Comment Policy: How Does It Affect Your Readership?
Whether you accept all comments, moderate before approving or shut them down altogether is entirely up to you. I’ve seen successful blogs that have some of the most vile comments you can image and I’ve see successful blogs that allow no comments at all. But before you remove all your filters let’s take a look at how your comment policy affects your readership.
Why Should You Allow Comments On Your Blog?
Social Proof – Having a lot of comments shows that your blog is an active and engaging place. When new visitors arrive they’re more likely to stick around, and return, if they see comments.
Engagement – When your visitors see that other people have left comments they’re more likely to join in the conversation. Eventually you have a little community on your blog.
Repeat visitors – Many people follow the RSS feed when they leave comments. At the very least they’ll bookmark that thread so they can come back and see if anyone replied to their comment.
Why You Should Moderate Comments On Your Blog
Because all types of bloggers visit this blog, I’m going to break this down into two sections: Advice for those who blog in How To Blog or Make Money Online niche, and advice for those who blog about everything else.
First, let’s talk about blogs in the “everything else” niche
Your blog is your online home and the people who visit your blog are your guests. Because it’s your home it’s entirely up to you to decide how rowdy you want to let your guests get. Keep in mind though, that one bad apple can spoil it for the whole bunch.
A good host will make sure that all of his guests are comfortable and that they all feel safe when they visit his home. There are some blogs where rough comments from flamers and trolls are appropriate and welcome, but in most cases these rowdy commentors will offend the rest of your visitors.
If you let these flamers and trolls leave comments regularly, eventually your other visitors are going to stop commenting because they don’t like to be attacked. Chances are they’ll probably stop visiting, too, because your blog is a hostile atmosphere and you’ve made it perfectly clear you don’t care by allowing this behavior.
Eventually, the only comments on your blog will be negative and inflammatory and that’s the type of traffic you’ll end up attracting because more genteel visitors will go find a safer, more comfortable blog.
In most niches most people don’t even know about linking, or they don’t care, or they have nothing to link to. They’re commenting because they want to join the discussion. You’ll see comment spam from Internet marketers but it’s typically just stupid, not offensive. However, it can sometimes lead to some very questionable content, so it’s best to just delete it if you’re sure it’s just spam.
Now, let’s talk about the Make Money Online niche…
If you blog in the Make Money Online niche, things are a little bit different. A lot of people leave comments on your blog so they can get a link back to their own blog. You’ll see lots of comment spam and lots of stupid, worthless comments, all left just so the blogger can get a link.
You’ll also see long comments that appear to add value, like a comment that was left on one of my recent posts. These are from bloggers who are trying to game the system so they can get that link. Even though they may appear to ad value, they’re really just promoting their link.
In my opinion, bloggers in this niche put too much emphasis on looking for blogs that let them leave links in their comments. In fact, a lot of bloggers in this niche won’t leave a comment unless they can get a link, yet they won’t allow an outsider to leave a comment unless it’s “valuable.” C’est la vie…
How Does Your Comment Policy Affect Your Readers?
Your comment policy, like everything else you do with your blog, will only significantly affect your readers if you change it. Only a small percentage of readers actually leave comments regularly, so that’s not what brings the bulk of your visitors to your blog. But if they enjoy the community atmosphere and you just close down your comments tomorrow, or even if you just start moderating more strictly, your regular commentors are going to get upset.
Will your readers eventually adjust to the change? Some will, some won’t. Like I said, only a small percentage of your readers will comment regardless of your policy. Look at some of the A-list bloggers. There might have been 200,000 people read that post and you’ll see one or two hundred comments.
It’s best to have a clear comment policy in effect from the minute you launch your blog. Draw your own boundaries and stick to it. Moderate every single comment or set your filters to pick up keywords you want held for moderation, or just open it up full-throttle.
But remember, you’re the host and your readers are counting on your to make them feel welcome. If your comment policy is wide open for flamers, trolls and bots, you’ll attract a lot more comments, but you’ll also offend a lot more of your readers.
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