5 of the Most Engaging Blog Comment Areas & Why They Work So Well

23 Intelligent Opinions

why so serious, ann arbor?
Creative Commons License photo credit: erin MC hammer

I don’t do much right here on Blog Tyrant (due to laziness) but it is clear that I do get a lot of comments. Normally its between 60 and 90 and sometimes as much as 250.

And as much as I bang on about the importance of email subscribers, the comments I get on this blog from my amazing readers is what keeps me going. It is what makes the blog appear alive and well and it is those comment-leaving angels that spread the word on social media.

In this post I want to show you some of the most engaging comment areas that you will find on a blog and talk about why they work so well. Hopefully it will inspire you to update and tweak your own comment areas in order to make them more attractive and enticing to your readers.

Getting comments ain’t just about your writing

I have written quite a lot about getting more blog comments over the past few months. Ever since Blog Tyrant exploded on the scene and started getting huge comment numbers after just four or five posts I have been getting lots of requests about how its done.

And while I normally tell people that it is about things like reader engagement, scarcity and personality, it is also about the way your comment area looks.

If you can make your comment area attractive and enticing then you give your writing a little leg up. Having an attractive comment area is not going to magically make people want to chat with you on your blog, but it get a few who otherwise might have left.

Before we start
Before we start I should mention that there really are two parts to a good comment area:

  • The link text/area
    This is the text at the top or bottom of the post that encourages people to leave a comment and shows a comment count.
  • The comment area itself
    This is obviously the part where you write your comments.

To have an engaging blog comment area you want to make sure both of these are rocking.

The most engaging blog comment areas

Let’s dive right into it and take a look at some of the best comment areas out there. And, as usual, if you know of one that I have missed please leave a comment and let me know.

1. The Huffington Post: Video game style commenting

As much as I don’t love the Huff Post’s journalistic style, there is no denying that Adrianna Huffington has built a hugely engaging blog. In fact, it is probably the most successful blog of all time.

huffington post
Color for top users, Twitter feeds, following ability and rewards.

huffington post comments
A shot of what happens when you put your mouse over the comment reward badges.

And as far as blog comment go, it is massive. Many articles get well over 2,000 comments. It is the absolute pinnacle of how to get people engaged because they have their own extremely addictive system where people register, log in and then get awards for commenting a certain number of times. You can even follow people’s comments, vote them up and recommend them to friends. It is a hugely engaging comment area.

If you look at just one of these selections today it should be this one. Go and study how they do it and then find a way to incorporate it on to your blog.

2. Mashable: Stuff to share

Mashable understands that tech-savvy people need lots of stuff to share. We become bored easily. And their comment area is just that; a simple way to interact with people and share your knowledge of the web’s “coolest” news.

mashable
As always, Mashable doing it right. Social comment areas are important.

Take a look at the screen shot above and you will see that everything you need is right in one place. Actually visit the site and you will notice that the sidebar full of social media sharing icons travels along with you as you go down the page. You can also follow other commenters, vote up your favorite comments and, like at Huffington Post, earn some lame little badges.

And while I trivialize those badges, they are HUGELY important for making people feel part of a clan. This is the best way to grow your user engagement over the long term. I wrote about it on Problogger here.

3. SEOmoz: Stats and status

SEOmoz is probably the leading site for learning about SEO. And it is owned by Rand Fishkin who, apart from having ultra cool sneakers, once told me that he liked my About page. Their comment section is unique because it gives you stats and shows your status on their site.

seo moz comments
This really is just cool.

As you can see here, if you click the little stats button it crunches some data and then pulls up the statistics of the post. Very cool. This is all in the comment area which helps to get people engaged and, I imagine, encourages them to often go down to the bottom where, funnily enough, the comment section resides.

seo moz comments
Nice tie. Showing the yellow ribbon helps to promote your premium space as well.

The second part to their engaging comments is the little yellow ribbon that shows which successful soul has purchased into their pro system. This is fantastic for engagement because, as mentioned with the others, it elevates people’s status and makes them feel special.

4. Copyblogger: Simplicity and order

I often mention Brian Clark in these posts because he is a lawyer and I am scared of him. No not really. I mention him because I want him to Tweet out my post.

Copyblogger
Simplicity is one of Brian’s best qualities.

Seriously now. What Copyblogger does so well here is keep it simple. The latest re-design of the site keeps every minimal and functional and has very limited fluff to confuse readers.

But, the hidden feature here is the prominence of the “Comment Policy”. Its a well kept secret that by adding a comment policy and creating some rules you often encourage more engagement because people know the playing field.

Don’t doubt the power of outlining it for your super-inexperienced readers.

5. Smashing Magazine: Simply the best… comments
Smashing Magazine is one of my all-time favorite websites that constantly produces huge and magnificent articles on stuff you just would never have thought about. The comment section is alright.

smashing magazine
Filter out what you don’t love.

The thing I really like about this is the ability to filter the comment by timeline or by most popular. It is a good way to get rid of all the “Great post!” comments that people like to leave.

This is very important for your non-commenting readers as it gives them a very useful resource. I would really like to implement that here because we have so many incredibly useful conversations in the comments section and it would be nice to filter them according to popularity.

Some handy comment plugins and resources for WordPress

A lot of these features require some pretty advanced coding. But some of them don’t. Here are a few little plugins that you can add to your blog to spice up your comment area.

  • Subscribe to comments
    Let’s people subscribe to comments and be notified of replies by email.
  • Disqus
    I don’t love it but some people think its the bee’s knees.
  • GD Star Rating
    Get some rating love in your comments area.
  • Comment Luv
    Gets an article from the commenters blog and gives them a link in your comment area.
  • Author Highlight
    Helps you to stand out from the crowd.

Which is your favorite?

Getting comments on your blog is a really nice thing. By changing the way your comment area looks and works you can sometimes make it more attractive and addictive to your readers. Please let me know which one (or feature) is your favorite and why. I’d love to get some feedback on this.

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23 Comments... Leave yours.

  • Marcus September 29, 2011 at 5:42 am

    Personally, I like simple comment areas (like on Blog Tyrant!). When there are too many social network widgets and other distractions, I don’t know where to click next.

    One of my favorite places to read comments is on Six Revisions, a blog for web designers and developers. I often learn as much from the informed comments on there as from the articles themselves! For example, tools and resources that the article might have missed.

    That “Author Highlight” plugin would be useful, to quickly read how an author responds to a comment. However, it hasn’t been updated since 2008. For me, that’s a deal-breaker. I don’t use WordPress plugins that haven’t been updated in over one year.

    One comment plugin I’m curious to try out is “Comment Rating.” Ryan Imel did a video review of it on WP Candy for “The Sweet Plugin of the Day.” It adds a Digg-style functionality where users can vote comments up and down based on quality. Sort of like crowdsourcing your comment moderation to your readers.

    An alternative to Disqus I’ve heard good things about is Livefyre. They popped on my radar, when WPBeginner, one of my favorite blogs on WordPress, wrote about switching to Livefyre.

    I’m curious to know what people think of using Facebook Comments? TechCrunch and some other prominent blogs are using it. I can see how that might cut down on offensive flamebait, if people are using their real names on Facebook. Although some people might be overly nice and afraid to reveal their true feelings.

    But I’m not sure about having Facebook (or any third-party site) holding your content. Comments are a part of a blog’s content.

    Some methods that generate comments:

    –Have a controversial headline that readers are motivated to reply to.

    –Ask a question at the end of the post or invite readers to share their thoughts.

    –Reply to readers. I think users are more likely to leave a comment if they think the author will reply back.

    –Blog Tyrant tip: write an article that’s extensive enough to be useful, but not so exhaustively detailed that it leaves nothing for readers to comment on.

    By the way, I liked the wrap-up of WordPress plugins at the end. That’s so helpful!

    Sometimes I’ll read a great article with awesome advice to use on my blog. But then I’ll stumble over how to implement the new tactics, because the writer didn’t name which WordPress plugins could add those features.

    Good work.

    1. the Blog Tyrant September 29, 2011 at 8:24 pm

      Hey Marcus.

      Great comment as always!

      I have read a few thing about FB comments and I’m not sure I’m sold on them for all the reasons you suggest. It’s like losing some of your content.

    2. Roland Kopp-Wichmann October 3, 2011 at 2:02 am

      Hi Marcus,
      thanks for the tip with “Comment rating”. I installed it on my blog and it looks and works fine.

  • Rachelle September 29, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I think that all these gadgets add a lot of good stuff and pretty design may help with comments, but I comment here more than anywhere and there’s a few reasons why.

    1 – Here comments are a conversation, and you comment back on what we say

    2 – The other commenters here are smart and funny and have interesting things to say and viewpoints. This often leads me to comment on their comment.

    3 – Why there are no trolls here I don’t know but there is a bit of a family/safe space here where everyone’s viewpoint is respected.

    That about covers it…

    1. Marcus September 29, 2011 at 4:10 pm

      Rachelle, I totally agree about the safe and family atmosphere of the Blog Tyrant’s comment section.

      In fact, that sense of trust is why Blog Tyrant was the first website where:

      –I wrote comments. I’ve been using the Internet for a long time, but only in the last year did I get up the courage to leave comments on my favorite blogs.

      –I subscribed to an e-mail newsletter. I never signed up for one before, because I was worried about spam. After having such a good experience with Blog Tyrant, I subscribed to the newsletters of other great blogs.

      –I downloaded an ebook. Before, I was suspicious of them. You know, “If it’s free, it can’t be good.” Loved Blog Tyrant’s book on building an e-mail list, and was encouraged to get more from bloggers I look up to. I’ve got enough free ebooks to practically have an entire “make money online” training course now! It’s amazing how generous some successful bloggers are with sharing advice.

      1. the Blog Tyrant September 29, 2011 at 8:25 pm

        Thanks guys. That means an awful lot to me.

  • Joe Hage September 29, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Tyrant,

    Each of the examples you gave hail from very trafficked blogs. They are popular because they consistently give value.

    I believe the number of comments is driven by those who like to engage with lots of people … maybe even get their content noticed. The payoff for these people is much lower and less likely for less trafficked blogs.

    In other words, volume begets volume.

    I’m not selling memberships (no “Pro Member”) application for me. I have too few readers to give away badges and, since mine is a niche category, I suspect the VP of marketing from some medical device company won’t likely want a badge anyway.

    I do like SEOMoz’s “do you like this post,” though. I may have to incorporate that one.

    1. Mike Reeves-McMillan September 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm

      I agree, Joe, it’s hard to build up a lot of comment momentum when you don’t have much traffic. And some niches will be harder than others. If you’re blogging about blogging, your audience groks comments, but I’m in the personal development space and most of my readers aren’t very web-savvy at all.

      A lot of them aren’t on social media, for example, so using a FB/Twitter login system completely wouldn’t work.

      I use Disqus on one of my sites, like the look and feel, but not so much that I’ve taken it over to the other site (which has a more minimal visual style).

      Subscribe to Comments is a must – it annoys me when sites don’t have it, because I want to know if the site owner or other readers have replied to my comment. (I actually have the Subscribe to Comments Reloaded version, which has a couple more features.)

      CommentLuv is great if, again, you have a blogging audience.

      As well as the plugins mentioned above, I use Newsletter Signup so that people can subscribe to my newsletter when leaving a comment.

      1. the Blog Tyrant September 29, 2011 at 8:27 pm

        I disagree with both of you guys (politely) but I’m super busy now so will reply later. Thanks for the comments!

    2. Martyn October 1, 2011 at 11:02 am

      This is exactly what I was thinking too. :D

  • Andrew September 29, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Some of these things (like the note on comment policy) I just hadn’t thought of – thanks BT.

    1. the Blog Tyrant September 29, 2011 at 8:27 pm

      No worries champ.

  • Ralph September 29, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    I’ve tried LiveFyre on a different website of mine and was very pleased with the result. But after a while I saw that comments started to appear in the SPAM folder, even if they put in the capture or were logged in.

    Facebook comments, yeah.. still not persuaded.

    Currently installed the Commluv Premium plugin for more flexibility and more features for the one who is actually commentating.

    Used Discus for a while but that just gave me the absolute shits as items wouldn’t load properly even if I love it on other websites and it works fine there..

    Have a great long weekend everyone (who lives in Australia)

    1. the Blog Tyrant October 1, 2011 at 8:08 pm

      Have you seen any increases in comments with Commluv?

      1. Ralph October 1, 2011 at 8:19 pm

        I really just installed it yesterday as commentluv has a sale on their premium plugin.

  • Deeone September 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I’ve been using CommentLuv on my new site. Although this is my third blog, only my second self-hosted one, I really haven’t learned the differences in all the different comment plugins. This was a very insightful post. And I’m digging everyone’s comments as well. I like the vibe here in your community.

    Just when I think I know everything there is about a part of the blogosphere, I soon find out that there is something else to be learned. :)It’s all good! Keep bringing that awesome information and insight chap, and I’ll continue soaking up as much as I can to get better. Thanks for sharing! ;)

    1. the Blog Tyrant October 1, 2011 at 8:08 pm

      Thanks Deeone. Glad you like it.

  • Sire October 1, 2011 at 5:44 am

    As far as I’m concerned the best way to get comments on your blog, as far as comment forms are concerned, is by following the keep it simple rule. People will leave comments as long as they don’t have to jump through hoops to do it. This means forgoing captchas and keeping the default comment system.

    I’ve found that installing third party comment systems actually turns a lot of people away.

    1. the Blog Tyrant October 1, 2011 at 8:09 pm

      Hi Sire. Which third party systems in particular?

      1. Sire October 1, 2011 at 10:10 pm

        Basically any comment system that required you to log in to leave a comment.

  • Scott Kindred | SafeHouse Web October 2, 2011 at 3:13 am

    Alrighty, BT. Here’s my image homage for this particular post: I love the Joker. “Joker” happens to be my nickname at the poker table – you know, like Phil Hellmuth – “Poker Brat” or Doyle Brunson – “Dolly” or Greg “Fossilman” Raymer. The lists go on forever and I don’t make the kind of money those guys do. Now, whether or not the graffiti on the image you used is present for editorial highlight, I can’t be sure. But I am sure that the image itself is engaging :)

    But,the real sweetness in this post is the verbal image. One that I am hoping your mastery of the Photo Dropper plugin will help transition from just verbiage to actual image: bee’s knees!

  • Elisabeth October 6, 2011 at 9:16 am

    I also like being able to subscribe to comments and I think it’s a very important feature to use. Really dislike all the hoops I have to go through with people who have blogs on blogger.

    I took your suggestion and added the comment luv plugin.

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