Blog Comments: Should Your Blog Shut Down Comments?

Do you like to get comments on your blog?

Have you ever wondered if you should allow comments or shut them down?

To learn about why blog comments are valuable to your business, I interview Mark Schaefer and Tim McDonald for this episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast.

More About This Show

Social Media Marketing Podcast w/ Michael Stelzner

The Social Media Marketing podcast is a show from Social Media Examiner.

It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.

The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).

In this episode, I interview Mark Schaefer, who is a college educator and author of four books. His blog is called Grow and his latest book is Social Media Explained. Tim McDonald is the director of community at the Huffington Post, founder of My Community Manager and a member of the No Kid Hungry Social Council.

Mark and Tim share what comments mean to their blogs, and some of the challenges they face with moderation.

You’ll discover the upside of blog comments, how you can use them to improve your business and moderation tactics for different-sized blogs.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!

Listen Now

You can also subscribe via iTunes, RSS, Stitcher, SoundCloud or Blackberry.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Blog Comments

A long time ago, Seth Godin shocked the industry when he decided to shut down comments on his blog. He didn’t really care for comments—for him it was more about generating daily content.

More recently, Brian Clark and his team at Copyblogger decided to shut down their blog comments. As a result of this, there has been a lot of interesting dialogue in this space.

copyblogger remove comments

Copyblogger announced they were going to shut down blog comments.

The upside of blog comments

Mark explains how there are a lot of different business reasons behind blogs, and it’s up to each individual business to make the decision whether to have comments on their blog.

He says that there are probably some very good economic reasons why Copyblogger decided to remove comments, but Mark thinks that blog comments are the economic engine.

The community that Mark has built on his blog has led to many different business benefits for him and his community. You can get to know people in the comment area, which can lead to collaborations, customers and suppliers.

grow blog

Mark’s blog has created a lot of economic value.

Mark feels that a lot of influence takes place in the blog communities, where you can develop strong relationships compared to the ones you make on Twitter or Facebook.

You’ll hear other great benefits that come from comments on your blog, and why Mark sees them as a gift every day.

mark schaefer blogs comments

You can build strong relationships within the comment area.

The Huffington Post has a little bit of a different viewpoint, just because of their sheer size. They face a bigger challenge because of the number of comments they get every day. It’s hard for them to actually interact and engage with every single commenter.

Tim explains at this point, it’s a matter of them looking at some of the prolific commenters on their site and working with them. They’ve found that some commenters don’t want to write for them, they are happy just commenting.

Listen to the show to find out the cost of engagement, and why you can engage yourself broke.

Some of the challenges the Huffington Post faces with blog comments

Tim says that the biggest issue for them is to figure out how to allow people to share and express their thoughts on content, while appreciating that the standard for commenting is different from their editorial standards.

They have to find ways to moderate this effectively with the different languages, countries and time zones.

country options huffington post

The Huffington Post has to take into account all of the different countries and time zones.

You can’t replace a human when it comes comment moderation. You need to find a balance between using technology, combined with what people can do.

You’ll hear how the Huffington Post deals with heated dialogue and negative comments on their blogs.

When it comes to dealing with spam, last year they made all commenters authenticate themselves with a verified Facebook account. This helped cut down spam and trolls significantly.

Listen to the show to hear why Mark wonders if spammers are taking the social out of social media.

How smaller blogs can deal with moderation and spam

Tim explains that they are currently experimenting on a couple of their verticals with the Facebook commenting system. With this method, you have the option to show all comments, moderate them or not have any show up but still allow people to leave a comment.

facebook plug in huffington post

Use the Facebook commenting system to help cut down the spam.

The benefit of this is that the comment still shows up in that person’s news feed, and it provides social referral traffic for you.

Tim believes it’s a great way for a small business to get the benefit of having conversations happen on people’s Facebook profiles. It’s one way for you to avoid moderating the comments or spam, as they’ll never show up on your site.

Listen to the show to find out why Mark likes to use Disqus for moderating his site’s comments.

When to make the decision to delete a comment

Tim explains that they have their 10 commandments of moderation. They all have different kinds of litmus tests for whether a comment is approved or deleted.

the huffington post header

Each blog at the Huffington Post has different rules for moderating comments.

Their first line of defense without a doubt is to look for specific words, word combinations, misspellings or characters that create a bad word, which they don’t want to show up on their site.

The second one is to use the same kind of word mentality in addition to their computer program, called Julia. Julia actually scores the comments on different content such as blogs, news articles, sensitive pieces or content that allows them a little more freedom.

If the comment does pass all of the other tests and is scored adequately by Julia, then it can be automatically approved on certain posts. Otherwise it is then passed onto a human moderator to make the decision.

You’ll hear what status you need to get to so that the Huffington Post will approve your comment at a certain level. Your comment is then allowed to appear as formatted text with links.

At Social Media Examiner, we use Disqus for comment moderation. You can set up a restricted word list and blacklist and whitelist people.

disqus homepage

There are various options available with Disqus.

Listen to the show to hear what Mark’s view is on negative comments, and how he deals with them.

How the Huffington Post manages the huge number of comments 

Tim says that no matter the size of your business, you need to look at the members who are really active in your commenting community—those who are in it for the right reasons.

You’ll hear what they call this type of member at the Huffington Post, and how many Tim actually interacts with on a regular basis.

When you get to a point where you can rely on certain members of your community, they can be of great value to your business. For example, the Huffington Post has found it very powerful and valuable to have peer voices in the comment area rather than the brand voice on certain occasions.

These community members can also help moderate the conversation flow.

multi ethnic group of people holding tablets in front of the faces

Members of your community can be very valuable to your business. Image source: iStockphoto

This is a great way to empower members of your community and give them some exposure.

Listen to the show to find out how Michael Hyatt acknowledges his community members on his blog.

Steps smaller bloggers can take to manage their blog comments

Mark says that he has recently had to take steps to limit the comments that have links attached because of the increasing level of spam on his blog. He feels this is a shame, because there are a lot of great commenters who add legitimate links.

To avoid upsetting his members, he now takes extra time to go through these comments and quickly approve them.

Listen to the show to find out why 95% of the time, Mark can let a comment go live.

The risk of moving conversations to a platform you don’t own or control

Tim says that people will have conversations, regardless of whether you have a commenting platform.

He says that the Huffington Post relinquished control a long time ago, and now actually embraces the new environment. They call social the new front page. People find their content via all of the other people who share it on social, which drives referral traffic back to the site.

shared a link via huffington post

People can find your content via people sharing it on social.

You’ll hear why Mark feels that it’s disrespectful to the commenters to move comments away from your platform, and the disadvantages of doing this.

One of the reasons to get people to your site is to sell advertising. In the case of Social Media Examiner, if people don’t visit our site, then they don’t sign up for our newsletter, which leads to no customers.

Your blog and your website are the only things that you own on the web. You shouldn’t give up your voice of authority to a social platform.

mcdonald schaefer podcast

Check out the full podcast episode with Tim McDonald and Mark Schaefer.

Listen to the show to hear why all three of us agree that it’s very important to remember your community.

Discovery of the Week

At Social Media Marketing World 2014, we decided to take the opportunity to use Instagram more effectively.

If you use Instagram, you’ll have probably noticed that their desktop-based platform doesn’t have all of the great capabilities of their mobile app. This is where the app Gramfeed comes in.

This app allows you to do some really cool things. When you enter a hashtag, first it shows you a map of where you are in the world and where most of the photographs were taken.

What I love about Instagram, and in particular Gramfeed, is that they allow you to very easily put in your hashtag and see the total number of photographs that were taken. In this particular case, there was 3,200+ pictures. You can see who took the picture and interact with all of these pictures.

gramfeed

Some of the pictures that were taken using #smmw14.

If you only do a search on a hashtag, then you’ll be limited to the number of photographs you see, but you can take it to the next level and create an account. All you need to do is log in with your Instagram account, which allows you to see all photographs for any particular hashtag.

This is a great way to manage and maintain a hashtag or even monitor a competitor’s hashtag.

I strongly recommend that you check it out.

Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how this works for you.

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

Help Us Spread the Word!

Please let your Twitter followers know about this podcast. Simply click here now to post a tweet.

If you enjoyed this episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast, please head over to iTunes, leave a rating, write a review and subscribe. And if you listen on Stitcher, please click here to rate and review this show.

Ways to subscribe to the Social Media Marketing podcast:

What do you think? What are your thoughts on sites shutting down comments? Please leave your comments below.

Image from iStockPhoto.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author, Michael Stelzner

Michael Stelzner is the founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner, and host of the Social Media Marketing podcast. He also authored of the books Launch and Writing White Papers. Other posts by »




More Info
  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    I think allowing comments on a blog is a must. Otherwise you’re simply a news magazine shouting content, not a blog. Which is ok if that’s what you are, but don’t call it a blog if you turn comments off IMHO..

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    thanks Scott – I fully agree.

  • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

    If I couldn’t comment, then I couldn’t come here and say how happy I am to be caught up on your podcast! :)

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    I read and share content written by thought leaders who are interested in interacting with their communities. A great blog post attracts comments that can be as insightful as the original post. While I understand why some people choose not to allow commenting, unless they’re Seth Godin himself that removes the motivation to read their post and what I don’t read I’m not going to be sharing, either.

    While spam is an issue, it can be controlled – but not with Akismet because it lets bots leave massive amounts of spam. Personally I prefer the anti-spam plugin named after my blog because when I installed it my comments went from 1000+ a day to around 40 with 960 left by bots. It is such a huge time saver that I won’t manage comments in a blog if it is not installed. The GrowMap anti-spambot plugin was written by Andy Bailey @CommentLuv which is the commenting system I prefer. Using CommentLuv you can get to know your readers quickly, go out and comment on other CommentLuv blogs and bring back many readers. It isn’t for everyone, but I really like it.

    Disqus is my second favorite. Intense Debate is ok. Both of these can also cut down on spam. I don’t care for Livefyre, but it is similar to these two.

    Giving your comments to Facebook or Google I would never advise. Some are now allowing their commenters a choice of 2 or even 3 different methods. That would confuse some new readers, but if you primarily have regular commenters it is a reasonable alternative.

  • Bill Cobb

    Thank you for addressing this. I’m a small Home Appraisal business with multiple self hosted blogs and attacks, bots of online ordering pages, Ask The Appraiser contact forms are spam and attack magnets. In my case, the bad guys are winning because I’m sick and tired of dealing with the spam, attacks and bots filling out order forms and filling my email inbox with their junk. Occasionally my Host Gator VPS level 3 hosting is shut down because of so many attacks. If totally turning off comments and order an appraisal forms stops this, then I’m open to the idea. If I turn off blog comments, I would explain why at bottom (short format) and offer then an Ask The Appraiser link directing them to a link to another page to a short form.

    Same thing for YouTube videos for those not in my local housing market to just add a negative humiliating comment not even related to the video or topic.

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    A good developer like Andy Bailey @CommentLuv can keep bots off most forms. The hackers can eventually get in IF they are determined enough, but they can usually be locked out again. Andy has a lot of experience in this area because CommentLuv blogs are spam magnets and he has been updating the GASP plugin for years to keep blocking them.

  • http://www.praverb.net/ Praverb

    Excellent podcast. I like your guests. Tim and Mark definitely provide different perspectives on commenting. The best thing that I did was adapt Disqus commenting system thanks to you @mikestelzner:disqus. Thank you very much for providing informative and instructional content for us.

  • Elaine Slatter

    We were able to cut down on the comment spam by putting a Captcha on the blog page of our website.Two thirds of the spam has gone away, the rest we manage the comments and only let through the legitimate ones.

  • http://www.praverb.net/ Praverb

    Mark, I usually moderate all links. Sign into Disqus, then go to settings, then scroll down to Community Rules and check Comments containing links must be approved before they are published.

    Also check Comments and click on the All tab. Some spam sneaks through the filter. I usually moderate my comments on a daily basis.

  • bhartzer

    It’s not a blog if it doesn’t include comments. It’s an article.

  • http://www.brianfarello.com/ Brian Farello

    I think commenting is extremely important. I think it’s worth hiring someone to handle your community if you’re a very big business because those can lead to future clients, customers, and supporters of your brand. It’s important to allow open discussion while still being respectful. Talking about your ideas creates new conversation and helps people want to learn more about the industry. Comments allow for people to keep learning and becoming better people.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Daniel :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Gail – We use DISQUS but do have a person who regularly checks and moderates for us

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Bill for your comment and I hear you.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Glad you find it useful Praverb :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Captcha’s can be awesome but can also really be a pain for users as some of them are so hard to read :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Good point :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Brian for your comment

  • SimplySocialMedia

    I love comments but hate all the spammers! I am tired of cleaning up after them!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Yep, those rascals make it hard for us!

  • http://abundancehighway.com SuzieCheel

    Michael great interview and I have to say i don’t read with the exception of a few blogs that don’t have comments. great discussion

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    In my own opinion,without comments, a blog isn’t really a blog. To me, blogging is not just about publishing content, but also the two-way communication and community building aspects behind it.Additionally, if a blogger publicly responds to questions in the comment section, then the blogger can be seen as being more personable and caring toward his or her readers, which never hurts. I know this isn’t always possible, but a small response can go a very long way.

  • http://jacksonandwilson.com/ Mitch Jackson

    Enjoyed the interview very much. Tim, loved your comment about social being the new front page to our websites and blogs. I agree.

    Communication is a two way street. The digital publisher (often times a blogger) who doesn’t allow this to happen and lessons the importance of the engagement aspect of online interactions is greatly missing the mark.

    I personally feel it’s a bit pompous for someone to blog while not allowing for comments. Especially when they go out of the way and state that they don’t allow comments. I feel like they’re standing up on a soapbox and shouting, not communicating. Often times I think to myself, “Really, your thoughts and opinions are the only ones that matter?” Respectfully, I don’t think so. Over time, my visits to these types of blogs substantially decrease and even stop. They lose my interest and then my business.

    Another issue that I feel strongly about is the expectation of the users to connect. I think most enjoy being able to engage and comment with others at a blog. This includes replying and engaging other people leaving comments.

    IMO, it’s not all about the media producer. It’s all about is the user and his or her experience with your blog. Smart business people and companies will continue creating environments allowing for everyone to engage and have a dialog. They’re the ones who will encourage two-way communication. By doing so and with all else being equal, they’re also the ones that will be in business 5 or 10 years from now.

  • http://msileanespeaks.com/ Ileane

    Hi Mike,

    I’m currently using the native WordPress commenting system and on some blog posts I added Google+ comments as well. The down side to using a Google+ comment plugin on WordPress is that you don’t get notifications. However I also have a Blogger blog and those Google+ notifications do come through.

    Spam moderation is a waste of time and energy and the bigger your blog gets the spam increases exponentially. Bot are easy enough to get rid of with plugins like GASP, but the real issue is the human spammers who are desperately seeking links.

    Even in the case of Google+ comments spammers are adding erroneous links to their comments. Honestly it’s one of the down side to having any type of online property so I’m not surprised to see bloggers taking drastic measures to avoid them.

    With that said, I agree with Mark’s feedback about encouraging dialog by asking good questions and looking at the business benefits of commenting.

    Thanks for having three different perspectives but I’d also love to hear from some folks who are in other niches on this topic one day.

    Great show as usual!

  • http://kbanjarmasin.blogspot.com/ Dheavy Bungas

    Another issue that I feel strongly about is the expectation of the users
    to connect. I think most enjoy being able to engage and comment with
    others at a blog. This includes replying and engaging other people
    leaving comments.

  • http://crokes.com/ Shaun

    If blog comments are shut down then how gonna readers leave a feedback or suggestion about your post? How they gonna ask questions about it? Is there anything that can replace blog comments?

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Suzie!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey Barbara – I fully concur. While my comments are often brief I love the interaction.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Mitch – Thanks much for adding your thoughts here. I fully concur :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey Ileane – Great to hear from you and good to hear about your experience using Google+ comments. I know I have seen Martin Shervington use them. Do you find any unique advantages to the Google+ comments over systems like Disqus?

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks for your commetn Dheavy

  • http://www.brandingmedia.co.uk Matt Jackson

    I guess a lot of the debate has arisen because of the fact that whereas a blog traditionally had a fairly stringent definition, the lines between blog, news site, press release repository, article database, etc… have become really quite blurred.

    I would imagine the owner of a true blog would never dream of closing down a discussion before it has even started, whereas a media publisher could probably do without the effort and hassle.

    And, don’t even get me started on captchas. Some of them are pretty easy to read, but if it’s taking three or four attempts to correctly guess at the nonsensical jumble of pointless letters in front of me, I’m going to become disinclined to leave a publishable comment.

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    It does take time to keep comments clean, but I feel that in spite of that it makes any site stronger. I have no doubt Social Media Examiner is far more popular because of the discussions they initiate – like this one.

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    Some captchas are really difficult to read. Even those that aren’t can fail when the commenter has java issues which are common failings of browsers. The most experienced often forget to clear cache or delete and reload their browser. (If they can. Best to not use Internet Explorer because you can’t uninstall and reinstall it if it is failing.)

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    When I take the time to read and then can’t comment, I take the conversation somewhere else, usually G+ these days. If I really want to respond to what someone writes and they have no comments or they won’t approve opposing viewpoints, as a blogger I do a response post. Ironically, they will often comment on my site while still refusing to interact on theirs (to avoid their audience easily finding out there are alternative viewpoints to consider).

    If your blog supports a business that provides products or services you could use services like vCita to encourage your readers to interact with you and schedule appointments. Or you can use live chat solutions. There are many available with some offered free for one user.

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    You’re right, Matt. Some sites work to differentiate themselves as anything but a blog, partially to avoid the potential wrath of Google.

  • http://msileanespeaks.com/ Ileane

    I haven’t used Disqus but the one advantage is that the comments actually appear on Google+ which also tends to encourage more sharing and plus ones over there.

  • treb072410

    Great post Michael!… Thanks for sharing!.. I totally agree with what you have @scottayres:disqus…

  • PeterJ42

    This is actually about democracy.

    In an autocratic society one person says “I know best”. The others have to decide whether to believe him or not.

    In a democratic society everyone has a say. The discussion becomes open. While it usually ends up with a binary choice, people feel vindicated by the general airing of the views and the majority decision.

    The publishing mindset is the autocratic one. I know this stuff and, for money, I’m prepared to tell you. But you are just his audience – someone whose eyeballs on his information he can sell to the advertiser.

    The blogging mindset is the democratic one. “I’m putting this out there for everyone to add to, build on and challenge. Once we’ve had all the debate a consensus will emerge, hopefully validating what we agree is important”.

    The reason for the debate is that we aren’t used to being given this power. Some of us abuse it. And, in many cases, the reason for putting it up there is suspect.

    The person posting it didn’t really want to air and share the knowledge in the hope of getting a better answer. He just wanted you to give him credit as a guru. Or worse, so he could sell your eyeballs.

    You have a choice. Blog or Article? Are you an eyeball seller or a searcher for truth? There is an easy way for readers to find out which you are – what you do with comments on your blog!

  • http://www.urbanwalkerct/wordpress.com UrbanWalkerCT

    Amazing Podcast
    My question is, you mentioned Facebook commenting system. Can I did the same through Twitter?

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Very well said Peter!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    No Twitter doesn’t really offer anything like that

  • newsyone

    I think allowing comments gives readers the indication that a site cares what they think. Of course, many sites don’t really care I suppose. I also think it makes people think they play a small role in the site even if it’s just an opinion.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Fully agree :)

  • http://getfblike.com/ carine allen

    This is really helpful for increase the blog and it solve many problems. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.karmatechnologies.asia/ karma

    There is no need to shut down blog comment section just moderate effectively and lead it to healthy conversation .

  • Dan Erickson

    What about on creative sites? Art, music, photography? etc?

  • jharna

    hi

  • jharna

    hello

  • jharna

    hey

  • jharna

    rfyg









Pinterest
Join our Social Media Marketing Networking Club
Get Your FREE Copy of the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report
Wondering how your peers are using social media? Get this free report (50 pages, 80+ charts) and never miss another great article from Social Media Examiner.
Check out the Social Media Marketing Podcast!