This is a post by ProBlogger expert Ali Luke
When you started out blogging, you were probably thrilled when you got a comment. People were reading your posts, and cared enough to leave their own thoughts.
As time went by, you probably found some of the comments very useful. Maybe they sparked off an idea for a different post, or gave you a perspective you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
But if you’ve been blogging for a long time, and your blog gets a lot of traffic, those comments may be starting to become less of a delight and more of a chore.
Responding to five comments on every post might take only ten minutes, so it’s no big deal. But responding to fifty could take you the best part of an hour.
If you write two posts a week, that’s two hours you’re spending on comments. You could have written another blog post in that time.
Even if you hire someone to respond on your behalf, you’re still paying for their time. And that money could probably be better spent getting help with something else.
So it’s no surprise that some people who run large blogs decide not to have comments at all.
In recent years, it’s become something of a trend. I’ve seen several blogs I read (avidly!) close their comments sections.
A few months ago one of my very favourite bloggers, Carol Tice from Make a Living Writing, decided to close comments on her blog. I’ve often glanced through the comments there, and I was always impressed by how often and how thoughtfully Carol responded. But I completely understand that it wasn’t sustainable.
What about your blog? Should you stop taking comments altogether? Or do you think blogs should have comments?
Deciding What to Do About Comments
When you launch a blog, chances are comments are enabled by default. It’s easy to run with them enabled, but there’s no rule that says blogs must have comments.
Here are a few things you might want to think about.
- What value do you get from comments? Does your blog attract thoughtful, engaged readers who leave comments that spark off great ideas for you? Or are most of the comments spam or very short comments that don’t really add any value?
- Are you happy with how much time you currently spend moderating / answering comments? You may well be. On my Aliventures blog I post only once a week, and rarely spend more than ten minutes a week answering comments. This is perfectly sustainable for me.
- Would your readers prefer to interact with you in a different location (e.g. on your Facebook page)? Obviously there are pros and cons to doing this. But some blogs encourage readers to leave feedback on social media platforms instead of (or as well as) commenting on posts themselves.
- Do you get worried or stressed over comments? Even if it doesn’t take you long to respond to comments, they can still cause a lot of anxiety – especially if you’re writing in a niche where readers tend to be snarky or critical.
There are no right or wrong answers here, and different bloggers will come to different conclusions about what to do. For a couple of useful perspectives, take a look at:
Blog Commenting Isn’t Dead – It’s Different, Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing
This is a thoughtful, detailed look at comments and whether or not we should disable them on blogs, along with an in-depth explanation about the “Campfire” (a thriving Facebook group Charlie runs for his readers) and the role it plays in encouraging conversations.
Do Comments Actually Increase Your Search Traffic? A Data-Driven Answer, Neil Patel, Quick Sprout
This post digs deep into whether comments benefit your blog in terms of search engine traffic, and concludes that they have a small impact. (Obviously, you might be looking for different benefits from comments.)
Of course, removing comments doesn’t have to be a decision you make once and stick to forever. Like Copyblogger and Michael Hyatt, you may want to experiment with removing comments for… say, a year. You can always re-enable them.
If you don’t want to switch off comments completely, but want to reduce how much time you spend dealing with them, you might want to think about:
#1: Installing a Robust Anti-Spam Plugin
Removing spam comments can take up a lot of time. (And if you don’t weed them out promptly, they make your site look bad). To save yourself a lot of effort, install a good anti-spam plugin such as Akismet. It will remove almost all spam comments before you even see them.
#2: Closing Comments on Older Posts
There’s no rule that says you need to leave comments open forever. Many large blogs close comments on older posts after a set period of time (e.g. two weeks, one month, etc.) Readers can all join in the discussion when the post first goes live, but readers who stumble across it a year later won’t be able to comment. This can cut down on spam, and means you have a smaller number of conversations to keep track of at any given time.
You can change this under Settings –> Discussion in your WordPress dashboard. Look for the line that says “Automatically close comments on articles older than (X) days” and set (X) to whatever you want.
#3: Using Disqus or Facebook Comments (or Another Plugin)
While many bloggers are happy with WordPress’ built-in commenting functionality, others prefer to use a different system. Disqus and Facebook Comments are both popular, though there are other options as well.
For a look into the pros and cons of each, check out James Parson’s post Facebook vs Disqus vs WordPress Comments: Which to Use?
Ultimately, what you do about comments is entirely up to you.
Some bloggers have strong opinions, and feel that comments are a defining feature of a blog. But most people are fairly pragmatic about it, and agree that comments are valuable. They add to the discussion, can bring in interesting ideas / alternative perspectives, and create a greater sense of “buy in” for readers. They can even potentially help with search engine traffic by providing extra content.
But comments also come at a cost – your time and attention – and it’s up to you to decide whether they’re worth it.
Do you currently have comments enabled on your blog or not? Are you thinking about changing this? Let us know your thoughts below.