How many times have you seen someone stressing that in today’s online world, you need to “engage, engage, engage”?
Blogs are an important part of that process – as a vehicle for sharing and subsequently generating engagement through their Comments facilities.
I’ve always been a fan of forums, I follow and read many Blogs, and in the past 12 months have become active on social media services – and I participate / engage on all of them.
Nonetheless, two days ago, we disabled the Comments facility on our Blog – and hid all past comments to maintain consistency.
Now this goes against what all the “experts” recommend and places our Blog in the small minority of Blogs which do not provide a Comments facility.
However, it was a carefully considered decision, one which took into account:
Our Blogs Objective, Operation and Use
- Our Blog is a not a traditional Blog but rather an Article Library provided as a support tool for those seeking additional information / perspectives on money-related subjects. Articles are predominantly how to / educational oriented rather than the more popular opinion and media oriented posts.
- Our Blog comprises articles from a variety of contributing Authors who have other obligations. Therefore, we do not expect them to participate in conversations which flow. (The ideal with a Blog is that all comments are responded to, something which is easy when the Blog is maintained by an individual, but not possible in our case.)
- Like most Blogs, our Blog has a high bounce rate – i.e. people come in and read the one post and then move on. By comparison, our website visitors typically view an average of 4 pages. We follow all the conventional Blog engagement techniques – e.g. Related Posts, links inside the articles, etc. They do work … but clearly don’t encourage the same level of interest as our broader website.
- Many of the people we deal with comment on our Blog articles, but they do so directly rather than via comments on our Blog. This direct communication is more valuable than any comments left on the Blog as it allows us to expand on it quite dramatically – in private.
- The level of engagement on our Blog has dropped even though we now provide access to more subject areas and a lot more posts – and have more visitors to the Blog than ever before. Unfortunately, many people judge a Blog by the number of comments it attracts and this can impact on their assessment of the Article. It’s an incorrect way of looking at things but that is human nature!
- The amount of time managing comments – i.e. reviewing before approval plus clearing out bot generated spam – cannot be justified. Yes, there are tools like Comment Luv which can manage this task for you, but I am a personal believer that engagement is best when “one-on-one” and “in private”.
The Impact Of Social Media
Social media has created a major shift in Internet usage patterns and this, I believe, is causing some of the drop off in Blog comments:
- My observation is that traditional Blog followers still prefer to comment on the Blogs of the people they follow – but the exact opposite seems to be happening with new followers / readers.
- Social media curators are bringing Blog posts to their followers attention. However, instead of commenting on the Blog, many of these new readers comment on the social media service instead. It is now quite common to see no comments or only a handful of comments on a Blog yet within Google+ see thirty (30) or more comments on the referring post.
- Google+ is having a significant impact here as there are no limits on post length, allowing you to post your thoughts there in detail as you would with your own Blog. Whilst it should NOT be considered a replacement for a Blog, many people are using it that way.
- Many of these people are curating massive amounts of information – in some cases upwards of 20 posts a day – and that leaves less time to share their thoughts on traditional Blogs.
- Many curators are sharing a Blog post on their social media account – and including their comments there rather than on the Blog itself. This is a very positive move for Bloggers, especially the media oriented blogs whose survival depends on clicks for attracting advertising revenue!
- These are not short term trends as many people are now allocating a big proportion of their online time to social media and therefore Comments on a Blog won’t, in my opinion, be as vital as they were two years ago.
With all of the above in mind, disabling the Comments facility on our Blog is not a harmful move. In fact, I believe it will allow us to allocate our time to what we know produces the best results for our business rather than being a diversion!
This is the key point – something you need to assess in terms of what you do on your website, not just with Blog Comments, but with every facility you provide.
Please Note: We are not a media channel, SEO service provider or dedicated blogger. Some of the points above would have been viewed very differently if our business was in any of these areas.
Since publishing this article, a number of groups have followed suit and removed Comments from their Blogs. There is a counter argument to what we have done as explained in this Techcrunch article.
UPDATE (22 November 2013): With the move to a new website and an updated Blog, we will be re-opening comments with a LIMITED “open for comment” timeframe. Moderation will continue.