Ask any blogger what their two main wishes are for their blogs, and eight times out of ten* you’ll probably get “more comments” and “more subscribers” as the answer.
*Note – eight times out of ten is not a scientific discovery, although it may be. So….
Especially for bloggers who thrive on engagement, more comments means more goals met. More comments also have a way of increasing subscribers, because if a reader leaves a comment, it means they’ve enjoyed the piece. If they’ve enjoyed the piece, it stands to reason that they’d want to subscribe to get more of the same content.
So, yeah… comments and subscribers.
The problem is, in recent years, many bloggers have complained (some rightly, some not so much) that blog comments have started to dwindle, as more readers took their discussions to other platforms, more often than not Facebook and Google+.
To counter that, third party comment plugins like Livefyre and Disqus offered workarounds – Livefyre’s SocialSync feature pulled in tweets and Facebook comments, while Disqus allowed you to tag Twitter users.
Then there was Comments Evolved, that allowed you to display comments from Livefyre, Disqus, Facebook, Google+, alongside your native WordPress comments. Unfortunately, while that plugin was useful, it stopped being supported.
However, much like many third party plugins (especially ones that have social network support built in), performance of a blog could be impacted, as Twitter and Facebook API calls slowed down response times.
Add to that the recent announcement by both Livefyre and Disqus that sponsored comments and ads would be appearing alongside “normal comments”, and the negativity these announcements received, the need for a solid native WordPress comment solution continued.
Until Postmatic came along, that is.
Postmatic? What’s That, Then?
While many other plugins offer a “unique” spin on how they approach blog comments, Postmatic actually delivers on that promise.
Instead of having to comment via the web (although that’s still possible – more on that later), Postmatic allows you to get a new post by email, read it, and then comment on that post just by hitting reply to the email you’ve just read.
If you want to try it for yourself, simply leave a comment below this post and see what happens when other comments come in!
It’s so simple, you wonder why no-one has really thought of this sooner (there was a stripped down version of this for Disqus, but it was only for admins).
As well as being simple, it makes perfect sense.
Think about it – where do you spend most of your time during the day? A good bet would say email (perhaps second only to Clash of Clans) – so if you’re spending so much time in email why wouldn’t you manage all your blog post interactions that way too?
In Postmatic’s own words,
We raise engagement by reaching your audience where they are – in their inbox. Except now with Postmatic, they can comment back and keep the conversation going just by hitting reply.
As a user of Postmatic since February this year, I can 100% agree that engagement levels have increased, as shown by the chart below.
As you can see, in the seven months prior to installing Postmatic, my comment count per month averaged 149 comments per month. In the seven months since implementing Postmatic, that jumps to 312.
That’s more than doubled my average comment count!
My posting schedule over these 14 months has remained pretty consistent (with the exception of one post per month more in May, June and July this year), as did my social shares – so how come Postmatic grew my comments and engagement when other plugins didn’t?
Simple – people felt comfortable commenting on my blog, because there were no extra hoops like social log ins, account creations, passwords, etc., to jump through.
Additionally, because Postmatic enables commenting by email, people could truly post a comment or reply whenever they wanted – at their desk, at the supermarket, at work, even while lazing at the beach having a cold drink (as I did, numerous times, over the summer).
However, as much as Postmatic raises engagement, there’s so much more to them than that.
Grow, Deliver, Engage, Value
Postmatic’s goal is simple – to reward bloggers for the love, sweat, time and money they put into their content.
To that end, they’ve created a four pronged approach so bloggers can focus on the specific area(s) they want to improve. While each area can work individually, it’s when you combine them that the magic truly happens.
It’s not just engagement that Postmatic grows. Pretty much every blogger also wants to grow their subscriber numbers, whether that’s via RSS subscribers or – more usually – email subscribers, and Postmatic delivers here too.
While not as feature-intense as similar plugins, Postmatic Optins offers four “flavours” of optin forms: Popup over the page, Slider, Top Bar, and After Content.
Between them, these four options cover the most popular optin forms for email lists (with the exception of Exit Intent, which is scheduled for a future update).
As you can see, they don’t look too shabby either.
Each optin has five basic colour options, to help blend into your theme design better (you can also edit them via CSS). Additionally, the copy is fully customizable and supports HTML, so you can create very customized forms specific to your email list goals.
Not only that, but for the pop up and slider optins, you can choose when these display – after a set amount of time, after the reader scrolls to the end of a post, or after they leave a comment.
While there are only four optins at the moment, they more than cover the needs for the majority of bloggers looking to grow email subscription numbers.
In addition to the Optins, Postmatic also has a pretty cool Import and Invite set-up. The import option allows you to import subscribers from MailChimp, Mailpoet, Jetpack, and Subscribe to Comments Reloaded.
With the invite option, you can invite past commenters, commenters who are subscribed to replies but not posts, email lists and more (Postmatic do a great job of ensuring bloggers don’t abuse this option with clear wording around best practices).
Not only does Postmatic help you grow your subscribers, it also delivers your posts directly to them.
Much like Feedblitz, Feedburner, and Mailpoet’s email delivery service, Postmatic sends out each new post by email to your subscribers. The free version of Postmatic sends the post via the mail service of your web host, while Postmatic Premium uses Mandrill and/or Mailgun, depending on network traffic.
While the free version of Postmatic is more than adequate for email delivery of your posts, it’s when you make the jump to premium that the service really shines.
As well as guaranteeing delivery of your email, the extra features and options available to premium users makes the current $9 per month per site a steal.
- The ability to customize the header and footer of your email, using either images or widgets (Postmatic adds email widgets to your standard WordPress widgets).
- The option to differentiate widgets depending on whether the email is a new post delivery, or a comment reply email.
- Support for other third-party plugins, like Social Warfare sharing, and Skimlinks affiliate links (more on that later).
- The ability to spam, trash or approve a moderated comment, all from your email.
However, in addition to the features above, and the comparisons in the image above, the key difference between the free and premium version of Postmatic is how the posts are delivered.
If you’re used to receiving posts from Jetpack or Subscribe2, you’ll know the basic look and feel of these emails. Nothing particularly wrong with them – just that they lack the bells and whistles of other email services (branding, images, etc). This is the same for the free version of Postmatic.
Postmatic Premium, on the other hand, converts your post, with all its formatting, to email-compatible HTML and wraps it in the customized template you’ve created with your own images and widget areas.
The result is a beautiful, uncluttered, content-focused email template – with the added bonus that your subscribers can leave a comment (and reply to future ones) all from the comfort of that very same email!
As I mentioned earlier in the post, one of Postmatic’s main goals is to grow the engagement around a blog post. As highlighted by the chart showing my own blog’s engagement growth, this is a goal Postmatic are more than delivering on.
However, the mindset to comment via email can still be a big one to overcome – after all, we’ve commented via the web for so long, it’s become the only way we know.
While Postmatic quickly becomes second nature once you’ve actually used it, the team behind the plugin also recognize that some commenters will still prefer web commenting, which is why they’ve released Epoch.
Pronounced “epic”, Epoch can best be described as a comment plugin that offers the best features of Disqus – real-time commenting, Ajax loading – while solving some major long-time complaints about native WordPress comments, like page cache support and CDN support, all while remaining SEO-friendly.
Because of the light design of the plugin, it doesn’t eat up resources the same way a Disqus would. Nor should you have any loading issues when trying to post a comment – anyone who’s ever seen the little spinning circle of Disqus loading doom will appreciate Epoch’s approach here, especially on mobile.
Since Epoch supports Ajax commenting, every comment left on a post via the web will appear immediately, with no reloading of the page. You can see Epoch in action on this blog – just leave a comment if you’re reading this on the web.
While Epoch is a standalone plugin and can be used on any self-hosted WordPress blog, combining it with Postmatic sees some pretty cool stuff happening.
No matter if you’re commenting on the web, or from your email, every comment is updated in real-time. So, a web user could be leaving a comment, and a new one from an email subscriber could appear on the post – all without disrupting the web commenter.
Oh, and remember the Postmatic Optin option of the Slider or Popup only appearing after a comment has been left? If the blogger has Epoch activated, it will fill out the name and email part of the form, and the reader only has to click the subscribe button – how’s that for frictionless subscriber growth?
Epoch has three style settings when it comes to the look and feel of the comments on your site.
To help you choose which one is best for you, the plugin’s settings asks how much you’d like Epoch to take over that look and feel – “Completely”, “Use my typography and colours”, and “Minimally”.
- Completely is Epoch’s own styling, and is the one that most resembles your typical third-party comments style like Disqus.
- Use my own typography and colours is the best of both worlds, inasmuch that your own font and link colours will be used, while the style of the copy will closely resemble your existing comments.
- Minimally simply gives you all the features of Epoch, while using your existing comment style. However, there may be some glitches based on your theme’s code, so this option may or may not work for you.
My own preference is for using my own typography, as per the image above, but I also use the Completely option on other sites, and it’s an excellent alternative for anyone that prefers the Disqus approach to styling.
Epoch recently came out of beta, but already it’s shaping up to be an excellent commenting option, and one that promises to make blog comments more fun and less complicated again – which is no bad thing at all.
The last part of Postmatic’s four tiered approach to helping bloggers meet their goals is the question of value.
When you think of the word value, and its use around a blog, what do you think of?
- Monetizing a blog?
- The value a blogger brings to his or her readers, commenters and subscribers?
- The value of a blogger to brands?
- Sponsorship opportunities?
All of these, and more, are actually the definition of value when it comes to a blog. Think about it – you read/subscribe to a blog because of the value in the content, and the expertise that blogger brings.
You’re also happy to support that blogger through affiliate links, because of the value the blogger brings in recommending only products that would be valuable to you.
As a blogger, you might feel that the readership and engaged community you have built trust with is an ideal one to help you become a trusted partner for brands looking to do right by their customers.
All of these goals can be met by Postmatic.
- A blogger grows their list, helping to add to their value to a brand or affiliates/sponsors.
- A commenter grows their circle of connections, and feels their thoughts are valued more.
- A blogger thinking of a community membership site can use Postmatic to deliver exclusive, behind-the-paywall conversations and value all from email.
- Because of the approach to privacy Postmatic takes, commenters and subscribers can be more confident that they won’t be spammed, nor will their information be used for third parties and retargeting, making the relationship between blogger and subscriber more valuable.
These are just some of the ways value can be built via Postmatic.
Additionally, they recently announced the support for Skimlinks in Postmatic emails.
Skimlinks is a pretty slick way of working with affiliate links.
- If you think Skimlinks is a good fit for your content you sign up on their site.
- The next time you write about a product or service that has any sort of affiliate program, Skimlinks will intercept any clicks on links in your post, track the sales, and share the commission with you.
Skimlinks work from within Postmatic emails so tracking affiliate sales happens both on the web and in the inbox.
Now when you send an email out, the Skimlinks aren’t just restricted to your website. Couple this with some other vendors Postmatic are hoping to announce soon, and you should be starting to see why Postmatic is a developer to sit up and take notice of.
So, Should YOU Use Postmatic?
Uh…. why have you read this far is you’re not interested?? 😉
Seriously, though, I can’t recommend Postmatic enough. I’ve tried pretty much every comment system around – Livefyre, Disqus, wpDiscuz, G+, Jetpack, Echo, IntenseDebate, etc., – and Postmatic beats them all. hands down (especially now they have Epoch).
Their Optins make it easy to grow subscribers, without the extra cost of other, more popular plugins.
Their support is second-to-none (seriously), and their willingness to listen to their users (and the readers of their users), to add new features and support for other plugins, is something all WordPress developers should take notes from.
Are they perfect? Not quite (but they’re close).
- You won’t currently get analytics around your emails, but then Postmatic isn’t (currently) meant to replace a Mailchimp or AWeber. Instead, it’s about raising engagement, all while delivering beautiful emails that allow comments to start the moment a post is received.
- The Optins don’t have analytics like Bloom does – but then, Bloom is premium and their analytics are fairly basic. Besides, it’s easy enough to use Google Analytics to set up tracking subscription statistics.
- There’s also no weekly digest of emails – yet. However, if that’s something that you prefer over instant delivery of posts, look out for digests in the next major update of the plugin.
Postmatic keeps the features focused and the experience tight, with a major focus on getting people talking about your content, which means they don’t charge hundreds of dollars for the service like others do.
While the free version is fine, ask yourself this – if you could meet your goals as a blogger when it comes to subscribers, comments, brand partnerships, affiliate sales, membership site opportunities and more, would you be willing to spend just $9 per month for that?
I know I would. And did. And I haven’t looked back since.
A version of this post originally appeared on WPKUBE.