One Easy Way to Keep Your Blog Readers Happy – And Gain New Ones Fast

CommentsA lively, thriving comment section is a hallmark feature of a good blog. But way too many blog owners treat comments like prizes. The more they collect, the better. They don’t respond to each person. They often don’t respond to any person at all.

It’s enough to make you wonder if you should even bother writing a comment. Does anyone read it?

Worse, what happens if you stumble upon an old post? It could be a really great one, the comment section full of thoughts and reader opinions – but, it’s past its prime. It dates to last month, or maybe even last year.

Not worth leaving a comment there either, is it? No one’s going to answer old news.

And yet, I wonder…

Can You Read My Mind?

Our comment section has great community spirit. The place often rocks. People write thoughtful comments, come back later to chip in more thoughts, talk with each other and not just with us, and everyone is fantastically friendly and welcoming.

Sometimes you’ll even hear the gang cheer each other on.

Here’s an excerpt of a comment that recently cropped up: “What a great post, James! I was thinking about this just the other day and I…”

I smiled. That was nice. The comment was cheery and thoughtful and I agreed. It was from a new commentator, too. Awesome.

Then I went back to work.

Yes, I do stupid things like that sometimes. My brain assumes that commentators know that I’m smiling, happy they chimed in, and giving them mental pats on the back even though I don’t reply back and tell them so in my own comment.

You all do know that, right? Every comment here makes me happy, and I read each one. Back pats to all of you.

Oh come on. Who am I kidding? Of course you don’t know any of that, especially if you’re a new reader.

And I realized that this oh-so-common blog owner attitude might be detrimental to gaining new readers.

Out Of Sight, Out of Mind

The problem of what to do with old blog posts is a big one. Blog owners are sad that some of their best work falls to the side and gets less attention. The commentators who were right in the thick of things the day the post went live eventually let discussions slide and dwindle off as new posts get published.

Readers rarely go back in time. They’re always looking for something new, the latest and greatest. Old news? Yuck!

It’s time for a change of mindset, people. Those old posts are brand new for a new visitor that just arrived on your blog. That person lands – someway, somehow – on a less-recent (but just as kick-ass) blog post, and enjoys it enough to comment.

And no one pays attention.

No one responds. Not the blog owner, not the past commentators. No discussion revives. And everyone thinks there’s really no point in bothering because hey, that post is old. The interest has passed. No one even remembers what interested them about the post in the first place.

Might as well just hit that delete button, flush the Subscribe to Comments notification and just go back to work, eh?

It’s so silly. Bloggers want attention for old posts. They’ve convinced themselves no one cares , and so they don’t even pay attention to the fact that someone is actually doing exactly what they wished they’d do.

They’re caring. They’re reading an old post. They’re expressing interest.

Revive Your History Through a Single Experience

Every post you publish on your blog has the potential to be read forever ( assuming your blog and the Internet lasts that long). Every person that visits can become a reader for life. All it takes is a great first experience to gain a loyal reader who thinks well of you and your blog.

That person who just landed and commented on an old post probably doesn’t even know that it’s old. The published date might show, but who really pays attention to that? Most people don’t. You can even remove the date from displaying, too, if it makes you feel better.

And truthfully, if a new reader drops a comment on an old post, the person doesn’t really care when that post was written.

You shouldn’t either. It was a great post. It was worthy of a comment back then when it was fresh, and it’s still worthy of a comment now.

That comment is worthy of your response, too. If someone’s paying attention to what you’ve written, return the kindness and pay attention to that person. Forget when the post was written. Your reader is brand-new, he or she matters, and you want to give the person a great first experience.

That “old post” mindset is just all in your head.

Besides, who knows who’s still subscribed to the comments for that post? They may read the notification of a new comment. They might be intrigued. They might respond. Who says they won’t?

You and your new commentator might actually end up reviving the discussion on an old post and make it all new again. You might get people talking, get other bloggers linking to the post and get your content rockin’ away like it did back on the day it went live.

Even if you don’t, I can definitely guarantee you’ll have one new commentator thinking well of you for your time, your attention and your reply – and that’ll be one new reader to add to your blog.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some comments that need a reply…

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. That’s one of the things that I loved about MwP when I first found it, it has such a community feel from the conversations that happen in the comments. And unlike a lot of blogs, you guys reply to comments.

    That’s something I’m doing on my site as well, and you’ve just reminded me that there’s a couple from earlier this week that I need to go comment on. 🙂
    .-= Melinda | WAHM Biz Builder´s last blog ..Planning Your Posts =-.

  2. James,

    I imagine your responding to comments could be a full time job, so I applaud you. Comments are not necessarily a prize, but they do signify that you have a reader base that is paying attention, as well as a stimulating blog post that is requesting or encouraging interaction. If readers are interacting with you, then you should definitely interact with them.

    I read all blogs in an RSS reader, which of course does not have a ‘comment on’ section, yours is one of the few blogs that I click on the actual link to read the post in-browser – so that I can comment. I do that because of your constant interaction with your readers, so MwP is worth that extra click!

    .-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..New Home Office Coming Soon! =-.

  3. James,

    I pay attention to comments on old posts at my blog and at other blogs for exactly that reason.

    There’s a huge barrier to being a first-time commenter anywhere, and on an old post, the mental barrier is much higher. So I figure if someone decides to break into the conversation at that point they reeeealy want to be heard. Even if it’s not at my own blog, I’m happy to step back in for a second if they’ve said something relevant that I have a thought about.

    It’s just like a welcoming a new neighbor in real life: would you say, well, all the other houses on the block are full of longtime residents, so we don’t need to welcome this person? ‘Course not.

    Excellent reminder!


    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..10 Things I’ve Discovered About Chris Brogan =-.

  4. Michael Martine says:

    So true! I constantly get email notifications from old comment threads to which I’ve subscribed. Sometimes I read them, but I’m aware my blog’s readers also are receiving these kinds of updates. It’s always the little things that go the farthest, it seems.
    .-= Michael Martine´s last blog ..Watch Me Fly through Creating my Blog Consulting Page Layout in the Headway WordPress Theme =-.

  5. Great post James,

    great read. As a blogger, I do often feel like noone appreceates my work, but than someone comes in and leaves a comment and it makes me feel fuzzy…

    I do try to reply to every comment I can and truly enjoy when someone actually contributes to the conversation.

    .-= Igor Kheifets´s last blog ..The Science Of The ReTweet [SlideShow] =-.

  6. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    HI James,

    I think this is the first time I’m actually commenting (it’s that extra click thing).

    Often I save your blogs into categories for future use. ie. I have some of your posts in my “craft” or “marketing” or even as “blog ideas.” Just thought I would add that to your list of why old blogs might live forever.

    I love your “another rockin’ post…” It always gives me energy and a smile.
    Keep up the great work.


  7. @ Melinda – I try my best to make people feel welcome around here, so it’s good to know my efforts work!

    @ Heather – What I said to Melinda applies to you too – you flatter me. And yes, replying to comments does take time out of the day, but honestly I couldn’t operate a blog where people feel like they’re talking out and no one’s listening. Hate it when it happens to me!

    @ Kelly – You’re dead on about the mental barrier. We ran a post once that literally welcomed every reader and invited them to come introduce themselves, and many people said, “I feel so awkward joining a group that seems to know each other so well.”

    But the thing is, we all got to know each other so well simply because one day, we each took that step over the mental barrier and dropped a comment.

    Because someone answered, because we were listened to and heard and included warmly into the group… well, now we’re all friends – and with more friends to be added. 🙂

    @ Igor – I love warm fuzzies. They keep me toasty when winter hits Quebec!

    @ Mary – Ha! Good to see you here, after seeing you about the rest of the blogosphere!

    It’s true. That extra click and the minute it takes to drop a comment does often keep people from stopping by. I haven’t found a solution to that yet…

  8. I have a few old posts on both my blogs that still get comments. One, about hiking trails in the Trinity Alps in Northern California, still gets questions about trail conditions and reports of backpacking trips people have done.

    As makes sense, it’s the old posts that hit page 1 in Google that are most likely to get these comments.
    .-= John Soares´s last blog ..Posting Schedule and Content of the Writing College Textbook Supplements Blog =-.

  9. So true.
    Even though some don’t make comments on my old posts,
    I’m just glad many still read it. So why delete?
    .-= poch´s last blog — shorten your links =-.

  10. @ Poch – No deletions around here. Ever. In fact, I only once deleted a post by mistake in the past two years! (Minus spam, of course. Down with spam.)

    @ John – Yup, good point. Since we have a “Popular Posts” setting in our sidebar, we get a lot of comments on those.

    @ Michael – The little things are the ones that make the biggest differences 😉

  11. Another thing to mention is that some blogs turn comments off after “x” amount of days. This seems silly. The point of running a blog is about interaction with your readers. Otherwise, you are writing for nothing.
    .-= Chris from AB Web Design, LLC´s last blog ..Web Developer Tools You Can’t Live Without: Stackoverflow & Google Webmaster Help Forum =-.

  12. You’re so right, James. However, I often wonder about the question of spam on old posts. I’ve had to autoclose comments to keep the tide down (in spite of using several anti spam solutions) which means that people can’t comment on old posts even if they want to. I’d love to have a workaround for this, but haven’t thought of one yet.
    .-= Sharon Hurley Hall´s last blog ..Do You Write For HubPages Yet? If Not, Why Not? =-.

  13. Evergreen content is worth commenting on any time, any where and any place. When I find an older post that has some content that resonates with me, I leave a comment. I go one step further and share it with my network and label it worth revisiting. And, when someone leaves me a comment on an older post, I respond.

    Great content, with good truths and interesting points of view are always worth reading again, even if they are considered older in the Web 2.0 world!
    .-= Jeff Hurt´s last blog ..10 Reasons Why You Should Use A Back Channel At Your Conference =-.

  14. @ Sharon – What are you using for Anti-Spam? I always wonder about that, because we get approximately 3 to 5 spam a day.

    That’s it.

    No more.

    And none have ever showed up in our comment section. They all go to moderation.

    We use Askimet, btw, and we don’t use Do Follow.

  15. @ Chris – Turning off comments? LOL, yeah, I’m with you. Not smart that. Kind of like, “Hurry, hurry comment now or forever hold your peace!!!”

    Okay. I’ll hold it, in that case.

  16. It’s true, James. People often forget the original power of blogging. It’s about finding a connection and sharing that common spark. When you meet a new friend and talk about the past, you don’t say, “Hey, no comment there. That was an old piece of conversation.”

    Comments – the difference between a website and a blog.

    Great post.
    .-= Bonnie | FaithBarista´s last blog ..Josh Wilson: Savior, Please Keep Saving Me =-.

  17. Thanks for this, James. Guess I’m old fashioned, believing that it’s a matter of respect to reply to comments from people who took the time. However, when you’re dealing with an avalanche of commemnts, such as with some of my favorite bloggers, it can be what Heather described a fulltime job. Maybe the best way to deal with that scene is to pull together the various themes from the comments and then to post a general comment at the conclusion. Or to do this a few times during the dialogue. That way people know you’re reading their comments, understand the volume you’re dealing with, and took the time to provide a general comment back to people.
    .-= Jim Taggart´s last blog ..From Baby Blogging to Building Better Blogs =-.

  18. Comments certainly expand the discussion. For my blog, the growth has been slow. Four months ago I would get 2 or three comments. Today, more like ten to fifteen. It’s all good.
    .-= Kaushik´s last blog ..Do you feel lighter, more compassionate, more joyful, more natural, more playful? =-.

  19. I know a blogger who has a sticky post at the top of his blog. He doesn’t update often, maybe once every few months, but he has a huge resource of articles. In the sticky post, he puts up a weekly update like so:

    Ancient Post #3 – 4 new comments
    Last Post – 42 new comments
    First Post Ever – 6 new comments (Great discussion!)
    Post From Last Year – 7 new comments

    He’ll have links, of course. And the discussions in his old blog posts keep going, and going, and going, and going. It doesn’t look too pretty, but honestly? It’s a pretty cool feature. I go back and read the new comments all the time.
    .-= Natasha Fondren´s last blog ..Time to Get Dirty =-.

  20. James I got the notification in my inbox when the gentlemen commented on your post from last year. and then then another one from you responding to him ( was that last night? this morning?) An
    yway, it intrigued me enough that I clicked on the link and went back and read the post again. Sure enough, dang good post, as great now as it was then and I ALMOST left another comment. Now I wish I did, but I hesitated for just the reason you bring up, I felt funny edging on an old discussion. Isn’t that silly?
    I wonder why we inhibit ourselves that way. And we are all bloggers too, it isn’t like I’m someone who just stimbled on to the scene.
    You are right. It’s time to change our mindset.
    .-= Wendi Kelly-Life’s Little Inspirations´s last blog ..Living Wide Awake =-.

  21. @ Bonnie – I love a good conversation. Some of the best ones are discussions that were never really finished and that can be taken up at any time and revisited.

    @ Jim – We used to do it comment by comment, answering each one individually. Now, the only way we can manage it is by doing group replies (such as this one) but still of course answering *each* one. That’s the key.

    And I think it helps keep discussions alive!

    @ Kaushik – I remember our very first comment. We kind of looked at each other, had a moment of, “Oh god, now what?” and then leaped on it. “HI! HI! HELLO! WELCOME!” Hehehe… poor sod probably never knew what hit him.

    Hope he still reads us today …

    @ Natasha – Oh that does sound cool. Which blog has that?

    @ Wendi – I was thinking this week that I should go around and collect the best posts on the site and stick them up somewhere. Someone told me, “Your best ones are easy to spot, James. You wrote everyone one of them right from the heart.”

    And… I guess that’s why I still like them.

    Back to your point of inhibiting ourselves thinking a post is old… Remember that we’re bloggers. So yeah, we know the “rules of the game”, as it were. But 90% of the people out there… well, they’re all new to this and everything old IS new.

  22. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    @ Mary – Ha! Good to see you here, after seeing you about the rest of the

    Got to say, “You made my day!”

    You have made a friend because of this comment.

  23. Haha… I like that, “Hurry, hurry comment now or forever hold your peace!!!”

    I do wonder why some blogs treat the comment section like it was on a 3 day sale or something.

  24. It is nice to receive an acknowledgment to a comment I left, but I’d rather someone not post a comment on my blog when their comment is obvious they didn’t read the post. I have one blog reader who has left a bizarre comment on more than one occasion. In a recent post, I talk about my birthday giving my birth date, yet she came in and left a comment wishing me a belated birthday while at the same time promoting her blog. LOL! Gotta love marketing, but she is better off not responding since she didn’t absorb the blog post. She lost me as a blog reader.

    I love comments and enjoy the occasional response, but it isn’t necessarily the reason I continue to read a blog. I’ve left a few comments on this blog and received probably one response to mine. It’s the material on a blog and the crowd that gathers around that either has me coming back for more or leaving without a trace.

  25. @ Bea – Well, we have those types of commentators too, but they’re really sneaky around here because of our no-link-bait policy and attitude. Something like, “Wow! I really applied this idea of [insert title of blog post here] to my business – which is [insert really spammy site name right here and link link link and buy me now ‘cuz I’m great]. Thanks!”

    Sneaky. I’m telling you. Sneaky.


    @ Sean – I think the reason they use the three-day sale tactic is because they’ve been reading far, far too much of Frank Kern lately and are practicing. Hard. So, maybe we should all be grateful that we’re conduits to their learning experience that it really doesn’t work and yes, people are just a tad smarter than that 🙂

    @ Mary – You made my day back by coming to tell me that, so we’re even!

  26. Good point and a great idea. I’m preparing a blog… for a long time I wanted to put my hands to work and start blogging myself. I’m really excited and hoping I can launch it in September. Every piece of advice I can get is more than welcome. Thanks for the tip. Cheers!

  27. I love this! When I get people to reply to what I say online it get the same feeling of talking to them on the phone or on a IM.

    That’s why I joined twitter.
    .-= Wallpapers´s last blog ..23 BattleStar Galactica Wallpapers =-.

  28. Tremendous insights! I confess I’m not as good as I should be at approving comments in a timely manner – still getting that aspect of time manglement down well.

    @Bea Sempere , that kind of action is surpassed when you get 2-3 comments by the same IP and different people within 1 minute…and all the comments focus on the different affiliate squeeze pages to which they refer. I vividly remember reading a comment about Ford car starters on my karate sparring post. Go figure.
    .-= Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog ..The Stark Truth Behind How To Get 47,397 Followers On Twitter – FREE BONUS report =-.

  29. @ Barbara – The worst is when spammers grab a section of a comment someone else left and use it for themselves. I cannot *stand* that.

    @ Wallpapers – I hear you on that. When I leave a comment somewhere and people answer back, it’s a little bit of a perk. “Hey! Cool!” Fun stuff.

    @ Bebop – You’re welcome, and good luck with that!

  30. When I first started my blog, I was hardly getting any comments. Now that things are starting to pick up, I’ve noticed people are returning and reading all my old posts. When they leave comments on the older ones, I get really excited. It’s just more validation that people want what you’ve got to say, even if it wasn’t written yesterday.

    I agree, it’s important to respond to comments as much as possible. When I comment on someone’s blog, I love hearing back from the writer because it shows they care about what their readers think.

    .-= Suzannah-Write It Sideways´s last blog ..Extreme Manuscript Makeover Part II: Tone It Up =-.

  31. Speaking of comments… where did they all go?

    Showing as 0 on all posts to me.

  32. @ Patrick – 0? Screenshot? Because… I see everything? Have you been drinking again? I told you to give it up, didn’t I? 😉

    @ Suzannah – Not only is it validation that people want to hear what you have to say, and vice versa, but it’s validation that people respect you as a person enough to acknowledge that you have, indeed, spoken. And that they’re listening.

  33. Ironic… seems like something happened to all your comments!
    .-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..WordPressInASecond Special Announcement =-.

  34. Zero, dear James.

    As if Patrick didn’t just write, nevermind what anyone else may have written. You don’t need a screenshot, Just picture NOTHING.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..10 Things I’ve Discovered About Chris Brogan =-.

  35. This is bizarre. I see them all, even cleared cache and logged out. I’m just special that way.

    And stuck, at least until time zones skew up to my advantage. Should be fixed before days end!

  36. I love your comment responding policy!

    Based on what I learned from reading different sites I wrote a post for Blogging Without a Blog a while back on the topic:

    For me, the biggest turn off is bloggers who only selectively respond to comments. It’s like some people’s comments interest them more than others. It doesn’t matter if I’m one of the people getting answered or not – if the blogger doesn’t respond to none or all, I usually stop reading the blog no matter how interesting it is.

    Yes, I’m good with bloggers who don’t respond at all – that’s a deliberate choice, but responding only selectively tells readers that there’s a party they’re not invited to. And that’s neither good for a sense of community or customer service.
    .-= Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog ..Seeing Bad Habits as Good Traits =-.

  37. Just discovered your blog via Twitter, making my way through your posts. Really enjoying the wealth of information–almost as much as your hilarious writing! I know I’ll be making some changes after reading this. Once I figure out how…
    .-= Kristi´s last blog ..Interview with Sarah E. Allen, MD =-.

  38. @ Kristi – Ah, well, if you can’t, then you know where to reach us. And thanks for the kind words on the blog!

    @ Alex – Oooh, yeah, selective responding isn’t something I think is cool at all, because it sends a silent message to other commentators that their comment wasn’t worthy enough of a response. No, no, no. EVERY person deserves to be heard and acknowledged.

    @ Brett – Removing the date stamp is a very smart way to use a blog. Michel Fortin does that, and it makes his whole site look all new, all the time. Good stuff!
    .-= James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You a Pantser or a Plotter? =-.

  39. I love it when people respond to my comments. How else do you know if anyone actually read it, liked it, or disliked it? I think it’s great that you respond to comments regularly and to comments on old posts. I like the idea of not having dates on posts.

    Commercial Fridges
    .-= J. Baker´s last blog ..Recommended Commercial Ovens and Range Suppliers =-.

  40. I would give anything to build a followership like yours… But, we’re getting there. Posting engaging + informative marketing content on our blog.
    .-= Ryan Lou´s last blog ..Atypical Morning at Starbucks =-.

  41. Hey guys! Somewhat of a longtime reader, first-time commenter. I’ll put you to the test as it seems this was written nearly a month ago. It reminded me of a great blog in my hometown – Drew’s Marketing Minute. Drew is great at responding to comments no matter how old they are. And being that I often treat my Google Reader like a laundry basket in that I wait until it’s completely overflowing and developing a funky smell, it’s much appreciated. Drew once responded to a comment from a post that was over 4 months old! That has to be some sort of record. Just wanted to give Drew some props and give some long-awaited love to MWP, keep up the great work.

  42. @ Ed – Pish. We’re around our blog nearly 24/7, and we respond to every commentator for sure – and with lightening speed 😉

    Glad to have you about as a new one here!

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