3 possible economic reasons Copyblogger ended blog comments

The popular website has opted to shut down its online feedback forums, but the rationale it offers doesn’t ring quite true to the author, who offers alternative considerations.

The well-known Copyblogger site sent a shockwave through the blogosphere when it announced it would no longer entertain comments on its blog.

Some question this move; I don’t. Anybody can do anything they want on their blog if it makes good business sense. Here is my question: Why does it make good business sense? They really didn’t say.

The talented Sonia Simone provided three reasons for the move in her post, but avoided that one key question. Her explanation:

1. The blog-related conversations are also taking place on other forums like LinkedIn and Google+. Why is it necessary to have a conversation on a blog, too?

2. If you have a comment, putting it on their site isn’t the “right place.” It should be on your site (and they are encouraging you to link back to the original article, of course).

3. 96 percent of the comments they receive are spam.

If you are an experienced blogger, these explanations probably strike you as strange, maybe even forced. They certainly don’t tell the whole story.

Forcing the conversations into other spaces fragments the conversation and makes the reader take an extra step of finding it and commenting in another place. I can’t get my head around any reason why leaving a comment on a blog is “the wrong place” for a comment. Certainly it diminishes the power of the conversation stream if it is in a dozen places.

And spam? Sure, we all get a lot of spam, but spam filters do an excellent job. I would say far less than 1 percent of true spam ever makes it onto the blog.

Copyblogger founder Brian Clark has an excellent business mind. This is a big decision for him and his company and I guarantee you the economic impact of this move was carefully debated beyond “this spam is really annoying.” So, what is the economic reason for this decision?

I can imagine at least three major justifications.

  • First, by encouraging conversations outside the blog they are sending Google juice back to Copyblogger. The SEO value of a comment is negligible compared with a mention on Google+ or a backlink on a blog. In this very example, the fact that Copyblogger has earned a blog post from me and a backlink on {grow} (a site with very high “authority” in Google terms) earns them real economic gain.
  • Increasing traffic through Google search delivers increased ad revenue or perhaps ancillary income through increased eyeballs and inbound leads.
  • Maintaining a comment section takes valuable resources. It is not uncommon for me to spend three times more effort addressing comments than writing the original post. Think of the client work or content creation I could focus on if I disallowed comments. Now multiply that times three or four for Copyblogger, and you can see the real economic advantage of cutting out comments.

So, even though their explanation was shrouded in veils of altruism, Copyblogger undoubtedly made a level-headed business decision based on a thorough economic evaluation. Or did it?

SEO will always matter to some extent, but here is what matters even more in the long-term: genuine emotional connection.

In our increasingly information-dense world, backlinks and Google mentions can only carry you so far. In the end, people buy from the real people they know and trust. Reader loyalty will trump everything in the end.

Creating a blog community is an important opportunity to begin to know real people over the world who may eventually buy something from you. By disconnecting blog commentary from the content, Copyblogger is risking community development for the sake of “traffic.”

In the end, a powerful site like Copyblogger will probably succeed by turning their community into a broadcast channel. They are smart folks, and I would not bet against them.

For most of us, the value of blogging for business results from a community dialogue that leads to loyal, emotional connections.

A version of this article first appeared on Mark Schaefer’s blog, {grow}.

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