If you’re a blogger or a business owner who uses blogging as part of your marketing strategy, you may know that comments are a big part of what keeps the conversation going for your brand…
…Or is it?
There has been a trend lately in the blogosphere about closing comments. There are various reasons for this and it’s probably a good idea to discuss blog commenting in general: Does it still build community? Does it matter anymore?
It’s hard to just sum up an answer to this question to a yes or no. The truth is – it depends. I know it’s a very vague response that no one really likes but it’s really the case – it depends on your goals, your circumstances, and many other factors.
Several months ago, I closed the comments on my healthy living blog, Sensual Appeal but I continue to keep the comments open on my business + marketing blog under my name (this blog you’re reading now).
In this post, I’m going to try to demystify the reasoning behind closing comments or keeping them open: why each may be an attractive option and what the general best practices are for each as well.
Option 1) Allowing comments
As I mentioned above, my biz coaching website allows comments at this point in time. There are various reasons for this and I am going to break them down right here:
- Since the website is still quite new, I don’t get a crap ton of spam just yet. So far Akismet (the spam blocking plugin) is taking good care of the spam that does come and none of it has yet sneaked into the regular comments. Good job, Akismet. This allows me to look for the real comments that come in and respond to them in a timely fashion while building the engagement and conversation that way.
- When you allow comments on your blog posts, particularly WordPress Comments (not Disqus or Facebook Comment system), the text of the comments that people leave actually helps your SEO in terms of long-tail keywords. If you don’t know much about SEO (search engine optimization) then this probably doesn’t tell you much, but know this – the comments that are left via WP comments contribute to your results when people search for keywords that are longer and pertain to your particular post. This is good stuff!
- Comments build social proof! For someone who is simply a reader and potentially thinking about working with me, they are able to see that my posts get engagement from real people and is therefore seen more favorably than if there were no comments on any of the posts. People trust those who are trusted by others. It’s a nice little feedback loop.
Having said that, I do not FOCUS on only getting comments in my blog posts because this is not how I measure success, personally. Different business, different objectives.
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However, since I have a good group of people who already visit and engage with my content, I accept the comments and encourage them without making them a main focus. My focus (Call-to-Action) is usually defined at the end of each blog post and usually is about getting on my email list, booking a Move It Session, or encouraging my readers to take the next step in our relationship by opting in to receive a freebie of some sort.
Option 2) Comments closed
Although my biz website has comments open, I did recently (aka, like 8 months ago) close the comments on my healthy living blog, Sensual Appeal. This happened for another set of reasons as well and I’m going to outline them below:
- The amount of spam I was getting on my website was simply unmanageable and Akismet was no longer helping with the sorting. Each day I would get about 20-30 comments that were all spam and getting through the spam filters. It made everything very frustrating and I was spending more time on trashing those comments than I was on actually creating content. Not to mention, since my comments are all auto-approved to show up on the post, they would show up on each post they were left on and potentially even giving me some bad juju. Bleh.
- Secondly, I was not really caring about the SEO benefits for this website because I was able to bring the PageRank of Sensual Appeal to where I wanted it to be already. I got good at writing with SEO in mind, while remaining natural, and felt that the small benefit of long-tail keywords in the comments was not worth the time wasted on sorting through the spam.
- Thirdly, the amount of genuine comments I was getting has gone down significantly since I started blogging in 2012. It’s true that most people who come to your blog, simply read and don’t leave any sign of engagement. They are readers, not engagers. Most of the time, those who leave comments would be other bloggers rather than actual readers. It frequently seemed like the only reason people would leave comments only to promote their own website and hope for more traffic coming through that way. It was beginning to be very inauthentic and I wasn’t a big fan of it.
Having closed the comments, I feel like this weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I don’t measure success based on the number of comments I get but instead I simply provide value and ask for social media shares to show support in that way instead. If someone actually enjoyed the article or post, I’d rather have them share it with their friends than leave a comment on there, where the continual loop just kind of dies right there.
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As with anything there are caveats to both options.
If you decide to keep your comments open for your blog, you have to make sure that you include a call-to-action to encourage your readers to engage with you in that way. As a comment moderator, you also have to make sure you engage with the comments that are left and respond to them as a good host should. The entire process may take more time than you currently have allocated for, especially if you have a huge community. On the flip side, if your community is small and you barely ever get comments this works against you in terms of social proof.
If you decide to close your comments, it’s important that you still end each post with a call-to-action, whether it’s inviting your readers to share the post on social media or subscribe to your newsletter – something to give them that next action step so they don’t feel like you just ended it abruptly. Additionally, I would suggest not closing comments for smaller blogs because it may be difficult to gain traction and social proof, especially if your social media channels aren’t very built out yet.
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Again – think about your goals.
What are you trying to achieve with your blog? Are you a business? Are you blogging for fun? Do you like to get engagement around the post or are you blogging with a bigger vision for something else? Think about your goals, what your success measurement looks like, and go from there.
I hope this has been helpful in trying to figure out the reasoning for closing or opening your comments.
Now, over to you….
- Do you have your comments open or closed on your website’s blog?
Disclaimer: This post originally appeared on Carla Birnberg’s website as a guest post back in mid 2014.