The pros and cons of allowing comments on your blog
'Tis strange the argument regarding allowing comments on blogs still rages on.
This harks back to 2014 when eminent bloggers such as CopyBlogger and Michael Hyatt closed their commenting sections because of the rise in spam.
This may well have been necessary. Spam was becoming a real issue, in spite of moderation systems working at full pelt. Something had to be done, and this drastic action helped towards dampening the issue.
(Nowadays spam may have died down, but trolls and other unfortunates rear their ugly heads, so the disruption of decent commenting continues.)
This radical reaction caused much confusion amongst blogging circles. Should bloggers follow the examples of these great gurus or not?
The problem was, ordinary bloggers weren't suffering the same issues as these eminent bloggers. They didn't have thousands of comments coming in every day. They didn't have a massive readership that hung on every word, panting restlessly in the wings for the latest post. These bloggers weren't such a target for spam to have it make their lives a misery.
So to follow suit and stop allowing comments for the everyday blogger was probably a bad thing. It hindered their social proof of a readership. This prevented their readers from expressing their thoughts. And extinguished any glowing embers of a community between the blogger and their loyal audience.
Now this didn't matter for the big boys. They already had their fanatical following, plus a massive presence within the search engines. If the process of not allowing commenting had an affect on their Domain Authorities, this was probably minor and soon picked up later once they reopened their commenting boxes again.
Return to the fold
Because within a couple of years, this is what happened. They started allowing commenting on their blogs once more.
Michael Hyatt totally reversed his previous decision. He said he wanted his blog to feel more hospitable. He didn't want a blog resembling a ghost town without a sense of community. Bringing back conversation into his own realm from elsewhere was important to cultivate dialogue so he could learn more from his readers.
Neil Patel in his post about ranking factors made the point that comments increased the amount of content on the blog. This means there are more keywords for the search engines to rank. OK, more impressions were made of the actual post, but apparently a quarter of the content was being indexed from the commenting section.
There are plenty of good reasons why allowing comments on your blog is important. Take a look at the infographic below:
The pros of allowing comments
Give your readers a voice
Having read a fabulous post, there will be some readers with a burning desire to say what they think about it. This spontaneous reaction should definitely be encouraged. Hopefully they will be eloquent (though probably not), but whatever they write, it will be worth it just to get the response.
Readers should not be prevented from expressing their opinions in situ. I have often been exasperated by a lack of a commenting box. It was a real effort to move my engagement onto social media – the process dampened my ardour, making my comment less effective than it could have been.
Blogging isn't a monologue
Blogs were the first in allowing comments. This was a result of Web 2.0 – such a long time ago many people won't remember – which allowed an immediate response on the same site. Therefore closing down this feature is like emasculating your blog for its true purpose.
Blogging is about communicating. It is the forerunner of dialogue, the facilitator of conversation. Commenting provides space for approval, disagreement, added value and much more, all enhanced through replies and furthered discussion.
Develop your blog as a safe haven
Readers are more likely to comment if they feel comfortable with the blog and its writer. They need to feel they belong, and that the blogger cares for them and what they stand for. A mutual understanding which relates to everybody concerned with the blog.
A blog's loyal readership will comprise of like-minded individuals, all bent on searching for the information they crave. Not only does this content have to be the right kind, its value will increase if it is delivered by more than one expertise from a relevant community.
Increase the interest factor
Having a crowd gathered around your blog in the form of commenters increases its popularity. The social proof offered from a lively commenting section gives credence to a larger readership who aren't necessarily commenting.
This popularity gives the impression that your blog is definitely worth reading. Why else would so many people want to have their say? This community-led fame attracts attention from passing readers, as well as the search engines, who have the same concept of excellent content as everybody else.
Learn from your readers
If you want to become a successful blogger, it's necessary to take advantage of your readers. After all, they are your blog's life blood, without them it wouldn't exist!
Allowing commenting gives them space to give you feedback. Now you can learn more about your readers, what interests them, what they want to read. Give them what they desire, and your blog can only improve as a result.
There's always those who think otherwise
Optinmonster recently wrote a post regarding whether allowing comments made a real impact to a blog. He quoted stats from Hubspot which showed commenting is not correlated to increased traffic, both in views and links.
Certainly adding links to a comment increases the chance of it being construed as spam. However, it is the URL you provide when submitting the comment that has the SEO power, a fact that not many people realise.
And then there are bloggers who will never be allowing comments, like Seth Godin. He doesn't have to. He has accrued a large enough following that doesn't require social proof. Whatever he writes doesn't require a response. It is only there to educate and inform.
Everett Bogue is another steadfast anti-commenter, as this famously popular post reveals in a discussion between him and Pat Flynn. I'm afraid my perception of Everett is a conceited writer who is too full of himself to worry about what others think of his blog. Good luck to him!
Even so, he gave me enough fodder to create this infographic below:
Cons for allowing comments
Moderating is so time consuming
This is certainly the case if you are lucky enough to get so many comments it becomes a problem. Popular blogs will always attract attention, both good and bad. This is the result of its high ranking in the search engines, its reputation and how the extensive audience perceives it amongst its competitors.
There are plugins and apps to help with moderation, to weed out the worst before you see it. However, a worthy blogger will attempt to reply to each successful comment, as Neil Patel claims he does. Beth Hayden gives advice on how to control your comments, should you need it.
The wrong kind of commenters are given access
Commenting allows over-enthusiastic readers to gush about their thoughts and aspirations, especially when this is irrelevant to your post. Or, on the other hand, readers who have extremely little to say for themselves other than 'Nice post' or something similarly useless are equally able to respond.
Being able to pick and choose which comments to publish is a luxury not many of us have. I've taken on the limited commenters by asking them questions to attempt a reply which could further the conversation. And you can always edit out unsuitable content from the over-zealous commenters!
Trolls can take advantage
Spam has been superseded by trolls and other inscrutable beings which create havoc within the blogosphere. At least spam could be dealt with by the moderators, or if it got through could do little harm to the reader. Whereas trolls can wreak terrible consequences.
A popular blog will always be prone to abuse of some kind. 'Tis the horrible world we live in. However, there are methods which can control trolls to lessen their impact. And you have the advantage of being able to delete unsavoury comments before they undermine your blog's reputation and readership.
Self-promotional links abound
There are always would-be commenters who lurk around blogs with high ranking factors hoping to get a toe-hold to aid their promotional activities. These have the potential to be excellently worthy commenters, but usually with a totally wrong mindset.
This is high quality spam, a devious lot which have little idea of commenting etiquette. Even though they pepper their contributions with (what they think are) relevant links, they are best avoided at all costs. Unfortunately they also by-pass the moderating systems, making more work for you.
Social media is much better for interaction
After comments were closed in 2014, interaction moved over to social media. Social plugins rose up to offer alternative ways to gather comments, and commenting alternatives such as Disqus took full advantage of the situation.
Social media appealed because it was in real-time, conversations could happen freely and a larger audience was available than on blogs. However, this style of engagement destroyed the blog commenting style: detailed, considered approaches which provided more value to the blogger.
Is it still worth allowing comments on your blog?
It depends upon your attitude towards blogging. Why are you doing it? Is it to get noticed, spread the word, build relationships, form a community, educate the public?
Or are you writing to satisfy yourself, and you're just lucky people seem to want to read what you produce?
ProBlogger felt compelled to write a recent post about the worthiness of commenting. He offers a selection of reasons why people would want to comment on blogs. It's worth noting if these tally with your decision for allowing commenting or not.
Looking at his comments, I noticed some of his readers didn't know commenting produced no-follow links. This is principally to deter spam, who originally would have used commenting as an aid to SEO. The commenting exodus of 2014 changed all that, and now you get no benefit from leaving a link in a comment.
But, as I said earlier in this post, it is the URL you provide when you submit your comment that does the necessary magic. Choose a post which is relevant to the subject, rather than merely your blog's homepage. It is this relevance that boosts the search engines into your favour. And tell your readers to click on your name to access its destination.
Now it's your turn
Are you pro or con when it comes to allowing comments on your blog? Have you been influenced by the good and the great, and if so, by whom?
Do you think commenting has a future? Or is it just a step away from spamming which caused comment boxes to close in 2014?
I am pro commenting (obviously!), so I would love to hear your thoughts about the subject of this post in the comment box below.