Possibly the Best Blogging Tip Ever

light bulbMy post last Friday received the highest number of comments I’ve ever had on a single post (over 500). It was not because it was such a great post. Rather, I think it was because:

1) The post gave helpful information, but most importantly, it was about the reader — not about me.

2) The post encouraged readers to interact with one another in the comments.

3) There was an inherent promise in the post — that if readers put the “one sentence summary” of their book in the comments, they might receive valuable feedback, not from me but from fellow readers.

This bears out something I’ve learned from writing over 1700 blog posts, and I think it may be the most important blogging advice ever:

Make your blog about your reader.

Engagement is an important part of blogging. The more your readers interact with your material — and interact with each other in the comments — the more motivated they will be to keep coming back. Getting your readers highly engaged is an important goal of blogging.

One of the ways to increase engagement is to allow your readers to contribute meaningfully to the blog by making their comments an integral aspect of your blog.

How do you do this?

1. Ask questions — in a way that communicates that the readers’ answers matter. 

2. Encourage interaction between your readers.

3. Allow them to talk about themselves, their opinions, their thoughts (or in the case of this blog, allow them to talk about their writing).

When your readers understand that their contributions are just as important as what you’ve blogged, they are much more likely to be engaged and to come back.

What are you doing to engage readers on your blog?

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  3. Marilyn Hudson Tucker on November 19, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    I’m curious about what everyone’s opinion is on one question I have. My blog is always funny, because I always want to make people laugh. I have seen advice that says to have a narrow focus for your blog. Mine is completely random. One month I wrote about following senseless language rules to avoid criticism. Another month I wrote about the flour sack babies we used to see in home ec class. I wrote about memories of STAR TREK for three months. Does anyone think I should pick a single topic for everything, or is it okay to skip around if the purpose of my blog is to skip around?

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  8. Danny on November 14, 2012 at 11:16 PM

    Great advice, Rachelle.

    That’s an amazing number of comments!

    I noticed that on some sites the comment threads go into overdrive…most of this is visitors throwing comments back and forth amongst themselves, with occasional input from the author(moderator)….

    The one difference with sites that get huge comment numbers is that, some have quality comments, other sites just rack up as many spam comments as is possible…which doesn’t look all that great….

  9. Andrea Goodson on November 13, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    I absolutely love your blog! Aside from your talent of being able to engage readers with one another, you offer some very helpful advice for writers and authors. Advice that I have taken and used, successfully, in both my writing and blogging. Thank you. 🙂

  10. Christine Monson on November 13, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    My favorite blog post my far! Thanks!!!

    • Christine Monson on November 13, 2012 at 12:05 PM

      By far!

  11. Jenn N on November 13, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    This is great and honestly something I’m not very good at. I think it takes courage to put a post out there especially when you don’t have a lot of readers. You may ask an engaging question but hear crickets.

    I have two blogs. One is a health blog that I write to motivate and educate. At the end of each post I usually ask a question or ask for reader’s opinions. The other is a lifestyle blog that I write as a memory log for my family. I try to write in an entertaining style but the truth is I write it for me and my family. I’m not sure how I could engage readers more since the blog really is about and for my family? I do hope our out of the box lifestyle will inspire others to live out of the box and follow their dreams. This is definitely something to consider.

  12. Marilyn on November 13, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    My website is about trying to make people laugh. It is my chief goal in life.

  13. marion on November 13, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    Still struggling with my blog, though it’s improving.
    But my FB group Ibischild (all about Egypt) has sucked some people in-I hope in a good way!
    Rachelle, your last post was very helpful. Maybe it could be repeated twice a year(at least)?

  14. Heather Day Gilbert on November 12, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    I think the success of your post on Friday indicates that we need a CBA version of “Miss Snark’s First Victim” somewhere on the internet! There are loads of great Christian writers just waiting for that helpful feedback they don’t always get in query responses.

    If just one CBA agent would dedicate a blog to evaluating hooks, or queries, etc., it could definitely help many newbie writers!

  15. Elizabeth on November 12, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    Rachelle, I loved yesterday’s post, and so appreciate the helpful feedback I got from fellow readers. It made me wonder if there was an online writer’s critique group that I could join. Do you know of a good one, or do any fellow readers have recommendations? If one doesn’t exist, I would love to be a part of starting something. The feedback from readers yesterday was phenomenal. I don’t live in the U.S. and there aren’t any English-speaking critique groups for me to join nearby.

    • J. M. Tompkins on November 13, 2012 at 9:07 AM

      Your blog looks amazing. I have not been successful in finding a group online that jives. I think that happens because it’s hard to find a group with the same work ethics and goals. Thoughts?

  16. J. M. Tompkins on November 12, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    I have learned so much from your blog.

    My blog had been a side goal of mine, being that I had a long way to go before being published. Now that I am closer to my goal, my blog is top priority.

    One of your post suggested a regular schedule, so I started to post every Friday about a month ago. I have gained 32 followers in one month (I think that’s fantastic).

    Today you suggested (as you have before) to start a discussion. So today I posted a discussion question (thinking Monday can be a good discussion day, getting our week started off with brain stimulation) and traffic reached a new high.

    So, thank you!!!

  17. Lindsay Harrel on November 12, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    My blog takes more of a personal slant. I tell others what I’m learning about faith and life, and I ask a question to hear their thoughts and how they’ve experienced (or not experienced) something similar. I always try to respond to each individual commenter as well. I love the little community on my blog. I try to make it a welcoming place and just be really honest.

  18. Cherry Odelberg on November 12, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    Congratulations on that most successful blog! It would take an entire day off to read and respond to all the comments, but was rather like a large group face-to-face writers’ discussion.

    As for myself, I have mistakenly thought my blog was articulating things thought, but unspoken, by others. Folks don’t often comment on the unspoken.
    Thanks for this advice to be more interactive and less obtuse – or at best; obscure.

  19. Claude Nougat on November 12, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    Excellent advice and congrats: your previous post was…brilliant! People love to talk about themselves and get feedback about what they do, it’s only human nature, after all. Perfectly natural!

    I’m not as good as you at involving people in my blog but everytime I post about something humanitarian – that’s something I’m into – like the last one was on modern day slavery, then lots of people flock to my blog. If I try to explain something about my own writing, well, those posts fall flat on their face!

    So yes, you’re right, blogging is all about WHAT YOU CAN GIVE TO OTHERS!

  20. Meghan Carver on November 12, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    I read somewhere — maybe here? — that to turn a blog post around from being about self to being about readers you should change every “I” to “you”. When I catch myself writing “I” too much, I spend some time editing to make it into “you”. Those posts always get more response. Thanks, Rachelle, for more great advice.

    • Joe Pote on November 12, 2012 at 4:06 PM


      Sometimes, I intentionally do the opposite.

      If something I write sounds too preachy or like I’m making assumptions about other people, I try to turn it around to being more transparent myself, by changing every “you” to “I”

      • Meghan Carver on November 12, 2012 at 4:37 PM

        Good point, Joe. Even as I was submitting that comment, I was thinking exactly that. We need to be careful that our you’s don’t come off as holier-than-thou. I’ve also found that, if you attract enough readers, they will want to know you, and then the I’s become more appropriate.

  21. Catherine Johnson on November 12, 2012 at 10:47 AM

    I totally agree and once you get used to writing like that it comes so much easier. I’m afraid mine today was all about me, but it did have a funny fireman story in it 😉

  22. Sarah Thomas on November 12, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    I see the most interaction when I invite readers to help me make decisions about my WIPs. I saw a strong response when I asked for advice on renaming a character. As for sheer number of hits, though, it’s my post about sex in Christian fiction. So, are commentators more valuable than lurkers?

    • Cherry Odelberg on November 12, 2012 at 11:39 AM

      In the overall scheme of things; I don’t think so.
      However, man (publishing persons) may well depend on the outward comments while unknown benefits are gained by the lurkers.

  23. Krista Phillips on November 12, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    I’m still mulling all this over in regards to my own blog. It’s gone through a few “morphs” in the past few years, and I’ve ended up with a very diverse group of people who read it–writers who I’ve networked with on blogs for years–people who followed my Annabelle’s super special story and our struggles as a family going through that time–and now readers who find me now that I have a book out.

    I feel like I end up just sharing about my life and struggles and journey, praying that God will use what we go through to encourage and help others along the way too. But not sure how “engaging” that is either.

    TODAY I’m engaging my readers, though, with a giveaway. We shall see how well that goes!

    I DO like having a question at the end though!

  24. Jeanne on November 12, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    I don’t currently have a blog, but the ones I enjoy the most are the ones that do the things you’ve mentioned in your post. Focusing on the reader is key.

  25. Holly Russell on November 12, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    I have only been seriously blogging for about a year. I try to keep my blog themed (women’s inner beauty), but I confess I read much of your blog and analyzed how you interacted with readers during this time. I have taken many of my techniques from your example. I do that with many blogs who have a good readership. I ask, “What are they doing and why does it work?”

    I try to give my readers something they can mull over in their minds and hearts when they finish reading my blog as well as ask a question. Sometimes I don’t ask the question. I think for my readership, I have the appropriate amount of comments. One day, I hope it will have a much larger readership. Thank you for all your advice and creating an environment where your readers can interact.

  26. Joe Pote on November 12, 2012 at 9:48 AM

    Honestly, Rachelle, in recent months I’ve come to value your blog more for the engagement and discussion with other readers than for your personal wisdom.

    I have several valuable friendships that began with interactions on tbis blog.

    I think that says a lot about you, as a person. You create an inviting atmosphere that allows people to feel comfortable visiting and getting acquainted.

    Although I’m not sure of my ability to replicate such an environment, it is definitely a trait I value in you.

    • Cherry Odelberg on November 12, 2012 at 11:37 AM

      Couldn’t have said it better.

      • Joe Pote on November 12, 2012 at 4:02 PM


        ‘Preciate you, Cherry!

  27. Julie Luek on November 12, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    I agree. I’m always searching for new ways to connect to the reader. I once read a great tip for blogging: beware of the number of times you use “I”. You want to be setting a premise– what’s in it for the reader. I find my highest responses are those that tap into an emotional aspect of the writing process.

  28. Lisa on November 12, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    One thing I do is continually remind readers how important their voices are to me. I want them to know they have important stories to contribute. Stories that inspire and encourage others. I regularly ask others to share in guest posts even if its not something they are used to doing.

    My guest post area says. Your voice inspires! And I mean that, everyone has a story.

  29. Jessica Nelson on November 12, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    I missed Friday and now I’m going to go check it out! I don’t know how much my commenters interact because we’re a group of bloggers who’ve been following each other for a few years now. So we interact on different blogs, maybe…lol Not sure, but I love a question at the end of a post, for sure.

  30. Roxanne Sherwood Gray on November 12, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Wow. Christine was succinct. “Nail. Head.” Yep, I have to agree.

    I blog with a group of writers and our posts that communicate to our readers that they matter receive the most comments.

    Thanks for the insight and congratulations on such a successful blog. I really appreciate you, Rachelle!

  31. Angela Brown on November 12, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    I try to utilize what you mention above and must emphasize the point regarding asking questions. I don’t ask questions as often as I should but I like asking questions because it does engage the readers.

  32. Diane Bailey on November 12, 2012 at 8:21 AM

    Everyone is looking for answers to the question, “how can I be:” better, prettier, happier, wiser?” For us to make it about the reader gives them answers that causes them to return again and again.

    Working on that point of view!

  33. Amanda Socci on November 12, 2012 at 5:43 AM

    I agree with this assessment, Rachelle. On my Creative Idea Gal blog this month, I’mhosting a November Gratitude challenge, encouraging my readers to submit URLs to gratitude blog posts they’ve written on their own blogs.

    I think any material can be geared towards the reader.

  34. Mercey Valley on November 12, 2012 at 5:06 AM

    All of the above is true, but give yourself some credit, because God is SO at work here 🙂 I’m convinced you wouldn’t be this big if He wasn’t behind you (and vv). You have a gift and you’re using it in a major way. We feel it’s all about us and it is, but the flipside is your gifting to do this in the first place.

    This blog is a blessing! It’s a great place to be when the chips are down, as well as when we’re on a high. It’s a bondafide God-mix of greatness. Only He can manufacture that 😉

    People will always want something for nothing, we will always believe we know what we’re doing, yet the 500 response proves we need you as well as each other. It’s very cool. x

    • Carol J. Garvin on November 13, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      Oh, so very true! I’ve long believed God is using Rachelle to do more than share writing truths here. She ministers to us.

  35. Christine Macdonald on November 12, 2012 at 2:45 AM

    Nail. Head.

    My blog is an outlet for me to share stories of my lack of self-worth, once upon a time, and how everything is connected to our ways about how we feel about our own selves.

    Although my own personal story may be unusual (drug addicted stripper for 9 years in Waikiki), the fabric of how I weaved my quilt of self-preservation and love comes in every color, shape and size.

    Great post. Thanks for reminding us that it’s really all about the reader – through our own lens of experiences.


    • Cherry Odelberg on November 12, 2012 at 11:36 AM

      My story is not as fascinating as yours, yet we have the same goal; dredge up the old stuff and show how we overcame – in the hope it will help the next person.

      • Nancy on November 27, 2012 at 12:41 PM

        Same here with the dredging up the past, writing about it, giving reference through the Word about how it affected others in Biblical time, as well as it has me.

  36. Beth K. Vogt on November 12, 2012 at 1:28 AM

    I know people are busy, so to engage readers, I keep my blog posts short. By short, I mean 300 words or less. Often a lot less.
    I know people are visual, so I try to find a great photo. Great = beautiful, stunning, fun … something that engages their eyes.
    I know people like to talk. And I like to listen.
    So I always ask a question at the end of my blog post.
    And then I encourage people to join the conversation — and get out of the way.
    But … I do come back and reply to comments because, hey, if people take the time to say something on my blog, it’s only considerate to let ’em know I’m listening, right?

    • Lisa on November 12, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      Completely agree Beth! Concise and visually beautiful!

    • Jeanne on November 12, 2012 at 10:20 AM

      And you do it well, Beth.

    • Meghan Carver on November 12, 2012 at 10:50 AM

      I’ve only been following your blog for a few weeks, Beth, but I love your photos, and I appreciate that the posts are short! 🙂

    • Cherry Odelberg on November 12, 2012 at 11:34 AM

      Yes, if people take time to comment, they deserve a response.

    • Joanna Aislinn on November 16, 2012 at 7:16 AM

      Although I tend to fall far long of 300 words, lol, I agree with Beth’s ideas–especially taking the time to respond to comments.

  37. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on November 12, 2012 at 1:13 AM

    That’s something you’ve been able to do very well over the years I have followed your blog – you always made me feel as if I had something to contribute.

    But I’m not sure that it’s necessarily the ‘mechanics’ of designing the blog posts, in terms of setting out to engage the reader. I’ve never met you, but I strongly suspect that you are the kind of person who sets people at ease quite quickly, and asks leading question in conversation with an individual or group, to encourage others to speak.

    I also suspect that you’re pretty good at bringing shy or otherwise peripheral individuals into a conversation.

    So…while the subject is important, the vital part of the engagement has been set in those 1700+ posts you’ve written – they aren’t about you, but in a sense they are you.

    What’ll I do to get to that point? I’ll try to find topics that would encourage my readers to share their thoughts, and to cross-talk with one another. I don’t think I have the persona, so I’ll rely on the ‘mechanics’.

    • Joe Pote on November 12, 2012 at 9:43 AM

      Good point, Andrew!

      To quote a line from a movie, “I’m incapable of small talk.” Which means I have to work a bit harder at beginning engaging blog conversation.

      • Cherry Odelberg on November 12, 2012 at 11:33 AM

        I identify with that remark.