It takes two to tango.
You can write a great piece of content and have your thoughts speak authoritatively, but if no one is responding to you, what’s the point of speaking in the first place? I think that a lot of bloggers get wrapped up in the need for feedback, which makes them ask this very question.
It’s great to see feedback on your actual post (especially if it’s positive), but I have to ask: Do comments indicate the strength of your blog? Has commenting just evolved into social media sharing and updating? Or better yet… do more comments even make a huge difference to your blog?
First, let’s look at the psychology behind why people leave comments.
The Psychology Behind Online Behavior
There is something about the Internet that can cause a feeling of emotional dislocation for some. Think about it… Internet users are physically alone on their computers yet within a community online. Weird, huh? This can result in some people behaving differently than they would in real life or even go the extent of creating their own persona. Internet users like… violentacrez aka the creepy uncle of Reddit, who finally unmasked his true identity to Gawker in an article about “Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, The Biggest Troll on the Web.” Or how about people who create frightening, yet false information about serious matters that spread like wildfire online? For example – During Hurricane Sandy, @comfortablysmug tweeted false information about conditions in New York City that quickly spread online, making him Hurricane Sandy’s worst Twitter villain.
Psychologists, like John Suler who have studied online social behavior call this the “disinhibition effect.” Within the disinhibition effect are two distinct behaviors:
1. Benign disinhibition
2. Toxic disinhibition
Benign disinhibition is when people share personal things about themselves or reveal secrets online that they wouldn’t dare share offline. On the other hand, when someone says something rude or even threatens someone else online they are also experiencing the disinhibition effect. Psychologists call this “toxic disinhibition.”
So what causes this online disinhibition effect? John Suler determined that there are six characteristics of the Internet which lead to changes in our online behavior:
Some people feel that it’s impossible to be seen the way they are in the real world. And some… well, just don’t want to show their true identity at all. When people have the opportunity to separate their online actions from their real identity, they don’t have to take responsibility for their behavior online. Some may even convince themselves that those behaviors aren’t them at all.
Internet users don’t typically see one another — unless of course, you are physically next to someone who is also surfing the web. This invisibility can make some people feel like they don’t have to worry about sending any emotional signals like facial expressions, which can empower some to do things online that they normally wouldn’t.
3. On and Off Communication
When communicating through email or a social media site, people don’t always interact with one another in real time. One person may reply within minutes while another person may take days or even weeks to respond to a message. This on and off communication means not having to deal with someone’s immediate reaction, which can be disinhibiting.
4. Inner Voices
Reading someone else’s information online can create an unexpected intimate connection. Humans have been experiencing this for centuries with novels, letters and other forms of reading material. However, the informal everyday language used online causes people to mistakenly talk to themselves.
5. Imaginary World
People may feel that the imaginary characters or personas they created exist in an eternally different space. As though that person’s online persona, along with other online personas, live in a imaginary world that is separate from the norms and responsibilities of the real world.
6. No Authority
For the most part, aspects of a person’s life that would matter in the real world, like their occupation and income don’t matter online. Even if someone displays their offline status and power online, that elevated position may have no impact on their online presence. On the flip side, the Internet gives everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion and have authority. People are reluctant to be completely honest with an authority figure but online, psychologists have found that the appearance of authority is minimized. This causes people to speak out more on blogs and social media sites.
As more and more people become social media savvy, it seems as though fewer and fewer comments are being left on blog posts. I hear this statement all the time from friends and have recently seen a couple of posts about the declining trend of blog commenting. It seems that now people can engage with content in many ways other than writing a comment, like tweeting or syndicating it on their own blog.
But there still seems to be a difference in the intentions of a commenter and a social media sharer. Perhaps the person writing a comment wants to provide feedback directly to the writer (or even promote themselves), while the social media sharer wants to let the world know their thoughts about the subject matter.
The Benefits of Blog Comments
Before we discuss the value of comments, let’s see how comments play a role in a business’s content marketing strategy. Content marketing provides many benefits for a business like exposing your brand, generating links to your site, and increasing site traffic. Recently Econsultancy conducted a Content Marketing Survey Report to determine how many businesses have a content marketing strategy, and what they want to achieve through content marketing. They found that increased engagement (52%) was the most common objective for a business’s content marketing strategy.
When evaluating the performance of our content marketing strategies, we keep all of these business objectives in mind and show our clients how the strategy helped make these goals a reality. We look for things like improvements in site rankings and visibility, how many links the content generated for their site, as well as how many times it was shared on social media sites. And of course, we review the comments made on the content piece to determine how the content resonates with the audience.
Everyone wants more social engagement on their site. When a site has an active community with readers commenting, it helps the business or blogger:
- Build awareness
- Build trust
- Build likability
A blog is a social community in itself. Bloggers provide valuable information to their readers so everyone can discuss topics and possibly learn from one another. Social media shares are great and essential to your content going viral. However, it’s important to keep some of the social engagement on your site. Let’s be honest — people are very quick to judge others online. It’s too easy to devalue a blogger’s influence when they aren’t receiving a lot of feedback and engagement on their site.
The value of comments is slightly different from the value of social media shares because:
- Comments show that you have built an on-site community
- Engaging with your blog community can get you closer to your goals, especially if your goals are business-related
- Comments create an awareness and attractiveness to the blogger or brand
- Comments reflect credibility and authority
- Engagement creates guest blogger opportunities
Do more comments make your blog stronger or not?
Are more comments a reflection of how good your blog is, or are some people just feeling the disinhibition effect?
First off, strength can be interpreted in many ways. There are some misconceptions out there about what a blog needs in order to be “successful.” However, people are constantly wondering how to determine if their blog is good. I think it really depends on the person’s goals and objectives – what are they trying to achieve with their blog? And have they accomplished those goals? If so, I would say that you have a strong blog even if it’s not the strongest.
Most bloggers strive to achieve some of the following goals:
- Have a positive and engaging audience
- Shared frequently on social media sites
- Promote brand or personal brand on other blogs
- Build links for the site
- Rank higher for unbranded keyword phrases
- Increase site traffic
- Higher click through rate
- Grow email subscriber list
- Readers converting into potential customers, or even sales
- Have a higher Google Page Rank
- High revenue from advertisements
- Work with well-known companies and brands
- Increase author influence
- Write blog posts more frequently
It’s true that more comments can show a more engaged community, which is important for any blog. But just because a blog isn’t getting 10 or 20 or even 100 comments per post doesn’t mean it’s not reaching and influencing people. Success can be interpreted differently from blogger to blogger, and there are certain things (like lots of comments on every post) that a blog doesn’t need to be successful.
There is also a lot of debate as to whether or not having comments on your blog is helpful from an SEO perspective. Some say that comments not only allow you to create relationships with readers and build an engaging community, but also help bloggers gain a little extra SEO boost.
Some of the SEO benefits of having blog comments are:
Comments create more content
Readers typically write comments to discuss the subject further and/or respond to something said in the post. Therefore, the content must be interesting and worth discussing if there are lots of comments. Search engines want to keep their users happy, which means providing them with relevant, accurate and interesting information about their search query. Comments are basically another way search engines can judge the piece of content. Search engines LOVE content so the more, the better.
Comments produce more relevant keywords
Since good comments further discuss the content of the post, it will probably include some of the same keywords found in the post. This will better the chances of the post being found on search engines for those particular keywords or keyword phrases. Some SEO experts even believe that comments with keywords that weren’t included in the post, but relate to the content will help the post be found for additional keywords. All of this should result in bringing in more traffic.
Comments may boost your article’s freshness score
Search engines need to provide users with the most relevant information, or better known as fresh content. Something factual ten, maybe even five years ago may not be anymore. If an older blog post is still receiving comments, the content will look fresh to search engines. Great content that continually answers a user’s search query may remain fresh forever, which is just beautiful.
Others feel like comments may actually hurt your blog and it’s better to turn off your comments all together. One argument made relates to how fresh the comments are on the post. If there is an older date on the post and comments, the post will most likely not get looked at because readers don’t want old and outdated information. Removing the date from a post is a piece of cake, but removing the date from a comment requires some code knowledge – unless you decide to turn off the comments box all together (which really isn’t the best way to go either). And then of course, there are the spam comments… which are never, ever good. A blogger should always monitor comments to avoid spam comments being on their blog.
I believe it’s important for a blogger to have a strategy for success with one primary goal and important secondly goals. Then figure out a way to measure their success on an ongoing basis. That way while they are writing and promoting their blog… interacting with followers… watching ad revenue and doing other blogger activities, they remember to look back at their strategy goals. It’s just way too easy to get discouraged by perceived ideas of what it takes to have a successful blog and forget why they started blogging in the first place.
So overall… I think it really depends on what the blogger is trying to achieve with their blog. If their main goal is to build a strong community, rather than being more business-related or SEO-related then yes – comments are a great indicator for how strong the blog is.
How to Get More Blog Comments
I could write an entire blog post about this – no, really! There are many ways to better your chances of receiving comments, like ask readers to share their thoughts or run a contest that incorporates the comments box. Here are five tips on how to score more blog comments:
Have a unique comments link
You may want to consider having a customized comment link instead of the traditional “no comments.” Try saying something like, “no comments yet, your thoughts are welcomed” or “Join the discussion” which is what you will find on the BlueGlass blog. You can change this by opening your index.php template, search for comments_popup_link() and change the text within that function.
Make commenting as easy as possible
If you want users to register for commenting, consider allowing them to log in with a social media account. You find people are willing to write a comment if it’s as easy as connecting their social media account to the blog. All you have to do is install a plugin like Social Plugin for WordPress.
Keep people in the conversation
It’s great when people join the conversation, but wouldn’t it be even better if they stay in the conversation. Encourage people to subscribe to the comment thread by installing a subscribe to comments plugin, which sends them an email when a new comment is made on the post.
Make commenters feel good
Thank readers for sharing their thoughts and respond to them in a way that makes them feel good about themselves and your brand. There’s an art to this and yes, it can be mastered. Pay attention to how other blogs are interacting with their audience and study those blogs who excel at making commenters feel good.
This is something that is very important to us at BlueGlass, this is a quote directly from our internal Blogger Guidelines:
Please reply to all comments (comments beget comments). If someone took the time to leave a comment, we want to thank them and do the same with a reply.
Connect your readers with one another
Take your blog community to the next level with user profiles, discussion boards, user rankings, awards and etc. People have been socializing on blogs way before social media sites like Facebook and Twitter existed. Encourage people to join your community by having them create their own profile. That way they can easily connect with other users and keep the conversation going. Consider using the Top Contributors plugin for WordPress and show your commenters some extra love. You can utilize plugins and tools like this to reward your loyal commentors with badges, rankings or even cool prizes. This will encourage them to continue contributing to your blog, as well as get others to get on the bandwagon.
So… do you think the amount of comments on a blog post are important? How do blog comments play a role in your content marketing strategy?
Share your thoughts in the comments box below (irony intended)!