Why Blog Comments Are Worthless

Posted by | July 21, 2014 | Blogging, Social Media | 10 Comments
Comments

“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. 

If I truly want to engage and interact with a fellow blogger, I send them an email with my business proposal and establish actual, meaningful communication. Everything else is just fluff.

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About T.W. Anderson

T.W. Anderson is the founder of the Marginal Boundaries brand. He is the writer, editor, videographer, photographer, and social media guru alongside Cristina Barrios, the other half of the brand. In his spare time, he is the creative director of the Saga of Lucimia, a forthcoming MMORPG from Stormhaven Studios, LLC.

10 Comments

  • Yeah, Jessica…I never participate in those share threads. Plus, it’s pointless. DMOs and clients don’t care about other bloggers making comments on your posts. They want to see ROI and actions taken, not fluffy commentary :)

  • Comments…I’ve struggled to figure out the value. One of my posts with the most hits has 0 comments. I just stopped caring about them. I joined a blogger group on FB and we went through these chains of “post comments on the 5 links above yours”…. I did it for a few weeks and it wore me out b/c there were posts that I was struggling to write a comment with any substance but felt obliged to. I think that’s where the “great shots” come from…
    As for Disqus…. It was a pain to get it installed but now that I figured it out, I really enjoy it plus I know (As you mentioned) you’re going to get quality replies.

  • @ Chris: you caught me at the computer, working on my TBEX presentation and adjusting our social media pricing, so I was seeing the comments come in real-time :)

  • Ugh how silly of me. I’m not sure how I missed that paragraph. I suppose you’re right, there are occasionally real legitimate comments that could have been missed by having your systems turned off. In a way it might be punishing your most valued readers for the silliness of those who are not here to actually be involved with anything. Thanks for clarifying for me T.W. (Oh and that was a crazy fast response too :D)

  • Hola, Chris; my reasons for continuing to include them were stated in the blog post :) In the grand scheme of things, ALL links are important in the eyes of Google, and for those purposes the default WordPress/CommentLuv platform works great at providing more outbound links from the comments.

  • Christopher says:

    It is honestly pretty funny to go on the majority of blogs where the comments are nothing but “Great Post . I will share this with my own readers at .” That said if you believe that comments are more or less worthless then why do you choose to include them on this blog? Also, if regular comments are on average trash then how about comment systems utilizing social networks like Facebook where the friends of a reader might pick up on the post’s link?

  • Dana Newman says:

    Epic view! 😉
    No, but really, I totally see your point on this.
    I found myself getting close to doing the whole one-liner comment thing, but then I forced myself to stop. I’m not saying I stopped commenting, and I’m not saying I didn’t hope people would come check me out from my comments, BUT I do try really hard to write something worth reading for the author and other readers. Emphasis on TRY :)

  • Damn you, Frank, with your wall of text on the first comment for this blog post =P

    On a more serious note, I think where we can agree to disagree is what value commentary actually has, at least from an ROI/CRT/CPA standpoint. Which, when brands are looking to work with a blogger, is what it all comes down to.

    I think we’ve all got posts that provide residual commentary (for us, The Breaking Point, telling the tale of my brother’s suicide, is an example) and “real” comments above and beyond the “oooh, look at that pretty picture” comments, but at the end of the day unless the people leaving the comments are also making purchase/paying for services/clicking on ads/following an action that results in a dollar amount, those comments still don’t have an ROI attached.

    Unless we want to talk semantic value of the “long term, engaged reader who comes back over the years and eventually becomes a referrer”.

    But otherwise, spot on with your comment :)

  • Frank says:

    Nice post Tim. I agree in some respects but not all. Totally agree that many comments are useless one-liners that add zero to the conversation. Sometimes they have spelling mistakes or are written out of context – and that can be annoying because you know the blogger (as is the case for 99% as these one-liners) couldn’t have spent more than 10 seconds conjuring up that comment. And I agree that one-line comments often make up the majority of a blog’s comments. You’ll frequently get those kind of comments when doing photo essays or other types of posts where you know you won’t get much engagement. But let’s face it, people love looking at photos. You may get crappy comments but they generate a lot of traffic. So you have to determine the degree of success of those posts by another measure.

    Other posts, like this one on the other hand, will garner ‘real’ comments because it’s the kind of post that will create conversation. I have a few posts, especially my negative posts on Brazil and Costa Rica that get real (and negative) commentary from real people as well as bloggers. And I have one of the Bangkok Gem Scam that ONLY gets comments from real people, most who’ve been suckered into the scam (like I was). They’ll write not only great comments, some very very long comments detailing their story. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the most rewarding thing about blogging – getting real commentary from real people who get something, who can commiserate from your experience, learn from it, or have resources to turn to if they’ve managed to screw up. So I totally don’t agree with you that comments are worthless for these kinds of posts – for me they are a greater measure of relevance than anything else.

    So I guess I’m saying that it all depends really on the type of post you’re writing as a blogger. I try to mix it up – but I always know beforehand which will produce ‘real’ comments. It all depends on the level of engagement.

    I hate Discus and I’ve tried leaving comments for bloggers who use it only to see them disappear into thin air.

    Good post. See, you got me writing what I hope isn’t a worthless comment 😉 .
    Frank (bbqboy)

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