Blog post comments: threat, menace, or golden opportunity for community building
Cool discussion of the pros and cons of blog comments (with numbers and case studies!) by Brenda Barron, blogging at WPMUDEV
It’s exciting when readers of your blog take the time to leave comments on your posts. It’s often what makes the arduous process of creating content feel totally worth it at the end of the day.
Of course, you could always see how many people visited your posts in Google Analytics, but there is something especially rewarding about seeing them engage with it right on the page by leaving a comment.
Then again, there are times when those comments just aren’t welcome.
Source: Brenda Barron
Here’s my take on comments.
I’m going to say right up front that I don’t have comments turned on on RealBasics.com. But I’ll add that in the past I’ve had sites with very extensive user engagement.
If keyword searches are the only measure of success then comments, and the user engagement they represent, aren’t worth the effort. (I’m not even sure I’d want people finding my site based on keywords found only in comments!)
That said, by all accounts Google ranks sites in general and pages in particular on more than raw keywords, don’t they? They pay close attention to user engagement. That includes both time spent on a page as well as interaction on a page as proxies for interest in content. So, again, if you cared only about SEO ranking there are intangible benefits to keeping comments open (and curated!) beyond raw keywords.
If instead actual business, reputation, and loyalty have value, well moderate user engagement can be very beneficial to word-of-mouth marketing, organic links from other sites and platforms, collegial exchange, reputation enhancement, and repeat business.
On all but the busiest blogs it takes no more time to moderate and respond to user comments on a blog than it does on other social media. It also doesn’t take that much time to write posts meant to increase engagement. So if one is already in conversation with users on, say, Facebook and Twitter I’d say they were missing an opportunity to engage on their sites as well.
Again, it’s my understanding that Google’s algorithms “appreciate” when site owners respond to user comments. (In other words engagement with users and not just user engagement.)
In terms of product development and refinement engagement by and with users, while it might not benefit SEO, can be an extraordinarily inexpensive and useful tool for feedback, troubleshooting, trial balloons, and market analysis.
So when I’m advising clients one of the first things I’ll assess is whether they’ve got the capacity and interest to engage with their engaged users — not just to moderate bogus comments but to reply, suggest, clarify, and acknowledge legitimate ones.
So… if they’re up for it I recommend clients try it out. If they don’t seem to have the time or temperament for it, as most don’t, I just don’t bring it up. (One’s website should be a source of business opportunities, not more stress.)
Comments are great but you can’t just turn them on and expect to get anything beyond spam and trolling. It’s an investment of time and effort that can pay off. But only if you’ve got the time and can make the effort.