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Blog Comments: Stop The Madness!

Blog comments is one of the subjects that came up over and over again in the reviews that I received in the Review Contest that took place recently here at Dukeo.

Seeing the kind of information about blog comments that circulates these days, it’s really not a big surprise that my somewhat different approach to blog comments made people wonder why I was doing things this way.

Regarding blog comments, people kept saying that:

  1. I should use Disqus or another comment management system,
  2. I should use CommentLuv,
  3. I shouldn’t require a minimum blog comments length.

I can see why everyone would ask me these questions about blog comments… I’m taking a direction completely opposite to what everyone else is currently doing in the blogosphere.

blog comments madness

In the first part of this post, I’ll speak about blog comments management systems, and in a second time, I’ll address the more controversial subject of CommentLuv and my minimum blog comments length requirement.

Blog Comments Management Systems: Eye Candy & Automated Spam Control

Let’s start by addressing the question about Disqus and other blog comments management systems: I do not and will not use Disqus or any other comment management system anytime soon.

The first reason why I refuse to use these systems is that I want to keep full control over the way things are displayed on Dukeo, incuding blog comment design. Disqus and other blog comment widget add fancy things to your comments: hovercards, colapsable things, voting system. Why would I need any of these? I try to keep the layout of Dukeo as unclutered, clean and simple as possible, so I’m definitely not going to add something that’ll make it more complicated.

Secondly, some of these systems create a new layer of services where your visitors have to create an account… Seriously, who needs yet another account?

Lastly, blog comments management systems are supposed to help prevent automated spam. Yet, like any other system that spreads like wildfire, there are people smelling the opportunity of getting easy backlinks by creating spam bots specifically targeted at these services.

blog comments management system

On Dukeo, I’m using the basic WordPress comment system, and Akismet is doing a very good job at stopping automated spam. Sure, there is a false positive once in a while, but it’s really marginal compared to the number of spam comments it’s stopping.

In addition to Akismet, I’m currently using G.A.S.P. a plugin that adds a checkbox in Javascript to prevent bots from posting comments. Some bots seem to have caught up with the trick recently but overal it’s still working very nicely.

Here are a few more tricks that I’m using to keep my comment section clean:

1. Navigate to Settings > Discussion

2. Set Comment Moderation to hold a comment in the queue if it contains 1 or more links

3. In the Comment Blacklist box, paste the following:

goo.gl
bit.ly
tinyurl.com

Recently, I’ve seen some bots that are using shorten links in comments. I don’t know any legitimate commentor that would do that, so it keeps spambots and manual affiliate links spammers away.

4. In Other comment settings set WordPress to Automatically close comments on articles older than 14 days.

Spam bots usually target pages that are ranking for certain keywords. Since it takes a little time for Google to update rankings of fresh pages, you’ll give enough time to regular readers to comment while stopping bots when you start ranking.

Blog Comments: CommentLuv & Minimum Comment Length

Now that I’ve got automated spam out of the way, it’s time to focus on another problem: the huge pile of BS about blog comments that’s being spread by a lot of bloggers.

You see, there are people who are hoarding blog comments like crazy. They keep being told that it’s the way to go, that nothing beats comments in the 3 digits to show how active their community is… And then, they make peanuts from their blogs.

Once you’ll undertand that people have been shoveling blog commenting BS down your throats for years, maybe you’ll have a better understanding of my choices about blog comment management on Dukeo.

First of all, you have to realize that most of the people that comment on your blog have their own agenda. Sorry to put you in front of the harsh reality so bluntly, but you have to stop living in your fantasy world.

Why do people post blog comments?

why blog comments

When you ask people why they comment on blogs:

  • 80% reply that they do it to interact with others,
  • 20% reply that they do it to get links back to their own website.

O RLY?

Are you sure you don’t have ANY not-so-hidden agenda of your own?

Then let’s take a couple real-life examples, shall we?

A while ago, John Chow got his blog redesigned. Before the redesign, he was displaying a sitewide list of Top Commentors in the sidebar of his blog. As a result, he was regularly receiving 50+ comments on each blog post. After the redesign and the removal of the plugin, he is now receiving an average of 10+ or 20+ comments per post. Since his search engine rankings don’t seem to have tanked a bit, the only viable explanation to the drop in comments is that people can’t get sitewide links from him anymore so they don’t bother commenting.

My second example is even more obvious, check some average blogs (I don’t mean “average” in a negative way here, just average in terms of size), and compare the number of comments on blogs with CommentLuv enabled and without CommentLuv. See a trend yet? Blogs with CommentLuv tend to receive tens or even hundreds of comments on each post. I concede that they can publish some epic content from time to time, but every single article they publish is receiving tons of comments.

To me commentLuv is a community faker.

Sure, when you use CommentLuv, you get plenty of comments, but it doesn’t necessary convert to leads and sales because commentors are not there to be part of your community. They are there to get backlinks.

I understand why people use it: receiving so many comments is good for ego, and it shows that you have an amazingly active community.

Now, I’d love to see any of these medium-sized blogs removing CommentLuv for a full month (without saying that it will be re-enabled in the future) and see if their community is still so active and still loves them as much.

I think the truth behind why people post blog comments is more likely:

  • 20% to interact with others,
  • 80% to get links back to their own website.

I have absolutely no problem with people getting a link back to their website when they post a comment on a blog. That’s what the URL field is made for. But it gets me to my last point: requiring a minimum length for comments.

As much as comments such as “nice post“, “loved it“, “great content” or “will use that info soon“, are great to inflate your comment count, I find it funny that people who post this kind of comments never (like never ever) forget to fill the URL field in the comment form.

I mean, do people who own websites are the only ones who can appreciate great content and sum up their whole opinion in a short 5 words? (irony inside)

Or maybe they’re not posting this comment to express their opinion… But simply because they think they’ll get a quick and easy link back to their own website.

Everybody knows how to post a comment, but it seems that knowing how to write good comments is a whole different beast.

I think people misunderstand what the value of blog comments really is. Before trying to get as many blog comments as you can (and possibly ending up spending whole days moderating and replying to comments), you should ask yourself what is your real goal with your blog.

What is YOUR vision?

Is it all about getting as many comments as possible (because someone told you that you should have lots of comments on your blog) and figuring out later what you’re going to do with all that?

Or is it about identifying your goals and aligning your whole blogging strategy with your vision?

You see, my vision for Dukeo is to have a community that expresses ideas and opinions, that interacts in order to bounce ideas at each other to get something bigger out of the discussion.

And while I always appreciate receiving positive feedback, I prefer asking commentors to write at least 200 characters and bring their own ideas and experiences to the discussion rather than just approving with a simple “nice post“.

If an article, that you just found interesting enough to comment on, doesn’t inspire you to write a comment that has to be barely longer than a Tweet, I don’t know what will…

If receiving less comments because of the minimum comment length means less “nice post“, “loved it“, “great content” or “will use that info soon“, I’m in, any day of the week.

I may receive (a lot) less comments than (a lot of) other (CommentLuv enabled) smaller blogs, but comments on Dukeo are genuine quality comments posted by genuine quality people who like to share their thoughts and have a rich discussion.

As such, I’d like to thank the readers who take some of their time to share their thoughts in the comments on Dukeo. Having you around means the world to me.

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16 Comments (Add one)

  1. Ivin Viljoen

    CommentLuv IS getting a lot of negative press lately, and Andy’s working hard to fix the shortcomings for the criticism.

    Link building is one small part of a commenting strategy. There are a lot more involved. Your test is a true one, remove the benefits of your commenting and see who sticks, those are true fans and community members.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      I don’t think the negative side that I’m seeing with CommentLuv can be fixed like that.

      Blog comments are useful only as a tool to create interaction and to build an active community that will respond and react to your offers. It’s not about getting as many as you can…

  2. Ryan Biddulph

    I love this idea Ste and am thinking about adopting it on my blogs, to attract people who REALLY want to be there.

    200 characters is such a minimal amount; if people cannot share 30 seconds of their time, good riddance.

    I delete any short comment anyway but the system you use would save me time.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Dukeo used to receive between 10 and 20 comments per day most of which were only attempts at getting easy backlinks. I’m glad I made this change. I’m not wasting time on moderating worthless comments anymore.

  3. Sherrilynne Starkie
    Sherrilynne Starkie

    Really good post. I’ve been thinking about blog commenting a lot lately. We’ve installed disqus on our corporate blog, but I still do it the old fashioned way on my own blog. I’ve heard that these commenting systems to make it easier to track conversation. I’m reserving judgement until I use it a bit more and see how it works for myself.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      You’ll hear everything and its contrary about these commenting systems. What’s important is what you’re really doing with them.

      So you’re telling that they make it easier to track conversation… How so? What’s so specific about them that makes your life easier?

      1. Sherrilynne Starkie

        Well you can see all the comments you’ve left and any replies on one page. Keeping it together helps you track the conversation, and I think, boost engagement. It saves you having to remember where you’ve commented.

  4. Bryony Thomas

    I’ve read and loved lots of your posts. I’ve never commented before. That doesn’t mean I’m not engaged. You can’t see me, but I’m almost always nodding and smiling as I read. And I regularly share your posts on Twitter, etc. So – why no comments from me? I generally feel that you have it pretty well nailed, and that all I could really add is a ‘hear hear’ from the sidelines. If I comment, I always hope to add some value, new opinion or an alternative angle to add to the discussion. So, maybe (if your other readers are a little like me) silence is simply agreement, rather than lack of engagement.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Bryony, I completely understand what you mean, and I’m not worried at all by the low number of comments.

      My traffic stats are showing that Dukeo is healthy and that a decent number of people visit on a regular basis.

      I really prefer reviewing and replying to quality comments that add to the discussion anyway.

  5. Scott Allen

    I totally get your point, but let me add a couple of other thoughts.

    First off, I fully understand that commenters coming in for some CommentLuv love are not necessarily going to convert into customers or even ad-clickers. But I work in online reputation management, and I’ve done the split testing to know with 100% certainty that blog comment activity affects search engine rankings. So if someone’s not monetizing that, that’s a completely different problem. Getting more comments will boost your rankings, period.

    I do love the idea of just using the built-in Comment Blacklist to block URL shorteners — very clever and elegant in its simplicity.

    While I have avoided implementing Disqus or Facebook comments, my friend Chris Lang just did a blog post about the new Google+ Comments for WordPress plugin, with some pretty interesting results for SEO. I’m planning to test it and see.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Scott, do you have hard data to back up your claim that more comments = better rankings?

      I think you’re confusing the cause and the consequence.

      From what I observed: longer relevant content = better rankings. As a result, a page with more comments appears to have more content, so it appears more relevant. It’s not about the number of comments, it’s about the quantity of content on page.

      1. Pam Moore

        I would also like to see this data. I beg to differ and have some data that is exactly opposite. Some of our most viral content as well as highest ranking organic content has FEW comments yet we get high converting leads.

        I don’t think there is a simple or black and white answer here. It all depends on your audience. I know for a fact much of our target audience for converting sales does NOT comment. They are CEOs, CMOs, CXOs, VP Marketing and directors. They may not even have a Gravatar profile. Yet they follow us for days, weeks, months and years and then “boom” decide to make a call for a proposal to quick contract because of the content we have been sharing, the email nurturing we have been doing. It has absolutely ZERO to do with comments and they could literally not give a rip if we have comments or not.

        Though on the flip side I have gotten a few leads from comments. However, they are few & far between that we get on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Though it’s important to note my blog and our agency blog content is the hook, line and sinker.

  6. Scott Allen

    Yes, I have hard data to back up my claim that more comments = better rankings. I can’t share the data due to client confidentiality, but I can tell you the general methodology and findings:

    Our client is a direct selling company that got 20+ of their top leaders blogging on a regular basis. Most of the posts were 500 words or more, but we also tested some shorter posts, both with and without links. We monitored search results on a short list of keywords, all of which were included in almost every post. All started from scratch, all linked to each other in blogrolls.

    The factors that best correlated to search rankings were:

    #1 – Inclusion of the keyword in the title/URL
    #2 – Social signals
    #3 – # of blog comments
    #4 – Recency of blog comments

    Not keyword density. Not link anchor text. Definitely not post length (again, none of them were very, very short). Not (interestingly enough) hosting platform — some were WordPress.com, some were Blogger, some were Typepad, some were self-hosted WordPress.

    Granted, this was all before Penguin 2.0, but I don’t see anything in that update that would cause this to change.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      That’s definitely some interesting findings. Thanks a lot for sharing.

      What about comment content?

      Comment length? One liners comments? Several paragraphs in each comment? keyword-rich comments? Links in comments? Author URLs filled or not?

      1. Scott Allen

        Didn’t dig quite that deep. We just had real people commenting, and we got a mix — from one-liners to novellas, and everything in between. We did tell people to fill out the author URLs and they should all have been dofollow links.

        Another relevant fact and data point:

        There was very little interaction from outside this group — 80% of that activity was from this fishbowl of 20 people, and the rest was made up of probably another 50 people or so (their immediate teams).

        The other interesting data point is that within 6 months, we got most of the sites to a MOZ DA of 20-25. Not bad starting from scratch.

  7. Pam Moore

    Good points here. I agree with you. You touch on exactly why I did not ever implement Comment Luv. I did a ton of research, watched, listened, engaged on many blogs. What I have found the past few yrs rings true to your points here in that Comment Luv seems to attract people who want to comment to get a link back. I too have seen VERY average blog posts getting hundreds of comments via comment Luv.

    I have used both LiveFyre and Disqus. I wound up coming back to Disqus mostly because “it works.” I don’t have to worry about the JS conflicts as I did with LiveFyre.

    I would much rather have real comments from people who want to truly engage in conversation vs having a secondary goal of a link back.