Allow comments on your art blog

I received a Google Alert the other day that Nicole Strasburg had posted about my recorded interview with Eric Maisel on her blog. I decided to check it out for myself. At the time, I thought I’d surprise her and leave a comment and a thank-you note, but her blog was set up without allowing comments. I emailed her to tell her I had wanted to do that and she said that since her blog was new, she had decided to leave off the comments until she built a following. She had read an article that encouraged her to do this.

Entitled 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic, this article is all over the search-engine optimization Web sites. Just Google it and you’ll see it on countless pages.

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I have no doubt that most of the 21 tactics in the article contain sound, well reasoned advice. But I take issue with #6, which states:

Launch Without Comments (and Add Them Later)

There’s something sad about a blog with 0 comments on every post. It feels dead, empty and unpopular. Luckily, there’s an easy solution – don’t offer the ability to post comments on the blog and no one will know that you only get 20 uniques a day. Once you’re upwards of 100 RSS subscribers and/or 750 unique visitors per day, you can open up the comments and see light activity. Comments are often how tech-savvy new visitors judge the popularity of a site (and thus, its worth), so play to your strengths and keep your obscurity private.

Let me begin by saying I completely understand how someone new to blogging would be influenced by this article. The author obviously knows what he’s talking about. However, here are my issues with it as it relates to the average artist’s blog:

  • You have to start somewhere. You will always have zero comments at the beginning.
  • He says it’s okay to allow comment posting after you have 100 RSS subscribers and/or 750 unique visitors per day. I’ve been blogging for almost 3 years and I have nowhere near these numbers. Still, I can get 10 or more comments on a good post. Most artists have no idea how to use an RSS feed, so I would do myself a disservice if I based my blog numbers on feed numbers. Which brings me to . . .
  • Who has time to count comments on blogs and see how popular the bloggers are? If the content is interesting, it will be appreciated.
  • People who visit blogs expect to be able to comment. Blogs are dialogues. When we can’t comment, we get frustrated.
  • I believe this article was written for technically skilled folks who spend a lot of time online and are blogging for each other. (It was published for a search-engine optimization site.) Most artists aren’t tech-savvy. Most people who read your blog probably
    won’t be tech-savvy. You aren’t writing a blog for techies, so weigh such
    advice against your own needs and goals and see how it plays for your
    individual situation.

Image (c) Nicole Strasburg, Point Pools.

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21 comments to Allow comments on your art blog

  • Hi Alyson ~ I totally agree with you!! I am excited – still – whenever someone leaves me a comment because it means that someone was moved enough in some way to take the time to communicate with me! I have very light traffic comparably ~ but I feel extremely lucky to have quite a few comments. Comments also allow me to see what interests my readers. I am writing to express myself, but also to communicate with others – and that is easier if it is a 2-way street. ~ Diane Clancy http://www.dianeclancy.com/blog

  • I see no reason why you shouldn’t have comments on your blog from the beginning. No-one grades a blog from the number of comments.

  • Alyson, I broadly agree with you, but would defend that article once upon a time. I’ve been blogging for 7 years now in a variety of fields including a painting art blog, and on technical matters. I believe the idea of leaving comments off as tactic to retain credibility made sense several years ago but is quite dated now. A well written SEO article will go out of date very quickly. Search Engines change how they interact with our sites everyday, including how they treat comments. Today just 1 comment can bring in an interested visitor via a search engine – that wasn’t the case several years ago. Our own behaviours in how we read and interact with blogs changes all the time. Even though the point was made on an SEO site it should be applicable to all kinds of sites and bloggers – that said those figures are crazy. I know many well-written blogs with less than 50 RSS subscribers who get 30 comments a post. The ability to engage does not conform to a statistic of 1% of readers making comments. Comments have a habit of begetting comments. Every day I come across (non-tech) websites which are judged by the number of comments received. Because of the nature of one of my blogs (multiple posts daily that discourage conversation) it gets very few comments and I meet people all the time who believe that means the site gets very few visitors (coincidentally it gets close to the 100 RSS subscribers and 750 uniques). Of the 6 blogs I currently author the one that receives an average of just 2 a day is my favourite, and receiving a comment is like receiving flowers. I imagine. Over the last year technical folk have been down-playing the importance of unique visitors as a measure of a site’s popularity. With the growth of RSS and especially of Social Media, people are looking for a new metric. Comments are becoming more important again, and people in fields beyond tech will notice the numbers. But luckily most people have by now grasped the importance of interactivity and conversation, so yes, turn on those comments.

  • Hi Alyson, I agree that comments should allowed. Blogs promote a very spontaneous interaction with readers and writer. I wouldn’t even have realized that my comments were turned off if you hadn’t told me that you tried to leave one. Thanks! BTW, I also left a link to Eric Maisel’s interview. I’m surprised it didn’t turn up in your google alerts.

  • It is silly to have a ART blog and not allow comments right from the beginning. SEO SEO SEO ….blah, blah, blah. I am an artist who is acutally quite technical having spent years as data analyst programming at a large insurance company. SEI is important, but use some good old common sense in building your online art business. (that’s yet another reasont to listen to Allison, underneath it all, she applies old fashioned common sense to her advice.) Sound business principles CAN be applied to art business. Just dont’ believe EVERYTHING you read. Use your noggin. My art is my Business, (business with a captial B folks) but I refuse to get so wrapped up in SEO that I allow myself to forget why I now choose art as my business. PASSION, ART, PEOPLE, FEELINGS, lots of non-technical terms are involved in my art business and I intend to keep it that way. Just like friendships in REAL life; I would prefer to have just a few authentic readers of my blog than 750 surfers who skim my blog not really “getting” anything. Cindy Davis http://www.FlintRiverGallery.com

  • after reading the ArtBizBlog late last night I enabled comments on my site…truth is I have been afraid of comments…afraid of criticism …I am one who speaks my mind & I am not always right …I have preferred to say what I think without fear of retribution…I am still kind of hoping no one will post a comment…this kind of intimacy is scary …isn’t anyone else a little xenophobic ? (the fact that I am female is probably a factor)…

  • SEO is a fine thing to do. But the truth is, most artists do not need to worry about. SEO is very important for business sites, who need to be visible in web searches. But I doubt that most visitors to art sites found them via Google. I think that people find art sites and blogs through recommendations. Either direct recommendations from people, or through links on other sites they like, or (most importantly) from comments by the artist on another blog. I know that I subscribe to blogs that I have enjoyed enough that I felt compelled to comment on. By commenting, I become part of that blogger’s community, and therefore want to continue to take part.

  • your points are well taken Alyson, Interestingly enough, often, people won’t leave a message on my blog but WILL email me! Maybe they want more of a conversation or privacy, I would guess. Since being an artist is challenging all on its own, blogging becomes even more stressful if one is co dependent upon commenters. Writing on a daily basis and maintaining interesting content without being overly saccharine or solicitous is hard to do. I put my thoughts out there like I do my art, and like my art, some people like it some don’t and most say nothing, but THINK it. I guarantee the lack of comments is due to people just not interested in putting out the energy to share what they think; their validation or not, dosn’t change the value of my art or my words. And unfortunately in many cases, while many artists are successful with their visual creations some just have no writing ability and that revelation could create less interest in their art work. There are pros and cons to blogging, but judgeing ones blog or artwork by the number of comments is paralyzing and detrimental.

  • Just in defence of SEO – yes apply common sense but don’t think SEO is some technical or cold thing that doesn’t apply to art websites. SEO is only what it says it is, making your site the best it can be for people using search engines to find it. I have websites of which the most visitors that come to them are by way of search and not by personal recommendation. Those visitors are not mere surfers outside of any community – they are actively looking for the paintings I do (without even knowing I exist, such is the power of search), and potentially members of any community I build around my art. I sell paintings to people that find my sites through search terms, and I value that and them; they shouldn’t be dismissed as mere surfers, not if we are doing the business side of our art well.

  • Alyson I find it hard to believe you aren’t over 750 uniques a day. I’m pushing 1000 a day right now on mine. But I don’t get a ton of comments, probably because it’s generally a monologue about my work. But I still agree – a blog without comments – it seems an oxymoron. I find all the competition about who has the most popular blog to be counter to why I blog. For me it’s about building a community and learning about myself by writing about my work and interacting with people that have become friends through my blog. Who cares how many readers I have – I’d write even if I only had 1 or noone ever commented. I know I should think of it as marketing. I just can’t make that leap!

  • Alyson, I have been blogging for only a month. I put out my welcome mat …and you knocked. Your comment was my second ( an old friend was the first) and I appreciated the interest. No comments since, but I’ve sold two small pieces of art from my blog and a galleria is now carrying more of these miniatures plus 5 paintings! Your advice was to blog frequently and I’m now leaving comments on other blogs. Networking is a two-way street, give and take. Comments support and give recognition to the efforts of the artist who risks putting their work as well as their thoughts to page. Helen

  • Sari: I’m with you. I, too, tend to say too much of what’s on my mind. The blog is good practice for keeping it under control. I don’t want to offend anyone, although I do like to incite debate. I haven’t looked at your blog in a while, but remember that criticism is better than ignoring you. Lisa: All I have to go by is my Sitemeter. I have no idea about how reliable it is or isn’t. But It’s giving me nowhere near those numbers. And I’m not sure if they’re “uniques”. Patricia: When people email you, tell them they’d be doing you a favor by leaving the same comment on your blog. You’d like to continue the conversation there. I had to educate many of my readers in the beginning. And, still, every so often, I do the same when I get an email instead of a comment.

  • I am still trying to understand blogs in general. I started mine in April, but have only really got it going more this month. I have been reluctant to get involved, because I am a fairly introvert character, but I also realised that blogs are traffic-drivers. I don’t have any problems thinking up things to write about, in fact that’s the easy bit; but as regards blog visitors and comments, then (a) I have my blog on Blogger, and set to moderated, which seems to stop people from making comments unless they sign in (or do I risk picking up spam?); and (b) I have no idea how I would determine the stats for visitors. My own website, yes, no problem, but a blog? Maybe I’m missing something. flowerartbychris.blogspot.com

  • Thanks for bringing up this topic. I read that article a year ago, and locked comments brieflly so I wouldn’t look unpopular. Then I repented and opened comments, and I love it when they come in. Now I am educating readers to comment online. We’ll see how that goes. It is all a conversation.

  • Sari, One of the best pieces of blogging advice I’ve ever heard addresses your fear of comments nicely: Remember that any time someone leaves a comment that feels negative or critical, it is an opportunity for you to present (or re-present) your view and engae the commenter in conversation. I’ve had very few negative comments after five years of blogging, but when I do get something that feels off the mark I just see it as a chance to put the matter right. If you really think a comment is too harsh or off topic, you can always delete it. It’s usually a good idea to mention that you’ve done so, and why, in the comments of the same post. As for whether to start a blog without comments… I think the idea made sense years ago but no longer does. As Alyson says, you have to start somewhere. The best place to start is to invite a bunch of your friends to visit and leave comments when you launch the blog. Getting the ball rolling that way insures both some positive feedback and a chance to set a good tone that can carry over to the future.

  • I would have never thought of having a blog that didn’t invite comments. It is so much fun to hear from other people who read about what you do. At first I didn’t realize it would be a “driver” to my website so I didn’t even put a link to my website. I still don’t have a lot of people “dropping by” but that wasn’t my original point anyway. I love blogs and the insight I can get into other processes. Gotta go though as I’m spending too much time on the blog and need more in the studio.

  • I agree! The firs 3 weeks I blogged, i didn’t have comments and as soon as I started getting more regular visitors as soon as I started allowing comments! If you do not allow comments you miss out on the community of blogging.

  • This is very timely for me. I began my blog in 2005 on my trips to France. I wanted a way to share the journey for those who weren’t with me in France. I got great feedback and am on my third year blogging from France. But I started to get discouraged by the dearth of comments. I’d check eagerly to see if anyone had commented only to find 0 zero – loser – on my blog. I had to reframe it (as any good coach would do). I do the blogs for others but also for me. I enjoy the excellent creative exercise that blogging gives me. It’s a way to distill and express my experience here that I would not have without blogging. Sure, I would journal, but blogging is fun. Now, this year, I’m also podcasting and loving that medium too. Thanks for your blog, Alsyson, which I consider a great example of an excellent blog.

  • Intriguing thread. I launched a blog recently, and have paid little attention to it. In return, it has paid little attention to me. No comments. A big mystery is involved here, though. In the search engines my new blog is doing surprisingly well. High up in some Google broom closet categories, and on Page 1 for my #1 and #2 keywords in 2 major, high-traffic categories on MSN. Can’t begin to figure this incongruity out. Any enlightenment would be appreciated. Cheers!

  • comments from blog readers should be enabled.