There has been a debate bubbling on the edges of the internet for nearly the past decade. Are comment sections on blogs a boon or a burden? You have seen the fallout of this argument first hand as some of your regular, go-to blogs have opted to either disable comments altogether or disable them temporarily only to bring them back later. Whether or not to let your readers express their opinions about what you are sharing with them is not a decision to be taken lightly. As an advocate for free speech and the sharing of ideas, I fall into the camp that believes that open and even lively discussion can add value to any article. In the end, however, the relationship between blog commenting and SEO results may surprise you.
The End of Informational Tyranny
When the internet was still in its infancy it was nothing more than a collection of billboards and static information. Businesses felt they needed a website because, well, other businesses had one. But if you are old enough to recall those digitally skeletal times then you will remember the incredible moment in the mid-2000s when comments first appeared.
Think about this. Up until that moment in time, we had to turn to television to get any sort of reaction to information presented to the masses and even then most of those reactions were scripted by the presenter. Newspapers occasionally ran a few opinions on the previous edition’s editorial but real estate in these papers was limited and the opinions themselves were selected by the editors. Essentially there was no vehicle to share the thoughts and feelings a reader might have about an article with other readers. The internet changed all of that and blogs with comment sections became that vehicle. Overnight, a sort of ‘democracy’ of information was born.
Is A Blog Without Comments Still A Blog?
It is a question worth asking. While blogs predominately began as glorified journals of everyday people’s lives they have since evolved to include opinions on current events, instructional how-to’s, anthropological musings on society, and more. The internet, by its very nature of interconnected servers, is a global community and the information shared on it is accessible to nearly anyone with a connection. This communal aspect lends itself to comment sections. I have a profound respect for authors of blogs and posts that leave themselves open to scrutiny in their comments sections.
Depending on the topic of the post, criticism can downright dominate a comment section. This aspect alone has led to more sensitive authors and corporations to disable their comment sections altogether. This is where the difference between an article and a blog really comes into focus. One fears the critique and seeks to present information without a counterpoint whereas the other fosters a dynamic community and pits its ideas up against the voices of that community. What a blog seems to understand is that not every voice is critical and that even criticism can lead to discovery.
Do Comments Add SEO Value?
Now we get to the meat of the matter from a technical standpoint. I’ve already discussed that there exists, at least in a philosophical sense, tangible value in fostering a vocal community around your blog. So, is there any value as far as search engines are concerned in providing your readers that voice?
Let’s consider the findings of Neil Patel. Mr. Patel is an SEO and digital marketing genius who writes broadly on the topic. His marketing bonafides are well documented and he has been consistently listed in Forbes top 100 entrepreneurs amongst countless other accolades.
Mr. Patel conducted a study of 560 of his blog posts that had an average of 126 comments per post. What he wanted to know was whether or not the additional words from the comments would yield ranking results for keywords that he himself had not specifically targeted in the posts themselves. What he found was that 26.7% of the keywords his posts were ranking for were from keywords found exclusively in the comments section. This, in turn, yielded a slightly better than 16% increase in traffic to those posts.
He concluded that while these numbers were not staggering by any means, they were indeed a boost. Moreover, they were a boost provided from content that he did not have to create himself. This, to me, is a solid value-add in favor of comments. While other studies have been conducted that found less value than Neil, none of them found an argument against having a comments section as far as SEO considerations are concerned. Google will not dock you, for example, for having some unintended spammy comments. (I’m sure we’ve all seen the “I made $3,000 dollars working from home part-time!” comments in some sections)
What are the Benefits to the Author?
The single greatest benefit of comments for the author of any article is the ability to see what your readers think about your information. A teacher often learns from their students and the same principle can be applied here. What’s more, the ability to interact as the author with your readers in the comment section can yield positive results both from a branding and customer service perspective. Engaging your audience can foster a personal connection with them and the topic your post is covering. Obviously, you must keep some ground rules for yourself. For example:
- Never engage in an aggressive argument in the comments
- Don’t patronize your audience in the comments
- Encourage a productive discussion with your replies
- Tend to the comment community with grace
- Maintain the comments section and be sure to have software that can detect truly destructive comments that are universally offensive
Striking the right balance between author and audience member may be a tall order for the more introverted blogger, but it can yield both concrete SEO and community results.
Engage, Learn, and Grow
Even if you find yourself hesitating to add a comment section to your blog posts, I recommend taking the risk. You can always change your mind down the road. Encourage your coworkers to read and comment on the posts you create. A lively discussion doesn’t only have to come from the wide world of the web. It can also foster debate and ideas within your own company. At worst, nothing bad will happen to you or your rankings and the possibility that you might rank for new keywords while creating a loyal community can make for an exciting ride. Live in the information democracy and see where it can take you!