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6 Ways to Grow a Blog's Comments Feed
Ed Kohler
A blog comments feed is a great way to allow your readers to keep up on the conversations taking place on your blog. Let's face it: the comments left by your visitors are often more insightful than the original post, which is partly what makes blogging so fun and interesting. So, if you don't have a comments feed already, considering adding one so you can share your conversations with your readers.

I noticed today that the comments feed for Technology Evangelist has steadily grown over the life of the blog. In fact, here's a graphic of our comments feed subscribers:


comments-feed-growth.png

This led me to wonder, what could we possibly be doing right? Here are a few things I think have helped us:

1. Have a comments feed. Clearly, the first step is to actually have a comments feed for your blog. Some popular blogging platforms have comments feeds installed by default, like Wordpress (check /wp-commentsrss2.php on your Wordpress blog). Others may require installing a plug-in or creating a comments feed from scratch. If your blogging platform allows comments, there is probably a way to create a feed of those comments. In fact, if you use a third party comments system like Haloscan, you can still have a comments feed.

2. Market your Comments Feed. Having a feed nobody knows about defeats the purpose of the feed. Consider creating an RSS page that mentions your comments feed alongside your RSS feed. Another strategy is to mention the comments feed on a confirmation page following a comments submission. There is a a good chance people arriving there will find your comments feed interesting so they can track follow-ups to the comment they just left.

3. Consider an OPML File. You can bundle more than one feed from your site into a neat little package using an OPML file. For example, Technology Evangelist has an OPML file containing our articles feed and comments feed. This can be imported directly into Bloglines, Google Reader, and most other popular news readers, subscribing people to both feeds at once.

4. Fight Comment Spam. One of the biggest challenges we faced early on with our comments feed was dealing with comment spam. If a spam comment goes live, it will end up in the comments feed. We've used a variety of strategies to keep comment spam to a minimum, including an extensive spam keyword filter, IP blocking, challenge response, and occasionally moderating comments to proactive junk spam. Keeping our comments spam free shows respect for our most loyal readers.

5. Create a comments policy. Our current policy is very simple: "Please keep comments on-topic. Contact authors or other commenters directly for off-topic conversations."

6. Encourage comments. Solicit feedback from readers. Write with a tone that generates comments. Post conversation starters. Great comments feeds have great comments.



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Comments

1. Posted by: conedude13 on December 26, 2006 11:06 AM:

I'm having trouble with your opml file. That link takes me to the page that has all of the xml code on it. When i copy the url of that page into google reader, it says that there are no feeds available. So you might want to adjust point #3 a bit, or give references on how to use an opml.xml file in a reader. I do know that google reader does export and import .opml files, but not sure what it does with opml.xml files. Great post otherwise!




2. Posted by: Ed Kohler on December 26, 2006 10:11 PM:

Great advice! I'll try to make that more clear.




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