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Ultimate Guide To Blog Comments: Best Practices For Handling Comments On Your Blog In The Modern Era

Should you have blog comments on your blog? And if you have comments, what are the best practices?

I have been blogging for well over 20 years now. I was blogging before WordPress even existed. I remember when the idea of blog comments became common. I remember how so many of us were so concerned with how to get more blog comments.

I remember when blog comments were legitimately seen by other bloggers as a way to generate traffic.

But, things have changed.

Many blogs don’t even deal with blog comments anymore. They simply disable it. For many other bloggers who still have comments enabled, they don’t get nearly the amount of comment volume as perhaps they used to.

I’ve written about blog comments many times on this site as things have adjusted over the years. I’ve used third-party comment systems. I’ve turned off comments. Then turned them on again. Back and forth, frankly. As of this writing, I have comments turned on on this site but one has to have a registered member account to even post a comment.

And so I thought I would centralize all of my thoughts on blog comments into one, new and modernized guide on the topic.

Thinking about disabling comments on your blog? I mean, you probably get a lot of spam comments and useless comments and it takes valuable time to weed through it. Is it even worth it?

I know having blog comments is basically tradition. It has been considered the normal thing to do for quite some time. But, I’m seeing more and more sites break from tradition by turning off their comments.

I myself have gone through this a couple times now. In 2016, I made a bit of a public spectacle out of disabling comments on this blog. At the time, I noted that I didn’t get nearly the amount of blog comments as I used to. Not only that, I observed how it had literally ZERO effect on traffic or revenue. My site was still getting good traffic and I was actually making MORE money ( by quite a bit) than I did when I used to get more comments.

I also noted that:

  • The comment spam was just ridiculous.
  • Real conversations happen in places like the community and Facebook, not in blog comments. Comments tend to be more of a one-way flow.
  • Having a lot of blog comments on a post can end up taking up a ton of screen real estate and making it harder to focus on calls to action.

All valid points, and yet… 3 months later, I did an about face and turned them back on again. Why would I turn comments back on despite all of my solid reasons for disabling them?

It was what I called the “X Factor” of having blog comments. It was the human element. As I said at the time:

A website just seems more… human… when there are people posting comments. It makes things more approachable.

I also lamented the fact that reader questions were getting lost in Facebook groups and losing any long-term value. It made more sense for good reader questions related to my content to be seen right on the content itself. When I then answered them, that exchange would be forever archived right here on a platform I own and control.

Solid point, right? And yet…

A year or so later, I flip-flopped again. I turned comments back off. And… I just did it without any fanfare or announcements. I just wrote a quick piece about it in Issue #9 of THE EDGE.

Funnily enough, the fact that people (with registered accounts) can currently comment on this blog means I reversed myself – again!

I am not alone in my toying around with this.

Copyblogger turned them off. Then, turned them back on again.

Michael Hyatt also turned them off, then turned them back on again. He has since re-branded completely, but interestingly his new company blog does not have comments on it.

Some people stick with it. Seth Godin doesn’t allow comments because they take up too much time. Many blogs are now not having any comments while other large blogs continue to have them. So, if one is trying to find an example to follow to help you make up your mind, it’s proving difficult to find it.

So, what should YOU do? Should you have comments on your blog? And, if you DO have comments on your blog, how should you manage them?

Is there any actual data to show just how useful (or not) comments actually are and whether they’re worth having?

Let’s look…

Do Blog Comments Help With Blog Traffic? Here’s Some Data…

Hubspot published a study where they analyzed the data from 100,000 blog posts. Here’s what they found:

There is no correlation between the number of comments on a post and the number of views that post got. There’s also no correlation between comments and the number of links that post got.

In other words, having a comments section is not going to help you drive traffic or get more backlinks. He concludes:

With your blog, comments should not be a goal. They don’t lead to views or links, which is what leads to actual revenue. Engaging in the conversation doesn’t work.

Neil Patel also did a data-driven look at whether blog comments was doing QuickSprout any good in terms of SEO traffic. In that analysis (which has since been removed), he said:

All in all, bringing 16% of all search traffic through comments isn’t too shabby. I know text from comments makes up the majority of the words on the page, but you have to keep in mind that many of the comments just say “good post” or “thanks.”

While Neil said he wasn’t getting as much impact as he wanted from his blog comments, he was getting some positive impact. This was largely due to the fact that word count was then a fairly important SEO ranking factor. Given that QuickSprout no longer shows blog comments, I imagine things have changed. 😉

Another data point is shared by Shout Me Loud. He found that he switched to the CommentLuv commenting system and his traffic dropped. The reason is because of all the garbage links he was getting in the comments. It is no secret that you’re going to get a lot of BS comments because people are looking for backlinks. When he switched back to the WordPress comments system, his traffic recovered. The fact that his traffic shifted at all shows there is an impact. As he concludes:

One thing which this case-study made clear was the fact that comments definitely affect the ranking of your blog posts.

Having relevant comments on your posts will help you get more organic traffic, and these quality comments will attract more good comments.

Similarly, if you have an old blog with irrelevant and baseless comments, removing them can be helpful.

In 2006, the Nielsen Norman group did a study that showed a massive level of participation inequality within communities. They said that 90% of the audience would never comment on anything. About 9% would comment periodically. And the remaining 1% were pretty active talkers. In fact, they said it can be even worse on blogs:

Blogs have even worse participation inequality than is evident in the 90–9–1 rule that characterizes most online communities. With blogs, the rule is more like 95–5–0.1.

So, an incredibly small percentage of your reader base will ever bother posting a comment.

Obviously, using comments as any real form of learning about your audience is going to be quite limited. I mean, you’re just not going to learn anything very actionable if only 1% of your readers make a habit of participating in those conversations.

So, we’ve got a lot of data points which seem to point to the following picture:

  • Blog comments can have a positive impact on SEO, but managed wrongly can actually hurt you.
  • Engaging in blog comments doesn’t really help much.
  • Most people just don’t participate in comments no matter how much they like what you post.

Again, this doesn’t exactly paint a conclusive picture as to whether we should have comments or not. Hence, the debate…

Fizzle published a post that pitted Pat Flynn up against Everett Bogue in a debate on whether or not to have blog comments. Two successful bloggers with two very different opinions.

As Pat said…

Without comments, a blog isn’t really a blog. To me, blogging is not just about publishing content, but also the two-way communication and community building aspects behind it.

Basically, Pat’s points come down to this:

  • Blog comments are good for conversation and building social proof.
  • Blog comments can help you learn about your audience.
  • Blog comments can help you deepen your relationship with your readers.

Everett, however, made some great points about why he switched off the comments. A big part of it is his use of time, but he also speaks to that participation inequality he was seeing and even the kinds of people who were posting comments.

My “work” week is probably less than 8 hours a week these days. If I still had comments, it would be 25-35 hours guaranteed with no purpose.

His points can be summarized as:

  • Blog comments eat up valuable time that could be spent on something more valuable.
  • Blog comments can inadvertently lead you to make bad decisions about your content because of the nature and limited percentage of the community who actually comment.

Good points by both guys.

Clearly, though, we still don’t have any definitive data to make a decision here. You’ve got bloggers of all calibers having all kinds of different opinions and experiences with blog comments.

Want some irony? That Fizzle post doesn’t have blog comments turned on. 🙂 So clearly, even Fizzle made the switch since they originally posted that debate. 😉

So, I think it all boils down to one simple truth…

My Verdict: The Truth About Blog Comments

It basically comes down to your personal preference, but I would say the general inclination should probably be toward having comments disabled on your blog.

If you are running blog comments simply because you think it is expected of you, then just stop it. This is YOUR call and there is no rule which says you need to have blog comments.

You will not get less traffic without blog comments. You are not hurting your ability to monetize and make money with your blog. Essentially, there is really no tangible negative effects for your blog and your business if you just turn them off and forget about it.

That’s the truth.

So, this is purely a matter of personal preference.

In most cases, you’re going to get far more interaction from readers via social media, dedicated forums, or even via email.

If I were to make a case for having comments enabled, it would be:

  • I cannot possibly predict every question or concern a reader might have. I will put my all into a blog post, but it doesn’t mean I effectively answered everything. I think blog comments present an opportunity for a blog post to evolve PAST what I created.
  • By using blog comments as user-generated content that actually adds to the post itself, it turns each blog post into a living, breathing resource. Or, at least the potential to be.
  • When I come in and interact with every blog commenter, it shows that I’m human and that I will indeed respond to individual inquiries. This helps facilitate that two-way conversation.

However, you’re very likely to have a lot of blog posts with no comments at all. That can potentially make the blog look like a ghost town even when it isn’t.

Plus, I would put FAR more value on a one-on-one email interaction with a reader than I ever would a random blog comment.

So, there is a case to be made for enabling blog comments. However, it is generally a weak case. This is why I would personally say that MOST blogs probably should operate without blog comments turned on.

Turning Off Blog Comments (With No Traces)

If you decide to turn off blog comments on your site, you’ll have two less problems:

  • You will no longer have valuable screen space taken up at the bottom of your posts. Meaning you can now include calls to action that are relevant and have less distraction in the way.
  • You are cutting off a major source of bot spam on your site.

The comment spam bots are simply ridiculous. They scour the internet looking for blogs that take comments and they just HAMMER the crap out of them. And you can set up comment spam filtering like Akismet all you want, you will still have comments get through the filters that require your moderation. And in 98% of cases, they are useless comments you should not approve.

I once had a client site that was so riddled with comment spam that I couldn’t even use the admin interface to delete them. He had over 5 million pending comments! I had never seen anything like it. It was a blog he had been neglecting. It took special geeky measures to delete the garbage and then I cut off the comment bots at the pass by simply disabling comments.

So, simply disabling comments just alleviates these issues. Here’s how…

The built-in WordPress options don’t really enable you to completely disable comments. You can disallow comments, yet the code of the comment system is still being called upon. Plus, you may even see a comment section on blog posts that actually say comments have been turned off.

That’s not what we want here. We want all traces of blog comments to literally…. go away.

Here’s some code you can drop into your theme’s functions.php file or insert in your site using the Code Snippets plugin:

add_action('admin_init', function () { // Redirect any user trying to access comments page global $pagenow; if ($pagenow === 'edit-comments.php') { wp_safe_redirect(admin_url()); exit; } // Remove comments metabox from dashboard remove_meta_box('dashboard_recent_comments', 'dashboard', 'normal'); // Disable support for comments and trackbacks in post types foreach (get_post_types() as $post_type) { if (post_type_supports($post_type, 'comments')) { remove_post_type_support($post_type, 'comments'); remove_post_type_support($post_type, 'trackbacks'); } }
}); // Close comments on the front-end
add_filter('comments_open', '__return_false', 20, 2);
add_filter('pings_open', '__return_false', 20, 2); // Hide existing comments
add_filter('comments_array', '__return_empty_array', 10, 2); // Remove comments page in menu
add_action('admin_menu', function () { remove_menu_page('edit-comments.php');
}); // Remove comments links from admin bar
add_action('init', function () { if (is_admin_bar_showing()) { remove_action('admin_bar_menu', 'wp_admin_bar_comments_menu', 60); }
});

You could also use a plugin to disable everything. For instance, I use PerfMatters on my own sites and many of my client sites in order to optimize for performance. It has an option to completely disable comments.

When you do it this way, there will be no traces anywhere that WordPress even has a comment system. It is completely disabled. And that means there is literally nothing for spam bots to look for on your site.

Keeping Blog Comments – The Right Way

If you don’t want to disable blog comments, then you need to make sure you manage them in the right way so it doesn’t become a problem and actually helps you in some way.

Let me ask you this…

Would you post useless content to your blog? Would you allow content to be posted to your blog that was low quality and didn’t really help anybody?

I sure hope not. That’s bad content marketing. Most likely, you would never dream of it.

In other words, you should look at any blog comment as an extension of the content of the blog post. And the same standards should be applied.

First of all, moderate every comment. Every single one. This isn’t just about whether it is spam or not. It is also about whether the comment is useful enough to be allowed on your site.

Throw every concern you might have about the vanity value of a blog comment out the window. The only thing that matters is whether that comment is useful and adds to the value of the resource. If not, delete it. Period.

Things I look for are:

  • Is the comment providing a different perspective on what you said, or a decent resource for accomplishing what you discussed in the post?
  • Is the comment asking a question which, when you answer them, makes the blog post more complete as a resource for reading the post?
  • Are they using a real name and not a brand name?

If it doesn’t do those things, I do not publish the comment. I don’t care if they just told me how awesome I am and how great my post is… I delete it. Because singing my praises doesn’t make the content more valuable. And that’s all that matters.

Yes, you have to spend time to actually check every comment, but it is worth it.

How To (Smartly) Integrate Blog Comments Into Your Blog

Most blogs just spit out blog comments after the post with a heading above them that just says “Comments”. The comments sit there, sometimes in really long lists. But, we want these blog comments to be useful.

Blog comments CAN be bad for your conversion rates if you handle them stupidly.

Those comments sit there and push calls to action way down the page and provide plenty of distraction. The case is even worse on mobile devices since the blog sidebar is almost always pushed down below the content. Since your comments are part of your content, that just means anything you put in your sidebar or below your comments is going to be lost.

The most important factor here is to practice the moderation practices I spelled out above. I’d much rather have zero comments on a post than a bunch of useless crap taking up space.

But, let’s address a few aspects of integrating your comments into the design of your site.

Use The Default Comment System

I do not recommend that you make use of any third-party comment system that would replace WordPress’s own comment system. It completely alleviates the point of the comments if you don’t have true data ownership of it.

The default comment system also has all the capability you would need. It just isn’t worth it to tack on any additional pieces.

Disable The URL Field

It will go a good ways toward alleviating comment spam if you simply hide the URL field from your comment form. It will not solve the problem because bots will just put URLs into the comment itself, but it does help.

Plus, having a URL field on your comment form provides a poor incentive for people to make a comment. You don’t really want people posting a comment in order to promote themselves. You want them to post a comment because they have something they’re motivated to add.

So, remove the comment URL field.

There are many ways to do that, depending on your setup. Many themes have options built-in to remove that field. Some optimization plugins such as PerfMatters have a built-in option to remove the field. You can also use the following code in your functions.php file or via Code Snippets:

add_action( 'after_setup_theme', 'bma_add_comment_url_filter' ); function bma_add_comment_url_filter() { add_filter( 'comment_form_default_fields', 'bma_disable_comment_url', 20 ); } function bma_disable_comment_url($fields) { unset($fields['url']); return $fields; }

Put Your Call To Action Above Comments

Your final call to action at the end of your blog post (usually an opt-in form) should always go above your comments.

Comments come after everything that’s important.

You can even drop another opt-in in your footer so it shows up beneath your comments, but just be aware that the two CTAs could appear close to one another on posts with no comments.

Change The Comment Header

By default, most themes will have a header above the comment section that just says “Leave A Comment” or “Leave A Reply”. If there are already comments, it will contain a count of how many comments there are.

This language of calling it a “comment” isn’t really ideal. Since we want valuable, related user questions and enhancements to the post and not clutter, it is better to guide people gently into what you actually want.

Something like “Got A Question” or “Got Something To Add?” would be better language to use.

Unfortunately, modifying this header isn’t often easy. Some themes provide a way, but many do not. It often comes down to modifying the comments.php file of your theme (and putting it into a child theme, obviously).

Requiring An Account To Comment (For Membership Sites)

One way to really cut off the spam bots is to require a fully registered account in order to post a comment. This definitely makes it harder to post a comment, but as we’ve already covered it is better to have no comments at all than useless ones.

This is what I currently do on this very website. Comments are enabled here, however only members can post. You don’t need to have a paid membership. Any free account will do. But, by requiring people to (a) have an account, and (b) be logged in, it makes it so that spam comments are pretty much completely non-existent.

Here’s what I do:

  • On Settings > Discussion, check off the box for “Users must be registered and logged in to comment”.
  • On Settings > General, UNcheck the option “Anyone can register”. Yes, I said uncheck.
  • Create my own signup page and use Fluent Forms to create a better, controlled registration process.

I am disabling WordPress’s usual way of allowing account registrations. This is because it, too, will become a spam magnet for bots trying to ram their way into getting user accounts. I just turn off all that.

Then, I create my own pathway for people to create an account. In my case, I use Fluent Forms along with it’s built-in integration for user registration. Since I also use FluentCRM, this provides the perfect integration for ensuring all account holders are on my email list.

This option of requiring user account really works best if you’re running a membership site. After all, people will have accounts anyway. It wouldn’t be a great option if there’s no reason for anybody to have an account on your site.

Adding A Subscription Option To Blog Comments

Unless you’re going to require user accounts to comment, you should at least give them the option to subscribe to your email list while they post. After all, they’re entering their email address anyway.

How you do this is going to depend highly on what your email list solution is. FluentCRM is my preferred solution and it has a built-in option for this.

Under General Settings in FluentCRM, just check the option to “Enable Create new contacts in FluentCRM when a visitor adds a comment in your comment form“. You will then have all the options you need.

Don’t Be Afraid To Edit/Delete Blog Comments

I am currently in the middle of a huge content audit here on this blog. Part of this content audit involves me going back and updating – even deleting – a ton of my old blog posts.

With the ones I update, I am also auditing the blog comments.

I used to be pretty liberal about blog comments around here. I’ve since changed my mind, but there’s still a lot of garbage comments on blog posts back in the archives. So, part of my content audit is to manually review every blog comment and delete it if I think it sucks.

Also, if a comment contains a backlink to the commenter’s site, I would delete it or just stop showing backlinks. Those links create a trashy link profile in the eyes of Google and can hurt your SEO traffic. Besides, anybody who would post a comment on your blog just for the backlink isn’t very likely to be doing it for the right reasons.

If a person posts a comment which is mostly good, but added some fluff or made some typos, feel free to edit it. They don’t own it.

So, delete comments even if you approved them in the past. It is YOUR site and YOUR content, even if they wrote it. So, you’re perfectly within your rights to delete it if it doesn’t help you – or edit it if you need to make it a little better for SEO.

So, you’ve decided to have blog comments enabled on your site. You’re being very strict on your moderation to ensure only something that’s actually useful for the long-term makes it into your comment section. Perhaps you’ve even made them jump through some hoops to post that comment.

You absolutely owe it to them to reply to their comment.

How would you feel if you walked up to somebody and said something or asked a question… and they just sat there stoically and stared at you? It would be incredibly uncomfortable, right?

It is also just incredibly important to have a two-way flow of communication with your audience. You never want people to feel unheard. You don’t want people to feel unacknowledged. You want people to communicate!

So, it should be a matter of policy to reply to every single blog comment on your site.

Also, apply the same rules to yourself as you would to determine if their comment is allowed in the first place. Namely, make your reply useful. Add something to the discussion. Answer their question fully. By all means, say “thank you” or something to that effect, but don’t just leave it at that.

Remember, every comment has long-term potential down the road. Reply with that in mind.

Getting More People To Post Blog Comments

The simple truth of the matter is that you shouldn’t care that much if people post comments. It is simply not a metric that actually matters in the growth of your traffic or your business.

You should be much more concerned with growing your email list and traffic in general than how many comments you get.

That said, I know some bloggers find if frustrating when nobody posts any responses to their blog posts. It can feel like you’re talking to yourself sometimes. I know… I’ve been there.

In almost all cases, it isn’t your fault you don’t get many comments. In fact, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with your blog.

Blog comments just aren’t the hot thing they used to be. We now live in an age of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Instagram and other social media channels. Those offer FAR more engaging experiences than blog comments, despite all the negatives.

You can also build engaging community experiences on WordPress using platforms like BuddyBoss.

Blog comments just aren’t very exciting. They’re not the best places for conversation. This is why I recommend you either turn them off or just use incredibly tight moderation practices with your comments.

But, if I were to offer any advice to people dead set on getting more blog comments, it would be this:

  1. Ask For Them. – Pretty simple. At the end of your blog posts, ask people to comment. Better yet, ask them a direct question related to your post, and ask them to answer it. Give them a REASON to comment. Give them some direction. Because if you leave it to them to come up with something to say, they probably won’t bother.
  2. Use Community Posts. – From time to time, you may want to consider posting a blog posts with the strategic intention of having it turn into a community-driven resource. In other words, you open up an issue or post a question in the post. Provide your input on that issue in the post. Then, the call to action on that post is specifically for the reader to post their two cents on that issue. This can drive engagement. Keep in mind that it won’t necessarily be a winner for SEO unless it really works because it may be a fairly short blog post by usual standards.
  3. Provoke them. In other words, straight-up instructional posts don’t always warrant a comment. Sometimes, you can inspire comments by provoking your audience by posting something really opinionated. You may even wade into controversial territory knowing full well you’re liable to inspire emotional reactions – both good and bad.
  4. Interact. I’ve also talked about how important it is to reply to every comment. It helps formulate the habit of conversation in your comments.
  5. Use email notifications. Give people the option to be notified of followup comments via email.

Generally, though, don’t waste too much time stressing out about your blog comments and how many you receive.

My Final Thoughts On This Issue…

Here at the Blog Marketing Academy, I’m all about blogging smarter. I’m about using a blog in a strategic fashion for the purposes of generating conversions and sales.

Sometimes, the smarter more strategic thing to do is simply turn off your blog comments. We’ve already established that it won’t hinder you in any way to do that.

However, if you want that capacity for readers to help make your content more valuable over time, then you can turn them on. Just do it smartly and be a strict moderator. Be relentless in ensuring that any comment that is published is good enough to be there. If I’m telling you can have ZERO comments and it won’t affect you in a bad way, then that certainly remains true for any single comment, too.

If you are seeing that value, then it might be worth wading through the inevitable comment spam and the stupid people who try posting garbage just for the backlink. Those people are stuck in an age that ended quite some time ago. They’re idiots. But, you’ll need to wade through it to find the good ones.

If you get enough good ones, it can help your content be more useful, help with your SEO, and perhaps even generate more shares and subscribers.

If you have a question or want me to clarify anything about this post, feel free to ask in the comments below. 🙂

If you just want to tell me how good this was, then email me. Because I’m going to practice what I preach and delete your comment unless it contains something useful. It isn’t anything personal. I love hearing from everybody. But, comments are different. It is content. And I have to think about the people who will be reading this post looking to solve a confusion for themselves a few months down the road.

If you’re going to comment, think of them, too. 🙂

Hope this was useful!

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