What Is The Value Of A Blog Comment?

Someone told me that it doesn’t matter what sort of commenting system you use on your blog because comments are dead.

I asked why and they told me their personal and business blogs don’t receive any comments and that they never leave them anymore.

blog comment

photo credit: Sebastian Anthony via photopin cc

That is not the sort of analysis that makes me comfortable. It is not smart to make business decisions based solely on gut feelings.

It doesn’t mean there is not a time for going with your gut or that it will/will not work out. It just means when you are dealing with things that are measurable, it doesn’t hurt to check the metrics.

What Value is There in A Blog Comment?

I have a love/hate relationship with comments. Many marketers/bloggers use them as a sort of currency or social proof of the success of their blogs, but I don’t.

That is because I find that to be too simplistic. You can look at a post with a 100 comments and find that the majority of them were made by just a couple of people and that very few of them advanced the conversation.

Is that really a sign of success. Do people really want 29 different versions of “great post” added to the 33 different ways that others said “thank you for writing this.”

I don’t see that as being indicative of anything of importance which is why I finished those sentences with a period and not a question mark. For good measure it is worth noting that I wonder about blogs where the comments are filled with nothing but praise for the blogger. That bothers me too.

My preference is to see a comment section that shows that the community is composed of people who think and are thoughtful. I like to see commenters challenge the writer and other commenters.

That doesn’t mean that I am looking for flame wars or insults. Nor does it mean that every post has to have Pulitzer Prize winning comments either.

Comments and Communities

Take a look at the comment sections of Spin Sucks and/or Grow, and you’ll see examples of how comment sections build community and lend life to the blog.

Both of them are populated by reader/commenters who are interested in learning and growing. It is not uncommon to find long threads about topics and or to see people challenge the beliefs/ideas of the writer and other commenters.

These communities didn’t grow in vacuum. They happened because the blog owners spent time creating and cultivating environments that supported this.

In return they were rewarded with comment sections that generate content ideas for their blogs and communities that are composed of people that are invested in the blog.

How Do You Recreate This On Your Blog?

There is no single formula for how to build a blog, but compelling content is always going to be part of the foundation.

But you need more than good content, you need to be active in responding to comments and encouraging responses.

You also need to pay attention to the community and provide a commenting system that is user friendly. Every community is different so the answer to what system you should use can range from the WordPress native commenting system to CommentLuv, Livefyre or DISQUS.

There are other systems out there beyond those I mentioned. Ultimately it is up to you to figure out which one is preferred by your particular community.

The other key thing to remember is that communities don’t develop overnight. It takes time and effort to build one.

It helps if you view this as a marathon and not a sprint.

What do you think?

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  • Hey Josh,

    I've been meaning to get to this post and read it for awhile now so I finally made it by. One of my favorite topics of course.

    Okay, I guess I'm screwed because I mostly get praise over at my place. Not that I don't appreciate someone disagreeing with me and I've had a few from time to time but I think what I share is mostly stuff that I feel is helpful for the blogger, therefore, not a lot of controversy. I also will admit I prefer more positive things flowing myself because I don't have time for all that other stuff. I do mess up though as I've admitted many times so I don't mind when someone tells me about that either, in a nice way of course.

    As you know though, I never allow short comments or ones that just have fluff. I have a great community and I want to honestly hear my reader's opinions about what I share. They don't all have to agree with me either because life would be pretty boring if everyone had the same opinions.

    I agree that building a great community definitely takes time and you gave some great examples here as well with Gini and Mark's blogs. Two people I definitely admire and are doing things right.

    No one should ever underestimate the value of comments but not everyone thinks the same way and they aren't a necessity in order to have a successful blog. That word successful means different things to different people. Is it a great way to show social proof? Absolutely but it's not a necessity. I think my blog just happened to start leaning that way and although I've had some major issues starting out this year they've been there for me and supported me through it all. It doesn't get much better than that, I've got an amazing community.

    Great share Josh and hope you're doing well. Always great to hear your opinion on things.


  • Darrell - Modern Father Online

    No seriously though, I do get a little sad when I write something that should engage my readers and I get no feedback. And then this week has seen me write something that has the conversation that I was hoping for so I'm happy with that. So it's time for me to review what I did there and build on that.

  • Darrell - Modern Father Online

    Great post. Thank you for writing this.

  • I very much appreciate comments. I feel if someone took the time to comment then it verifies that the post had an impact on that person. Sure, someone simply saying good post does little rather than stroke my ego and I would rather have something more. I do reply to the comments and am happy for an interesting conversation but I know that it is not what everyone wants/intends.

  • Some sites make it pretty clear that they don't care about comments. There might be a long delay where your comments sits "in moderation." Or they just don't respond to comments. For blogs that don't get a lot of comments, it's pretty weird when they don't take the time to respond to commenters. There's definitely a cycle there.

    As for me, I can't really describe my rhyme or reason when it comes to posting comments. Sometimes I do and sometimes I take it to Twitter with an added comment of my own. And as a blogger, getting comments feels good, but I feel like retweets are probably better.

    • Hi Rob,

      I am not as fast at responding to comments as I used to be and that bothers me a bit because if you took the time to say something I want to get back to you so that you know I respect your time. But life gets in the way, work comes first so comments come after.

      I think you are right about there being a cycle

  • Hi Josh

    Comments are probably dead for those that have mastered the internet so well that they are making excellent money without the conversation. That is fine they can leave a little on the table for someone else, someone that cares enough to get to know the people they buy from.

    Content as you say is very important and not all subjects resonate with everyone, so one might not get a response from a usual visitor. A visitor I might add, that is interested only in making comments that they can add to the conversation.

    Replying to a comment shows you care for the time people take out of their busy day to read and appreciate you. Just good manners in my book. I find that when I write a post and someone comments, I usually get spurred on to write another example of an experience I had and put this in my reply to them. Yes the conversation continues, not necessarily with the other visitors, although at times they do refer to a person in a previous comment. It is nice when the subject in the post now becomes more on the topic in the comment section.


    • Hi Mary,

      When I come across blogs that don't have comments it makes me wonder about why someone is publishing in that format. And I never understand why so many blogs require you to jump through so many hoops to comment. I don't mind having to sign up for a commenting system that is used across the blogosphere but when you ask for registration and 833 pieces of information before I can comment I usually won't stick around long.

      I enjoy seeing comments that lead to posts because they make me feel like we really got something out of it together.

  • Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Hi Josh, Excellent points. When I read a string of comments that just praise the author then I realize how little value those comments have. But I often do read comments because gems can be buried within those messages. Commenters can greatly add to the information being delivered when they share their experiences and offer additional insights.

    When a blog has no comments then I do tend to wonder about the content. Spammy websites often have no comments so that can be an indication of a site that isn't legit. I also don't like commenters who are rude and hostile, trying to prove their point when they clearly haven't even read the article.

    So a thoughtful comment is still valuable to a blog, adding to the conversation, delivering additional content and drawing in readers. You're welcome, you can forward your payment to my Paypal account. ;-)

    • Hi Carolyn,

      Comments that advance the conversation always make me smile. I like seeing a comment section where people aren't afraid to have civil disagreements too.

      Some of the best "gems" come from people debating the pros and cons of a particular topic. I have learned quite a bit that way.

      Empty comment sections make me take a second look at the content and ask if it is solid or weak. Sometimes bloggers aren't very good at marketing/promoting their posts and that can have a negative impact upon comments.

      But you are correct, spammy websites also have limited comment sections too. Usually the first few paragraphs of a post help clear that up,

  • If a blog post is written in such a way that it invites comments and the writer participates in the conversation, I think comments can have a lot of value. It doesn't happen in a vacuum and it doesn't happen overnight, but as the writer, by responding within a day of a comment and with something more than a "Thanks!" – conversations can occur. From my experience on other blogs I've run, this can build reader loyalty and help attract more comments because people feel welcome to leave their opinion – and that they will be able to talk to the writer and others.

    • Hi Michaela,

      Writer participation is very important. If you invite comments and don't respond to them you hurt your ability to retain the readers who are there for more than a quick read.

      A conversation goes a long way.

    • Writers who don't make an effort to engage with the commenters do a disservice to themselves and the commenter. Those conversations are where the magic comes from.

  • While I agree that comments add to the growth of a blog, I do find your two examples ironic, given that it's usually the same commenters on each post. That suggests a stalled growth, as opposed to new audiences?

    • Hi Peter,

      You might be right but without taking a harder look I can't say for certain. The majority of comments on blogs are usually left by a minority of visitors.

      There is an art to cultivating and growing your existing readers/commenters while bringing in new people too. I suppose the nature of what your blog is about impact things, but we could probably make a case for saying a plateau isn't a bad thing if value is driven and derived from the comments.

      A more mature readership might offer more depth but then again it depends on the blog as to whether that matches your needs.

    • There is often a crossover between blogs that cover similar topics. I don't necessarily think of it as a bad thing because the topics are not always the same. Even if they are there is often a different approach so the comments are often different too.

  • You're right, 33 versions of "Good post" just sucks. For everyone. Add in the nausea from webspam comments and you can see why a lot of bloggers are "OVER" comments. But if you actually engage in a comment then you can build a good "community" mentality like you see on the Moz posts that have so much activity.

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