Are comments really that important, or can you get more comments by “faking it ’til you make it”?
Over the last five to seven years, a big gripe of many publishers is that they want to get more comments on their digital articles, but they’re getting fewer than ever before. Getting more comments might seem like a vanity metric, but we see comments as important indicators in search engine optimization. The more comments a post has, the higher it tends to rank. Because of this, we take the number of comments on a post to heart. And that big fat 0 staring at us never feels good.
Speaking of which: how do you get people to comment on your posts? Bake ’em or fake ’em? Share your best tips in OUR comment section below.
The three biggest reasons we believe publishers are seeing less comments are:
- They aren’t publishing content that is compelling enough to comment about. Most comments online come from those who like to debate.
- They require the user to log in to leave a comment, a big barrier to entry.
- Users love to leave their opinions, but they’re leaving them in social media when they share posts instead, rather than directly on the post where nobody may ever see their comment. Consider sharing new comments in social media, and pointing people back to the post to leave their replies.
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Something else you might not have considered: Writing your own comments to spark discussion. Reddit, one of the most popular online forums got their start by starting fake but real conversations that they also fake responded to, in order to get more people talking. And it worked!
Also, are you leaving your call to comment until the very end of your article? A study published on Slate showed that the majority of website visitors will read 50% or less of your article, and very few ever get to the end, in fact 38% typically don’t get past the first paragraph before leaving or sharing an article.
So how can you combat all this? The social sharing, and the page scrolling and everything else in your way? Well, first take a look at your largest competitors. Are they getting a lot of comments? If they are, then you can rule out your being in an un-commentable niche. How are they titling their posts and wording their calls to comment? Are you even writing a call to comment that is more than “leave a comment below and tell us what you think?”
Below are a few good ways to solicit comments more aggressively:
- Write more controversial headlines. So many people scroll down to write a comment before reading the article because they simply can’t get past the headline. This can lead to a lively thread of comments, both good and bad. Do you care? If not, try your luck here, and you’ll likely reap similar benefits in social media too.
- Write your own comments. As mentioned above, the folks at Reddit admitted to planting conversations on their discussion forum -based website in the early days. It clearly worked for them, and it can work for you!
- Choose topics that are more edgy. So maybe you don’t want to clickbait your headlines, but your content could be more opinion-driven. That’s a great way to get people to either agree or disagree.
- Personalize your content. There’s nothing that will scare away commenters more than “Magazine Staff” as a byline.
- Repeat your call to comment in the beginning of the post. As mentioned above, most people don’t make it to the end of your post. If you can’t be risque or controversial, then try eliciting conversation at the beginning of the post with an anchor link to the comment section.
- Link to the comment section in your email template. Have you considered writing a call to comment right next to the “read more” link in your editorial email newsletter that asks them to give their opinion on the subject?
- Use social proof. If you already have a thread going on one article, promote it in social. Let people know there’s a hot debate going on, and link to the post.
I’d love for you to weigh in on this topic. Have you ever faked a comment thread, and did it elicit more comments?