There are many lurkers online
If your site doesn’t receive many comments it is not because nobody sees or likes your content, it is because you simply don’t have a large enough audience. 90% or even more of users are lurkers who never contribute. Some 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the discussion. Work on driving traffic to your site as your first priority. This starts with creation of content that thrills people and gets them to share it with their networks.
Bloggers love getting comments and gladly return a favor
Comment on other blogs in order to get these same bloggers to come back and comment on your own articles. Post thoughtful comments on relevant posts on other sites. The more you do this, the more comments you will get and better relationships you will build with other content creators.
Make your comments area easy to access
Putting barriers to comment such as visitors needing to create an account, needing to login or going through CAPTCHA protection contribute to less people commentating. Remove all the barriers and make it as easy as possible for them to place that comment. There are other, more user-friendly ways for you to eliminate comment spam.
Does it say “0 Comments” on your home page or in your article byline? Does that sound inviting to your ears? It certainly does not, even though it is the text on the standard WordPress installation and most probably on your site as well. Edit it to something more inviting and encouraging like “Leave a comment” or “Your thoughts are welcomed”. Many of the modern design themes make this change simple.
That first comment really makes a difference
After the first comment, everything becomes easier. When visitors to your post see other people making comments they are more likely to join in the conversation and start posting comments themselves.
Source the initial comments
To speed up the natural progress of the comment area on a new post, you should get one of the people in your close network to comment on it shortly after it has been published. Send an email to people close to you after publishing a new post and ask for a comment. This should become part of your marketing routine that you do after publishing a new post.
Create comment-worthy content
Make people care about your topic. Your post should be so strong that it makes people care about what you are telling them. Help them, educate them, entertain them. If people care about what you are saying they will be invested and more inclined to also comment on the post.
Have an opinion
Don’t be afraid to go against the norm and against the conventions. Be passionate. Pick a side. Be controversial. Have a strong, different, unconventional opinion and perspective in your posts.
Challenge your visitors to think differently
Either people will refuse to look at something differently, and feel the need to express their commitment to their current beliefs, or you’ll open their eyes to a whole new way of looking at something. Even if you don’t believe in your stance, playing devil’s advocate can be a comment magnet.
Don’t provide all the answers
Ask some questions without providing the answers. If you provide both sides to an argument, or answer every question, that’s awesome… but just not if you want to get a lot of comments. Your visitors want to be part of the discussion, so be sure to leave them something to talk about.
Start a list and ask for additions
When you’re listing out tools, apps, tips, tricks… whatever. Open it up to the readers at the end to submit their own tips. Take it one step further, and when a commentator has a good addition, edit your post and add it to the list with credit to the visitor.
Respond to a popular post that got a lot of comments
If a blogger wrote a great post that hit a nerve with their audience, drawing a lot of comments, you can share your thoughts on the topic in a post response. It’s clearly something that people care about so while your post probably won’t be as big as the original post, you can still drive a good conversation. Link to the original post, and let your readers know the context of what you’re responding to.
Ask questions that are easy to answer
Ask for opinion or suggestions. When you ask people for their opinion, they are more likely to give it to you. Conclude your post with a good open-ended question like “What is your experience with this?”. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to get a visitor to share their opinion.
Participate in the conversation
Respond to every legitimate comment you receive so people know you’re listening, appreciate they comment and care about what they think. Some people comment with the hope that their comment will be read. No one likes talking to a wall. Be approachable, answer the questions and write your thoughts.
Promote a comment into a post
Promote interesting and insightful comments to your posts and publish them as entirely new posts. Give credit to the commentator. This rewards people already contributing to the discussion but also inspires other visitors to join the conversation and be the next “featured commentator”.
Use comments as inspiration for articles
Your comments can be a great source of inspiration for content ideas. You can publish a post on an interesting topic from a discussion. You can answer a visitor comment in a new post for example. This way you can encourage visitors to join the conversation and ask questions in your comments section.
Continue the conversation in social media
Quote a comment in a tweet, and ask for thoughts on the comment. Once you get the conversation started on your site, it can help to spread it to other communities: “Here’s what a reader thought, what do you think?”. This brings you even closer to the original commentator, helps you get more engagement on your social channels and gives more spotlight to your comment area.
Use social media to source comments
Ask a question in Twitter, collect the answers, publish them in a post and comment and analyze results and trends. Thank the people who responded to your question and tell them about your article.
Thank the commentator
Recognizing your commentators will help creating a community feeling. Your visitors will be encouraged to keep coming back and keep commentating. Comments Redirect plugin redirects your first time commentators to a page of your choice. This is a page where you can thank them and ask them to subscribe to you. Alternative to this is Thank Me Later plugin that sends a ‘thank you’ email to your commentators.
Give a prize away
Giving a prize away in your comments area can inject life into your post quickly. If you still want quality, say “whoever has the most creative response wins this awesome prize!”. Don’t do this all the time as it is not the most long term solution to encourage comments by giving prizes as once the prizes are gone, people won’t be motivated to comment any more.
Give exposure to your top commentators
Top Commentators widget allows you to feature a list of top commentators in your sidebar. This rewards your top fans but also encourages others to join the conversation and become one of the “top commentators”.
Give some love
Attract other bloggers to comment on your site by activating a plugin like CommentLuv. CommentLuv can help encourage other bloggers to leave a comment as their latest post will be shown along the comment.
Let your users subscribe to comments
Subscribe To Comments plugin allows commentators on your site to check a box and get e-mail notification of new comments in the discussion. This encourages commentators to come back and stay engaged in the discussion.
Use an alternative commenting system
Commenting systems like Disqus can replace the default WordPress comments and boost your comment area by introducing social media profiles, voting and other features. Some people are more comfortable with these systems, which may lead to an increase in comments. Alternative option is Facebook Comments.
Just be approachable and friendly
Answer emails that you get, respond to tweets that you get… thank people for retweeting your message, for submitting your article to StumbleUpon and other social media. Basically build a relationship with your readers. Having close relationships with many people will lead to more comments.
Incorporating these tips into your daily blogging can bring you much closer to your visitors and encourage them to stick with your site, subscribe to it, become regular readers, commentators and a part of your community.