Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday's Tip: Getting More Traffic to Your Blog, Part Three

I originally meant to post this particular tip last week, but then realized it made more sense to write about carnivals, memes, and challenges first. Today's tip is a simple but very necessary one for maintaining readership of your blog:

Comment and Allow Comments

I'm always amazed to discover that an author of a great new genealogy blog with informative tips or posts written about research challenges does not allow comments on their blog! Why would a blogger not allow comments? I can think of several reasons initially sounding valid which I'll address here.

The first reason I believe bloggers don't allow comments is that they are wary of spam, or inappropriate or rude comments. This is a very easy fix. If you use the Blogger/Blogspot platform, you can do one of two things (or both) to prevent these kinds of comments from appearing on your blog, while still allowing helpful and friendly comments to appear. Go to the dashboard of your blog by signing in at http://www.blogger.com and chose the Settings tab. Then choose the Comments sub-tab. Choose the following settings: for Comments, choose Show. For Who Can Comment, choose Anyone. For Comment Moderation, choose Always. Then add your e-mail address in the next field. This will send all comments to your e-mail address for your approval before publishing. Commenters will not have access to your e-mail address.

Another choice is to choose Yes for Show Word Verification for Comments. This forces the commenter to type in a captcha "word" to verify that they are a live human being and not a spider (malicious program created to browse the web and leave spam or inappropriate comments). Make sure to save your settings at the bottom of the page. I choose to do both Comment Moderation and Word Verification. I rarely have a spammer leave a comment, and when I do, I can simply delete it right from my e-mail inbox. Easy!

For WordPress users, go to http://support.wordpress.com/settings/discussion-settings/ for information on how to change your comments settings to allow others to comment, yet have control of what is published. I use WordPress as a backup for this blog, and I allow comments as long as the commenter provides a name and e-mail address. The comment is forwarded to my e-mail inbox (just like Blogger comments) for my approval.

The second reason some bloggers don't allow comments is that they want to protect their privacy. I will address the issue of maintaining privacy yet still engaging in social networking in next Tuesday's tip, but I must say that unless you have a private blog (one that can only be accessed by a user name and password), your blog is out there for the world to see and read. Genealogists are an enthusiastic and helpful bunch and we love giving research tips and assisting each other. As long as you have preventative measures such as comment moderation and/or word verification, you have control over what can be said about your posts.

The reason most bloggers start a genealogy blog is to be able to write about their ancestors and their research strategies. Both Blogger and WordPress (and a variety of other blogging platforms) are searchable by Google and other major search engines. This is how distant relatives--you know, the ones with the vintage photos and the evidence you need to break down your brick walls!--can easily find you. But they can't let you know they've found you if you don't allow comments!

When someone has taken the time to leave a comment, don't forget to respond in kind, either at the bottom of the page of comments you've received, or at their own. Sometimes, the busy-ness of life prevents you from doing so in a timely manner, but do try to do it as often as you can.

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Now for the other part: Comment on blogs yourself! Spend some time reading other genealogist's blogs and take a few moments to praise them for their helpful advice, or give some of your own. Carnivals are a great time to do this. Connect with others and let them know you're reading their words. I still remember the thrill I received the very first time someone left a comment at my blog, or the time I got more than one comment on a post! As writers, we enjoy hearing from our readers. I even like it when someone catches a mistake and lets me know!

You'll find that as you comment at other people's blogs, they'll come looking for yours. If you allow comments, you create a welcoming place for your readers and cause them to want to return and read more.

Other posts in this series:
Part One: Get Listed
Part Two: Participate
Part Four: Create a Profile
Part Five: Join Social Networking Sites
Part Six: The Redux
Part Seven: Check It
Part Eight: Learn

Part Nine: Bookmarks, Feeds, and Subscriptions
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