Having the comments option enabled is a great way to have conversations with your blog’s users and build a community around your blog. It’ll open doors for networking opportunities with like-minded people.
Does activating the comments option have any benefits in SEO? Will comments help to rank long-tail keywords? Are the comments considered to be user-generated content by Google?
On the other hand, having comments open is a sure-fire way to get tons of spam through automated tools. Is Google going to consider comments as low-value content and hence adversely affect our SEO efforts?
As you can see, there are upsides and downsides to having user comments, and it’s a topic often debated among people. Let’s see how we can minimize the bad effects of comments and make them valuable.
Popular cases about enabling/disabling comments
We are keen on following influential people’s opinions and actions when there’s indecision on certain things. It’s good to know the rationale behind their actions and learn from their experiences.
In 2014, the Copyblogger team decided to remove comments. One of the main reasons for their move was spam. Around 96 percent of the comments they got were useless. Too much time could’ve been wasted in moderating these comments. Instead, they chose to focus more on creating content with that saved time.
But they don’t suggest that each and every blogger should start removing the comments. Especially, for starters, it’s the best way to hear the voice of your audience. Let it grow and see what happens.
In 2016, with the re-design of their website Copyblogger brought back the comments section. They were missing the instant feedback they used to get via comments.
But it came with a change: The comments are only open for seven days. I think it’s a good strategy to prevent unnecessary spam in the long run.
Michael Hyatt also decided to remove comments from his site. The primary reasons were the high number of spam comments and the time taken to moderate them.
Just like what Copyblogger did, after a year, he brought back the comments. During that period, he says, traffic was not growing as it used to. He suspects that one possible cause was the removal of comments.
It was not the sole reason, he states. Being hospitable to visitors, users’ thoughts adding more value to content, and encouraging conversation are few points mentioned.
Later in this post, we’ll see whether there is any research backed by data which proves the relationship between comments and traffic to a site.
The graph in the above picture shows that the comments per post have declined even though the page views have increased over that period. The probable cause for this is that conversations started to happen on social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc.
This shift was another motive for both Michael Hyatt and Copyblogger to get rid of the comments.
Things didn’t go as they thought, though. Conversations were scattered among the social sites. The central hub for the discussions was the comments section, and it was missing.
Do comments help in improving traffic or SEO?
Hubspot have carried out a study, analyzing over 100k blog posts, to see the relationship between views, links and comments.
They only saw a correlation between links-to-views. No correlations existed among comments-to-links and comments-to-views. This indicates that having lot of comments doesn’t bring any traffic or links to your posts.
Neil Patel has done an analysis based on 560 blog posts to see whether the comments can actually improve search traffic.
He has gathered the list of keywords that the blog posts rank for and categorized them into four categories based on the appearance of the keyword in the content – in the title, within the content, in the comments, or nowhere in the post.
According to the Google search console data, 24.7 percent of the impressions were due to appearance of keywords in the comments. But the traffic received from those keywords were only 16 percent from the total visits.
This analysis indicates that there is a possibility of getting some search traffic via comments as well, because it will help to rank for long-tail keywords. Although the comments could be considered user-generated content, the value given by Google may be low considering the fact that they appear at the bottom of a post.
There’s no clear evidence backed by data that having comments on your site will help to increase traffic significantly. It will come down to your subjective opinion to decide whether to enable comments or move on without them.
Why are bloggers removing comments?
The single biggest reason is spam. Even with spam filters enabled, like Akismet for WordPress, you tend to receive a lot.
A case study by imperva shows how attackers use different tools and techniques to comment spam and how they are tackled by victims.
Initially, you could moderate them. As your traffic and popularity grows you could hardly do it without devoting a hefty amount of time to the task. Well-disguised and hard-to-spot spam comments will give you a headache.
Whatever the number of comments you receive for your posts, it will only represent the views of 1 percent of your readers. The phenomenon is called ‘participation inequality.’
When participation inequality is applied to the blog comments, it’ll be that 90 percent of your comments are coming from 1 percent of readers and 90 percent of your readers will be just lurkers.
So, whatever feedback you get as comments is not coming from a representative sample of your actual readership. You can’t judge yourself or take decisions based upon that.
How to prosper with blog comments
Putting all the negativity aside, can’t we see any bright side of having comments in our blog? Of course there is.
“Without comments, a blog isn’t really a blog. To me, blogging is not just about publishing content, but also the two-way communication and community-building aspects behind it.” – Pat Flynn
Comments add life to your blog
“It’s like eating a cold slice of toast with no butter and jam. Your toast should be warm, butter should be melting off the top of it with a nice dollop of sweet jam.” — Fabrizio Van Marciano
A blog without comments is like doing a speech in an empty auditorium. It’s like one-way communication. You wouldn’t know what your readers think about your work.
Build conversations with your readers to turn a static blog into a more dynamic and engaging one.
Building a community
People might ask questions, debate certain points of your posts, add more missing points, or show gratitude to your post in the form of comments. All these are signs which show that they have read your content and want to get engaged.
If you can spend some time on replying to their queries and being thankful for their time, then you can start a conversation with them. Most probably they will come back to check the comment or to see the new posts you have.
This way, you can improve repeat visits and start building a community around your blog.
Get instant feedback
Comments provide feedback about what you do. If a certain post is getting below the average number of comments you get per post normally, then it could be due to an issue with the content you have written. Perhaps it may not be addressing the search intent of the user as it should be.
You’ve written a great piece of content. However, you’ve missed a point which should’ve been included in it. A visitor might notice it and let you know through a comment.
Likewise, it’s great way for you to receive feedback from your audience about your work. It helps you to improve yourself as a blogger.
User-generated-content (UGC) will provide a quality signal about your site. Good and related comments will be considered UGC.
Google sees comments as a part of the content. Though it may get low value compared to the actual content of the post, it’ll still add more value to your content.
Generate new blog post ideas
People will definitely ask questions as comments. It may be about the topic you have written, or something directly related to it. These questions can sometimes lead to new ideas for you to write your next blog post.
Sometimes, you are going to realize that there’s more depth in the topic, thanks to the fruitful discussions in the comments section, and you may decide to expand it to a series of blog posts covering all that.
If your readers think that you are an authoritative person in the niche you write in, they may specifically request you to write on certain topics they are interested in knowing more about.
If you tend to read comments on other blogs, then they too can help you to pick new ideas to write about.
Act as social proof
We often use social proof to increase our credibility and improve conversions. Blog comments can act as social proof in the eyes of your users.
If you see two posts about the same topic with 10 comments and another one with 100 comments, the latter post is going to get your attention first. The comparison of 100 against 10 would entice people to think that there are more people talking and, hence, why don’t we dive into it. People are curious.
If they see a long queue of legitimate comments, then that can certainly create a positive image about your blog in their minds.
Learn from your readers
You can always learn more from your users. They may ask questions related to your topic. You may need to do further research to successfully answer them. It’s a good way to become thoroughly knowledgeable about the subject.
There’ll always be missing bits and pieces in your content. Most probably users will notice them. Add them to your post so that it further enhances your content.
Often, the facts you talk about in a post will be debated by your visitors. You can have a positive discussion with readers to improve your knowledge while amplifying the content.
Improving user engagement
User engagement is a key factor in on-page SEO. Tweaks like interlinking will be beneficial in reducing bounce rate, hence increasing dwell time.
You can persuade users to comment on your blog posts. Asking a question or for the thoughts of your readers as the finishing touch of your posts is a good invitation to the users to have a conversation.
If you sell a product or service (macro-conversions), then it’s important to track user activities such as ‘commenting on a post,’ which represents micro-conversions. This represents a segment of users who are involved with your site and are more likely to convert into customers in the future.
If you do content marketing, then you can track people who post comments and reach them via remarketing to ultimately turn them into your customers.
Act as a central hub for conversation
It’s one of the reasons that Michael Hyatt decided to activate the comments again. Conversations that are happening outside the blog in social networks are scattered among a few.
So, it’s not easy to track and follow all of them at once. But it’s very easy to manage and see what’s going on if it’s happening inside the blog. All the talk is visible in one central location.
There are both pros and cons to having comments enabled on your blog. Comment spam is the biggest nuisance you’re going to face. Using spam filtering techniques and moderation could help to fight against it.
On the other hand, comments offer numerous good-to-have aspects as well. Commenting aids to foster community, create conversations, generate new ideas, learn new things, and more.