“Blasphemy!” I hear the multitudes cry, so entrenched and and trained are they to believe that the number of comments on a blog post has any significance whatsoever beyond the “feel good” factor of vanity traffic. “A post with 50 comments is proof that it is more popular than a post with only 5 comments or only zero”.
That, my dear readers, is the myth of popularity. The true nature of engagement is far more complex, and relies on many more components than merely the number of readers (most of whom are fellow bloggers and armchair readers and not your target audience of paying customers) leaving random one-sentence fluff replies simply to build up their layer of backlinks to their own sites.
In the world of popularity contests that many bloggers exist in, the number of comments that a blog post gets within a certain amount of time after publication is a means by which they measure their success. They think that these comments actually mean something; that they are somehow relevant to their overall statistics or their value to other brands.
But they aren’t. For the most part, they are completely worthless replies which aren’t about expanding upon the conversation in any way, but instead are merely parroting the existing content. The vast majority of people who comment on your blog posts are exactly as mentioned above: fellow bloggers who are simply there to drop a quick, one-sentence, brainless little fluff reply that mirrors the existing content so that they can generate one of those much-sought-after backlinks they receive after doing so.
Sponsors and advertisers rarely look at the number of comments a blog post receives because these numbers mean exactly nothing. “Great post!,” says Commenter 1. “I feel the same way,” says Commenter 2. “I’m a big fan of the (insert food or drink here) at that restaurant also,” says Blogger 3. “Wow, that picture is amazing,” says Blogger 4. “I’d love to visit there one day,” says Commenter 5. “Epic view,” says Blogger 6.
Fellow bloggers (those making up the bulk of most commentaries on blog posts) aren’t there to make a purchase on one of your eBooks (they have their own in the same niche, after all, so why do they need yours?) or hire you for your services (they work in the same niche, after all, so why would they hire you?), and said bloggers aren’t there to help you generate an income (they are after the same traffic and readers as you are, after all) but are rather there to generate those aforementioned backlinks which include a juicy title + link back to one of their own blog posts, which they are hoping your readers will click through and thus generate a purchase or newsletter subscription on their own site.
None of that = transactions for you or your blog/brand, or in the eyes of sponsors and advertisers, ROI.
And rarely will those 1-liner comments ever generate a return visit from your fellow bloggers or your armchair readers, because they are off to read/comment on the next 25 blog posts in the hour they’ve set aside for it on a daily basis.
There are a few ways around this. For starters, you can ditch the default WordPress/CommentLuv comment system (assuming you use WordPress, which the vast majority of bloggers do) and use something like Disqus or Livefyre or a Facebook or Google+ plugin that instead of generating a backlink to another blogger’s site, instead merely links back to the profile of the user.
Some bloggers prefer systems like Disqus because they feel it generates more actual, real conversations in the comment section of a blog post because the readers aren’t simply there to drop a fluffy little one-liner sentence, but instead leave actual, relevant commentary. This is because systems like Disqus have their own rating system and communities within the overall commenting platform, leading it to operate on some degrees like a social media network of its own.
But those conversations still mean very little, and still have absolutely no bearing on the real worth of your blog post, which ultimately boils down to conversions for your blog. How many of the readers are the ones making purchase, not only of products, but also of services. How many are clicking on links to sponsored content? How many are clicking on ads to your advertisers? How many are taking the course of action you want them to take?
These are the things which are measured behind the scenes, in your Analytics, in the email replies you receive from loyal readers of your newsletters, in the purchases from first-time readers who are picking up their first copy of one of your books but have zero interest in leaving a comment on the blog post that inspired them to make said purchase (because why do so when they aren’t bloggers in their own right and have no need/desire for a backlink, but are instead simply armchair readers who want to get a quick download for their mobile device/PDA), and in the number of emails and queries you receive from sponsors and partners who want to establish working relationships with you.
Brands looking to work with you want to see your actual numbers from the newsletter. Your engagement ratings from previous campaigns and brand ambassadorships. If you ran a sponsored post for a hotel, how many future bookings did that hotel receive from your recommendation? How many patrons did the restaurant receive from your review? How many spots in a tour did the agency sell based on your blog post? How many views did your post on topic X receive? How many readers engaged in your social media campaign on topic Y? How many book sales do you have? What are your sales numbers? Your CTR? Your CPA?
These are what really matters. These are the numbers that companies are invested in.
Digging further into the topic, you’ll often find that the more complex a topic, the fewer replies it will generate because the average reader is either an armchair user who will never actually do anything other than skim-read, or it is a fellow blogger (or one of their assistants/interns) who will also only ever skim-read simply to get to the bottom and leave a comment to generate a backlink as quickly as possible because they’ve only got an hour a day to get their backlinking done and they need to hurry up and move on to the next blog post so they can get 25-30 of them crammed in during that hour.
This is because people’s time is limited and their desire is react to things that they can quickly and easily +1, or Like, or Thumbs Up. Give them a top 10 blog post of the best lakes to visit in the world, and you’ll generate a swarm of “oohs” and “ahhs” and “great shot!”commentary in the comment section.
Give them a complex blog post talking about the ramifications of immigration reform on child labor laws in a developing country, and you’ll see next to nothing happening in the comment section because the topic is far too complex and requires readers to actually think to generate a reply that has meaning. Instead, they’ll scroll right by in their Pinterest/StumbleUpon/Facebook/Google+ feed looking for the link bait.
“So why do you keep comments turned on,” you might ask. The answer to that is because every once in awhile you’ll find a gem amongst the rubble. I also personally enjoy the CommentLuv tracker that shows me blog posts from other bloggers because that’s one of the ways I find interesting content to read, either for content curation or for inspiration for my own content. Like everyone else, I have limited time slots per day of reading, and by being able to skim-read down through a given comment section on a blog post, I can see titles, and those titles generate my click reaction.
And because despite the fact that the comments mean little to nothing and have almost no real value in terms of ROI or earning sponsors/clients, the are still important in the overall world of backlinking and networking and SEO. Which, despite its continual changes over the years is still a very real, and very thriving algorithm pumping away behind the scenes, and the more diverse your series of inbound and outbound links is, the better off your website is in the long run.
And oh yeah…I’m just as guilty of leaving those silly little one-liner comments as everyone else. I rarely make purchase of other blogger’s products (why? I sell the same ones), I never hire them for their services (why? I’m in the same industry), and all I really care about is the overall backlink diversity for my own brand. Which just goes to show you how little value my own comments on your blog actually hold. It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.