I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Saving moderating time

Part of running a community-centric blog is moderating the comments. I mentioned that it is a time consuming task when I gave the reasons for moderating so today I’m sharing some ideas for saving time when moderating comments on your blog.

In no particular order, here are my tips:

  1. ensure you have a spam filter on your blog so the really obvious spam is off your list to moderate
  2. consider outsourcing the comment moderation. However, make sure you still look often so you can reply to any comments or have your support person tell you if there is a comment waiting for your reply
  3. set up some rules so certain people’s comments are automatically accepted – they see their comment instantly and you save a little time. You may do this for a select group or perhaps for everyone who has had a comment accepted in the past
  4. have a procedure that includes rules for your blog as this will save you time in deciding if a comment is acceptable. For example, they must have a real name not a tagline as their username, use a real URL not a shortened URL and can only include a link if genuinely adding to the conversation.
Do you have any other tips for saving time with your comments?

Blogging when you’re not around

Even small business owners are allowed to take a holiday or some sick leave 🙂 Obviously that can leave a lot of tasks to be prepared for or done in your absence, but I’m just looking at your blog – what happens to your blog when you take some time off work?Relaxing on a beach, away from business

Running a blog and developing a readership takes time and effort; ignoring your blog for a while can undo much of that effort. So how can you manage take away from your business without letting your blogging efforts weaken or even waste away?

The following list gives some suggestions – the best approach will depend on your blog of course, and on how long you are taking off, and the best approach may be quite different next time you take a  break.

  1. do nothing 🙂 Just let your last blog post sit on the front page until you return.
    Very quick and easy solution but not so good for your search engine rankings and keeping any regular readers happy (unless your break is shorter than the gap between normal posts anyway)
  2. announce your intentions and leave your blog to sit for the duration
    Again, very quick and easy to do, but letting people know offers some customer service and keeps people informed. You may still loose some readers and search engines points, depending on how long you leave the blog. Letting your blog sit could give everyone a break or it could mean a lot of catching up posts when you return (especially if you rely non news and events as topics)
  3. Schedule posts so the blog keeps having new content without you physically being present.
    This requires preparation time in writing multiple posts in advance but is great for maintaining a blog presence, search engine rankings and regular followers. You may have a lot of comments to moderate when you return. Of course, this is less effective if your blog is based on breaking stories and current events as they are harder to write in advance and will need some catching up on when you get back.
    My tip if you like this method is to have some spare blog posts written throughout the year – these can then be scheduled during your break without having to write heaps of posts just before you go.
  4. Invite a guest blogger or two to post on your blog.
    Obviously this keeps your blog full and current while you’re away with less preparation time than scheduling many posts. The greatest time saving for you is if they have access to post directly to your blog but you get more control if they provide the posts for you to schedule before you leave. Giving a guest blogger access also means they could moderate and respond to comments, too.
    Guest blogging may add some new ideas to your blog which readers may like but it is a different voice which some readers may not like – if you know your readers and choose an appropriate guest blogger you can better gauge the likely response.
    While multiple guest bloggers adds variety to your blog and avoids issues around readers disliking one guest, it does involve more work on your part – finding and choosing guest bloggers, then discussing topics and setting up access/scheduling posts
  5. Maintain your blog from a distance – that is, write posts while you are away.
    The beauty of a blog is that you can access it from anywhere that has internet access so you can write posts away form the office.
    Writing posts while away solves all the issues of keeping your blog momentum going and comments moderated, with little preparation needed. However, it is not going to do much towards you relaxing on a holiday, building relationships with family while on holidays or allow you to recover if you are on sick leave. Taking a break is generally about giving yourself a change in routine to refresh your mind and body which isn’t going to happen if you keep working on your break.
    On the other hand, if you are away from your blog because you are travelling for work or doing something not about relaxing, this is a viable option to consider – and something to do in a hotel room each night is not always a bad thing either!
  6. Request readers to give their idea on a certain topic while you are away. For example, write a post asking a question and let it sit as your recent post for a few days. As readers answer, your blog is getting content and readers may get inspired in new ways.
    Very quick and easy to set up and it could be effective for a short break if you have readers who comment willingly. However, this will look out of place if left for very long and runs the risk of unmoderated comments – to work, you will have to allow all comments to be approved automatically which means all sorts of things may be posted…
  7. Use a RSS feed to fill your blog with external content.
    Once it is set up, this will take care of itself so it is a low effort option and could work if you choose the feed source carefully. However, you will still have comments to moderate when you return but you need to trust the feed source – of course, you could just use a news site and provide commentary later. The disadvantage is that your content will not be unique– in fact, duplicate copy can be a negative for search engines.

Dealing with negative comments

As soon as you put a blog online and open it up to comments, you face the risk of receiving negative comments on there. The only way to guarantee none of these is to not allow comments – or not have a blog!

Obviously, you can also get negative comments about you and/or your business in emails, by phone and via other online means, but dealing with those is very different to dealing with blog comments.

The first step is to control comments getting onto your blog. The best way to do this is make sure comments are moderated – that means that people can enter comments but they will only go live when you approve them. Not only does this control what goes live, it also means that you can reply as soon as the comment is live so the comment needs never be read by itself online.

So, you go to moderate a new comment and you don’t like it. What do you do?

Well, why don’t you like it? I see three main categories of comments you may not like a comment – rude and inappropriate, highly critical or disagreeing with you.

Your choices:

delete it – it is then gone from your blog forever and no one else needs ever know about it. This is the best choice for spam and highly inappropriate comments. Be careful of deleting comments that you just don’t like personally as the person involved may complain about your censorship*

modify it and approve it – you have the ability to edit any comments so that they are less unpleasant to you. An example of when this may be useful is when someone posts some constructive feedback but uses inappropriate language to do so – you could delete the swear words and approve the main message. However, note that some people will be offended and/or vocal if you change what they wrote –  you may want to contact them personally and explain why you are making such changes and give them the option of an edited version being approved or all of it deleted.

approve it and do nothing – it is then live for all to see but you don’t respond to it in any way.  To me, this is burying your head in the sand – the comment is there for anyone to read so it would be better to reply and possibly turn it into something of value. Readers may also perceive it as you ignoring problems or criticisms, so the blog will appear too one-sided and not worth returning to.

approve it and respond – allow the comment to go live and add your response as a new comment. Then you are giving your readers your reaction and are showing that you listen to your readers, which is important if you want your blog to be a community and readers to keep coming back.

Approve it, respond to it and act on it – while it isn’t always appropriate to act on a comment, read it carefully and consider things from the commenter’s point of view. Are they justified in saying your orders are always late or your emails too technical? Can you improve your business or blog by listening to those comments and making a change? If you do that, and add a follow-up comment once the change has been made, your business will be strengthened and your credibility increased. You may just turn that commentor into a supporter.

Remember to consider why you don’t like the comment and the potential impact the comment will have on your readers and your blog before you decide how to treat any negative comments.

Have you had any negative comments that have led to something positive?

* censorship – it is your blog so you do have the right to choose what is/isn’t included on it. However, if you say you want an interactive blog and a community, then too much censoring may seem contradictory and may raise more complaints.