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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Comments or no comments

Comments or no comments
When I began this blog, I started out with comments enabled.  As traffic grew, so did the level of commenting.  Some days there were more than 100 comments.  I noticed I was spending more and more time managing comments, and I began to question whether it was worth the effort.  It became clear that with continued traffic growth, I was going to have to change my approach or die in comment hell.  The personal development topics I write about can easily generate lots of questions and discussion.  Just imagine how many follow-up questions an article like this could generate.  With tens of thousands of readers, it would be insane.  Also, nuking comment spam was chewing up more and more of my time as well.
But after looking through my stats, I soon realized that only a tiny fraction of visitors ever look at comments at all, and an even smaller fraction ever post a comment (well below 1% of total visitors).  That made my decision a lot easier, and in October 2005, I turned blog comments off.  In retrospect that was one of my best decisions.  I wish I had done it sooner.
If you’d like to read the full details of how I came to this decision, I’ve written about it previously:  Blog Comments and More on Blog Comments.
Do you need comments to build traffic?  Obviously not.  Just like when I put up ads, I saw no decline in traffic when I turned off comments.  In fact, I think it actually helped me.  Although I turned off comments, I kept trackbacks enabled, so I started getting more trackbacks.  If people wanted to publicly comment on something I’d written, they had to do so on their own blogs and post a link.  So turning off comments didn’t kill the discussion — it just took it off site.  The volume of trackbacks is far more reasonable, and I can easily keep up with it.  I even pop onto other people’s sites and post comments now and then, but I don’t feel obligated to participate because the discussion isn’t on my own site.
I realize people have very strong feelings about blog comments and community building.  Many people hold the opinion that a blog without comments just isn’t a blog.  Personally I think that’s utter nonsense — the data just doesn’t support it.  The vast majority of blog readers neither read nor post comments.  Only a very tiny and very vocal group even care about comments.  Some bloggers say that having comments helps build traffic, but I saw no evidence of that.  In fact, I think it’s just the opposite.  Managing comments detracts from writing new posts, and it’s far better to get a trackback and a link from someone else’s blog vs. a comment on your own blog.  As long-term readers of my blog know, when faced with ambiguity, my preference is to try both alternatives and compare real results with real results.  After doing that my conclusion is this:  No comment.  

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