Until today, I didn’t allow comments on this blog.
And to be honest, that hurt me.
I wanted to allow comments. I wanted to foster intelligent discourse, witty bantering, and the occasional compliment like “Wow Andy, you’re so smart, I’ve learned so much from this blog, can I cite this article in the New York Times?”
But I didn’t allow comments on this blog for the same reason I don’t have a vegetable garden in my backyard. Instead of a bountiful harvest, I was afraid I would only reap weeds.
But today, that changes. As of September 20, 2022, you can now leave a comment below.
(I still think it might be a bad idea.)
Is Commenting Necessary for Blogs?
Commenting is hardwired into the blogging infrastructure.
WordPress enables commenting by default. Some of the most popular WordPress add-ons and plugins are commenting platforms and comment antispam plugins.
Even today, some SEO gurus preach that you should allocate a certain amount of time per day to posting on other people’s blogs! That’s worse than guest posting!
And when we read a controversial blog post, what do 90% of us do? We scroll to the bottom to enjoy the flame wars.
Pat Flynn said, “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.”
Oof, Pat, take it easy! I feel called out …
So at first glance, comments seem pretty darn important. We’ve all heard the advice: Engage with your Readers. Reply to every comment. Build your community.
This idea of disabling comments seems … wrong, somehow. Like we’re sewing our Readers’ mouths shut. Like we’re hogging the microphone because we’re too insecure to let our Readers speak.
But as it happens, quite a few big bloggers have permanently disabled their Comments section. Why? And are we small guys allowed to do the same?
Do Blog Comments Increase Site Traffic?
Everyone knows the benefits of allowing comments: You get engagement. You get repeat traffic. You get people actively participating in your site.
… Or do you??
Dan Zarella at HubSpot analyzed correlations between comments to links and views on 100,000 blog posts. He found effectively zero correlation. In other words, comments on blog posts don’t increase traffic, conversion, or revenue.
Now, in all fairness, that’s a lot of potential data missing in that study. It doesn’t say whether having any comments makes a difference, or whether comments matter more in certain niches.
For instance, SEO blogs from Moz or Backlinko or Ahrefs have very active comment sections – because if there’s one thing SEOs like to do, it’s debate and pontificate and nitpick. But do mommy lifestyle blogs or auto mechanic blogs need similar engagement?
Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a tremendous amount of data on this subject. OptinMonster published a summary piece citing research from Neil Patel, Michael Hyatt, and a few other bloggers, but I followed those links and the original research pages were all gone (redirected or 404’s). Neil Patel found a little boost from his comments sections, while Michael Hyatt found none.
And when I searched Google for “Do blog comments increase site traffic?” all the results from the first three pages were merely how-tos and opinion pieces, not any empirical studies. I did read one fascinating article from Charlie Gilkey at ProductiveFlourishing.com which I highly recommend!
So the data scientists have left us in the dark. We really don’t know if blog comments are driving any traffic to our websites.
Do Comments On Your Blog Help SEO?
In ye olde days, search engines treated comments much the same as regular post content. Tthat’s no longer true because spammers figured that out pretty quickly and spammed the hell out of any decent website they could find.
Today, comments are a type of user-generated content (UGC). They are subject to different search engine criteria. Blog comments can’t pass PageRank, for instance. They’re almost useless for link building. And Google recognizes that comments are, well, comments, and they don’t contribute to an author’s E-A-T.
However, Google’s John Mueller has confirmed that Google uses comments to determine the scope and topic of the web page. Here’s what he said:
“What I think is really useful there with those comments is that oftentimes people will write about the page in their own words and that gives us a little bit more information on how we can show this page in the search results.”
In other words, comments cast a wider search net. You might rank for different search queries than you would have otherwise. Free keyword optimization … oooh, that’s tempting!
But then Mueller went on to warn us:
“Obviously, finding a way to maintain them in a reasonable way is sometimes tricky because people also spam those comments and all kinds of crazy stuff happens there.”
The Dark Side of Allowing Blog Comments
Allowing comments on blog posts can create a lot of work for you.
You’ve opened the floodgates to humanity. You are now not just a blogger, but also a moderator. Comments must be vetted. Questions must be answered. Aggression must be cautioned. Porn links must be deleted. Spam must be red flagged.
Ah yes, the spam.
The internet has more flavors of spam than Baskin Robbins has ice cream. You’ve got the trolls, the negative SEO comments, the sleazy pingbacks and trackbacks, the foreign language spammers, the sex “spomments,” the flame throwers, the bullies, the AI-generated advertisements, etc., ad nauseum.
So you can’t just leave a comment section to grow organically by itself. Like a botanical garden, you need to ruthlessly trim, weed out, and nurture. (Yes, this is required even with an antispam plugin like Askimet or Antispam Bee.)
If you do let a comment section run rampant, you’ll actually harm your blog. Google will see all the spammy links and non-topical commentary and will become confused what your content is all about. Plus, they’ll think you’re a sloppy moderator.
So you have two choices:
- Either don’t allow any blog comments
- Or thoroughly moderate and curate blog comments
Successful blogs have been built both ways. Here’s what Seth Godin said about not allowing comments on his blog:
I think comments are terrific, and they are the key attraction for some blogs and some bloggers. Not for me, though. First, I feel compelled to clarify or to answer every objection or to point out every flaw in reasoning. Second, it takes way too much of my time to even think about them, never mind curate them. And finally, and most important for you, it permanently changes the way I write … So, given a choice between a blog with comments or no blog at all, I think I’d have to choose the latter.
Ah, blessed silence.
…but what about the conversation?
How to Build a Conversion without Comments
If you still feel that conversation is the bedrock of your brand, comments are the simplest way to promote that. Just be prepared to put in the work.
But if you’re not willing to moderate a public comment section, there are other options.
- Make it private. Reserve comments only for members of your site. The problem is that this will eliminate all but the most dedicated (or anal) Readers.
- Migrate to social media. Set up a Facebook Group or a private subreddit. Yes, you’ll still need to moderate for trolls, but you’ll get less random comment spam. Discussions are easier to foster on social media platforms, anyway.
- Hire a moderator. Hire a college student on Fiverr who will moderate your comment section and answer easy questions. Then you just have to respond to the more complicated ones.
- Farm it out. Instead of trusting WordPress to manage your comments, use a 3rd party like Disqus. Disqus has a fairly robust antispam filter that you can train to better recognize spam on your site.
How Do I Disable Comments on My Blog?
You don’t need a separate plugin to disable comments. WordPress can do it for you.
You can change your default post settings under WordPress >> Settings >> Discussion:
You can also edit the settings for each individual blog post under the >> Posts tab.
Fun fact: You can bulk edit posts by:
- Select all affected posts.
- Go to Bulk Actions > Edit
- Click Apply
- Change Comments permissions for all posts
Why FLUB Is Now Open for Comments
I still don’t really care for comments. They sound like a lot of work for not much reward.
For instance, I run one site where I mostly provide answers to technical FAQs. And I am absolutely terrified to open it up to comments. Because I know exactly what would happen.
From that site, I already get tons of emails from people who say, “Hey, great post, I learned a lot, here are the details of my situation, can you help me figure it out?”
And the brutally honest truth is that no, I don’t want to. I’m not a misanthrope. I’m just an introvert. I don’t want to write another 30 emails a day. And I prefer to teach a Reader to fish rather than spoon-feed.
I honestly wish I could answer more questions. But there simply isn’t enough time to fix everyone’s problems and still build a blog, so most of them go unanswered. I can’t be someone’s personal ChaCha Answering Service (showing my age here). That’s called consulting, and I charge $65-$100 an hour for that.
But I’m willing to try out comments with FLUB.
(Which is mostly because FLUB gets a whopping 20 views per day, so I’m hoping I stay under the bots’ radar.)
So, I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you found my blog, and I’m glad you’ve hung with me this far.
If you want to leave a thoughtful comment below, I’d be super grateful! Other Readers (and myself) will benefit from your feedback. Conversation really is critical in the blogosphere, and I hope we can all learn from each other.
But if you try to promote CBD gummies then so help me God …