Engagement is becoming an increasingly important metric for publishers. Advertisers are not just looking at metrics like pageviews. Instead, they’re looking to see how long individuals are spending on your site and how much they engage with your material. Not only can this help increase advertising revenue, but it plays an important part in whether your readership consistently returns to your site and whether you’re likely to see an increase in subscriptions and other revenue streams.
Comments on articles – and the discussion that can ensue there – are a great indication of your levels of engagement. But encouraging participation and avoiding unsavory flame wars are key concerns for publishers. Here are a few tactics that publishers can use to optimize their comments section.
End each article with a call to action
It’s important to remind readers to comment on what they read. While many will organically engage, studies show that participation increases when your articles end with a clear call to action asking to readers to leave a comment. Sites approach this in different ways. One is to end each article with a simple, static call to action such as “Let us know what you think of this piece in the comments section below.” Others customize each call to action to the content of the article, like “Let us know in the comments below what your thoughts and experiences are with Google Analytics.”
Monitor comments and promote engagement
Nothing frustrates commentators more than when they leave a comment and it ends up being ignored. It’s important that someone from your organization is watching comments as they arise and takes the time to respond. Whether you’re actively engaging your readers in a discussion or just thanking them for participation, spending time on this can have a big impact on whether readers perceive your site as a valuable community or not.
Automate your spam scanning and posting process
Today there are a number of different comment apps and services that make it easier to handle the technology side of administering your comments section. These apps do everything from integrate with Facebook to allow you to set screener questions to help determine what information is spam. Manually approving each comment that comes in can be an overwhelming process and lead to delays that annoy your readers. Yet it’s critical to have a solution in place that helps you avoid negative comments, profanity, and so forth. Find the right technology to optimize the operations of your comments section, and that will open up time and energy to focus on encouraging engagement and providing high quality content.
Schedule dedicated chats for your comments section
If readers are reluctant to comment, consider scheduling a dedicated chat for your comments section. This approach can be as simple as noting that the author of a specific piece will be reviewing comments and answering questions during a specific time block. When they’re more likely to get a response, readers ultimately see more value in taking the time to participate by leaving comments on your website.
Flame wars and trolling are part of the reality of internet. Reading the comments section of any site that allows users to comment anonymously quickly devolves. The internet is a mean place, and the simplest subjects can launch tirades, insults, and worse. Organizations that promote accountability by requiring commentators to register with their real names or integrate commenting accounts with their Facebook or Twitter accounts often find that there’s a higher degree of discourse and civility in their comments.
From smooth operations to a real plan for accountability, it’s possible to operate your website’s comments section in such a way that readers are excited to participate. Spending the time to find the solutions that work for you is very valuable, and can help grow your membership, participation, and overall levels of engagement.