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Growing Your Blog 101: Comments

So you’ve done it. You’ve signed up for a Blogger or WordPress.com free blog and you’ve come up with a nifty name. You take ok pictures. You think you write pretty well and you might even have some sort of vision for where you want to go with your blog. You add some pretty widgets that may or may not add value to the site in terms of reader experience. You play with fonts, colours, layouts. You think it looks pretty good.  You write a post. Upload your first pictures. You nervously hit “Publish” for the first time. And then you wait. You wait for all those comments to come in. For people to contact you with free goods, products to test, free trips. You wait for that book deal. That TV show…. And wait…

Ok, ok so the last few items might be exaggerating a little but if you’ve ever read a blog then started your own, you will definitely relate to the waiting for comments. You see that community over at other people’s blogs. It looks effortless, right?  They write a great post, publish gorgeous pictures and the comments just roll in.  So how do they do that? What’s the secret? I receive emails on a regular basis asking me “How do you get so many readers?” “How do you get your name and your blog out there?” so today I will begin addressing this by letting you in on a little secret.

Sorry to burst your bubble but there is no secret. It is work. A lot of work, to grow your blog readership and it’s something I am still working on 2 ½ years into blogging.  At the beginning it seems daunting. I was lucky in that I started my blog kind on a whim. I was looking for something to do in all my spare time after finishing my MA and found an online “New Media” course that looked interesting. I totally planned on creating a blog for the express purpose of completing assignments for that class.

By the time the 10 weeks were over, I was hooked.  The beauty of that class was that it was taught online, in a blog environment. We all had to read each other’s blogs – an immediate audience of 10 – and many of the assignments involved writing posts and commenting on others. Yes, definitely Blogging 101 and much of it I found fairly basic. But what I learned from that and my biggest takeaway is the value of community.  I am still close friends with one of the students from that course. We’ve even met in real life.  We still read each others’ every post nearly 3 years later.  I remember when we were the only people commenting on each others’ blogs. When my stats showed hits in the single figures. And that was after a couple of months. I loved the little bubble of community I formed in that class and I wanted to carry it over into “real life blogging”. But how to do that?  How to gain a following?

At the time,  I was not on Facebook (still am not) or Twitter (I am now) and had no real way of sharing my posts. My photos were not good enough to get on Foodgawker or Tastepspotting so I couldn’t count on traffic from there. So I joined Foodbuzz  – back in the day when it was a much smaller community – as a way of sharing my posts with other like-minded foodies.  Actually, what I found invaluable on Foodbuzz back in those early days was the “Search Foodies” function where you can look for fellow bloggers by location. So whether you want to read blogs written in your home city, or much further afield, it was a great way to find new reads and inspiration. Many of the blogs I still follow today are those I found on Foodbuzz. And during the summer of 2009, when I was visiting family in Australia and having a hard time dealing with the 14 hour time difference, I spent a lot of time finding blogs to follow, reading them and commenting.

Yes, commenting.  There has been a lot written about commenting on other people’s blogs, some of it rather controversial, but for me, it’s  simply a way to reach out to those people whose work I enjoy to say “Hey! I was here, I read your post and I loved it!”  Sometimes you might have more to add to the conversation – maybe you made the recipe and it worked out. Maybe you made it and it didn’t work properly – so you ask a question. Get the conversation going.  The more you engage meaningfully with other people on their blogs, the more likely they will be to visit yours. It’s as simple as that.  Think of commenting on other blogs as being a little like a cocktail party. If you go to the party but don’t talk to anyone, it’s likely people won’t talk to you.

Don’t think the comments will start rolling in overnight. It takes time. I was probably blogging for 6 months before I had a tiny loyal readership.  Some people use the “ask a question” approach, which was pretty successful for me in this earlier post and if you are just starting out, it’s a simple way to draw people in, engage them in a conversation.

If you’re a new blogger, take the time to find a couple of new blogs every now and then that appeal to you. Leave a few comments on posts that speak to you. Contribute meaningfully, respectfully and positively to their community and you might find yours more active too!

Of course with the advent of Facebook and Twitter, sharing your work and getting your name “out there” is much easier than it was even 5 years ago. But that’s another post….

This article was written by Mardi Michels, author of eat. live. travel. write and co-founder of Food Bloggers of Canada.  Mardi is an elementary school French teacher at an all boys’ school in Toronto, a macaron expert, and lives with Mr. Neil, her in-house wine advisor, and Cleo the Cat. Twitter: @eatlivtravwrite

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23 Responses to Growing Your Blog 101: Comments

  1. Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet October 5, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    Great post Mardi! All great points…especially leaving the “I was here comments”. So, I was here! :) I came via StumbleUpon.

    xoxo
    Heather

    • Mardi October 6, 2011 at 6:09 am #

      Ah yes, StumbleUpon – that’s another post too. Rest assured this will be the first in a series of hints and suggestions for helping grow your blog audience. Thanks for stopping by and saying Hi!

  2. Sumaiyyah October 5, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Hi Mardi!

    I’m not a Canadian blogger, but I hope it doesn’t matter that I’m leaving a comment here. I came over here from your food blog. Thanks so much for the link to diannejacob’s blog posts, it was so interesting to read about what people think about leaving comments!

    What you write here is very interesting too. I blog because I like it, but my food blog (I have a separate one in which I write about my experience as a teacher trainee, and another which I share with my sisters) has yet to reach the standard of most food blogs I’ve seen! The photos, a good name for a blog… so far I haven’t scored a lot of points in that. So it surprised me totally when people actually left comments on my blog. Just one or two for each post. mostly from people whose blogs I read and comment on regularly, but it was nice nonetheless.

    I’ve only blogged for over a year (and my food blog is like two months old), so I’ve a lot to learn. It’s good that experienced bloggers like you are sharing what you’ve been through like this. Thank you!

    • Mardi October 6, 2011 at 6:11 am #

      Thanks, well so many people helped me out when I first started blogging that I am happy to give back a little now. Sounds like you have the start of a good little community of people who are visiting your blog already – good luck!

  3. Redawna October 5, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    Great post which I needed to read.

    I am a bit frustrated right now with myself, my blog and the lack of action.

    First, I know I need to post more consistantly. I am in the midst of a career change so I am hoping this frees me up to blog more.

    And I also need to comment more on the blogs I do read. I do but when I am in a hurry I think I will come back later to leave a comment, and I get busy and it does not happen.

    I am contantly working on my pictures. My biggest issue is lightling, there is much I need to learn.

    The great thing is I enjoy every moment of it, now just to find more time!

    Have a fantastic day everyone!

    • Mardi October 6, 2011 at 6:12 am #

      Yes well just as (sadly) the blog won’t write itself, it won’t grow itself either :( The main thing is that you are enjoying yourself, I think that always comes across in your writing and eventually it will lead people to come back again and again. You are right that posting consistently is another key to growing blog traffic. And it’s also on the list as the title of another post in this series!

  4. ClockworkLemon October 5, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Great post! I agree that reading and commenting on a lot of blogs really helps move your blog along. Plus its fun because you end up finding so many interesting blogs and people. I found that keeping track of everything was much easier once I started using googlereader.

    • Mardi October 6, 2011 at 6:09 am #

      Yes, Google Reader is my friend and now I have discovered RSS readers on my iPhone that link to my Google account and allow me to read posts on the subway on the way to work if I like. I do subscribe to well over 200 RSS feeds (not all blogs) though so there is no way I can keep up with them all. I try to get around most of the blogs at least once a month to say “hey”. But it’s not always possible…

  5. SweetArt Supplies October 5, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    Excellent post – I look forward to learning more! I am just starting out on this journey and it is quite the learning curve!

    • Mardi October 6, 2011 at 6:08 am #

      It is a huge learning curve and I think many don’t expect it to be. Hang in there – at least you have fab places like FBC to come to for advice (shameless self promotion alert!)

  6. Renee - Kudos Kitchen October 5, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    Hey Mardi! I was here and I completely enjoyed reading this post. I spoke directly to me regarding the comments and to consider it like a cocktail party. Very good analogy!

    • Mardi October 6, 2011 at 6:08 am #

      Aw Renée – thanks for stopping by! I think we have had this discussion before about comments, glad you found it relevant!

  7. Sally - My Custard Pie October 6, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    Always nice to be reminded that you’ve got to start somewhere when looking with awe at some of the mega-bloggers. I hadn’t realised who was writing this until I got to the end, and it’s a very friendly and down to earth way of sharing this, especially as your blog is so hugely successful now.

    • Mardi October 6, 2011 at 6:07 am #

      Aw Sally thanks – I am not sure I would call my blog “hugely successful” but I have had some modest success and am just sharing my humble beginnings. We all have to start somewhere, right? And many people think the process is much more instantaneous than it is. This blogging thing is hard work, right?

  8. Justine October 6, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Great post Mardi! At one point in your article i thought you were writing to me ;) thanks for the helpful hints, I think I’ll join foodbuzz today! 3 months into blogging and really hope to follow in your footsteps! Looking forward to more of these posts =)

    • Mardi October 6, 2011 at 11:00 am #

      You’re welcome. Even if you just find a handful of blogs that you follow and interact with / on, it’s definitely a start!

  9. K A B L O O E Y October 6, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    Thanks for the mention, Mardi. (Note to readers: that blogging class wasn’t basic for me, in fact, if it weren’t for Mardi giving me hints and explanations, I would have been flailing a lot more. Not because of the class and teacher — both were wonderful — but because computers and I are not on speaking terms.) But here we are, all this while later. I’ll look forward to a continuation of this series, because you have so much to share. And I still have a LOT to learn in terms of getting read and seeking out opportunity.

    • Mardi October 6, 2011 at 11:01 am #

      Ah but didn’t we laugh in the class together? ;) I look forward to your continued comments on this series of posts :)

  10. Paula October 6, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    This is a wonderful post and not just for new bloggers! I totally related to your cocktail party analogy. I am one of those people who does not easily dive into a group and begin chatting at public gatherings and perhaps that is why I enjoy visiting other people’s blogs so much and taking the time to leave a comment. For me, blogging is socializing in community without having to worry if I’m going to stutter over my words, spill a drink on myself or worse, someone else, or have a piece of broccoli stuck between my teeth the moment I offer a smile in greeting. It has afforded me the opportunity to *meet and speak* with so many wonderful people that I would otherwise never had the *nerve* to in person. Blogging and Twitter have opened doors to so much information and learning opportunities and is slowly peeling this non-social butterfly off the wall. I love the fact that I can click on a link and instantaneously check in with *friends* all around the world. And you are so correct when you say to take the time to say *Hi, I was here.* Even after reading their posts, if you don’t have time to stick around and *chat*, at least by pressing the *Like* button you can let them know that you did drop by and enjoyed what they took the time to do for you.

    • Mardi October 6, 2011 at 11:03 am #

      Hi Paula, you are a model for everyone, you always visit and leave comments on blogs and you are a wonderful community member. It’s interesting how the online community can really open doors into other people’s lives for us all and that it’s slowly turning you into a more social butterfly. I would love to chat with you at a cocktail party sometime (and don’t worry – I would tell you if you had broccoli stuck in your teeth!) ;)

  11. Helene Peloquin October 22, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    It’s a lot of work but it did a lot for me. I have been blogging for more than 5 yrs and met nice people. It helped to stay connected to a community when we were moving from Coast to Coast and I did not know anyone at the new location. Regarding commenting I think this is what will help anyone starting to get exposed. Twitter also. I am not a big fan of Facebook. Less interaction than Twitter.

  12. Active Vegetarian January 17, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    Hello Mardi,

    Inspiring post :) I cam across this one via Foodbuzz…

    Thanks!
    Nikki

  13. Margaret@KitchenFrau September 21, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    This is just what I needed. I sometimes feel like I am blogging away in my own little vacuum and don’t know how to reach all the people out there. Thank you so much for your timely advice. I will definitely put myself out there at those cocktail parties. I do love visiting but always hold back a bit, so I will try to be more social.

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