To Reply or Not to Reply to Blog Comments – That is the Question

blog commentsThis is a guest post from Alexandrea Roman, who is an EFL instruction materials writer for business English language learners across Europe. She is also a freelance writer for various websites. She co-writes for the blog The Background Story.

Bloggers love to joke about hunching over their computers and refreshing the page every five
minutes to see if any comment comes in for a recently published post. Well, many of them aren't exactly kidding. It's a well-known fact that most bloggers live for comments!

Comments let business bloggers know that not only do people read their content, but that people also care enough about it to leave a reaction. Whether it's positive or negative is another story – suffice to say, either one beats being ignored.

Given how precious comments are, it's not surprising to see business bloggers -- especially the newer ones -- respond to every comment they get. But as a blog grows, replying to every comment can be impractical and time-consuming. It can also be quite frustrating for those readers who are subscribed to comments. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine getting an email notification for every “Thank you!” you leave behind. A couple wouldn't be so bad, but what about hundreds of responses? That can be quite annoying.

However, leaving all comments unanswered is not a good thing, either. An interactive blog attracts more visitors, which is something all bloggers aspire to have. This leaves you to go for the middle ground. It's not always easy to determine which comments you should reply to, but here are five guidelines to follow that can make the decision easier:

1) Comments with questions – This one is pretty obvious. When your readers ask you something, they expect to hear from you. Basic Internet etiquette calls for you to answer their questions. So yes, reply to this kind of comments and get those exchanges of ideas going.

2) Comments with stories/anecdotes/discussions – Some readers enjoy expanding on your content with their own input. Whether you agree with them or not, if people found the time to type something lengthy and insightful to your post, it's a great idea for you to carry on with the dialogue.

3) Comments with disagreeing ideas – Not everyone will see things the way you see them. Some people will leave comments to let you know that they disagree with you. It's easy to gloss over them, but why do that when you can start meaningful discussions instead? Just make sure to be polite when replying, and do keep an open mind. It's counterproductive to get
into an online fight, so don't confuse a disagreeing idea with an offensive or hurtful comment. The latter should be deleted immediately.

4) Comments from first-time visitors – Acknowledge new readers (especially subscribers) by replying to their comments. It's a good way to make them feel welcome, and it can also
encourage them to return to your blog again and again. However, take note that some
people leave comments just once and never go back again. They do this not because they
feel strongly about your content, but because they just want a link back to their site. You
can easily tell them apart from truly interested readers because they don't have anything
more substantial to say other than “Great post” or a variant of it. You can also prevent against that by making every link in the comments section a "no follow", so it doesn't count toward SEO credit.

5) Comments from frequent visitors – Even a modestly successful blog has avid followers.
Engage in conversation with your blog's loyal fans every now and then. This is the best way
for you to get to know them. After all, the more you know your readers, the more you know
what kind of content appeals to them. If you engage with these people, it's likely you can convert them into a lead and/or customer.

Still feeling guilty about not replying to all comments? Here's a final tip: Comment on your readers' blogs instead. That's the best way you can show your gratitude. Hits and comments thrill them as much as they thrill you, so you better return the favor.