. Receiving attention like this goes a long way and users will only be too happy to share your content more, or keep coming back for more.

Make it easy for users

If your blog or site has a comment section as standard then great; this can always be coded to be presented in a way more akin to the theme of your site. Alternatively, you can download a plugin, like Disqus. These have become a lot more popular in the last few years and as such more people have accounts set up, making it even easier for them to login and share their thoughts.

When it comes to approving comments, make sure you do this swiftly. Don’t leave your users waiting; not only does this look lazy and unprofessional, it looks like you don’t care either. To help filter the spam use Akismet.

Is there anything YOU would like to add? Whether you agree or disagree on the importance of comments or you have another tip you’d like to share on encouraging users to comment, let me know.

Image Credits

Speech Bubble via BigStock
Couple on laptop via BigStock

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