I have a love-hate relationship with blog comments. When they are not coming in, I wonder what I did wrong and longingly listen for the ding like a teenage girl waiting for a boy to call. When they are pouring in, I curse the interruptions and the extra work.
It has been just over a month since I migrated my blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. In that short period of time, I have acquired 700 blog comments. Half of that number consists of my replies. I believe that everyone deserves to receive an acknowledgement for taking the time to read, write and engage on my blog.
And while I am pleased to have readers take an active part on my blog, reading, monitoring and replying to those comments is very time-consuming. I began to research the pros and cons of allowing comments on my blog.
Is it worth the time and effort?
Does it help drive traffic?
Would my time be best served spent elsewhere?
In my opinion, there are many more benefits of leaving a comments section on your blog, than there are downsides – so long as you play an active role in managing those comments. If you do not have time or an inclination to play an active role in moderating the comments, then you should not turn them on because they will turn into a spam fest that will only harm your site – both from an SEO and a trust standpoint.
There are 4 major reasons why I’m strongly in favor of allowing blog comments – when moderated.
- They create a sense of community where the blogger is open to hearing feedback and other opinions of their readers.
- They create a form of “social proof” helping to validate and elevate the blog to a position of authority.
- The conversation that ensues can give the blogger additional ideas or feedback for follow-up blog posts.
- They help to add unique additional content to your blog post which can help with your SEO efforts as Google loves longer, unique content. Blog comments help you achieve that by using the words of your readers to create more content for your page.
The biggest caveat to all of these factors, is that the blogger is active in moderating not only the comments themselves, but the links that they allow to be posted within the comments (where the commenters name is linked). I only allow back links to be posted when a users comment adds significant value to the conversation, and when the link is going out to a high quality site. If the comment is really generic like “great post, I love what you did” or the link within the post is to something of low quality, I may approve the comment, but I will always delete the link within that comment.
There are a lot of programs designed to spam out to blog’s comment sections, so if the comment at all looks like a spam comment that could be left on thousands of similar posts – I’m not going to approve the comment to include a link back to whatever spammy page they are trying to build links for. If the comment is obvious spam, I will flat-out delete the whole thing.
One important note that I found through my research was that blog comments, especially in long reply threads, can steer the focus away from your topic. Threads that become conversations can profoundly change the perception readers have of your post, the content and the author. Moderate your comments and steer those long engagements towards a social media platform that would be better suited for this kind of interaction.
The only clear argument I could find for not allowing blog comments is that readers and consumers, are increasingly preferring to comment and interact on social media. Those blogs that have successfully turned off comments have large FaceBook followings and engaged members on their fan page.
The world wide web is constantly changing and trends come and go. Who knows, maybe one day blog comments will be as ancient and outdated as blogrolls but for now, it is still one of the best ways to build a community of loyal followers. And that converts to increased referral and organic traffic. The benefits far outweigh the extra time it takes to moderate.
P.S. If comments have you overwhelmed, or you are going on vacation and don’t want to leave your readers feeling ignored, consider using a Comment Redirect Plugin. It can also establish another call to action on your blog. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Have you ever considered turning off comments on your blog?