Blogging Best Practices: Enabling Your Readers to Subscribe to Comments

Few realize yet how many decisions go into the best way to add every single feature to a Web site. Where you place it, whether you use text or icons, which plug-ins or widgets you select – each and every one of these factors contributes to how successful your blog, site or store will be.

Here is one simple example. I requested Derek Semmler’s assistance in adding a subscribe to comments function on this blog. Here are the questions he immediately asked:

  1. Do you want a simple text link or images? If images, what image?
  2. Where do you want it placed?
  3. Do you want to use the WordPress Subscribe to Comments plug-in (He uses it at DerekSemmler.com)
  4. Or would you rather have your comments look like those on the Threaded Web Blog?

Those questions led to many more of my own such as:

  1. Do we want to offer a subscribe to comments feed AND a subscribe to that specific post’s comments or is subscribe to a particular post enough?
  2. Do we also need a subscribe to comments via email option?
  3. Do I like the way Problogger displays their comments? Pros: I like that blog posts there show the number of comments at the top and provide a link to jump down to them because I often revisit to read the comments on a blog post I’ve already read. Cons: 1) I would prefer to have the time/date under the commentator’s link to make the comment space wider so long comments don’t take up so much vertical space. 2) They don’t display Avatars.
  4. Many blogs now show your Avatar next to your comment. I like this but which plug-in / widget is required? Once again there are many. See CopyBlogger or DerekSemmlerDotCom for examples. Avatars can be pulled from MyBlogLog, Gravatar or Open Avatar.
  5. Should I be considering Disqus for comments used by such notable blogs as LouisGray? Disqus pros: collects your Disqus comments in one place. Disqus cons: You can’t click through to a commentators blog or profile if they haven’t claimed it. I like to be able to visit the sites of those who leave intelligent comments anywhere I roam.
  6. If you think BackType might become important do you want to ensure whatever you use is compatible?
  7. I noticed Derek’s blog also uses CommentLuv and KeywordLuv. How do those interact with comment subscription? Shouldn’t I add those too? (Derek’s blog has a VERY loyal community and these are no doubt at least a small part of why he does. His use of a Top Commentators plug-in and also the Recent Comments plug-in are also part of the reason. That leads to another blog post: which widgets or plugins is he using and why – there are many!)
  8. Do you want your subscribe to comments to default to have the box to subscribe checked or unchecked? Derek and I suggest unchecked to allow the comment leaver to opt in rather than opt out.
  9. Which nofollow plugin should you use? LinkLove doesn’t remove nofollow until after X comments with 10 set as the default. Lucia’s LinkyLove also allows you to configure how many comments are required before nofollow is removed. Some dofollow plugins remove nofollow from every comment.

BEST PRACTICES FOR ADDING SUBSCRIBING TO COMMENTS:

  • A comment RSS comment feed is probably not necessary because the ability to subscribe to comments in a particular blog post makes more sense. (On a busy blog getting ALL the comments would fill your email up!)
  • Use a bubble icon with a link to jump down to comments with the number of comments.
  • Ensure the comment area is wide enough for longer comments.
  • Definitely include a do-followed clickable link to the commentator’s blog and preferably to the post they prefer to link in. For this you need to install a dofollow plug-in.
  • Display Avatars to provide greated visibility for regular visitors and help them find each other. One option is WP-Gravatar which pulls Avatars from Gravatar, MyBlogLog, OpenAvatar, Wavatar, Identicon, and monsterID. Derek uses MyAvatars because he is an early adopter and there weren’t as many options when he selected that one. He’s off researching because I asked which was best.
  • Use CommentLuv and KeywordLuv to reward commentators.

Although not specifically about getting a subscribe to comments function working on GrowMap, researching this reminds me that a blog wishing to build a strong community should also consider using Top Commentators and Latest Comments plugins or widgets.

Now you can see why I asked Derek for his assistance. After studying the issues I decided that what I would most like is precisely what he has used on his DerekSemmlerDotCom blog. While higher profile technical bloggers would do things differently, Derek’s style most strongly encourages community participation.

Here are the exact WordPress plugins we ended up using that pertain to comments:

Once again I’d like to make a call for collaborators. Instead of every blog reinventing the wheel why don’t we pool our knowledge in the WordPress Theme Joint Venture Room at FriendFeed.  Once a subject has been discussed the consensus views and how-to links will be posted at GrowMap and possibly elsewhere for easy reference.

WANTED: Your Participation! Would you use Derek’s methods or do you prefer Disqus or another comment tracking service? Which plug-ins or widgets do you use and why? Leave a comment and let us know.

REFERENCES RELATED TO INCREASING BLOG COMMENTS:

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Gail Gardner

Small Businsss Strategist at GrowMap
Creator and owner of GrowMap.com, Gail is primarily known for mentoring small businesses and encouraging bloggers to join collaborations to share skills and support small business.