Why (and how) blog comments can still benefit your marketing and SEO
While blogging is a fantastic way to share information about your business and industry, to educate your audience and build trust, it’s a one-way street. You’re the only one doing the talking. But when you allow comments you’re no longer just broadcasting but encouraging a two-way dialogue with your readers.
But of course maintaining a comment section takes time and resources. It’s not uncommon for popular bloggers to spend hours addressing comments, hours that they could use to craft another post, or handle other tasks to promote their blog further. Then there’s the issue of spam, which can have a negative impact on your site’s search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts.
So do blog comments still matter or help in any way, especially now that there are so many social media platforms available to discuss a piece of content?
It depends on your goals. Many businesses have chosen to take the conversation to social media and remove blog comments, like we did, because they have a big following and believe more people can join in the conversation this way.
But if you’re a small business just getting started online, and you’re only now taking the steps to grow your social media following, having a comments section on your blog is encouraged and can prove to be beneficial to your business. Here’s why…
How comments can benefit your marketing
Here are just a few reasons why having a comments section on your blog can benefit your marketing efforts:
Direct interaction with your audience
When people don’t have access to a human aspect, they find it easier to dismiss a blog as just a brand or a faceless entity that doesn’t care. The blog comments section gives you the unique opportunity to do a little PR by appearing reachable and human.
Also, having a comments section where you interact with people shows that your blog is not a one-way street, where you blast your content out to them and you’re unwilling to hear from your readers. This is particularly important if you’re trying to build your blog traffic.
When you see a blog post with a good number of comments, it usually indicates a certain authority. But authority isn’t built just by publishing a great blog post and having lots of comments from your readers. You can build it further by replying to comments and interacting with your readers. So read the comments you receive and answer questions and concerns, and add to the conversation to show the world you know you’re knowledgeable and an expert in your field.
The enjoyment of being a regular
A coffee shop that I go to almost daily knows what I’m going to order before I order it. I love that. It’s one of the great things about being a regular.
So your comments section is where the regulars gather. After some time, they’ll get to know each other and your blog. They can help turn your blog from being just a blog, or a sequential posting of articles, into a conversation that happens every time you post new content. So think of the blog comments section as the coffee house of the web, where you introduce the topic of conversation, and then regulars start discussing it.
Makes conversations easier to follow
Allowing social media to be the primary platform for conversation on your content may bring some interaction, but it’ll likely be for a short time. That’s because conversation on social media fades away as the news feeds change.
What’s more, a conversation happening in many different places becomes fragmented, diluted, and difficult to follow. Different people might be saying interesting things about your content on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, but you don’t always know about it. It’s frustrating.
So, a comments section makes it easier for readers who find your blog content to follow along and make sense of how the conversation goes.
Of course, you also have other options that can help bring that “outside” conversation back onto your own blog. Many blogs use comment systems like Disqus or Livefyre that help tie your blog’s comments into that social pulse.
Build a community on a platform you own
You don’t own your presence on social networks like Twitter or Facebook. These platforms come and go, but your blog is forever. If all conversation on your content is happening on social networks, what will you do in the event these data silos move on and all that great content is lost?
Stands as social proof of your blog
If you see a blog post with lots of comments, you’ll probably be curious to know what people are talking about. Furthermore, you’ll be more likely to join in when there are plenty more in the conversation. This is social proof: when we see a crowd, we think there must be something good happening there. So if you have a comments section, make sure to do your best to encourage people to jump in as comments help encourage more comments.
A great place to get new ideas for fresh content
If you’re looking for new content ideas for your blog, the comments section is a good place for idea generation. It’s a group of people batting ideas around. So use the additional tips, advice and questions from your readers to create a new interesting blog post (or two or three).
How comments can help boost your SEO
But comments aren’t just beneficial for your marketing efforts. They can also help boost your SEO efforts.
You already know that Google loves quality content. That doesn’t just refer to the content you produce, but also to the ones your readers produce – in this case, comments.
Google’s John Mueller confirmed Google views comments as part of a page’s content, also adding that comments are a positive signal when they’re insightful and add to the conversation:
In a Hangout in 2014, John Mueller said great comments can be a positive thing for a website.
“That’s something where we essentially try to treat these comments as part of your content. So if these comments bring useful information in addition to the content that you’ve provided also on these pages, then that could be a really good addition to your website. It could really increase the value of your website overall. If the comments show that there’s a really engaged community behind there that encourages new users when they go to these pages to also comment, to go back directly to these pages, to recommend these pages to their friends, that could also be a really good thing.”
So if you’re getting good comments, they not only add to the quality content on your page, they also show user engagement and can reflect how popular and authoritative your site really is.
And here’s another SEO benefit to consider: if a reader leaves a good comment, they’re more likely to come back and revisit your blog to read new comments, or even visit other pages on your blog and website. Plus, those who leave a comment are also more likely to link to your page so others can read their comment too. This is also a good way to earn links.
Be careful, comments can get spammy
Just like you ensure your blog posts are high quality and bring value to the conversation, you should also do the same with the comments you receive. Why? Because while great comments can boost a site in the search results, poor quality comments can have a negative impact on your website.
Let’s explain. It’s not just Google that values and rewards great content (or punishes low-quality one), but also your users. If they see lots of auto-approved spam content selling pharmaceuticals and get rich quick scams, they will perceive your blog (and your site, by extension) as being low quality, even if the blog post might be very high quality. But if the comments are interesting, useful and add value to the conversation, users are more likely to stick around and join the discussion.
So make sure you’re constantly reviewing comments and not approving low quality or spammy ones.
If you’re worried about spammy comments negatively affecting your site, make sure to read Google’s tips on how to prevent spam.
Here’s a short overview:
- Keep your software up-to-date and pay extra attention to important security updates. You don’t want spammers taking advantage of security issues or vulnerabilities in the older versions.
- Add a CAPTCHA like reCAPTCHA that requires users to confirm they’re human beings and not an automated script.
- Close old and inactive comment threads. If you have posts with lots of comments but people are no longer adding new comments, you might consider disabling any new comments for that post to prevent spammers from abusing it.
- Moderate all comments. You should review all comments before they go live. Now, if you have a popular blog and think you don’t have time to review all comments, you could at least require moderating for comments with links to ensure no spam gets through.
- Blacklist spammy or inappropriate terms like phrases related to the pharmaceutical industry.
- Use the “nofollow” attribute for links in the comment field. This will prevent spammers from targeting your site. There are blogging sites (such as Blogger) that automatically add this attribute to any posted comment.
- Use anti-spam tools like Akismet to prevent spam on your blog and site.
If you’re blogging for business, know that real value results from a community dialogue that leads to loyal, emotional connection. You can’t achieve that if you’re preventing your audience from interacting with you, and each other, on your blog.
Now, if you fear the issue of comments, look at moderating the low-quality ones instead of removing them altogether.