It seems like a strange and somewhat controversial question, doesn't it? But seriously, what would happen if you removed your blog comments altogether?
Would that be a good or bad idea? Are there any big name brands that have tested this? There are plenty of questions and curiosities that could come from an idea like this.
It's actually an uncommon practice to remove comments, but then again, who wants their blog to be common?
There are a lot of factors that go into this, but as a general lesson, don't ever be afraid to challenge the status quo, especially when running a business.
Notable Websites That Don't Have A Comments Section
Here are a few noteworthy brands that have disabled comments on their blogs altogether:
Notable Websites That Have A Comments Section
Well, just about every major website on the internet has comments, but here are a few notable ones:
Notable Websites That Disabled And Then Re-Enabled Them
There are some brands that have tested this and went back to allowing comments. Here are a couple of noteworthy ones that did this:
An Argument For Disabling Blog Comments
I've never really thought about disabling blog comments. It's so unheard of that it never really crosses most blogger's minds.
But, when I read about a few people that have done it, I actually sat down and wrote the benefits and consequences for doing this and was surprised how many benefits I came up with.
Here are some of the benefits:
1. More time to focus on other things
Even if you have Akismet or another comment sorting service, you still usually have to moderate a lot of comments manually.
People always find loopholes. Every time you tie one up, they find another one. Blog commenting is no different. When you constantly read, respond to and moderate comments, it takes time.
The more traffic you get, the more time you end up spending on comments. Our time is finite. We don't have an unlimited amount of it. Do you want to spend more and more of it moderating comments?
Do those comments actually contribute to your blog making more money or helping more people?
2. No more comment services
As a business or blog owner, you have a lot of expenses. You have hosting, themes, CDNs, email services, social media tools, employees, etc. One less monthly payment is always nice, isn't it?
When you remove the comments section, you no longer have to have premium or free comment sorting services. If you have a premium service, this saves you money that can be better invested elsewhere.
If you have a free plugin or something, you still get the benefit of deleting that plugin and slightly speeding up your blog. That's one less thing that has to load when people visit your site.
3. Negative social proof
If you spend any time learning about marketing, you know what social proof is. If you have a lot of great comments, reviews, or social shares, it looks good on your brand, doesn't it?
But, what if you have very few? If you don't have a lot of comments it might not look like your blog is very popular, possibly hurting your first impression with new visitors.
If you have a decent amount of comments, but a lot of them aren't nice or have bad grammar, that can have the same effect as having no comments.
4. More focus, less clutter
The look of a blog without a lot of comments might benefit not only your peace of mind, but the reader's attention span too.
As a blogger, you are probably trying to get social shares or collect emails, so you can get more customers, as well as traffic, right? Asking people to comment is just another thing on their todo list on your page.
So, if you ask them to read the post, leave a comment, share the post on social media, and give them your email all on the same page, it can be pretty overwhelming.
People make so many choices on a daily basis like what to wear to work, what to eat, whether or not to go to the gym, what TV shows to watch, etc.
This is why companies that offer too many choices get worse conversions than those that have less. In fact, there are some fascinating studies on this done by Stanford University that you can see here.
Now, maybe I'm taking this a little too far by saying the comment section can contribute to too many choices for blog visitors, but it is definitely something that could be worth testing.
Many marketers will tell you that each website page should have one main action that you want people to take. So, what are the priorities on your blog posts?
Will it make the biggest impact for visitors to give you their email, click an ad, share the post or comment? Chances are, commenting would be the lowest priority on that list.
Obviously this is one of the biggest reasons some companies even think about removing their blog's comment section. Spam dominates the majority of comments for the majority of blogs.
In fact, Copyblogger did a post in 2014 about this and although they had 130,000 approved comments, that made up only 4% of their total comments. The other 96% were spam.
This is why we have so many spam blocking services like Akismet and Disqus.
If you had to sort through spam yourself, you would be overwhelmed and have no time to do more important things like writing, promoting and working on conversions.
One of the best ways to stop dealing with spam is to just rid yourself of the source, which of course is the comments section.
No matter if you have spam filters or not, people will always find a way to post low quality, spammy comments on blogs. Here's an example of how much spam I've been getting:
6. Your mentality
Sometimes, instead of sending you hate mail, people will send you hate blog comments. Or, maybe they will just call you out on something you said in a post or a mistake you made.
Or, maybe you get some comments from people who go out of their way to try to prove your theories wrong or make fun of the ideas you write about. The more successful you become, the more haters you're going to get.
Just look at Youtube or Twitter for instance. A Youtube video with lots of views can easily get a thousand hateful comments making fun of appearances, lyrics, etc. On Twitter, you see people go on their and hide behind their computer, making fun of celebrities.
It's well documented because the Jimmy Kimmel show has entire section on celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves. This could be another reason to disable comments.
Of course, haters should be ignored and you can just delete their comments, but over time, it might get to you.
You might start changing your points of view, lose confidence in yourself or lose motivation to keep writing if you keep getting people calling you out or making fun of your ideas.
I don't think most bloggers have this problem, but I'm sure some do, especially on political or other controversial blogs.
7. A tiny percentage actually comment
Another reason companies might disable blog comments is because of how few people actually leave them. Even an engaging blog will get about 5% or less people commenting. And that is a popular, engaging blog.
The average blog sees closer to 1% comment rates or less. So, if comments are causing you any headaches, why are you worried about keeping them when so few actually take the time to leave them?
8. Social media
A lot of engagement has shifted to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. In many cases, people leave comments, share and like things on the actual social media sites more than the blog the content originally came from.
Cancelling your blog comments won't stop the conversation about your content, it will just allow people to focus more on engaging on social media, which they already do anyway.
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An Argument For Keeping Comments
Now that we have most of the downsides out of the way for having comments, it is time to take a positive approach. Here are some reasons for keeping that comment section:
People love a sense of community. They want to feel like they belong and that their opinion matters. For some people, if they see that you disabled your comments, they might feel like you don't care what they have to say.
It can make people feel like you aren't open-minded enough to hear another side of the story from your own. It almost can look selfish to some of your readers.
A lot of people just enjoy having people to chat with and ask questions about subjects they enjoy. If you take that away from your blog, it could send the wrong message that you would rather them go talk about the topic somewhere else.
On top of that, some people just like to read the comments without necessarily leaving one themselves. Pat Flynn, of Smart Passive Income for instance, enjoys the comments more than the actual post sometimes.
I think it's safe to say that pretty much all blogs want to rank their content if possible, wouldn't you agree? The better the rankings, the more likely you are to get more traffic.
Believe it or not, comments actually help your rankings. Many times, if the comments are actually thoughtful, keyword variations will be mentioned in them. And, it also adds to the total word count on the post.
Word count has been one of the correlations to better rankings in Google for years, because the more you write on the subject, the more in-depth you usually go, resulting in quality content.
If you get dozens of comments, you are adding to the keywords and word count of your post without having to do any additional work yourself.
3. Good social proof
I've referenced a quote before by Mark Cuban that states, “Customers want to know that you have other customers.” And he's right, you know. Social proof is a big deal.
Imagine if you have never been to Chick-fil-a before, it was the middle of lunch time in a busy city and you were craving chicken. If you look over at the drive-thru line and see that it is filled with cars, you can assume the food there is pretty good, right?
So, you might be more inclined to go there than some other chicken place that has an empty parking lot during lunch time in the same busy city. People go where the product is good.
You can use this with blogging too. If you get lots of thoughtful comments on your blog, it can create a compounding effect and make others want to join in and leave a comment too.
It makes your blog look popular, gives a good first impression to new visitors and ultimately might lead to more sales based on the trust factor that you might actually know what you're talking about.
Maybe it isn't always the best idea to be the supreme ruler over your blog that takes no opinions or suggestions from anyone else.
This can make you way to one-sided and lead to a lack of adapting or understanding of issues over time. A lot of times, people who take the time to comment will actually tell you what they think.
They aren't there to just suck up to you and praise you, but to actually contribute to the topic at hand. Some may disagree with you, but might give some very valid points that you could ponder.
I've even had a case or two where someone would leave a comment on a post, giving me a heads-up that I referenced the wrong person, misspelled something or had a broken link. It was helpful.
Plus, by having comments, you can gauge what kind of topics your audience enjoys the most. The comments you have, the more popular your content is and the more you might want to write about that in the future.
5. Commenters may be more likely to buy
Although I've heard of stories by marketers in the past saying commenters are more likely to buy products, I had a hard time finding the statistical evidence to back it up.
Luckily, Videofruit, a video marketing site, did a split-test to see if people who left a comment on their blog were more likely to buy their product.
After a lot of math and data analysis, the Videofruit team concluded that commenters were 5x more likely to buy their product then non-commenters. That's insane! If you're interest, here are the split-test-details.
To sum it up, people who engage with your site, tend to enjoy your content more and have a more positive view of your brand, therefore making them more likely to trust you and buy from you.
6. Creates a bond
When you reply to comments, it creates more of a bond between you and your readers. It shows that you care.
It shows that you are willing to take time out of your busy schedule to actually address their questions or thoughts. It feels a lot better for commenters to see a reply than to be ignored.
Think about every time you've sent a message, commented or emailed someone. It's always nice to actually get a response, as opposed to being completely ignored, isn't it?
Taking the same approach with your audience could really build trust and make people want to keep coming back to your blog.
Neil Patel, for instance, spends some time after each blog post is published to go reply to the first commenters. He has built a huge, loyal following by doing this.
7. Makes you feel good
A lot of comments that aren't spam are actually positive comments. Unless you have a controversial site, if you actually write content that truly helps people or entertains them, you'll get some praiseful comments.
Even a simple ‘thank you for writing this' or ‘this post was very helpful' comment can just make you feel a little better. These kinds of comments make the work you do pay off and give you more motivation to keep going.
8. You own the engagement
When you don't own the site, anything can happen. Just like how one day Twitter decided to take share counts away from all the bloggers that used them for social proof and traffic, any site can roll out an update that changes the game.
Facebook dropped page reach a while back, Google made mobile-friendliness mandatory for rankings, and who knows what will happen next.
What does this mean for comments? Well, if you thought relying on social media sites for comments and engagement was a better idea than having it on your own site, something unexpected could happen.
Most likely, you will have a notice if a major change is coming and usually these companies won't do anything too drastic because it might hurt what made them successful in the first place.
But, what if your profile got hacked, your followers got bored with social media, or the company got bought out and changed by someone else? You just never know.
Maybe the safest bet for keeping engagement, is to keep it on your site where you are in charge.
Why Copyblogger and Michael Hyatt turned off comments, then changed their minds
Michael Hyatt, a productivity and success blogger with a huge following, decided to turn off comments because of a few reasons:
- He got more traffic on posts with fewer comments
- He believed social media was taking over the engagement world
- Comments were decreasing all over different industries
- He wanted to eliminate clutter
Hyatt referenced this chart showing the correlation between his comments and blog traffic:
After trying the removing comments experiment for a year in 2015, Michael Hyatt decided to turn them back on for these reasons:
- It was the first year his traffic didn't grow.
- It made some people think that he was “less accessible and unwilling to engage” with readers.
- He wanted to be hospitable and no comments created the opposite effect.
- He wanted others to add value to his content because he likes to read a few comments when he finds a post interesting.
- He wanted to encourage dialog, stating “all of us are smarter than some of us”.
- He wanted to build a community where people can discuss and join a conversation about the content.
- He wanted to have a central location for these people to discuss the topics he covered. Hyatt said, “Running a blog without comments is like hosting a party without a venue.”
- Hyatt said he also wanted to learn from his readers because he knows many of them are very intelligent.
- Last but not least, he said he liked to experiment and after removing comments for a year, decided the negatives outweighed the positives.
Copyblogger, a popular content marketing blog, turned off their comments for these reasons:
- They thought engagement was growing on social media and the need for comments was dwindling.
- They believed that people who left long, thoughtful comments were probably better suited posting them on their own websites.
- The Copyblogger team was also sick of moderating so much spam. Only 4% of all their comments were actually approved and not spammy.
After doing this a while, Copyblogger brought the comment section back for these reasons:
- People missed interacting in the comments section
- Some of the Copyblogger staff missed seeing the blog post feedback
What Copyblogger changed about their commenting system this time around:
- They now have a comment policy that clearly states what they will and will not accept.
- They now only allow you to comment up to 7 days after publishing. Most comments, especially quality ones, come within the first few days of publishing.
I must admit, I was thinking of eliminating the comment section on my blog. I've been going through kind of a decluttering/minimalism phase and with so many spammy comments, I was getting sick of it.
But, the good comments that come in, always have such a positive impact. They leave great feedback, thank me for the time I put into the post and keep the conversation going, well after the publishing date.
And hey, I don't mind the extra ranking juice I get from having insightful, topic-related comments. The argument can really be made both ways though, as you've seen in this post.
Do you care more about building a community and having an inviting vibe for your blog or do you care more about your free time or just believe that social media engagement is a valid replacement?
It really just depends on who you are and what you blog is supposed to accomplish. The sites listed above are proof that your blog can be successful whether you have them or not.
For me, although turning off comments is tempting, I plan on keeping them around and maybe even putting more of a focus on them. I kind of like the community element it creates.
And luckily, there are plenty of spam-prevention tools and other ways of streamlining the moderation process that we can use.
Do you think comment sections are important for a blog's success?
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