5 Reasons to Keep Comments on Your Blog
There’s a tidal wave sweeping the blogosphere: bloggers everywhere are removing the comment feature from their blogs. They say that replying to the comments is no longer scale-able, it takes too much time to moderate spam, and the conversation is taking place elsewhere. Whatever the reasons stated, the fact is: comments are down, and many bloggers are willing to help them die.
But not all bloggers have given up on comments. In fact, some view the slower stream of comments as indicating more quality conversation, rather than just looking at the changing quantity. Many bloggers are ignoring the trends and continuing to invest their time and energy into the comments section simply because they want to serve their readers faithfully.
Although killing comments may be all the rage this season, here are 5 reasons you may want to not want to join the trend. (Click to Tweet that.)
1. Comments save the conversation to your own blog.
Have you ever tried to go back and find a conversation that took place on Facebook? It’s like searching for a needle in a haystack…that’s 15 stories high. Social media conversations provide instant gratification but they don’t leave a lasting online legacy. Investing in the time to comment on a blog is contributing to a more permanent conversation.
Conversation may not be an asset that can be owned or controlled, but I believe comments are a resource worth preserving and protecting. There is no guarantee Google+ discussion threads will be available in 10 years. But blog comments can and should always be tied to the blog post.
“I stand very firmly on the side of building [your community] in a place that you own vs. renting it out to one of your social networks.”
“Social media is ultimately where you want to initiate conversation in order to bring people back to your website.”
2. Comments keep the post evergreen.
Whether you are sharing social media tips or real food resources, the comment section often becomes alive with your readers’ own experiences and tips. Not only does this provide additional value to both you and your readers, but these comments keep the post relevant. Someone could find the post five years later and add to the conversation with the latest research or their long-term experience. And when you take the time to answer someone’s question in the comment section, your answer is available to others who might have otherwise asked the same thing.
“The bummer is when a new post is published, the conversation [on other places, like Facebook] more or less vanishes, never to be seen again. It doesn’t ‘stick’ to the blog post like a conventional comment section does.”
“The lifeblood of a thriving community is the discussion. Not only does good discussion enhance your readers’ experience on your blog – it’s also great for your search engine optimization (SEO).”
3. Comments make us accountable.
Comments are an endorsement of sorts, that lend you and your post validity. The absence of a comment section demands another form of proof as to your credibility. Social media share counts come and go with domain or permalink changes, but comments are on your blog to stay.
Opening up your blog to conversation shows that you are willing to listen to criticism. A comment box is an invitation for the discussion–positive or negative–to take place on your blog, where you can respond to both your fans and your critics. Not only are you able to moderate and participate in the discussion because you own the forum in which it is taking place, but the words spoken might be a bit more polite because they are being written on your turf. The discussion on Facebook usually lacks the civility that is expected in a blog’s comment section.
“It is always good to have a balanced view and providing readers with the platform to present their alternative viewpoints in the same place is (in my opinion) healthy.”
“Open comments are the affirmation that your blog is a conversation and not a soapbox.”
4. Comments allow for an anonymity that social media does not.
Social media does not provide much space for pseudonyms or anonymity. Most people know better than to like or comment on Facebook about a post that speaks directly to a difficult relationship or situation they are dealing with.
But the relative anonymity available in a blog post’s comment section allows for your readers to reach out and interact with you in a safer way. Their IP or email address may be visible to you, but not to their friend or family member who happens upon your blog. And in responding to one anonymous commenter, you never know how you might be encouraging another who never had the courage to comment.
“When the comments are made on social media, they are typed out quickly and then gone as quickly. Not so with comments on blogs, where the discussion is measured, thoughtful, and conversational in tone.”
“By removing the option to be anonymous, media companies will never hear from a majority of their readers.”
5. Comments are community.
Comments are about community, not quantity. (Click to Tweet that.) The white space of a blog comment box brings a thoughtful quality to the conversation that is often lacking in fast-paced social media.
No, not all blogs lend themselves to comments. Some posts are not meant for continuing conversation, but for encouraging action or inspiring meditation. Other stories are too raw and real for people to want to respond openly, even anonymously. But I think those blogs and posts are still the exception to the rule.
Comments allow our readers to approach and interact with us as bloggers. Comments allow us to serve our readers on a more personal level. Comments allow us to cut through the noise of social media and engage in real community.
“[Having comments enabled] creates community. Opens a discussion among readers with common interests so that they can get to know each other, sparking new connections. And that’s what community is all about.”
“Comments are conversation, conversation is community. I think that if comments die, blogging is dead, and we’re just being reporters. Without comments, the conversation and community are gone from blogging.”
–Trina Holden, from a private mastermind group conversation
Ending a post with a strong call to action, links to related posts, a selection of social media share buttons, and a comment box gives our readers a lot of choices. It’s unreasonable to expect anyone to take that many actions on a single post. Especially when they are reading on a smartphone with a tiny keyboard and limited mobile connection.
Comments may be down, but interaction is not: it’s just split between many different platforms. Let’s accept the fact that leaving a comment is just one action a reader might take when they finish our blog post, and reward the comments that are made with a sincere reply.
P.S. Don’t miss the 10 practical ways you can encourage comments on your blog!
You’ve swayed me, Gretchen. I pulled comments from my blog a few months ago, and I’ve just put them back again.
I do think there are many good reasons why people are pulling comments from their blogs (I was probably swayed the most by Matt Gemmell’s arguments), and it’s worth remembering that blogs didn’t have comments in the early days. So it’s not correct to say a blog is not a blog without comments.
However, I miss them, and as few as I get, I want to leave the line open for my readers to leave them if they want to.
And as many of your readers have highlighted, it’s a breath of fresh air to jump out of the madness that is social media and engage in some “quieter” conversation on your own blog.
The only concern I have is that, when blogs get really popular, the quality of their comments section seems to go down hill, but I think it’s partly how they’re managed–and I’m in no danger of that happening any time soon anyway! 🙂
Thanks so much for commenting, Chris. I’m glad my post–and all the reader comments!–was able to give you some food for thought.
You’re right that the earliest forms of blogs didn’t have comments. According to Wikipedia, the commenting feature emerged on Open Diary in 1998. But I think that the traditional form of blogging that emerged from those meager beginnings has always had some sort of feature for interaction and commentary.
I suppose the quality of the comments section largely depends on the type of blog, and, as you say, the moderation. The response to Matt Gemmell’s arguments pointed to that being more of an issue on newspaper sites and the like, and I think the responder was right. News sites might be the exception to the rule where comments are concerned, anyway!
Appreciate your comment. And I hope you enjoy the continued interaction in the comments section on your blog.
By the way, have you noticed that em dashes (or at least two hyphens) are appearing as underscores in your comments?
I have. It’s an issue with the font that I’ve needed to troubleshoot. A refresh should clear the cache now and display a different font. Thank you!
Fantastic post ( as always Gretchen!). I totally agree that comments should be kept on the blog for accountability, conversation – and quite frankly your next blog post!
My favorite thing about this post is that it reminds us that while social media changes and seems to get faster and crazier, blog comments can be a place where us and our readers can engage in quiet conversation and “old fashioned” connecting. You’ve inspired me to be faithful to cultivate conversation on my blog by showing me how worthy it is to be willing to converse in quieter settings where a comment itself may reach fewer, but hearts can connect more deeply.
Amen! My affinity for old-fashioned letter-writing must be tied to my love of comments. 🙂 Thanks for being faithful to cultivate that conversation on your blog, and elsewhere. I love seeing your insightful comments around the web!
Great thoughts to chew on! Thanks Gretchen. You know that I’m on the fence at best! Some of my concerns are how comments can become such an idol for a blogger…maybe for a smaller one who craves them. Also, I feel like a blog with few comments makes people shy away from the blog…so I’m so torn!
It is true that anything–stats, social media likes/shares/follows, or comment counts–can become an idol. But I’m coming to believe more firmly in investing my time into my blog’s comment section rather than in all the “chasing after the wind” of social media these days. 🙂
Gretchen, it’s beyond me why bloggers would NOT want comments!
To me, blogging without allowing comments is like talking without letting anyone respond.
I realize that a lot of “conversation” has transferred to Facebook and other platforms, but social media is so fickle and fad-driven! I spend more time blogging than I do interacting on Facebook or other social media platforms, simply because I don’t possibly have time to do it all and, as you pointed out, blogs are going to be around long after the latest social media rage dies out.
Very well written and insightful post, my friend!
Amen, Kristy. One can’t do it all, and I’d rather put my efforts into my own blog than all over social media–it’s so fleeting!
Great post Gretchen and of course I totally agree with you. Nice to see lots of comments below too.
Thanks for the mention 🙂
Thank you, David. Apparently there’s nothing like writing about comments to bring comments. 🙂
Yes to all of this! The recent trend to close comments is making me crazy. I understand why some are doing it, but it defeats the purpose of blogging. Thank you for writing this!
Thank you, Gini. I really appreciated your own post on comments. Your point about renting vs. owning the location where the comments take place really makes sense. It’s much like the reason we choose self-hosted WordPress!
Thanks for supporting comments here in blogland.
The self-hosting is SO important, too. I just read an article in Gigaom about the importance of fixing the issues with commenting, instead of just shutting them down. His point was that when a media company (or blogger) spends time cultivating a community, the comments aren’t overrun with spam and trolls. So keep doing what you’re doing!
Oh, I’m checking out these posts on Gigaom right now (http://search.gigaom.com/tag/comments/). Thank you for mentioning them!
As a blogger who really enjoys a good, thoughtful conversation in the comment section, thank you for sharing this perspective, it brightened my blogging day!
And you are always so good at leaving comments–not to mention writing posts that inspire conversation. Thank you, Elisabeth.
I would take your advice over a dozen other posts I read. Thanks for helpful hints.
I enjoy comments. They encourage and more importantly, they help me interact with my readers. Thanks for a great post.
They are definitely one of the best avenues for author-reader interaction, aren’t they?!
Loved this Gretchen! Thank you!!
I completely agree! Great thoughts & outplay of the loss of comments, as well as the benefits of owning/keeping the comments on your own “property.”
Thank you, Jess! I think it’s similar in some ways to the reason we opt for self-hosted WordPress blogs when we can–we want to own the property we’re investing in, not just be renting it.
A timely post, Gretchen. I’m using Disqus commenting on my blog, and I keep running into recent posts that show “comments closed.” I knew it must be a setting buried deep inside the belly of the whale and went digging. Found it! Then began debating whether I wanted to research this issue that seems to continue to surface again and again.
You’ve answered my concerns! Comments are on and set to stay on! At least until the lights go off at this blogger’s fingertips.
Did a little survey on the blog today and with about 10 respondents so far, the comments and input are good. Thanks in part to your input!
I’m so glad you found that setting, Sherrey! That can be annoying to publish a post and realize hours later that comments were off. I’ve had that happen randomly a time or two.
And hurrah for input! Thanks for being a longtime faithful commenter. 🙂
Thanks Gretchen. I just went and read Michael’s article and found it interesting. I hadn’t realised Disqus was putting advertising in the comments sections, I would find that incredibly annoying, too. The way I read it he’s made that decision because it makes the most sense from where he’s sitting.
But most bloggers are not in his position, that is, high profile with a ton of credibility. I agree with all your points in this article and could not imagine switching off my comments. As a relatively new blogger I feel that every comment adds a little credibility to my site, and as you say, it will stay there forever. They also give me a chance to respond which helps readers see more of my personality which will make me, as a person, more real to them, too. Thanks for your post!
Exactly, Liz. Comments are so crucial for allowing bloggers to get to know readers and vice versa!
What I do find interesting, though, is that Disqus does offer a way to turn off the advertising in comments.
Great post and great point! Thanks for keeping us up-to-date. I love a good, old fashioned comment section. 😉
Thank you, friend. You’re just an old-fashioned blogger in every respect, writing those essay-style posts we all love. Thanks for being you!
I can’t imagine not having comments! That’s how I answer questions – if readers have questions for me, I would not be able to monitor a whole bunch of social media to make sure I respond to everyone.
Social media can quickly become such a headache, can’t it?! I’m so thankful for the ability to keep the discussion mostly in one place thanks to the comment section, because then I only have to check on the social media discussions that I have initiated or where I have been tagged. If I didn’t have comments available on my post I’d feel like I needed to search for conversations about my posts so I could participate in them wherever they were happening.
Amen to the anonymity thing ! I regularly don’t comment on one of the blogs I follow because they use a Facebook comment plugin. You can’t comment without it. And some things I just don’t wish to discus if they will appear on my timeline 🙂
Oh goodness, yes. The blogs that use Facebook comments really destroy any sense of anonymity when commenting. 🙂
Thanks for always being such a faithful commenter, Omily!
Gretchen, thank you SO much for writing about this! You’ve put on paper the arguments I have in my head. When I heard that Michael Hyatt was pulling comments, I got a little upset because if I had any questions to ask about whatever topic he was writing about, I’d have to contact him via email (and run the risk of my email being lost in a slush pile)! I also couldn’t rely on others to ask the question for me anymore.
So thank you for writing this–and thanks for not pulling your comments.
Thank you for commenting, Esther! I do think that the ability to ask a question of a busy blogger in a public forum can actually be a help to that blogger. Not only do others have the opportunity to answer your question if/until that blogger did not, but if the blogger did take the time to answer your question, the answer would be there for others to glean from, thus saving additional time answering questions. 🙂
I appreciate your analysis. I agree with you. I had not thought about the value of anonymity but you are so correct. There are a million and one posts I would never comment about or share on social media- and they aren’t always about deeply personal things. Often they are highly controversial issues in both politics and faith that I don’t want to discuss with ALL of my Facebook friends. Those conversations, even if challenging are best done in more intimate environments- even if a few trollers show up. I will remember this as I grow and develop my blog. Sometimes the band wagon isn’t worth jumping on. Quick question: do you think this is happening more in business and less personal blogs and more how to blogs like Michael Hyatt’s and Copyblogger or do you also see this happening on other blogs such as lifestyle and faith oriented blogs? Thanks!
Facebook and politics are two things I try never to mix, that’s for sure. 😉 In fact, I’ve learned that it’s better for my spirit if I avoid the majority of online controversy altogether. But being able to slip a comment in on a blog post is so much different than replying to a public Facebook post thus inviting all my friends to come argue with me.
Great question! I do think it is happening more in business blogs, however, I know that a lot of smaller-scale bloggers look to people like Michael Hyatt as the ultimate authority on how to blog. I think that was one of my main concerns in writing this post–to remind personal, lifestyle, and faith oriented blogs that there is still value to welcoming conversation on their blogs. Maybe comments aren’t scale-able for some bloggers, and maybe other blogs do not lend themselves to comments. But I think those are still the exception to the rule. 🙂 And I do think it’s an awfully lonely bandwagon to jump on, personally! 😉
I couldn’t agree more. In “Comments” my readers gather around my kitchen table so to speak. It’s the friendly echo to my posts.
Oh I love that illustration, Marian! I’m so thankful for “friendly echoes”.
The number 1 reason why I love this is because I’m burned out on using social media for my blog. It’s something that I struggle with keeping up with; therefore, I purpose to pour my efforts into my blog rather than my social media. Glad to know there’s validity to keeping those comments, and I like going against the flow anyway. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!
Oh Caroline, it’s so easy to get burnt out on social media, isn’t it?! I loved Tsh’s perspective in The Art of Simple State of the Blog Address about how she stopped caring about “being everywhere” on social media. It’s certainly an endless cycle of newer and more and better.
Good for you for prioritizing where you put your energy, and for making it somewhere that’s lasting.
That was a great article! Thanks!
I just found out recently that I wasn’t getting my comments because the plugin I was using marked everything as spam, and I mean everything. So now I am using the default WordPress settings for discussion and approving each comment manually.
I’d like to find a reliable plugin or solution for a nice looking comment section, possibly one that allows people to opt in for notifications when a reply is made to their comment. I think our readers like to know what our response is in real-time.
Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks so much!
Oh, goodness. I’d be curious to know which plugin that was so I can avoid it! I am definitely not a fan of using any platform than the native WordPress one.
One thing that may help if you continue to have issues with notifications from your site going into spam is to set up a domain email address (not a forwarder, but a POP3 account @yourdomainname.com that you’d download into your Gmail–HostGator has a good explanation of why). That way, not only can you send all your notifications from an email address that’s at your domain, but other email hosts won’t be confused about why you’re sending from your domain but trying to make it look like it’s from the Gmail domain (which is how spam filters view it when we send from our blogs using our Gmail addresses). Does that make sense? 🙂 If you had additional issues you could try installing the plugin WP Mail SMTP, too.
But in answer to your question, I do! I use the plugin Subscribe to Comments Reloaded and it’s worked really well for me. In my follow-up post coming next week I go into detail on the settings I use. But I’d be glad to email that info to you meanwhile so you can get it set up.
Hope that helps!
Got it! Thanks!
Yay! I’m glad to hear somebody encouraging the idea of keeping comments. Every time I hear about the idea of getting rid of the comment box I wince. Social media comments are oftentimes so flighty and “share-focused”, but like you said, blog comments help keep the commenter grounded on your site and directly involved with you and your post. Oftentimes, if I really like a post. I’ll comment on the blog and also share it on social media. Then both avenues are satisfied, if that makes any sense… 🙂
And you’re a real fan if you comment and share. But then, there’s nothing like being a blogger to understand the importance of all those actions, is there? 🙂
Thanks, Gretchen. It never occurred to me NOT to have comments. Most of the time they are encouraging. I like them. Thanks for the yea reasons to keep comments.
Thank you, Linda Jo! I’m glad you haven’t even heard of the negativity surrounding the comments (or lack thereof) in the blogosphere. Comments are truly a delight–and an aspect of blogging I believe is worth preserving.