Comment boxes on the end of blogs made for lively debate at a recent Post-40 Bloggers Editors’ lunch as we don’t all agree on the subject. And whilst Alice’s (our Blogging & Technology Editor) premise and infographic pro-comments is interesting, its well-known arguments are often countered as I did a few years ago when turning comments off on my personal blog – ‘I am Closing Comments on my Blog’ and ‘Re-positioning the Comment Water Cooler.’ However, my real hope remains that the beautiful art of blogging does not fall foul of any pressure group. That we write (with or without an inline comment system) authentically and freely, deciding freely whereabouts we want to gather around the water cooler to discuss something we wrote and had the privilege of someone else reading. That water cooler might be situated at the end of a post or, as legitimately, in email, social media, a telephone call or a face to face conversation. And as the pastime of blogging continues to grow, my advice to newbie bloggers remains the same. Have an inline comment system, don’t have an inline comment system, but make decisions from and for your authentic self. Write authentically and you will never disappoint yourself or your readership.
But just quickly, I would counter some of the arguments thus:
Confusion – There’s no obvious place to comment. Readers want to but don’t know how. Try social media. You’ll find conversation is happening a plenty and is probably why the comment thread is falling out of favour. (Remember the Blog Guest book, anyone?) It often feels very satisfying conversing with an author in real time.
No community – There is no central hub or focus where readers can converse. See above.
Uninviting – A blog without comments is cold and inhospitable. It gives the impression the writer isn’t interested in them. – Newspapers and magazines have fared very well not having comments at the end of an interesting article.
Social proof – No comments doesn’t send a signal the post is worth reading. Having comments is no indicator the post is worth reading. The number of comments does not validate how good (or bad) a post is.
Inaccessible – Not being able to leave a comment makes it difficult for the reader to communicate with the writer. The ‘Contact Page’ and social media buttons might be a good place to start.
No conversation – Denying readers the chance to express an opinion doesn’t encourage them to return. Readers can express an opinion (see definition of ‘Social Media.’) This is also not borne out by the many successful blogs who are in constant (sometimes live) dialogue with readers who return time and again for the quality of the posts. People genuinely moved or provoked by a post will find the author on social media or elsewhere. Trolls probably won’t bother as that’s a little too much effort.
Traffic – The big blogs found turning off comments didn’t increase their traffic. Great blogs can exist outside of traffic, stats and numbers. And while great content can drive traffic, great content can also not drive great traffic. This also pre-supposes everyone blogs for the mere purpose of driving traffic. Bloggers blog for many, many reasons not just for traffic validation.
Juggling replies – if readers are forced to respond on social media, this will increase the number of places to visit. People are naturally on social media and not usually hanging about on blogs waiting for static comments to arrive. Conversation on social media is organic, in the moment and in the author’s live voice in the case of, say, Twitter.
Reader preference – their feedback lets you know they want to read. You can therefore adjust your blog’s content and niche accordingly. Personal blogs which sway backwards and forwards between the likes and dislikes of its readers is doomed to years of frustration. Run an authentic blog in your authentic voice and readers will read and value that authenticity – or they won’t. Something about not trying to please all the people… And hopefully this next bit won’t shock too much, but I, personally, don’t blog for my readers, which goes against one of the inviolate laws of blogging, I know. However, I blog to find out what I think and feel about the world. The privilege comes where anyone finds those words interesting enough to keep wanting to read – or find me to debate my take on something.
Add Value – Readers’ comments can deepen, amplify and make a post’s subject fuller attracting the search engines. Comments can also have a detrimental affect on a post. The search engines do not see a post and its comments as two separate entities. Therefore, comments (which are not usually rich and full of your post’s keywords) can dilute the page’s content. Even 100 well-meant comments saying ‘Good job.’
But as I said at the top of this post, there are valid arguments on both sides of the comment box. It is for you to decide (and you alone) where you stand on the issue. Here is Alice’s equally valid opinion on the subject. Ed
I come across a fabulous post that really fired me up and I want to leave a comment. But when I pan down to the bottom of the page to find the comment box, there isn’t one. Disbelief turns to despair as I realise that if I’m going to leave a comment, I have to leave this blog and go find the author on social media.
It’s another process to do. Something else that makes my desire to comment begin to evaporate. The hassle of searching for the most appropriate networking platform (which one? Twitter? Facebook? Google+?) is further aggravated by the fact that I don’t really want to leave a comment on social media.
I don’t want the world and his wife to read what I have to say there. I want to say it in the confines of this blog. Next to the post which inspired me to comment in the first place. Not somewhere else less personal and irrelevant to the present situation.
Read on | The Fairy Blog Mother