Monday, October 10, 2011

Top 3 Things Well-Meaning Bloggers Do That Drive Readers Nuts

Do you want people to read your blog and comment?  Make it easy for them!

These are the Top 3 Things Well-Meaning Bloggers Do That Drive Me Readers Nuts.  

1) Word Verification on Comments

Why This is Annoying:  Unless you're Dooce, your blog isn't going to get that much spam.  This just adds another hoop for readers to jump through.  (And who can figure out what that upside-down word is anyway?) 

What the Big Guns Do:  You know those book blogs with 1397 followers and 68 comments on every single one of their reviews?  You know why they have so many comments?  They make it easy for their readers.  One click and you can move on.  This encourages people to comment away.

In the 4 years that I've had 5 different blogs, I've gotten ONE spam comment.  I'm still playing Little League with my under 200 followers, but even the Big Guns don't pain their readers with extra steps.  If you get - gawd forbid - ONE spam comment in your 4 years, just delete it.  Not that big of a deal.  

2) Partial-Feed for Readers

Why This is Annoying:  Avid blog readers subscribe to hundreds of feeds (I do).  The way we get through them all is by going quickly through our reader (I actually try to read every single blog).

Your followers don't have time to click through to every post. Please.  Make it easy for them. 

What the Big Guns Do:  In the last 6 months I've written to four blogs asking that they turn their full feed on.  That's how much I want to read your blogs.   Blogs with followers in the thousands replied yes.  Only one blog I've written to declined, but I guess they get a free pass since the god of writing advice Donald Maass is one of their bloggers.  Even then, I only click through when the link looks really good.  Instead, I spend my time reading your blogs with the friendly full feeds.

(I click on all of Donald Maass' posts.  He's a genius.)

3) Responding to Comments In Your Own Comments

Why This is the All-Time Most Annoying:  In essence, you're expecting your readers to hang around your blog, revisiting your posts day after day just to see if you've responded.  

Avid bloggers like me comment as much as possible.  They can barely remember whose blogs they last commented on, much less which post.  After a while, readers think you don't really care about their comments and will just stop.

What the Big Guns Do:  There are several work-arounds I've seen and I'll do my best to give you the pros and (mostly) cons of each of them.  Remember, I'm describing ease of use for the commenter, not the blog owner.
  • Blogger: there is an option to subscribe to comments by email or in a feeder.  Who the heck wants to subscribe to a comments feed?!?
  • WordPress: same option to subscribe, which ends up with a cluttered inbox full of other people's un-related comments and I have to log into my WordPress account to in order to unsubscribe once I finish reading the one response to me.  Highly annoying.  
  • Disqus: a little unwieldy to sign up for and link all your logins, but once you've set it up, it will email you comment responses to you and you alone.  Not a bad option.
  • Intense Debate: same as Disqus but easier to sign up for.
All of these still keep the conversation on your blog, which is a sneaky way to drive more traffic to you, but this is too selfish a tactic for me.

My Work Around: Commenting back.  Simple.  Respectful.  Supportive.  And shows other people that you care about what they have to say on their blog too, not just your own.  Sometimes I'll tweet the other person my response.  Email if it's a longer conversation.  The rare instance I comment on my own blog is to answer a question that other readers would want to see the answer to as well.  

The bottom line is - keep the conversation going.  It's a back and forth thing.  Make it easy to be your follower.

*These tips apply to regular ol' bloggers, not professional bloggers who earn substantial income from blogging.

55 comments:

  1. All of these things drive me crazy too! #3 I partially blame on blogger having a crappy comment system.

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  2. All right, all right. I'll turn the word verification off. :) I think I've been meaning to but keep forgetting. As for #3, I agree that it's partially because Blogger's commenting system could be better. :P

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  3. Oh how I hate word verification. When you read multiple blogs it makes commenting time consuming, which makes the reader less inclined to bother.

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  4. lol love this! the word verification is annoying..now let me go check if i have this on mine!

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  5. I agree on word verification, and have absolutely no idea if I have it turned on over at my blog or not... going to check. I will say I've only been up six months and I've already had four spam comments. Easy to spot, but that's one reason why I moderate the comments.

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  6. I'm guilty of the last one. I try to be reciprical but soemtimes those intentions get pushed aside in favor of more writing and real life activities. It can be a tough balance to achieve, but it's important to acknowledge those who have already given their time to comment. Thanks for the reminder :)

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  7. Word verification is AWFUL. I'm really fast when I'm typing and submitting. I regularly close a box just as I see that I had a verification word to type in. And you know what? I'm not going to retype my comment. I just shrug and move on.

    I'm also not crazy about comment moderation. When I write a comment, I'd like to see it right away. I also like to read other people's comments, so if moderation is enabled, the "real time conversation" ceases to exist.

    I do reply on comments in my own comments thread. I use Intense Debate. If I have time, I comment on every single comment. If I don't have time, then I just comment on the ones that bring up questions or try to deepen the conversation. I visit and comment on tons of blogs through my reader, but I don't think that that takes the place of acknowledging and continuing a conversation that I started on my own blog.

    When new people comment on my blog, I add them automatically to my reader. If they hold my interest, then I keep visiting and commenting. If they don't, then eventually I delete them.

    The whole partial-feed thing is annoying, because it's so obviously a stats game. I use bloglovin to manage my blog subscriptions, and I love it because it takes me directly to the page and lets me comment without clicking on any links.

    And wow...I think I should win an award for overly-involved-and-wordy commenting.

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  8. Thanks Sophia for this info--especially #3. I have been wondering what is the best system for replying. At first I started replying under each person's comment, but then as I read more and more blogs I realized there was pretty much no way I was going to be a part of those conversations (and vice versa) once I commented and left (unless there was an option to subscribe to comments). Then I noticed one day that you replied to one of my comments on your blog ON MY LATEST POST. Genius! So I've adopted your comment style. Thanks!

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  9. This is great. Now, I have to go check all my settings. LOL. : )

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  10. Lovely list :). I try my best to make it easy for my readers. I reply to some through emails.

    I like the pop out comment format, so easy and neat :)

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  11. Good suggestions! I usually respond to commenters, by email (and I always find it annoying if people have that noreply thing so I can't reply). But commenting back on their blog is actually a very good idea! I usually get overwhelmed, but I'm going to try to be better!

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  12. Y E S ! !

    ESPECIALLY the word verification thing! I can barely read the captcha (sp?), so waiting for that to refresh AND hope that blogger is able to verify my wordpress/openid credentials it all gets too time consuming!

    In terms of commenting in the blog, I think it has to do with the platform itself. Wordpress dashboard makes it easy to continue conversations at a glance. I can reply to comments all down a row, and I can see any replies to my comments made on other wordpress blog in the same dashboard (enabling a continuing conversation). When I comment on blogspot blogs I honestly don't expect a reply back.

    I also reply to comments to my blog posts to acknowledge the commenter and thank them for visiting. I feel like I'm not being a good hostess otherwise (versus being a sneaky way to get repeat traffic...which is a concept I couldn't care less about.)

    I do happen to visit the commenter's blog, too, and subscribe/follow everyone, so I guess all my bases are covered in that regard ;)

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

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  13. nice post... just turned my full feed on, and may indeed stop responding to comments (schoolboy errors for newbie bloggers, had no idea they grated!)

    Cheers

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  14. Great advice. And I agree, Donald Maass IS a genius :)

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  15. YES! I turned my word verification off long ago. I think I've gotten ONE spam in over a year. I really appreciate blogs who don't use it. And gah--I don't have time to return to posts to read responses to my comment! I much prefer the email route. That's what I do with my comments; I've struck up some good friendships and even critique partnerings by continuing the comments, actually!

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  16. Excellent points. I rarely comment on my own blog. I know few will return to actually see it. I try to email responses when I can, but commenters don't always have their emails linked to their profiles, which makes this more difficult. When I can, I try to comment on their blogs if they have one. Occasionally, they're not linked and they don't have a blog, so there's no way for me to respond, and chances are they're not going to return to my blog to see my reply anyway...that always makes me feel bad, like I'm ignoring them.

    On that note, you don't have your email linked to your comments, so I can never reply by email. Not sure if this is intentional or not. I wouldn't know how to fix it even if I didn't. Not sure if I have the full feed thingy or not. But it makes sense.

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  17. Very smart. I receive over 20 comments regularly and often don't need to respond to each one. I do 3 things.

    I try and comment on their blog posts for that day.

    And if there was a good question or comment that needs a response, I'll email the person.

    To show commenters that I am there and reading, I'll add to the general discussion in the comments but not to individual people.

    Great post!

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  18. Great list. :) I do have trouble with number three these days. It's not for lack of wanting to comment back to everyone, it's just lack of time. I did install Intense Debate (then deleted because it had lots of technical problems) and now have Disqus, which I think is a great option. I like that it emails just the individual person, plus is visible (unlike if you only emailed the person) to other followers so that the conversation can be seen.

    And OMG on number two--that totally annoys the crap out of me. I follow 1000 blogs, I do not want to have to "click through to see the rest". I won't. On principle if nothing else. :)

    I'll include this post in my Links roundup tomorrow!

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  19. God, yes. I detest CAPTCHAs on comments. It makes me feel like I don't have the blogger's trust no matter how many positive contributions I make. They're a plague. There are better tools for spam prevention out there.

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  20. Oh, for one comment system to rule them all! I went with Intense Debate, after hating all the other systems (except Disqus, but ID had more bells & whistles.)

    I like that it allows other commenters to cmment on each other's comments, to give them a thumbs up, etc. I also like the convenience for me of being able to respond to THAT comment, and also to visit their blog through CommentLuv (and to point other visitors there as well.) But, it has its inconveniences, some people simply won't sign up for an account though I beg them to.

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  21. These are a few of my pet peeves as well, word verification being the biggest, most annoying pet peeve of all. And I always try to hop around and comment on the blogs of people who've taken the time to visit mine. Builds community, I think. :)

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  22. Oh, Sophia, I absolutely agree. I hate word verifications because I usually comment and then shut down the browser just as I see the word box pop up, meaning I have to retype it. Annoying.

    Also won't click through to read more. Full feed or no read.

    As for comments, I've been trying to decide what is most comfortable and logical. I really like the idea of commenting back on the commenter's own blog. Thanks for the tip!

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  23. I understand all of those comments.

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  24. I turned off word verification on two blogs about a week ago, and have had 4 spam messages since then (in Greek lettering!), so I've turned the word verification back on - sorry, but I've better things to do than delete spam!
    Also, in my experience, commenters rarely come back to see any response to their comments, unless they have asked a specific question, which I do try to answer. But I've been to many blogs where the blogger has simply replied 'Thanks for your comment' to each and every commenter, which seems pretty pointless to me!

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  25. A good blog post should initiate a conversation. Not replying is like shouting out your opinion in a crowded room and then walking away from any discussion it might provoke. If you are not interested enough to add a little to the discussion, be honest and turn the comment facility off! (Aren't I cranky this morning?)

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  26. Great post! No idea what a full feed is. I hope I do that. The others I always try to do or avoid. LOL. It's nice to be nice to our "friends".

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  27. Turned my word verification off, since I only rarely get stupid spam now... and because I want comments, damn it!

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  28. Here, here!
    I totally agree.
    Xoxo

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  29. Great tips! Thanks for the insight. Of course, after reading this, I went over to my blog and turned off certain commenting elements.

    Take care!

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  30. Oh darn, sorry for the extra comment, but I found your blog through Roni Loren's Fill-Me-In Friday's post.

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  31. I wholeheartedly agree with #1 and #2. But I do try to respond in the comments thread. Not to every single one--I'll often do a group response, but I think I should at least acknowledge people.

    These are my reasons: 1) I can answer a question that's been brought up that other commenters might have as well. 2) it stimulates discussion in the thread.

    If somebody has a question that needs a personal or in-depth answer, then I send an email (to the 1/4 or so of commenters who make their emails available in their profile.)

    Do I go back and read responses to my comments in other blog threads? If I've asked a question, yes. Otherwise, probably not. But that's no reason to be unresponsive to your own comment thread, IMO. Even Nathan Bransford responds to comments on occasion.

    Liked the post, though.

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  32. Excellent Tips Sophia! Thanks for sharing - guess I have a little work to do!

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  33. I'm increasingly failing word verification on the first try myself. I don't know if it's because I'm partially color-blind or secretly an android or something. It was the actually the first setting I changed on my blog before even my first post. Most blog software these days is equipped with fairly effective Bayesian filters anyway. I think one spam message has actually gotten through to my blog since I've started.

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  34. Fabulous post! I think I agree with everything you said. I HATE Word Verification! I rarely ever get spam and if I do I just erase it. I also don't really see the point of commenting back on my own blog. Unless they ask a specific question I figure they probably won't be checking anyway. I've thought about switching my commenting system but for now I'll just keep focusing on returning comments.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and my post about commenting. And for linking me to this awesome post!

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  35. I edited my post and added a link to this post. Advising everyone to come read it!

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  36. I completely agree with #1 and #2. I never used word verification, but I'm on WP and have the Akismet plugin which catches spam. And yes, it catches 10-20 spam comments a day for me (when the spammers get on a roll, I get 100-150 a day). I also never did the partial RSS feeds.

    However, I do reply to every comment on my blog. And part of the reason I do that is because my posts always end with 3-5 questions. I *am* trying to start a conversation, and my commenters usually play along by adding great points. So my replies are usually more about commenting on their points than just a generic "Thanks for the comment."

    I agree with you about how WP's default comment subscription is a pain in the butt, and I wish they had other options. I like how Disqus handles it, but I don't want to make my readers jump through that other hoop.

    In addition, I'm more likely to comment when I *know* the author is reading them. So I keep up with comments on my blog, and whether the commenters ever come back to read my reply is irrelevant. When I reply to a question, I let them know via Twitter or something too, because as you said, I *don't* expect them to check back.

    Just my 2 cents. Thanks for the thought-provoking post! :)

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  37. Thanks for the tips!

    *off to check my settings*

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  38. Really good points, especially with #3 -- as a blogger, I don't want to be rude and not comment back, but as a reader/commenter, it's a pain to have to re-check people's comment pages to see if there's been a response. Maybe if it requires a response I should just email the person directly, or, as you say, go to their blog and comment. Food for thought! Thanks for this.

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  39. I HATE word verification. I don't have it on my blog. I get 1-3 spams a day for my blog in my e-mail. By the time I go to delete them on the blog, 99% or more have already been deleted by blogger.

    I often comment back on my posts, but I also send e-mails. I like the conversational aspect of commenting back on my posts.

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  40. Love this! I've felt this way about these things but didn't know other bloggers felt the same.

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  41. The word verification drives me nuts! Great suggestions, Sophia.

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  42. Totally with you on word verification! I feel like I'm taking - and failing - an eye exam every time!

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  43. I certainly agree! Although I don't have word verification, my wordpress blog requires you to type in some information before you can leave a comment and I hate that! I'm still trying to find ways to get around this. :D great post, sophia!

    nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  44. See--I do come back. Thanks for the comment on my blog!

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  45. Wow! All these people that HATE word verification. All I know is that if you've ever had a spam attack, you will use word verification or something to avoid ever having to deal with it again. I've been attacked so hard that I literally couldn't delete them as fast as they were coming in. I would love to get more comments, but not the nasty spam variety.

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  46. MADE of AWESOME!!! Agree on all of them (except, yikes I don't know about the partial reader thingy--runs off to check)!!!

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  47. Great post, Sophia! Thanks for the heads up on turning off word verification. (Still took me a while to figure out HOW to do it though) I'm ashamed to call myself a web developer. DUH. *hangs head in shame*

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  48. It took me forever to figure out how to turn off word verification on my blog. sheesh. Blogger really didn't make it easy!

    Turning on full feed was way easier.

    Thank you for making me aware!

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  49. Excellent post! I'm so glad you shared it with me. Now off to make sure there is no word verification on my comments. :-)

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  50. I totally agree about word verification! So annoying. I will definitely join your revolution. I might even have to post about this myself....unless you're a blogger with a thousand bajillion followers, you probably won't get much in the way of spam.

    Wow. I totally didn't realize how much this annoys me until you brought it up.

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  51. Hey...I responded to your comment in my own comments... Sorry! ;)

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  52. Thank you for this, Sophie, and for providing the link. In this post you have addressed a few of things that have been on my blogging mind lately. I did turn off the word verification for a few months, but I started getting 10-20 spam comments a day! That's why I turned word verification back on. But if it really irritates people (for me it's a mild irritant) I would rather get rid of it and deal with the annoying spam. I also appreciate your last point. I hadn't thought about it before, but you're right. It's a much better way to respond and show mutual respect. ^_^ Thanks for speaking up.

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  53. I think that these are great points. There are blogs I love that have only partial feed posts, and I don't visit them. I always have the intention to go back later, but then I forget.

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