It’s a timeless debate: When you start a blog do you turn comments on to get a discussion going or do you keep them off so you don’t have to moderate them?
Personally, I’ve always believed that your small business blog needs comments. As a blogger and community person, I enjoy sharing and reading new opinions. I tend to believe that the comments are where the real magic happens within a blog. However, I realize an argument can be made on both sides. I’m actually noticing that many of the blogs I once loved are now making the decision to turn OFF comments, either citing SEO or time issues.
Here are some arguments PRO and CON for blog comments. Let me know where do you fit in.
Why Allow Blog Comments?
It creates a community: Having comments open on your blog is a bit like sitting on your front porch in the evening. It lets people know you’re home and invites them to stop over if they want to talk. On your blog, opening up comments invites a community to congregate on your site. People can interact when they have something to say and they become active members of what you’re building. That’s when they become invested in your success and will actually help you achieve it. As a blogger, I don’t think there’s anything worse than reading a post you’re really passionate about (either positively or negatively) and not having a place to respond to it. It’s a turn off and makes me wonder if you really care about your audience.
You have better discussions: As a small business owner, opening up blog comments can really improve the quality of the discussions you’re having on your site. Mostly because it allows you to have them. When you invite people to share their own opinion or insight you may learn things you weren’t previously aware of. You may hear about new tools, a new way of running your business or a different approach to a common problem you’re facing. They say that two minds are better than one, and that holds true when adding more voices to a blog. It gives you a more complete picture.
Learn about your audience: Reading the comments that customers leave on your blog will help you learn more about them, allowing you to better market to them. The knowledge you gain about your readers through their contributions to your blog will allow you to get insights about their wants, needs and fears in a way you couldn’t before. It gives you an opportunity to collect information about how they see the world and why they like your company so that you can use it at a later date. You create relationships that you can piggyback off later once the trust is already there. This is one reason that blogs are really great marketing tools.
The Downsides of Comments?
Spam: You cannot change this. If you allow comments on your blog, people will attempt to spam it. That may mean leaving worthless comments with keyword-stuffed anchor text, being hit with any number of automated bots, or getting comments so muddied that you’re not sure if a human or a bot left them (its surprisingly hard to tell sometimes). If you decide to go with comments, you’re going to have to spend time keeping them clean or risk losing the quality of your community. If you’re on WordPress, Akismet does a really good job handling most of this for you and WP has a whole section on how to combat comment spam to help you learn some new tricks. Even with these in place, though, you’ll want to keep an eye on your comment section and prune things out, as needed. A spam-less comment section is one indicator readers use to determine if the author cares about their blog.
You have to manage them: You can’t just hide in the bedroom when you invite people over to your house. You have to check in to make sure that no one is fighting, that there’s appropriate conversation going on, and that things aren’t getting out of control. As a small business owner, you’ll have to find time in your day to head to your blog and manage comments. That may mean approving new comments, responding to comments left, and make sure that people are doing their part to take care of your community. The bigger your blog gets, the more time that will have to be spend managing it.
Controversy and fires: The more controversial your blog is, the more time you’ll have to spend watching the comments that come in. As a corporate blog, you want your blog to stay productive. You don’t want the comment section to devolve into nothing but flame wars, libelous attacks or other drama that could come back to bite your brand. That means you’ll have to moderate comments and make sure everyone is behaving themselves in your forum.
Maybe no one wants to comment: There are few things sadder than the home page of a blog that shows zero comments for every post. If no one is commenting on your blog then you may be inclined to remove the option so your blog looks less ignored. The other option, of course, is to take action to spice things up and increase the comments on your blog.
What say you? Do you allow comments on your small business blog or have you opted to get rid of them altogether? What were the primary factors for your decision?