Why You Should Think Twice Before Removing Blog Comments

Recently, a few top-notch bloggers, including Jay Dolan, of The Anti Social Media, and Copyblogger, have made the decision to get rid of blog comments. I have read (and re-read) each of their posts multiple times, trying desperately to understand the logic behind this move.

They stated a number of reasons for removing comments including:

  • Too much spam
  • No meaningful discussions
  • The conversations have moved to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc.

As much as I respect these bloggers and the amazing content they crank out week after week, I find serious flaws in each of these reasons. I just can’t wrap my head around what would cause someone to voluntarily remove blog comments from such large, thriving blogs.

Getting rid of blog comments is like getting rid of the essence of your community. Jeff Atwood, who founded StackOverflow, went as far as to say, “a blog without comments is not a blog.” 

While this may sound a bit extreme, a blog is nothing without an audience. Most people will be content to be passive readers and will never comment. This is one of the reasons why Rich Millington, who runs the Feverbee blog, removed comments over a year ago. “For every great discussion we typically see take place via blog comments, there are a lot more no discussions or bad discussions,” said Millington.

While many posts may never see a comment, others will. Generally, the comments will be from your most loyal fans. It’s one of the reasons why I make an effort to acknowledge and respond to every single comment on this blog.  If you want to build an avid, raving community around your blog, you should make it as easy as possible for them to leave their thoughts. And, a comment section does just that.

Combatting blog spam 

Copyblogger wrote that of the 100s of thousands of comments they previously received, only 4% were legit comments. Everything else was spam.

While there is no doubt that spam comments are an annoying problem, I can’t see that problem as being one so severe that you would remove comments all together, especially since spam filtering is continuing to get better. Tools, like Disqus and Livefyre, have auto spam filters that catch the vast majority of it.

No meaningful discussions

Jay actually went as far as to write, “There is no meaningful conversation in the comments. None.” 

That’s a shame. Some of the best posts I have ever read have happened to be in the comment section of blog posts. There’s the post from Chris Brogan, where he announced his great Twitter unfollow experiment. It generated more than 350 comments. Most of the comments brought valuable knowledge, context or POVs to the table.

Or. I think of Gini Dietrich’s Livefyre Q&As. She brings in various authors and PR professionals to host a chat all within the blog comments.

When you can generate 100s of comments – all bringing unique POVs and information to the table- that’s when you know you have hit comment gold.

“I’m a fan of comments, warts and all.” said Jeff Atwood. “They’re noisy, sure, but in my experience they reliably produce crowdsourced knowledge in aggregate.”

Does this require a little more work to manage? Of course. However with strong commenting guidelines + a great moderator, the experience for your readers can be become so much richer.

Why would any blogger want to give that up?

The conversations have moved to social media channels. 

Your blog is something that you own- assuming you go the self-hosted route instead of using Tumblr or Medium. But, that’s a different post altogether.

People who take the time to write comments (even if you don’t have a lot) are generally your most passionate, loyal readers. They are the folks, who make up your small army of the most loyal community members.

Blog comments demonstrate a level of commitment and participation in the community that amplifies their quality,” said Nick Westergaard, Brand Driven Digital.

Moving comments/discussions from an owned platform, like a blog, to a public space that you “rent” like a Facebook page, Twitter, Google Plus, Linkedin or insert your social media channel du jour, is one of the dumbest things you can do for your community.

Putting all your comments on social media is inherently risky. What happens if Facebook were to make a massive algorithm change or just completely disappear tomorrow? How long would it take you to recover?

It’s great to use social media to increase awareness and exposure. But when you rely too heavily on it, and make it your only way to get feedback from your community, you are treading into dangerous waters.

Seeing how big the Copyblogger blog is, all I can hope is that this doesn’t become a new industry standard. I would strongly caution bloggers think twice before they get rid of their comment section.

Do you have a comments section on your blog? Would you ever remove it? I would like to hear your thoughts within the comment section below (no pun intended).