There are as many opinions on whether you should enable comments on your blogs as there are bloggers to write about the topic. We’re going to cover both the pros and cons of comments on a blog so that you can decide what works best for you.
In making the decision to have comments, you have to be prepared for the fact that not everyone is going to agree with what you write; especially if you’re writing on a topic that invites a wide array of opinions, such as politics, religion, or op-ed pieces. As a site owner, you make the decision, ahead of time, whether you want readers dropping in and leaving their own views, or even disagreeing with you on yours (sometimes vehemently!). – For Dummies
Pros of Enabling Comments
There are some people who feel that a blog isn’t really bloggish if it doesn’t have comments enabled. The idea behind blogs is that readers peruse your material and then add their own thoughts and input. If you like the idea of a more traditional blog, then enabling comments, at least on some of the posts, is probably the way to go. Nancy Messieh wrote an article on MakeUseOf where she points out that two of the newer blogging platforms, Roon and Medium (by Twitter), do not even have a comments feature. However, she points out that there are some pros to allowing comments, such as creating a sense of community She also added:
Allowing your visitors to comment on your blog or site opens you up to constructive criticism. Your readers can leave you tips for improvements, ideas for article topics, feedback, and more.
Cons of Enabling Comments
On the other hand, enabling comments can open you up to spam or just plain crazy posters. If your blog is extremely popular, you may find that the time it takes to read and approve and respond to reader comments if more than you have available as a busy business owner. Hiring a full-time staff person just to deal with blog comments isn’t feasible for most blog owners, either. Corbett Barr over on Fizzle took a look recently at two extremely popular blogs that have chosen to turn off their comment features, Zen Habits and Seth Godin. He then interviews two successful bloggers. One blogger believes comments should be enabled for the sense of community and the other blogger believes they should be disabled because the comments eat into his time and creativity. Liz Willis makes a couple of interesting points on her blog about reasons to disable comments.
(1) Allowing comments may not always be in the best interests of one’s overall content strategy, and (2) moderating and managing comments may not always be the best use of one’s time.
The Answer Is There Isn’t One Answer
As you can see, there is quite a debate raging online about whether a blog is still a blog if comments are disabled. Darren Rowse, founder and editor of ProBlogger, is someone who knows blogging inside and out. Rouse takes a look at the great debate on whether to allow comments or not. Rouse doesn’t actually take a side, but he does make some points that bloggers should consider, such as not changing the rules halfway through the game (either allow comments or don’t allow comments and try to stick to it or offer a good reason why you aren’t). Rouse makes a point about disabling comments that bloggers should take note of. He says:
Not having comments can actually be an advantage – One of the bloggers that I read daily who uses his lack of comments to his advantage is Seth Godin. While I personally find it frustrating not to be able to tell Seth what I think at the end of posts the advantage for him is that he gets a lot of people linking to his posts because their comments happen on their own blogs.
This is an excellent point, because people will talk about articles they feel strongly about. If they can’t comment on your blog, they may also share the link to your article on social media and add their comment to Facebook or Twitter. This can generate new readers for you.
The Best of Both Worlds
One thing that several of my clients who have blogs have done that I think is extremely effective is to turn the comments off for some posts and enable them for others. Let’s say you want to get info out about an upcoming event that clients are invited to. You probably will want to enable comments for that post in case customers need directions or have questions. On the other hand, if you are simply releasing info on a prototype of an upcoming product, but are not yet ready to answer questions because it won’t be available for six months, then you could disable comments for that post.
In addition, the WordPress platform allows you to turn off comments for sections of your site. For example, you might want discussion on posts but not on pages, such as your About Us or Company History page. Some plugins that work for this include:
Disable Comments – Allows you to disable comments on portions of your site, such as pages.
Cackle Comments – This comments plugin actually lets users leave a comment via their social media. This accomplishes two things. First, you can enable comments while still collecting visitor info, which cuts down dramatically on spam. Second, the user is more likely to share your post on their social media since they are already logged in.
How to Cut the Comment Spam
Some people choose to disable comments because of the massive amounts of spam. These comments are typically very generic in nature, add nothing to the discussion and promote a website or product. Typically, the product is not one you would want associated with your business.
Fortunately, you can cut down on comment spam dramatically by enabling Askimet and setting up spam comments to be deleted automatically. You can also add some controls to your WordPress blog under settings that state that someone who has had a comment approved previously does not need moderation. This can save you time. If you have regular site visitors who enjoy adding intelligent discourse to your blog, their comments will post without you having to do anything.
To enable Askimet, you will need to install the plugin if it isn’t already on your blog (most WordPress blogs install with Askimet already enabled. Then, you will need to go to the Askimet website and sign up (it’s free for most personal blogs) for a WordPress key. You then input this key into your Askimet plugin under settings. That’s all you need to do. Set it and then it runs in the background pushing all spam posts into a special folder.
You may also want to add the plugin called Spam Free WordPress. Todd Lahman’s spam plugin blocks the automated comment spam altogether.
The Bottom Line
Having an active, interactive and reader-oriented blog is a good idea. As Jerry Low wrote in his article Developing a Comments.php, a successful site promotes interaction between readers and writers.
This interaction is not only the key to a website’s own, self-perpetuating success, but common user interactions helps communicate website activity and authority to search engines which specifically rank websites based on how appreciative visitors are of the content they find there.
Fortunately, you have a lot of options when it comes to interacting with readers. Whether you choose to enable comments on everything, only on some posts, or disable them all together and take to social media for discussion, the important thing is to find the right fit for your site and your particular readers.
Article by Lori Soard
Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's in English Education and a PhD in Journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she's had several books published. Since 1997, she has worked as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time ranking websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.