Do Blog Comments Help SEO and Digital Marketing?
I was going to start out this blog post with a question, and then I realized it's ironic of me to ask our audience a question when we have comments disabled on our blog. But why do we disable comments when other blogs enable them? The debate of enabling/disabling comments is one that perpetually plagues the digital marketing world. Some argue that comments are directly at the heart of blogging; others say comments aren't worth the trouble. The answer, like a lot of debates in the digital marketing world, is "it's complicated."
Let's break down the argument against and for allowing blog comments.
Cons of Allowing Comments
First, let's take a look at some of the reasons why you might not want to enable comments on your blog. Contrary to popular belief, comments don't necessarily cary any search engine optimization (SEO) benefit.
No benefit to traffic
Historically, allowing comments was thought to be a benefit for SEO because it would increase the number of views on your blog or the number of links on your site. However, a recent study by HubSpot debunks this myth:
There is no correlation between the number of comments on a post and the number of views that post got. There's also no correlation between comments and the number of links that post got. There is some positive correlation between views and links. [...]
With your blog, comments should not be a goal. They don't lead to views or links, which is what leads to actual revenue. Engaging in the conversation doesn't work.
Questionable keyword benefit
Another commonly-cited advantage to enabling comments is the idea of increased natural keyword density - if you enable comments and those comments reference the keyword(s) of your blog topic, this will increase the amount of content on your page about that topic without you having to write more. This has been studied by a few organizations and the results are inconclusive. Neil Patel found that when he enabled comments they did bring in around 16% of his search traffic, but he was skeptical if a number so low was worth all the time and effort to moderate comments.
That's also assuming every comment you get is going to be thoughtful, high-value and contain your keywords. Comments like "good post" or other general praise will do nothing to offer you keyword benefit.
Extra time and effort
By far the biggest drawback of allowing comments is an increased level of spam. It's unavoidable even with security measures like reCAPTCHA or only allowing verified accounts to comment. There are some security measures you can take within WordPress to filter out obvious spam bots, but human spammers will slip through the cracks. This means you'll need someone on your team that will be in charge of moderating comments to remove spam. Additionally, you'll want someone moderating the comments to ensure there's nothing objectionable being posted - criticism is fine, but you don't want comments with slurs or aggressively attacking other commenters remaining up for long. This is a huge time suck as moderating is such a manual process.
Pros of Allowing Comments
While comments may not provide tangible benefit to SEO, there are still some advantages to allowing them. While these may not directly impact your SEO, they do increase your brand's authority which does indirectly impact SEO.
Blog comments serve as a form of social proof. Social proof is the concept that we see our behavior as more correct the more we see others perform it. In other words, seeing comments on a blog makes it more likely for your audience to engage and leave blog comments themselves. It also gives more social credibility to your content to see a long stretch of comments under the article. Seeing a post with many comments implicitly makes readers think "something interesting must be happening here."
There's also the argument that allowing blog comments embodies the entire spirit of blogging. People like to provide a back-and-forth, they like their opinions to be seen. Allowing comments gives them a platform to do so right on your website. Additionally, comments can also provide educational value. Your comments can show you what kind of content your audience likes and what they want to hear about. You can also learn something yourself from valuable comments, as Neil Patel says:
There will always be the inevitable spam comments, I know. But most legitimate comments come with insights, information, and other resources I find genuinely helpful. People often link to related articles on their own blogs or from around the web. They may also offer helpful takes on certain topics or stories about what has worked for them in the past. Comments are a great way to discover new blogs or network with other influencers.
Paves the way to other engagement
Taking the time to comment shows a commitment to engage by your audience. Once someone's taken that step, they're much more likely to engage with your content in other ways - such as joining an email newsletter, sharing on social media or clicking on a call-to-action. This goes back to building relationships - your dedicated commenters feel more invested in your content and brand and are more likely to continue to engage.
Enabling commenting is not a strong SEO move - it's not going to increase your page views, it's not going to increase your number of links and it's not likely to increase your Google rankings. However, enabling comments can offer other digital marketing benefits that shouldn't be ignored. Ultimately, the decision to enable to disable comments comes down to preference and time availability. Comments are an added bonus to your content, not a necessity. If you have the time and energy to moderate comments, it's worth trying out. However if that's not a high priority for your business, then it's perfectly fine to disable comments.
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