Why you should not eliminate blog comments

Interesting viewpoints energize your online community, and filters catch most spam, so why not let your readers give you feedback and make connections through your blog?

Recently, a few top-notch bloggers, including Copyblogger and Jay Dolan of The Anti Social Media have opted to get rid of blog comments.

I have read (and re-read) each of their posts multiple times, trying desperately to understand the rationale for this move. Their reasons include:

  • Too much spam
  • No meaningful discussions
  • The conversations have moved to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc.

As much as I respect these bloggers and the amazing content they crank out week after week, I find serious flaws in each of these reasons. I just can’t wrap my head around what would cause someone to remove blog comments from such large, thriving blogs.

Getting rid of blog comments is like getting rid of the essence of your community. Jeff Atwood, who founded StackOverflow, went as far as to say, “A blog without comments is not a blog.”

Though this may sound extreme, a blog is nothing without an audience. Most people are content to be passive readers and will never comment. This is one reason why Rich Millington, who runs the Feverbee blog, removed comments more than a year ago.

“For every great discussion we typically see take place via blog comments, there are a lot more no discussions or bad discussions,” Millington says.

Many posts never get a comment. Generally, the comments will come from your most loyal fans. It’s one reason I try to acknowledge and respond to every comment on my blog. If you want to build an avid, active community, you should make it as easy as possible for readers to leave their thoughts. A comments section does just that.

Combatting blog spam

Copyblogger wrote that of the hundreds of thousands of comments they had received, only 4 percent were legitimate comments. Everything else was spam.

Although spam comments are annoying, I can’t see that problem as so severe that you would remove comments altogether, especially given that spam filtering keeps getting better. Tools such as Disqus and Livefyre have filters that catch the vast majority of spam.

‘No meaningful conversation’

Jay went so far as to write, “There is no meaningful conversation in the comments. None.”

That’s a shame. Some of the best posts I have ever read were in the comments section of a blog. There’s the post from Chris Brogan, where he announced his Twitter unfollow experiment. It generated more than 350 comments; most brought valuable knowledge, context, or points of view to the table.

I think of Gini Dietrich’s Livefyre Q&As. She brings in authors and PR professionals to host a chat—all within the blog comments.

When you can generate hundreds of comments, all bringing unique points of view and information to the table, that’s when you know you have hit comment gold.

“I’m a fan of comments, warts and all,” says Jeff Atwood. “They’re noisy, sure, but in my experience they reliably produce crowdsourced knowledge in aggregate.”

Does this require a little more work to manage? Of course. However, with strong commenting guidelines and a great moderator, the experience for your readers can be become so much richer.

Why would any blogger want to give that up?

Conversations have moved to social media channels

Your blog is something that you own, assuming you go the self-hosted route instead of using Tumblr or Medium.

People who take the time to write comments (even if you don’t have a lot) are generally your most passionate, loyal readers.

“Blog comments demonstrate a level of commitment and participation in the community that amplifies their quality,” says Nick Westergaard of Brand Driven Digital.

Moving comments/discussions from an owned platform, such as a blog, to a public space that you “rent,” such as a Facebook page, Twitter, Google Plus, Linkedin, etc., is one of the dumbest things you can do for your community.

Putting all your comments on social media is risky. What would happen if Facebook were to make a massive algorithm change or just disappear tomorrow? How long would it take you to recover?

It’s great to use social media to increase awareness and exposure. When you rely too heavily on it and make it your only way to get feedback from your community, though, you are heading into dangerous waters.

Given how big the Copyblogger blog is, all I can hope is that this doesn’t become a new industry standard. I would strongly caution bloggers to think twice before they get rid of their comments section.

A version of this article first appeared on Jessica Malnik’s blog.

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