What’s the best way to respond to comments on my blog?

One of the best ways to engage with your blogging community is to respond to reader comments. But what’s the best way? Should you respond to every comment, every time? And how should you respond: within the comments or directly to the commenter? It can get confusing quickly. Luckily, there are options.

Do I need to respond to every comment?

If you’re starting out or don’t have a solid following yet, then my advice is to respond to as many comments as you reasonably can. Just as bloggers love to receive feedback on posts, readers like to know their opinions have been heard. If someone is taking the time to write a thoughtful comment on your post, it makes sense to acknowledge it and encourage even more comments. This can get sticky if your blog grows and you start receiving many comments on each post. At that point, you may need to re-think your comment response strategy your comment policy. Most comment policies set boundaries for rude and attacking comments or spam, but you should also set expectations of how often you will respond to comments (if at all). By setting expectations early on, readers will be more likely to understand when you can’t get to everyone.

Now, having said all that, there are bloggers who don’t respond to comments at all (or very rarely) and that’s OK too. As readers, I encourage you not to take it personally if a blogger doesn’t respond to your comment.

How should I respond to comments: via e-mail or in the comments section?

Each blogger handles commenting differently. Some respond to each comment individually via private e-mail; others respond individually within the comments section. Or, if there are recurring questions or reactions, a blogger may choose to update the post itself to address those concerns.

Unfortunately, the default comment systems on most blogging platforms leave a lot to be desired. Luckily, there are work-arounds for the most common issues. Here are some plug-ins, widgets, and third-party applications you can install depending on your platform and what you want to achieve.

WordPress

  • Subscribe to Comments via Tempus Fugit allows users to subscribe to comments so they’ll know whenever someone else leaves a comment on the same post. This can be helpful if comment discussion is lively and users want to have updates to the conversation sent to their inbox.
  • Comment Email Responder via Ugh!!’s Greymatter Honeypot is an easy way to send an e-mail response to the commenter and have that same response automatically show up in the comment section as well.
  • If you haven’t enabled threaded comments, you can follow Kim’s instructions for enabling threaded comments on your WordPress blog. (Threaded comments are when responses to a specific comment are indented and show up directly under the comment they respond to.)

TypePad
TypePad’s default commenting system is fairly robust: it allows you to establish settings like whether to allow basic HTML within comments, set comment order (oldest to newest or vice versa), include userpics, etc. But if you want to include some extra functionality, you’ll need to switch to TypePad Connect. Connect allows you to kick it up a notch with functionality like

  • threaded comments
  • replying to a comment via e-mail and having it show up in the commenter’s e-mail box as well as the comment section of the post
  • replying to comments directly from the comments section and having it show up in the comments and also sending a copy to the commenter’s e-mail box.

Blogger
Although Blogger is a great blogging platform for some and it’s very malleable in many ways, its commenting feature has been a source of frustration since the beginning. To get around the lack of commenting features, many Blogger users resort to third-party software. The two most popular options are Disqus and Intense Debate.

How are you handling comments?

24 Responses

  1. Between The Pages Blog June 1, 2010 / 2:01 pm

    Thanks! Even though Between The Pages is hosted on TypePad, I’d never heard of TypePad Connect.

  2. John Soares June 1, 2010 / 6:23 pm

    I typically respond directly to most comments, unless a comment is so generic I can’t think of anything significant to say.

    Like you, I use WordPress (and Thesis), but unlike you, I use Subscribe to Comments (!)

  3. Stacey Abler June 1, 2010 / 8:03 pm

    I respond to all of the comments on my business blogs but as they grow, I will definitely pay attention to whether I will continue to have the time to do that. I follow one blogger routinely who says he replies to all comments. It seems every post I chose to comment on, he decides to not respond to any comments left. It is rather frustrating! So above all else, I think you should do what you say you are going to do. 🙂

  4. Melanie Nelson June 1, 2010 / 8:39 pm

    Between the Pages: If you’re using TypePad, you should definitely consider using TypePad Connect. I think you’ll really like the threaded comments feature. And, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out _TypePad for Dummies_. When Shannon and I wrote it, we tried to include instructions on several little-known tweaks for TypePad and we included advice on all aspects of blogging, not just on using TypePad as your platform. You may learn a few more tricks from the book!

  5. Melanie Nelson June 1, 2010 / 8:41 pm

    John,

    I agree with you about finding something to say to generic comments. It’s always nice to have those comments, but following up is hard.

    Point taken on the subscribe to comments option. There are actually several tweaks I need to adjust on my blog and I keep getting sidetracked by work for other people. Making other blogs better has been my focus for a few months and mine has suffered a bit, I’m afraid. 😉 You should see my whiteboard full of things I need to do for my own blog this summer. Wonder if I’ll get to them? 😉

  6. Melanie Nelson June 1, 2010 / 8:43 pm

    Stacey,

    I agree with you: regardless of what your blog-answering policy is, you should make sure you stick to it. That means, of course, set realistic goals with yourself *and* your readers.

  7. Melanie Nelson June 1, 2010 / 8:44 pm

    See, John? Now I also see that my threaded comments aren’t working so I have to fix that too! My list is getting longer…

  8. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot June 2, 2010 / 5:43 am

    Yes, comments are valuable social proof for new readers so we need to cultivate them by rewarding commenters. Replying to them on your blog is the best way, it opens communication between blogger and reader and increases the number of comments too:)

  9. Between The Pages Blog June 2, 2010 / 7:39 am

    Melanie,

    It turns out that if you were on the “old” TypePad, you had to opt into TypePad Connect. But, if you’re using the “new” TypePad, it is already integrated.

    I’ve seen TypePad for Dummies in the bookstores and will definately check it out.

    A totally unrelated question – how does one get an icon next to their username?

  10. Dawn Farias June 3, 2010 / 2:12 pm

    Melanie – thank you for answering my question! I spent the last few months ‘trying’ out WordPress and am now back on Blogger (just yesterday, in fact, with an entirely new blog, email, Twitter – the whole shebang). What I miss most from WordPress is being able to reply to comments from the dashboard. That just rocks.

    One thing I’ve noticed on Blogger blogs with the 3rd party apps is that it really seems to slow things down a bit. Takes a long time to load and such.

    I think your post and Annabel’s answer have solved this dilemma for me: just answer on the blog. I read in one of the tips from 31DBBB about emailing a commenter directly but making that a regular habit. Perhaps the combination of the two is a good middle ground.

    Thank you, again, for taking the time to address this issue.

    -Dawn Farias

  11. Adrienne June 4, 2010 / 2:16 am

    I use Intense Debate on a Blogger blog. I wanted a system that would allow me to respond to directly to a comment instead of my response being 5 rows down from the comment and I have to use @name so people know who (to whom?) I’m replying too.

  12. Kimberly Castleberry June 24, 2010 / 10:20 pm

    Melanie, Thanks for the shoutout and let me know if you need a hand getting your threading working 😉

    Does make for a good giggle though that at least 2 of the 3 modifications you suggested you dont seem to have going at the moment! Life is funny like that!
    Kimberly

    • Melanie Nelson June 25, 2010 / 7:45 am

      Kimberly,

      The cobbler’s kids never have good shoes, either. 😉

  13. lavinia June 26, 2010 / 1:49 pm

    i started blogging in jan2010 but am confused on how to cut and paste blinkies to my web site i just cant cut and paste i downloaded a tutoril on cut and paste but i never recieved it to my blogpage

  14. Melanie Nelson October 4, 2010 / 9:06 am

    Lavinia,
    I’m going to take this offline and respond to your via e-mail. 🙂

  15. Shemul October 22, 2013 / 12:16 pm

    I am using Facebook comment in WordPress, its easy to get notified in Facebook.

  16. Riyaz December 8, 2017 / 6:05 am

    I guess that Comment Email Responder would be good for me.

    Let’s try this plugin and see the result.

    Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.