Now Marcus has been tearing up the Blogosphere recently – I had an email exchange with him back at the end of February and he’d just broken the 100,000 mark in terms of Alexa ranking.
Just two months later he’s about to break the 50,000 mark on Alexa. Now that’s a tremendous achievement. Here are some of the reasons why I believe he’s experiencing this growth:
- He’s built up a large and loyal community who read his posts, tweet them out and comment on them. (Some of those people lead significant communities of their own btw).
- Part of the reason people go there repeatedly – at least in my opinion – is that the comment threads themselves are so interesting. It’s not just the number of comments – it’s the quality of some of them. Some of the comments could be posts in their own right.
- Marcus answers EVERY comment.
Every. Single. One.
That makes the community at the sales lion coalesce around Marcus. But it takes a lot of time to answer those comments. And in one of his answers Marcus suggested I turn one of my comments into a post….so here we are. (Again.)
And what we’re going to look at is 5 different models that bloggers can use as guidelines for how much they interact in the comments section of their own blogs.
So let’s get cracking.
1) The Sales Lion Model
This is the strategy that most new bloggers adopt almost by default – they answer every comment.
Done right, this results in engagement with your audience (whatever the size), helps with establishing credibility (in terms of authority, and expertise), establishes your ‘blogging brand,’ and helps build relationships with your audience.
This is a powerful commenting model to use. As well as the benefits outlined in the paragraph above, if you use this model your comment threads will also be a fertile breeding ground for new post and article ideas.
The most powerful benefit from this model though is that it allows the blogger using it to present ideas to his audience, and get almost instant feedback from them in the comment threads. And develop those ideas further, or refine them, as a result of that feedback. It’s like having a small army of coaches willing to help you out and look at your ideas, hold them up to the light to search for imperfections or flaws, and report back to you.
Done right, this kind of feedback is utterly invaluable. Done wrong, you get the kind of ‘comment love-ins’ that you’ll find on some blogs where no-one who disagrees has the courage to post that they disagree. The most beneficial feedback you can ever get – on anything – is when you’ve got something wrong. BECAUSE THEN YOU CAN FIX IT.
You can build a blogging community The Sales Lion way that will help you do this out of love, respect, friendship and admiration. In the offline world this kind of feedback can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Or more.
Now the Sales Lion model sounds great, right?
Well it is – but there’s a drawback. If you read the post I linked at the top of this article, you’ll know that Marcus spends hours and hours answering those comments. The more popular your blog gets, the more comments you’re going to get. And the longer it’s going to take.
That time has an opportunity cost….at some stage if you get to this point you might have to consider an alternate model. Maybe the model Pat Flynn uses might work for you:
2) The Smart Passive Income Model
If you’ve not read his blog, Pat Flynn can be found at www.smartpassiveincome.com.
Pat is another one of the good guys online – and he’s taken his Smart Passive Income blog to up around the 5,000 mark in Alexa ranking terms.
So his blog is popular. And most of his posts get good comment numbers – we’re talking 70,80,90 comments and more per post.
Pat doesn’t have a ‘commenting’ policy per se that I can see – possibly a more ad hoc approach to replying to comments. On some posts he’ll reply to comments in the first day or so, and then drop off from that post. And on other posts he’ll barely comment at all.
This is no criticism of Pat by the way – he’s been going for around two and a half years, and has written a bunch of great articles. I think he celebrated 2 Million page views not so long ago.
Some of his older articles are still getting fresh comments on them – so kudos for Pat for still getting into the trenches and answering some comments, both to SPI regulars and also to newbies to SPI.
Because the level of engagement Pat has with his audience is different from Marcus’s – the comment threads tend to be less compelling. (That’s neither good nor bad – it just is how it is).
Let’s move on and look at what happens when you get further up the Alexa Ranking System.
3) The Copyblogger Method
You all know Copyblogger right? It’s a big blog, around the 2,500 mark on Alexa ranking (and I’d really LOVE to know what that translates to in unique daily traffic – anyone with an inkling, please drop me an email!).
The bulk of Copyblogger’s content is now created by other bloggers guest posting. This is a totally legitimate strategy of course – they’ve created a brand, and they have a team of great editors in place who make sure that the content is always good. And occasionally standout. (My personal favourite writer on Copyblogger is Jeff Sexton).
And the commenting strategy appears to be this: let the guest posters answer comments on their own posts. With occasional appearances from Sonia Simone (one of the editorial team), Robert Bruce (ditto), and Jon Morrow (also ditto). And some appearances by Brian Clark too.
So my guess is that they keep an eye on the comment threads, but don’t get excessively carried away by them. Or invest a lot of time and energy on those comment threads.
Again, this is all legitimate. But because there’s not a unifying voice in the comment section, the majority of the comments in those comment threads are reasonably shallow. There’s rarely anything over three or four paragraphs long.
But we shouldn’t be ‘down’ on Copyblogger for that – we get good regular content from them, and they are a strong, quality voice in the community. And they allow dissenting voices in the comment threads – and you do see Brian there from time to time. And Sonia is there a lot too.
Which isn’t the case in the next model.
4) The Big Blog Model
I’m sure you can fill in some names for yourselves, blogs that have got so big that they post an article and just let people comment. And there’s little or no attempt to interact with those people who’ve taken the time to leave a comment.
I’ve left comments on blogs like this before; sometimes they’ve been deliberately provocative. Rarely do they get an answer.
It just seems that their model doesn’t involve replying to comments – but they do allow comments on their posts.
Which is unlike the last model we’re going to look at.
5) The Seth Godin/Steve Pavlina Model
Seth Godin and Steve Pavlina – both guys I’m sure you’ve heard of – don’t have comments turned on. They produce their posts. You read them. And then you go to another post. Or you leave.
I haven’t read Steve Pavlina much recently, but he turned his comments off in 2005, and you can read about it here. It’s a short post (for Steve!) – especially interesting are his views on the opportunity cost of blog commenting, and of getting the benefits of blog commenting in other ways (namely email – that might have been more relevant in 2005 as blogs were still relatively new then and people didn’t ‘tweet’ or ‘like’ or ‘dig’ posts like they do now).
So there are the 5 models that bloggers can use on their own blogs to respond (or not) to blog comments. The big question now is:
Which Model Should You Use?
Before I started writing this post I thought the answer was obvious. But the answer I have to give now is: it depends.
It depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your blog. It depends how much time you have. It depends on what value you place on the benefits you get from responding to comments left on your blog.
But don’t just opt for a ‘default’ setting. Think it through. Think what your goals are for your blog – and see where your comment strategy fits into those goals.
Most importantly – prepare for those goals to change over time! For example, I use the ‘Sales Lion’ model at the moment. I answer every comment – sometimes at great length. And sometimes with further answers via email.
But last week I published a post that went off the radar with comments – it has around 120 so far. And I couldn’t publish two posts with that level of comments on it every week and respond to every comment. I wouldn’t have the time.
Which Model Do You Use? What About For the Foreseeable Future?
So what strategy do YOU use for answering comments left on your blog? Have you thought about the future if your blog starts generating 70 or 80 comments every post as a matter of routine?
Did I miss out any models? Do you disagree with me? Please note that ALL disagreement is tolerated provided it’s courteous and polite. I welcome the opportunity to engage in debate with like-minded bloggers (please step up to the plate Eugene and Ingrid!)
OK – over to you. Let’s hear your thoughts….