I’ve been following quite a number of blogs for several years now, some more popular than others. They all vary in nature, as do the bloggers behind them – some are personal while others are formal and professional much like the SEM Blog I’ve been managing for the last couple of months. What all of them have in common though, is that they all depend on their readerships.

A blog with no readers is a private diary, and that misses the mark of what blogging is (or rather should be) about. Privacy issues in blogging are a major factor, of course. We’ve seen them rise even with microblogging in combination with complementary services like Foursquare. Truth be told, I’ve recently had to start using a pen-name after receiving threats from some of my personal blog readers who border on the radical end of the scale. These may mean nothing, and I’m confident that this is the case, but my privacy policy had to be revisited and revised.

Anyway, back to the discussion at hand, our readership. What practically all blogs have in common is the comment system. Engaging your readers via comments is a great asset in both terms of reader retention and content generation.

Reader retention is pretty self explanatory – even of your content is not the awesome masterpiece that will draw incoming traffic, inbound links and generate a massive buzz in and by itself, replying to your readers’ comments and provoking discussion is the best way to make sure they return. This way, comments actually serve as a link building method but not in the conventional “I’ll leave a comment on another blog linking to my own” way. Many of those who regularly respond to blog posts are bloggers themselves (and dare I say-most of them are). A lively and engaging comment discussion is in many cases the best trigger for a reply in the form of a blog post on another blog. The number of times this has happened with my personal blog leaves little room to doubt the full potential of a good comment whirlpool.

This brings me to my next point which is content generation. As I’ve illustrated above, an animated comment exchange may lead to publication of original content on other blogs discussing the same issue. But it doesn’t end there. I see all comment discussions as micro-brainstorming sessions, and I believe that once they are regarded as such they can be used to their full extent. Comment discussions are there to share different points of view on the same issue and disseminate other opinions than those presented in the blog post. Just as your views may trigger a reaction post by others, so can their take on the matter at hand become your next blog post. Sometimes I find comments that are so eye-opening that I can’t simply ignore them. At that point freshly brewed blog posts practically write themselves, and they all have the additional value of being highly relevant to my readership for they are triggered by readers.

Needless to say that I make comment replies a priority, especially with those that actually contribute to the discussion, and I find it peculiar that some blogs block comments altogether. I know that sifting the chaff from the grain gets tedious at times, but I believe that it’s worth it – your reader took the time to leave a comment, the least you could do is take the time to read and reply

Do you allow comments on your blog?