The Pros and Cons of Website Comments

Managing website comments seems to be one of the more contentious issues amongst content marketeers.  I have read many lively debates on SEO discussion forums about what makes an acceptable comment. It seems the views range from ‘anything is better than nothing‘ through to ‘if this doesn’t support my article it is out‘.

image comments

image -“Everyone Has Something To Say” by stock images (freedigitalphotos,net)

So in this article I thought I would explore the topic further and find out what it is that challenges people the most with managing website comments, and see if there are ways to make life a little bit easier.

What Are Website Comments?

Not all web pages have them but often articles such as this one, have a section at the bottom where people can add their own comments on the article.

Each comment is usually submitted to be moderated by the site admin before being published on the actual web page. Many sites such as this will automatically moderate for spam and delete those before the admin person adds their comment and approves the publication.

Why Have Comments on Your Website?

Comments are often viewed as a way to engage with an audience and show search engines that you have real visitors who are interested in your work. However not everyone has found them to be that useful.

An article on priceonomics suggested that on the whole website comments tended to be both depressing and often thoughtless. A view that I’ve also heard many other bloggers share.

image sad man

Many comments can make for depressing reading image -“Sad Man Sitting” by Master isolated images (freedigitalphotos.net)

Not all bloggers agree with this, some bloggers have literally hundreds of comments on their site, and yet they still find time to respond to comments.

Pat Flynn in his article on website comments gives five reasons that he feels are important for keeping the comments section open.

  1. Means that you can engage with your audience and show that you are actually listening to their questions.
  2. Provides an option for readers to comment rather than presenting them with a finished product that can’t be added to.
  3. A meaningful discussion in the comments section can actually prove more informative to readers, than just the post content.
  4. Social proof – is a term that Pat uses to demonstrate to new readers that others are engaging on the site.
  5. Pat likes it

Don’t All Bloggers Use Comments?

Apparently not, some of the big names such as Seth Godin don’t have a comments section on their site. Perhaps more surprisingly Copyblogger announced that they are no longer having comments on their site.

One of the reasons they state is that engagement has moved onto bigger platforms and social media sites, and individual blog sites are no longer the focus for conversation. They also add that for the people who spend a lot of time making meaningful comments this time would be better spent writing content for their own websites, which is an interesting thought.

The question I would have though is if everyone just writes on their own websites, where is the interaction, learning and support that comments can provide?

Do Comments Mean Spam?

Yes in short, although there are different software options to help eliminate this problem. Pat Flynn again estimates that out of his 600 plus posts that he has created on his site, he has received 3 million spam comments (that’s quite a few).

image delete spam

“Delete Spam Button Showing Removing Unwanted Junk Email” by Stuart Miles (freedigitalphotos.net)

Copyblogger also state that the 130,000 comments that they have approved only represent about 4% of the total comments received.

In other words 96% (3 million odd) comments were a complete waste of time.

It was arguments like this that finally persuaded Copyblogger that their time would be better spent creating content rather than deleting spam comments.

Catching Spam

Most blogging platforms have their own anti-spam catcher software, or they can be added through simple plugins.

Akismet was the built in WordPress Anti-spam catcher that came with my site, however  I decided to change to WP-Spamshield for a couple of reasons.

  • Akismet decided to charge for their services (something which annoyed the Siterubix owners)
  • Not all spam was deleted so some had to be checked manually
  • Some bloggers have complained about Akismet deleting their own comments or spamming legitimate ones.

The down side to WP-Spamshield is that I have no way to see what comments have been binned, so I can’t retrieve any legitimate ones that were inadvertently picked out as spam. However I know from Akismet that usually it is the other way around and I often ended up having to manually check spam comments and bin them my self so at the moment this doesn’t overly concern me.

Managing Difficult Website Comments

For those comments that website owners receive that are not spam, by far one of the biggest complaints that I read about is the quality of the comments. In the priceonomics article they acknowledge this problem as well and suggested that there are actually three types of reader –

  • the thoughtful reader
  • those that leave comments
  • those that read an article all the way to the end
graph showing readers who comment versus those that actually read the article

Priceonomics graph showing

They believe that the following diagram shows how these three groups interact with your blog.

In other words they suggest that most people who comment haven’t actually read the article, and would not be the most thoughtful reader.

This could explain the frustration that many bloggers feel, especially when comments land on their site and either don’t relate well to the content or are generally low quality.

Are All COmments Useless?

Not all, in a training program that I wrote, about managing website comments, I suggested that most comments could be turned around and used as a way to promote your website.

I think that there are four types of poor website comment;

  1. The Jellybaby– Answers that are short and sweet
  2. The Teacher – Likes to lecture at you or other readers rather than engage with you
  3. The Conversationalist – Loves to talk (about anything) covers several different topics or asks several questions at once
  4. The Robot – spams the site with links and selling products

The spam robot will be deleted, but the other three types might provide challenging but potentially useful links to use on your site.

Remember the Purpose of Comments.

The comments section is a useful addition to your blog post for a number of reasons.

  • It allows you to clarify anything that someone may not have understood (which can help the next reader who doesn’t understand as well).
  • It provides natural opportunities to highlight other articles on your site that could be useful or resources that are available for sale through your site.
  • It extends the content length in a natural and responsive way by answering questions and covering issues raised.
  • It can give ideas for new content through the questions asked.
image question mark

image -“Question Symbol” by graur razvan donut (freedigitalphotos.net)

The purpose of the comments section is to make it work for you and add credibility and authority to your website.

Therefore turning down opportunities such as simple comments, that you don’t feel do your article justice, could be a valuable opportunity gone.

It is exactly these simple comments that provide an opportunity to promote your authority, by showing your understanding and patience when people don’t understand or are new to your topic.

The way in which you explain and support that individual will be observed by other readers, and can go a long way towards establishing trust.

Does Google Care About Comments?

Google may not care about comments per se, but there are opportunities that comments provide that Google does care about.

  • One of these is that readers often ask questions in the comments section, these questions can be the same ones that other searchers ask in search queries. If Google detects the question on your page (including in the comments section) then you could increase your ranking in that search.
  • Comments also provide opportunities for internal links which Google also likes.
  • Comments ensure that the content is updated regularly.  This means that older posts will have newer content showing, which in turn tells google the page has been updated and is active.

Social Media Signals

One of the reasons that Copyblogger gave for stopping comments is that conversations were happening in other places, namely through social media. However it is my experience that engagement is not much more than likes and shares on any of the platforms.

The other problem is that Google is still not saying how social media engagement is being used to support rankings, but the feeling is that at the moment they are not a direct factor. This is mainly because social media is a bit unpredictable so establishing quality indicators that can be used to measure engagement is difficult.

image social media

Secondly the amount of social media interaction runs into millions of shares and likes though out each day, so realistically it is not possible at the moment with the current technology.

Therefore relying on engagement in social media is not really going to positively affect your ranking, whereas at the moment comments in blog posts could have an impact.

Additional Resources

There are a number of other articles on this site that offer support to content writers and bloggers, in particular the following might be helpful.

If you are interested in receiving more support on your own blogging, why not join the Wealthy Affiliate University program,  where I can offer free mentoring support on all aspects of setting up your blog and new website?

I hope you enjoyed the article and please share on social media to let people out there know about the site.

Please feel free to add any comments in the section below, and good luck in your own writing.

6 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Website Comments

  1. Ilias

    I did not know that some bloggers think that comments are a waste of time. I often commenting on blogs and asking questions. I prefer it from social media engagement. On social media, most of the people just posting their links and they do not care about content. I am active on Twitter and I rarely see a post or comment without a link.

    Reply
    1. Marie

      Hi I think some of the bigger sites find that the return they get from comments on a site aren’t really worth the effort of having to monitor them, especially if a blogger or a company is managing several sites. Like yourself I enjoy comments and I think in niche marketing they are a great way for consumers and other bloggers to link and ask questions about the topic.

  2. Tiffany

    Hello Marie, and first let me say I did read your post from beginning to end. I have yet to come across a post that had me so interested from the first to the last word…although I have yet to come across such a well written post as this, honestly. From the title, to the first and last word, I was interested and engaged in the content.

    I can say honestly that while for example golf is not my favorite, I have in the near past come across a post where it was simply to tell a golf club. I knew that even if I didn’t like the topic, it would be unfair to not provide a little of my free time to help fellow bloggers, no matter the topic, as your post summarized. Comments are important to me, personally…ratings and money aside. It takes me at least 4 hours for a small post, by the time I add images, adjust fonts, and of course being a stay at home mom, there is always something needing to be done that adds an hour or 2.

    I personally appreciate all my comments, because rather I get paid or not posting about my Journey is something I enjoy doing. That being said without feedback it’s hard to know if I’m wording the posts correctly so the readers can not enjoy but relate. You did a fantastic job ma’am and I really do mean that! Please keep up the good work, you are the first person I will be bookmarking and following =) Looking forward to future posts!

    Reply
    1. Marie

      Hi Tiffany thank you so much for such a considered and lengthy response, I do certainly appreciate it.

      And you are absolutely right without comments it is very hard to engage with your readers or know whether you are on the right track. I personally think that with a good spam catcher there is no reason why comments shouldn’t be a key part of your blogging system. I love answering comments and I do really appreciate the time people take to engage constructively with your work.

      Glad you enjoyed the post and I hope you find other articles of interest – there should be something on most SEO themes now if you use the search bar at the top of the home page, good luck with your own blog as well.

      Marie

  3. alexey

    Hi, its Alexey
    I loved your article and agree with everything that you’ve said. Comments are highly important when it comes to ranking your site within google, and gaining more trust from google.
    You have provided some great information that I forgot about how important comments are.
    There is an excellent comment platform within site rubix than I use to drive comments to my new sites also!

    Reply
    1. Marie

      Hi Alexey, thanks for your comments and yes it is easy to forget just how important the comments can be.

      I also agree with you SiteRubix has a good comments section and several good training programmes on managing comments as well.

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