Should you allow blog comments or not?
Being able to post blog comments has been from the early days of blogging, about being able to reach out and connect with people around the world, and engage in discussion.
However today the amount of content we can access online has increased exponentially and mobile access to content has changed our environment. The reality is that only a small percentage of people actually leave comments and blog comments aren’t necessarily a sign that the blog is doing well. Take for example the Zen Habits blog that doesn’t have comments. (Photo Credit: Zach Dischner)
More recently well-known sites Copyblogger and Anti-Social Media caused quite a stir through the blogging community when they announced here and here that they would be removing blog comments on their blog.
Many have questioned such decisions and it seems that the debate continues.
Here are a few observations on blog comments:
I have heard a number of people refer to the number of blog comments as social proof or as a basis to judge the worthiness of a post. In other words the more comments a blog post has the better the post. A post that resonates with you however may not appeal to someone who does like to comment. In reality there are many posts on popular blogs that do not have comments.
Often blog posts are engineered to end with a question. However the question doesn’t always add value but is used as a tactic to get comments.
Readers have used comments to show their gratitude to the writer and while the intention is great, there are limits as to how many times someone can say thank you for writing this post or saying this is how it has helped me.
Some established blogs have had a following where readers have connected with others through blog comments. This is much harder to do these days.
Blog comments have also been used by readers to acknowledge and connect with the writer but there could perhaps be better ways to connect meaningfully.
Copyblogger claims that 96% of the comments they receive are spam, and while there are tools to help reduce the amount of spam, moderating blog comments can take a fair bit of time and effort, perhaps more so than writing the blog post in the case of bigger established blogs like Copyblogger.
So is allowing blog comments worth doing? I believe it is a question that each blogger will have to decide on as they weigh the options, costs and benefits. Perhaps the biggest consideration for most bloggers being that of reader loyalty and community development around the blog.
Having said that one of the big advantages of closing blog comments for any blog is the fact that by having conversations outside of the blog there is likely to be a lot of link juice being sent back to the blog. The SEO value of a Google+ comment or a backlink on from another blog is quite valuable as opposed to a comment on the blog itself.
I believe Copyblogger and Jay Dolan have made very shrewd and carefully weighed decisions which have included taking into consideration their current business model. As bloggers we need to as well.
Some of the key considerations to weigh up are:
Are comments the best way to empower readers, to make better writers or better informed and inspired readers?
Are comments helping build a community or taking away from it? Do they further the conversation and allow for responses in context?
Are there better ways to reach out to the author?
Is the end of blog posts routinely being massaged to end with a question designed to make people comment?
Do blog comments support your business model?
Weighing things up I for one will continue to allow blog comments. Are there other factors that you have taken to weigh up your decision of allowing blog comments or removing them? Let us know in the comments below.