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The following takes place in an alternate universe. It’s one where bloggers hate reader engagement and hate receiving comments, but in a cruel twist they cannot simply “turn off” their comments. Instead, they’re forced to use other means to discourage engagement…
Ugh, am I right?
Just the other day, I received a comment from a female reader who told me she loved my blog and thought I was cute. She also said she was going to share my post with her 41 million Twitter followers.
Thanks, @taylorswift13, but no thanks. Who needs that kind of drivel?
Sure, you have your Copybloggers and Seth Godins who love receiving comments and would never, ever do anything to discourage them, but the Copybloggers and Godins of the world are the minority.
The rest of us? We hate comments. We hate them with every fiber in our being.
And, if you’re anything like me, you’ve debated more than once whether or not to delete your blog just so you wouldn’t have to deal with comments anymore.
Thankfully, there is a better way.
The following strategies are proven to minimize reader engagement and reduce blog comments.
1. Stop email subscriptions
According to Jon Morrow, email subscribers engage with your blog’s content four times more than RSS subscribers.
So why, oh why, are you offering your readers free email updates? Why do you offer a newsletter?
It’s as if you want your readers to engage with you and leave you comments!
2. Be a cipher, wrapped in an enigma, smothered in secret sauce
Readers are more tempted to leave a comment if they feel as though they know the person behind the blog.
Remove all photos of yourself from your blog. Make your “About” page as cold and impersonal as the DMV on a Monday morning.
Remove every ounce of “you” from your blog.
Be a robot. No one wants to leave comments to a robot.
3. Comment redirect plugin for first-time commenters
Look, mistakes happen.
Maybe the person leaving you a comment didn’t realize how awful comments were? Maybe they are new to the web and just don’t know any better?
By installing this comment redirect plugin by Yoast, you can redirect readers to a specific page after they’ve left you a comment for the first time.
And on this page you can tell them how you are incredibly disappointed in them.
You can tell them of the horrors of blog comments. You can threaten them with bodily harm. You can plead with them to never, ever leave you another comment.
Those of you who made the mistake of leaving me a comment in the past are undoubtedly familiar with my comment-redirect page:
This technique doesn’t help you prevent initial blog comments, but it’s great for preventing subsequent ones!
4. Force users to register for an account
If you use Disqus or Livefyre, you have made leaving a comment slightly more difficult. Unless, of course, the reader already had a Disqus or Livefyre account, in which case you’ve done nothing to impede them!
No, you need to think bigger.
You need to make your readers register for an account they cannot use anywhere else online. You need to make them register for an account on your blog in order to comment!
Thankfully, WordPress makes this easy.
In your WordPress dashboard, go to Settings and choose Discussion.
Forcing readers to register before commenting is one lil’ checkbox away.
5. Use Facebook-only comments
An alternate approach is to implement Facebook commenting technology for your blog.
For the rare users not on Facebook, you will have immediately eliminated the possibility of their commenting on your blog. Let’s face it: witty as your blog may be, if they haven’t joined Facebook yet they’re not going to start now just so they can leave you a comment.
And a good chunk of the readers already on Facebook will leave without commenting due to privacy concerns.
Who wants to have their Facebook profile (and all the personal info attached to it) visible on a random blog for all to see?
“Big brother,” “NSA” and all that jazz, right?
It’s not as effective as forcing them to register for an account, but allowing Facebook comments only could do a nice job minimizing the comments you receive.
6. Your design should discourage comments
Neil Patel of QuickSprout notes how the website for Forbes does a poor job of encouraging comments.
How does Forbes accomplish this desirable feat?
The design of Forbes is busy. Also, the comment stream is hidden. Readers need to click a link in order to read existing comments or leave one of their own.
How can we use Forbes’ genius blueprint for our own blogs?
Make your design as cluttered as possible. Add as many items as you can think of to your sidebar, then add ten more things.
Make your “leave a comment” link hard to find. In fact, why even have it? Force readers to scroll to the bottom of your post to reach your comment section.
If readers want to leave you a comment, make them jump through hoops. Make them earn it.
7. No call to action
Ever come across a blog with a “call to action” at the end of every post?
This call to action may ask the reader to subscribe to a mailing list, follow the blogger on social media, or even — as hard as it is to believe — encourage discussion by writing something like, “Okay…Your Turn.”
Yeah, don’t do any of these things.
If you must have a call to action, at least have a good call to action at the end of your posts. A few examples:
- Go away now
- Isn’t it past your bedtime? Go get some sleep
- Aren’t there leftover brownies in the kitchen? Close the browser and go see
- Surely Blogging Wizard or Enchanted Marketing have new posts. Why don’t you go check?
- Travel to the magical place called “elsewhere”
Readers need direction. Direct them elsewhere.
8. Never respond to comments
If the unthinkable happens and someone leaves you a comment, please, whatever you do, don’t respond to the comment.
Don’t tell them “thanks” or “I appreciate it,” even if you’re being sarcastic. Sarcasm doesn’t show well online.
No, the best thing you can do is ignore the comment.
Don’t get drawn into the commenter’s unholy game of engagement.
They want you to respond. They want to claim you as a victim.
Don’t let them!
Want to be scared straight? Check out Adrienne Smith’s blog and see what happens when you engage with readers and respond to every comment.
Poor Adrienne is drowning in comments.
Don’t let this happen to you.
9. Respond to comments in condescending tone
An alternate approach is to respond to comments in a condescending, how-dare-you-question-me tone.
Have you ever come across a blog whose owner is snarky to the comments left to him or her?
Their responses are pompous, snide and ego-driven.
They actually make readers feel bad for leaving them a comment.
This is how you do it, ladies and gentlemen.
10. Don’t mention others in your posts
Linking to and mentioning others within your posts is a blogging no-no.
Here is how it will play out:
- Person is pinged (notified) their content has been linked to.
- Person visits the post where they are mentioned.
- Person, due to guilt or feelings of social obligation, leaves you a comment, thanking you for the mention.
Does this sound fun?
Don’t do this.
11. Make social sharing impossible
In his post on blog commenting, Ian Cleary of Razor Social explains how social shares lead to more visitors to your content, which can lead to comments and, yes, more social shares.
In other words, social sharing can lead to an infinite loop of comment torment.
To discourage this loop from starting, hide all social sharing icons on your blog.
Also, consider including an expletive in the title of all your posts. This will eliminate a good number of readers from ever wanting to share your content.
Long titles are also effective.
In 1999, musician Fiona Apple gave the following title to her sophomore album:
When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right”
It worked. No one bought the album.
12. Post more often
On average, the less time between published posts, the fewer comments you receive. Jon Morrow says a big reason for this is readers become overwhelmed when you publish frequently, and this results in decreased reader engagement.
If you’re currently publishing posts once a week, start publishing daily. If you publish daily, start posting hourly. If you already publish hourly, begin writing new posts every minute.
The resulting disengagement from your readers will be as big as the smile on your face!
13. Never, ever ask questions
One time, like an idiot, I asked a question in a blog post I wrote.
I meant it to be a rhetorical question, but sure enough some readers thought I was asking for an answer. So, they left me comments.
“Helpful” comments, which are the worst kind.
If you want to kill engagement, refrain from asking your readers any type of question.
14. Disable email notifications
Sometimes, bad things happen.
Sometimes you get a flat tire, sometimes all your hair falls out in the middle of the night, and sometimes someone leaves you a blog comment.
Don’t make the problem worse by allowing the reader to receive email notifications if, gasp, someone else leaves a comment or replies to their comment.
All this will do is encourage the reader to return to your blog. And guess what? They very well may leave you another comment!
You do not want this. You really, really do not want this.
15. Write instructional posts
As David Risley points out, readers often don’t know what to say after reading an instructional post.
On the other hand, opinion posts which may differ from what the reader believes or has read elsewhere are posts which encouragement engagement.
Never write opinion posts. Only write instructional posts.
16. Don’t be humble
According to Darren Rowse of ProBlogger:
People are attracted to humility and are more likely to respond to it than a post written in a tone of someone who might harshly respond to their comments.
The takeaway here is obvious: don’t be humble.
Write in a tone where your readers think you will be harsh to them if they choose to leave you a comment.
Make your readers believe you know it all, and they will realize there’s nothing more to add to the discussion!
17. Never visit the blogs of your readers
As tempting as it may be to visit the blogs of the readers who comment on your blog, don’t do it. Resist the urge to comment on their blog and say: “Here! How do you like it?!?!”
Remember, there is something clearly wrong with the individuals commenting on your blog. You visiting and commenting could actually encourage them to return to your blog and do the same!
Don’t poke the bear with a stick.
Leave it alone.
18. Ask readers not to leave comments
This one sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised.
Obviously, Charlene was joking with the Social Media Examiner readers. But if you flip her advice around, it’s a great strategy for discouraging comments.
At the end of your posts, beg your readers not to leave you comments.
Plead with them.
Bribe them, if necessary.
19. Don’t highlight comments
You may think mentioning a comment you received previously will shame the owner of the comment, but the opposite happens.
People like being mentioned! They like it when you say their name and refer to the comment they left you.
Crazy, I know.
Poor Amy Harrison has been learning this lesson the hard way.
At the end of her Amy TV episodes, she often highlights some of the comments she received in her previous video. Shockingly, this has encouraged viewers to leave her more comments.
An act Amy hoped would discourage comments has instead had the opposite effect. She’s receiving more comments!
“This is awful,” I imagine Amy says, constantly, throughout the day.
Learn from Amy.
Never highlight your readers or any comment they leave you.
It will only encourage them.
20. Use Captcha
I’ve saved the best for the end.
Want to stop comments in their tracks?
Install the most-difficult-to-decipher Captcha plugin you can find.
You will thank me later.
Okay, your turn…
But seriously, here is a quick recap of the 20 points and what should have been the takeaways:
- Build up your mailing list. Email subscribers engage more.
- Let readers get to know the person behind the blog. Include your photo somewhere on your blog. Have a good “About” page.
- Welcome first-time commenters by redirecting them to a “thank you” page. The comment redirect plugin by Yoast is what I and many others use.
- Don’t make users jump through hoops in order to comment. Registrations aren’t user friendly.
- Facebook-only comments have the potential to exclude certain readers. Make sure you know your audience.
- An uncluttered design encourages comments. Make the “leave a comment” links easy to find.
- Use a “call to action” at the end of posts to encourage blog comments. Give your readers direction.
- Respond to every single comment readers leave you. Be like Adrienne Smith.
- Don’t be sarcastic or rude when responding to comments. Keep it classy. Even if someone doesn’t necessarily deserve it.
- Mention and link to other bloggers. Oftentimes, they’ll thank you.
- Encourage social sharing. It puts more eyes on your content, which can lead to more comments.
- Pick the posting schedule which works best for you, but realize spacing your posts typically leads to more comments.
- Ask your readers questions. It encourages answers.
- Provide the capability for readers to be notified when someone replies to a comment. This is the plugin I use.
- Don’t write instructional posts only. Give your opinion sometimes. Challenge the status quo, and encourage readers to tell you their thoughts.
- Be humble. The only people who comment on the posts of know-it-all bloggers are readers anxious to pounce on a mistake.
- Visit the blogs of those who leave you comments. Return the favor.
- Don’t beat around the bush: ask your readers to comment.
- Find ways to highlight great comments as well as those readers who engage with your blog the most. Make them feel special.
- Don’t use hard-to-decipher Captcha plugins. They’re evil.
Do you or a blogger you know inadvertently hinder engagement with readers? What are some other ways bloggers discourage comments? Let me know in a comment below!
Creative Commons Images via TheeErin (adapted).