Thinking about disabling comments on your blog? I mean, you probably get a lot of spam comments and useless comments and it takes valuable time to weed through it. Is it even worth it?
I know having blog comments is basically tradition. It has been considered the normal thing to do for quite some time. But, I’m seeing more and more sites break from tradition by turning off their comments.
I myself have gone through this a couple times now. In 2016, I made a bit of a public spectacle out of disabling comments on this blog and I explained my reasons. 3 months later, I did an about face and turned them back on again. More recently, I did it yet again although I was just less vocal about it. But, I had the comments turned for awhile then eventually turned them back on.
As of this writing in February of 2019, you can see that I have comments turned back on again. I can’t guarantee I’ll never change my mind, either. 😉
I am not alone in my toying around with this.
Some people stick with it. Seth Godin doesn’t allow comments because they take up too much time. Many blogs are now not having any comments while other large blogs continue to have them. So, if one is trying to find an example to follow to help you make up your mind, it’s proving difficult to find it.
So, what should YOU do? Should you have comments on your blog? And, if you DO have comments on your blog, how should you manage them?
Is there any actual data to show just how useful (or not) comments actually are and whether they’re worth having?
Do Blog Comments Help With Blog Traffic? Here’s Some Data…
Hubspot published a study where they analyzed the data from 100,000 blog posts. Here’s what they found:
There is no correlation between the number of comments on a post and the number of views that post got. There’s also no correlation between comments and the number of links that post got.
In other words, having a comments section is not going to help you drive traffic or get more backlinks. He concludes:
With your blog, comments should not be a goal. They don’t lead to views or links, which is what leads to actual revenue. Engaging in the conversation doesn’t work.
QuickSprout also did a data-driven look at whether blog comments were doing them any good in terms of SEO traffic. Neil said he was averaging 176 comments per blog post. That’s pretty high compared to what most bloggers are doing. So, was it working?
All in all, bringing 16% of all search traffic through comments isn’t too shabby. I know text from comments makes up the majority of the words on the page, but you have to keep in mind that many of the comments just say “good post” or “thanks.”
While Neil said he wasn’t getting as much impact as he wanted from his blog comments, he was getting some positive impact. So, at least in his case, there was some evidence that those comments were helping his SEO.
Another data point is shared by Shout Me Loud. He found that he switched to the CommentLuv commenting system and his traffic dropped. The reason is because of all the garbage links he was getting in the comments. It is no secret that you’re going to get a lot of BS comments because people are looking for backlinks. When he switched back to the Wordpress comments system, his traffic recovered. The fact that his traffic shifted at all shows there is an impact. As he concludes:
One thing which this case-study made clear was the fact that comments definitely affect the ranking of your blog posts.
Having relevant comments on your posts will help you get more organic traffic, and these quality comments will attract more good comments.
Similarly, if you have an old blog with irrelevant and baseless comments, removing them can be helpful.
In 2006, the Nielsen Norman group did a study that showed a massive level of participation inequality within communities. They said that 90% of the audience would never comment on anything. About 9% would comment periodically. And the remaining 1% were pretty active talkers. In fact, they said it can be even worse on blogs:
Blogs have even worse participation inequality than is evident in the 90–9–1 rule that characterizes most online communities. With blogs, the rule is more like 95–5–0.1.
So, an incredibly small percentage of your reader base will ever bother posting a comment.
Obviously, using comments as any real form of learning about your audience is going to be quite limited. I mean, you’re just not going to learn anything very actionable if only 1% of your readers make a habit of participating in those conversations.
So, we’ve got a lot of data points which seem to point to the following picture:
- Blog comments can have a positive impact on SEO, but managed wrongly can actually hurt you.
- Engaging in blog comments doesn’t really help much.
- Most people just don’t participate in comments no matter how much they like what you post.
Again, this doesn’t exactly paint a conclusive picture as to whether we should have comments or not. Hence, the debate…
Comments Or Not?
Fizzle published a post that pitted Pat Flynn up against Everett Bogue in a debate on whether or not to have blog comments. Two successful bloggers with two very different opinions.
As Pat said…
Without comments, a blog isn’t really a blog. To me, blogging is not just about publishing content, but also the two-way communication and community building aspects behind it.
Basically, Pat’s points come down to this:
- Blog comments are good for conversation and building social proof.
- Blog comments can help you learn about your audience.
- Blog comments can help you deepen your relationship with your readers.
Everett, however, made some great points about why he switched off the comments. A big part of it is his use of time, but he also speaks to that participation inequality he was seeing and even the kinds of people who were posting comments.
My “work” week is probably less than 8 hours a week these days. If I still had comments, it would be 25-35 hours guaranteed with no purpose.
His points can be summarized as:
- Blog comments eat up valuable time that could be spent on something more valuable.
- Blog comments can inadvertently lead you to make bad decisions about your content because of the nature and limited percentage of the community who actually comment.
Good points by both guys.
Clearly, though, we still don’t have any definitive data to make a decision here. You’ve got bloggers of all calibers having all kinds of different opinions and experiences with blog comments.
Want some irony? That Fizzle post doesn’t have blog comments turned on. 🙂 So clearly, even Fizzle made the switch since they originally posted that debate. 😉
So, I think it all boils down to one simple truth…
The Truth About Blog Comments, According To David 🙂
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Truth is, blog comments can help you out if you manage them correctly, but they are 100% completely and totally unnecessary.” quote=”Truth is, blog comments can help you out if you manage them correctly, but they are 100% completely and totally unnecessary.”]
It basically comes down to your personal preference.
If you are running blog comments simply because you think it is expected of you, then just stop it. This is YOUR call and there is no rule which says you need to have blog comments.
You will not get less traffic without blog comments. You are not hurting your ability to monetize and make money with your blog. Essentially, there is really no tangible negative effects for your blog and your business if you just turn them off and forget about it.
That’s the truth.
Now, why did I turn them back on? Did I turn blog comments back on to get more traffic? To get more social proof?
Nope, none of that. Truthfully, I honestly couldn’t care less how many blog comments I get. I have many blog posts on this blog that get pretty respectable traffic on a continual basis, yet have little to no blog comments. And I just don’t care. Blog comments have zero impact on how my business is doing, my traffic, or any of it.
So, why am I bothering to have blog comments, then? Here’s why…
- I cannot possibly predict every question or concern a reader might have. I will put my all into a blog post, but it doesn’t mean I effectively answered everything. I think blog comments present an opportunity for a blog post to evolve PAST what I created.
- By using blog comments as user-generated content that actually adds to the post itself, it turns each blog post into a living, breathing resource. Or, at least the potential to be.
- When I come in and interact with every blog commenter, it shows that I’m human and that I will indeed respond to individual inquiries. This helps facilitate that two-way conversation.
Simply put, I totally agree with Everett Bogue above about the drawbacks of comments. But, I also agree with Pat about the importance of that two-way communication.
Now, even though I have blog comments turned on, this doesn’t mean I treat them like everybody else. Here’s how I believe you should manage blog comments if you’re going to bother having them…
How I Manage Comments (And How You Should, Too)
Let me ask you this…
Would you post useless content to your blog? Would you allow content to be posted to your blog that was low quality and didn’t really help anybody?
I sure hope not. That’s bad content marketing. Most likely, you would never dream of it.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”You should exercise the same level of judgement about whether a blog comment is allowed on your site as you would something you write yourself.” quote=”You should exercise the same level of judgement about whether a blog comment is allowed on your site as you would something you write yourself.”]
In other words, you should look at any blog comment as an extension of the content of the blog post. And the same standards should be applied.
First of all, moderate every comment. Every single one. This isn’t just about whether it is spam or not. It is also about whether the comment is useful enough to be allowed on your site.
Throw every concern you might have about the vanity value of a blog comment out the window. The only thing that matters is whether that comment is useful and adds to the value of the resource. If not, delete it. Period.
Things I look for are:
- Is the comment providing a different perspective on what you said, or a decent resource for accomplishing what you discussed in the post?
- Is the comment asking a question which, when you answer them, makes the blog post more complete as a resource for reading the post?
- Are they using a real name and not a brand name?
If it doesn’t do those things, I do not publish the comment. I don’t care if they just told me how awesome I am and how great my post is… I delete it. Because singing my praises doesn’t make the content more valuable. And that’s all that matters.
Yes, you have to spend time to actually check every comment, but it is worth it.
How To Smartly Integrate Blog Comments Into Your Blog
Most blogs just spit out blog comments after the post with a heading above them that just says “Comments”. The comments sit there, sometimes in really long lists. But, we want these blog comments to be useful.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Blog comments CAN be bad for your conversion rates if you handle them stupidly.” quote=”Blog comments CAN be bad for your conversion rates if you handle them stupidly.”]
Those comments sit there and push calls to action way down the page and provide plenty of distraction. The case is even worse on mobile devices since the blog sidebar is almost always pushed down below the content. Since your comments are part of your content, that just means anything you put in your sidebar or below your comments is going to be lost.
So, here’s what you do:
- Most importantly, practice the moderation practices I spelled out above. I’d much rather have zero comments on a post than a bunch of useless crap taking up space.
- Put your main call to action ABOVE the comments. Any lead magnet opt-ins always go above the comments.
- Re-phrase the standard “Comments” sub-heading into something more actionable like “Got questions?”. The idea is to not have something generic there that might invite people to comment just to tell you you’re awesome.
- Turn your blog comments into a marketing opportunity.
On this blog, I have implemented Thrive Comments on my blog comments rather than the default comment system. Thrive Comments uses the Wordpress comment system, but it provides certain capabilities that enable you to make the most of comments. These include:
- The ability to rate comments based on value and surface the best ones to the top of the list. This is better than simple chronology because the comments future readers see are most likely to be useful.
- The ability to give calls to action to people who leave a comment. After they post a comment, you can invite them to share the post on social media, put their email address onto your list, etc. You can even provide different calls to action depending on whether it is their first comment on your blog or not.
- You can easily turn any blog comment into a usable testimonial with the click of a button (if you also use Thrive Ovation). This means you can capture those times where they say how awesome you are. 🙂 And if that’s ALL they say, you can turn it into a testimonial and not publish it as a blog comment.
Thrive Comments allows you to maximize the positive impact of blog comments. If you’re going to bother having them, you might as well get the most out of them.
Don’t Be Afraid To Delete Comments
I am currently in the middle of a huge content audit here on this blog. Part of this content audit involves me going back and updating – even deleting – a ton of my old blog posts.
With the ones I update, I am also auditing the blog comments.
I used to be pretty liberal about blog comments around here. I’ve since changed my mind, but there’s still a lot of garbage comments on blog posts back in the archives. So, part of my content audit is to manually review every blog comment and delete it if I think it sucks.
Also, if a comment contains a backlink to the commenter’s site, I would delete it or just stop showing backlinks. Those links create a trashy link profile in the eyes of Google and can hurt your SEO traffic. Besides, anybody who would post a comment on your blog just for the backlink isn’t very likely to be doing it for the right reasons.
So, delete comments even if you approved them in the past. It is YOUR site and YOUR content, even if they wrote it. So, you’re perfectly within your rights to delete it if it doesn’t help you.
OR… Just Turn ‘Em Off And Forget About It
Yep, that’s always an option. There are many times where it is probably better not to have any comment capability on your blog:
- You pretty much never get any comments at all. If all of your posts have a big zero comment count, don’t sweat it. Just remove the damn things and stop stressing.
- You would rather your engagement be elsewhere (like a Facebook group).
- You don’t post the kind of content that really invites comments or even needs any.
Pat Flynn said that he didn’t think a blog was really a blog if it doesn’t have comments. And, I simply disagree with that sentiment. Furthermore… who cares?!
We all know that blogging has it’s roots in chronological, journal-style posts and traditional comments. But, these days, people are using blogs more as content publishing platforms. It is just a tool. And, like any tool, how it is used is up to the user and his/her intention.
Your blog isn’t less proper if you don’t enable comments. It could be smart that you’re not running any comments!
My Final Thoughts On This Issue…
Here at the Blog Marketing Academy, I’m all about blogging smarter. I’m about using a blog in a strategic fashion for the purposes of generating conversions and sales.
Sometimes, the smarter more strategic thing to do is simply turn off your blog comments. We’ve already established that it won’t hinder you in any way to do that.
However, if you want that capacity for readers to help make your content more valuable over time, then you can turn them on. Just do it smartly and be a strict moderator. Be relentless in ensuring that any comment that is published is good enough to be there. If I’m telling you can have ZERO comments and it won’t affect you in a bad way, then that certainly remains true for any single comment, too.
If you are seeing that value, then it might be worth wading through the inevitable comment spam and the stupid people who try posting garbage just for the backlink. Those people are stuck in an age that ended quite some time ago. They’re idiots. But, you’ll need to wade through it to find the good ones.
If you get enough good ones, it can help your content be more useful, help with your SEO, and perhaps even generate more shares and subscribers.
If you have a question or want me to clarify anything about this post, feel free to ask in the comments below. 🙂
If you just want to tell me how good this was, then email me. Because I’m going to practice what I preach and delete your comment unless it contains something useful. It isn’t anything personal. I love hearing from everybody. But, comments are different. It is content. And I have to think about the people who will be reading this post looking to solve a confusion for themselves a few months down the road.
If you’re going to comment, think of them, too. 🙂
Hope this was useful!