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Why Blog Comments Still Matter (Perhaps) More Than Ever

This is a guest post from Jason Lemieux over at Postmatic, and we’re totally onboard with his message. Blog comments do still matter in a big way. Check out his thoughts and share your own after you’ve had a chance to read through this awesome post 🙂

People in the content marketing space often talk about “content being king”. While it’s true content delivers the opportunity to promote a product, service, launch, company news, event or more – it’s one way. You’re still broadcasting – and wasn’t the goal of social media and, by association, content, to move away from the bad old days or broadcast media and into two-way dialogue with your customers?

Enter blog comments. Specifically, enter WordPress blog comments. Why? Simple. Commenting in WordPress is an untapped opportunity. Increased blog engagement raises SEO performance, strengthens your brand, and builds a community around your ideas. And that’s just for starters.

And yet, still the argument is there for switching off blog comments. A lot of blogs have gone ahead and implemented this move recently. Comments become disabled, and desperate-looking boxes jump at you to ask for your email address – without wanting your opinion.

While I respect the decision, I think they’re missing out. Big time.

The WordPress comments system is an email marketing and automation platform waiting to happen.

Where on the web does someone take a minute out of their day to share their thoughts, introduce themselves, and give you their personal email address – which you then do nothing with? In blog comments. You would be amazed at how many email addresses are sitting in your database doing nothing. These are your base. People who value your opinion, your products, and community. You should be looking at reaching out to them, not just harvesting addresses from unknown visitors.

The debate around commenting

Admittedly, some of the reasons for switching off comments make sense. It’s too time-consuming, and we have to deal with too much spam being two of the most common. For any blogger, personal or professional, time is an important commodity you don’t want to waste.

And tracking spammy comments can be a huge time suck, if your site is one of those that attract hundreds of comments on every single post.

Here’s the thing, though – the operative word here is can. I’ve managed blogs for businesses and organizations where the comments are in the thousands, and I’ve never once felt it too time-consuming to manage, for both commenting/replying and managing spam. Yes, spam is annoying – but only if you let it be. There are far too many moderation options available, like our favorite anti-spam plugin Akismet, for that to be a valid excuse – trust me on this.

Take a look at what you’re saying – by saying you’re too busy to deal with comments, and too busy to deal with spam, you’re saying you’re too busy to answer a potential customer or friend, and you’re too busy to look after their experience while they’re on your site.

Is that the kind of business you want to be? I didn’t think so.

But social media has killed blog comments

Then there’s the reasoning that social media conversations have killed blog comments, so why keep them switched on?

Easy. While social conversations will always happen (and should be encouraged – after all, it’s better having people talk about you in a fractured way than not at all), it’s their fractured nature that provides the exact reason you should have comments on.

On your blog, you direct the conversation. You encourage (or discourage) by your availability to those leaving a comment. You can’t be everywhere on social (no matter what the gurus say), but you can be everywhere in one specific place – your blog.

Answer questions there, meet customer needs, show you value their words…. you can see where this is going, right?

The rise of email delivery over RSS

Of course, blog comments are only part of the equation (albeit a very important one). In the last few years, email marketing has really taken off on blogs, even those run as a hobby. You only need to look at the success of Optin Monster, Bloom, Magic Action Box Pro and more to see that popularity in action.

Visit any blog today, and at the end of the post (or while reading it, based on behavior), you’ll probably see an option to get further blog posts by email. While RSS has been around for years, it’s never really taken when it comes to the bigger population of blog visitors.

The reason for that is simple – too many options, too much technology at play, and too little education about what RSS actually is.

Email is different. Pretty much everyone knows what email does and, more importantly, how it works. So it’s no surprise email marketing (or just subscribing by email) has become so popular on blogs of all sizes.

It makes sense, too. If someone gives you their email address, they’re investing their trust in you to not abuse it. That’s a pretty powerful endorsement (and shouldn’t be abused, period). Yet it’s also a huge opportunity.

If people subscribe to your blog for content, it stands to reason they’ll be interested in other stuff from you. Courses, downloads, ebooks, webinars, etc. All potential revenue sources, and all deliverable direct to someone’s email.

That kind of direct referral can’t be bought. Now, imagine if you had that kind of direct connection, but now it’s with every reader of your blog, even from several years ago…

From email to comment to email again

Now, to tie this all back to why you should have blog comments as an active part of your content and email marketing strategy, ask yourself this question:

If you could connect with those that show an interest in your daily content, and make it easy for them to not only subscribe to that content but offer immediate feedback on it, all while remaining part of your ongoing email strategy, wouldn’t it make sense to use that?

Now you can. And it’s simple. You don’t even have to change your current content output.

  1. You create your post;
  2. It goes out via email;
  3. Your subscriber reads the post;
  4. They hit “Reply” to leave a comment via email;
  5. The comment appears, and you’re notified;
  6. You reply to your email, the comment appears on the blog post;
  7. The commenter gets a notification, and hits “Reply” to leave another comment via email;
  8. Rinse; repeat; benefit.

It really is as simple as that. It doesn’t matter where the email is being read – desktop, webmail, mobile. If you can receive email, you can reply to comments. And moderate them. And approve. And watch your engagement grow.

The way that all of this can happen is using a really awesome new plugin called Postmatic. It’s free to download and you can take a look at exactly how it works on their website.

With growth in engagement comes growth in opportunity. Because not only can you now reach out to that person through email, you can invite past commenters that are interested in that topic to come back and share their thoughts again. All through a highly personalized, highly targeted, and highly ethical invitation system.

Think of it another way. If a comment system allowed you to re-invite 1,000 potential customers back to your brand to discuss the features of a new product or service, would you still feel comments are a waste of time?

Thought so. Email and comments by email – it’s an opportunity you no longer have to wait to happen. You can download Postmatic and start using it today.

Now it’s your turn. Do you agree that comments are still an important part of the web today? We love talking with our blog readers and customers in the comments section 🙂

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22 Comments

  1. Ebenezer

    Blog comments are definitely still in. Not everyone is skilled with managing profiles on numerous social platforms plus it creates more of a community when its done a blog than on social media

  2. Mike

    Commenting is the best and easyiest way to have backlinks…
    Thats why i don’t want to hide or replace my default blogger comment box with an social media comment like G+,Facebook or Disqus….
    I realize that this point’ makes our article more valuable and give user x better ratherthan the social one.
    My nofollow backlink that i have came from this one….
    Thats why i Will never turn off the commenting box ini my blog.
    About using postmatic mau have my consideration but still default blogger comment type and moderation option still the best way for me…
    By the way..this was a good and great articles.love it

  3. Jessica

    I completely agree! Another thing that comes from comments is finding like-minded blogs, or new bloggers to follow. Who would want to speak to a silent audience? No one!

  4. Michelle

    Great post, very helpful. I think comments are very important. They help the readers engage even more in the original post. They are definitely a great way to meet other like minded people.

  5. Danny Brown

    @Katy – Hullo there, long time no see! 🙂 Sorry for the @ symbol, there doesn’t seem to be a “Reply” option here. Hmm…

    And that’s the beauty of blogging, what works for one is completely different from the other. Like you, I’m pretty active on social, but I’ve pared it back in recent months to enjoy life and my family more.

    Because of that, I’m focused more on my blog, and through Postmatic and the quality conversations they enable (because people are so much more invested in email than anything else), commenters take the time to craft deeper, more thoughtful responses.

    In the almost 8 months since installing Postmatic, my comments/engagement rate has almost tripled (270%), and subscribers/new community members have increased too (again, due to the preference of email, despite the naysayers).

    This has allowed me a far better understanding of my audience, and what they’re looking for, which – by association – has allowed me to be far more effective at delivering that content. Which then results is far better ROI for my blogging goals.

    I’ve never really had an issue with spam or moderation, and that’s with tens of thousands of comments posted. A mix of solid anti-spam, and blocking abusers, has meant little to zero spam comments ever getting through.

    Given that social (for me) is so fractured, with a poor UX when it comes to threaded comments (try and jump to a specific Facebook comment within a multi-comment thread), and it’s a core reason why I’ll always remain a blog comment advocate over a social one.

    But, again, that’s the beauty of blogging, and as you show, your approach is working for you. My only concern there would be lack of ownership. Twitter is struggling, G+ Comments may go away as Google breaks up the network into other areas. So, comments and discussions on these platforms would simply be lost.

    Comments and discussions you own on your blog, though? They’re there until you no longer are. A big differentiator.

    Hope you’re well, and have a great weekend! 🙂

  6. Katy Widrick

    I’ll take the counterpoint — I killed my blog comments several years ago and have been THRILLED at the results. I am very active on social media and find that the ability to not just respond and discuss there is better than on my WordPress blog, the notification systems are infinitely better (and yes, I used every tool out there to try to make it more successful on WordPress itself).

    In terms of currency, I’d much rather have someone share my work than comment on it, and I find that the time I got back from moderating blog comments has been put into creating a more robust editorial calendar and better posts.

    My traffic has not suffered, my sales have gone up (some of the time I got back from moderating comments went into creating some on-demand blogging courses) and overall, I just find that the quality of discussion (and debate!) is better on my social platforms than it ever was on my blog, where I got a lot of “thanks!” and “great post!” feedback, which was not very helpful.

  7. pc passion

    I for one love to comment on blogs that I have signed up to via email or rss feed.

    What I personally hate is having to register then confirm email to leave said comment. Most of the time I just abandon the idea and move on. To me having to jump through hoops to leave an opinion on a post that is asking for your opinion isn’t worth it and gives me the impression that they are more concerned in harvesting your email address.

    Another pet peeve are blogs who nether bother to acknowledge or respond to comments. I’m not saying every comment should have a reply but at least the ones who have asked questions or are after an opinion or even write something that can start its own topic of conversation.

    Yes, of course I know that even the blogs who get it right still want your email and the post being written and published to start with is for that very reason but its nice to feel that maybe you opinion matters as well.

    After all, aren’t you more likely to give someone your email address if you feel your input is valued and acknowledged?

  8. Mohammad Lafi

    Product endorsement, done right :). I mean, we all know the reason you wrote this blog post, yet it doesn’t sound forced like you’re throwing a product at us, I’ll definitely try out postmatic

    1. Jason Lemieux

      Heh. Hey Mohammad. I wrote the article and Ryan added some bits to the end. I had originally approached him about guest blogging and wanted to do so in a way that makes the case for Postmatic and points out why we created it… but without sounding *too* salesman-like. I hope we walked the line appropriately. There are some real issues and opportunities in the commenting space right now.

  9. Susan Marshall VA

    Thank you for this post on blog comments. I’m afraid I’m one of those that turned off comments. Probably because a post with no comments seems a little bit like no one is listening. I’m definitely going to reconsider this decision now.

    If you have any posts that talk about how to engage readers to leave comments, I’d love to read those too.

    Thanks again!

    1. Ben Coughran

      I think that commenting on other blogs and promoting your posts on social media makes a big difference. For instance, your comment just now… made me visit your site 🙂

      On the topic “How to engage readers to leave comments”, I think that would be a great read and something to think about doing! Thanks for the input

    2. Jason Lemieux

      Hey Susan,

      Getting readers engaged is the other half what Postmatic does: we also deliver your posts by email to your subscriber list. They can reply right from their email client to leave a comment. By reaching your readers where they are the conversation takes off right away.

      We see huge gains in engagement on sites that are running us. Danny Brown has a recent post with charts and some stats: http://dannybrown.me/2015/04/29/why-ill-only-use-postmatic-for-wordpress-blog-comments/

  10. Kate_H

    I for one love to comment on blogs that I have signed up to via email or rss feed.

    What I personally hate is having to register then confirm email to leave said comment. Most of the time I just abandon the idea and move on. To me having to jump through hoops to leave an opinion on a post that is asking for your opinion isn’t worth it and gives me the impression that they are more concerned in harvesting your email address.

    Another pet peeve are blogs who nether bother to acknowledge or respond to comments. I’m not saying every comment should have a reply but at least the ones who have asked questions or are after an opinion or even write something that can start its own topic of conversation.

    Yes, of course I know that even the blogs who get it right still want your email and the post being written and published to start with is for that very reason but its nice to feel that maybe you opinion matters as well.

    After all, aren’t you more likely to give someone your email address if you feel your input is valued and acknowledged?

  11. Daniel Dessinger

    I LOVE that you published this post. There are some popular blogs out there which have removed comments *cough* *copy* *cough* *blogger* and I’ve agonized over whether these companies are following a treacherous path.

    Blogs are wonderful BECAUSE they are not just megaphones. After forums but before Twitter and Facebook there were blogs and blog comments. It’s how we built relationships. I share my knowledge and opinions. You respond. We talk. We learn more about each other. We clarify our positions. We have the opportunity to make the Web a better place.

    Comments will always be abused. Right now there are corporations hiring entire teams of people to harass-comment bloggers on-site and on Facebook for the purpose of swaying public opinion and intimidating the bloggers these corporations oppose. There’s a real war being waged out there. And I know plenty of bloggers who have considered shutting comments down for that very reason.

    But I say that a solid and precise comment policy has the power to draw a line in the sand towards comment behavior, and productive non-aggressive conversations can still be had without throwing out the baby with the bath water.

    So you have my support. I only wish that Rainmaker Platform would someday enable this Postmatic functionality. I can no longer add my own plugins on a whim, which, until now, wasn’t really a problem.

    But I love this idea and I’ve spent a great deal of time brainstorming a way to integrate and unify blog comments with social so that we can have the conversation anywhere and still get notifications anywhere of replies. We’re not there yet, but this is a major step in the right direction!

  12. Seth

    I see both sides of the argument. I love comments, but at the same time, when managing a site that gets hundreds of (legitimate) comments a day, that all need to be moderated, it becomes such a chore that you end up resenting it.

    I’m curious about Postmatic though. I hate managing comments via email, ala disqus, but I can see the benefit for readers and commenters to view and reply that way.

    1. Daniel Dessinger

      Obviously, you know I’m all on board for this, Seth. It’s my firm and unwavering belief that a blog without comments is no longer a blog. It’s a broadcast-only website that publishes articles no one can respond to.

      If I hadn’t moved my site to Rainmaker Platform, I’d incorporate this Postmatic plugin immediately. Since I can’t, I can only tweet and cajole to get this functionality included someday. 🙂

  13. Bob Dunn

    Great post, and I couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂

    Yes, I’m one that believes you should keep them open. I know that I will. I have read a few posts from the “big bloggers” who have done this, and I respect their decision. Even though I may disagree to some point.

    The one thing I think is a bit of an issue, is when someone does this and makes such a big deal about it. Unfortunately a lot of people follow the lead, and just because of the “influence” of some of these bloggers, others listen to them and will do it themselves. That old thing when mom would say “If everyone jumped off a cliff….”

    I do think commenting has changed and evolved over time, especially with social. But heck, for me, that is part of life, you conform to the “new ways”. And I do chuckle that so many people will see a post shared on Facebook, go and read it, then come back and comment on FB. 😉

    I guess in the end we need to make our own decisions. And I’m sure in some instances they are doing the right thing for themselves. But I will continue to teach the benefits of comments and do my own thing.

    BTW – great shoutout on Postmatic. Using it myself 🙂

  14. Jeff Yablon

    I’m astonished by the move away from comments … on “blogs”, or pretty much anywhere other than truly static content (err … “pages” in classic WordPress parlance).

    While maintaining/moderating them takes effort, the two-headed beast of engagement and SEO value makes comments a complete no-brainer. Unless you have rock-star media cred, disabling comments just plain makes no sense. Period.

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