Last week in Mexico at the Club Med Food Blogger Camp, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes spoke about the history of her mega-successful blog and particularly, her philosophy about blog comments.
At first I was surprised she had so much to say about comments. Then I was grateful, because I don’t always know how to handle them, particularly the snarky ones that irritate people. Elise’s no-nonsense policy showed just one of the reasons why her blog is so successful. Here are her tips:
1. Solicit comments by asking questions. Have a conversation with your community, and as a result, you’ll attract comments that add value. “Readers have interesting things to say too. I have learned so much from them about recipes, new ideas, and recipe fixes,” she says. One reader delighted Elise, for example, by commenting on her cinnamon toast post that it is better under the broiler.
When Elise posts a new recipe, her goal is to interact with readers. She asks questions such as, “This is how we like our chile verde, how do you like yours?” “What are you doing with parsnips?”
2. Edit comments with readers in mind. Elise gets about 30 comments per day (her site gets more than 100,000 visitors per day) and spends two hours working on them. For the ones she publishes, she edits for grammar, spelling and relevance.
She compares her philosophy to a newspaper’s, when it comes to cleaning up the comments.
3. Have a philosophy. “I expect commenters to be like invited guests to my living room,” she explains. While Elise publishes almost every comment, she will delete comments posting opinion as fact, and those that misinform, bait, or are just irrelevant. She will also delete those she deems negative or unhelpful. “I don’t like to read that stuff on other people’s blog,” she says, implying that her readers don’t want to read them on hers.
To the bloggers in the room, Elise advised, “Don’t engage with people who say some version of ‘you’re an idiot, you don’t know anything.’ Don’t even finish reading them. Do not engage the trolls. There are people out there who get their kicks out of making people’s lives miserable.”
Read more about Elise’s comment philosophy in this Problogger post.
So that’s what has worked for Elise. What works for you? Do you edit comments? Do you delete at will, or are you so pleased to receive comments that you let them all stand? If you have recipes, do you get comments that enhance them?
I agree with Elise’s philosophy. I delete comments which are obviously baiting, are only commenting to sell something, or are deliberately rude.
I don’t edit for grammar or delete those which aren’t “good enough,” but I will delete a link to a sales web site and leave the comment if it’s relevant. As long as the comment is polite, I’ll post it. I would prefer that people have something constructive to say, but if they just want to tell me “Looks delicious!” that’s ok.
Kristina, there’s nothing inherently wrong with “looks delicious,” other than that it adds no value to the conversation.
Actually, if they were from different people, I WOULD leave them.
I want people to return to my blog, and if I don’t post people’s comments because they are a little banal, then why would they? THAT’s one of the differences between my blog and a newspaper; I have no expectation that every letter to the editor gets published, but I do expect comments I leave to be posted as long as they are polite.
It’s a solid philosophy for sites grabbing 100,000 uniques a day. But for 99% of the world I think letting a few (or all) instances of “Looks delicious!” through is a better idea.
I’m curious how many people find it offensive to delete such a harmless comment. But again, with 30+ comments each day, you can afford to offend a few visitors.
I don’t think offending anyone is part of the plan, Caleb. Here’s Elise’s comment policy.
One point Elise brought up, that I didn’t think of, is that a certain amount of blogs and links become dead because some people shut down their blogs or links change their basename. In either event, Google sees dead links and you can get penalized for having inactive or dead links and lose search engine optimization. She does let the comments run for a while, then goes back and deletes them after a certain amount of time passes.
Some people are now using click-boxes so readers can vote certain comments up to the top of the list, such as the ones that are more helpful. So if more people start using those, it’s likely the comments that are most interesting will get voted to the top, which is a consideration for folks leaving comments that want to get noticed.
Yes right, David. It might be a chore to go back and check links, but if people are interested in maintaining good SEO, it’s a worthwhile exercise.
How fascinating! I haven’t noticed these click-boxes. Not everyone is interested in competition, I would assume. It sure adds pressure to leaving a good comment.
There are WordPress plugins to enable comment / commenter ratings. I think commenting “systems” like Intense Debate and Disqus also have the ability to rate comments.
That’s an interesting point that David made about dead links in comments. I don’t get too many links in comments, but I’ll have to look see if any of them have dead links. And not just comments, but links throughout the whole blog.
I don’t want to stray too far off topic, but handling dead links shouldn’t be a problem using rel=”nofollow. See http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=96569 for an explanation.
It prevents Google crawling through that link, doubling to discourage other black hat SEO tactics in comments and possible 404 troubles. WordPress does this with comment author links by default. You’ll notice the attribute on these comments on this very blog, if you view source 😛
Thanks Caleb. Great tip. I had to read it a few times to understand it, though! Not as techie as you.
I”m not as successful at soliciting comments, so I don’t have so many to deal with. (Aside from the troublesome spam ones, which I delete right away.) I guess I’ve been lucky that all of our comments have been positive.
Nate, maybe you’ll try her strategy of asking questions to get more.
My comments are moderated mainly because I don’t want any spam or links to sales sites showing up on my site. However, once a person has been approved to comment the first time, their comments don’t need to be approved before showing. If it’s an advertisement or purposely rude comment, I don’t publish it. I don’t edit for grammar and allow “looks delicious” type comments. On a couple of occasions, I’ve had people leave comments bashing chefs at restaurants for being bad employers or not paying. Those don’t see the light of day. My blog is not the forum for that.
Agreed. I had a bashing session myself, and it was a good learning experience about what not to do.
I edit for spam and nonsense. Don’t think I’ve ever had a rude comment. I understand her philosophy of editing on her type of site, but I am a bit confounded when she says “I expect commenters to be like invited guests to my living room”. Would she not let visitors in if she didn’t like what they were wearing or correct their grammar at a dinner party? I can see if she got 1,000 comments a day, but why not let people just say that they think something is delicious or show appreciation? And as a blogger, leaving a comment on someone’s blog (or someone leaving one on mine) is a way to say hello, show that they’ve stopped by and appreciate what they read. If she only wants a certain kind of input she should make that clear.
I have noticed that I get a lot of interactive comments, people tell me things that relate to what I have written. Maybe that is because my blog is more about what I write about food – and life – than just a recipe, so that does indeed inspire readers to discuss the point I am making rather than just the dish I’ve cooked, which I take as a compliment to my writing if I can inspire this kind of dialogue. Comments will reflect your blog content.
Jamie, interesting point. I guess it’s up to each of us to decide how much control we want over our blogs. You’re more laissez-faire about it than she is, and maybe your comments are different than hers. But there’s no denying her success with a method that works for her.
SMITH BITES says
Since I’m a brand new blogger, I want to say ‘thank you’ for the information that has been posted here as well as to all those who attended the Food Blogger’s camp. Every single person who has shared their information so openly has really, really helped me as a newbie. And Elise’s information not only has given me tools with which to manage my own comments but she’s also given me information on how I should be commenting on other blogs – it’s just awesome to be a part of this group of folks who all do what we love with such integrity!
How sweet, Debra. I appreciate it, on behalf of other helpful bloggers. I hope you’ll be posting here often.
Sarah Henry says
I’ve been fortunate so far, no rude comments to deal with. I’m perfectly fine if someone wants to express a different p.o.v., as long as it’s done respectfully.
That keeps things interesting for all & makes for lively & healthy debate.
But for obvious reasons I do delete “comments” that start like this: “I am a fan of your blog…I wonder if you would write about me…here’s my link…”
Oh gosh, Sarah, do people really say that? I haven’t received any comments like that.
Lively and healthy debates are terrific reads, so “good on ya, mate” if you can get those going.
I actually find all the comment censoring distasteful and, at times, more than a little disingenuous. It creates a self-reinforcing set of people and comments who are deemed ‘worthy’ of being published.
And really, the cinnamon toast post: “That’s an awesome post. ” saw the light of day. That’s pretty much the hyper version of “looks delicious” isn’t it?
All in all, I am sad to see this approach being promoted. What’s that old line about not being able to stand the heat…?
Okay, that’s what makes the world go ’round, that we are each entitled to our own idea of how to run our blogs.
Don’t you think this sort of post circumvents people deciding for themselves how to run their blog? Like if a ‘big A-lister’ does it, they will too? I think you underrate the effect of the perceived voice of authority.
I’m also curious about the real lines for censoring and (worse) rewriting comments. As I mentioned, clearly “looks delicious” type comments get through, so how does she decide WHOSE “looks delicious” is worthy v. not? Is it friends, bloggers who are “big” enough, what?
I guess my point is: disagreement is healthy. Why not let it happen?
We’re having a healthy discussion about it right here! There are no discussions like this on her recipe blog, and that’s her right. And might I say, with over 100,000 hits per day, her strategy is working pretty well for her.
I think I’m not totally clear on why plain ol’ “that looks delicious”-type comments aren’t good enough. It’s not spam. It’s not selling anything. It’s just saying, “I was here and I like what I saw.” I can see that if you’re getting 100,000 comments a day it might take up too much bandwidth or something. But 30 seems manageable. And deleting them seems kind of degrading–like simply being nice isn’t up to snuff.
I’ve seen other popular bloggers comment on the fact that they don’t like the “looks delicious” comments and I can’t for the life of me think why that would be a bad or annoying thing.
I will admit that I am uneasy with the concept of editing other people’s comments for grammar and spelling. Why do that? If they make mistakes in these areas, it’s a reflection on commenter, not on the blogger.
But, then again, I get very few comments on my site. So, I am thrilled when someone takes the time to comment–even if it’s a “that looks delicious” comment.
For some bloggers, it’s about having a professional product. I fix typos and mis-spellings. I think they reflect on me and my product.
In journalism school I learned to focused on the reader and what the reader wants. Certainly the reader doesn’t want to read 50 boring letters, or 30 that say the same thing. So the newspaper or magazine editor decides which have merit. I guess if you don’t think much about the reader experience, you’d leave them all. There are sites with 100-200 comments that say mostly the same thing, and I get bored quickly and leave.
I guess it’s all about balance, for me. On the other hand, I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, and I like the fact that people take time to write. Ex. we’re kind of going over the same territory now, but I’m leaving the comments rather than delete them!
Patricia Eddy says
I have to agree with kitchenMage. I don’t delete comments unless they are attacking. If someone wants to say that my recipe didn’t work for them, that’s just fine. As long as they do it in a civil manner, I let it in (this has happened twice in my blogging history and in one case I was able to help the commenter figure out why their attempt failed and in another instance I was able to see where something I wrote wasn’t clear). If all someone wants to say is YUM, that’s great. I’m happy to know that something worked for them or that something looked good. It helps me know what my readers want and what sort of recipes are successes.
I enforce no-follow tags on links in comments. I never edit. I want all readers to feel welcome and feel that they can say what they want on my blog. I get at least 10-15 comments a week at this point, which I realize isn’t huge, but I think that part of the reason I get this many comments is because I respond to the majority of them and I publish everything.
I’m all for having a commenting policy and I’m all for the thought that we can all choose how to run our own blogs. The one thing I’m not for is editing comments. I’m afraid I just don’t understand that one. First of all, why spend the time? Second of all, unless you are disclosing in your commenting policy that you may edit someone’s comment, that just seems wrong. I would love to know her reason for editing for grammar and spelling.
You get the last one, Patricia. I’m closing the comments now because we are going round and round.
As for editing, well, you’re talking to the wrong person. I’ve been an editor since my summer job in journalism school in 1975, and I fix typos, spelling mistakes and grammar. It’s the right thing to do for the writer and reader, from my perspective. I make the writer look better, and I keep the reader from being annoyed.
And here’s my last word for the end of this post: I deleted a comment. It did not add value, and it was mean-spirited. So there.
Hilarious. Thanks for injecting some humor!