There’s a question no one in the marketing world is asking, and I think it’s time we got to the bottom of it.
Why do people comment on blogs?
In the mystical realm of blog comments, we tend to focus on the inverse of this question. Do a quick Google search with “why do people comment on blogs” and you’re met with tons of articles on why people don’t comment on your blog or article.
I think that’s the wrong way to approach the question. Or, at least, ill-advised focus on one half of the equation.
It would be like if you broke your bike chain and a mechanic passed by and said, “You put too much pressure on your chain,” and rode off into the sunset. Sure, now you know what went wrong, but you’ll keep breaking your chain because you don’t know the process behind what keeps a chain healthy.
Knowing why people don’t comment is useful, but knowing what drives people to leave their digital opinion is just as important — if not more.
So, in an effort to slay speculations and unproven hunches, I created a survey. This survey aimed to find the truth behind why people comment on blogs.
And boy…did it do that and more.
Some of the results go against everything you’ve been told about blog commenting.
Here’s how this article is going to go down:
Right away, I’m going to show you why people comment. This in itself is extremely useful information, and the answers to this one survey question can be the missing link to the commenting equation (I also share why people don’t comment).
But I must say, that’s just the beginning, and only a small piece of the overall picture.
After that, I’m going to break down patterns I saw and show you in-depth insights that will take your understanding of what drives commenting to the next level. Things like:
- Why a congratulatory comment is the most high-maintenance comment
- How males and females differ in commenting priorities (guys, you do something that really surprised me)
- How the number of comments on your blog can affect future comments
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more I found in this survey, so you’ll want to read the entire thing (bookmark it and come back to it if you have to) and grab that infographic if you haven’t already (pictures make the data pretty).
Before I jump in, here are some of the nitty-gritties about the survey itself:
- 16 questions
- Online via Typeform
- Exclusively multiple choice questions
- Participant age range spans 11-80+
- 58% Male, 42% Female
- Sample size of 130
- This survey centered around commenting on blogs and articles. It excluded commenting on videos, social media posts and the like.
- Blogs and articles, in this sense, are general and non niche-based.
Got it? Excellent. Let’s take a look at why people comment on blogs.
Why People Comment on Blogs
People comment on blogs because a raging flame of anger festers inside of them that can only be quenched by capslocking their way through a Tolkien-length commentary in response to your inferior blog post.
Kidding. But that’s how it feels sometimes, right?
In reality, the majority of people don’t even want to comment on your article. They want to comment on the comments on your article.
The #1 response was “I want to respond to other people’s comments.” Participants could select multiple reasons why they comment on blogs, but just over half chose this option.
So it seems people want to have dialogue with other readers. But the responses in this category have a symbiotic relationship with other comments. After all, those who want to respond to other comments can’t do so until the initial comments from those who want to ask a question/voice their opinion/correct the author have been left.
An interesting thing to note is the context of this particular response. There was no option for “I want to respond critically/favorably to other people’s comments.” As such, you have to take this one at face value. It is strictly responding to others’ comments.
What isn’t so surprising is the 2nd-highest response on the list: “I want to congratulate the author on a great piece.” As an author, I know firsthand that this doesn’t seem true at all. A lot of times, you tend to remember the (Editor’s Note: nice, happy people) that say bad things about your article.
Yet, if you go back and look, I guarantee that almost half your comments are from someone congratulating you on the piece. People genuinely are grateful for the information you’ve provided, and most want to thank you for your hard work and insight.
The rest of the results are quite straightforward and I’ll let you apply these responses to your own blog comments the way you wish to. However, I want to give you a real example of these comments on a blog post.
Just to show you how accurate this section of the survey was, I went over to LinkedIn and opened up the first article in their Pulse section. In just an hour of comments, I was able to find seven of the nine examples in action:
Again, that’s just in an hour’s worth of comments on one post and I was still able to find seven of the nine reasons why people comment.
Not only that, but as I combed through the rest of the comments in the post I found that the breakdown of comments roughly matched up with the percentage distribution in the survey (with the exception of trolling).
Why People Don’t Comment on Blogs
Like I said at the outset, though, this is only half of the equation. Now you know why people comment on blogs, so let’s look at the custom responses from people who don’t comment on blogs:
- They don’t feel like their input is valuable/they don’t feel like they have anything important to say.
- They don’t feel like the content was that good.
- It was more talking to than talking with.
- The author isn’t a friend or doesn’t have a personal relationship with the reader.
- There’s just so much negativity in the comments that they don’t want to be caught up in that storm.
- They feel it’s sometimes too late to jump into the discussion.
- There are comments only from friends and family just giving kudos and that gives it an exclusive feel.
When you combine these reasons why people don’t comment with the reasons why they do, you can begin to understand the specific actions you can take to encourage each type of commenter to take action.
Since half of the people who comment are most likely to comment on existing comments, let’s start by looking at the three subsets of commenters who want to congratulate/elaborate/voice an opinion.
By design, if you take a strong stance in your article, those that want to voice their opinion will voice their opinion, so there isn’t too much to worry about there. For now, think about the readers that want to share via congratulations and elaborations.
Two of the biggest barriers for these groups can be found in the reasons why readers don’t comment. First, there’s the “Why Me” mentality:
“I feel like it’s sometimes too late to jump into the discussion.”
“I don’t feel like my input is valuable/I don’t feel like I have anything important to say.”
These two reasons are the biggest roadblocks for readers to overcome. The good news for you, the writer, is these are relatively simple objections to alleviate. All you need to do is qualify the section where you encourage people to comment. Don’t just leave something like:
“Got an idea? Comment below!”
Everyone does that, and it does nothing to quell this set of objections. You need to make everyone feel like it’s never too late and every comment is valuable. You can accomplish this by saying something like:
“This is really only the beginning of the conversation. I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about this happening in your life, and I definitely want to hear about it! Drop a comment anytime and share any insight you have into this polarizing topic with us.”
This type of comment prompt makes readers feel like their insight is always timely and valuable, breaking down that barrier of “Why Me.” That’s step one.
Step two is breaking down the “Exclusivity” mentality. This is when readers don’t comment because they don’t feel welcome:
“The author isn’t a friend or doesn’t have a personal relationship with me.”
“There are comments only from friends and family just giving kudos and that gives it an exclusive feel.”
This one is a bit of a longer fix. To break down this mentality, you need to really go the extra mile and build relationships with your readers. Whether you do this by commenting back on every comment, sending a random tweet to thank a person for reading or proactively commenting on other people’s blogs, you need to spend some time to make your readers feel like family.
This, in the most general sense, is why readers do and do not comment. You can use this information
However, what I’m about to show you in this next section is the juicy stuff. This is the next-level, in-depth insight that will take what you’ve learned in this section and put it under a whole different lens. You won’t believe some of the insights this survey uncovered.
(Slips on labcoat) Let’s get nerdy.
Blog Commenting: 20 Advanced Insights
I wanted more.
This survey wasn’t just about why people comment. It was about commenting in the grand scheme of things. I wanted to know why certain people commented and what things influenced their commenting decisions.
So I asked for more. And I got some responses that made me raise an eyebrow in disbelief, followed by both eyebrows in surprise.
The information I’m about to give you can’t be found anywhere else on the internet.
The best part? There’s no paywall for this. It’s all absolutely free. All I ask is that, after you read all this, you download the infographic so you can always reference this information.
With that, here are the 20 Advanced Insights I found in this survey.
1. 11-20-year-olds comment the least, while those aged 41+ comment the most.
Right away, this is a bit surprising. You’d think that 11-20-year-olds — with their love of media and ease of technological access — would comment the most on blogs and articles.
We know that the 11-20 demographic uses YouTube quite a bit, and they’re some of the highest commenters on this and many other social media platforms.
Yet, when it comes to commenting on blogs and articles, they comment the least out of all age groups.
Granted, if you have a niche site that has command of this demographic, then by all means fish for comments. But, if you’re not one of those blogs and you have a mixed readership, I wouldn’t focus your efforts on trying to goad comments out of this demographic.
2. The 41+ age group is engaged.
31% of respondents in the 41+ section comment on articles sometimes or often, the highest engagement among all classes.
Compare that to the 11-20 age range, which had the lowest engagement score with 86% rarely or never commenting on articles.
The 21-30-year-olds aren’t far behind in engagement, though. Only 6% of 21-30-year-olds said they never comment on articles.
3. 21-30-year-olds are the most opinionated.
Surprisingly, in most areas, there aren’t any significant differences between age vs. reasons for commenting.
Truth be told, the 11-20 age range was the smallest sample size of all, as the few that did comment made for extreme percentages. I didn’t include their responses in this poll for that reason.
Yet, look at what the 21-30-year-old age range had to say:
When it comes to voicing their opinion for contradicting views, responding to other commenters’ comments and asking for elaboration on a subject, 21-30-year-olds are by far the leaders.
One other real age difference that stands out the most is the increase in SEO and brand visibility as the years wane on. The 41+ age range seems to value building backlinks and enhancing their brand visibility the most.
Thankfully, trolling (commenting just to rile someone up) goes down as people age.
4. The majority of people rarely comment on articles and blog posts.
Rare, in this instance, is classified as less than five times per month.
It is a rather large group, though. Those who comment rarely or never make up 68% of respondents, and only 5% of people comment often.
So what’s the difference between those that rarely comment vs. those that comment often? Glad you asked.
5. People who rarely comment do so because they have extreme feelings (good or bad).
If someone who rarely comments steps out of the shadows to offer up their two cents, you better believe the emotions governing that decision were strong.
Here’s a specific response from the survey:
“I only find that I respond when it’s something that elicits strong emotion of whatever value, positive or negative. If I’m indifferent about the subject, then I just think my thoughts and keep truckin’!”
Positive or negative is the key here. Sometimes a heightened sense of pride or gratitude can lead to a congratulatory comment. On the flip side, if something really agitated this person, you can believe they’ll come forth to voice their opinion:
As you can see, people who rarely comment don’t care about SEO, brand visibility and trolling. Those are the habits of people who comment sometimes and often.
Rather, the people that comment rarely do so out of that emotion. If they’re angry, they might hit your comments section to resolve a support issue, voice their contradicting views, point out a factual error or respond to comments. If they’re happier, they’ll use the opportunity to congratulate the author or respond to comments.
Conversely, people who often comment are more prone to trolling, congratulating, getting elaboration and overwhelmingly responding to others’ comments. They comment more, so they’re more comfortable diving into a comments section to share their views.
6. People who write articles are almost twice as likely to comment on blogs.
Perhaps they’re more sympathetic with your cause? Either way, people who write articles are almost twice as likely to comment on your blog post.
- The 59% of respondents who don’t write or have a blog held 38% of the “comments sometimes or often” responses.
- The 41% of respondents who do write or have a blog held 62% of the “comments sometimes or often” responses.
If your goal is to start engagement on your blog, start by commenting on other people’s blogs. That relationship you build will increase the likelihood of dialogues in your comment section.
7. 74% of people don’t expect the author to reply.
Really, it depends on how you want to look at this. Either you can say, “Well, 74% of people don’t expect me to reply, so I can A) overdeliver and make their day or B) not sweat it and reply sometimes or never.”
That’s one way to look at it. The other way to frame this is, “Well, 26% of people expect me to comment, so I absolutely have to reply to all comments just in case.”
On the LeadPages blog, we’ve taken the stance of replying to every single comment we get. It doesn’t take a ton of time to drop a quick reply, and if someone took time out of their day to leave a comment then we think that’s important and should be rewarded.
Along those lines…
8. Most people won’t be bothered if you don’t reply to their comment.
The good news is, if you decide not to reply to comments, you’re not going to ruin anyone’s Christmas. While 26% of people expect the author to reply to their comment, 0% indicated being ignored would truly bother them(Note: Percentages were rounded down/up based on decimal points in the program, so two people actually would be bothered).
There are those that will be a little bothered, but most really don’t mind at all. One interesting thing to note: this number swings differently from the responses in the “Do you expect the author to reply back” question. Some people who didn’t expect the author to comment back admitted that, while they don’t expect a response, they’d be a little bothered that they didn’t get one.
9. People are slightly more likely to comment on an article with few existing comments.
This isn’t as significant as other results, but the percentages are still pronounced. The survey asked respondents if they were more or less likely to comment on an article with three or fewer posts:
58% are more likely to comment on that article. I asked this question because I assumed people perceived articles with low comment numbers as “dead articles.” This could dissuade readers to comment, though it seems that adage isn’t as true as I originally thought.
In fact, the opposite is more true….
10. People are less likely to comment on an article that has lots of existing comments.
For a lot of blog authors, success is measured by the amount of comments.
Others believe that people are more likely to comment on an article if there are a bunch of existing comments. They think it makes the barrier to entry seem less daunting. Heck, I even thought that.
That is, until I saw the response to the question, “If you saw an article with 75 or more comments, are you more or less likely to comment?”:
67% of people are less likely to comment on an article with 75 or more existing comments. That’s a 25% swing each way just because there are more comments on an article.
It seems that the more comments there are, the more intimidated people are to leave a comment.
This goes back to the reasons people don’t comment. Remember this response:
“They feel it’s sometimes too late to jump into the discussion.”
This isn’t a problem for those that comment often on articles. Unfortunately, that group accounts for roughly 5% of the commenters. The majority of commenters only rarely comment, which means they don’t have the confidence to jump into a huge string of comments.
Obviously, if you have 75+ comments, you have a good amount of engagement already. But, just know there are diminishing returns after a while, especially when dealing with people who rarely comment.
11. Certain readers are daunted by lots of comments but encouraged by few comments, and vice versa.
This one is a bit more difficult to explain, but bare with me because this is a particularly interesting insight.
The data from the survey strongly separates readers into two groups: those who enjoy articles with many comments, and those who prefer articles with few comments.
- From the 58% people that said they were more likely to comment if an article had 3 or less comments, 83% said they would be less likely to comment on an article with 75+ comments.
- From the 42% of people that said they were less likely to comment if an article had 3 or less comments, 59% said they would be more likely to comment on an article with 75+ comments.
There’s a definite swing in behavior, which clearly can divide readers into two groups in this respect.
Some people feel more comfortable replying to articles with few comments, yet feel too intimidated when faced with a huge comment thread.
Others won’t waste their time commenting on articles with few comments, preferring to go after “high engagement” articles.
These two groups demonstrate the stark contrast between commenting psyches.
12. Most people question the legitimacy of your blog if you turn off comments.
This question was inspired by sites like Copyblogger, Popular Science and more that are turning off their comments.
Copyblogger, for instance, turned off their comments because 96% of the comments they received were spam. It took tremendous time to sift through and accept/decline the comments, and they felt the time could be better used doing other things.
Popular Science, on the other hand, turned off their comments because they felt the intellectual conversations started to become few and far between amidst the trollers and spam bots.
These big brands ushered in a spike of blogs turning off comments, if only because they were an authority and people followed suit.
But should you turn off comments? Turns out, most people start to question the legitimacy of your blog if you do:
Copyblogger and Popular Science have built enough brand equity and familiarity to avoid a dramatic decline in engagement/readership/perception of legitimacy if they turn off comments.
If you’re not in that echelon, it could be potentially harmful to turn off comments. Questioning the legitimacy of a site can lead to decreased readership, which is a much bigger problem than anything comment-related.
When applying this data to your site, I urge you to think about your goals. BusinessGrow.com does a great job explaining the economics of the decision, so check this article out in conjunction with these stats for a full picture of what you should do.
Also, just so you can see what different age ranges think about disables comments:
- 50% of people ages 41+ would find it strange if comments were turned off.
- 52% of people aged 31-40 would find it strange if comments were turned off, while 45% wouldn’t be bothered.
- 60% of people aged 21-30 would find it strange if comments were turned off, while 40% wouldn’t be bothered
13. If you require people to log in to comment, you will see significantly fewer comments.
Many blogs use third party commenting services like Disqus, IntenseDebate, LiveFyre and more to manage the conversations occurring at the end of articles.
These are great services. The only problem occurs when authors turn on the feature to require a login in order to comment. I asked survey takers how logging into a blog would affect their likelihood to comment, and they responded:
81% of people are less likely to comment on your blog if they have to log in. This proves to be the biggest barrier against commenting, and it’s a needless one that cripples your readers.
One great way to counter this is to give the option to post as a guest. Disqus has a great, non-intrusive feature that makes this process extremely easy. This way, you still get the comments AND have the ability to use the full services of a third party commenting service.
14. People would rather comment as themselves on articles…
Anonymous commenting be darned (at least on articles, anyways).
62% of respondents said they’d rather comment as themselves instead of anonymously on any given article.
15. …unless the article covers a sensitive subject.
However, when the article starts to cover touchy subjects, the preference shifts dramatically:
THAT…is a 19% swing both ways, meaning people would much rather be anonymous if they choose to comment on a sensitive subject.
16. Men and women do, in fact, have different agendas when it comes to commenting.
Are you ready for a barrage of awesome information?
Because when it comes to commenting on articles, men and women differ in quite a few areas.
Since we just talked about commenting anonymously, let’s take a look at that first:
- 43% of women would rather comment anonymously.
- 38% of men would rather comment anonymously.
- 67% of women would rather comment anonymously on a sensitive article.
- 53% of men would rather comment anonymously on a sensitive article.
In both instances, women would rather be anonymous when commenting — though the percentage increase between the two genders is almost the same.
Next, on the subject of expecting the author to reply back to your comment:
- 17% of females expect the author to comment back.
- 31% of males expect the author to comment back.
Males really expect the author to reply back (at almost double the rate of females!).
But what about commenting in general? First, let’s see who comments more:
- 55% of women comment in some capacity.
- 68% of men comment in some capacity.
Some capacity, in this case, means commenting either rarely, sometimes or often. Men are more prone to commenting than women, though over half the female demographic comments on articles.
Are there any differences in why males and females comment? There are, in fact:
Most notably, women are more likely to congratulate someone than men, while men are more critical (factual errors, contradicting views, trolling) than women.
All this information is important if you have an audience that skews one way or another. Understanding how males and females differ in their commenting habits can help you frame your messaging to promote not only comments, but the right types of comments.
These last four pieces of insight all tie into a qualifying question I asked on the survey. After years of writing blog posts and seeing the types of comments that roll in, I narrowed down the categories of commenters into four distinct classes of people.
The categories are:
- People who want to share: This group is all about passing on the knowledge they have. For this most part, this group is altruistic in nature, though sometimes what they share can be critical or counterintuitive to the main idea of a comment or article.
- People who want to be right: These are the folks that go through your article and subsequent comments with a fine-tooth comb. Pointing out factual errors, correcting typos and citing other pieces of work that agree with their point are the calling cards of this group.
- People who want to be heard: This is the grab bag group of commenters. They don’t have a specific pattern of commenting, but rather they comment in bulk. Those that want to be heard are the people that you see pop up frequently on your sites, repetitively commenting on many of your articles.
- People who want to congratulate: This is the most straightforward of all groups. They are simply around to congratulate the author on a great post. As an author, you want to reach through the screen and give them the highest of fives.
Towards the beginning of the survey, I asked respondents to select the statement they most identify with.
The majority of people felt that “I want to share” was the statement that they by far felt was most important to them.
Each of these groups is distinct in more than just name, as you’ll see in the next few insights.
17. The reasons for each group commenting are very distinct and focused.
Take a look at this graph and you’ll see why I believed these four groups existed in the first place:
Really, it breaks down like this:
- People who want to be heard comment….well…for every reason. Mostly to be heard, which means the reason for commenting isn’t the most important to them, so long as they have the opportunity to comment.
- People who want to be right comment in the critical areas: factual errors, contradicting views and trolling. They comment exponentially more in these areas than the other groups.
- People who want to congratulate want to, you guessed it, congratulate. They are almost exclusively commenting to congratulate, taking time to respond to other comments (most likely to congratulate or agree with them).
- Those that want to share are like those that want to be heard in the sense that they have a spread rationale on commenting. However, they are much less likely to respond to other comments, as they’d rather lead the commenting by sharing their own views.
Keep this in mind when you read these next three points about these groups.
18. People who want to be heard comment the most.
Surprising, I know.
Sarcasm aside, although only 21% of people identify with the “want to be heard” group, they are clearly the most engaged subset.
To interpret this data, you’ll need to understand this scale I’ve created. It’s called the Engagement Scale and it measures the frequency with which each group comments. This scale runs from a 1 to 2, with 1 representing almost no commenting and a 2 representing always commenting. Points were distributed based on how often respondents commented: 5 for Often, 3 for Sometimes, 1 for Rarely, 0 for Never.
Once the scores were totaled and averaged out, the results looked like this:
- I want to be heard: Score of 1.76
- I want to be right: Score of 1.66
- I want to share: Score of 1.56
- I want to congratulate: Score of 1.23
People who want to be heard are the most engaged, while those who congratulate only sparingly comment. A score of 1.76 means that many of the responses were in the Often to Sometimes range, while a score of 1.23 means the majority of responses were in the Rarely to Never range.
This isn’t extremely surprising. But the next piece of information is.
19. People who leave congratulatory comments are most bothered by their comment receiving no response.
In all my hypothesizing, I would have never predicted this in any scenario. The data has spoken, though, and those who want to congratulate are most bothered by a lack of response.
- I want to congratulate: 53% a little bothered, 47% not.
- I want to share: 31% a little bothered, 69% not.
- I want to be heard: 28% a little bothered, 62% not.
- I want to be right: 20% a little bothered, 80% not.
Those who want to be right are least bothered by a response, while those who want to share/be heard are virtually the same.
This isn’t the only surprising thing I found out about the congratulatory group…
20. People who leave congratulatory comments also expect the author to reply back.
Apparently, those nice comments you get at the bottom of your article are the ones you really should be replying to.
- I want to congratulate: 47% expect author reply, 53% don’t.
- I want to be heard: 36% expect author reply, 64% don’t.
- I want to share: 26% expect author reply, 74% don’t.
- I want to be right: 7% expect author reply, 83% don’t.
Almost half the people that leave congratulatory responses feel the author should reply back to them. After looking at this data, you should strongly consider replying back to comments that praise your work. A simple “Thank you” can go a long way.
My Thoughts…And Yours
Congratulations. If you made it this far down the page, then you just dove through a serious amount of data. I’m glad you did, because these findings will help you get a better sense of how to garner and deal with comments on your blogs and articles.
And, since this IS an article about commenting, I really do want to hear what you have to say about this article. What sort of things surprised you? Are there any insights or correlations you found that I missed? Drop a comment in the section below, and don’t forget to grab the excellent infographic our designers made that summarizes all this in sweet, sweet picture form!